Survival horror games are certainly an acquired taste. It seems fans of the genre find themselves at odds with the constantly evolving nature of the selection. We watched the #ResidentEvil series go from being a puzzle-solving exploration game with shooting elements to a full-blown third-person shooter and (hopefully) back again, and we've even seen the #SilentHill series thrive and then dissolve before our very eyes. And these are just a few examples.
Traditional Scares Live On Through These Survival Horror Walking Simulators
Despite those pains, however, survival horror has experienced an impressive resurgence thanks to the indie developer community. A product of this rebirth has been the community's scarier take on the walking simulator genre. These games symbolize the brilliance that has continued to pour forth from the genre despite the failures some of the AAA frontrunners have faced.
In these games, it's not about saving ammunition or finding the perfect metal pipe—it's about finding the right things at the right time and simply getting the f*ck out of there.
'The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter'
In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, you take on the role of Paul Prospero, a paranormal investigator who receives a fan letter from 16-year-old Ethan. Prospero decides to embark on a trip to Ethan's town, Red Creek Valley, where he finds some strong paranormal evidence indicating a string of violent events that have recently occurred in the village.
You'll embark on an investigation that will lead you to the truth behind Ethan's sinister past with his family. There are no monsters to fight or run away from in this one, but don't let the scenery fool you. This game will give you the creeps.
This game is available for Windows and PS4.
'Layers Of Fear'
Layers of Fear puts you in the shoes of an artist returning home following an important hearing. In the process of trying to create your magnum opus, you begin to suffer hallucinations that paint a dark and disturbing image of your past. The story gradually unfolds and you come to realize that your integrity as a narrator is nearly nonexistent.
The world around you quite literally bends and twists while your worst nightmares manifest in some unexpected ways. This game is truly a by-the-books walking simulator. A pretty mild puzzle element keeps you on your toes but, for the most part, you're just walking scared.
This game is available for PS4, Xbox One, Window, Mac and Linux
'Through The Woods'
In this game set in Norway, a mother searches for her missing son who wanders into the forest and ends up getting kidnapped. Dynamic lighting and sound elements lead the way as you attempt to chase down the mysterious kidnapper that has taken your son somewhere deep inside the Norwegian woods.
Though the scares get a bit rough, the story keeps you going as you pull through for the life of your digital son. Go, video game mama! Go!
This game is available for Windows.
'Slender: The Arrival'
Slender: The Arrival is the worthy sequel to the original Slender game developed by the same team. The Arrival expands on the original mechanic of collecting clues while avoiding the Slender Man, but it adds a beautiful landscape, a claustrophobic house setting, and a few other spooky spots to the mix.
With even more places for you to be brutally murdered by the spindly fellow—and still no way to fight back—it's a great return (or inaugural adventure) into the world of Slender. Find those clues and find them fast...
This game is available for Windows, Mac, PS3, PS4, WiiU, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Revealing too much of the plot will ruin this one but, in Kitty Horrorshow's rough-around-the-edges Anatomy, you explore a strange house in the suburbs in order to collect clues and learn more about the place itself.
The catch with this one is that there aren't a lot of clues about what you should be afraid of—a lot of the fear is self-generated and you spend a lot of time writhing around in your own anxiety. There's no combat here, just a lot of losing your damn mind.
This game is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
'Among The Sleep'
In Among the Sleep, helplessness is taken to the next level as you take on the role of a baby who receives a living teddy bear as a birthday gift. After being woken up in the middle of the night, you find yourself on an adventure through darkness to reconnect with your mother and be comforted.
Equipped with your Teddy to lead the way, the two-year-old protagonist, naive and vulnerable, attempts to make sense of all of the eerie and spooky things that he—or rather you—find along the way. The best part about this one is that you get to see the world through the eyes of a child, and once you do, it's not too hard to understand why kids are so afraid of the dark...
This game is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One.
In The Park—another game about a mother looking for her son—we play as Lorraine, a widow, whose son has wandered into the Atlantic Island Amusement Park and disappeared. Like our unlucky pal, Ethan from #HeavyRain, Lorraine can do nothing but interact with objects in the game and call out to her son Callum. Lorraine can also choose to ride the rides around her which act as both a source of scares and exposition for the story.
Throughout the game we learn a lot about Lorraine's feelings surrounding parenting and her son. The combination of exploration and clue finding helps the game transcend cheap carnival scares and position itself as one of the more pensive selections in the walking simulator bunch. OG #SilentHill vibes anyone?
This game is available for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One.
In The Survey, it all starts with a locked phone and a cryptic message. You wake up in an empty house that, at first glance, appears to be nothing special. However, once you find a way to unlock the phone, the normality fades away and memories of the past creep up to rip the floor out from under you.
Like the others, this walking simulator is more about finding audio tapes and journal entries that help you make sense of the story. The Survey doesn't rely too heavily on jump scares either, which may be refreshing for the more anxious players out there.
This game is available for Windows.
Set in rural Kanas, Dead Secret is a horror-based murder mystery in which you'll become a detective hot on the trail on the recent killing of a professor. The premise is simple, you've got to solve the case before you are killed by the same killer.
Most of the game is spent exploring the house solving puzzles, discovering documents and piecing together clues that the professor has left behind. There's a definite Slender element to this one—a masked murderer will follow you around as you try to get things done which creates a sense of urgency that will serve as the backbone for the bulk of your adventure. It's intense, to say the least.
This game is VR compatible and is available for Windows and Mac.
As someone that was quite devastated by the previous failures of the survival horror genre, these games have been a pleasure to play. I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the future of horror and the passive experiences that these games create. While it's certainly satisfying to plant consecutive headshots in a horde of zombies, sometimes you just want to sit back, relax, and wet your pants. Am I right?
So, what do you think? Are you a walker or a fighter?