Top 10 indie “Dark RPGs” games

This page follows the same concept that I made for my other blog “Surreal and Creepy” (https://surrealandcreepy.wordpress.com/top-10-surreal-and-creepy-indie-games/). The idea is to have in one place the best 10 games fitting this blog, so RPGs with a dark, horror, or mature component. The page will be constantly updated when new games will enter the Top 10.

The plan is also to focus on indie games, so trying to avoid big publishers and studios, with the exception of really niched games. In this way I will focus more on indie games, avoiding that the ranking would become only a list of Shin Megami Tensei titles, for example. For each game, I will also highlight all the associated articles published in my blog.

I will also try to include different genres of dark RPGs, so not only turn-based, but also metroidvania, Souls-like, and more strategic games.

  • Lisa the Painful

It could look not very appealing from the images, but Lisa reveals instead one of the most mature, tragic, and disturbing RPGs of the last years. Set in a post-apocalyptic scenario where women disappeared, the game puts you in the difficult shoes of an adoptive father trying to hide his daughter from the world. The setting is pretty unique, with bizarre and disturbed characters, each one trapped in their own delusions, and really twisted and grotesque mutants born from an addictive drug called “Joy.” The system is brilliant, with dozens of characters to recruit, challenging battles, and many secrets. The game is also heavy focused on tough moral choices, including the permanent sacrifice of party characters. This is also reflected in gameplay elements, including some enemy moves able to cause permanent death, or the possibility to bet the life of your party members in a mortal Russian roulette.

Associated articles: [1] Lisa the Painful: would you bet the life of your party characters in a deadly Russian Roulette?

  • Blasphemous

The most horror metroidvania ever released is an amazing work not only for its detailed pixel-art, but especially for the unique world-building. The combination of Catholicism, Spanish folklore, and horror, created one of the best lore and worlds in recent memory. The combat is brutal and satisfying, while the game is full of secrets and unlockables. Every single monster is a masterpiece of creativity, nightmares build using religious elements, including famous paintings and architecture. The secondary characters are also very imaginative and disturbing beings, in a world where nothing gives a deja-vu feeling but instead a sparkle of originality.

Associated articles: [1] Monster of the Week: Exposito, Scion of Abjuration (Blasphemous) ; [2] Interview with ” The Game Kitchen”, the Spanish team behind the dark metroidvania Blasphemous ; [3] Catholic Art and Architecture in the twisted world of Blasphemous: how religious iconography can build nightmares

  • Fear & Hunger

Fear & Hunger is the dark RPG that made me start this blog, a grim, depressing, amoral tale, in the depths of a dungeon where everything is allowed, from cannibalism to sacrificing your party members to evil deities. The game is a complex and satisfying experience, a challenging journey, especially at the beginning, which will become more and more familiar while advancing in the dark depths. An RPG full of secrets and entirely sets around horror, where battles work on mutilating the limbs of your opponents, and damages and wounds are permanent on the characters

Associated articles: [1] Fear & Hunger Review: a journey in a land without morality for the darkest RPG ever made ; [2] Interview with Miro Haverinen, the creator of the dark RPG Fear & Hunger ; [3] The Human Hydra of Fear & Hunger: never trust a NPC [Creepy Characters] — Surreal and Creepy ; [4] Monster of the Week: Uterus (Fear & Hunger) ; [5] Monster of the Week: Skin Granny (Fear & Hunger) ; [6] When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle] ; [7] The Pocketcat of Fear & Hunger: what RPG merchant could be more disturbing than one exchanging items for children? [Evil Characters] ; [8] Challenging the Old Gods of Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle]

  • Darkest Dungeon

Probably one of the most famous indie RPGs ever made, an example of Early Access that defined a new genre: Darkest Dungeon truly deserves to be on this list. Darkest Dungeon is an intense and oppressive RPG where planning is crucial, and an unlucky event or a bad decision can lead to the total and permanent slaughtering of your party. But death is not the only threat: mental disorders and physical diseases are always there to devastate your best warrior. The setting is a majestic world of originality, using just a pinch of Lovecraftian influences to create one of the best dark fantasy atmospheres. Every monster or class is original, instead of a simple ranger here you have dog trainers, plague doctors, and insane jesters. This is not an easy game, and it demands time and dedication, but the satisfying feeling after a successful expedition will balance rage and demotivation.

Associated articles: [1] Monster of the Week: the Collector (Darkest Dungeon) ; [2] Interview with Chris Bourassa, co-founder of Red Hook Studios and Creative Director of Darkest Dungeon

  • Vigil the Longest Night

Vigil is a dark and oppressive metroidvania that really knows how to use horror elements and references to masterpieces, such as Bloodborne, to create a unique product. With many armors and weapons to fit any playstyle, eldritch enchantments, and an interconnected world full of secrets and grotesque monsters, Vigil is a complete and amazing surprise. One of the best examples of horror metroidvania and a fine RPG inspired by Souls-like games. And if the horror atmosphere and the deep gameplay are not enough, Vigil also features a gorgeous art-style inspired by Chinese Paper Cutting, used to portray a variegated bestiary of creepy creatures.

Associated articles: [1] The most dark, horror, and gothic indie Metroidvania ; [2] Monster of the Week: The Brood Mother and her progeny (Vigil)

  • Sunless Skies

A complex strategic game set in one of the most detailed fictional universes, an alternative version of London set in a dystopic future among the stars. Travel around the cold and dark universe on a flying locomotive, fight your way through pirates and eldritch abominations, trade with the new settlements, and find your way around hundreds of possibilities. The world-building and lore are incredible, with lot of activities to do, from joining a twisted circus among the stars or a cult living in a black hole, to mining the dead body of a colossal alien. What kind of captain will you be? Will you abandon yourself to fear and cannibalism or will fight for a fair world?

Associated articles: [0]

  • Devil Slayer Raksasi

Raksasi is an amazing surprise, a roguelike with a souls-like battle system, set in a dark fantasy world inspired by Chinese mythology. The game has addictive gameplay, with hundreds of secrets and items to discover, and alternative paths leading to different worlds and tough boss battles. By proceeding in the game it will be possible to unlock new heroines, very different between each other for aesthetic, skills, and weapon, from a half-fox girl wielding a portable cannon, to an assassin slashing her way using a chain. If the top-down art-style can be quite simple during the game, the portraits of the heroines and the enemies are incredibly gorgeous and detailed.

Associated articles: [1] Interview with Glasses Cat Games, the creators of Devil Slayer Raksasi, a souls-like inspired by Chinese legends

  • Salt and Sanctuary

Probably the first 2D Souls-like, and a complex metroidvania, Salt and Sanctuary is a satisfying and well-realised experiment. The dark and depressing world is entirely set on a mysterious island, where everything is built around salt, even living beings. The deranged bosses and the huge interconnected world create a game full of secrets and surprises, including secret coventants to join, hidden bosses, and a multitude of weapons and armors.

Associated articles: [1] The most dark, horror, and gothic indie Metroidvania

  • World of Horror

A horror adventure with turn-based battles, roguelike elements, and a strong RPG component, created with a peculiar 1-bit art-style made in MS Paint. A black and white world where Lovecraft myths and inspirations met the style of horror mangaka such as Junji Ito, including elements from Japanese urban legends. The game is based on facing and solving multiple cases, each with different endings and with random battles and events in between. The game has a huge replayability, and each successful run will provide new elements and great satisfaction. Sadly, the game is still in Early Access, with no update in almost a year. Anyway, I still think should be part of this list for its unique twist on dark RPGs.

Associated articles: [1] The most disturbing eldritch creatures from the bestiary of World of Horror

  • Hellpoint

Hellpoint is a desire that I didn’t know I had to see the setting of Dead Space combined with Souls-like gameplay. Hellpoint has everything a pure Souls-like should have: different play-styles, complex weapons to use, including the backbone of a space whale or the giant hand of a demonic hell-lord, a cryptic and huge interconnected world, environmental storytelling, and of course lethal bosses. The game is really selling its brand, creating a functional and satisfying gameplay and an oppressive horror sci-fi atmosphere.

Associated articles: [1] Why fighting when you can ally with Cosmic Evil Gods in Hellpoint? [Evil Quests]