The works of H.P. Lovecraft are rich in madness, cosmic horror, and a whole load of tentacles. Though his stories were released into relative obscurity, they’ve endured throughout the decades and their popularity has only grown into what it is today.
Lovecraftian themes have been having a renaissance of late in media and pop culture, and video games especially are embracing the eldritch truth. More recent titles like Bloodborne and Sunless Sea have set the ball rolling for both mainstream and indie studios, with a ton of games based on the Cthulhu Mythos set to come out over the coming year.
Let’s take a look at the best upcoming Lovecraftian games 2018 has to offer.
1. Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Cyanide Studios’ upcoming game will be based on what is probably the most iconic Lovecraft story of all time.
In this psychological horror you will play as private detective Edward Pierce, called to a coastal town near Boston to investigate the mysterious death of an artist, as well as a bizarre case of beached disfigured whales. As you investigate you begin to uncover disturbing secrets it seem the town authorities would rather keep under wraps.
The game is semi-open world, allowing you to roam around and explore, and there’ll be plenty of investigation mixed in with stealth elements.
One of Lovecraft’s favourite notions was the inability of the human mind to comprehend the massive and extraordinary without going mad and in this game Pierce’s sanity begins to deteriorate the further he pries into the town’s affairs. Players will have to consider if what their character experiences is real or the product of his psyche.
It’s been a long time coming, as the game was officially announced in early 2014. The stills and teasers that followed offered a hint of flavour but not much else. We only recently finally have a gameplay trailer, showing off the gloriously dingy environment of the town as Pierce finds his way around, comments on the shifty locale and picks up clues.
2. The Sinking City (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Set in the 1920s in the fictional city of Oakmont, Massachusetts, The Sinking City makes use of Lovecraft’s decidedly New England background which forms the basis of many of his works.
In this open world investigation game, an unexplainable flood has struck the city, bringing it and its inhabitants to the edge of insanity. You play as a detective solving mysteries around the city as you gradually uncover cults, conspiracies and monsters.
Frogwares have said that they intend to use much of the Cthulhu Mythos as canon for the game, as well as creating their own Lovecraftian-inspired elements.
A lot of work has gone onto the city itself as an environment. The studio even brought in a town planner to advise them on making it feel as realistic as possible. The city flows and interconnects organically, with wealthy suburbs, poor inner-city areas and of course the abandoned, supernaturally flooded district.
This is Frogwares’ biggest title and they’ve been working on the game for a while now. They frequently release update videos on their YouTube channel and it’s clear production is progressing rapidly, though the game’s release is still officially TBD.
3. Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure (PC, Mac, Linux)
Unlike many of these games, which are serious attempts at a straight interpretation of Lovecraft, Gibbous is a much sillier and more comedic take on the world.
It’s a classic point-and-click adventure game that has you take control of three characters: a laid-back librarian, a grizzled detective and a sassy talking cat. You run about the town in a bid to find the accidentally misplaced Necronomicon and return it to it’s library. Along the way you meet an assortment of quirky characters and spoof many of the tropes that crop up in Lovecraft’s stories.
The team behind the game’ enthusiasm about their own project is contagious. They have a regular Twitch session where they stream the making of the game, giving Kickstarter backers a chance to see the work going into the final product
The animation style of the game is cute and fun, with hand-painted Transylvania-inspired backgrounds, and the characters are fully voice acted. The whole thing feels as if the Lovecraft universe was a Saturday morning cartoon.
4. Moons of Madness (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Moons of Madness definitely delves into the cosmic side of things, as it takes place on the surface of Mars. The game is a narrative-driven psychological horror, where you’ll play astronaut Shane Newehart where he experiences the supernatural events taking place around his research station.
The game is set for a Summer/Autumn release this year and the developers at Rock Pocket Games describe the game as “The Martian meets Lovecraft”. It aims to incorporate hard science into the Mars setting, meaning there’s going to be quite a bit of technical, space simulator-like gameplay, including exploration and puzzle-solving.
The game will also explore themes of madness through the unique mechanic of zone-out events. These are kind of like hallucinations, allowing us to get a glimpse of Shane’s subconscious. They can also show past or future events, as well as and detail knowledge Shane should have no way of possibly knowing. These zone-outs factor into Shane’s growing instability and sense of helplessness throughout the game. Rock Pocket has emphasised that they want to use this to explore mental illness in a way that doesn’t antagonise the person affected.
5. A Place for the Unwilling (PC, Mac)
You don’t play a hero in this game, detective or astronaut in this game. You’re just a random townsperson, a nobody. The real main character of this game is the city itself. A giant, living, sentient city, aware of every step and breath each inhabitant takes.
Set to come out this year, A Place for the Unwilling is a sandbox adventure game and was partially inspired by Sunless Sea and Majora’s Mask in terms of gameplay and quests. The game’s art style – and soundtrack – are adorable and contrast charmingly with its grim setting.
You and the other citizens, pulled there for reasons you don’t quite understand, must simply try to make a living in this city. You interact and trade with the myriad citizens, all of which have individual designs, backgrounds and stories. Time is constantly moving in this game, and characters and storylines evolve along with its passage.
There are numerous mysteries and conspiracies to uncover around the city, hinting at the true nature of the unknown entity that lurks there and why it’s making the city deathly ill.
6. Omen Exitio: Plague (PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android)
The story of Omen Exitio: Plague plays out like an old Choose Your Own Adventure book. Taking place entirely within a book of kept records, the game frames itself as a journal of your adventures.
As you flick through the pages to read descriptions of your journeys you can also rifle through profiles of the characters you meet along the way, which include demeanour, background and any interesting markings.
Set in 1896, the game has you travel the world as military doctor Jake Huntington. As plotted on your maps, you will journey from industrial England to Zanzibar as you treat an unknown and terrifying plague that threatens to wipe out humanity.
This plague is only one piece in the puzzle however, as you also encounter suspicious groups, mysterious tattoos and shadowy entities that seem to live on the boarder of this dimension. The game’s trailer even depicts a monstrous, fanged and tentacled creature so we know the story’s going to get weird.
Plague was originally meant to come out at the start of 2017 but ran into big delays, as they added an extra 50% of game to keep up with their expanded storyline. They’ve now set their new release date to March 5 2018.
7. Song of Horror (PC, Mac, Linux)
Washed-up ad man Daniel Noyer is given an assignment to investigate why his agency’s most valuable client hasn’t been heard from in weeks. Upon arrival at the client’s mansion, Daniel immediately realises something is wrong. The whole place is dark and silent, save for a haunting melody that sounds throughout the halls.
You’ll take control of Daniel as well as up to fifteen other characters in this story-driven third person survival horror. Each character has their own personality, background and opinions, and will react to events in different ways. As you try to solve the mystery known as the Presence, you’ll encounter various puzzles and have to keep a keen eye out for clues.
As you push through the house your explorations quickly dip into unnatural and horrifying realms. From cracking mirrors to grasping, otherworldly hands, the story heavily relies upon the fear of the unknown, a concept Lovecraft was no stranger to.
There’s no health bar or sanity meter but the game does have permadeath, so you’ll only get one shot at keeping your characters alive. The Presence warps reality and will distort your senses. The game is very cinematic and atmosphere, sound and lighting will change around you and toy with you like prey.