With a focus on mental health being more important than ever (a statement that has been increasingly true within the video games industry itself over the past few years), highlighting Neverending Nightmares in our 31 Days of Halloween series made perfect sense.
Released in 2014, following the successful Kickstarter campaign which raised $106,722 of its original $99,000 funding goal, Neverending Nightmares is a hand-drawn side scroller that puts players in the role of Thomas as he navigates a surreal and terrifying nightmare realm. Each time Thomas dies in the dream, he wakes up either in the same area, or a different situation entirely. Ultimately, the ending comes down to how you decide to play and the decisions made as you make your way through the nightmarish world, with three different endings being possible to achieve.
What makes Neverending Nightmares so unique is its black and white hand-drawn art style, with the only other color being red from all of the blood (and trust me, there’s a lot of blood). The game is also based on the lead designer’s (Matt Gilgenbach) own struggles with depression and obssesive-compulsive disorder, acting as a visual representation of the pain and suffering that come with such mental disorders.
Even as a 2D side-scroller, Neverending Nightmares is incredibly immersive thanks to the well-executed audio design and score. The game has everything from jump scares to brutal acts of self-harm, which are admittedly difficult to stomach at times. At the very least, all of the hairs will be standing on the back of your neck, as there is never really a non-tense moment – even if it’s just your own mind playing tricks on you.
Even though there are three different endings, I’ve only managed to make it through a single playthrough (which resulted in what I would consider the most devastating ending). I’ve debated going back and replaying the game to try for one of the other outcomes, but once playthrough was more than enough to stick with me to this day.
Neverending Nightmares is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and iOS/Android mobile devices.