This obviously works out pretty well for players too, effectively ensuring that there are always plenty of new free-to-play games just waiting to be discovered on Steam. Fans of horror games are particularly spoiled for choice in this regard, as there's an ever-growing number of fantastic free-to-play horror games on Steam. Below are some of the very best ones.
It may be a little rough around the edges in places, but what After Hours lacks in polish, it more than makes up for with atmospheric excellence. The game can be unnervingly spooky at times, thanks in large to the thought and meticulous attention to detail that went into designing its setting and its excellent use of sound.
Like many other free-to-play horror games before it, After Hours takes place in an abandoned hospital. Players must explore and escape the derelict facility, while simultaneously being stalked by the mysterious creature that resides there. Stealth and silence will be key for those hoping to survive, though, even then, nothing is guaranteed.
As the game's title might suggest, At Home Alone Final was in development for quite some time before the current version was released at the beginning of 2022. The end result is a game that ends up being a lot more spooky than it is terrifying, though it still very much warrants its placement in the upper echelons of the free-to-play horror game genre.
The juxtaposition between the cutesy and colorful art style and some of the dark themes and imagery explored throughout the game works remarkably well and helps to amplify the creepiness to ridiculously high levels. Granted, it is a little slow to get going, and the translation is a little sketchy in places, but neither of these things should be enough to detract from the game's otherwise overall excellence.
One of the most popular games of all time for its unique combination of Silent Hill and Half-Life, Cry of Fear is objectively one of the better free-to-play games around. The game boasts a triple-A adjacent experience, with an 8-hour campaign and multiple ending scenarios, on top of a co-op experience and diverse modding community that satisfies anyone left wanting more.
Cry of Fear takes the premise of Silent Hill's otherworld and puts it into a first-person survival shooter. While the addition of heavy weaponry feels like it might dampen the horror experience, CoF does a fantastic job at making the player feel helpless nonetheless, with limited resources and unsuspecting scares lying around every corner.
Described by its creators as "a 3D narrative experience in madness," Dagon: by H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most immersive free-to-play horror games on Steam. At least it is when played in VR mode, anyway: a feature that most indie devs could only dream of implementing in their titles, especially those that are being given away for free.
As the title might suggest, it's one of many games inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft and can be played with or without a VR headset. The whole thing can be completed in under half an hour, but the atmosphere presented within this visual novel will likely have players returning whenever they find themselves in the mood for another spooky boat ride.
There's still no word on when exactly the full release of Dark Fracture will see the light of day, but, if the prologue is anything to go by, it looks set to be one of the better free-to-play first-person horror games on steam. The visuals and audio combine to provide a delightfully disturbing atmosphere, while the thought-provoking puzzles contribute just the right amount of challenge.
Classed by the developer as a stand-alone game, the prologue is designed to give players just a little taste of what they can expect in the full release. It has its own spooky story and does an excellent job introducing the main character Edward while simultaneously easing players into the dark depths of his tortured mind.
Some of the more recent changes made to Deceit have arguably cheapened the overall experience, but that's not to say that there isn't still a lot of fun to be had with this asymmetrical multiplayer game. Developer Baseline has done a great job balancing the gameplay, ensuring that controlling one of the infected is just as fun as playing as a survivor and vice versa.
The mysterious setting in which the game takes place gives off an incredibly sinister vibe, while the blackout periods that punctuate the end of each zone really crank up the tension. Everything tends to happen incredibly quickly too, forcing players to think on their feet, particularly when faced with an infected in their terror form.
A late contender to the YouTube horror fad, Doki Doki Literature Club became an instant classic as its unassuming facade of "raunchy fan-service visual novel" quickly broke down into something a lot more disturbing. For fans of Japanese horror cinema, Doki Doki is comparable to a supernatural take on Audition's shocking romance plot.
The game doesn't rely on shock factor to get by, however, and is an intriguing experience for those looking for more psychological horror media after the recent surge of Silent Hill-inspired games. It's also noted by critics and players alike as a refreshing take on visual novels, a genre that's admittedly become more or less the modern equivalent to dollar-store romance novels.
All things considered, Estigma is a relatively straightforward title with a simple yet satisfying gameplay loop - even if it doesn't look like it is at first glance. At its core, it's a little reminiscent of Pac Man, only in this game, everything can (and likely will) kill the player at every opportunity that it gets.
Players are unlikely to spend more than a couple of hours with Estigma, though, for the price, that still seems like pretty good value for money. The visuals really are quite striking throughout and the fast-paced gameplay has the potential to really get the heart racing.
The magic needle mechanic in Ginkgo is incredibly cool and really helps to set the game apart from some of its peers. It also allows the developer to throw in some incredibly unique puzzles, which often require players to think out of the box in order to solve them. That's far from all that the game has going for it though.
The East Asian influences that inspired the game contribute their fair share of fantastic monsters and also have a big impact on the game's setting. The sound design is excellent too, although this is all let down somewhat by a few bad glitches here and there. For a free game though, this is perhaps to be expected.
The incredibly basic visuals on display in He Needs His Medicine might not be everybody's cup of tea, but they still do an excellent job of creating an atmosphere. There's nothing basic about the voice acting, however, which is surprisingly good for a free-to-play game.
It's a very short game but features six different endings which encourage multiple playthroughs. What little story there is happens to be incredibly well written too. Controlling the protagonist is intuitive enough, although some may feel that it, and the game itself, is a little too easy and so those looking for a challenge might be better served elsewhere.
With a name like Flesh Water, prospective players can probably get a pretty good idea of what to expect from Euphoric Brothers' free-to-play horror game even before they start playing. Once they do, they'll be controlling a worker at a pet feeding company as they prepare food for a client who is more than just a little out of the ordinary.
Throwing together a slap-up meal for a mysterious aquatic monster may not sound all that fun on paper, but there's a sense of dread lingering throughout the entirety of the short indie title that manages to keep the heart racing from start to finish. At around an hour in length, it is a relatively short game, though it does feature four different endings for those who just can't get enough.
Despite first being released back in 2019, it took a little while for people to really start to notice Grimm's Hollow. These days, however, the game has thousands of positive reviews on Steam, with many players praising its fantastic narrative, engaging gameplay, and thought-provoking themes amongst other things.
It's a horror RPG that, at a glance, at least, is a little reminiscent of Undertale and the Clock Tower series, though it's far shorter than either of these when it comes to length. That's not to say that it feels rushed or anything though, and, considering it's a free-to-play game, the amount of content that's on offer is actually quite impressive.
In bereft land, the raven cries, and with it comes a calamity that wipes the world. My Friend Is A Raven is a short adventure with visually striking hand-drawn graphics that follow the player as Lutum, the last survivor of a devastating plague.
As Lutum, the player returns to their old apartment in search of a sickened raven who tells the truth about why the calamity has come. The game features intriguing puzzles and an enticing and atmospheric story that unfolds between four different endings, all of which center around the apocalyptic setting.
Released on Halloween back in 2011, No More Room in Hell still holds up fairly well today and continues to receive semi-regular updates. At first glance, it might seem like just another zombie survival game, but it's one that's full of character and, thanks to its eight-player co-op, is a lot of fun to play as well.
Some may find the art style to be just a little too generic to be truly scary, but the feeling one gets when they find themselves surrounded while short on ammo is universally terrifying regardless. With a sequel currently in the works, now is a great time to check out what No More Room in Hell has to offer; if only to prepare oneself for what's soon to come.
Like many of the other free-to-play games on Steam, Project Kat - Paper Lily Prologue is a relatively short one, though what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for through its fantastic puzzles and beautiful presentation. It can also be pretty scary at times too and offers plenty of replayability thanks to its many different endings.
Everything about the prologue is lovingly crafted, with multiple art styles employed and fantastic music and sound effects throughout. This all bodes well for those who plan on picking up the game's first chapter when Paper Lily eventually releases, although there's still no word on when exactly that will be at the time of writing.
Samsara Room is a little unusual when compared to some of the other great free-to-play horror games on Steam. Its bright and vibrant color palette helps to lull players into a false sense of security, though this is regularly shattered by weird and unexpected moments that will leave players scratching their heads.
At its core, Samsara Room is just like any other escape room-style game, but it sets itself apart through the sheer strength of its puzzles. Some players may find these puzzles to be just a little bit too challenging, but those looking to really exercise the old gray matter should be more than happy with what the game has to offer.
There are plenty of SCP games to choose from, the majority of which are free to play. Unfortunately, not all of them are worth playing even if there's no real cost involved. This is far from the case with SCP: Secret Laboratory, however, as evidenced by its 100,000+ "Very Positive" reviews on Steam.
Northwood Studios' solitary stab at making a Secure, Contain, Protect game really couldn't have gone much better. It looks great for a 2017 indie game and the multiplayer elements are incredibly well thought out. Despite being almost four years old, it still has a pretty healthy player base too, meaning that there shouldn't be too many long waits to get into a game.
The Shrine games will be immediately recognizable to shooter fans as modern Doom clones, with a stylistic twist. The games follow Doom's inspirations, bringing players into a retro gothic Lovecraftian world filled with eldritch enemies and a diverse arsenal to dispatch them.
Shrine isn't just an average Id Software clone, as may appear. The games feature hand-drawn graphics with colorful environments and surreal enemies. The developer also has a few other free-to-play projects in the same vein, including Lycanthorn and the upcoming Vomitoreum.
Though nowhere near as prominent as it was back in the eighties and nineties, the point-and-click genre has seen something or a resurgence in recent years. Slender Threads is so far shaping up to be yet another fantastic addition to the genre, thanks to its intriguing story and charming art style. Players shouldn't let the latter fool them though.
If the prologue is anything to go by, Slender Threads is going to be a pretty violent game, with blood and gore playing a somewhat central role. It's more than just shock value though, with the developers also able to create real moments of tension at times, thanks in large to the dark and daunting atmosphere that smothers the town of Villa Ventana and its residents.
Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion starts off as an adorable haunted house simulator and ends up as a genuinely disconcerting walk through 1,000 rooms of terror. A good amount of the initial audience thought this would be yet another joke game that deployed cheap mechanics over clever ones, but SJSM is actually a labor of love on the developers' part, and it shows.
An HD "Renovation" is also available on Steam for a higher price, and fans of the original will be happy to see higher resolutions, 3D fixes, VR support, and several other requested features from the game's early access days.
Within the first paragraph of the Steam description, readers are informed that "this was made by a 15-year-old." Don't let that alter any perceptions, however, as this quickly becomes more of a bragging point than a caveat to what the game has to offer.
The Designer's Curse actually has quite a bit of renown, with composer Mikko Tarmia (of Amnesia and Soma fame) on board, and a lot of genuine nods to other classic works like Penumbra in terms of gameplay and visuals. The story and puzzles are also well-thought-out, and the whole package becomes a lot more impressive when remembering the designer is half the age of most industry beginners.
Lum, a developer gaining quick traction in the horror community for its stylistic top-down survival horror games, released their first game in 2018 with much acclaim. The Devil Haunts Me is a short survival game about accruing resources and exploring the forests around the player's home while uncovering dark tidings between the trees.
As players go about their routine, gathering wood, water, and food for the day, secrets begin to reveal themselves in the forests. These secrets, while enticing at first, begin to make the forest much less inviting as the game goes on, and it soon becomes apparent that something else in these woods has an agenda, and the player is little more than an intruder on this land.
The Room Syndrome isn't a horror game in the traditional sense, nor does it feel the need to rely on jump scares to evoke a reaction from its players. What it does do, however, is summon genuine feelings of uneasiness that will accompany players throughout the game and linger with them long after they've finished with it.
This is accomplished not only through the game's excellent investigation into the effects of isolation, but also through the chaotic atmosphere that the developer was so expertly able to craft. Considering the simplicity of the game's ASCII-like art style and its classic point and click mechanics, this really is an impressive achievement.
Sometimes, there's nothing quite as scary as the dark thoughts swirling around inside one's own mind. This can be especially true for those suffering from depression and mental illness; something that's explored in great depth throughout the fantastic free-to-play psychological horror title, the static speaks my name.
As with most other free-to-play titles, it's a relatively short game when all's said and done, yet still manages to evoke a wide range of emotions in its players during that brief window. Given the heavy nature of the subject matter, it may not be for everybody, but for those looking for a unique take on the horror genre, the static speaks my name ticks all the right boxes.
To be completely fair to the developer, all of Octavi Navarro's games (Midnight Scenes, The Librarian) are worth playing for the same reason as this one. Navarro, in his time as a creator, has become famous for his "short but sweet" approach, further appealing to adventure game fans with a classic point-and-click style.
The Supper is a grisly, atmospheric short focused on the "darkest side of the human soul." As the protagonist collects ingredients and begins cooking up a delicious feast for her distinguished guests, players will unwind to a deeper and more provoking story than one might expect from such a simplistic premise.
Saikono's Tiny Bunny is a non-linear visual novel composed of five episodes, the first of which follows Anton after his family moves to a desolate village in the Siberian forests. Anton, while acclimating to the new environment, begins to witness and involuntarily participate in a chain of disturbing happenings as his nightmares begin to meld into a dark and twisted reality.
Tiny Bunny features beautiful hand-drawn frames, a haunting original soundtrack, and an immersive story reminiscent of classic folk tales and supernatural crime thrillers. With the first two episodes already out, and the remaining three on the horizon, now's the time to hop onto this gripping horror narrative.
Trick & Treat is an incredibly well-put-together RPGMaker game that promises players a light-hearted Halloween adventure. They'll be controlling a witch named Charlotte and her young maid Amelia, who eventually find themselves trick or treating at a cursed mansion full of thought-provoking puzzles and dangerous traps.
None of the puzzles found throughout the game are too challenging, nor are the horror elements particularly graphic either. That said, there is still quite a bit of blood and plenty of jump scares, so it's probably not a great game for young kids. With multiple endings available, there is a certain degree of replayability too, though most will probably have had their fill after a single 90-minute playthrough.
Though the Five Nights at Freddy's games are by no means expensive, the majority of them don't quite fall into the free-to-play category. There is one, however, that does fit the bill and it's one that features no fewer than fifty of the series' terrifying animatronics for players to pit their wits against.
Those who have never played a FNaF game should prepare themselves for a barrage of jump scares, as well as some unsettling imagery. With enough practice, players can shield themselves from the frights as they learn how to master the many scenarios on offer in Ultimate Custom Night, but when they start out, they're likely to make plenty of fatal mistakes.
Before Among Us took the multiplayer gaming crowd by storm, New Blood's Unfortunate Spacemen was akin to The Thing as an online party shooter. Now, the more fitting description taken on by the developers is "Among Us with guns."
Using other titles to describe the game arguably does it a bit of a disservice though, seeing as Unfortunate Spacemen had been around in Steam's early access for quite a while before finally releasing in 2020. While the game is entirely free-to-play, it also features quite a few fun cosmetic options for fans who want to pitch in a little more support to the development team.
Set in an abandoned space station, the feelings of isolation evoked by We Went Back really help to enhance the experience and contribute a lot to the game's terrifying aesthetic. The pacing is incredibly slow, which may not be to everybody's tastes, but this does help to crank up the tension quite a bit.
For an indie game, everything looks fantastic and there are plenty of small details that help to add to the game's authenticity. Like a lot of other free games though, it is relatively short, coming in at just under an hour in length. The time-looping mechanic is really cool, however, even if the monster that stalks the player throughout the ship is a little lackluster.