8 Atmospheric Games Like The Long Dark

Image credit: Hinterland Studio

Nothing is more immersive than a game with a masterfully-crafted atmosphere. It draws you into the world instantly, turning it into an experience. Before long, you realize you’re enchanted and dropped hours in the game.

You know exactly what I mean after playing through The Long Dark. The game is so atmospheric, and makes you understand why humans have an innate fear of the cold. It’s the ultimate survival experience, nailing the sense of isolation, where it’s just you versus the frozen wasteland.

Developing an atmospheric game is difficult. Every aspect needs to be cohesive, from the sound to the visuals. Everything needs to flow together – a poor choice of sounds, or badly written dialogue can easily cut down the immersion.

This is why we created this list of games like The Long Dark. Each title has been hand-picked for its execution with atmosphere.

theHunter: Call of the Wild

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, and Xbox One.

Let’s start this games like The Long Dark list strong with theHunter: Call of the Wild! It’s easy to leave all your worries behind in the game’s atmospheric open world. It feels like a deep inhale of fresh air.

Call of the Wild is a hunting game that puts meticulous effort in every area. The map designs are simply breathtaking. It allows you to traverse massive reserves inspired by real-world locations.

From reserves in South-West Africa through to North America and even the frozen landscapes of Siberia – you’ll get lost in the game’s mesmerizing environments.

Every reserve in Call of the Wild is filled with different animals and has its own story campaign to play through. I found the maps also offered their own unique atmospheres, evoking different emotions.

Call of the Wild utilizes similar techniques to The Long Dark to keep you immersed in the world. For example, it also has a minimalistic user interface – which stops distraction from icons.

The game is relaxing, and the perfect escape to unwind after a long day. Everything from the gun sounds to hearing birds chirping sounds realistic, and adds to crafting a wholesome atmosphere.

There’s also no background music in the game. Just the soothing sounds of nature. Call of the Wild is also multiplayer, you can share the calming world with friends.

The Forest

Available on PC, PS5, and PS4.

If you’re looking for another atmospheric survival experience, The Forest will fill you with the same dread and horror. Instead of the freezing cold, you’ll be up against a vast forest and cannibals. 

The game starts in the same fashion as The Long Dark. However, instead of the frigid Canadian wilderness, you’re the lone survivor of a plane crash on a mysterious peninsula.

The Forest has an in-game to-do list to guide you through its story. The main goals are surviving, finding your son – Timmy, and finding a way back home.

The key ingredients that craft The Forest’s atmospheric world are its sense of agency, map design, and realistic visuals. From the get-go, you’re free to explore and interact with everything.

The game has no invisible walls or quest markers telling you where to go. The lack of a linear path makes it feel like a real, living world.  

Cutting down your first tree in-game and realizing it won’t respawn also just strikes you with a sudden sense of fear. You realize resources are finite, and it adds to the simulation aspect.

This instantly helps The Forest achieve a feeling of the player being part of the environment and ecosystem. How the game handles the story is executed well, too.

Instead of being spoon-fed plot, it slowly uncovers it. You’ll stumble across clues organically as you play. This adds to the mystery elements in the game’s atmosphere.

Whether your favorite part of The Long Dark was the horror elements or the survival gameplay – The Forest won’t disappoint in either area.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

The detail that went into building Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s world and atmosphere are admirable. It successfully recreated a faithful medieval world set in 15th-century Bohemia.

The developers prided themselves on crafting an accurate experience. They even hired historians and architects to help translate the history and location into a game – making it a one-of-a-kind experience.

This helped the studio create a historically accurate Kingdom of Bohemia during 1403 – the year the game’s story takes place. This accuracy extends even further than just weapons and armor too.

Even the vegetables found in-game are specific to the time period. Along with the clothes the characters wear, and even the buildings.

Kingdom Come really blurs the line between simulation and game – and that’s what makes it immersive. Even game mechanics draw from history, like certain clothes granting higher status.

The atmosphere is also strengthened by the nonlinear design, sandbox elements and open-ended quests. Most items can be interacted with, which makes you feel like a living character in the world.

Unlike most RPG titles, this game doesn’t force you down a specific path. Quests don’t have to be solved by violence, and it allows you to live out your Middle Age fantasies. 

The game is also classless. You can be anything from a diplomat to a warrior, or even a thief. It also has dialogue trees, so you aren’t restricted to just a simple back-and-forth chats. 

Kingdom Come gets clunky, but the atmosphere blows The Long Dark out of the water. If you like everything you just read about the game, you should also read our games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance list!

Alien: Isolation

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

Isolation is literally in the title of this game, and it lives up to the name. Alien: Isolation is set in the universe of the iconic movie franchise, and is a survival horror with one goal – to stay alive. 

The gameplay in Isolation is straightforward, and it’s for the best. There are no convoluted systems to learn, or frustrating mechanics to disrupt and ruin immersion.

Alien: Isolation plays like a love letter to the franchise and the first movie in particular. It manages to successfully recreate the atmosphere and thriller elements that made the first film a success.  

The game always has you feeling uneasy. The constant sense of danger will have you at the edge of your seat, as the Alien wanders about. You never know if it’s going to be around the corner!

Essays could be written on the game’s art direction and audio design. It nails Ridley Scott’s original vision, and the orchestral music is critical to the game’s atmosphere.  

The game’s main mode is the campaign, where you play as Ellen Ripley’s daughter. The first section is slow-paced but is critical for setting the tone and location – trust me, it’s filled with heart-pumping action later. 

Alien: Isolation’s space station setting is claustrophobia-inducing. It will have you wishing you were back in The Long Dark’s frozen wasteland.

Our games like Resident Evil list is worth reading if The Long Dark kickstarted a love for survival horror in you. There are a few titles similar to the game there, as well as Alien: Isolation.

Subnautica

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Any list covering games like The Long Dark and atmospheric titles would be incomplete without Subnautica! There’s nothing quite like its unsettling deep-sea setting.

The game’s deep-sea-themed environments and gameplay set it apart from other survival titles. Instead of crash-landing in a frozen hell, Subnautica has you hurtling into an alien planet’s ocean.

Subnautica’s biomes are varied, from beautiful coral reefs to underwater lava fields, and even deep trenches. It explores people’s fear of the sea and exploits how little we know about it. 

The game plays into the H.P. Lovecraft quote: “The oldest and strongest fear is fear of the unknown.” It literally throws you into the deep end, and requires you to stare down the unknown to survive.

Subnautica recreates the same feeling of isolation The Long Dark does. It’s just you versus a foreign environment, and anything else with a heartbeat isn’t friendly.

Once night hits in Subnautica, the waters start swarming with predators. These encounters lead to some adrenaline-filled moments, especially when also managing your oxygen levels.

If you’re coming fresh from The Long Dark, you’ll also feel at home with the survival gameplay. The game will have you scavenging for resources, finding food, and crafting new gear.

The end goal is to eventually escape the planet – but not before you solve the real mystery behind the planet. The game’s fascinating, sci-fi-themed narrative unfolds whilst you play.

This War of Mine

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

If you ever wanted to taste the true horrors of war, This War of Mine is the game for you. It crafts such a depressingly real atmosphere, that will leave you an emotional wreck.

The game’s setting is drastically different to The Long Dark’s winter wonderland, but you’ll find similarities in gameplay. This War of Mine’s heart lies within its survival genre roots.

This War of Mine gives you control over a group of survivors taking shelter in a besieged fictional city. In between managing your survivors, you will need to scavenge for supplies and craft tools.  

The gameplay is split into day and night. During the day, your survivors are homebound due to hostile snipers covering the city. This is when you craft, tend to survivors, and upgrade your home.

When night creeps in, you’ll risk everything to loot for valuable supplies. It’s also when you’ll be faced with tough decisions if you run into other survivors. Do you help them? Are they hostile?

The game only ends when there’s a ceasefire. Until then, it’ll keep you in tense suspense, and demand you to decide between difficult decisions – like who gets food? What about medicine?

It’s impossible to keep everyone alive… The game’s writing is extremely confronting. When combined with the dark art style, and moody ambient sounds – it makes for a heartbreaking ride.

This War of Mine is as brutal as videogames get. The whole atmosphere is anguish-filled and hopeless. It’s a gripping and immersive world – but one you need to be prepared for.

No Man’s Sky

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

It’s time for a wholesome recommendation – No Man’s Sky! Most of the games similar to The Long Dark are all filled with horror and jump scares. Give your heart a break and explore space instead! 

No Man’s Sky presents you with an infinite procedurally-generated galaxy to explore! Every planet offers a different experience, with its own unique ecosystem, alien lifeforms, and flora. 

The (mostly) relaxing gameplay is the perfect holiday to relieve any stress. Discovering new planets and species, building bases or even exploring the vast universe with friends – the atmosphere is chill.

No Man’s Sky focuses on providing engaging sandbox and open-ended gameplay. In space, you can be anyone you want – whether that’s a trader, hunting down space pirates, or just exploring.  

The game also offers first and third-person camera modes, so you can choose what’s most immersive for you. It also has character creation and deep customization options for the spaceships.  

It’s seriously relaxing just journeying through space, piloting your ship freely with no limits. There are no imaginary walls, or end of the world to stop you!  

No Man’s Sky is heavily inspired by classic works of sci-fi, and the developers wanted to focus on the happy, uplifting elements. You can really see the influence it had on the world and the upbeat atmosphere. 

The world of No Man’s Sky is vibrant and fantastical. It’s the perfect pick-me-up after playing through The Long Dark’s stress-filled icy wasteland.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, and Xbox One.

This game is so immersive, that it almost crosses into simulator territory. It engineers together a Wild West-themed world and atmosphere flawlessly. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game and art piece.

If you’ve finally decided to drop The Long Dark, the cowboy-filled world of Red Dead Redemption 2 will suck you in. Before you know it, you’ll be making finger guns and pretend-holstering them.  

At release, the biggest criticism of Red Dead Redemption 2 was its emphasis on realism over player freedom. However, if you want an atmospheric experience – that’s a plus! 

Everything in the game feels like it’s been placed through a Western-themed filter. It feels like a classic cowboy film. It nails everything from the visuals to music, and even dialogue and accents in the voices.

This all helps create a cinematic world that feels authentic and is instantly immersive. The game also goes heavy on player-driven decisions and consequences. 

It feels like you actually exist within the universe. Instead of being a player going through the motions, there are dialogue options, you can attack NPCs, and the world around you reacts accordingly.

Even the combat system features simulator-level depth. Enemy responses will differ depending on where you hit them! You can even aim for certain parts of the body to take them down without fatal injury.

The game also offers a standalone multiplayer expansion, if you’re looking to explore the Wild West with friends. Red Dead Online is an MMO-like experience in the same universe.

Oxenfree

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

When it comes to experiences like The Long Dark, this game comes close with its expertly put-together ambience. The entirety of Oxenfree is unsettling and tense.  

It’s one of my favorite games and go-to recommendations for people craving a scary atmosphere. It’s a supernatural story-driven game, comparable to Until Dawn or Life is Strange. 

The game doesn’t feature beautiful 3D worlds like either of those but isn’t held back by it. The world in Oxenfree is beautifully presented, with the visual style and audio tying in well together. 

Every part of the game is cohesive and blends together to create a gripping experience. Where the game really shines, however, is the coming-of-age narrative. It blends together a story following a teen growing up, with horror/mystery.

What makes Oxenfree so unique is its lack of cutscenes. There are no sudden stops and cuts in gameplay that break immersion – instead, conversation happens naturally and you’re free to explore the world.

Dialogue options also pop up organically. The options also provide several ways to reply. You can wait until the other person stops speaking, cut in, or just stay silent. This seamless gameplay is great for keeping you immersed.

If you find “game over” situations frustrating in story-heavy games, you’ll be happy to find Oxenfree has none. There’s nothing to suddenly end or reset the experience. Even “bad” choices keep the story going.

The cast and plot in this game ooze with personality, and will hold your attention with a death grip. If you don’t mind the lack of survival gameplay compared to The Long Dark, definitely buy it!

Honorable Mention: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was well-received on release, with critics recommending it as a work of art. They aren’t wrong! The praise for its audio design and atmosphere is also spot on.

The game is extremely unique in the way it uses visuals and audio to enhance its narrative. One of its most memorable techniques is distorting the sounds and graphics to depict mental health disorders.  

Senua’s Sacrifice is a title that truly utilizes the potential of video games as a medium to tell a story. The experience would lose so much if it was translated to another format, like a movie.

The audiovisual effects combined with the live-action performances and motion capture is high-art. It’s a game that I’d recommend to everyone to play through once.

The game’s setting is also near-untouched in the industry. It takes heavily from Norse myths and Celtic culture to create a distinct fantasy world.  

You play as Senua, who’s on a quest to Helheim – the Norse afterlife – to rescue your dead lover and goddess Hela. The game is split between free-walking and battle segments.  

The game’s combat is serviceable at best – leaving a lot to be desired, but it isn’t the focus. The free-walking parts are filled with puzzles and is when most of the story plays out.

Senua’s Sacrifice is also devoid of any UI whatsoever. There’s no health bar or logos to obstruct your view. Any controls or tips are provided through audio, which stays in line with the game’s themes.

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