Indie games have become hugely popular over the past few years and are now giving even some AAA titles a run for their money. Their success is thanks in no small part to the innovative gameplay mechanics they bring to the table as well as their often unique art style. Today we won’t be talking too much about mechanics but we will take a look at indie puzzle platformers that all share a similar art style. A dark and eerie art style to be more precise. With that in mind, if you’re the type of person that likes creepy and slightly unsettling indie games, you’re in good company because we love them too and these are – in no particular order – 10 of our absolute favorites.
We’re kicking things off with none other than Playdead’s Limbo, the perfect example of a dark and eerie game. In fact, this is the title that popularized this type of gloomy atmosphere and inspired a ton of spiritual successors over the years. The game came out back in 2010 and stood out among indie puzzle platformers primarily thanks to its art style but also its solid puzzle design.
Much like some of the other entries on this list, Limbo offers an unforgettable experience that leaves you longing for more; an experience that will stay with you long after you overcome all the challenges and eventually beat the game.
Nihilumbra is a bit more colorful than other puzzle platformers on this list but that only makes its protagonist stand out more as it is a creature of pure darkness. In Nihilumbra you play as Born, a dark entity created by The Void that somehow makes its way into the real world. With The Void hot on its heels, Born must escape the encroaching nothingness that’s trying to bring it back where it belongs.
The game offers a variety of environments and the ability to change them through the use of physics-altering abilities. Nihilumbra starts off slow, but give it some time and you’ll be surprised by how challenging the puzzles become in the second part of the game.
A truly unique puzzle platformer, Typoman revolves around creating and rearranging words. The game came out in late 2015 and seems to have been tragically overlooked given how interesting its concept is. As for the dark and eerie part, don’t worry because Typoman has plenty to offer on that front.
While it may not sound like that would be the case with this one, there’s something undeniably creepy about the game and, particularly, some of its enemies. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” doesn’t really apply here. Not only will words hurt you in this game but they also have the potential to kill you in some very gruesome ways.
There’s not much we can say about Inside that you probably haven’t heard already. This title won multiple awards in 2016 and was arguably the best puzzle platformer of the year depending on who you ask. Well, at least we certainly think so.
Inside was developed by the creators of Limbo and follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor. However, Inside provides an even more unsettling and eerie experience while still maintaining a similar monochromatic art style as Limbo. The protagonist and parts of the environment are indeed colored but make no mistake because this game is still as dark as they come.
Speaking of monochromatic games, Albert and Otto is another indie puzzle platformer that uses shades of black and white to bring its world to life, along with splashes of red to emphasize certain important elements. In terms of gameplay mechanics, Albert and Otto
The game takes place in 1939 Germany and features an art style inspired by Tim Burton’s early stop-motion films. Albert and Otto
At first glance, one might dismiss Toby: The Secret Mine as yet another puzzle platformer with black silhouette graphics inspired by other games in this genre. That may indeed be the case but Toby: The Secret Mine does offer something different in the form of more varied environments. Some more colorful than others.
Even against bright colored backgrounds, the mysterious main protagonist continues to remain a black silhouette that vaguely resembles a small humanoid cat on a mission to save his kidnapped friends. It’s not the most original concept but the game certainly fits the theme of our list as its setting is indeed dark and eerie.
Chances are, you already know all about Little Nightmares and probably even played through it at least once by now. If you haven’t already, well, what are you waiting for? Little Nightmares definitely lives up to all the hype and then some thanks to its deeply unsettling atmosphere and characters.
While not an indie game per se, the game draws some inspiration from the likes of Limbo and Inside. But simply calling it a spiritual successor to those titles would be doing it a great disservice. Little Nightmares can easily stand on its own merits and can be a truly nightmare-inducing experience for some people. If you like dark and creepy games, however, this will be a very surreal and enjoyable experience for you. Little Nightmares is definitely one of 2017’s must-play puzzle platformers.
Moving away from the twisted world of Little Nightmares we arrive
Needless to say, the world itself is suitably eerie and dark, particularly given the fact that things tend to disappear when they’re no longer illuminated. And by disappear I don’t mean that you simply can’t see them anymore; they’re literally gone. You see, in the world of Closure only what you can see exists, with lighting serving as the game’s core mechanic. This is a game with a very unique concept that’s definitely worth looking into.
Not the most original title on this list but possibly one of the best when it comes to cool character design. Both the protagonist and most of the enemies in Oscura: Lost Light are well designed, as are some of the levels.
The puzzles themselves aren’t necessarily anything to write home about but the game tries to make up for that by allowing you to control certain aspects of the world via physics-altering abilities. This one might be a bit hit or miss with some people but it does have that dark art style we like, which is why it’s a nice addition to our list.
Last but certainly not least we have Feist, a very interesting looking game that’s all about surviving in a savage world inhabited by creepy little critters. Unlike the other titles on this list, Feist focuses quite a bit on combat and can’t really be considered a puzzle game. However, this is most definitely a platformer with a dark and eerie art style that looks quite similar to Limbo, Oscura, and Toby, so we just had to cheat a bit and add it to our list.
You may want to stay away from this one if you don’t enjoy combat and would rather put your puzzle-solving skills to the test. If you like your dark and creepy platformers with a healthy dose of action, however, Feist is an excellent choice.
Even though it doesn’t quite fit the theme of this article, I would be remiss not to give a shout out to Hollow Knight. From a visual standpoint, the game has a lot in common with many of the other entries on our list and can definitely feel incredibly eerie at times.
Hollow Knight is more of a Metroidvania rather than a puzzle platformer, however, there are plenty of platforming elements as well to keep you busy as you make your way through its gorgeous environments.
Rain World is another title we couldn’t quite fit into the mail list because although it is a platformer, it focuses more on survival elements. It’s also not an indie game.
Having said that, this title is definitely dark and eerie. Rain World is unique and strange in all the right ways and will not disappoint you if you’re looking for a title set in a truly bizarre world.
Our final bonus entry is Black the Fall, a game that feels very similar to Inside, right down to the dystopian setting. However, this one takes place in a bleak world loosely based on Soviet-era Romania. Sure, it’s not exactly an accurate historical depiction (obviously) but it does offer a good representation of what it feels like to live in an oppressive Communist regime.
Not an indie game but a decent puzzle platformer with a unique setting and definitely just as dark and eerie as some of the entries found on our main list.
This article was originally published on geeksnack.com on May 11th, 2017 before the site was taken down later that year year. The piece was edited and updated to reflect certain events that have occurred in the meantime that are relevant to the titles discussed above.
I’m a classic jack-of-all-trades author who loves to write about most topics, though gaming has always been my strong suit. That said, I definitely won’t turn down the chance to cover some juicy news involving superhero movies, Stephen King novels or space travel. Or robots. Or space-traveling superhero robots disguised as Stephen King.