Games like Don't Starve and the Walking Dead
May 5, 2014 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for easy-to-control but sophisticated games with a distinctly spooky sensibility.

I am an avid, even indiscriminate consumer of most kinds of culture. But when it comes to video games, I have to try ten before I can find one I like. In addition to the ones in the title, I loved Gone Home and Papers, Please, both of which also captured a similar mood and were fairly simple to control.

The main problem is that I get really confused when it comes to navigating 3D space in games. I'll get lost trying to find the car I just left, or give up when it comes to navigating around some obstacle. I also get really dizzy whenever I have to control a camera in addition to a character. The Walking Dead & Gone Home prove that the game doesn't have to be completely 2D, but it does need to be very straightforward in its controls. I'm also not that good at games- an endless onslaught of really tough puzzles or action sequences would probably defeat me, although I'm not afraid to look up an answer or two on the internet.

Beyond that, though, all of those games have a certain tone in common - they're quite dark, though often with flashes of grim humor (Papers Please, Don't Starve). Creepy, spooky, unsettling, weird...when it comes to games, apparently, that's my thing. When I was a kid I cut my teeth on Laura Bow series (anybody remember those?) so maybe that's where it came from. Otherwise, sandbox games, puzzle games, point-and-click, even first person shooters - they're all cool if they fit my control criteria and they capture that mood I'm going for. I'd especially love a straight-up horror game, but most of them seem to hinge on shakily running through mazes in the dark, so I think I'd lose my lunch for all the wrong reasons.

This would be for PC, ideally available on Steam. I know about the other Telltale games and I'm looking forward to playing them, and I tried that one scary game that was bundled with Don't Starve for a while. I've played most of the early Sierra adventures (Police Quest, etc.) and

Looking forward to your suggestions!
posted by pretentious illiterate to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: whoops, that was supposed to say "and liked them."
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:09 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Kentucky Route Zero is incredible and sounds exactly like something you'd like. It's basically an easy point-and-click game, where all the enjoyment comes from the writing and the (spooky, beautiful) atmosphere. My only caveat is that it's very short, since only two of the five acts have been released. I don't think you'll be disappointed, though.
posted by theodolite at 5:13 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Have you played Limbo? You should play Limbo. It's pretty and spooky and not twitchy and totally worthwhile.

Also, if you don't already know about it, the Don't Starve expansion Reign of Giants came out on Steam last week. I haven't tried it yet, since it's not out yet on the PS4, but the one review that I tried not to read because of spoilers said it's fun and totally worth the $4.
posted by aubilenon at 5:29 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Stanley Parable is a quirky little exploration game that I think you might like. It's very similar to Gone Home: it uses first-person shooter controls, but there's no shooting or other violence.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:29 PM on May 5, 2014

DEFCON. It's a 2D strategy game about nuclear war. The rules are quite simple. What's creepy about it is that the interface is highly abstract. You're just sliding a few tokens around on a map (bombers, carriers, etc). Then at some point near the end of the game the other shoe will drop for you, and you will start thinking about how you just killed millions of people in Moscow and Leningrad, and that you deliberately sacrificed San Francisco to do so. You might take a moment to think about the way all those millions of human beings would have died.

What's really creepy is realizing that there were (and are) bunkers full of officers playing a version of this game who failed to make that empathetic leap.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:45 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: It sounds like we have similar taste and similar limitations. I feel like I'm not quite getting the creepy aspect, because I definitely wouldn't have called Don't Starve creepy, so I'm suggesting things that work great for me and might also work for you.

Seconding Limbo.

Possibly Child of Light? It just came out, and while I haven't played much (I haven't bought it yet because poverty) the ten minutes I played on a friend's game were lovely. Less creepy, but a surreal, underwater feeling.

Also Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams might be a thing to look into--it takes place in two worlds, one that's adorable and vaguely reminiscent of Lisa Frank, and the other that's darker and vaguely creepy. Relatively simple gameplay, but I really enjoyed it.
posted by MeghanC at 6:28 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love dark games as well, and it is hard to find good ones. I love don't starve, and fondly remember the space quest and police quest series. Here are some of the darker games I loved (all on steam):

The binding of Isaac - top down rogue-like
Kentucky route zero - point and click adventure
Amnesia: the dark descent - wobbly lunch-loser hallway runner
Scratches - point and click adventure
Dead space 1 & 2 - third person shooter wobbly lunch-loser
Hotline Miami - top down shooter
The void - strange first person gesture based game
The dream machine - point and click adventure
Mechinarium - point and click adventure
The path - third person experimental horror game

posted by Th!nk at 7:08 PM on May 5, 2014

I loved Limbo, and certain things really creeped me out! I think we're probably very similar types of players and I finished it with only a couple of frustrating moments. I'm not very far into Kentucky Route Zero but I'll second that one, too.

Limbo creeped me out, but Amnesia: The Dark Descent scared me like nothing else I can remember in the last few years. It has a little bit of gore, but it's mostly atmospheric scariness. (I played with the lights off and earphones and there were times I had to turn the lights back on. Fun!) I haven't heard good things about the sequel, though.

If you're willing to consider a phone or tablet game, The Room and its sequel were creepy puzzle solvers that are stunning to look at, and I played on my phone.

Maybe someone can weigh in on Dear Esther? I downloaded it but haven't played it yet.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:12 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might consider the Alan Wake games. They are generally categorized as adventure games, though they have a bit more open world gameplay than The Walking Dead. Nice bit of psychological horror (versus the all-to-common buckets 'o blood).
posted by EKStickland at 7:48 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
posted by empath at 8:09 PM on May 5, 2014

Puzzle Agent sounds like it might fit the bill.
posted by boilermonster at 12:25 AM on May 6, 2014

You might enjoy the classic game The Seventh Guest.
posted by solotoro at 2:56 AM on May 6, 2014

Best answer: Dear Esther is exactly what you want. Very immersive and story-based, and forgiving on the controls. I also thought of "Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons" when I read this question.

Lone Survivor is another good choice. And if you have access to an Xbox, there's Deadly Premonition.
posted by jbickers at 5:16 AM on May 6, 2014

Best answer: I love spooky games and, like you, am not a super advanced gamer. I love, love, LOVED Dear Esther. To the point I plan to purchase a PS4 when the developer's new game Everybody's Gone to Rapture comes out just so I can play that one game.

The only bad thing about Dear Esther is that it's too short.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:59 AM on May 6, 2014

Response by poster: Hey everybody - all of these answers were great! Thank you so much. I marked best answers for all the games I have yet to try - there were a couple of other suggestions that were good calls in theory but I'd tried the games and for whatever reason they weren't for me. I think I'm most excited about Dear Esther... I wish the semester were over so I could start playing now!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:27 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed The Last Door.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:45 PM on May 6, 2014

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