Although survival horror may have taken a back seat to more action oriented games, it is far from a dead genre. While certain franchises may have downplayed their horror origins, indie developers have reinterpreted classic horror gameplay to continually create new and innovative titles.
An unforeseen success was Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent. A spiritual successor to their Penumbra series, Amnesia focused heavily on a rich atmosphere and sound design, helping to quickly immerse players within its creepy 19th century setting. Greatly inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, this game used universal fears (such as that of the dark or the unknown), to become one of the highest rated horror games of all time. As of this article’s publication, Amnesia: The Dark Descent has sold an estimated 1.5 million copies, and a sequel, dubbed A Machine for Pigs, is being developed by thechineseroom (who released Dear Esther earlier this year).
While Amnesia may be the most successful new horror game, no-budget horror games have also been appearing more regularly. Slender and other free-to-play titles have built up quite a following, and don’t seem to be waning in popularity anytime soon. Paranormal, a haunted house simulator, hopes to keep players coming back by continually adding new scares and scenarios through various free updates. Krillbite Studio’s Among the Sleep has the player take the role of a 2-year-old boy that has been woken up by odd noises in the middle of the night. The player must navigate through childhood fears while controlling a small and defenseless character. With these and a plethora of other unique indie titles, it appears that there is most certainly a market for a pure horror experience.
With that said, none of these titles have the ability to reach the levels of success that more mainstream series have had. This mass appeal may be the reason for the decline in survival horror games. It’s not that horror fans have moved on to different genres, but rather that developers have left them to pursue a wider market. Amnesia’s 1.5 million sales may seem impressive, but those sales took two years to accumulate. Resident Evil 6, on the other hand, sold over 675,000 copies within its first week alone. However, it is reassuring that the love of classic horror has driven developers and fans to make new and inventive games. For every fan that has continued to crave an immersive survival horror title like the ones they grew up with, there is another Amnesia or Among the Sleep to be made.