Creepy exploration game apps okay for kids
February 20, 2021 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for games available on iPhone and Android systems where the main character solves puzzles and explores various settings, ideally creepy ones, but that has minimal combat and certainly no realistic violence or "mature themes." (I'm not a video game person, so I may be using all these terms wrong.)

I'm looking for Apple or Android app games where you explore worlds to find things and solve puzzles with fairly minimal reading required that mostly have content suitable for a pretty young kid.

Things I don't want: sex, violence, knives, guns, blood... Most things that you wouldn't think are okay for a young kid. It would also be great to be able to turn off most / all of the jump scares.

That said, we're especially looking for ones with a creepy atmosphere. After being into ghosts and vampires as a preschooler, my child is now into creepy characters like Pennywise, Slenderman, Sirenhead, this TikTok video, that sort of thing.

As an example, we mostly enjoyed playing Ice Scream 1 and Ice Scream 2. At first I didn't think it was going to be kid-appropriate, and it's rated age 9+ I think, but it was basically fine. A creepy clown in an ice cream truck has kidnapped a neighbor child. To find the child, you go around at night searching through a playground, a broken-down circus, a cemetery, a parking garage. "How can I get out? Oh look, it's a screwdriver. Hmm... what can I unscrew?" "Oh look, she's holding a key. Maybe that will unlock the room in the parking garage. What can I trade her to get it?" That sort of thing. We play on "ghost" mode where the creepy clown can't see you, because it was too scary when he jumped out and froze you with his freezing breath to then kidnap you. The puzzles were just a bit beyond his ability some of the time, but it worked well to play it together. Ice Scream 3, though, has guns and stuff that I don't want in a game.

I also just found something called Bendy and the Ink Machine that seems like it's maybe similarly tame?

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by slidell to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I also wanted to mention that it would be great if the game's main character was Black / African American, Native American, Latinx, and/or Asian, and/or female -- really, anything other than a white male (nothing against them, just that white men are the protagonist of seemingly every other game). That probably deserves its own question later, but I thought I'd throw that out there.
posted by slidell at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

The entire The Room series fits this description, basically a series of neovictorian puzzle boxes that produce minor key harpsicord music and occasional tentacles.
posted by mhoye at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2021 [9 favorites]

Basically a majority of the Big Fish hidden puzzle games are this. Creepy in a pg13 kind of way and more about the puzzles. Just search for “Big Fish games” in the App Store.

They are not free though but they have loads of free trial versions which I found to be generous enough to decide if you want to buy. They can get pricey, but i think they are worth the money and most of them also include bonus chapters for extra gameplay.

Edited to add - most of the protagonists are women, although all white from what I recall. But you don’t really see them much because it’s presented in the first person so “your” perspective.
posted by like_neon at 11:52 AM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Blockheads is kind of like Minecraft in 2-D, though the interface might be a little complex for younger kids.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2021

I really enjoyed The Silent Age - it is an adventure game with puzzle elements set in a creepy post apocalyptic setting.
posted by kaefer at 3:11 PM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think the Room series is going to ideal, depending on the puzzle solving abilities of your kid.

The genre of games most like the Ice Scream series you describe is called “hidden object games”, where there is a lot of finding screwdrivers and trading magic beans for bits and bobs, but also many screens of what looks like piles of junk that you click around and find specific items in, often while creepy atmospheric sound effects play. The protagonists are often white women (that is who they are marketed towards) but they’re usually in first person so it’s not too intrusive. There is a long running series of Nancy Drew games like this. My favorite publisher of hidden object games is Artifex Mundi. They make games in series so while some of them have bright fantastical themes or lightly romantic ones, many of them are like, Spooky Pirate Ghosts or Small Town Demon Cult Detective. Plenty of slightly twisted dark fairytales, too. A lot of these games have been around for a while and have numerous playthroughs and reviews so you should be able to pretty easily look up anything for content checks or if you get stuck.
posted by Mizu at 4:53 PM on February 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oxenfree is kinda like this. Point-n-click walk around adventure, with ghosts (?). The protagonist is female. The themes skew a little more "teen" though, so check it out before letting the kid loose with it.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:06 PM on February 20, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks! I'm really looking forward to checking some of these out! In case it helps as you think about it, I actually have tried The Room and think it's too micro for him -- he likes walking around. A lot of these sound perfect. Thanks!
posted by slidell at 6:05 PM on February 20, 2021

Limbo sounds ideal.
posted by saucysault at 8:21 PM on February 20, 2021

Limbo sounds ideal.
posted by saucysault at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Monument Valley isn't exactly creepy, but the world is strange in a way that might be of interest.
posted by eotvos at 5:31 AM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Room series, seconding mhoye. Also machinarium.
posted by umbú at 5:42 AM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've also heard great things about Never Alone. Also probably not creepy, but exploration and puzzles mixed with stories. It looks beautiful, but I've not played it.
posted by eotvos at 5:47 AM on February 21, 2021

I loved Machinarium and The Room. I’m excited to try the others mentioned because I miss playing those kinds of games.
posted by victoriab at 7:04 AM on February 21, 2021

I liked The Last Campfire from Apple Arcade. Good puzzles, music and visuals.
posted by victoriab at 7:06 AM on February 21, 2021

Limbo can be quite gory, actually. The gore is somewhat abstract because the character is a silhouette, but the deaths can be gruesome (beheading, spikes, crushing, etc.). Tame for adults, would not recommend for young children.
posted by Comet Bug at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2021

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