The internet is a vast, unknowable place. The parts you and I interact with on a daily basis are a very small sliver of what's actually floating around out there. The web can go deep, and it can get dark.
In the deep corners of the internet, a video game exists. It's called "Sad Satan", and it's a horror game unlike any other I've come across. Sad Satan cannot be bought at GameStop, nor can it be downloaded digitally via traditional storefronts like Steam. It can only be downloaded via the tools that can access the hidden depths of the internet, like Tor.
Some of the internet exists in places that we cannot normally see — you may know this as the 'deep web.' The term sounds more ominous than it actually is. The deep web is not some underground internet where only shady stuff, like hacking or drug dealing, occurs. As Lifehacker explains it, the deep web "refers to the vast repository of information that search engines and directories don't have direct access to." Think databases, password-protected sites, private websites and forums, as well as paywalled content.
Something that the deep web is particularly good for, however, is anonymity. Users can upload stuff to something called Onion sites incognito, and anyone that accesses that content will have a harder time tracing the source.
A little while back, Jamie, the proprietor of the YouTube channel Obscure Horror Corner, dove into the deep web to download a mysterious game hosted on an Onion site. The file was called "Sad Satan," and it was a horror game that piqued his interest. It was, after all, an obscure horror game he could feature on his YouTube channel.
"I don't use the deep web too often," Jamie told me last week. "But a month or two ago a subscriber sent me a link and said they found something creepy and knew that I would be interested, which I of course was."
"I did a malware check and other virus stuff on the file and it seemed OK, so I just shot ahead with it," Jamie said. What Jamie found was kind of inscrutable. Creepy, enigmatic, but inscrutable. Thankfully, Jamie actually documented his playthrough of the game, which means that none of us have to download strange deep web internet files to experience Sad Satan.
You can watch part of it here, if you'd like, though I'll write a play-by-play underneath the video, too.
The game starts in a dark hallway:
Walking forward, it's hard to make out what's waiting for you in the distance. The only thing you can hear is your footsteps, one after the other, acting as a reminder that something tangible exists within these shadows. The walking continues for a while, though the player in the video doesn't really seem to make any progress. It almost seems as if they are walking in place — but no, eventually, the player does get closer to the flickering light. This is where the strange, muffled sounds start. It almost sounds like a kid, gasping. It could be anything, though.
The player turns back, walks for a little bit. Then turns around again. Now there seems to be a different door made out of light in the distance. The maze is not static. It changes.
The player moves toward the light, naturally. The voices get more distorted, stranger. The hallway changes, too:
The voices turn into a growl. The player simply keeps walking forward — really, that's the only thing they can do. Eventually, the character finds themselves in the initial hallway once more, only this time, it's corrupted, unstable. A yellow line flashes on the ground every few seconds, almost making it seem like the player is walking down the middle of a road:
The player keeps walking up and down this road, until eventually it transforms once more:
At the end, the walkway transforms once more. It's the first hallway, but this time, the entire level seems to groan and moan. It sounds like you are inside the belly of the beast. The player stands there for a while, simply listening. The sounds shift and grow, get louder, more aggressive. It almost sounds like something is breathing on the player's neck, snarling, and hungry.
Eventually, the scenery changes on its own once again — back to the black and white hallway. This area has also turned volatile. The walls blur and shift, and you can hear a man repeat an unintelligible phrase over and over again. Still, the player pushes forward, reaching the end of this hallway:
The player gets to the end of the hallway, and is greeted with this:
The bizarre screen, which Kirk tells me looks a lot like something out of season one of Hannibal, lasts for maybe a second or two before it's gone. Then it's back to the damned hallways.
This time, the player almost seems drugged. The character moves around in slow motion, the audio garbles even more. They reach the end of the hallway, and it changes again:
It's hard to make out unless your computer screen is on full brightness, but there's actually blood on the ground. Naturally, the player walks toward its source. Eventually, the screen flashes this photo of Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher for a split second...
...before once again returning to the hallway. The NSPCC, by the way, is the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. This, I think, is the biggest clue in regards to what Sad Satan is "about," but we'll get to that in a little bit.
The video ends with the player reaching the end of the newest hallway. This is part one; the entire thing clocks in at a little over 11 minutes.
In the abstract, Sad Satan does not seem like a particularly 'good' game. It's literally just walking up and down a hallway, over and over again. The hallways themselves, the entire environment, seem like something a game design student could spit out in twenty minutes.
And yet! Sad Satan is remarkably unsettling, even if you're just watching the game being played on YouTube. Partially, it's the audio, which works wonders for setting up a creepy tone. But in some ways, the crudeness of the game is exactly what makes it so potent. It adds authenticity. Horror is not a genre that revels in polish. It's often defined by rawness, by its sharp edges. This is why found footage horror movies are a thing. This is also why early survival horror games with shitty controls still managed to become classics. Horror is messy, in the same way real life is messy. It's ordinary, in the same way real life is ordinary. Which means it could happen to you.
Then there's the source of the game itself. A "deep web game." This is the only game I've ever heard of with that background. That's not to say it's the only game that exists in the deep web, or even that deep web games are uncommon. I wouldn't know; I don't dwell there. My lack of familiarity works in the game's favour. As I don't lurk on that part of the web, the stigma of the deep web as the seedy underbelly of the internet comes out full force, makes the game seem that much more sinister. I can't trace its origin, or the intent of its creator. I don't know why it was made, and for what purpose. I can only experience its myth, and the myth continues to sprawl in ways I can't verify.
Jamie claims that the game came with a file that freaked them out so much that he ended up deleting the game off their computer.
"It was getting a bit strange...a note pad file that went along with the game kept appearing on my desktop each time I played the game with some gibberish messages," Jamie wrote on the first video's YouTube description. I asked for proof, but couldn't get any.
"I unfortunately have no screenshots of the notepad files," Jamie told me. "They were genuinely gibberish text. It didn't seem to be in any language, just symbols and numbers really. I did notice 666 a few times, which fits I guess, considering the title of the game."
As of this writing, the link hosting the game is down. I couldn't download Sad Satan to tell you whether or not Jamie story is true or not. I'm going to be honest with you here: even if I could download the game, I'm not sure I would. It's hard to tell what we're messing with here. Is it actually just a horror game? Or is it a vessel for something far worse than a computer virus: Satan himself? OK, probably not. I have no idea whether the game is actually dangerous, but you shouldn't really fuck around with something you don't understand, you know?
Thanks to YouTube, I don't have to download jack shit. I can just watch, and live vicariously through Jamie's playthrough. This weekend, Jamie uploaded a second part to the series, which you can watch here:
I won't give a play-by-play again, since a lot of the elements are similar to the first video. Lots of creepy hallways that morph into each other:
More importantly, the second video reveals that the player is not actually alone in this maze:
It's definitely one of the creepiest games I've seen this year.
Jamie has no idea what the game is, or who made it. In fact, they're hoping that by sharing the videos, they will be able to find out more.
I've learned a few curious things about the game already, thanks to the subscriber that sent Jamie the game in the first place. I spoke to this person, who wished to remain anonymous, via YouTube messaging, and he offered some good context on where the game came from.
"I first found out about the game on a deep web forum," he said. "It's like an all purpose site, all your usual forums can be found there (tech help, reviews, fitness, things like that), plus some original content."
This deep web frequenter says that someone put up a link to a game on these forums, something which is kind of unusual for that corner of the internet.
"That was the first time I had seen a game posted on the site," he said. If media floated around on this website, it was more likely to be music and movies — not games, and certainly not user-created games.
"The user never specified whether it was his own content or someone else's, but I presume it was the user's game," he said. "He signed off his post with 'ZK.'"
My deep web informant doesn't know much about ZK — it is, after all, an anonymous forum.
"I have seen other posts signed off with ZK, mostly comments, which were very odd," he said. "Some of the stuff ZK posted before was pretty weird — dark views, satanic mumbo jumbo. Whether its nefarious or all in good fun, I can't really say," he mused. He said that while it's entirely possible that the game has some dark ulterior motive, that he's waiting to see what else is contained within it before making a judgement. Apparently, the entire reason that he shared the game with Jamie was because he couldn't get the game to run on his own computer — so he, like the rest of us, can only experience the game second hand.
After watching the footage, the game strikes me as some sort of commentary about the horrors of child abuse — hence the nightmare children, and the NSPCC stuff. Beyond that, though, the only thing I've seen that could potentially be related is another video titled "Sad Sad Satan:"
The video seems to hint at murders committed by people in masks:
And it seems to tease the locations of these supposed murders, too. The YouTube description simply reads "Follow the trail."
So... who wants to follow the trail with me?
Illustration: Sam Woolley