Wicker breaks out a bad ass list of ten brutal games on a budget.
Devil Daggers was the inspiration for this list. It was seriously challenging to tear myself away from playing it to write this. Devil Daggers is what you get when Geometry Wars and Quake make a hellish love child, and it is as addicting as it is brutal. It uses an intentionally low-poly model and quick twitch speeds to make you feel like you are back in the 90’s playing Quake deathmatch, but really what you are playing is a first-person, bullet-hell, arena shooter. Like Geometry Wars and games of its kin, Devil Daggers is built on the concept of having runs with a score. But, the only ‘score’ to Devil Daggers is how long it takes for you to meet your inevitable demise. The game feels familiar for those who like the genre, but adds obscuring darkness, creepy visuals, and legitimately terrifying sound design that makes it feel fresh. It’s brutal in both theme and challenge level, and brings many hours of intense entertainment for the low price of $5. Available on Steam.
After some time in early access, the eldritch-horror themed dungeon crawler Darkest Dungeon is officially out! Darkest Dungeon has you assemble a team of adventurers to raid dungeons, fight unspeakable horrors, discover secrets, and claim your rewards. You explore the dungeons using a turn-based system, and encounter familiar dungeon tropes like traps, treasure, and monsters. The combat has a turn-based strategy feel to it as well, and your characters progress with some light RPG mechanics, a leveling system, unlockable abilities, and consumable items. This is especially important in the context of the game since death for your party-members is permanent, and while you can replace them, losing a highly trained warrior can completely turn around a dungeon run. What really makes Darkest Dungeon unique is its stress-level mechanic. In addition to traditional hit points, each character has a stress level that increases over time as characters take damage or witness atrocities. The stress level has a multitude of effects on characters, mostly negative, but it adds an interesting level of depth to Darkest Dungeon’s already brutal difficulty. Darkest Dungeon is available now on Steam and PS4 for $25.
Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Heavily inspired by one of the most brutal international bestsellers, The Bible, Binding of Isaac has the player taking control of young Isaac as he flees from his murderous mother into a cellar of revulsion and fear. The nods to Christian parables are typified with gross monster design and poop jokes, and its art style really accentuates the idea of childhood nightmares coming to life. The biblical references are thought provoking and interesting, but to be honest it's the gameplay that shines, and you won't miss much if you don't get them. The game plays like a lot like a throwback to Super Smash TV: your character loves with one stick and fires directionally with the other, and you move room to room by defeating enemies and opening doors. It’s aesthetic crosses child-like cartoon animations with the gross or taboo. As you are playing the game, it's easy to forget that you are actually just a little kid who is digging through piles of human excrement and eating dog food just to survive, all the while the fear of being murdered looms over you. Binding of Isaac is surreal, brutal, and disgusting, and well worth the $15 price tag. Available on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS.
From the creators of the cult classic horror game Amnesia: the Dark Descent comes Soma. After a nasty car accident, the main character, Simon, is just barely clinging to life from brain injury. He is greeted by some doctors promising a miracle cure, and of course wakes up after the experimental procedure to find himself in a precarious situation. You come to in a mysterious facility full of malfunctioning electronics, creepy tentacles, and, of course, terrifying monsters from the abyss plotting to kill you. Soma has trappings of Amnesia and Alien Isolation and has you solving puzzles and fleeing for your life as the mysteries of the facility and your life unfold. Soma asks some interesting questions about humanity and won't hesitate to make you jump out of your seat. Soma is available now for PS4 and PC for $30.
Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear uses its setting and environmental design to make a genuinely creepy and atmospheric experience. You are greeted with limited information other than that you are great painter, and that you need to return home to complete your masterpiece. Unfortunately for you, ‘home’ appears to be a terrifying 19th century mansion, full of unsettling artwork, strange goo, ghosts, and from what you seem to be seeing maybe some powerful psychedelic drugs? An appreciation for surrealist art will allow for possibly a more interesting and referential experience, though not a necessity to enjoy the game. Monsters are there, but few and far between, the emphasis seems to be on exploring the house and the art. I am too big of a weenie to get through the whole thing, but I highly suggest it for an interesting take on the modern horror game genre. Layers of fear launched just last week on Steam, PS4, and Xbox one for $20.
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