There’s a new Little Nightmares game on the horizon, and what a horizon it is. The announcement trailer was unveiled just ahead of Gamescom 2023, and with Supermassive Games taking on the project solo now that Little Nightmares 1 and 2 co-developer Tarsier has stepped away, it’s looking like a whole new kind of monster.
“Little Nightmares is obviously a different type of horror game than the sort of things we traditionally make,” Supermassive’s game director Wayne Garland tells me. “Dark Pictures, The Quarry, Until Dawn, they tend to be explicit horror. It’s all through the characters and how they’re driving the story in a very clear narrative. Little Nightmares 3 is much more implicit in that way. You find a lot of the horror through moving through the environmental setting, the actions of the antagonist, the character’s influence, the sound. And really, that’s what gives you that sense of unease you feel as you traverse the world.”
The clips I saw in the press briefing showed this world traversal in spades – and it involved a lot of ladder climbing, dusty deserts, and two fresh little faces to guide. “It’s a brand new story in the Little Nightmares world. So we want to tell the story of Low and Alone,” says Bandi Namco EU producer Coralie Feniello. “If you have played Little Nightmares 1 and 2, you will find some secrets that will remind you of both of those games as you play.”
With a new protagonist duo wading through the shadows, Little Nightmares 3 is further flipping the script by giving this once-solo experience a co-op makeover. “Co-op was the most requested feature from our fans, so it was really important for us to give them that,” Feniello explains. “I do think that it will add a layer to the game as well, by letting you experience it with a friend. But at the same time, we really want the player to experience it as they want. So that’s why we kept single player, so if you don’t play online co-op you would be able to play with AI with you.”
When I first heard about the series’ multiplayer shift, I felt uncertain. With the exception of asymmetrical horror games, playing in this space with friends tends to take the spooks out of it for me. Although Supermassive’s past work has featured both local and online co-op modes, the Little Nightmares team has taken this propensity for silliness into account, says Garland. “We’ve been asked questions about online versus couch co-op. Couch is something that we considered, but again, when you come back to the atmosphere and the immersion that we’re trying to elicit through Little Nightmares, I think it was important for us that we stuck to our online co-op only rather than traditional more party aspects.”
Whether you go it alone or with a friend, Little Nightmares 3 will be a chaptered experience that starts us off in the arid plains of Necropolis. “We describe the Necropolis as raised by the desert sands and the winds. It’s a city of eternal energy but certain death. As you traverse through Necropolis you see things like body bags, statues of people who’ve been turned to stone, all that sort of stuff,” says Garland.
Each chapter will have its own tone and main monster to set it apart from the others – “there will be antagonists for each level, each kind of twisted and focussed on their own delusions in their own way,” Garland assures me – but the first thing I notice about Necropolis is its color palette.
Gone is the moody darkness of Little Nightmares 2, and instead we’re placed in a sandy, desolate town. But that, too, is part of the renewed genetic makeup of a revitalized Little Nightmares 3. “Horror doesn’t have to come from just being dark, right? It’s how you play with that. And I think that’s the main thing,” Garland wraps up. “It’s an interesting way for [Supermassive] to kind of try and deliver that in a different sort of way, while trying to stay true to the message at the same time.”
We checked out the latest Lies of P demo at Gamescom 2023 and sat down with the game director to learn more.