It’s National VCR Day today, and we wanted to celebrate it by looking at an emerging horror subgenre that is permeating the Indie Gaming community. Back in 2012 a game released that you may know about called Slender. This wasn’t the first appearance of the character, with the entity dating back to 2009 with an image editing competition on the Something Awful forums. From there the character was used and evolved a few times, until the game was made, and subsequently picked up by let’s players who, as we know, largely rely on horror games to create those clippable moments of instant fear that boosts their popularity.
However, this also boosts the popularity of the games they play, and the characters within them. Slender is a prime example of this, and is more related to our topic today than, say, Five Nights at Freddy’s due to the similarity in what’s happened here. One of the most famous examples of slenderman media was Marble Hornets, an ARG webseries. Web Series are arguably just as big a part of the online horror community when it comes to forging bonds and content. This all led to a huge wave of slenderman (and other creepypasta) related media, and the multitude of copycats and (often strangely young) fans and fandoms that sprung up around them.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about Slender in the grand old year of 2022, ten entire years after the release of the original game. Well, it’s because something similar is happening now. On the surface Analogue Horror may seem like a very general stylistic assignment; some old camera footage, a VHS on a CRT. Based only on the words ‘analogue horror’ you’d think something like Marble Hornets would count as an example of Analogue Horror.
However, from its inception in videos like old fake Emergency Broadcasts that were often parts of ARGs, (a prominent one being much of the LOCAL58 series) there has always been a clear, professional feel to Analogue Horror, it is almost always some corporate or governmental video explaining horrifying or mysterious events of entities. Whilst the genre was floating around for a while, the zero-point for Analogue Horror came in 2021 with the release of The Mandela Catalogue Vol. 1. This is one of the first to have a solid and easy-to-follow lore and easy groups and individuals to connect to, and at the time was one of the most high-quality entries in the genre, so naturally horror fans picked it up and lauded it.
This led to, as in the past, it getting picked up by let’s play and reaction channels, as horror content is still a great and efficient way to make entertaining and memorable content. As always, this is what really made it explode, and now analogue horror is an entire phenomenon; and like any phenomenon like this there are plenty of great Indie Games available that execute this aesthetic really well.
Today we’re going to be giving you five of the best Analogue Horror games (one rule: no backrooms) that you can play right now, from some wonderful indie devs around the world! Let’s get started. As a side-not, almost every inclusion on this list is totally free! So you can pick any of these up right now!
Taking inspiration directly from the likes of The Mandela Catalogue and The Monument Mythos to create what could be the most pure and direct translation of analogue horror into game form. In this title, which can be played off your computer or in a browser, and has you applying for a position at the ‘authenticity assessment department’.
At points making direct references to its contemporaries, this is somewhat a love-letter to the genre, and you can tell; it feels very much like a labour of love and it’s one of the highest-quality titles you can find right now.
For my money this is one of the best games on this list, however many consider this too simple and prefer the more visceral scares of Assessment Examination. Maple County is largely the same kind of idea as Assessment Examination, but with a much more solid visual style, it feels a lot more like a video as opposed to a game emulating a video, and could be argued to have a more cohesive world. This is one of the games that was picked up the most by the same YouTubers who popularised the style to begin with.
I’m including this one right in the middle, even though this is an unranked list, because this is easily the most unique game on the list, and in fact one of the most unique I’ve played this year. (secretly, I’ve just been waiting for an excuse to include it on a list) This game shifts your perspective from the last two, instead of identifying alternates, this game puts you in the shoes of a mysterious imposter, for whom it is quite difficult to express emotions.
You play as a strange young man for whom it is difficult to… move the muscles in his face. You have to move and manipulate his face so as to not freak people out as you investigate the disappearance of a local girl. This game uses a specifically-trained face-recognising neural network that allows you to make in-game choices in a pretty non-standard way. If you make an angry face characters will react differently to if you make a happy face and so on. Presented in a striking visual style reminiscent of something like World of Horror, this is one I highly recommend personally.
Okay, look, I know I said that these would all be games you can play ‘right now’, but let’s just consider this entry to be a hidden alternate imposter within this list and forget about that…
The Ground Division is an immersive survival game taking place in a desolate mid-century world. This game is planned to release this year and features co-op multiplayer, a massive open world, land, sea and air vehicles, multiple biomes and full VR support.
From what we know about this game so far, and what I’ve personally heard from people in contact with the developers, this looks to be an exciting entry into not only the Analogue Horror genre, but also the survival genre.
Look, I know, you don’t know, but I know, that this is not the first time I’ve made a list with a strictly limited number of entries and added an honourable mentions section in order to add in more things that I like, but if you don’t make a big fuss about it then nothing bad is going to happen to anyone; understand? Perfect. Here are a few games I really couldn’t justify putting on the list because they’re not quite on the same level as the other games here for one reason or another, but I still wanted to shout out.
First, The Black Iris, which feels more HauntedPS1 than analogue horror, but has a fantastic and colourful look, and one of the best examples of real genuine horror on this list, as well as fantastic cosmic horror. It’s a shame that I couldn’t justify putting this on the list proper, because this is probably the best game on this entire page.
GROUP-864 TRAINING PROGRAM is definitely analogue horror, but considering its similarity to the first two entries on this list, which are already extremely similar to each other, I couldn’t justify including this. For any fans of the SCP Foundation, this is one to pick up and try.
The entire works of Kitty Horrorshow are peak psychological horror, and since there are so many I really can’t describe them all under one umbrella. What I can say is that they’re almost all free and well worth checking out if you have some spare time today.
With great graphic design that’s often reminiscent of Sauna 2000, this game has you looking beneath the surface of the waves to, you guessed it, discover the ocean for yourself. Made in a few hours for the DreadXP Dredge the Depths Jam, this is an atmospheric and frightening title that will really impress and scare you.
And that’s the list, we hope you enjoy these games, and if you want more lists, news and reviews keep it here on Indie Game Fans and check out some of our other content.