10 horror games for mobile to keep you up at night

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Limbo is a dark, creepy mobile game perfect for spooky season.


Limbo

The horror genre is a staple of October leading up to Halloween, whether it’s movies, TV shows, making the theme song from John Carpenter’s Halloween your ringtone, or braving a Stephen King novel. Getting caught up in the whole atmosphere pre-Oct. 31 extends to video games too — Resident Evil Village, anyone? (Check out our full list of scary PC and console games.)

If you’ve exhausted all your other spooky media, we’ve pulled together a list of mobile horror games for Android, iPhone and iPad. 

Oxenfree

iOS $3, Android $5

oxenfree

Nightschool

A group of friends hanging out on a beach take a turn for the worse when the teens accidentally open a ghostly rift. Soon the group is fighting for survival, struggling through time loops, and doubting if everyone is truly who they say they are. 

I can’t speak highly enough of this choice-based game. Oxenfree calls itself a “supernatural teen thriller,” but deftly avoids tropes and cliches, providing characters with depth and a fascinating, eerie plot. It’s a quick game you could play in one sitting, but there’s multiple endings so you can always go back.

Plus, Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is coming in 2022, so now is a perfect time to play (or replay!) the original game. Worth noting that Netflix bought Night School Studio — the game’s developer — in late September as part of its push towards gaming.

What Remains of Edith Finch

iOS: $5 

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Giant Sparrow

What Remains of Edith Finch is a dark, emotional journey through the seemingly cursed Finch family tree. Edith, the last living member of her family, returns to explore her massive ancestral home. The house seems to go on forever and is packed with rooms and secret passages to explore. 

The game plays out like a series of short stories, giving the player a snapshot of Edith’s ancestors. As you progress, Edith maps out her family tree in a notebook. What Remains of Edith Finch is a walking simulator and a mystery puzzle game, and it’s engrossing enough to play in one sitting. 

Without giving too much away, the game is dark, with themes of human and animal death, suicide, mental illness and more. It’s a good game, but if you’re triggered by any of these topics (or topics that you imagine might be related), know that you’ll encounter a lot of them in this game.

Gone Home 

iOS: $5

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Annapurna Interactive

Gone Home will suck you in from the very start. You play as Katie Greenbriar, home from a year-long trip in Europe. When you arrive home (in the middle of a thunderstorm no less), your family has seemingly vanished. Explore all the nooks and crannies of the sprawling house. Collect clues and unravel what happened to your family while you were gone. 

The tension created in the game through sheer mystery is almost more frightening than if there were jump scares. As a die-hard mystery game fan, I found Gone Home immersive, engrossing and emotional. While playing, I found myself turning on all the lights in the game to stave off the unnerving feeling of being alone in this deserted house. I felt sadness and frustration as I opened doors and found no one behind them, but the emotional payoff was so bittersweet and satisfying. 

It’s a bit cumbersome sometimes to play it on iPad and could benefit from adding controller support in the future. But it’s definitely still worth a play.

Very Little Nightmares

iOS and Android: $7

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Very Little Nightmares/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Very Little Nightmares is the prequel to the console game Little Nightmares. The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat wakes up in a mysterious mansion and must navigate enemies, unstable architecture and solve puzzles to make it out. I felt Very Little Nightmares was a tad less creepy than the console games, so if you’re not a huge horror fan, this is a tamer game that you can safely check out. 

Limbo

iOS: $4, Android: $4

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Limbo

Limbo, a side-scrolling platformer that taps into the spooky black-and-white aesthetic, is every bit as creepy as it looks. Waking up as a small boy in a mysterious forest, you have to solve puzzles to navigate through nightmarish chiaroscuro landscapes filled with horrific monsters and traps. 

Inside 

iOS: $7

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EA/PlayDead

Inside, from the makers of Limbo, is a gorgeous, eerie puzzle platformer with an engaging story and creepy, moody background music. Similar to What Remains of Edith Finch, there are some dark and unsettling elements of manipulation and body horror that may be triggering for some. You play as a faceless young boy in an isolated, cold world of muted colors. It doesn’t take long to realize that the other characters you come across in the games don’t have the best intentions and there are dark secrets to uncover. Despite the ambiguity of the main character, the way the developers convey his sadness and exhaustion is unmistakable, adding another layer of atmosphere to the game. 

Sara is Missing

Free on iOS and Android

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Kaigan Games/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Sara is Missing is a relatively short mobile game, but it’s really immersive. You find a missing girl’s phone, and the app displays as if your smartphone is hers, complete with alerts, texts and error messages.

Once you unlock Sara’s phone, you’ll be plunged into a world of lies, mystery and secrets. Look through text messages and emails, retrieve lost files and data, watch suspicious videos, and search through pictures to piece together Sara’s last moments. Your search is guided by the Siri-like mobile assistant Iris, which might be hiding a few secrets of its own.

The game has multiple choice-based endings, hidden subplots and quite a few jump scares.

I Am Innocent

Free on iOS and Android

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Guts United/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

I Am Innocent is a detective game similar to Sara is Missing. However, the gameplay is longer and more intricate. You’ll investigate a series of murders that somehow link to the disappearance of your sister. No one is who they seem as you dig deeper and unearth secrets.

As in real life, how you interact with the characters can improve or hurt your relationships. You start getting messages from a mysterious person named Ghost, who connects you to a kidnapped person named Finch who needs your help.

Use your resources to enhance photos, collect information, search archives, figure out what happened to your sister and help Finch. There are built-in Tetris-style games that, once you beat them, unlock more information.

Thimbleweed Park

iOS and Android: $10

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Microsoft

Explore a haunted hotel, a destroyed pillow factory and an abandoned circus to figure out the secrets of the surreal town of Thimbleweed Park.

Play as Agent Ray and Junior Agent Reyes — a Mulder-and-Scully duo — or Frank the ghost, a cranky clown named Ransome, or game developer Delores. Characters can work together, or make solving the murder more difficult for others.

Thimbleweed Park is a humorous noir parody set in 1987, nostalgic in its pixelated style. If you’re looking for a more lighthearted game for this time of year, this is it. 

Life is Strange

iOS and Android: Free download for episode 1, then buy individual episodes or season pass ($1-$10)

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Square Enix

Life is Strange isn’t necessarily a scary game, but it’s worth including for its mystery and suspense. The game tells the story of a girl named Max who starts having visions of an impending disaster. Soon she learns she can bend time and might be able to use her powers to save her best friend Chloe.

When a student goes missing, Chloe and Max start investigating and learn that their hometown has a dark side. As Max changes the past, it affects the future.

The graphics in Life is Strange are beautiful, even on a smartphone screen. The plot is intricate and accompanied by a great soundtrack. The game reacts to your choices, so it can end in different ways. You can also find this game on PS4, Xbox One and PC. There is a second installment, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, if you enjoy this one.

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