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For horror fans, Fortnite is secretly gaming’s best haunted house

I never thought the day would come where I’d call Fortnite one of the greatest horror games of all time, but here we are.

If you find yourself questioning that revelation, I completely get it. “Is he talking about the tension of Battle Royale mode? Or maybe the zombies in the Save the World playlist?” No. I straight-up mean there is a fantastic horror game inside Fortnite. There are hundreds of them, in fact, and they’re all completely free. These experiences, made entirely by fans in the game’s creative mode, feel completely separate from the game they’re based in. When taking an even closer look, I found that an entire community of developers have been saturating the Fortnite horror genre with quality titles for audiences of all ages.

Building horror

Fortnite is most widely known for its Battle Royale mode, huge competitive scene, wild build mechanics, and, of course, its hundreds of pop culture collaborations that have changed the gaming landscape itself. But the more intriguing aspect of the game comes from fan-made efforts. Through a constantly expanding Creative mode, Fortnite has been giving developers the ability to put together their own levels, game modes, and a lot more. When I saw a mode that let me play as Freddy Fazbear from Five Nights at Freddy’s, I realized that the possibilities might just be endless in the right hands.

My fascination with Fortnite‘s horror scene started last October when my little sister and I were craving a good multiplayer experience. There’s always the co-op Resident Evil titles, but we wanted something a bit scarier. I was already into finding random custom games for us to try in Fortnite, so that day I started digging for the scariest games on the platform. My mind was blown by the sheer amount of content to try out — and  it was blown a second time when I realized how high-quality the content actually is. A full multiplayer recreation of sections from the first three Resident Evil games? We were being treated to that at no cost.

Resident Evil 2 recreation of RPD police headquarters in Fortnite.
Epic Games

There are first-person levels that put you in a seemingly endless maze of stairs and hallways until you get hit with a jump scare by some horrific creature. Other games might throw you into some dark field or mansion where your only goal is to find a key, avoid some killer doll, and escape.

And there are a lot more, each if which feels nothing like Fortnite in the gameplay, audio, and visual departments. These games use all the developmental assets available in the game to find a unique presentation style. Immersive sounds, dark and dreary floorboards, and amazing usage of lighting make these projects almost unrecognizable from their Fortnite home.

Talking to creators

My curiosity led me to the creators behind projects like this. I spoke with multiple creators within the community, who explained why Fortnite had become such a useful tool for their most ambitious ideas.

“Fortnite has grown a lot in the creative aspect now that Unreal Editor For Fortnite (Or Fortnite Creative 2.0/UEFN for short) is here,” Fortnite horror developer ChitaZ tells Digital Trends. “But I was interested in it back when Creative released in 2018 as well. I started creating experiences very early and got serious with it when UEFN & Island Engagement payouts were revealed. It all got me interested in learning Unreal Engine so that I could maybe get into creating Fortnite games full-time. I was super hooked, especially once a clip of a horror map I developed went viral.”

ChitaZ is among hundreds of developers constantly looking to scare the heck out of the millions of players looking for something other than the main Battle Royale mode. He’s created the horror game Scarecrow, and is currently working on a follow-up titled Haunted within the title. Both these games follow the same philosophy, which ChitaZ tells me is to make them look the exact opposite of Fortnite. To do that, he has to go through a lot of trial and error to surpass the limits of developing within a preexisting game and engine.

Fortnite creator RB26 explains just how this is possible. Due to the implementation of UEFN, developers can import their own character models with custom animations, unique immersive audio, ultrarealistic scenery, and even cinematics. While UEFN makes things a lot easier than they once were, it’s still definitely easier said than done, according to these creators.

“When I started out in 2019, it was way different,” ChitaZ tells Digital Trends. “We always had to try to use a workaround method to make certain things happen like sculpting characters using different shapes and furniture. I remember using a curtain for the hair of a clown once. Now that UEFN is here, the element of horror is much easier to create compared to back then. You do have to be careful that you don’t make the gameplay too difficult because of the Fortnite player base. And you have to respect the age rating of Fortnite so that kids can enjoy your experiences too.”

ChitaZ and RB both explained how the age rating limitations work. You can’t use any reference to blood, violence, or gore to be in line with the game’s T rating. You can’t really code your own AI enemies, which mostly limits devs to codes that are already in the game. It’s also not possible to currently use Unreal Engine Blueprint scripts in your Fortnite maps, which would open up possibilities like customizing the footsteps sounds based on the character’s speed.

Player facing a giant clown head in Fortnite.
Epic Games

Why Fortnite?

So why develop in Fortnite instead of getting past those developmental limitations set by Epic? Creators I spoke to actually plan to at some point, but according to RB, Fortnite’s monetization possibilities, creation exposure, and beginner-friendly tools make it an ideal starting point. ChitaZ even tells me he was able to easily build an entire brand around his creations on X (formally known as Twitter), which die-hard fans are able to follow for map updates.

“It’s very easy to create with the UEFN tool and the normal creative mode, even for beginners. By publishing your game, a highlighting algorithm can make your game appear in the Fortnite menu, which will make your creation visible to millions of players who could play your game and maybe earn you some money if you are registered to the creator program.”

Fortnite has been able to tackle so many barriers in gaming that it’s no surprise that its creative suite has now opened an entire genre of games within the game itself. In the world of horror and beyond, the title has become a breeding ground for tons of free content and a place where developers can go to get their feet wet and eventually master programs like the Unreal Engine. And just think about the number of players who would probably never touch anything horror-adjacent that do so just because they can through the Battle Royale title.

So, even if you don’t like Fortnite, it might just be worth jumping in for a night or two to explore the horrific experiences you may find creeping around Tomato Town.

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DeAngelo Epps
De'Angelo Epps is a gaming writer passionate about the culture, communities, and industry surrounding gaming. His work ranges…
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