Horror games let us experience dangerous things and creepy places from a safe distance, and Five Nights at Freddy'smore
Horror games let us experience dangerous things and creepy places from a safe distance, and Five Nights at Freddy's will make you especially grateful that you can walk away from it at any time -- but will you? Or will a strange fascination keep you glued to the screen? Here are six other indie horror alternatives with the same kind of magnetism, which we've carefully separated from the dusty stacks of lo-fi jump scares that clog the aisles of the Google Play Store.
Inspired by police-state dystopias like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, Beholder puts you in the role of a state-employed landlord who must spy on his tenants, balancing the grim requirements of your shadowy superiors against the various plights of the people you oversee. Will you empathize, or will you prioritize your own survival above all else? Psychological horror is at its best when it makes you think about your own beliefs, and Beholder won't let you shy away from difficult moral decisions. You can get the whole game for $4.99 or try the free demo.
As with all Android games purchased from the official Google Play Store, you have up to 48 hours after purchase to get an automatic refund. After that, it's up to the game publisher to approve or deny on a case-by-case basis.
This 2D side-scrolling adventure game offers a more conventional horror setting than Beholder. You play a character named Price who seizes an old lady's apartment to gain partnership at a prestigious company. However, his guilt starts to eat at him and make him hallucinate scary stuff -- or are those even hallucinations? Can you rescue him from a downward spiral into madness? Distraint takes only a few hours to get through, but it's free, or you can make the ads go away with a one-time purchase of just 99 cents.
In this highly rated adventure game, set in 1944, you start out trapped in an asylum, in the wake of your parents' gruesome and mysterious deaths. The doctors have tried every medication to help with the trauma, and it's either ineffective or causes vivid hallucinations. Guess what? You'll have to take more of the latter, because the only way out of this crazy is through it. Like classic adventure games, you will need to collect a lot of items (many of which won't seem useful, at first), click on things to get descriptions of them, solve a few puzzles, and talk to characters to uncover the mystery that brought you to this place and keeps you locked up within it.
The 2D art has a hand-drawn style that evokes Tim Burton, but don't let that fool you -- Fran Bow is too blood-and-chunks for kids. There are five chapters, and you can download them for $1.96 each. We recommend playing this game on a tablet; otherwise much of the text can be difficult to read.
This adventure game, originally created in 1995, is based on a classic science fiction story of the same name, written by celebrated author Harlan Ellison, in 1967. Told from multiple perspectives, this story is about a supercomputer that has taken over the world and regularly tortures its few remaining human inhabitants. Ellison himself contributed to the game, expanding the storyline, adding more dialog, and even voicing one of the characters. The puzzles can get challenging, and there is some pixel hunting that benefits from a tablet-size screen. But it's a compelling and dark story with tough moral decisions, and it complements the original. I Have No Mouth is just $3.99 on the Google Play Store and has no ads.
Games are usually about solving problems, not creating them. Plague, Inc flips convention on its head by asking you how big of a problem you can create, in the form of a global pandemic. It's a grim concept, but it's sanitized by viewing the world via an overhead map, where your effectiveness is depicted by clusters of dots. How deadly of a disease can you allow yourself to create, if you don't have to face your victims? You may be surprised by how far you're willing to go, and how you feel if your victory isn't total.
Plague, Inc has a limited free-to-play mode, but you can unlock the full base game and remove ads for 99 cents. There are additional in-app purchases that expand your gameplay options, some of which can be unlocked for free just by progressing through the game.