To cut to the chase, Year Walk is one of the best games we've ever played on mobile. It's based on the Swedish tradition of Arsgang, Year Walking, in which a person may go for a ritual walk, a vision quest of sorts, in the dark of the night to see what the year ahead will bring. Thrown into a forest without a tutorial, you have to collect clues and solve puzzles in what is some seriously clever and creative gameplay for an incredible twist ending. Don't forget to pick up the free companion app.
Michelle Starr contributed to this feature. Originally published in 2013 and updated with new games.
Ice-Pick Lodge Studio
In Knock-Knock, originally a PC game from Ice-Pick Lodge Studio, you take on the role of a cantankerous person known only as the Lodger, living alone in a creaky house in the woods. Every night, mystery visitors knock on the door -- and every night begins a game of hide and seek. The aim is to stay away from the visitors until dawn, flitting from room to room to avoid encountering one and going insane. It's tremendously good, creepy, survival horror fun.
In Sara is Missing, you find a missing girl's phone. The whole app displays as if your smartphone is Sara's, 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 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.
If it's depth you want, Out There is your game. It tells the tale of an astronaut who wakes from cryosleep to find that he's no longer in orbit around Earth -- in fact, he has no idea where he is, and has only unreliable alien technology as a guide home. You have to carefully maneuver through dangerous situations and manage resources as you navigate the stars -- because if your astronaut dies, it's game over. And all the while, you have no way of knowing if what you seek is truly the way home.
I am Innocent is a detective game similar to Sara Is Missing. The gameplay is longer and more intricate, though. 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.
Imagine a point-and-click horror mystery combined with the intuitive combat system of Infinity Blade, in an eerily beautiful urban fairy-tale setting, and you might begin to understand Dark Meadow. The story begins when you awaken, amnesiac, in a hospital, and the only way you can escape is to find and destroy the witch who holds you in thrall.
Explore a haunted hotel, a destroyed pillow factory and an abandoned circus to figure out the surreal town of Thimbleweed Park's secrets.
Play as Agent Ray and Junior Agent Reyes, a Mulder-and-Scully-esque 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 but nonetheless fun game to play, this is it. Since its release, it's become available on Android and Xbox.
The Room is a puzzle-box game that lets you explore a series of chests, boxes and cabinets that are scrawled with arcane symbols and scratches, and filled with clock parts and cryptic notes. You have to figure out how to open various hidden compartments and fix broken mechanical features to solve the box, collect the story clues and move on to the next box. Combined with the tactile experience of touch-based gaming, and minus the pressures of points and achievements, it's a game that's actually exciting to play.
Once you're done with it you can also pick up the sequel on Android and iOS.
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 impacts 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 like this one.
Price: Free to download, but each episode costs $0.99-$5.99 to download. There's also an option for a $9 season pass that gets you all the episodes.
Limbo, a side-scrolling platformer that taps into the spooky black-and-white aesthetic, is every bit as creepy as it looks. Waking up on the edge of hell, you have to navigate a small boy through nightmarish chiaroscuro landscapes filled with horrific monsters and traps by solving physical puzzles.
Every night when Alice dreams, she goes to a fantastical world. There, her fears are made manifest -- and the player must guide her through, solving puzzles and meeting the strange denizens of the world to help her face and overcome her fears. Inspired by the music of Spanish band Vetusta Morla, the game is paced at the player's speed -- beautifully hand-drawn in ink, pencil and watercolors, it's an experience about exploration and discovery rather than combat.
The Graveyard is one of the strangest games we've come across in the Google Play Store. In it, you accompany an elderly lady on a trip to the cemetery. She potters around, has a bit of a sit down, then leaves. But every time she visits, there's a chance that she will die -- kind of morbid, in a memento mori sort of way.
A Dark Room's strangeness is based solely in the narrative, not on jump scares. It starts off, as the name suggests, in a dark room, and the tale unfolds in text and ASCII-style graphics. You awaken with no knowledge of who or where you are, and have no choice but to make the best of your circumstances. As you start to build a village, though, it becomes apparent that who or what you are doesn't quite fit in -- and isn't necessarily as benevolent as first appears.
The Occupant is pretty pure in terms of the survival horror genre. You're given tasks to complete in a spooky house and then have to get to the exit. This would be easy if the house were empty, as it seems to be -- but there is, in fact, an occupant, who may be disturbed by your activities. Who may come a-hunting. Who may kill you dead.
For a similar experience on Android, try Eyes the Horror Game.
Now this is one of the creepiest games we've ever seen on a mobile platform. Originally made for PC, Five Nights at Freddy's sees you take on the role of night guard at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. Why does a pizzeria -- an increasingly unsuccessful one at that -- need a night guard? Well, it seems the animatronic robots that entertain the children during the day -- Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken and Foxy the Pirate Fox -- become active at night. Active, and murderous.
From your base inside the security room, you can monitor them via staticky camera feeds, closing the doors when they draw near -- but you have limited power that you need to conserve, and the longer you work there, the more restless the animals become. Packaged up inside some terrifying gameplay is a mystery: What happened to the bodies of the murdered children? And why do the animatronics walk by themselves?
Your device needs at least 1GB of RAM for the game to work properly.
In Horror Hospital, you've got to save your friends from ghosts while navigating your surroundings with just your phone's flashlight. As you make your way, your friends will send messages to direct you.
Creep down dirty hallways smeared with bloody handprints, dismembered corpses and overturned beds. Just be careful where you shine your light; you never know what's lurking in the shadows.
The game's graphics aren't top-notch, but it's good for suspense and gentle jump-scares. It's like a watered-down version of 2013's Outlast. If you like it, there's a sequel, Horror Hospital 2 on Android and iOS. The developers even made a Horror Forest.
Instead of a haunted hospital, in The Fear you have to find your family in a creepy house after a car accident.
You swerve in the night to avoid a strange figure in the road. When you come to, your wife and child have vanished. Of course, when you make it home, the electricity is out. Someone, or something, is following you, spirits lurk, children laugh and there are weird, threatening notes everywhere.
The Fear actually has a solid plot and a good ending. The graphics are better than Horror Hospital and there are effective jump-scares. If you're a fan of this game, Boomerang Games also made The Fear 2 and The Fear 3.