The holiday season is upon us. Depending on where you are in the world, as December roars, you might settle into frosty mornings and dark evenings, but I doubt the actual winter you face is as atmospheric as the freezing offerings of these indie games. Plus, just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to ditch your normally weird interests and trade them in for some healthy revelry. While winter is the season for cozy indoor festivities and great food, it’s also arguably the scariest time of the year: it’s cold, dark, and untimely. Thank goodness you can spend it indoors, playing video games, instead. Here are eight spooky and lesser-known titles from studios and independent creators to play while you embrace the longer nights.
Comfortable is a point-and-click horror game with beautiful pixel art, set deep in the snowy woods. Originally created as an entry to the Pixel Horror Jam 2016, the game has gained a reputation for its delightful art style and tricky puzzles. Created by only two people, Comfortable takes the privacy of indie play to a whole new level. At the start of the game you come to an isolated building in the snowy forest. The game uses a sort of multi-faceted nostalgia, between its pixelated setting and the retro feel of the game mechanics used to solve the game’s many puzzles. Although the title sounds like an oxymoron, given that it is about ‘a horror game and all, it’s really a pretty “comfortable” game thanks to its old-fashioned styles. Comfortable is a brief but beautiful encounter, serving a good deal of fear factor and frozen landscapes.
Did you like the sound of Comfortable? Good, because Thrill is his “spiritual successor”, made up of half of the team that made Comfortable. Thrill has a similar concept to its predecessor – it’s a point-and-click puzzle adventure game, with some pretty nasty twists and turns – but its execution and overall style is pretty distinctive in itself. What’s even better is that, as Comfortable, it is completely free to play.
The game begins when you find yourself stranded in Windy Oaks State Park in freezing weather on your way to your family’s house. Windy Oaks National Park is built on a web of secrets and tragedies as it is the site of a recent sinkhole and mining incident. Throughout the hour-long excursion through the forest, you use the mining system to unravel the mysteries of the park within the park. Although some of the puzzles are underground, this woodland mystery is ideal for horror fans looking to dive into a winter wonderland.
3. Lost constellation
While Lost constellation is a subsidiary for the lore of Night in the woods, it’s a beautiful Christmas-oriented game in its own right. The game begins with a ghost story “The Longest Night”, before moving into the story of a crocodile, Adina Astra, exploring a haunting frozen landscape. You play as Adina, an astronomer from out of town, as she travels through the menacing woods to meet the god of the forest. A folklore chronicle of the Winter Solstice franchise equivalent, this is the perfect game for folk horror enthusiasts who want to feel a little more seasonal.
The atmosphere in Night in the woods matches remain undefeated, and Lost constellation is no exception. From the ethereal noise of the game’s sound design to the feeling that in-game physics are physically slowing Adina down in the snowiest parts of the forest, this game is great for getting lost in the woods when the night seems endless. The history of the game is also not eclipsed by its vibe. The story of Adina and the Forest God evokes the pagan mythology and regional folklore surrounding Yule, while providing an imaginative touch and a new style of storytelling. Lost constellation is not only a treat for Night in the woods fans, but also for those just looking for something a little more cryptic and traditional to play this winter.
4.Cube escape collection
Technically a collection of several titles, the Cube Escape Collection is a collection of short puzzle-horror games set in a desolate region of the Pacific Northwest. You play as Dale, a special agent, who tries to solve a series of murders that have taken place in a number of small towns in America. Each game ties together to form a different part of the overall mystery. Located in the mountainside town of Rusty Falls, the game’s backdrop is cool enough for indoor winter games.
There are nine games included in the collection: Seasons, Lake, Arles, Harvey’s box, Case 23, The mill, Birthday, Theater, and The cave. In each installation in the collection, you help Dale unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of a local girl named Laura. To do this, you must solve the many puzzles scattered across Rusty Falls. It’s easy to be momentarily distracted by the game’s appealing styles and beautiful setting, but make no mistake – the game becomes a David lynch-Inspired quick nightmare. Without giving too much away, prepare for a disturbing experience through the world of bird-human hybrids and missing persons.
Journey is a low-key and relatively relaxed event that takes place in a beautiful open-world setting. It’s definitely not a traditional horror title, but the point of the game is to survive in the desolate nature, adding some tension to this sandbox adventure game. To start, part of JourneyThe world is an arctic, snow-capped plain. This game is great for keeping things a little exciting this vacation without playing something too terrifying.
Since its release in 2012, Journey has received numerous accolades for its artistry, musical composition, sound design, and playing mechanics, and it’s easy to see why. The game’s narrative style is new in that it is entirely text-free – the game’s only narration is provided entirely by the lush world of Journey. This allows the player to truly immerse themselves in the unique world of the game while exploring its challenging landscapes. Another interesting mechanic of the game is its online multiplayer functionality. Through the landscapes of Journey, it is possible to meet strangers who also explore the surroundings. While the connection with others is brief, it is especially appreciated during the less sociable winter months, when a lot of emphasis is placed on social interactions which may not feel fully fulfilled.
Regarding independent games, Subtitle (and its consequences, Deltarune) is a modern classic. Made almost entirely by one designer (Toby Fox), the expansive 2D adventure game uses an element of heavy moral choice in its gameplay, reminiscent of titles like Fable Where Bio-shock. What makes the game perfect for the colder months is the charming world of Snowdin, with its snowy scenes and little snowmen.
Subtitle is as much of a horror game as you let it be. If you choose to play as a bloodthirsty killer, the game gets pretty nasty and fast-paced regardless of Snowdin’s cutesy environment. But, as with all moral choice games, it’s up to you: if you want to play Subtitle while walking in a winter wonderland, this is also an option. One of the longest games on this list to date, especially if you keep in mind the various branches of gameplay made possible by the ethics system, this is the perfect title to get your head around on. while sheltering from the cold this winter.
7. The longest night
Longest night is another fallout from Night in the woods, this time in the form of a narrative game taking place at the winter solstice. This game is a short story unboxing the mystical folklore of Possum Springs, the game town, through an evening spent stargazing with furry friends. While the story of Longest night depends a little more on understanding the Night in the woods saga to be able to fully embrace some of the storytelling at hand, it’s still a really nice short piece for a rainy (or snowy) day.
Longest night looks like an anthology of scary short stories in the form of a mythology imagined for an alternate world. Set in the heart of December, the shortest day, it is reminiscent of Christmas ghost stories shared by friends around a campfire. The gameplay is fairly straightforward; you watch the constellations and learn more about them from the dialogue trees, which means you have the chance to be fully captivated by the grizzly stories told by Mae Borowski and her friends.
First of all, Celestial is a puzzle and strategy oriented platform game. Secondary to this, however, it uses glitchy horror devices to create a heart-wrenching sense of unreality throughout its gameplay. You spend much of the game scaling the side of the titular Celeste Mountain, in all its treacherously snow-capped glory. The game is often as terrifying as it is touching.
Celestial is a notoriously difficult game, but don’t let that put you off. Packed with beautiful pixel art, seasonal scenes, tricky puzzles, and a fantastic soundtrack to boot, it’s hard to overestimate the overall gaming experience, even if you do find yourself a bit stuck at times. In a story of defeating inner demons, lookalikes and techno-villains who break the fourth wall, Celestial is a frightening pleasure which does not skimp on its sharing of the pleasures of the winter tide.
Hopefully this looks more like Arcane than Warcraft.
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