Best Of 2022: Grounded’s Cute Aesthetic Masks One Of The Year’s Scariest Games

When we think about the best horror games, or even just the most popular, a certain aesthetic comes to mind: dark, grimy corridors; wet, organic, but indescribable objects; monsters that were once human but are no longer anything close. Dead Space, Outlast, Amnesia, Scorn, Resident Evil, Silent Hill. Almost as far back as horror games go, so does that aesthetic. It’s so common as to be predictable, but one of the most powerful aspects of horror is its ability to surprise. Obsidian’s survival game Grounded, then, definitely qualifies as horror despite being absolutely adorable. Warning: There’s a picture of a spider further into this piece. 

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Indeed, Grounded doesn’t look a whole lot like the type of games we think of as horror. They often mimic movies like The Thing, Alien, and Jacob’s Ladder. Grounded, in both pitch and aesthetic, is much closer to Honey I Shrunk The Kids, a sci-fi romp about kids who are accidentally shrunk by their father’s newly-invented shrinking ray and have to survive giant ants and the like and get back to normal size. That’s exactly what Grounded is about; you play one of four young teens trying to survive in a backyard while also looking for a way to return to your normal size. You can make houses out of grass, axes and hammers out of pebbles, and there are weevils and aphids all over that make for a good dinner. Water droplets hang from blades of grass, and ladybugs wander around making the cutest sounds you can imagine.

But all of that belies a terrifying world. Your first encounter with the true nature of the backyard may not be the same as mine. You might encounter a stinkbug, a soldier ant, or maybe you accidentally whack a ladybug, turning it from a neutral beast into an angry murder dome. Or maybe you see the blades of grass rustling ahead of you and then hear the telltale slurping sounds of a wolf spider just out of view. It won’t remain out of view for long, though, as these things are the size of a motor home relative to your character. The second it sees you, it’ll do two things: scream and charge.

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Author: Eric Frederiksen