Do you like short, free, low-poly horror games? I don’t blame you for not immediately responding with an enthusistic “Yes!” because it’s a pretty niche category, one I’d never even played until a few days ago. But in hindsight I should have realized it would absolutely be a winning genre for me. I’ve already devoted a whole week to articles on dark spooky forests, and this is something of a sequel because most of these games would have qualified. Every game in this list is beatable in a single sitting and (in my opinion) a short but worthwhile experience. All are definitely worth trying if you’re into any of the adjectives in the title. (Also I’m going to be sparse on details, every one of these games are best played going in blind.)
Sirenhead is almost-certainly the most famous game listed here, and it wholly deserves its reputation. The player controls a park ranger looking for a missing hiker, and the game boasts some incredible visuals despite the limited assets and gameplay mechanics. My personal favorite touch is the sunset visibly transitioning to night as the game goes on. Every detail contributes to an atmospheric experience that succeeds in every way it was hoping to.
2. Security Booth
Security Booth is the only game on this list I felt the need to 100%, replaying over and over until I was sure I’d seen every possible ending. The player controls a security guard tasked with choosing who gets through the master gates belonging to a mysterious company. I really fell in love with the little slice of urban roadway you’re locked in for the whole game. As the screenshot shows, the devs really packed the playable area with details, and more will appear while you play. So keep your eyes out!
3. No Players Online
No Players Online is a weird beast compared to the other games on this list. The frame narrative is that you (yes, you) have found an old dusty VHS tape, apparently containing a work-in-progress FPS, and turn it on to see what’s in it. The gameplay evokes a really nostalgic feeling for anyone who’s turned on an old gaming love to see empty, abandoned servers that now can only evoke memories of what used to be. Fair warning: this game was also an ARG, so at some point you are straightup going to hit puzzles that are impossible to solve without Googling the answer. Which is a bummer. But despite that, it’s still a worthwhile experience that left me thinking even after I’d turned the game off.
4. The Keeper
The Keeper goes where no other game on this list dares by offering voice-acting! The main character, a fisherman who’s run his boat aground thanks to the lighthouse mysteriously goes dark, has a wonderful Scottish accent as he wanders the island figuring out what happened to its previous inhabitants. Despite the dismal foggy setting, it’s paradoxically one of the most colorful games on this list. And the dedication to environmental movement makes the world feel alive around you. Trees blow in the wind, leaves flutter to the ground, fog banks/waves roll in and out… The devs put in the work on set design, and it pays off.
5. Dread in Deep Voyage
If you breezed through the last game’s surface-level oceanic hazards, this one’s ready for you to take the plunge into the depths! Dread in Deep Voyage lets the player controls an underwater repairman tasked with fixing some malfunctioning animatronics in an aquatic theme park, and I don’t think I need to explain why everything about that premise is terrifying on every level. The environmental pallette is gloomy blue, and getting hopelessly lost in underwater labyrinths is a core aspect of the gameplay. But it’s fun, I promise!
Bonus #6. Slide in the Woods
I wasn’t sure whether to include this one. Slide in the Woods certainly fit the category, and I enjoyed playing it, but it feels small even for the bite-sized experiences on this list. There’s no story beyond finding this slide in the woods, so you’ll just have to go play it to see why I’m recommending it nevertheless. (One thing I found unique was the crouch-boost movement system, don’t think I’ve ever seen another game use it).
One reason I like these games are that most of them star an atypical protagonist, or focus on a rare job in gaming. Park rangers, security guards, underwater repairmen… You don’t see these sort of occupations in leading roles often. I think that’s one of the advantages of the short, bite-sized indie genre. In any way, you could plow through this whole list within an hour, so don’t hesitate! If any of these titles piqued your interest, give them a go!