The VN Game Den Team’s Favorite Spooktober Games

The VN Game Den Team’s Favorite Spooktober Games

Hello everyone! With October coming to a close, we thought we should end the month on a high. For those unaware, Spooktober ended last month, and just like the rest of the visual novel community, VN Game Den was eager to get our hands on the overwhelming amount of titles that were released for this year’s jam. After a lot of time, each member of the VN Game Den team was able to select their top 3 favorite entries. Without further ado, let’s get into each staff member’s picks!

Anna’s Top 3 Spooktober Games

Hearts and Hexes

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

In Hearts and Hexes, developed by Ostrich Burger Productions, you play as someone who has never been allowed to celebrate Halloween before and navigate your first-ever Halloween party. Take a deep breath, make some friends, and have a good time. 

Overall, Hearts and Hexes is a fun, lighthearted experience. With 40,000 words, it’s an ambitious (and frankly impressive) undertaking with a lot of—dare I say — heart. With funny, down-to-earth, and relatable scenes between the characters, you’ll be absorbed right into the story. 

I really love that you’re not locked into talking to only one character and can befriend multiple people, as each character has something unique and exciting that they bring to the table. Hearts and Hexes also handles the topic of anxiety rather well. I highly recommend playing this game!

Wolfskin’s Curse

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android (itch.io)

In Wolfskin’s Curse, you follow the story of Ilona and Edwin as they travel through the town of Belorov. As the night progresses, Ilona’s monstrous companion gets blamed for murder, and it is up to her to clear his name by sundown. 

Wolfskin’s Curse is a beautifully made game with a lot of polish. It’s almost hard to believe this was all accomplished in a single month. The character art is highly stylized and the background and UI match perfectly to create a stunningly eerie ambiance. The cherry on top is the audio. The game features gorgeous backing tracks, ample sound effects, and full voice acting. 

The Haunted Fair 

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

The Haunted Fair by Maricu and Koncookie is a short visual novel about a group of friends going to a fair to spend time together. But, what happens when the trio hear a story about people mysteriously going missing on the fairgrounds every year? In this game, you have to make decisions in order to save your friends!

What I really loved about the Haunted Fair was that it was short, simple, and has a plot twist I wasn’t expecting. The game art and color scheme aren’t inherently eerie, and neither is the game’s music. So all the while you’re at the fair with your friends, you don’t notice that perhaps there is more than you think happening…

The choices you make are presented in a fun way, especially what prizes you choose. Overall, I’d say this is worth checking out if you have 20 minutes to spare!  

Ashe’s Top 3 Spooktober Games

Ghost Switch

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

From Jasmine Osler (aka Katy133), Ghost Switch is just an insanely cute little game. This developer is very open to trying new, more experimental methods of narrative conveyance, and the complete lack of actual alphabetical text is a really interesting move. Replacing that text with a series of what could best be described as pictograms makes you think about how we interpret stories and how we interpret language. It’s such a cool way of creating a truly universal narrative experience and has really fun, deceptively complex art to go with it.

Romancing Flesh

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

Vimi’s entry was Romancing Flesh, a surreal body-horror story centered around both a prison and a dark biological experiment. This developer has a very strong artistic and cinematic eye, and this game is just more of that in spades. It is creepy and weird and unsettling and makes you feel uncomfortable in all the exact right ways. The collage-esque approach to the art takes things that are highly familiar and deconstructs and recontextualizes it such that that very familiarity becomes the seat of the horror. Underpinning all this is a very queer story of responding to the strictures of an overwhelmingly oppressive system with a visceral desire to reconstruct yourself into an image that gives you freedom. It’s a lot packed into very little, and it leaves you a bit breathless.

The Shape of Guilt

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

The Shape of Guilt is from a new developer, kayhitoshi, who’s used the jam as an opportunity to put out their first game. As a debut, it’s an imperfect game and definitely has places where it can improve. Its central conceit, though, is very horrific in its sort of simplicity. Guilt is a very human thing, and in this game it’s haunting our main character in a physical way, forcing them to confront it. It has a very flash-fiction spirit to it, sort of hammering down into a single idea with a very clear intention. It has a very strong aesthetic style, as well. What I see from this developer, as a developer myself, is a wonderful potential. They know how to play to their strengths and work well within some very limited confines. I look forward to seeing what they can do when they’ve had more time to hone their craft.

Kristi’s Top 3 Spooktober Games

Limbo Line

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

I wouldn’t exactly call Limbo Line scary, although it does have its moments. You play as Nine, a young individual who ends their life on the anniversary of their best friend’s death, which is presumed to be a suicide. When they awaken, they notice they’re in a workplace called Sanctuary Support Line (SSL), where they are told they must work until judgment is passed on them. Throughout the game, you’ll be answering calls and helping people with their problems. While Nine is told to not get too involved with their work, there are times where Nine questions if that’s the best decision, especially when clients call with more serious issues such as grief, abortion, and self-harm or suicide. There’s also a spooky mystery that the player can try to solve, although it is not required to complete the game.

Where I think the game shines is with its characters and the dialogue. The characters reflect people you’d see in your workplace and their monster designs are creative. The dialogue is humorous and acts as a good way to lighten up the mood after the game’s dark moments.

Paranormal Buddies

Platforms: Windows (itch.io)

What drew me to this game was its look. 3D visual novels are rare, especially in a jam where teams only have a month to create a full-fledged game. You play as Takeo, whose friend Hana brings out an ouija board for them to try. As you might have guessed, things go south. 

There’s no music in this game and we’re instead left with the occasional sound effect, which may turn some people off from it. However, I found that to be a great creative decision from developer Christopher Laino. Personally, I find music to be a comfort and whenever it stops, I know something serious is about to go down. However, when you strip that away, you’ll always have a sense of unease and it really takes the horror up a notch.

Takeo, the main character, is my favorite character out of the two. As someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts, but also doesn’t want to mess around and find out, his reactions to Hana buying an ouija board and trying to get him to participate are both realistic and relatable! Now, if only there was an ending where he got out of that house as soon as his friend Hana showed him that ouija board…

Stillwater

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android (itch.io)

With the overwhelming amount of entries for this year’s Spooktober, it’s very critical for developers to make themselves stand out. I didn’t find out about Stillwater until I saw it on Twitter and attached to the tweet was an animated GIF attached to it. The dark, eerie GIF grabbed my attention and I immediately checked out the game page and was intrigued by the premise. You play as Hugo, a private investigator—who has something weighing on his mind, if the newspaper clippings of missing people were any indication. He’s approached by a young woman, Nina, who begs for his help to protect her grandfather after he received a threatening letter.

I’m a huge fan of titles that start off right in the middle of the action and Stillwater does a great job at establishing its tone from the get-go. The first scene tells you enough to show you that some dangerous is about to happen with Nina’s grandfather and no one is willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect him, not even the workers at the nursing home whose job it is to make sure he lives a comfortable life. Although considering the danger that lies ahead, I can’t exactly blame them.

I loved everything about Stillwater, aside from its length, but given it was made within a month, it’s something I can forgive. I dig Stillwater’s art style. Sprite artist ota and BG/CG artist sasa both did a fantastic job at creating an attractive, yet ominous-looking game. The writing was fantastic and the music, although eerie, was somehow beautiful too. As I said, I wish this game was a bit longer and there were more choices because I absolutely loved this title!

Courtney’s Top 3 Spooktober Games

The Spider and the Bride

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

Okay, so I hate spiders. I really hate spiders. Even though I really dislike them, the premise and art style of this visual novel made it clear I had to play it. The description on the page is “A short fairytale-esque story about a smitten little spider and the woman it loved.” and sure enough, the spider was definitely smitten.

I initially thought I’d have to look beyond the ‘creepy’ spider I anticipated, and see what else the visual novel brought to the table. What I didn’t expect was to enjoy a story about a spider, well… being a spider. It ia such a heartfelt visual novel that was clearly very thoughtfully done to bring in players such as myself who have an aversion to spiders.

While you do make decisions for the itty-bitty arachnid, there are three endings and they all feel like they fit perfectly with the story. The Spider and the Bride nails all the visuals, has a good selection of stock music, and provides a great story.

Misty Hollow

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

Misty Hollow was a visual novel I didn’t expect to find in the Spooktober jam. A very delightful story about making friends in a new town and going on dates, all wrapped up in a cute package! It’s so well done with the character designs and having each of the four dateable characters be so distinct in their backstories and personalities. Though I will say Skelly is the best. The character design for Eli, the helpful neighbor in Misty Hollow, is really well done and his personality is spot-on for his part in the game.

As a debut for the duo team Cozii Studios featuring Anni Shao and Jennifer Lee, Misty Hollow is impeccably well made with so many tiny details I found myself enjoying the intricate designs, and was just utterly impressed with how much they completed!

Scary Gourmet

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

Scary Gourmet is one Spooktober entry I knew I had to play once I read the excerpt: “Two dads dish out a Halloween feast! But can they make the cut for their daughter’s fancy new girlfriend?!”. I immediately knew that dads Wingston and Barktholomew would be a pure delight prepping a special Halloween dinner for their daughter Baella. While both are doting fathers, Wingston does his best to make everything great while facing anxiety and concern, and I find that so relatable. He’s just doing his best and doesn’t know what to expect!

As the story progresses, you find out just how heartwarming Scary Gourmet truly is. Not only are the doting fathers so proud of their adopted daughter Baella, they’re thrilled to meet her girlfriend Mozzy, and welcome her with open arms. It was such a great visual novel and not something I had anticipated when perusing the Spooktober entries.

Dara’s Top 3 Spooktober Games

Ghost Switch

I absolutely love this game! The idea of a visual novel that uses symbols instead of text is a really intriguing concept and is done extremely well in this story. The game is very visually appealing with a clear and distinct style. This game is extremely polished and I hope the creator takes this idea for a full release title! This game is a short and sweet play that I can not recommend enough.

Candy Scabs

Platforms: Windows (itch.io)

When I first picked this game it was mostly due to the cute aesthetic, and I was quite shocked at the dark turn the story can take. I am a big fan of when cute and horror get mixed together, and this game executes this concept extremely well. The UI is also extremely well done, and as a UI artist myself I am a big fan! In my first playthrough I got the absolute worst ending and was completely taken off guard. If you are a fan of horror, this is definitely one to check out.

Paranormal Buddies

This game has an incredibly unique aesthetic that in my experience is not explored often, combining 3D with visual novels. This game’s aesthetic gives the story a very vintage and eerie vibe. I really enjoyed the interactive elements with the ouija board. This story really makes you feel like you are hanging out in your friend’s basement in the 90s, a spooky vibe in itself.

John’s Top 3 Spooktober Games

Waterborne

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

Have you played Waterborne yet? That’s what everyone around me has heard for the past week. Waterborne’s art is what originally drew me in to play the game but there’s so much more to it than its unique art style. The game also features spectacular writing and sound design to further immerse you in its incredibly well-written eerie story, along with a dash of point-and-click interactions. I don’t want to spoil anything about this game because I think it’s so phenomenal—all I can say is please play it! 

Moths to a Flame

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

Moths to a Flame was the most visually unique game that I played from the Spooktober jam. Similar to Waterborne, the art style is what originally drew me in, but the story really kept me entranced and the soundtrack definitely helped to set the mood for the events that unfold. I also really enjoyed the stressful “minigame” that happens later in the story and found myself playing through the game multiple times in order to see what would happen based on the different decisions that I made. I was even more impressed when I found out that this was the team’s first adventure into visual novels!

The Case of the Serialized Killer

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)

For The Case of the Serialized Killer, it wasn’t the art that drew me in (though their art is also magnificent) but rather the interesting world that the itch page described, along with my desire to play a “Halloween” mystery. It sure delivered! The writing introduced a world that sucked me in and I found myself wanting to find out every detail about the world and each of the characters that I met. The game’s point-and-click elements and investigative journal entries both made the game stand out from the other entries and offered an extra layer of enjoyable interactivity to the experience.

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