Recent years have brought an unexpected boom for games with a strong dose of horror. It does not matter if the title is characterized by high gore, the presence of numerous hallucinations, or is based on exploration or constant escape. The market provided quite a lot of this “good” regardless of what budget category we are talking about. The AA segment seems to favor inventive concepts and traditions from a decade ago. The less reliant developers still continue as the coming months will bring more playable horror.
Before 2023, a record-breaking year in terms of top productions (Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space will get a remake, Callisto Protocol is coming). We decided to collect the most interesting items in one list to emphasize what good productions we are dealing with. You will find productions from the chisels of these smaller, but ambitiously powerful developers. The order of the list is quite a coincidence. This is only the first of several.
Song of Horror – Protocol Games, 2020
The compilation opens with a song that pays tribute to the most classic approach to the genre. Song of Horror is a strong story with many faces. The mysterious disappearance of the master of horror, the author of macabre novels, worries the publisher of his books. A certain Daniel, a character playing the role of a protagonist, sets off on a search. The game offers the possibility of playing with many characters with different attributes. Mental resistance, physical fitness, there will even be a person with a walkie-talkie with the functionality straight from the Silent Gables. The gameplay is based primarily on a static narrative, which already evokes positive associations with Resident Evil / Silent Hill. It is full of puzzles, notes, monstrous ghosts and a presence that adapts to the player’s logic. Song of Horror remains an insufficiently well-known representative of the genre due to some technical shortcomings, although the setting in places impresses. The permadeath concept, character changes and gameplay shots make the title a must-have for any fan of playable horror and prose. For me, it’s a “Sinister” compared to the rest of the genre. An old convention with a fresh idea.
Outlast – Red Barrels, 2013
The worst hell is raging deep within the human mind. Receiving a mysterious letter, we play the role of an investigative journalist who will try to find out the truth about a closed psychiatric facility on his own. Outlast strongly started the trend of horror movies based on the Hide & Run scheme. Armed only with a video camera, we visit a psychiatric center bathed in blood. By discovering the meticulously edited notes, we learn how the loss of control happened. The camera gives us light, but in addition to searching for the truth, we also look for batteries that we won’t find too much along the way. Many will hunt us. Psychophysically deformed pupils from whom we can only hide or run away. Outlast turned out to be one of the first titles on PS4, but its contribution to the popularization of the genre remains invaluable. The developer also decided to extend the fun for the players thanks to the very successful DLC, The Whistlebower. In our opinion, the bonus content in some respects surpasses the standard release. More narrative and psychosis. We also recommend taking an interest in the second part of the series and the Outlast Trinity package.
Face – SadSquare, 2022
Another living proof of the causative power of crowdfunding actions. Before SadSquare got serious about this indie horror film, it all started with a collective Kickstarter initiative. The collected funds turned out to be three times higher than assumed, which translated into the technical and conceptual quality of this project. Many consider the title to be the spiritual heir to the unforgettable PT of Konami. Based on Unreal Engine 4 technology, it creates a plethora of stories in a household whose walls have seen many drama, suicide and murder. Visage takes us through narrow corridors, unexplained phenomena and macabre stagings. It is a collision of the world of the living and the dead. Our weapon is only escape, and we must guard against all the demonic apparitions of the past. The game focuses on exploring and manipulating objects. All to the accompaniment of insanely climatic notes and whispers coming from everywhere. The narrative was based primarily on disturbing sounds. Visage also got a revised version, Enhanced Edition. You will find there a new-generation upgrade, Dual Sense support and a double frame. Do you miss PT? Visage is the only correct recommendation.
Martha is Dead – LKA, 2022
Wired’s work addresses the difficult issue of sibling relations, favoring one of two daughters. Faced with a sudden loss, the protagonist steals the identity of the deceased Martha. This is how we take over the game. Like in Resident Evil: Village – the story begins with a local tale with the White Lady in the lead role. A tormented phantom haunts a nearby lake in search of a lost, vain love. As soon as the fog sets in. Martha is Dead throws the viewer into the quiet regions of Italian Tuscany, the year of our Lord 1944. Far from the nightmares of war, on the property of an army general, a tragedy occurs with the title Martha as the victim. The actual game starts close to the funeral day. The coffin with the girl’s body is on the ground floor of the house, her parents are busy preparing the ceremony. The heroine follows the events, trying to establish the truth. Visiting the house, discovering my father’s passion for developing photography. The player gets the basic tool in the game – the camera. The creators have demonstrated the historical technical knowledge of the old type of cameras. There are options for adjusting the brightness and sharpness when taking photos. Care was taken to select the angle of inclination. The key to pushing the narrative is the right grip for the photo. Technically, the game puts a perspective from the character’s eyes. Numerous studies of items related to family history are awaiting. Outside the house there is a local farm and a piece of forest. The aura of peace is created by the singing of birds, the rustle of trees, and the daylight, which gives the place of action its proper charm. At the same time, the recipient senses a presence of a different kind somewhere in it. Martha is Dead is just getting started in my PS5 drive, but I already know that a difficult, brutal story awaits me. The title is based on mutilation, death and general postmortem.
Tormented Souls – 2021, Wired Productions
Tormented Souls is the fruit of the work of the modest Dual Effect team under the publishing wing of PQube. Despite the small budget, the creators cannot be denied a lot of titanic work put into the project. Catherine Walker is an archetypal character from the second half of the 90s. Adorable, scantily clad, with a mandatory leather jacket. At the time of RE2 / RE3 / Dino Crisis / Parasite Eve it was a relative norm. Fate will take her to the Wildberger mansion, where we try to solve the mysterious disappearance of two twins – Amy and Emma. The history is written here in numerous scattered notes, the occasional appearance of a certain character and the property itself. Designers were clearly inspired by the decorative style known from Resident Evil Zero and Silent Hill 4: the Room. All with classic character controls. I recommend using the d-pad. The fight tastes like in the old days, with the possibility of dodging, fully manual. The technical layer is correct, there are no major underdevelopment here and the environment looks like pre-rendered. Character models slightly stand out, but this is a drop in the sea of artistic and conceptual beauty of Tormented Souls. The music prevailing in the save rooms (sic!) Or the main hall of the property will be used for secondary listening in YT. Diversification of locations and preservation of the tradition of division – from the vestibule to the basement. An absolute surprise this year and a must-have for all fans of the genre. Before and today. You will wonder about many puzzles, and this is something new for everyone for a long time. Beauty incarnate.
Daymare 1998 – 2019, Invader Studio
If you are not satisfied with the too low level of city exploration in RE3 (2020), then be sure to reach for Daymare 1998. The game is technically poor, but its old-school approach can take many evenings. We found out about it the hard way. The multitude of locations to visit in the city of Keen Sight along with the hospital is a material several times larger than in RE3. A classic approach to the genre, interesting solutions in mechanics and a dense climate. Even when starting the game, the well-known message “This game contains …” appears. It is worth supporting the creators of Invader Studios. The team has the potential to create something of a high-budget gem in the future. The pedigree of inspiration is the original, independent reproduction of Resident Evil 2. The title is still not well known to Polish fans, although it deserves a place on the shelf or HDD of the console / PC. Daymare 1998 was created from the dust of ambition. Invader Studio, despite everything, did not break. The cult of the game is added by the presence of the unfortunate Paul Haddad promoting the title before the premiere. The workshop shortages hidden behind a limited budget did not kill the climate. The city of Keen Sight given to players to explore is a tribute to the pre-rendered vision of Raccoon City given a contemporary camera perspective above the character’s right profile. And yes, it is playable. Very nice. It is even nicer to walk than to run, which is contrary to the habits in the European Council. It’s a pity that the producers of Resident Evil 3 (2020) have not looked at how to build a small-town horror movie with a really large space while still maintaining the necessary intimacy. I’m in a hurry to inform you that the latest updates have improved the performance. If you have small money and you don’t have enough flow from 1998, you have the answer. Take it and play with it, everyone.
The Medium – 2021, Bloober Team
Is the last work of the Krakow developer a horror movie in the full sense of the word? It owes its place on our list for two reasons – it perfectly demonstrates its local character and is the only reference to the Silent Hill narrative. In addition to the delicious notes of master Yamaoka, The Medium strikes with a depressing atmosphere, polarizes two worlds, like the formerly underestimated DarkSeed, where the character also drifted parallel in two worlds. Due to the strong limitations of that era, The Medium is the first to do it in such a tangible style. Curiosity has traditionally won out, so without another attempt to wrestle with the need to reduce my personal “backlog” – I was drawn into Krakowska. Marianna, the most important medium in The Medium, begins a journey through the estate estates straight at the end of the 1990s. The recent folklore of Polish interior design is felt every step of the way. Segments overgrown with design, the floor once called parquet by professionals, squeaking kettles. The Medium demonstrates its locality and cultural affiliation in one meter distance on average. A minor luxury of the PlayStation 5 edition is the trajectory of the controller deflection. This is where the differences of the console version end. No new content, locations, notes or soundtrack. I did not have the pleasure of meticulously testing the premiere edition. Bloober Team released the game at the beginning of last year, exclusively for the Xbox Series X | S. Finding moments of rest, I try to follow the path of the past and paranormal. First, reaching the road creating a truly Lower Silesian charm, although the action was located near Krakow. The Niwa Center, a conceptual derivative of the actual Cracovia hotel (for years abandoned in the endless rustle of trees). When exploring the interior of this place, the player is aware of being at a point of maximum posthumous concentration. There is also a presence of another kind. Dozens of references to Polish folk history add charm. I don’t mind even the mix of English expressions with native insignia. This is a procedure for foreign recipients. Master Yamaoka finishes everything together with the catalog of notes.