4 of the best indie otome games for Halloween

While there are plenty of otome games out there with horrifying elements as parts of their narratives, not all of them are quite right for spooky season. So now it’s come to October, we thought we’d provide a selection of recommendations for the otome fan that are particularly suitable to play around Halloween.

For the sake of balance — and since some see Halloween as a treat, while others see it as horrifying — our first two selections are more mature and dark, while the other two are on the more light-hearted side of things. So let’s get to the spooks!

Pinewood Island

Halloween otome game: Pinewood Island

Pinewood Island, developed by Jaime Scribbles Games, puts the player in a life-or-death situation where, during a trip for their student science program, their teacher meets a mysterious end. Secluded and trapped on the island for four weeks until help can arrive, and with no way to contact the mainland or safely evacuate the island, it is up to the player to figure out “whodunnit”. Or at the very least survive while keeping your fellow students safe. The choice is yours!

With a killer on the loose and with no clear reasoning behind the murder, paranoia begins to set in for the group as the cast members all start to question one another’s intentions and cause havoc through their own judgements and mistakes. And as a horror otome, Pinewood Island offers even more than some good old crime solving. It is completely up to the player what they want to focus on in the story; will saving the other students from certain death take precedence over romancing one of three love interests, or will solving the murder be your one and only goal in your run?

The game allows you to raise the main character’s stats through picking their day-to-day activities, and this allows you to prioritise different areas of the game. As a result, you’ll need multiple playthroughs to see all the possible conclusions to the story — including the many bad endings, many of which result in unfortunate and gruesome deaths for our main character. Your actions have real consequences here — and that really adds to the tension.

Pinewood Island caters well to those seeking a combination of horror and romance, since it features a diverse cast and a customisable main character. It also has one of the best-written and most appealing yandere love interests I have ever seen in the genre — and hopefully you all know how I feel about them by now, so take this compliment as a major reason to explore this one in depth!

Ultimately, Pinewood Island excels at feeling like an interactive “cabin fever” experience of the kind we see so frequently depicted in movies — and it’s the perfect game to play during October’s spooky season.

Pinewood Island is downloadable from Steam and itch.io, and check the tags for its adult content.

Winter Worm, Summer Grass

Halloween otome games: Winter Worm, Summer Grass

Winter Worm, Summer Grass is exactly what I want from a horror otome. Its short story, which clocks in at barely three hours from start to finish, follows Aoi, the youngest person within her village to contract the curse of the Great Mistletoe.

It’s usually only the elderly who show signs of the curse, but those who suffer from it are easily identifiable due to the roots, weeds and other forms of natural life sprouting from their bodies; eventually, they become one with the Earth completely as the curse consumes them from the inside out.

Winter Worm, Summer Grass’ strikingly polished, stunning artwork is juxtaposed exquisitely with the story’s dark and mature themes. The game’s highly descriptive, poetic dialogue marries nicely with its flower and botany motif, yet the supernatural aspect provides a constant reminder of how grim the story really is — right up until the endings hit you in the face with main character’s dark fate.

Many CGs, sprites and scene transitions are animated; characters change facial expressions, and items are added to scenes, providing a greater sense of immersion than we often see in the medium. It also has great sound production and a brilliant English translation. The amount of polish in the game’s presentation is especially noteworthy since Winter Worm, Summer Grass is the first release by developer Ameshiko — impressive stuff for an indie studio.

My personal most noteworthy aspect of the game and my favourite part of Winter Worm, Summer Grass is its presentation of body horror. The subtle and gradual build-up to the game’s second bad ending is especially worth praising, and even with its “good” ending, the game leans heavily into bittersweet territory. With only one love interest — who is extremely morally grey — the game’s sense of foreboding is penetrating and results in no clear, happy outcome, eminently fitting with the uncomfortable tone and ambience presented throughout the game as a whole.

This eerie story is set in a secluded and tiny village, with a premise and feel similar to that of the classic Higurashi, with its body horror element hearkening back to the darkness of how sweet pool plays out. Winter Worm, Summer Grass’ atmospheric story well and truly makes up for the fact it features yet another poor and uninspiring MC, but I would still pay good money for what I have experienced — and can hopefully do just this when its upcoming paid version releases sooner or later.

Download the game now for free on Steam, and check the tags for its mature and sensitive themes.

Meeting in the Flesh

Halloween otome: Meeting in the Flesh

When it comes to unconventional otomes, Meeting in the Flesh is a stand-out example of trying something new with the formula. While there are a handful of dating sims we can compare the title to, such as Monster Prom and Creature Romances, Meeting in the Flesh takes a surprising approach to its monster set-up. It is not what you would think it is — because despite how grimly Lovecraftian its world is described and depicted as, the game’s selling point of being a “cosy” horror dating sim couldn’t be any more fitting. It is a shockingly wholesome experience.

Meeting in the Flesh has us in the role of Vil, a hardworking resident of a friendly city that is home to all walks of monstrous entities. The neighbourhoods of the city all care for one another — and everyone is looking forward to the solar eclipse in a few days’ time.

Vil is working round the clock as usual, delivering the highly valuable and especially sought after salt packs to the city’s monsters in time before the event starts. While she goes about her usual busy day, it is up to the player which, out of three possible suitors, she grows closer to in time to become more than just friends during the celebratory event.

Its presentation is a breath of fresh air for the medium as well, with its text box taking up a good half of the screen; the game is very wordy, despite its shorter length. But a certain degree of wordiness is necessary when you’re delving into such depths of defining and fleshing out such a macabre and unusual world — and the payoff is absolutely brilliant. Additionally, music is on point, from ominous and foreboding droning to reinforce the atmosphere of the darker corners of the game’s world, to the gentle melodies during the more intimate moments in each route.

Supporting characters also have their own portraits and character designs when they have their own dialogue, enlarging the scope of its bustling monstrous world. In fact, the world, art and sound of Meeting in the Flesh is as grotesque as you could expect, yet its story and characters could not be any more wholesome. The game world’s otherworldly inhabitants are always eager to see and greet Vil on her daily rounds, and we are dropped into this world with no overbearing exposition; we just get to witness Vil’s bonds with three potential suitors as their relationship develops from friends to being romantically linked. It’s subtly written, but features excellent worldbuilding.

Its routes are vastly different, touching on many themes, some of which can be much darker and more sensitive compared to others. The game lays out this material with a warning as it starts up, but for the sake of recommending its routes, its boisterous beast, Brattan contains a more laidback isekai-style route, compared to the twisted, romantic body horror of Yiestol. But ultimately, Nyargh, the floating flesh ball of tentacles with too many mouths to count had me swooning the most, and I applaud developer inkEthic, on making me see tentacles in a different light! He’s the biggest sweetheart, and the only love interest to feature adorable, fussy bees you can pet.

Each route is well work exploring, since all the love interests have so much substance; they are all ridiculously sympathetic, with their struggles being grounded in relatability and a sense of humanity despite the way they look. For example, the primary messages across all the routes include not judging others without knowing them first, living without fear, and finding comfort in intimacy. So despite the game’s obvious outlandish horror elements — particularly seen when the game world’s questionable food and uncomfortable environments are described — it is, overall, an oddly comforting experience!

One last element to mention is about the game’s more explicit content, which can be turned on or off in the preferences tab — but I for one think the majority of us are all for more sexual content in our beloved otomes, even if it intends to cater primarily to monster lovers. Finally, we have a gender neutral main character here, reinforcing how inclusive the game and allowing any player to take enjoyment from projecting themselves into this world. Do not pass on this experience.

Download the game for free on itch.io.

Witches x Warlocks

Halloween otomes: Witches x Warlocks

After all the mentions of blood, gore, and grimness, let us finally get to the friendliest and most casual recommendation here: Witches x Warlocks. Developed by the same team behind Royal Alchemist, one of the best indie otome games, Witches x Warlocks celebrates Halloween with effortless style. This is mostly due to the beautiful graphics from its talented artist, elRion, and the game’s overall presentation oozes with the same polish and eye-catching details we have come to expect from the studio ever since their first release.

Witches x Warlocks, as a free-to-play game, is quite a bit shorter than Royal Alchemist but has the same impressive production values. It’s also much more inclusive and customisable compared to other free-to-play otomes. This includes the fact you can personalise the main character, choose your pronoun and voice, choose from a range of love interests (including male, female and non-binary options, with an additional male option as paid DLC) — and the whole thing is partially voiced, too.

Its set-up is as light-hearted as you would expect, with the main character (default named Fay) being far too focused on playing matchmaker to ghosts instead of cracking down on exams. This is especially troubling since there is only a week left until Halloween after their final exams take place, and as the only witch who is unable to cast a single spell, they are in a predicament they had not seen coming until we take control of them.

Witches x Warlocks unfolds as a stat-raiser, a style of gameplay that developer Nifty excels in. We take control of Fay’s non-existent study habits and attempt to find a date before the week is over. Overall, the title offers a humorous and endearing take on Halloween goodness, with plenty of fun references to older horror literature and tropes — as well as plenty of cute chibi illustrations of the adorable monster characters.

Our main character’s personality is noticeably different from others seen in the genre; they receive a rather mixed reception from other members of the case, as they are not to everyone’s liking at all! Witches x Warlocks’ main character is extremely obnoxious and egotistical, but I found it refreshing to see a protagonist with such a stand-out personality — in this case, I’d actually argue they’re more memorable than the love interests.

The love interests feature the expected archetypes, such as the stoic, strait-laced childhood friend Zero (who is a poltergeist), the main character’s softly-spoken, shy zombie roommate Damion, and the charismatic shop clerk Carmilla. Best boy by far is Lawrence the werewolf — don’t call him a catboy — who hides a playful nature behind his serious front. Each love interest provides plenty of endearing lines, humorous scenes and mini-arcs to feel varied and memorable in their own right.

Witches x Warlocks is a mindlessly amusing, feel-good experience that will barely take up three hours of your time, but it’s a great use of your Halloween gaming time — especially if you’ve exhausted other similar options such as Monster Prom.

Try it for free on Steam and itch.io — and pick up the optional paid DLC for Lawrence’s route and more chibi illustrations. It’s worth it!

If I’ve missed out on an indie otome game you think I should have mentioned, let us know in the comments below or send us a message on our socials! Happy Halloween!

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Lilia Hellal
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