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Video Game / Neverending Nightmares

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This can't possibly end well for you.

Neverending Nightmares is an indie Psychological Horror video game developed by American game development studio Infinitap Games. It was released for the PC, Mac, Linux, and Ouya in 2014, with ports to PS4 and PS Vita following in 2016, and an iOS version releasing in 2017.

You play as the pajama-clad Thomas Smith, who wakes up from a nightmare, only to find that he is still in a nightmare. He is compelled to explore his dreamworld, but as more and more sinister things start bubbling to the surface, it becomes increasingly apparent that something is terribly wrong with Thomas...

The game's aesthetic, based on the late 19th century Anglophone world, is notable for its deceptively complex Edward Gorey-inspired hand-drawn art style, with dynamic cross-hatched shadows and splashes of color for interactive objects, as well as many scenes of brutal, unrelentingly gory violence.

The game was inspired by creator Matt Gilgenbach's experiences with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression, which were exacerbated by the financial failure of his previous game, Retro/Grade.

A loose follow-up to the game, titled Devastated Dreams, had a demo released in 2015, but no further releases or updates on its development were done since then. What's been published about its plot so far is that it revolves around a woman named Angel who suffers from the same nightmares Thomas did, in addition to having to figure out the Ambiguous Situation over whether or not she's pregnant. In contrast to the first game, Devastated Dreams takes place in a more modern setting and is largely inspired by Philippine Mythology.

This game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Agony of the Feet: In the asylum, some corridors have shards of broken glass lying on the floor. Since Thomas is always barefoot, stepping on them hurts him; it doesn't kill, but the noise attracts enemies who are close enough. Near the end of Insanity, you need to do this on purpose at one point, to lure a lunatic far from your path.
  • Alien Geometries: A subtle example, but the layouts of some of the areas defy geometric space.
  • Alliterative Title: "Neverending Nightmares" and "Devastated Dreams".
  • All Just a Dream: ...OR IS IT!? It probably is. None of the endings hint that the dreams continue after the final awakening. That aside, it's actually a game mechanic: Thomas wakes up in a bed to move from one section to the next, and the bedrooms in general act as checkpoints.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: Used in two of the three alternative last levels.
    • "Wayward Dreamer"'s setting consists of mix-and-match rooms and corridors from the manor, the asylum, and the forest, while furniture from the asylum occasionally appears in the manor, and vice versa. The only enemies (killer dolls) are specific to this level, though.
    • "Final Descent"'s setting is made of seemingly randomly linked level parts lifted straight from the manor, the forest/cemetery, and the asylum, each of them including its own specific enemies (baby monsters, asylum patients, and Evil!Gabby).
    • Averted in "Destroyed Dreams", which is set in a unique place (an abandoned hospital that looks very different from the asylum in "Insanity") with a totally new enemy (a murderous Thomas doppelganger wielding an axe).
  • Abandoned Hospital: The setting of the Destroyed Dreams path.
  • Arc Words: "My God, why have you forsaken me?" and "Everything is a lie."
  • Armless Biped: Due to always wearing straitjackets, the patients in the asylum are effectively this.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Thoroughly, thoroughly inverted with the baby monsters.
  • Bag of Holding: Averted. There's no inventory; Thomas can only carry whatever he can hold in his hands.
  • Bedlam House: The asylum environment, complete with violently insane patients wandering the halls and old-timey medicine lining the shelves. Somewhat justified in that the game does take place at the turn of the 20th century, but it is also a nightmare...
  • Big Brother Instinct: Thomas seems to care very much about Gabby.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All 3 of them.
    • Wayward Dreamer: Thomas is actually a young boy, and is deathly worried about his young sister, Gabrielle. It's implied she may be ill, or even in a coma. He checks up on her, and then goes back to bed.
    • Broken Dreams: Thomas is prone to self-harm, and attempts suicide. After conquering his desire to kill himself (manifested in Nightmare Thomas), he wakes up to the cries of Gabrielle, who is overjoyed that he's okay.
    • Final Descent: Thomas wakes up, and reads a letter from his wife. As it turns out, Gabrielle isn't his sister—she's his wife. The older and younger versions of the ghost girls are different people entirely: the older one is Gabrielle, and the young girl he's been seeing was his daughter, Gabby. Gabby died earlier in the game, and Thomas never moved on from it. Eventually, Gabrielle leaves him, begging Thomas to move on with his life as he sits in his study and sobs. The game does imply that he will move on.
  • BFS: Gabby uses one towards the end of the game, complete with Sword Drag.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: A recurring trait on a lot of enemies. If they have eyes at all...
  • Brother–Sister Incest: One path leads to this, but it's actually averted. Gabrielle explains to Thomas that he never had a sister, and they're actually married. Whether or not it is actually true is up to interpretation.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Thomas's go-to method of waking up from a nightmare.
  • Cat Scare: Well, a blackbird scare in the first level, but still...
  • Character in the Logo: Thomas' silhouette in the door of the game's logo, whose shadow is stylized like a long "N" to start both words in the title.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • One of the rooms in the first level is a kitchen containing a bloodied meat grinder. Thomas uses it to mutilate his hand at the end of "Together at Last."
    • The literal example is averted. There are some rooms with hunting trophies and hunting rifles hanging on the walls, but they can't be interacted with, and they aren't involved in the nightmares anyway.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A manga by Kata Katoh and SUNPLANT was released in late 2017.
  • Controllable Helplessness: An Olympic athlete, Thomas is not. All enemies in the game mop the floor with him, and he can barely run down the length of a hallway before having to stop to pant and wheeze. (Although the latter is justified in that the creator has asthma; see Author Phobia.)
  • Creepy Basement: There's one early on in the game.
  • Creepy Child: One of Gabby's manifestations.
  • Creepy Doll: Plenty to be seen. Also included are ones that can disembowel you in the Wayward Dreamer path.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: When you die, you immediately wake up in the last bedroom you passed. Not only are rooms with beds generously abundant, leaving you a short distance away from where you died, but there's no loading screen either.
  • Death of a Child: Child versions of both Gabby and Thomas die frequently (the latter more so on the Wayward Dreamer path).
  • Dream Within a Dream: Whenever Thomas wakes up from one dream, he's in another, and then in another, and in another...
  • Driven to Suicide: One scene has Thomas finding Gabby dead, and he proceeds to stab himself in grief. One path implies that he really did attempt to kill himself.
  • Dying to Wake Up:
    • Being killed, either by one of the monsters or by his own hand, results in Thomas waking up... only to find himself in yet another nightmare. As such, the various bedrooms lining the main corridors serve as checkpoints that the player reloads from after a death. Dying under the right conditions progresses the narrative further, resulting in Thomas waking up in increasingly unusual places, including dark forests, hospitals, insane asylums, underground chambers, married life with Gabby , or even a return to childhood.
    • In all three of the endings, Thomas dies one final time after being subjected to the full extent of his neuroses, either by being disemboweled by animated dolls, falling to his death, or being absorbed into a Womb Level... and finally wakes up in the real world. Ironically, the "Wayward Dreamer" ending features child Thomas following up on this by going right back to bed once he's finished kissing Gabby goodnight.
  • Enfant Terrible: The baby monsters.
  • Eldritch Location: The settings makes no sense whatsoever; rooms connect together seemingly at random; doors lead between the House, the Asylum and the Hospital randomly; and eventually the settings begin to merge, with furniture and enemies appearing in each others' locations. Justified since it all takes place in a series of dreams.
  • Fission Mailed: At some points in the game, you will be trapped in an inescapable situation where dying is the only option... so you can wake up into your next dream.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • The game can get incredibly twisted when it comes to its violence; but when Thomas is killed (or otherwise does something horrible to himself), the game always cuts away in the middle of the violence. Only after you've seen more than you wanted to, though...
    • Averted at the end of "Lost Child", where Thomas gives himself a rather nasty stab, slumps to the ground, and dies. We get the privilege of watching the whole thing unfold in unflinching detail.
    • Played absolutely straight in the middle of "Childish Things". Going down a hallway will shut off all the lights, and an unseen being will brutally murder Thomas in the dark. You can just make out the blood pool.
  • Grief-Induced Split: The "Final Descent" ending reveals that Thomas' daughter Gabby had died earlier in the game, which Thomas hasn't been able to move on from. This eventually causes his wife, Gabrielle, to leave him.
    "Dear Thomas, I'm leaving you. I'm sorry — you can't talk me out of it. I still love you, but I just can't be with you anymore. Losing our daughter was hard on me too, yet I'm trying to move on. Your life didn't end, so why can't you live it?"
  • Hell Is That Noise: The odd hissing noise that sounds just before Evil!Thomas attacks you in the hospital.
  • Insane Equals Violent: The other patients in the asylum. Being restrained, blinded, and lobotomized probably doesn't help their disposition...
  • Jump Scare: While most of the horror in the game is of the surreal and atmospheric kind, there are a few scares like this, mostly early on, to hint at things to come.
  • Malevolent Architecture: It takes place in a dream, after all, so logic is in short supply when it comes to the practicality of the building layouts and the rooms within.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Thomas can die in various ways including being crushed to death by giant baby monsters, having his throat bitten out by mental patients, being disemboweled by killer dolls, and being hacked up by demonic versions of himself and Gabby depending on the path. There are a few more ways to die, and in some of those cases they are plot-required.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: In "The Final Descent" path, it's ultimately revealed that the entire dream journey has been Thomas attempting to move on from the death of his daughter, with all the imagery witnessed over the course of the nightmare being in some way related to the sense of guilt, loss and horror he feels. In the real world, his wife has actually left him, her final letter begging him to move on from the grief and go on living. Though the game ends with him crying over the letter, it's implied that he will eventually be able to recover from the tragedy.
  • Multiple Endings: Based on certain choices you make over the course of the game, they may explain why Thomas is having all these nightmares.
    • Final Descent: The death of Thomas's daughter and Gabby leaving him.
    • Broken Dreams: Thomas is in a coma, possibly from Self-Harm or attempted suicide.
    • Wayward Dreamer: Thomas is just a kid, and he's worried about his sister.
  • Nightmare Face: Gabby is capable of pulling some pretty impressive ones.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Naturally. The word "Nightmare" is obviously in the title, so this is expected.
  • No Escape but Down: A recurring motif. No matter what the environments or logic would dictate, the path always ends up leading you further and further downwards.
  • Non Sequitur Environment: Exhibits a good deal of this in the final levels, many of which incorporate areas from previous segments of the game. For example, in the "Wayward Dreamer" ending path, Thomas finds his childhood home merging with the asylum level and a bleak catacomb-like mockery of his house, with ordinary corridors giving way to ruined wards patrolled by eyeless inmates and dark stone halls infested with murderous dolls. Meanwhile, in "The Final Descent," the interior of the house grows more dilapidated and horrific, collapsing into bloodstained wreckage without rhyme or reason: along the journey, corridors abruptly give way to forests of hanging bodies, graveyards suddenly appear out of nowhere, and staircases lead back into the asylum. Thomas awakens to find himself in the catacombs again... and the very last scene of this path features Thomas descending a very, very long staircase - only to find himself entering what appears to be a literal Womb Level.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Much of the game is spent walking down empty hallways, waiting for something to happen... This is vastly more suspenseful and terrifying than it sounds, as the first level (which is purely made of this aside from a couple jumpscares) shows.
  • Notice This: Objects that you can interact with are colored to contrast the stark, black-and-white graphics of everything else.
  • Old, Dark House: You start in one in the first level, and you only come across older and darker houses as the game goes on.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Thomas doesn't stand a chance in straight-up combat. See Controllable Helplessness.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Inverted. One path leads to the player taking control of a younger Thomas. However, it is possible to divert to another path which brings him back to being older.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: The whole game is this for Thomas.
  • The Pursuing Nightmare: Because Thomas can't fight back against the monsters, he can only evade if he wants to avoid waking up in yet another dream. He can hide when pitted against the baby monsters and the asylum patients, but most of the time he's forced to keep moving, either staying a few steps ahead of slow-moving foes like the dolls or running blindly down a corridor from the swift and deadly Nightmare Thomas. And some threats, like the shadows in "Childish Things", literally can't be escaped at all. Worse still, Thomas is asthmatic and can't run very far without getting winded, so he has to conserve his energy or run out of breath with a monster right on his heels... and in the "Wayward Dreamer" level, Thomas is even worse off as he's left struggling to outrun the same threats as a child with an even worse case of asthma.
  • Self-Harm: And how! A lot of the Fission Mailed sequences involve Thomas harming himself, if not being Driven to Suicide entirely. And in one of the ending paths, he presumably has been put in a coma from his self-harm.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: It's not a question of if Thomas hates himself, but why. The Final Descent ending reveals one reason why, but the other two endings don't.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slasher Smile: Worn by Evil!Thomas, Evil!Gabby and even some of the dolls...
  • Sinister Silhouettes: Used to horrific effect.
  • Sprint Meter: Played with. You can run for a limited time, but calling it a "sprint" is being generous. You can only run a short distance, during which you move progressively slower and slower before stopping once Thomas gets a small asthma attack. Since there's no HUD elements, there's no actual meter; instead, you have to listen to Thomas' rattling breaths to let you know how far you've run the meter down.
  • Story Branching: One of two paths either has Gabrielle actually be his wife (not his sister) or Gabrielle really be his sister.
  • Surreal Horror: The game's art style is just the beginning.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: If there is a bedroom near by, so is a deadly obstacle.
  • The Reveal: In Final Descent, Thomas finds out that not only is Gabrielle not his sister, but she's also his wife, AND he's been driven mad by the death of his daughter, also named Gabrielle. There are also inclinations that Thomas accidentally killed her, and while his wife has tried to move on, Thomas has not, and is destroying himself from the guilt of it all.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: One of the questions driving the plot is whether Thomas is exploring his dreams or his psychotic hallucinations. They're his dreams.
  • Uncanny Valley: The Creepy Dolls. A lot of them have cracks over their bodies, are missing a good portion of their face, don a Slasher Smile, or some combination. Many a player suspect that they might attack at some point. Which they do if you're on the "Wayward Dreamer" path.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Thomas and Gabby die rather gruesomely several times over the course of the game, and they just keep coming back. It's only a dream, after all...
  • Womb Level: Very briefly at the end of the Final Descent path.
  • World of Symbolism: Everything from the environments, to the enemies, to the dialogue, holds some sort of symbolic weight with the main character.
  • Worst Aid: The "medicine" in Insanity. "Purified lead tablets"? "Cocaine extract in alcohol"? "Arsenic capsules"!? Truth in Television, actually—all three were prescription drugs of the age, used in mental hospitals. Bedlam House was a real thing, after all.

*wakes up in a different TV Tropes page...*