The time has come once again for the ghosts and goblins to roam the streets for sweets. But if trick-or-treating is no longer your thing and you'd rather stay in, Download.com has got you covered with some freebie games for creating your own scarefest -- without leaving the house. In 2012, our editors scoured our extensive catalog and collected the most unusual games they could find to scare you. This time around, we dug even deeper, saw things that nightmares are made of, and brought them back to share with you. These creepy finds are listed in no particular order, so pick one or see how many you can finish in a straight run.
Let's start with the creepy tale of a little orphan girl finding her way home, developed in the style of a point-and-click adventure. With its dreamy music and whimsical art style, reminiscent of "Alice in Wonderland," Fran Bow wins a spot on this list.
You play as Fran, a little girl who must escape from a mental institution and track down her parents' killer. Her first task, after escaping, is to find her trusty cat, Mr. Midnight, who can aid her on her journey. During their travels, the two will come across a host of odd characters (both human and nonhuman) that seems straight out of a Lewis Carroll book. Some will help Fran and Mr. Midnight find their way home, but others may have their own agenda.
Fran Bow is not a horror game in the traditional sense. The game doesn't rely on jump-scares (not to say there aren't any) but instead creates a slowly drawn air of eeriness that you can't shake even after finishing. The storytelling, the puzzles, and the haunting music work together to create a constant sense of uneasiness and keep the game intriguing enough to keep playing.
- Scare Factor: 6/10
- Creativity: 8/10
4. The Cat Lady (Win)
Coming all the way from across the pond, Harvester Games puts you in the mind of a modern day pariah: the Cat Lady. The mysterious shut-in living next door has always been a good source of spooky campfire stories. Using the urban tale as a launchpad, Harvester Games explores the character as a protagonist we can relate to rather than portraying her as an inhuman outcast.
The game puts you in the mind of Susan Ashworth (Mrs. A), who lives in her apartment completely alone except for the company of her cat, Teacup. When we join Mrs. A, we learn that she attempted suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs while her cat watched. Instead of dying, however, she wakes up and finds herself physically fine in what seems to be another time and place -- in a serial killer investigation. As her partner abandons her in the killer's house, she starts poking around, only to discover that something paranormal might be guiding the hands of this psychopath.
The game is your basic mystery side-scroller with a hint of puzzle solving, similar to Myst but nowhere near as tough. The art style vaguely resembles something out of "A Scanner Darkly" with extra grittiness. The winning feature here is the quality and effort put into the ambient sounds and effects. The Cat Lady's full ensemble of talented voice actors adds to the immersive experience. The writing does a decent job of making the world believable. The game is episodic, which gives each chapter a different feel. Overall it's a great platformer that is best enjoyed on the big screen. The Cat Lady can get pretty gruesome, so better keep it out of reach of the kids!
- Scare Factor: 8/10
- Creativity: 8/10
Krillbite Studio finished funding this little indie title via Kickstarter in early 2013. Among the Sleep has already received a bit of buzz among fans for its creative take.
Among the Sleep puts you in the body of a two-year-old child as he wanders through his dark, rickety house in the middle of the night. Navigate through shadowy rooms while ignoring the guttural sounds that seem to be creeping up alongside you. Investigate strange noises, climb chairs to open doors, and make your way through the house to find your missing mother. Are the darkened halls and shaded figures the conjuring of a child's imagination, or is there something more sinister out to play?
The project is still in development, but you can enjoy the alpha version here. With its fantastic visuals, creepy sounds, and haunting environment, it's no wonder Among the Sleep generated so much buzz with the folks at Kickstarter. Fans of suspense thrillers will find tons of enjoyment from the demo. Give it a try and purchase the full game once it comes out. If you're a parent, the next time your kids complain about the monsters in the closet, let the little tykes climb in with you. It's scary being small and trying to sleep in this creepy world.
- Scare Factor: 8/10
- Creativity: 10/10
Ever had to work late? It can be nice to have the entire office to yourself. But what if you're not alone? This game will show you why they say overwork can kill.
In One Late Night, you play the last employee, burning the midnight oil in a typical Dunder Mifflin-type workplace. But it quickly becomes apparent why your character is staying in late. Instead of getting work done, you spend the entire time shuffling around the office and rifling through everyone else's property. The fun ends when you return to your desk and find your computer on with a short message: "I see you..." Strange things start to happen, such as lights flickering, chairs moving on their own, and machines turning on by themselves. But that's nothing compared to the shadowy figure that appears.
One Late Night is a first-person horror game where most of the scares lie in taking what seems familiar and giving it a creepy twist. Most of us can identify with being that last person to take off from work, but after playing One Late Night, we have some extra motivation to wrap it up a little early and head out before it gets too dark. The game relies on your paying attention to details while looking for the next clue about the presence stalking you. One Late Night is available completely free courtesy of Black Curtain Studio.
- Scare Factor: 8/10
- Creativity: 6/10
1. Neverending Nightmares (Win)
Another successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, Neverending Nightmares is one of our favorite indie games this year, and it hasn't even been fully released yet. If you only have the time to try one game on this list, make it this one.
With an intense atmosphere, Neverending Nightmares takes the horror platformer to the next level. Don't be deceived by its rudimentary style: Not only are the graphics amazing at full-screen, but the design makes great use of lights and shadows to fully flesh out the chilling experience. The original intent, according to the Kickstarter page, was to provide the player with a psychological thriller based on the developer's own experience with mental illness.
The game opens with you in bed, in a deserted mansion. As you explore the abandoned house, you realize that there are things waiting for you in the dark corners, watching your every move. The more that you play, the more obvious it becomes that these creatures aren't content with just watching. Could your mind be playing tricks on you? Why do you keep waking up in bed without remembering climbing in? Who is the girl in white? Neverending Nightmares masterfully teases with a mystery hidden in horror. Before you know it, the alpha demo will end, leaving you begging for more. Climb into bed and start dreaming if you dare.
- Scare Factor: 9/10
- Creativity: 9/10
Looking for more scares? Check out last year's collection for some more spooky freebies!
Know of a horror masterpiece of 2013? Sharing is caring, so please add your favorites to the comments.