At the end of last year we wrote a feature outlining how we viewed 2016 to be the ‘Year of the Shooter‘ due to all the fantastic games that released within that genre. You may think this to be a little bit premature (most certainly arrogant) but I’m going to call it right now, 2017 will be the ‘Year of the Horror Game’… and here’s why.
With a recent resurgence in horror game popularity (thank you P.T.) developers are no longer shying away from what really is a booming genre. With survival horror stronger than ever before, with crowd-funding available as an alternative funding model and with new technological advancements allowing horror to innovate and thrive in new formats, we are seeing a real powerhouse of a year emerging for horror fans. Throughout this article I will highlight 12 upcoming games that prove exactly why I view 2017 to be the year of the horror game.
Resident Evil 7
PC, PS4, Xbox One
January 25th 2017
Perhaps one of the most anticipated horror games of all time, Resident Evil 7 is a huge 2017 release whose success or failure may dictate how publishers and developers view AAA horror games for some time to come. Despite previous titles within the franchise leaning more heavily on campy writing and action-based mechanics, Resident Evil 7 is looking to start anew and re-brand themselves as a proper horror experience. With the game being played from a first-person perspective for the first time in the series and being entirely playable in virtual reality, we will have to wait and see if the game’s change of direction will work out for the best. Having said that, all early reports from those who had a chance to try it have been overwhelmingly positive.
With a release date of January 25th, we are so close to Resident Evil 7 that I can almost feel a T-Virus zombie breathing down my neck. For those who can’t wait that long, try out the game’s demo, it’s all kinds of fantastic.
February 2017 (early access, full release expected late 2017)
P.A.M.E.L.A is a seriously impressive looking game, especially for a small indie studio creating their first project. NVYVE Studios are going big with their futuristic horror title releasing to Steam early access in February, and getting its full release roughly 6 – 9 months later.
The game is set in a former utopian, island colony by the name of Eden. With a science-fiction setting and visuals inspired by the Mass Effect and Mirrors Edge series, P.A.M.E.L.A looks straight up impressive.
The game plays like your standard survival experience. After spawning into the world with a randomly generated character, you will have to fend off foes, build barricades, upgrade your equipment and do everything you can to survive. A perma-death option is also available that will allow players to to take on the role of a new character, freshly woken from cryogenic sleep, and continuing the journey the previous character had begun.
With an AI character named P.A.M.E.L.A constantly in communication with you, a world inhabited by violent foes and game design that isn’t afraid to try and scare you at all parts of the day and night, P.A.M.E.L.A could prove to be quite the exciting experience.
Originally announced way back in 2012, Routine has been one game I’ve had on my radar for quite some time now. It wasn’t until late last year that we finally got a confirmed release date of March 2017.
The game is set in an abandoned moon base where you seek to uncover information pertaining to the peculiar disappearance of the ships crew. Played from a first-person perspective the game is a survival horror experience at its core. However, rogue-like mechanics such as procedurally generated environments and enemy locations as well as the addition of perma-death make Routine a potentially unique experience.
The setting of the game is inspired by a 1980’s vision of the future, a vision that I have to say looks quite horrifying. When I see footage of that lone astronaut walking around an empty moon base I just can’t help but feel dread.
Quarter 1, 2017
Conarium is a horror adventure game inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. More specifically, the developers have listed the novella “At the Mountains of Madness” as a heavy inspiration.
The game takes you on a haunting adventure that begins with a team of scientists attempting to challenge the absolute limits of nature. After using a device to attempt to alter human consciousness, the playable-character wakes up alone in an Antarctic base, soon discovering he has been killed and brought back to life.
The game is for the most part your typical horror / adventure experience, but here is where it gets really interesting. After being brought back to life your character begins to experience visions of alternative realities which he will have to investigate in order to uncover his own fate. The game handles deaths really interestingly as well, with each death shifting the protagonist to a new location or reality. With a mystery to solve and a branching narrative to navigate, Conarium has most certainly caught my horror-seeking attention.
The Farm 51
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Autumn 2017 (or Spring for our Northern Hemisphere friends)
Get Even has most certainly peaked my interest although I’ve got to say I’m still not entirely sure of how the game is going to play out. We have been shown a fairly significant amount of footage throughout the game’s development which alludes to horror elements, gritty environments, first-person shooting, detective/investigative/puzzle-solving aspects and some fairly unique mechanics involving a smart-phone type device.
Playing as Cole Black you are tasked at attempting to track down and rescue a girl who has been captured and fitted with a bomb. Cole awakes in an abandoned asylum with no recollection of his past or memories to hold onto. He also has an odd device of his own attached to his head which is used to read and replay human memory. Cole has to travel through the depths of his own mind whilst also navigating the maze that is the abandoned asylum in order to find and rescue the poor girl.
With the release window fast approaching it can’t be too much longer before we get some more details out of this project.
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Quarter 2, 2017
Beginning its journey on crowd-funding website Kickstarter, Agony created quite the buzz thanks to its gruesome and uncomfortable depiction of hell. Gamers were clearly impressed because the developers were able to raise a staggering $186,727 AUD totally eclipsing their $68,153 AUD ask. What makes Agony stand out and why I imagine it got so much support is because the visuals, sounds and world design are just so… effecting. I can’t help but to feel uneasy by the fleshy, crunchy sights and sounds and feel impressed by how the developers seemingly created an original and profound aesthetic.
Playing as a tormented soul you will have to explore and survive the hostile world around you. Other lost souls can be found along the path you walk and interacting or avoiding them will be crucial. With the ability to possess lesser beings you will utilise every trick in your arsenal to deal with the horrors of your environment.
With an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign under their belt, the Agony developers currently have their eyes set for a quarter 2, 2017 release.
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Quarter 2, 2017
A lot of horror games releasing in 2017 have their roots absolutely solidified in crowd-funding. Visage is one such title with its Kickstarter campaign achieving just over $122,682 AUD more than tripling its asking amount.
Visage is your typical ‘horror house’ experience that looks to expand on the formula outlined by the Silent Hills playable teaser (P.T.). Exploring a seemingly never-ending mansion you will wander from room to room, attempt to navigate your maze-like surroundings and uncover the fate of the family who once lived there. With realistic graphics, supernatural happenings and psychological horror, Visage is attempting to infiltrate your very mind and leave you dreading what could come next.
If the game can be even half as effecting as P.T. then I can’t wait for its quarter 2, 2017 release.
Red Barrels Studio
PC, PS4, Xbox One
The original Outlast was a huge success when it released back in 2013. The game found a way to use psychological horror, jump scares and tension to great success. I’ve got to admit that the announcement of Outlast 2 was hugely exciting for me because of how surprisingly good the first game ended up. With a demo of Outlast 2 available throughout the month of October 2016, I got a chance to jump in and really enjoyed what I played. If the game can find new and interesting ways to instil dread and improve on the formula outlined by the original game then I will be a happy chappy.
Existing within the same universe as the first game, Outlast 2 will be set in a new location and feature a new protagonist. Despite a projected 2017 release we don’t know too much more about the project, in fact no official trailer has been released outside of the teaser above. However if the game’s demo is any kind of indication of the quality of the full product then I have very high hopes for Outlast 2.
Call of Cthulhu
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Call of Cthulhu is an official video game adaption of the classic pen & paper RPG by the same name. The Lovecraftian game is being created by Cyanide Studios, a veteran development team who had previously made the Blood Bowl and Styx games.
With a dark and intriguing world to uncover, your job is to investigate the truth behind the death of an acclaimed artist and her family. Call of Cthulhu describes itself as an RPG-Investigation / Horror game. Using stealth mechanics, the game will inject tension and immersion into the bleak and horrifying world that you occupy. Without resorting to a haunted house, abandoned asylum or any other over-used horror trope, Call of Cthulhu’s setting stands out as engaging and unique.
At this point we can only hope that Cyanide is able to create another truly immersive game when it releases at an undisclosed date this year.
Despite the silly name, Bloober Team are beginning to develop quite the reputation for horror game experiences. Releasing near the start of last year, Layers of Fear was a fantastic horror game that may well have gone under your radar. Observer is the studios next attempt at the genre but honestly, the game feels like it’s in good hands.
Set in Cracow Poland, Observer is a grim, dystopian vision of the future. With a cyber-punk inspired aesthetic, the game looks absolutely beautiful and horrifying at the same time. The game will have you playing as Dan, a member of a special police unit called the Observers. Observers are able to infiltrate people’s minds and memories but Dan decides to do the forbidden and infiltrate the minds of the deceased.
With a focus on more subtle, atmospheric horror and an engaging and profound narrative, Observer really seems like a potential winner when it releases later this year.
Ebb Software Studio
Scorn is one of those games that immediately catches your attention when you first lay your eyes on the disturbingly grotesque world that has been created. With a fairly comparable art-style to a previous entry in this list, Scorn uses flesh, sinew, muscle tissue and bone as the building blocks of its world. The aesthetic feels so cohesive, with even the game’s weaponry appearing as though it would squelch in your grip.
After being thrown in to this sombre and alien world you must explore the environments around you, solve puzzles, interact with characters and acquire new weaponry, items and skills. The game can be explored non-linearly with regions connected between one another in no particular order. With each region featuring its own nightmarish aesthetic, Scorn seems to be one of those games that just has to be experienced first hand.
Releasing in two parts, the first half of Scorn is due out sometime this year. Part 2 on the other hand is still to be announced.
The Deep End Games
PC (with more platforms to be announced)
No current release date
As the 12th and final inclusion in this list, Perception most certainly does not disappoint. Starting its life on Kickstarter, the game gathered considerable attention from generous gamers after raising a staggering $227,581 AUD. With members of the development team having previously worked on the Bioshock and Dead Space games, you know Perception is in very good hands.
The game’s protagonist is a young, blind woman by the name of Cassie who is attempting to escape a deadly presence. Cassie’s inability to see creates some seriously amazing and horrifying moments within the game. Using sound as her only visual indicator you have to continually bang her cane to the floor in order to create a ‘shock-wave’ of vision. This, as you can imagine, creates quite the tense and visually unique experience.
Perception at the time of writing has no confirmed released date so including it within a list of 2017 games may seem a tad presumptuous. However, with the game well into development and already selling pre-order’s from their website it doesn’t seem too unlikely that we will see it sooner rather than later.
So there you have it, horror gaming in 2017 is looking to be bigger and better than ever before. Of course it is still far too early to know for certain but the 12 games outlined above fill my horror seeking heart with very high hopes.
What I find most interesting about the aforementioned horror titles is that by and large they are all survival horror games played from a first person perspective. It is possible that some of the games have gone down this path thanks to Virtual Reality and wanting to format themselves in a way that makes that experience a possibility. Although I’m going to make an assumption that a lot of these games are simply adhering to current trends influenced by P.T. which if I’m honest, isn’t a bad thing.
Naturally there are far more upcoming horror games that didn’t quite make it onto this list and despite my research I hope a game still comes along to pleasantly surprise me (although not too pleasantly, because you know… it’s suppose to be horrifying).