Inside is only the second game developed by PlayDead, and despite being released just over six years ago, it remains one of the most influential indie games ever made. Its harrowing atmosphere, clever puzzles, and a shocking ending are just a few of the elements that help make Inside one of the best games ever made.
While PlayDead’s future is uncertain (one of the co-founders, Dino Patti, left to work on other projects), Inside’s impact on the industry remains intact. Platform games typically feature colorful worlds with bubbling soundtracks, but since Inside launched in 2016, there have been a plethora of genre-redefining titles with grim environments full of secrets and jaw-dropping storytelling.
8 night in the woods
Night in the Woods isn’t as dark or brutal as Inside, but it offers another interesting subversion of the platformer genre with its emotional story and lovable cast of characters. While a much more vibrant adventure, Night in the Woods still contains some shocking moments and a mystery almost as compelling as the one that lingers on Inside.
You play as Mae after she drops out of college and returns to her humble hometown of Possum Springs. After reconnecting with old friends and catching up on local gossip, Mae begins to witness strange events that lead her to discover a terrible secret. Night in the Woods shares similar themes with Inside but uses character development and incredible writing rather than environmental storytelling to draw you into her world.
7 Strange World: Storm of Souls
As you race through the world of Inside, you’ll be forced to avoid deadly obstacles by solving puzzles as quickly as possible. If you were disappointed by the length of Inside, Oddworld: Soulstorm is a nearly twenty-hour game filled with similar puzzles that require you to think a few steps ahead to prevent your fellow Mudokons from perish.
Oddworld: Soulstorm contains massive stages that are filled with collectibles and traps. Not only do you need to get Abe to the end of each level alive, but you also need to escort his fellow Mudokons through them to unlock the final ending. Unlike Inside, there are multiple ways to approach each obstacle, allowing you to experiment with different tools and items.
6 The Disappeared: JJ Macfield and the Island of Memories
Inside expertly juxtaposes beauty and brutality with its stunning aesthetics and gameplay. Not many games can pull this off, but The Missing manages to perfectly balance the two while also throwing some humor into the mix.
The Missing follows JJ Macfield herself as she tries to search for her girlfriend Emily after she goes missing during a camping trip. As JJ slowly descends into the surreal, she discovers that she is nearly immortal. As cool as she sounds, JJ will be forced to dismember herself in gruesome and morbid ways to solve puzzles and move forward. The Missing was developed by Swery, known primarily for the series Deadly Premonition and The Good Life.
5 Kentucky Route Zero
Despite the lack of dialogue in Inside, its deep themes are made clear through the actions of those around you and the small details scattered throughout the environment. If you enjoyed Inside’s social and political commentary, Kentucky Route Zero will captivate you with its poetic take on adventure games.
The game takes place in five different acts, and each one is full of creative ideas and memorable moments. Kentucky Route Zero tackles issues like addiction, community collapse and much more using poignant scenarios and some of the best writing in the genre.
4 free oxen
A sense of danger and existential dread lingers in the world of Inside. Even after surviving a deadly encounter, deep down you know that the next trap is waiting just around the corner. The tension barely dissipates, but that’s just another essential ingredient in Inside’s flawless formula.
Oxenfree opens with a group of friends heading to the beach for a party. What can go wrong? Unlike Inside, Oxenfree offers a solid thirty minutes of character building and levity before spooky antics start to unfold. After exploring a fenced-in cave, the group of friends begins to experience mind-boggling scenarios and supernatural oddities. The ride is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat as he unravels the mystery behind Edwards Island.
Inside has inspired countless 2D platformers to explore darker themes and content, but Stray feels like one of the first 3D games to use these concepts effectively. Similar to how the protagonist of Inside stumbles into misfortune during the game’s opening moments, Stray follows a cat who accidentally falls into a desolate city and must find a way out.
One of the few things that Inside gets criticized for is the lack of exploration offered throughout the game. Just being able to move left or right can break the immersion of the adventure, but Stray’s neon-lit streets are full of nooks and crannies worth exploring. The ambient atmosphere and puzzles in Stray often evoke Inside in the best way possible.
Limbo almost feels like a prototype for what would eventually become Inside. Playdead’s debut game is still a phenomenal monochrome experience, but most of the ideas and mechanics from it would be better in the spiritual successor. However, that doesn’t mean Limbo isn’t worth checking out: it’s full of unique puzzles and surprises.
Like Inside, you play as a child slowly spiraling down the drain of sanity. There’s no dialogue or opening cutscene to provide context for the situation, so you’ll need to piece the story together through the little clues scattered throughout the game. Limbo is almost more Kafkaesque than Inside, and its roughly hour-long run makes it the perfect game to play if you need a dose of surrealism.
1 Little Nightmares + Little Nightmares II
The minute-by-minute tension of playing Inside is caused by a plethora of terrifying creatures, traps, and more. The game rarely lets you catch your breath until it’s finally time to put the controller down and see the credits. As stressful as it sounds, paranoia helps make Inside incredibly immersive and engaging.
Little Nightmares and its prequel Little Nightmares II encapsulate the endless dread of Inside and add their own twists and ideas to set themselves apart from similarly creepy platformers. As you navigate through both games, you’ll be chased by grotesque figures, solve puzzles, and ultimately try to find the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
At their core, both Inside and Little Nightmares are atmospheric platformers that tell powerful narratives without using dialogue. Instead, they use gameplay and environments to tell deep stories about corruption, greed, and more. If Inside left you wanting more, both Little Nightmare games are guaranteed to deliver an equally riveting descent into the unknown.
Next: Horror Games That Don’t Rely On Jump Scares