The scariest stories are now playable

Doll heads hanging on branches.
(Jessica Fu | Daily Trojan)

Spanning even further back than the teachings of antiquity to the rise of aspiring TikTok influencers plaguing the USC Village, the macabre quality of horror has existed within stories for eons.

From the early recounts of classic campfire ghost stories that solidified the tropes of folklore to the Golden Age of masked slashers that terrified audiences on the silver screen, horror has undergone countless transformations to adapt to the contemporary fears of the public. This preservation of the horror genre was essential to entertaining audiences and led to poems, films and the birth of a variety of other media.

It was only through advancements in technology that enabled the very first horror game, “Haunted House” (1972), to take the world by storm and alter the way people experienced horror. This newfound scare method led to the establishment of the horror genre as a staple in the gaming industry and, for the first time, allowed audiences to actively engage in horror experiences rather than simply observe them. 

This long-standing tradition has been even stronger in the modern world. Following highly-rated horror releases last year such as “The Mortuary Assistant” (2022), 2023 is set to continue this strong line of horror games with upcoming titles that are sure to scare the socks off your feet. 

“Narin: The Orange Room” by Urnique Studios 

Bearing a strong resemblance to the structure of the puzzle-platform horror game “Little Nightmares” (2017), Narin is a third-person survival-horror game that follows a seventh grader, Narin, who is tasked with finding her mysteriously missing sister. Narin explores the secrets of her school and seeks to uncover hidden clues regarding similar missing persons cases. 

However, her adventure is far from a simple and tranquil road. Along the way, the player must hide from constant threats at night and investigate during the day to solve the case.

A unique factor that fans will enjoy and what separates “Narin: The Orange Room” from a standard adventure horror game, is its utilization of the multidimensional mechanic feature, which creates two contrasting worlds in an alternate reality that Narin must traverse through in her adventure. This game element forces players to hide from invading ghosts that come out at night in the “Twilight Time,” yet also allow for a slower-paced examination of the school’s hidden secrets during daylight hours. 

A dimension similar to the interaction of Chihiro from the famous Studio Ghibli production “Spirited Away” (2001), Narin offers the player a sui generis experience that combines the hide-and-seek aspect of horror with juxtaposing casual gameplay, allowing for a balance between two methods of play styles and a fantastic story for players to methodically pull apart. Overall, those who are interested in getting their hands on Narin will have an invaluable adventure that pulls from a multitude of genres.

“Texas Chain Saw Massacre” by Gun Interactive

Based on the horror film “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974), the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is an asymmetrical horror game that follows the well-known monster-versus-human format — with different characters having different abilities at their disposal.

A game in the same vein as “Friday the 13th: The Game” (2017), another adaptation of a horror franchise, the “Chain Saw Massacre” is a hunter-versus-survivor game in which players pick from an ensemble of characters — including the iconic chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. Unlike its predecessors, “Chain Saw Massacre” features a never before seen three-versus-four style game, a striking change from the traditional one killer against four survivors trope. 

In this unprecedented style, the player will get to choose from either role — the serial-killing “Family” members or the unfortunate “Victims” who must escape the Family’s grasp.

To assure audiences that their game is not going to be a copy of “Friday the 13th: The Game” (2017) or “Dead by Daylight” (2016), the game developers made a conscious effort to place a heavy emphasis on stealth, teamwork and strategy in order for either team to be successful.

“The Family will need to keep their eyes and ears open and depend on all of the tools at their disposal, including teamwork, to search out and discover where the Victims are before they are able to escape the Family’s clutches,” wrote Daniel Nixon, director of communications at Gun Interactive, in a post on the game’s official website. 

“Sons Of The Forest” by Endnight Games

An anticipated sequel to “The Forest” (2018), “Sons Of The Forest” is a co-op survival-horror game that focuses on players growing their own food, building shelter, crafting tools and fending off hostile inhabitants. After being sent to find a billionaire on a remote island, the main character finds himself in a habitat occupied with cannibalism and other atrocious threats. Partnering with friends or working alone, “Sons Of The Forest” offers a complete freedom-based experience — enabling players to make their own decisions on what to do and where to go.

Though a stray from the typical route of horror and instead borrowing more elements from survival titles, “Sons Of The Forest” will give users a realistic touch and encourage the fan base to thoroughly explore the world’s terrain and landscape while securing their safety, providing sensations of excitement to discover and the constant paranoia of death. The game is set to be released on Feb. 23.

“Greyhill Incident” by Refugium Games

Playing on the intense fear of aliens in 1950s America, with reports of “flying saucers” and mind-blocking tinfoil hats that became a cultural phenomenon, the “Greyhill Incident” is a classic take on the alien invasion horror story — set in the ‘90s in a small neighborhood called Greyhill. 

As Ryan Baker, the average joe living in the invaded suburban neighborhood, the player is tasked with uncovering the alien conspiracy while navigating the neighborhood and encountering other humans. While looting, investigating and helping his neighbors, Baker must also beware of the Greys who seek to abduct the village population. 

An indie horror game taking inspiration from “The X-Files” (1993), this horror game strays from the oversaturated zombie horror games and relies on the classic portrayal of aliens as its main selling point. With aliens with slim bodies, large gray heads, pitch dark eyes and stylish black turtlenecks, “Greyhill” is a game that is sure to provide an enjoyable time of pure entertainment stirred in with a healthy dose of fright. 

Whether it’s ghosts haunting middle school students or aliens dressed as jazz performers, the new generation of 2023 horror games is cementing the current state of the genre into a powerhouse of brilliant storytelling and execution at an unprecedented level of quality. Other noteworthy upcoming titles include a remake of “Resident Evil 4,” “Silent Hill f” and “Abandoned.”