9) The Letter (Yangyang Mobile)

Whenever someone asks me about horror games released this year, there are two games that I point to that rightfully defined the subgenre in 2017. One I will get into shortly, the other is right here: Yangyang Mobile’s The Letter. Borrowing from such horror classics as Ju-On and The Haunting, we follow an ensemble cast into a haunted house with their survival on the line against the vengeful spirits. From there, it essentially becomes chess as you go through separate routes, building relationships and watching a lot of potential favorites get horribly mauled to try and unlock all of the endings.

This type of narrative and gameplay strategy isn’t new. It was a staple for Cyanide Tea back in the day and also a vital feature of the Jisei series to understand its larger story. Here though, the repeat cycle of life and death is tied to a story that only gets darker with time. The game’s true ending isn’t a happy one and can only be brought about through cold calculation. It simultaneously makes it difficult to fully connect with the cast and impossible not to connect with them. We want (most) of them to survive, yet that want goes so against the grain of the game’s design, we can’t help but feel for the eventual tragedy.

It’s a sense of horror that’s hard to replicate: the cruelty of it. It is a well-written meat grinder of a visual novel that doesn’t sacrifice its premise or the chemistry between its characters to be so. If anything, that fidelity to its story makes it far more interesting as they fall in one by one.