During the recent Summer Game Fest events, trailers for multiple upcoming games such as The Callisto Protocol, Aliens: Dark Descent, Fort Solis, and Routine proved that horror games set in space continue to be extremely popular. Since nothing is scarier than the vastness, emptiness, and foreignness of space, it is not surprising that many upcoming games are trying to tap into the cosmic horror and fear of the unknown that the universe supplies.
While waiting for these new titles, players should explore some of the space horror games that already exist. Some of these titles, like the Dead Space series, helped shape gaming history.
The White Chamber (2005)
Originally created for a university project, The White Chamber is a 2005 indie freeware point-and-click adventure game that features animated cutscenes, voice acting, about two hours of gameplay, and eight possible endings. The game follows an amnesiac woman who wakes up in a coffin within a large abandoned space station. As she explores the rusty facility and avoids horrifying creatures, she slowly uncovers the mysteries behind her past, the station, and the titular “white chamber.”
Although the development team behind the project disbanded shortly after this game was completed, the main designer, Richard Perrin, went on to create the surreal puzzle game. Kairo. Well-known voice actress Kira Buckland, who has voiced numerous video game and anime characters such as 2B from NieR: Automata, began her career by voicing the heroine in this game.
Space Yandere (2021)
Released in 2021, Space Yandere is an RPG Maker-esque adventure that’s also one of the best yandere-focused games. After an apocalyptic event made Earth uninhabitable, a small group of humans decided to get on a spaceship and travel to a new Earth-like planet. Even though she could’ve stayed behind to save the planet, one of these humans, Luna, joined the crew simply because she fell in love with one of the other crewmates, Alex.
But, when she discovers that he has begun dating another crew member, she snaps and attempts to kill everyone on board. As a small orange robot she made named Digit, the player must try to calm her down and save the crew.
Martian Gothic: Unification (2000)
Although considered by critics at the time as a Resident Evil clone, the 2000 PC and PS1 game Martian Gothic: Unification only has the aesthetic of a traditional survival horror while the gameplay is focused on point-and-click puzzle solving. Taking place in the year 2019, the game follows three characters named Martin Karne, Diane Matlock, and Kenzo Uji, who are sent to the Martian base Vita-01, which was the first human settlement on Mars, to investigate why it has been radio. silent for 10 months.
After entering through three separate doors, each of the three characters explores the seemingly abandoned base and discovers that the inhabitants have turned into zombie-like creatures. Since the three characters will mutate as well if they meet each other, the player must consistently switch between them to solve puzzles. If the game had been released a couple of years earlier, the unique gameplay mechanics and detailed in-game lore might’ve made the title a classic.
Originally released as a free Flash game on Newgrounds in 2010 and later re-released as an updated paid download on Itch.io in 2016, REDDER is one of the best horror-based Metroidvanias. Players take on the role of an astronaut named Hannah who is forced to land on Mars because her spaceship ran out of fuel. As she explores the abandoned civilization on Mars and avoids the elaborate defense systems, she slowly finds and takes the glowing gems she needs for fuel.
Although the game initially seems like a Metroid clone, eerie music from iconic Flash horror game creator Amon26 clues players in from the beginning that something is not quite right. Eventually, the player realizes that by taking the gems they’re destroying the planet, which slowly becomes a glitch-filled mess.
Iron Lung (2022)
Created by David Szymanski, who also developed one of the best horror-based FPS games. DUSK, Iron Lung is a 2022 indie atmospheric horror story that combines cosmic horror with oceanic horror. After an event known as the “Quiet Rapture” caused every star and habitable planet to vanish, the remaining humans that were in space stations and spaceships are struggling to survive with the finite resources that are left.
As an unnamed convict, the player is tasked with investigating an ocean of blood on one of the remaining moons using a poorly constructed submarine nicknamed the “Iron Lung.” If they successfully take the necessary photos, they’ll obtain their freedom. But, while navigating the claustrophobic submarine, they might discover that they’re not alone.
Alien: Isolation (2014)
Often considered one of the best horror games in the Alien franchise and one of the best horror games ever made, Alien: Isolation is a 2014 survival horror stealth game that’s set 15 years after the events of the original 1979 film Alien. The game follows Amanda Ripley, who is the daughter of the series reoccurring protagonist Ellen Ripley, as she tries to investigate the disappearance of her mother.
After entering the space station Sevastopol, Amanda discovers that the ship has been completely compromised by the Alien and must find a way to escape. With the excellent artificial intelligence for the Alien, this game is definitely one of the best stealth titles.
Similar to games like Raging Loop and Lost Dimension, GNOSIA is a 2019 game that combines social deduction gameplay with a visual novel RPG. After deciding the protagonist’s name, stats, icon, and whether they are male, female, or non-binary, the player finds themself on a spaceship where they discover that some people on board have become infected by the Gnos, which means they’re now Gnosia.
Since the Gnosia are a deadly threat to humans, the other crew-mates must deduce who the Gnosia are before getting killed, which is similar to games like Mafia or Werewolf. The protagonist, and their non-binary ally Setsu, are also in a time loop where they have to keep playing the game with everyone having different roles each time. As either human or Gnosia, the player tries to beat each loop while also uncovering the truth behind what is happening.
Developed by Arkane Studios, who are best known for the Dishonored series, Prey is a 2017 stealth FPS with some RPG and survival horror elements. Taking place in an alternate universe where technology advanced rapidly after humans discovered aliens known as Typhon, the player controls a young man or woman named Morgan Yu who is apparently recruited by their brother, Alex, to join the research team on the space station Talos I .
During a suspicious questionnaire, however, the other humans are suddenly attacked by a Typhon. Morgan eventually discovers that they’ve actually been living on the station for three years already and the station is now overrun by Typhon. To deal with this threat, Morgan will have to obtain items, gain alien abilities, and make decisions that will determine which ending the player receives.
Dead Space Series (2008-2013)
With a remake of the first game scheduled to release in 2023, now is the perfect time to revisit the Dead Space franchise. Directly inspired by the System Shock series and Resident Evil 4, Dead Space is a trilogy of third-person over-the-shoulder FPS games that follows a ship engineer named Isaac Clarke.
When the mining ship USG Ishimura, which is where Isaac’s girlfriend is currently working, suddenly stops communicating, Isaac joins the crew tasked with figuring out what happened. After he arrives, his life completely changes when he discovers that the ship is overrun by grotesque creatures known as Necromorphs, and that it’s all tied to a strange alien monolith known as the “Red Marker” that the Church of Unitology wants to obtain.
System Shock Duology (1994-1999)
To this day, System Shock and System Shock 2 are still considered to be two of the most impactful games ever made. Since multiple beloved franchises such as Bioshock, Dead Space, and Deus Ex were all spiritual successors, it’s not surprising that the series is returning with a reimagining of the original System Shock sometime this year.
In these FPS action-adventure games, the player explores large non-linear environments as they try to stop an evil artificial intelligence named SHODAN. The sequel also added a new enemy, parasitic worms known as the Many, and RPG gameplay mechanics.
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