No other game in recent memory has achieved this haunting reputation among the internet.
In June of 2015, youtube channel Obscure Horror Channel (OHC) featured playthrough of a twisted game that for the remainder of the year terrified and confused the internet. Hundreds of youtube personas, including SomeOrdinaryGamers (SOG) a personal favorite of mine, recorded playthrough and commentary that garnered thousands of views and comments. American, French and German gaming magazines freaked out – with rumors of the game featuring illegal content and allegedly coming from anonymous deep web user “ZK” on an unknown .onion link – people wanted to know the truth.
So, what was Sad Satan all about? This is a PC game built with the Terror Engine mainly for single-player Windows games. The original game featured by OHC features walking down greyscale corridors while various audio samples are played and looped over each other. The audio in the game draws heavily from interviews with various murderers like Charles Manson. The audio of these interviews is also heavily distorted or reversed, with one loop featuring a continuous and an all-too-real bloodcurdling scream. As you progress through the game, images may intermittently show up.
In SOG’s playthrough, graphic displays of beheadings and more subtle references to child abuse, such as images about people indicted in Operation Yewtree, are juxtaposed with a nauseating drum loop. The game seems to have no ending, with OHC’s playthrough encountering a child who after a while, began following the character as they walked, causing “contact damage.” Since you have no means of self-defense, you eventually die. In SOG’s playthrough, he got trapped in a monochromatic box, and after a long time of staring at glitchy never-ending skies paired with rubber-banding visuals and nauseating audio loops, he quit.
In an interview with Kotaku, OHC’s owner revealed that he downloaded the game from a Tor hidden service after receiving a tip from an anonymous subscriber who, in turn, claimed to have found the link via a deep web forum from a user only known as ZK. This almost mythical state of the game, paired with the internet’s general uncertainty and paranoia surrounding the deep web, directly heightened the experience of Sad Satan as a whole. No other game in recent memory has achieved this haunting reputation among the internet.
The Reddit community eventually created /r/sadsatan to try and uncover the truth about the game’s origins and to collectively understand what the hell this game was about. A walking simulator that assaults the player with nauseating audio and horrific images devoid of purpose. One Reddit user rumored that the purpose was “to showcase a sad Satan moping through corridors that showcase his Hell. This communal interest of figuring out the “true” lore and updating each other on the game’s seemingly never-ending playthrough enhanced the creepy aspect of the game itself.
Future game developers should learn from this game-community relationship. There’s pre- and post- aspects of game development that, if done correctly, enhance the overall game experience. With horror games, having an unknown origin, coming from a mysterious place, and seemingly having no purpose are factors to consider. After Sad Satan’s rise to fame, multiple people from 4chan’s /x/ community and the internet at large started sharing the “original version” of this game. However, most of these clones were fake, containing viruses and actual illegal content. This, however, had a positive undercurrent where the internet began searching for the “real” version among all the fake clones, with /r/sadsatan now serving as a filter for all the bad ones.
To this day, nobody really knows Sad Satan’s origins. Or who “ZK” is, how OHC picked up the game or its true purpose. People continue to search for new clones of the game, and more hopefully, the true version of this game. Truly, Sad Satan’s horror does, in part come from its nauseating and bloodcurdling audio samples, paired with a monochromatic design and assaulting visual images; however, all of this is enhanced by how the community helped create a horrific and confusing lore around the game’s origins, purpose and future place in the gaming community.