If only half of the horror games scheduled for release this year deliver on their promises, 2016 will be the year horror gaming breaks huge. Whether it’s the wealth of innovative, quirky games coming out of kickstarter (check out that list here), disturbing psychouts that bubble up from the darkest corners of the web, AAA games with horror elements, or “traditionally” funded indie games, there’s a ton of cool, scary shit on its way in the new year. Below are my personal, most-anticipated horror games for 2016 that are not being funded through crowd sourcing.
In indie game Oxenfree, the mundane terrors of real-life adolescent relationships smash up against supernatural horror. The story-driven platformer tells the story of a group of teenagers who spend the night on an uninhabited island. One of them brings along a radio that seems to receive transmissions from another plane of existence… then things get weird. Playwise, Oxenfree turns one of the most familiar game mechanics of all — the side-scrolling platformer — into something menacing. Through level design and art style, the well-known “travel from left to right” movement starts to seem ominous, and the tiny, cartoon-like characters seem trapped and powerless, dwarfed by the oppressive landscapes surrounding. Oxenfree underscores its weird atmosphere by having the entire screen sometimes detune like an aging VHS tape about to snap. If this game can live up to its own ambitions, everyone will be talking about it, promise. Luckily, we won’t have to wait long to find out: Oxenfree is due for release on PC and Xbox One on January 15.
This is by far the highest profile game on my list, although whether Doom is a horror game or a shooter really depends on your definition of the words. I say it is. Past entries in the Doom series have had some really scary moments, and any franchise that regularly involves murdering demons in Hell is “horror” enough for me. Anyway, I can’t list my most anticipated video games in 2016 without mentioning how much I’m looking forward to this reboot. Doom’s developers say they want to avoid the “hide behind something and wait for the health bar to refill” style that’s become so prevalent in shooter. Instead, you’ll be rewarded for rushing into swarms of badguys, soaking up bullets, then healing up with some Stimpacks when the battle’s done. The game’s guiding principles are “badass demons, big effing guns, and moving really fast,” which is about all anyone can ask for from a Doom game. Doom is due out for PC, PS4 and Xbox One in the first half of 2016.
All horror is personal, and Routine picks at my own greatest fear: Nothingness. This exploration-based game is set on an abandoned moonbase, where a lone astronaut is trying to discover where everyone went. Basically my worst nightmare. While horror-in-space games aren’t exactly new, they have too often veered into jumpscares or “grab that huge gun and blast the scary alien” territory. Alien-blasting is fun, but it’s not what’s scary about space travel to me. Routine promises realistic space horror, and the reality of life off our planet is way more terrifying than sci-fi monsters. Space travel is the perfect illustration of human fragility. Without our atmosphere and gravity, we’re defenseless. We’re dead. The thought of a space walk gone wrong, and slowly drifting away from the planet into the endless blacknesss of space is way scarier to me than creatures from another planet. Who needs monsters in the face of Nothing? Hopefully, Routine explores that kind of thing, and judging from the video embedded above, it’s on the right track. Routine doesn’t have a specific release date yet, but 2016 seems reasonable.
Dead Island 2
Like Doom, Dead Island 2 isn’t purely a horror game. Sure, Dead Island 2’s world is overrun by the living dead who will eat your brains if given half a chance, but the focus of the game itself is more on action, role-playing, and class-based multiplayer combat than creating terror and tension. Still, a game can’t have this many zombies and not be at least partly horror. Dead Island 2 promises to be bigger in every way than the original sleeper hit. It takes place in the familiar locale of the California coast, taking players to dead-ravaged versions of iconic West Coast landmarks like Venice Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll craft makeshift weapons, team up with fellow survivors, and otherwise face the end the world with style and violence. As we’ve come to expect from the Dead Island series, the reveal video is a great work of art in itself. Check it out above. Dead Island 2 is dropping on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC sometime in 2016.
Not much is known about Outlast 2. The enigmatic reveal video above, a single screenshot, and a few basic facts (gameplay will be similar to the last game, but the setting will not be an insane asylum this time.) are all that has been revealed about this game, but the original Outlast was so good, I don’t need any more details to include Outlast 2 on my “most anticipated” list. Outlast 2 is scheduled to arrive on the PC, Xbox One and PS4 this Fall.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman and The Twilight Zone, this evocative PlayStation 4 game tells the story of the cursed Finch Family. It weaves together a different narrative for each member of the clan, with each short story detailing its subject’s last day on earth. The gameplay is first-person, but the mechanics and look are customized to each family member’s situation and personality, so a level about a little girl in the 1950s having a strange dream will play differently from a level about a teenager’s visit to a therapist in 1968. If that sounds lyrical and mysterious, it’s meant to. According to game Director Ian Dallas in an interview with Polygon, “My perspective is that the universe is stranger than any of us can imagine. It’s scary but it’s not just scary. It’s also surprising and confusing and wondrous.” You have to respect any game with the kind of ambition that. What Remains of Edith Finch displays. It will be released on PlayStation 4 in 2016.