Essence of an effective horror game from a design perspective

I’ve been developing a horror experience on and off since 2014 and have decided to really focus on it this year. I’ve also noticed that a lot of horror experiences have been popping up lately so I thought it may be a good time to tackle my own that’s been on the backburner for a while.

One of the main problems I see with most new horror experiences is that they’re “key finding simulators” at the heart of it all. Finding and collecting objects isn’t a new core loop to horror games and is in fact very common but it does give some meaning and objective beyond just walking around a linear environment waiting for jumpscares to happen.

From the perspective of a developer or a player, I’m interested in knowing what kinds of mechanics have been approached besides finding keys in mazes that you’ve found have worked well. I don’t feel like it’d be adequate to root the entire gameplay in just reading text and “jumpscare/key hunting”.

I do think a good narrative carries a horror game a long way and that’s my main focus but I’m not sure how to make the gameplay mechanics interesting enough that it doesn’t seem like a slog to get through. Key hunting isn’t exactly the most fun thing to do but it could be spiced up.

I did play around with a gameplay mechanic using a game mode that had some loose roots with the core gameplay loop of Slender games – the user was given 2 minutes to search across 8 locations for 2 “real” objects while the other 6 were traps that spawned a monster to chase after the player. Even to me, playing through it wasn’t interesting and it feels inappropriate to debut something to a wider audience that not even I myself enjoy.

Thanks in advance!


You could add some arcade for minigamaes

1 Like

i like earlier fnafs because you cant move at all
especially in fnaf2 where theres just a massive black open space in front of you and a monster could just show up anytime, you cant even do anything to stop them or run and just have to pray your mask works this time too

1 Like

Could you expand on this? This doesn’t give me any context. What exactly do you mean by “arcade for minigames”? What does this look like in practice and how can it help in improving the gameplay of a horror experience? Are there any examples out there that you know of demonstrating this?

1 Like

it does. you could add creepy stuff in arcades and you can make it like poppy playtime’s arcade stuff