A timeline of Lovecraftian horrorRecommendations by MathBrush
Lovecraftian games are oddly overrepresented in IF, both among IF in general, and among great IF games. They seem to be a good fit for the exploratory form of parser IF.
Most of these games hit up all of the big-ticket Lovecraft items: cultists, Eldritch horrors, unspeakable secrets, ancient and terrible symbols, and so on.
They are arranged chronologically.
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1. The Lurking Horror
by Dave Lebling
Average member rating: (70 ratings)
1987. Infocom's first and only horror game, and one of the first horror video games. Explore the dark secrets under GUE campus. In keeping with Infocom, the game included a lot of tongue-in-cheek references and goofy humor, while managing to still be pretty darn creepy. Contains the Chinese food puzzle, which I found to be obnoxious.
2. Theatre, by Brendon Wyber (1995)
Average member rating: (69 ratings)
1995. One of the last great amateur games before the XYZZY Awards started. This large, sprawling Lovecraftian game is set in an abandoned theatre modeled after a real life haunted theatre in, I believe, San Francisco. This game mimics the goofiness of Lurking Horror at times, but builds up a compelling backstory through diary pages that adds real substance to the game. One of my all time favorites. Has a weaker endgame but a strong opening and middle.
by Michael Gentry
Average member rating: (287 ratings)
1998. The biggie. Every Lovecraftian game since 1998 has had to stand in this games shadow. Large, polished, well-written, and many people's favorite game of all time. Travel to Anchorhead, a small coastal town, with your husband who has inherited the old family house. I thought about this game off and on for 5 years, and replayed it every now and again. It was so fun to replay that it drove me back into IF.
This game seems to have been inspired at times by Theatre, for instance with telescopes, but only in isolated cases. It's interesting to see how different authors inspired each other down the line.
4. Nevermore, by Nate Cull (2000)
Average member rating: (17 ratings)
2000. A smaller Lovecraftian game. You play as the character in Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven that misses Lenore. A frequent need to use drugs interrupts the gameplay at times. The main puzzles are alchemy based, and the map is small.
5. The Temple, by Johan Berntsson (2002)
Average member rating: (9 ratings)
2002. An IFComp game set in one of Lovecraft's shadowy other worlds. Explore the mysterious city and its dark temple. It was polarizing when it came out; to give some of the picture, Zarf gave it a 9 and said "A nice little story, somewhat marred by weak use of language.", while Emily Short gave it a 2 and said "itís not remotely scary. Just weird.", also citing some runtime errors.
6. Strange Geometries, by Phillip Chambers (2006)
Average member rating: (17 ratings)
2006. Explicitly shouts out Anchorhead, I believe. A rough and unpolished game that I found somehow compelling; then the big twist hits and your mind is blown. Has all the standard features; small, decaying town with cultists, odd symbols, eldritch horrors, etc.
7. Lydia's Heart
by Jim Aikin
Average member rating: (24 ratings)
2006-2007. In 2006, Aikin released Last Resort, the first big Lovecraftian game since Anchorhead. It featured a gigantic world crammed with puzzles, with numerous NPCs that interact with each other and you. It had the stated goal of telling a large, serious story.
Many people had issues with the timing and other puzzles in the game, so it was rereleased in 2007 as Lydia's Heart, with more puzzles and more fairness. A must-play for fans of Lovecraft and puzzles. Among puzzle games, I would rank it with Mulldoon Legacy and Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina.
by Peter Nepstad
Average member rating: (66 ratings)
2007. A game that made me almost want to vomit. Short and linear, a man starts scratching himself after a strange event in the sky. A surreal game featuring some gore. Part of the Commonplace Book Project, which set out to make games based on a notebook of Lovecraft.
9. Dead Cities
by Jon Ingold
Average member rating: (27 ratings)
2007. Another Commonplace Book Project game. Featuring an innovative interface with multiple windows, graphics, a persistent inventory list, and so on. Really different from other Lovecraftian games, as it features on more of a relentless horror without blood, squishy monsters, or so on. Features many endings and a horrifying but exciting book.
10. The King of Shreds and Patches
by Jimmy Maher
Average member rating: (60 ratings)
2009. One of the largest games in all of IF, this was an Intro Comp game that got completely fleshed out. It is Lovecraft horror set in Shakespearean times, featuring cameos by Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and John Dee. All characters speak in modern language, fortunately, and the game includes some interesting simulations of Renaissance technology. Not too hard, but very well-polished.
This game has a scene that references many of the earlier games, including (I believe) Anchorhead, Theatre, and the Lurking Horror.
11. The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons
by Marshal Tenner Winter
Average member rating: (21 ratings)
In 2013, Marshal Tenner Winter released two detective games based on Lovecraftian ideas. This first game is based on a book by Lovecraft, and as such the story framework is fairly good. You explore the story of a man in an asylum. The game is mid-sized, somewhat spare, with some bugs in writing and programming.
12. Castronegro Blues
by Marshal Tenner Winter
Average member rating: (11 ratings)
This is the second of those two games from 2013. In this one, you play the same detective, this time investigating an old family that has dominated a New Mexico town for centuries. This game has the same sort of issues as the previous game, with a bit less bugs and a larger map.
13. Hunger Daemon
by Sean M. Shore
Average member rating: (46 ratings)
2014. The winner of IFComp. A truly amusing parody of Lovecraftian games. You play a bored cultist whose family is trying to destroy the world. An entertaining contrast to the earlier, darker games.
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