31 Days of Halloween: My Top 3 Free-to-Play (Mostly) Horror Games
“Loved” by Alex Ocias
***Disclaimer: do NOT play this game if you have a history of psychological trauma and are uncomfortable in situations where there is an attempt to make you powerless.***
One game that falls on the “this is really uncomfortable” part of the spooky spectrum is Alex Ocias’ browser-based game called “Loved.” Basically, you’re a pixelated… square… thing, and you have to earn the approval of the “narrator,” if that’s what it can be called – the person controlling the environment around your square character. This is a good time to state that there is nothing certain about this game.
It’s an arcade-style linear sort of game, but we don’t know who we are, who the narrator is, where we are, why we’re there, or anything like that. All we know is that if we disobey the game’s narrator, we eventually die. Each time we disobey him, he fills the screen with more and more colorful pixels until we can no longer see where we’re going and fall to our doom or run in to the many weapons that the game employs.
You get to make a few decisions at the start. There’s the ever-famous gender question, “Are you a boy or a girl?” As an added bonus, when you click on “girl,” the narrator responds, “No, you are a boy.” After this, the narrator asks you, “Shall I teach you how to play or not?” If you select for the narrator to teach you, it responds, “You do not deserve it.” Alrighty then.
The music, too, is great for setting the mood to be uncomfortable. It’s playing in the background as I type this. I am unsettled. Every shadow in my bedroom seems ominous. Moving on…
This game is totally free and beautiful to look at, but, ultimately: really, really weird. If you like really, really weird linear arcade games, go for it.
Play it here: https://ocias.com/loved.php
“Slender: The Eight Pages”
This is a classic horror game that surfaced in 2012 after the character of “Slenderman” blew up on the internet. I hate playing it.
However, this is because I am a giant chicken. Rather than play it, I much prefer to watch it being played. I do this many times at my best friend’s home in Bear Creek. In the heart of the forest. In the middle of the night. And, hey, guess where this game is set? In the heart of the forest. In the middle of the night.
I don’t make good decisions.
That being said, it is a great game. It’s another one of those how-did-I-end-up-here mysteries, though. You’re thrown in the forest and told to collect the 8 pages. Why do I want to collect the 8 pages? Can I just leave? No? Okay.
My favorite part about this game is that they give you a flashlight and it’s like, “But Slenderman will find you if you use it, probably. Also, the batteries die.”
Gee, thanks. I think I’ll dig myself a hole and wait until sunrise, actually.
Another great part about this game is that the scariest thing that happens is Slenderman gets you. There are no cheap jump scare gimmicks. He either gets you, and your screen goes fuzzy, and you hear the static, or he doesn’t. (But he probably will.) This guy has amassed a cult-like following on Creepypasta and other horror-based websites. I am not one of those following, but I do enjoy watching my friends get terrified by a well-dressed inflatable tube man in the middle of the woods. Which sounds unintimidating, but I challenge you to drive home from your friend’s house after playing this game at 2AM when she lives 2 miles back in the forest. By yourself. Did I mention at night?
“The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo” by Michael Lutz
***Disclaimer: This game is built to psychologically unnerve you and make you second-guess yourself. It gets inside your head, and I am barely being figurative, here.***
THIS GAME: those are the first two words that come to mind when I want to describe it. Out of the games I’ve mentioned so far, this is the one that’s scared me the most. “Slenderman” is creepy, sure, “Loved” is twisted, but “The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo” just… lingers. You’re uneasy for about a week after you play it. There’s my fair warning.
Like “Loved,” this is another browser-based game (a visual novel, really, but the line is so thin between the two) at least the versions that I’ve found. This is a classic “choose your path” game with no character control, except on decision-making. It’s terrifying and uncomfortable, essentially the love-child of “Loved” and “Slenderman.”
Here’s the scene: you’re an innocent teenage girl staying over your friend’s house after moving back to your old town. The night goes pretty normally, for the most part, with ominous in-game text that helpfully (creepily) tells you what time it is over and over, and everything goes south when the teenage girl’s friend mentions her uncle coming over, “the one who works for Nintendo.” Then your character immediately begins remembering bits and pieces of creepy situations and starts to notice everything that was wrong with the night so far.
This game gets inside your head and makes you feel uneasy. You begin second-guessing all of your decisions and trying to piece together how to get yourself out of the situation you’re in. I’m not giving any spoilers, but I enjoyed this game so much that I made sure to unlock every ending, because there are multiple. I also highly recommend you play with the sound on.
I used to play this game here: http://jayisgames.com/games/the-uncle/ but it doesn’t seem like it works anymore, at least at the time I’m writing this.