Since 1992, RPG Maker has been a valuable tool for developers interested in creating both traditional RPGs and more experimental titles. As it turns out, the engine’s particular style lends itself incredibly well to the horror genre – small asset kits and simple character designs create an intimate, stifling minimalism that more complex or high-budget titles just can’t match.
The minds behind RPG Maker have released a litany of new updates and parts of the series. However, you don’t need RPG Maker MZ to make something incredible. RPG Maker 2003 remains one of the most popular versions among developers due to its specific toolkit and limitations. Who needs frills when less can be more and limitations encourage creativity? Each title on this list makes the most of RPG Maker’s features to deliver a harrowing, unique experience.
7/7 The hunchbacked man
Developed by prolific developer Uri, The Crooked Man is a psychological horror film that tells the story of David, a man down on his luck struggling to survive after a social catastrophe. The same day David moves into his new house, he realizes something is wrong; strange scraps of paper, pamphlets and cryptic messages begin to appear in every room. Something haunts this place, and between caring for his ailing mother and dealing with the fallout of his career, he doesn’t have time to tend to the spirits that linger in his shadow.
Unfortunately, fear waits for no one. Only by confronting the disturbing patterns in front of him can David escape the cycles of failure and guilt. He must walk a crooked mile in a crooked man’s shoes.
6/7 Hello Hello
Tachis Hello Hello is perhaps the most structurally unique RPG Maker game you will ever play. With over 35 different endings tied to various in-game events, you’ll want to interact with every object you can for the best experience and spookiest results. Test your environment and they might test you.
The story follows a couple, Kazuki and Akari; They play as both to unravel the hauntings of their homes and solve their relationship problems. Be warned: there are a few jumpscares to watch out for.
Frida Kahlo once said that her painting carries a message of pain. Ditto for the artwork in Ib, a colorful classic in the RPG Maker horror scene. Ib follows the story of a young girl, the eponymous Ib, who visits an art gallery with her parents. All is not as it seems; After looking at a certain painting, Ib finds that the once-busy gallery has turned into an empty, white-walled nightmare.
As she descends deeper and deeper in search of a way out, she must interact with pesky pieces throughout the gallery that both aid and hinder her escape, all while painting a unique horror story.
Ib is also getting a remake, due out for the Nintendo Switch in early 2023.
4/7 An outcry
It’s 2012 and trouble is brewing in Vienna, Austria. You play as an unnamed youth in his early 20s struggling to make a living with ever-increasing rents and a lack of readily available work. These issues will quickly become the least of their worries – with the arrival of a flock of fiery-eyed, bloodthirsty birds, the unnamed must either fight or look the other way, while their home and neighbors descend into a nightmare that will surely ruffle your feathers.
Most importantly, An Outcry reminds us that the horrors of the world don’t go away when you stop looking at them. To protect your community and emerge from the ashes of tragedy, you must acknowledge the things you don’t want to see and acknowledge them for what they are.
3/7 the witch house
In the middle of the forest lies an inconspicuous little house. Rumor has it that a witch lives there, and if you walk in, you might never come out. The Witch’s House is home to many unique types of puzzles and maverick strategies; You’ll have your hands full solving puzzles, solving object puzzles and testing your logic and reflexes. Follow the friendly black cat as you navigate a house full of traps and deadly secrets.
If you’re afraid of the dark, don’t forget to open your inventory for much-needed resources.
2/7 Mermaid Swamp
Another game from Uri, creator of The Crooked Man, Mermaid Swamp is about a local legend from the Meiji era about a mermaid kidnapped from the sea and kept as a pet by a wealthy man. He filled a tank with swamp water to keep her in; Over time, she began to atrophy and later succumbed to the torments of her captivity.
Almost two hundred years later, Rin Yamazaki and her friends are stranded on a road trip in the mountains. As luck would have it, the four are invited to stay the night in a nice old mansion with an excellent view of the swamplands beyond. Unfortunately, a less than eminent threat lurks beneath its murky waters. Notably, the game features excellent sound design, including some terrifying samples of water drops and waves.
1/7 Yume Nikki
No list of notable RPG Maker titles is complete without Yume Nikki. As a young girl named Madotsuki, the player can enter a series of colorful, self-contained dream worlds and achieve various effects that affect the world around them. The game is very non-linear, but the more dream worlds you visit, the more conclusions you can draw about Madotsuki’s subconscious. This abstraction has allowed for many discussions and theories about her character and the nature of the strange dream world she inhabits when she closes her eyes.
NEXT: Best horror games for beginners