What are the best Lovecraftian games?


#1

Okay, here’s a challenge for you guys, and I’m not sure I have many (any?) good answers myself.

What are the best Lovecraftian games? And, more importantly, why?

Now I don’t just means games with some sort of reference to Lovecraft, or with a cute little Cthulhu running around inside a JRPG, or with a bunch of jumpscares before you get to some audio log about elder gods blah blah blah insanity. I mean Lovecraftian in that the game reflects the mythos, themes, or at least the tone of HP Lovecraft’s stories.

For instance, I recently did a YouTube series on the best zombie games. And I excluded some games with zombies that were very good, but that didn’t really draw anything meaningful from zombie mythology (Left 4 Dead, Resident Evils, Plants vs Zombies, Zombie Gunship, etc.). What are some games that fit that criteria for Lovecraft and how do they qualify?

-Tom


#2

The only two that really leap out at me from the videogame side are Dark Corners of the Earth, which hasn’t aged too well. Bethesda game from about 2005 or 2006 I believe. Definitely straight up Cthulhu, but it was only OK even when new.

The other that springs to mind is Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened which is Frogwares game in that series from 2007 or 08 or so. They recently did a “director’s cut” reissue of it with better textures, and some other improvements, but it’s also not nearly as good as their more recent SH titles.

And then there’s Eldritch Horror, the boardgame, and Call of Cthulhu the pen and paper RPG from Chaosium…


#3

Oh! And the old point and click game from 1993, Shadow Of The Comet, that just got a little makeover so that it runs on modern machines…but its a 1993 point and click adventure game.


#4

I’ll jump in with Elder Sign:Omens. The flavor text does a good job of evoking Lovecraft, and the artwork is also atmospheric. I also like that there’s just as much of a premium placed on sanity as there is on health.

If you want to go back to the stone age, one of the best Lovecraftian games was Infocom’s Lurking Horror. I say that form memory because I don’t remember too many details about the story itself, other than taking place underneath a Miskatonic-like university.


#5

X-Com: Terror from the Deep always struck me as a really good take on soldiers vs the mythos. I always liked to pretend that soldiers screwing up and killing their own guys with friendly fire was a result of temporary insanity from exposure to The Old Ones.

The original Quake is choc-a-bloc with mythos stuff. Portals to other dimensions, Cthon, Shub-Niggurath, Vaults of Zin, The Nameless City, and some of it was written by Sandy Peterson who later went on to work at Ensemble, but before all that he used to design modules for the Call of Cthulhu pen & paper RPG.


#6

I like the Elder Sign iOS game, though it is really just theme. I can’t think of any game that gave me the proper personal horror vibe I attribute to something for it to be Lovecraftian, excepting maybe for Anchorhead, an interactive fiction. (Edit: This site provides links to download or play it - it is freeware.)

Of course there is the infamous PC98 release Necronomicon (picture Hatoful Boyfriend with Deep Ones instead of pigeons, and explicit scenes of course).


#7

I don’t know how well it holds up today either, but at the time it as certainly innovative with insanity effects.


#8

There’s also the Darkness Within adventure games from the mid Aughts. Lovecraftian to be sure. Not very good games either, to be sure.

Finally though, there’s that one. You know the one, Tom. That one.

Seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecret Woooooooooooooooooorld


#9

Bloodborne


#10

Best one I can think of is Clive Barker’s Undying, which is just Lovecraftian as all hell and which I just replayed a year or so ago and absolutely holds up.


#11

Amnesia Dark Descent.

Through and through. Lovecraft game in both theme and mechanics.


#12

Anchorhead.

http://pr-if.org/play/anchorhead/


#13

The Secret World, Funcom’s MMO.

After it’s awful, awful launch, it turned into a terrific story-based MMO. Many of the stories are quite Lovecraftian in tone. One of the first bosses looks like this:


#14

Anchorhead, absolutely. Secret World absolutely. Dark Corners of the Earth is pretty good but rough around the edges. There’s a Twine game called My Father’s Long, Long Legs that has some of that sort of feel (and is very good). Arguably Outlast (which may look like it’s deriving its scares from a bunch of asylum tropes and gore, but there’s another layer underneath that).

Aside from DCotE (which is a direct adaptation of Lovecraft), I tend to discount most stuff that directly references the Mythos because that’s usually as far as it goes - they reference it. They don’t seem to so much understand the concepts behind it.


#15

Another vote for Anchorhead.

Dark Seed strikes me as a good contender, no direct references to the Mythos but pretty much the same as some Lovecraft stories.

Eversion might be worth a look, although it’s maybe a little bit too metagaming-based.

Other more oblique games would be I have no Mouth and I Must Scream (it’s not strictly Lovecraftian in theme, but it is in spirit and tone) and the original Clock Tower (no direct reference to the Mythos and more of a slasher flick in the first half, but the second half fits).

I would say Sunless Sea is also very close to fitting (but the tone is way more nuanced and varied).


#16

Oh Darkest Dungeon is just seeping with it too.


#17

Anchorhead is a good choice. I will also nominate The Last Door series.

UPDATE: Oh! Tom wanted to know WHY as well.

I’ll let someone else speak for Anchorhead because I didn’t get terribly far in it.

The Last Door games are point-and-click adventure games. The puzzles aren’t hard. The graphics are lo-fi, but well done. What the games do well is create a thick fog of Lovecraftian mystery that suspenseful moments can emerge from like gibbering horrors. Not all of their attempts land, but some of them are genuinely creepy.

It’s not straight Lovecraftian mythos, but a custom-crafted world that fits nicely inside the mythos. Sometimes (often) that’s better than trying to jam the Call of Cthulhu bestiary into a game, in my opinion.


#18

If I only play one interactive fiction game in my entire life, should I make it Anchorhead?


#19

There were two Call of Cthulhu point-and-click adventure games from the 90s, Prisoner of Ice and Shadow of the Comet. And they’re pretty good, but definitely products of their time. So the puzzles aren’t always totally logical and there was some pretty crazy voice work. But you can get them both on GOG pretty cheap.


#20

Haven’t played it, but Sunless Sea?

Also, clearly Octodad is for obvious reasons. ;)