Video games by definition are largely a visually focused medium, but sound is still an incredibly important element. Since players will likely be playing a game for hours, the game needs to have a great soundtrack that can be heard repeatedly for a long period of time, and the sound cues create an immersive experience for players in a game’s world.
In some games, sound is such an integral part of the experience that the game literally cannot be played without it. By relying only on visuals, the player will not get far.
Devil’s Tuning Fork
Released in 2009 and based on the physiological process of echolocation, Devil’s Tuning Fork is a first-person puzzle horror game in which the player must use sound waves to “see” the world around them. After children everywhere have mysteriously fallen into comas, the player character, who is also a child, wakes up in an alternate reality where the other children are trapped.
In order to rescue the children and figure out the cause of the comas, the player must pick up an item called the Devil’s Tuning Fork, which is based off the well-known optical illusion of the same name. Using the sound from the item, the player is able to navigate the sightless world.
Inspired by one of the co-creator’s temporary blindness in high school, BlindSide is an obscure audio-only adventure game in which the player has to navigate a fully developed 3D environment using only directional audio. The player controls an assistant professor named Case who wakes up one day to discover that both himself and his girlfriend are blind.
Their new blindness ends up being the least of their problems when they discover that the city has been destroyed and strange creatures are eating people. The player must figure out what’s going on while trying not to be another casualty of the apocalypse.
Although Adobe Flash was officially discontinued at the end of 2020, there are plenty of great Flash games that are still worth playing, and these games can still be played by using one of many available modern alternatives. One of these old games is the 2014 pixelated horror game Faint, which has the player explore a strangely barren world. If the player simply moves around without stopping to listen, they will be unable to find anything.
If the player waits for a moment, they will be able to hear distant sounds, which will lead the player to the various things they need to interact with. They can’t wait for too long, however, because monsters will be drawn to the player if they wait in one place.
Created as a spiritual successor to the game Lurking, Stifled is a 2017 horror game in which the player must use echolocation in order to “see” the world around them. The player controls a man named David Ridley who is currently struggling in his personal life. After he crashes his car, he must use sound to navigate the dark environments.
Besides using various items in the game to create sound, the player can also use their own voice by activating the microphone. The player must be careful, because there are plenty of monsters within the darkness that can hear the player too.
Another echolocation horror game released in 2017 is Perception. Created by several employees who had also worked on BioShock and BioShock Infinite, the game follows a blind woman named Cassie Thornton as she explores the Estate at Echo Bluff in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Using the sound from her cane and other things in the mansion, Cassie slowly begins to uncover the mysterious truths behind this place that won’t leave her nightmares.
Cassie needs to be careful, however, because a deadly entity known as The Presence lives in the house. Every sound attracts the Presence, so Cassie needs to use sound strategically in order to survive.
Released in 2015, Dark Echo is a puzzle horror game that implements the echolocation idea a bit differently than other, similar titles. Instead of exploring a 3D environment, the player controls their character, which is simply represented by a pair of footprints, from a top-down perspective.
There are 80 levels in the game, and the main goal of each level is to find the exit. There are also strange creatures, represented by red lines, that will try to kill the player. To see the environment while avoiding danger, the player will have to strategically use their sneaking, walking, and jumping abilities.
A Blind Legend
Created as an accessible experience for visually impaired individuals and to spread awareness of visual disabilities, A Blind Legend is a 2015 game about a blind knight named Edward Blake and was the first-ever action-adventure game that relied entirely on audio. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Edward’s wife has just been captured, so he travels through the High Castle Kingdom to rescue her.
Since there are no visuals, the player must rely on the sounds of the world around them and the guidance of Edward’s daughter, Louise. Similarly to other action-adventure games, however, the player still fights enemies using their sword and shield.
The Vale: Shadow of the Crown
While A Blind Legend pioneered the idea of having a visually-impaired-accessible action-adventure game, The Vale: Shadow of the Crown expands on the idea and creates a truly unforgettable experience. Released in 2021, the game follows a blind princess named Alex who is being sent to live in a small castle on the outskirts of the kingdom after her elder brother took the throne. On the way there, however, her traveling party is attacked and the rest of her group is killed.
Now on her own, Alex must explore the land, gather items, gain allies, and try to find her way back home. As she travels through the dark valley known as “The Vale,” she learns some shocking truths about her kingdom and her family. Although there are no visuals, the game is a full action-adventure RPG with quests, equipment, and various fighting styles and abilities.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
Released in 2015, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a roguelike rhythm game in which the player must explore dungeons and defeat monsters to the beat of the music playing in the background. If the player misses the beat, they can get hurt and even killed, and keeping the beat makes the player stronger. Besides a keyboard or game pad, the game can also be played using a dance pad, and the player can add their own music.
The main story follows a young woman named Cadence who is the daughter of a well-known treasure hunter who went missing. While searching for him, she accidentally falls into the Crypt of the NecroDancer, and she must challenge him and his minions in order to get her heart and family back. Since the dungeons are randomly generated and there are 15 unique playable characters, the game has plenty of replay value.
Released in 2019, Unheard is a mystery game in which the player solves cases by listening to the scene of the crime. With the only visuals being the floor plan and silhouettes for the characters, the player must pay close attention to what they hear, especially since the game doesn’t point out the clues.
As the player follows the characters, they must decide for themself what pieces of information are important and the timeline of the case. Each of the cases seem unrelated at first, but there may be more to what’s going on than initially meets the ear.
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About The Author
Anastasia Wilds (94 Articles Published)
Anastasia Wilds is a freelance writer for Screen Rant. Because of her passion for video games, her main focus is writing video game listicles for the website. Along with writing, she also streams various video games on Twitch and uploads some of her highlighted streams onto YouTube. Before working at Screen Rant, she worked as the Senior Arts Editor for “The Spectrum” newspaper at the University at Buffalo.