Insert Disk collects 5 Free Horror Games for the PC.
Today’s retro game review is 5 Free Horror Games for the PC, plus a bonus entry. We all love horror games and we love them even more when they are free to play. This Halloween take a look at these 5 free to play horror games. Some will entertain you and at least one will make you think.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s spooky game suggestions. Seeing as you all seemed to enjoy the last episode, today I thought I’d take a rather informal look at 5 more free to play horror games this Halloween. If you did miss part one you may want to click the link on screen now. All the games you’ll see on today’s list were free at the time of downloading and are likely to remain so. I will also give you a bit of a heads up that there may be minor spoilers involved here but I will do my best to not reveal any major plot points. I will give you enough to give you a good impression of the game play though.
Haunted Gas Station
With that said it’s on to our first spooky game, and it’s a good one, simply known as Haunted Gas Station. The game is a 2019 release from JubleLemonSeed So, Haunted Gas Station. In essence the game plays out as a jumpscare experience. You’re thrown straight in to the action having hit a deer in the road. Never mind though as help is at hand by the way of the nearby gas station. You’ll find that your character narrated their internal monologue to help build the story whilst your trusty mobile phone helps provide a light source.
I came in to this one completely blank with no prior knowledge of the game and I’m glad I did so. The game starts off fairly predictably with one of the staff locked in the restroom. It gives the perfect reason to go round back in the dark to pick up the keys. There’s a really nice sense of sound design here and a genuine sense of the unknown. You’ll also feel very silly if you do happen to jump as a rabbit runs out from behind the bins. Things go south pretty quickly of course as it’s clear that death is in the air. It’s unclear exactly what is going on early on but the mystery all adds to the fun.
It’s clear that this title was made on a budget. NPC’s are not exactly animated, instead, there’s always a good reason to have them quickly killed or already dead. This is an effective solution to having to animate the characters. Whilst the premise could be seen as a bit sinister and the music will put you on edge, it’s clear that the developer only ever intended this game as fun experience, as opposed to a harder hitting horror. And it’s that sense of fun that perhaps sets this game apart from some of the similar titles around. The DVD shelf is full of spoof titles such as Max Pun, Diet Hard, Robocoop, Mall Carp and perhaps my favourite, Reservoir Frogs. Despite its soft and friendly tone there are some decent scares to be had here. The music is spot on in terms of building tension and the slightly unpolished aesthetic doesn’t actually do the game any harm in terms of emersion. Some of the scares themselves can be a little predictable but I really enjoyed this one all the same. For a not so serious indie jumpscare experience, Haunted Gas Station is sure to kick off your Halloween in a positive way.
Lurk in the Dark: Prologue
Next up is Lurk in the Dark: Prologue. Another 2019 release, this time from IDEA FRUITION. Where Haunted Gas Station brought the cheap thrills fun of jumpscares, Lurk in the Dark takes an altogether different approach to scaring the player. For a free to play experience we’re very much in the higher tiers of visual quality and story telling here. Now, I’ll do everything I can here not to give away plot points as they are very much the cornerstone of the experience. I’ll simply leave it that at least early on in the game it’s your task as the protagonist to investigate the happenings of a rather creepy mansion in a town that has many secrets.
You’ll walk at a snail’s pace and that’s not a bad thing as it adds to the sense that should something be stalking you, there’s little change of fighting back or running for cover.
The deliberately slow speed also emphasises the need to investigate your surroundings. The dark hallways are beautifully rendered and contain many massages. Some useful, others are simply there for ambiance.
Throw in to this the need to occasionally traverse the mansion by crawling under debris, there is a real sense of foreboding and a feeling that you are quite vulnerable to what else may be in the mansion.
Lurk in the Dark does feature an inventory system and you will need to obtain keys, health and other items to progress. Think of it as the original Alone in the Dark from a first-person perspective with the combat mechanics removed.
Whilst there is now a complete excess of this type of game on the market, Lurk in the Dark does stand out for me as one of the more polished titles.
The jumpscare elements are few and far between which is a refreshing change. There’s a general creepiness in the game that obviously took a lot of planning. It’s not just a lot of spooky elements thrown together, there’s a real narrative and a real purpose here. Even some of the more innocuous looking props feed in to the wider story.
Lurk in the Dark looks beautiful, has a decent range of puzzles and has a does a really decent job of creating a hunted atmosphere. I’ve obviously only shown the spoiler free parts here but I would definitely recommend you take a look at this one. Preferably with headphones on in a dark room.
This is a big budget scare adventure at a perfect price point.
The Designer’s Curse
Next up we have The Designer’s Curse. Yet another 2019 release, this time from CBGames. This time though by a 15 year old using the Unity Engine. More on Christian Blandford in a minute but first a look at the game itself. For this one I’ll perhaps read from the official synopsis.
““The Designer’s Curse”, a First-Person Survival Horror Game inspired by the works of the most influential old school horror games, such as Amnesia and Penumbra, this game allows you to delve into the depths of Shaw Well Manor, finding your way through the castle reminding yourself of what you have created. With help of Original Soundtrack by Mikko Tarmia (Composer for Amnesia and Soma), this game really creates an atmosphere of fear and dread.
Explore the depths of this mansion knowing the fact that you are not alone, and you’re being hunted by the most terrifying beings, created by the protagonist himself.” Whilst The Designer’s Curse may not be pushing and boundaries for the genre it is incredible proficient in what it sets out to be. As simple yet satisfying first person horror experience.
Yes, there’s definitely elements in here lifted straight out of other games. The tried and tested hiding in the locker trope as well as the mechanics of peering round corners, lifted from the Amnesia series.
In a way though, that doesn’t matter. The Designer’s Curse is a project of passion and released for free. This is a young man getting familiar with the art of game making.
As I mentioned earlier, it was 15 year old Christian Blandford behind the games development and I have to say this is a very competent release for what it sets out to be. You only have to look at his Twitter account to realise he’s a Grade 8 musician and it should come as no surprise that he is an A grade student at Computer Science. Yeah, he’s one of those clever types.
As for the gameplay in The Designer’s Curse you can expect quite a polished experience. Whilst there are off the shelf assets from the Unity library there is enough character infused in to the gameplay to allow this one to stand out a little from the crowd. Despite the rather generic premise the scares are executed well enough to warranting you sinking some time in to this one. Overall, a nice little title with a simple scare structure.
When Darkness Comes
Simple, is not something that you could describe our next entry as. When Darkness Comes is not so much of a game as it is an experience. I had heard of When Darkness Comes prior to downloading it but had seen very little of the game play and knew very little of the storyline. As with many of these titles that is perhaps the best way to discover When Darkness Comes. Although I will show a variety of clips here I will steer clear of the games real meaning and any fundamental plot twists.
Yet again hailing from 2019 the experience was developed by Sirhaian. Just to add to the meta Sirhaian will also greet you in game. As soon as I loaded this one up my mind was taken back to what I thought was a similar game, The Stanley Parable. The two were clearly out for that “deeper meaning” experience rather than jump scares galore. When Darkness Comes is an entirely different beast though. It is an experience that both tries your patience at times but does enough to offer up some bread crumbs that something more interesting is yet to follow.
The game is certainly not all out horror despite being listed as so in the Steam Store, even the psychological horror tag seems to not quite fit the bill here either. You’re met by Sirhaian in his experience and go through a purposefully painfully slow orientation of the mechanics and essentially just walking from room to room. After 15 minutes I was almost ready to throw in the towel on this one as I didn’t think it would make for an interesting recommendation. You get the generic, “that’s it, game over” scenario followed by the blue screen of death gag that has literally been done to death since the early 90’s. I just felt that I was wasting my time.
However, I persevered and was rewarded for my curiosity. Before long you’ll encounter more sinister imagery which will then be offset by more beautiful imagery. Then back in to a more foreboding setting once more.
The key to When Darkness Comes is that you’re not really explicitly told where you are or what is going on. Location to location seem to have little context and on a surface level the experience seems almost like an old school tech demo. Of course, there is a much deeper meaning to the experience and being told to follow the light as well as many other subtler phrases help you understand the world.
Is it a horror game? Not really, it’s something else. It’s more like a David Lynch experience or an offbeat art house installation. It’s fascinating but only if you allow yourself to go with the flow. This is one that will either infuriate you or provide you with a rather deeper meaningful experience. I would say that you do need to get to the end of the experience before making your mind up. When Darkness comes may not be for everybody but I think that for some of you watching, this may be an experience too good to miss.
Mr Hopp’s Playhouse
Guess what, were remaining in 2019 with perhaps my favourite game on this list of freebies. Mr Hopp’s Playhouse by the developer Moonbit. Every kid has that one toy that scares them, imagine if it came to life. You play as Ruby, a young girl who has a fear of her handmade toy called Mr. Hopp. Things take a dark turn when Ruby sees that Mr. Hopp, who usually sits motionless in the corner of her room, is gone.
So, how to explain this one. Well, for me this game is part side scrolling adventure, part horror game. Although the subject matter is a little different, I can’t help but draw the comparisons between Mr Hopp’s Playhouse and the earlier 2D ClockTower games. Here, stealth is your friend as you creep around the house to find out what happened to you parents and solve clues in the house. Find items such as tape recordings to help solve the mystery.
You can duck behind furniture to hide from Mr Hopp as well as ensuring to jump over any loose toys so as not to draw attention to yourself. The puzzle elements combined with the horror and stealth aspects are a winning combination in my opinion. The game isn’t as easy as it might fist seem and there has definitely been a lot of love gone in to the design of the characters and house. Oh, and Mr Hopp is terrifying if you don’t expect to see him. I can fully recommend this one and it needs no further explanation as to why.
The Back Rooms game
Now, I have pitched this episode as 5 free horror games but I think that I can squeeze in just one more as a bonus owing to its popularity on the Internet. It is of course The Back Rooms game from Pie On A Plate Productions. Based on the Back Rooms creepy pasta you find yourself in another dimension simply referred to as The Back Rooms. With seemingly no escape you simply have to walk and survive as far as you can. No really, that’s it. You can check your watch to keep sane. Other than that, you simply face an unlimited amount of generated rooms.
As you can imagine, games like this are difficult to review as they are all about the experience more than anything else. There are of course losing conditions. With your aim being to keep same it won’t be long before you start seeing things. Just don’t look at them and you may just survive.
So that’s my list of 5 more free to play horror games. I hope you enjoyed the list and I’ve added all of the relevant links in the description below.
Let me know if there are any other free horror contenders out there that I need to take a look at for next time.
Until then, Happy Hauntings.