So far, so good in The Dark Pictures Anthology, an anthology series of choice-based, interactive, cinematic drama and survival horror video games. Four games are already out on the market, with the fourth title wrapping up season one with a bang. Next up are four new games set to release annually, making up eight games in the full anthology. Depending on how successful the series is, The Dark Pictures Anthology will expand to even greater heights, with spin-offs and mainline titles alike.
In anticipation of what’s to come, we’ve rounded up the titles in The Dark Pictures Anthology‘s first season. Sure, each game has its perks, and every title is generally a worthwhile standalone entry to consider. However, some titles exceed the rest, even by the slightest margin. Whenever you’re ready, here’s every game in The Dark Pictures Anthology ranked from worst to best. Also, I’ll be looking at the plot of each title with a keener eye, so be sure to watch out for spoilers.
4. Man of Medan (2019)
The first entry in The Dark Pictures Anthology had a lot riding on its back. It’s an entry that followed Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn's rampant success. The idea was that Dark Pictures would share similar DNA yet offer a shorter, more interactive experience. While smaller in scale, fans would presumably have more room to bond with these games while providing the developers with the flexibility of a more episodic release.
Unfortunately, Man of Medan didn’t quite check all the boxes. The characters were fewer, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. However, they were underwhelming, too, which should have been the complete opposite. With fewer characters, I expected Man of Medan to show more prowess in each one’s appeal. Especially when one of the appeals of Dark Pictures games is that players choose which character they’d like to save and which one they’re okay with letting die. Without proper character development, you might as well let all characters die.
So that I don’t dish out any spoilers, I can only describe Man of Medan’s ending as utterly ludicrous. Throughout this grueling nightmare, you’re forced to make life-or-death decisions. It all seems so dire, and there are aspects that matter on a larger scale. Yet when the final twist is revealed, all the hard work you’ve put in begins to feel like a load of crap. As it turns out, none of the monsters were real. Instead, they were mere hallucinations induced by some chemical bio-weapon.
On the flip side, there aren’t many horror titles that depict themselves aboard decrepit ships. Moving below the decks, you feel the chill run down your spine, anticipating monsters and ghosts jumping out of nooks and crannies. It’s surreal that you feel a slice of pain when the credits roll because no spooky adventure should end that soon.
3. Little Hope (2020)
Four students and a professor set out on a trip to the woods of Massachusetts. Along the way, they get into an accident that leaves them wandering off into the mysterious deserted town called Little Hope, seeking help. Instead, the town turns into their worst nightmare, trapping them in a mysterious fog and haunting them with visions from the past. The group uncovers disturbing secrets as vengeful ghosts hunt them down. All along, the town’s atmosphere doesn’t help much with some truly creepy sound and visual design to go around. It all sets the pace for an unforgettable thrill.
Unfortunately, Little Hope suffers from plot issues, including the idea that the events taking place are a mere figment of the imagination of one of the characters. Perhaps it’s a twist curated to blow your mind at the last stretch. However, the effect is the opposite when you feel no sense of importance for the nightmare you’ve just been through. It becomes dangerously funny when you realize that the Man of Medan also pulled the same ridiculous fake-out twist.
Despite the disappointing turn of events, Little Hope’s plot is quite ambitious. Innovative, even. There is a neat sense of time-lapse, as well as a form of iterating the same events and still meeting the same fate. Also, there’s the fact that Little Hope drastically improves on its predecessor’s gameplay. Even the visuals are better, from the camera angles to the quick-time events. It also plays much smoother than Man of Medan, all of which don’t go unnoticed.
Giving credit where it's due, and considering the effort to introduce unexpected twists, even if they needed more time in the oven, I think the third spot of every game in the Dark Pictures rank will have to do for now.
2. House of Ashes (2021)
On to the next installment, the third installment, sending major throwback vibes to The Mummy. House of Ashes kicks Man of Medan out of the running for having well-written characters you easily bond with. Emotions run high, with players constantly getting taunted about saving the character or sending them to an early grave. Also, unlike Man of Medan and Little Hope, House of Ashes doesn’t throw a ridiculous fake-out twist at the end, writing off all the hard work you’ve put in.
Additionally, House of Ashes presents a larger-scale threat than any of the previous games. Set in Iraq, a group of soldiers is trapped in an ancient, expansive underground temple. Soon, it becomes apparent they’re not alone. Something monstrous lurks in the shadows. Vampiric creatures of sorts. Well, at least this time, you have combat training to lean on, an aspect that pushes you to grind rather than just plod along.
Above all, House of Ashes fuses together all essential gameplay elements, from well-designed, terrifying monsters to tense, chilling moments amplified by sound and visual design and in-depth storytelling that explores character personalities and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout your playthrough. There are no disappointing plot twists to worry about. Choices that feel impermanent. Characters have development arcs that make you feel like they’re not the same people you started this nightmare with. An atmospheric tale and testament to the detrimental effects of the Iraq War. What more could you ask for?
1. The Devil in Me (2022)
It seemed like House of Ashes would be Supermassive Games’ best Dark Pictures work. However, the developer was determined to wrap up season one with a bang, diverting from the tried-and-tested action movie fun of House of Ashes and, instead, opting to reel players into a real-life thriller inspired by the 1890s serial killer, H.H. Holmes.
It starts off with a documentary film crew exploring the serial killer’s replica of the infamous murder castle. Soon, they become trapped within the claustrophobic walls of the hotel, struggling to escape Holmes’ death traps. Perhaps it’s the real-life inspiration behind it that makes The Devil in Me the most terrifying entry yet. Or the sense of dread within the nerve-wracking halls that makes you want to crawl to a corner and cry.
Each setting in Devil in Me feels like a Saw-inspired episode, where every character’s motivations, phobias, addictions, and medical issues are exploited. None of the supernatural or fantasy elements of the previous games were featured. Instead, a deranged criminal mastermind devises all scenarios, surveilling the film crew via system monitors and setting up unnerving ways to take them down.
The odds seem to be against you. You're always feeling helpless, like danger lurks around every corner. So much so that if you end up surviving the hotel’s walls of terror, it actually feels quite thrilling. Devil in Me is the perfect way to close a Dark Pictures Anthology’s season, plus it sets a high bar for the final season to pick things up from. If there’s one entry you want to start your Dark Pictures journey with, I'd recommend The Devil in Me hands-down.
So, what’s your take? Do you agree with our every game in The Dark Pictures Anthology ranked list? Let us know down in the comments or over on our socials here.