Hidden Horror: Scary Games That Deserve More Attention


I’m just going to start by saying this: I’ve always been a fan of horror games. When I was first delving into YouTube and watching horror content, I remember watching YouTubers such as Markiplier playing horror games, in which his reaction to jump scares would get me laughing every time. I also loved the game itself he was playing. This led me to love horror games and the genre of horror itself, as well as discover horror games that were worth playing. But as time went by, I started to gain interest in some lesser-known games. In this article, I will share with you some interesting horror games that deserve more attention. 

The Heilwald Loophole

Ah, welcome to Heilwald Klinikum. Were you assigned an appointment yesterday? Please, right this way. Also, please don’t mind the dingy wet walls, the psychotic mad-smiling staff, or the fact that you’re stuck in a loophole. It’s perfectly normal. This is the Heilwald Loophole, a game where you try to escape a 1940s German hospital and uncover its dark secrets. True to the words of Dr. Randolph, nobody dies at the Heilwald Klinikum, as when you get caught/killed, you wake up in a new part of the hospital, further progressing the story. That is the loophole part of the story. You cannot die.

The graphics of the game are meant to be in the style of PS1 games back in the day, giving it the eeriness of other games in that style. The enemies/staff are also scary in their own right, as they all have different mechanics, all of which you must understand as you play. Another thing I like about the game is that it makes us backtrack to previous locations we’ve been through, with more items that allow us to progress through each area and ultimately complete the game. 

But the thing that the game excels in the most compared to its story and graphics is the audio and sound design. It’s what makes Heilwald Klinikum and its staff unnerving. The sound design fits amazingly well with the atmosphere, which is what makes the game horrifying. The way the characters speak is eerie. It sounds like clips of someone speaking mixed together, adding a human yet uncanny feeling.

What I also like is every time you enter a new area, there is a spine-chilling silence as the sounds of the area (vents, patients, running water, etc.) fill the room. Once the staff of the area you are in first pursue you and lose sight, the music—which serves as their chase theme—becomes the theme of the level, adding a sense of insecurity and making you aware of the enemy, but only when they say they spot you. Every theme of the staff is horrifying, giving me the feeling that they’ll know exactly where I am if I come out of my little hiding spot. 

Sound design is just one of the many elements that can make a good horror game, and I feel like it’s greatly underrated. The Heilwald Loophole masters this aspect above all else. Both the sounds of the hospital and the music it provides always make me feel uneasy, and that’s what makes the Heilwald Klinikum so creepy.


Trapped in the woods, which have a dark, grim touch to them—lacking color and limited light—you are not safe at night. Oh yeah, this is definitely a horror game. In this game, you play as an unknown protagonist as he explores a mysterious dark forest in the Soviet Block. The forest has trapped all who are unfortunate enough to wander inside, and you as the protagonist, must survive and find your way out of the forest.

Darkwood is unique in that its environment and gameplay lack color and are very dark, making the fear of what may lie in the forest stick with you throughout the game. The game also has a third-person, top-down view camera, making this a rare game on this list. 

Now, one of the things I should mention is that this game does not have any jumpscares whatsoever, which is a major part of most horror games. What it lacks in jump scares, however, makes up for the environment, the unnerving imagery, and the creepy gameplay.

From a visual standpoint, the game is creepy enough with its lack of bright color, and I actually like it. It’s creepy enough to make me wonder what lies in the forest. I also just like the way the forest feels. It gives this unnerving feeling that the forest is alive, and you are in the belly of this beast. They mastered the environment, in my opinion. The gameplay is also pretty interesting as well. At first, I thought a top-down view of a game wouldn’t work, but this game does it well. Because you’re given a top-down view with your character in the middle of the screen, you are able to see what’s around you, but not all of it. Sure, you can see the trees and the houses, but you can see the most with the cone of light that represents what the character sees. These are things such as interactable objects, NPCs, and enemies. Your vision can be most terrifying when in certain dangerous situations, such as being chased by an enemy. When you are forced to run away from an enemy, your character has their back turned, meaning you, as the player, can’t see them, but you can hear them. It makes you wonder and fear if they’re catching up to you…if they’re faster than you. That is an example of good gameplay and sound design. 

Darkwood excels in its environment and its tension, combining them nicely to create a really well-done survival horror game. And with the aspects of the visuals and the story appealing to horror fans like me, it enthralled me more than Minecraft, and that’s saying something.

At Dead of Night 

Staying the night at a hotel by the sea. What could possibly go wrong? Welcome to At Dead of Night, a part horror film, part ghost hunt, and part point-and-click horror game released in late 2020 by Baggy Cat Limited. Now you might be thrown off by the aspect of point-and-click, just like I was, as horror games usually are free roam, allowing you to react to the environment, but don’t let that deceive you. It actually makes the game much more horrifying. 

The story follows Maya, a teenage girl who checks into a hotel her friends checked into earlier to wait out a storm. But the hotel’s owner, Jimmy Hall, has other plans. Using a spirit box, Maya can talk to Jimmy’s victims and uncover his dark past, all the while trying to save her friends and avoid Jimmy.

Now you might be thinking: aside from the story, why is At Dead of Night so scary? Firstly, there is the point-and-click gameplay. It limits your ability to move and see where Jimmy is. By doing this, it gives the game a sense of terror, limiting where you can see and go. The amount of time it takes to look behind you is very nerve-racking as you can’t move the mouse to quickly turn around; instead, you have to wait for a mere second just to look back and another second to look in front of you again.

Next, there is the graphics. Unlike using in-game models, they used real actors, combined with close-to-real graphics, to film everything. And after they were done filming, they would then add effects to make the cutscenes appear as if they were happening in-game. I think this is a great way to create tension and a great way to make the player immersed in the game.

Next, there is the audio and sound design. Jimmy will occasionally make sounds in the halls of the floors, indicating how close he is and that he’s coming for you. The way his voice echoes through the halls is terrifying, and when playing the game—I could never tell where he was, which was already unnerving. The ambience of the hotel is creepy as well, with the winds of the storm adding to it. The ghost mechanic of the game is pretty unnerving as well: when you find ghosts, either through pure luck or using the compass, it makes you jump as it catches you by surprise. Some parts of their stories are also a little disturbing, especially how they die.

At Dead of Night really masters atmosphere and tension. The Sea View Hotel is very creepy, and the tension Jimmy brings by stalking you can definitely stick with you after you’re done playing. Actually… all of this seems familiar. It almost sounds like a haunted hotel in the Rocky Mountains. 

I’m on Observation Duty

Have you ever played “Spot the Difference?” The game where you look at an image and compare what’s different from the original image? Well, how about if you combine the concept with you being a guard looking at cameras, trying to see if anything has changed while trying to survive till 6:00? Welcome to I’m on Observation Duty, a game series that adds a unique little twist of horror to spot the difference, with you watching live surveillance footage as you try to spot anomalies/differences in the rooms. But how can a game of Spot the Difference be scary?

Your goal in each game is simple, find and report anomalies in different rooms until 6:00. But make sure there aren’t too many anomalies active, as too many will result in an instant game over, and you will have to try again. I like this game because of how immersed you have to be to complete it. You really have to pay attention to every minute detail in every room, as an anomaly could include a small piece of paper being moved or a fan turning off. This game really gets creepy when you’re just getting started, and all you hear is the silence and ambience of every room.

The silence of each level, alongside the humming of a fan in one of the rooms, is eerie, and it definitely adds creepiness to the game. Then, as you’re carefully examining the rooms… boo! An intruder appears inches in front of your face! The jumpscares in this game are random. Every time you play a level again, the anomalies will be different, meaning the next anomaly could be something that could catch you off guard, and you wouldn’t even know it. It’s enough to make players just tremble in their seats as they wait for the next anomaly that could jump out at them. Some of the anomalies in this game are not only scary but a little creepy as well. One of the creepiest, in my opinion, is when a painting or picture changes to show something creepier than it was before. It always gives me goosebumps when an already creepy painting changes into something even creepier. 

Jumpscares are what complete most horror games, and add that to the unnerving silence which can be interrupted at any time, and the I’m on Observation Duty series can become a really creepy experience. For those who want to try it out, I recommend starting with the fourth and fifth games, as those are the most recent.

It Steals

When you open It Steals for the first time, you open to a black screen, with the only option being “Play.” Once you press it, you are immediately put into a black-and-white tiled maze with only a single message appearing on the screen: “Press R for Radar.” Your only source of defense is a flashlight. You hear something in the background, and once you follow its source, you find a blue, glowing orb. You soon realize your goal: “steal” all the orbs. But remember, you are not alone. You are never alone.

Once you complete the level after a few tries, you soon realize that there are 5 different game modes, each one increasing in difficulty. If you didn’t know, you are “it.” You are trying to steal the orbs from the monster, thus the name of the game. This game is called “an experiment in fear,” and for a good reason. There is no story, no explanation of how you got in the maze, no story on the creature(s), just a goal and something that wants to kill you in each mode. 

This game might just be the scariest one on this list, not because of the PS1 graphics or the unnerving silence, but because of the atmosphere, the setting, and the monsters of each mode. For the sake of simplicity, I will be referring to the first mode, “Classic Mode.” The dark environment, the liminal, empty maze, but mostly, the monster. The monster does not chase you immediately. It hides from you. It stalks you. You catch glimpses of it before it returns to the darkness to hide. Sometimes when you’re not looking, it gets very close to you, and you can hear it breathing down your neck. You quickly look, and you see it’s just inches behind your back before it retreats into the darkness, which kind of acts like a jumpscare. Just the fear of being watched by the creature in the dark, the fear of the unknown and what will happen, and some of the unexpected jumpscares that happen are what make the game truly scary. The monsters use stealth to sneak up on you and end your run in unique ways, all of which are terrifying in concept.

There isn’t really anything more to say about what just might be the scariest game on this list. It Steals is terrifying in its simplicity. The way the monsters hide from you is really scary, and it’s something not a lot of horror games use. It’s what makes a good antagonist in a horror game and therefore makes a good horror game.

Honorable Mentions

Although I did not get to all the games I wanted to on this list, here are a few more that are worth checking out.

  • FAITH: The Unholy Trinity
  • Escape the Backrooms
  • Iron Lung
  • Dredge

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