Top Horror Games To Anticipate In 2016
The most classic horror film series were all at one point born of one small team’s vision, a miniscule budget, and a lot of dumb luck. Jaws couldn’t keep the shark from breaking, so instead we were treated to an unseen menace. George Romero’s meager budget on Night of the Living Dead didn’t allow for color. Michael Myer’s iconic mask in 1978’s Halloween was a William Shatner knockoff bought for less than $2.
In video games, horror gradually became the domain of large companies like Capcom, Konami, and Ubisoft. With the rise in strength of indie developers like Frictional Games (Amnesia) and Scott Cawthon (Five Nights at Freddy’s), horror games seem to be returning to doing all they can with every meager cent they’ve got. Overbearing mechanics or overly flashy production are no substitute for an innate understanding of what scares gamers. These are the most anticipated horror games to look forward to in 2016.
Through the Woods
Release: Early 2016
At first glance, Through the Woods has a setting that may seem familiar to horror game fans: A dark, dense forest in the middle of nowhere, illuminated only by the weak shine of a flashlight. Here the similarities end and the horror of the unknown begins.
Norwegian development team Antagonist based Through the Woods on the familiar bedtime stories of trolls, water hags, and mythological terrors haunting the forests they roamed as children. Framed narratively through an investigator’s questioning, players control a mother searching for her young son in the vast forest of an abandoned Norwegian island. Where the island’s settlers went is unclear, but it’s the inhuman creatures wandering through the shadows that players must fear.
In an early demo, players contended with navigating the forest with the assistance of reflective glass fragments left behind by the mother’s son before coming upon a shadowy ravine. The sounds of low grumbling pierce through the night, and suddenly a towering mountain troll is chasing you. After a narrow escape into a collapsed cave tunnel, it becomes clear that something on this island has gone horribly wrong, as players stumble upon a collection of tattered children’s clothes. The investigator can hardly believe it when the mother accuses “Old Erik” of abducting her son, and for good reason. Outside of Norway, Old Erik is more commonly referred to as the Devil.
The team expects to release a new demo today, so keep your flashlights ready for the Pesta demons.
Developer: The Deep End Games
Release: June 2016 (Estimated)
Just like in Jaws or Alien, often the most frightening things are those we can’t see. The Deep End Games adopted this philosophy for Perception, the story of a young blind girl named Cassie.
Cassie must use her extraordinary sense of echolocation and wit to navigate Echo Bluff, an abandoned estate seen in her recurring nightmares. A malicious spirit is tormenting the home and hunting Cassie. Using a number of tools like Cassie’s cane, smartphone, and “sound bombs,” players can successfully use sound to elude their ghostly hunter. Environmental noises like leaking faucets or chiming grandfather clocks can be used as cover to make your escape as well.
Players are also subjected to mysterious leaps backward in time throughout the estate’s history, as rooms morph into older versions of themselves or disappear altogether. Your hunter has a rampant desire to keep this history a mystery, so good luck, stay low, and keep quiet.
Developer: Lilith Ltd
Originally billed as a “spiritual successor” to the Silent Hills conceptual demo P.T., Allison Road has established its own brand of unsettling tension building. Over the course of five nights, players are tasked with discovering the truth behind their family’s fate while avoiding a mysterious ghost named Lily that appears to hunt the player through the house, all under the pressure of a slowly winding countdown to 3 a.m.
Much like P.T., the story unfolds as the player explores every corner of the English flat. Over time, small-yet-significant changes begin to pile up, suggesting that something is terribly wrong with the residence. The level of detail in each environment, down to the grime on dirty dishes sitting in the sink, all goes toward making players slip into a sense of comfort.
New environment concept art recently released by the developer suggests that Allison Road also ventures outside the confines of the house. The art features a swampy forest surrounded by fog, inside of which lies a haunting creature that looks like a cross between a tree stump and a wolf with bloodied antlers. If that doesn’t horrify you, the developer is also working on VR support for the game.
Developer: NVYVE Studios
Ever wish BioShock had more sunlight? P.A.M.E.L.A. is a game about many things, chiefly the fascination humanity has with self-augmentation and perfection in a desolated utopia setting. So yes, it’s at least a little like BioShock.
What sets P.A.M.E.L.A. apart is its gorgeous sci-fi setting, made even more impressive when you consider the primary development team at NVYVE Studios consists of only four people. With a full day and night cycle, light and electricity play major roles in defending yourself from packs of inhabitants driven mad by a mysterious affliction. Using a wrist-mounted computer (AARM) connected to the titular A.I. that runs the city of Eden, players must navigate the city’s nightclubs, malls, and parks while discovering how this idyllic paradise came to fall.
The AARM isn’t just a tool for resource gathering. Players can also wield weapons made of light to fend off more aggressive enemies, or scare away those too frightened to fight. Be careful not to become a monster yourself. Engage in too many fights or cause enough damage and Eden’s power supply may suffer, leaving you stranded in the dark.
Check out the trailer, which features a theme composed by Alien: Isolation audio designer Jeff van Dyck.
Friday the 13th
Platform: PS4, Xbox One PC
Developer: Gun Media
Release: October 2016 (Estimated)
What’s a little horror if you can’t inflict it on your own friends? The recently announced Friday the 13th Kickstarter hopes to give players a sense of what it means to be the iconic killer, Jason Voorhees.
Designed as a seven-versus-one asymmetrical game, Friday the 13th pits one player as Jason against seven Camp Crystal Lake counselors attempting to survive the night. While Jason is designed as a seemingly unstoppable force, counselors can fight back in a variety of ways. Taking down the terrifying madman requires a lot of teamwork.
The game includes a fear system that may cause counselors to hallucinate, a progression system with rewards in the form of alternate Jason models and new playable counselors, and a “make your own trailer” system that lets you relive a match’s best kills.
All that would be interesting enough on its own, but the inclusion of the film series’ most influential production members skyrockets the anticipation. Included in the lineup is original Friday the 13th director Sean Cunningham, award-winning special makeup effects artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead), four-time Jason stunt actor Kane Hodder, and the composer responsible for the original film’s iconic score, Harry Manfredini.
The game is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, having earned over $560,000 of its hefty $700,000 goal at the time of writing.
Developer: Lunar Software
Release Date: 2016 (Estimated)
Though very little of Routine has been seen recently, what’s already been made public still has players fearing the cold and dark corners of the mysterious Lunar Research Station. As an unnamed astronaut, your mission is to explore the abandoned station and uncover the truth behind its inhabitants’ disappearance. Standing between you and that truth is a series of procedurally generated robots and abominations.
When not running away from killer robots, players must dig through computers and security systems in search of info. Players also have one gadget, the Cosmonaut Assistance Tool, to aid in their journey through the base. Part gun, part utility device, the CAT serves as a remote hacking tool, a flashlight, or even a single-shot weapon. The CAT only holds two batteries at a time, though, so a poorly aimed blast might leave you stumbling about in the dark looking for another. The CAT’s night vision screen is also useful in darker areas, like the flooded utility hallways seen in the alpha gameplay trailer, but a sluggish refresh rate means enemies might close in on you before you’re even aware of them.
Developer: Red Barrels
Release Date: Fall 2016
Outlast took the world of horror games by storm in 2013 with its horrifying asylum setting, garnering a ton of praise from critics and YouTube personalities. It was hard to go a single minute without worrying about some psychotic inmate hunting you down in the viscera-caked halls and sewers. Developer Red Barrels is planning to capitalize off of this success with a confirmed sequel.
Little is known about Outlast 2, but a recently released teaser trailer features a burning upside down cross, a weird mix of the religious fanaticism associated with the KKK and anti-Christian imagery. A voice can also be heard citing passages from the Book of Revelation, stating "She made all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.”
The Hum: Abductions
Developer: Totwise Studios
Release Date: 2016
“In just one week, everything changed. In the first few days, everyone could hear that sound; that hum. Then, suddenly they took everything. There was no blood, no war, just rule.”
Those are the opening lines heard in one of the Hum’s first trailers, depicting the aftermath of a massive alien invasion. Unlike War of the Worlds or Independence Day, these aliens are advanced enough to eradicate or abduct most of the human race without any resistance.
The Hum: Abductions is a prequel to the planned main title, The Hum: Alien Invasion. You play as Holly Sanders, a mother living in despair after the mysterious disappearance of her husband months ago. Players must uncover the secrets of the Sanders family while coping with the threat of alien abduction. In a recent trailer, Holly is seen wandering around her home, falling asleep only with the help of a pill, until a giant ray of light pierces through the trees outside her baby’s room. The baby can be heard wailing in fear, but the door is mysteriously locked. Suddenly, the light vanishes and all is silent. Holly forces the door open and finds her child’s toys floating in air, until they suddenly drop and reveal that her baby is missing, any sign of an intruder impossible to find.
Based on the work of author Ariel Arias, the Hum is planned as a multimedia series of novels, RPG games, and comics.
For more scares, check out Tim Turi’s rundown of the best and most promising horror games of 2015.