There was once a time when every gamer and their neighbor knew of Frictional Games' Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Thanks to the likes of YouTube and other heavyweight streaming platforms, the survival horror game become something of an internet sensation, with millions bunching together to test its utterly terrifying waters in a bid to accrue the most jump scares.
A fair few years have passed since The Dark Descent sealed its place atop the highest peak of best-selling video games, and to say its influence has only been on a steady decline since its heyday would be nothing than a half-hearted lie. Because the matter of the fact is, it's still inspiring countless others to step up and experiment in similar depths, despite having already caused an everlasting ripple effect. But as far as video games that have made the biggest splash go, we think we can just about narrow it down to a select few.
5. Penumbra: Overture
Years before Frictional Games rustled up the foundations for the universally acclaimed Amnesia trilogy, the creative minds took a liking to another puzzle-solving world, one that went by the name of Penumbra: Overture, a first-person survival horror that undoubtedly paved the way for the former. Similar in design, in the fact that your character could only really use stealth and dumb luck to traverse the creepily vacant world, it became the source material for later ventures, including but not limited to Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Penumbra: Overture follows a man named Philip, a physicist in grieving, as he learns to overcome his late mother's passing. After receiving a letter out of the blue from his supposedly dead father, he is led to an uninhabited location on the far end of Greenland, where he stumbles upon an old mine. Further investigation leads him to venture inside, where he finds the remnants of a lost convoy, ultimately leading him on a breadcrumb trail to understand what happened in the depths below. And as you can probably imagine—it isn't deserted. At least, not entirely.
Soma is reminiscent of Amnesia, not for its setting as such, but for its ability to amplify its psychological horror components without the unnecessary theatrics. Both heavily rely on traversing hollow hallways in search of clues, all while maintaining the illusion that you are, in fact, alone and without a helping hand to escort you. But where The Dark Descent leaves you to fend for yourself, Soma does, if only occasionally, give you a shred of hope, though in a rather unorthodox way.
Soma takes place within a sunken research facility named PATHOS-II, a place where unlikely hero, Simon Jarrett, is tasked with exploring its vacant wards in search of clues to identify its history. However, with the remains of the technologically advanced AI still alive and kicking, it becomes far more than a run-of-the-mill scavenger hunt. Needless to say, finding the needle in the haystack is, regrettably, the only hope for Jarrett's survival. No pressure.
3. Layers of Fear
Bloober Team's take on psychological horror came in the form of Layers of Fear, a 2016 sleeper hit that fused stealth and exploration with a treasure trove of gloomy puzzles and hallucinatory fantasies. But where Amnesia would frequently make use of its roster of twisted monsters, Layers of Fear instead opted for the feeling of being isolated, alone with nothing but thoughts and minor distractions.
The game itself puts you in the shoes of an artist, whose sole purpose is to create the next masterpiece. Finding the muse to achieve such a dream, however, involves stepping back into some of the darker periods of his life. Specifically, the time he drove his wife to suicide, and when her memory became the reason for his rapid decline into the rabbit hole of insanity. From there, inspiration meets the brush, and boy is it bloody.
Monstrum may not keep the psychological aspect fastened to its core, but it does provide a satisfying level of survival horror which, when it rains, it most certainly pours. And thanks to the game featuring randomly generated worlds each and every time, it means no two scares are the same, therefore making it an experience without a shelf life.
The goal behind Monstrum is pretty straightforward: escape a seemingly deserted ship. Though, to reach the exit, you will have to shovel through a network of tunnels and rooms, all of which have monsters running amok in search of the next kill. With only a single life in tow, it means you'll have to keep your wits about you if you plan on staying alive long enough to see daylight.
Excluding the fact that both Amnesia and Outlast are set a century apart, the two do share a pretty similar vein. Both have you wandering monster-infested locations, solving puzzles, and using stealth-based tactics to bypass the bulk of the story. And to be fair, both are perfectly capable of raising a few dozen hairs on the back of your neck. You know, and then some.
Outlast follows an investigative journalist as he reports on Mount Massive Asylum, a facility that houses some of the most disturbing folk on the planet. However, in spite of his best interest, he soon learns that the asylum doesn't want him. Consequently, when the power cuts out, it becomes a game of cat and mouse. The only issue is, Mount Massive dares not employ house cats—but bloodthirsty lions. And unfortunately for you, all you have to defend yourself is a camera. Oh, and a set of cheap batteries. Go figure.
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Which games would you have recommended in our place? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.