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The Exit 8 Is The Best $4 You Will Spend Trapped In The Japanese Subway System

Welcome to OCD Hell, I hope you like checking tiles.

A normal hallway in The Exit 8, except the sign is upside-down.

Everything is normal, right? Credit:
KOTAKE CREATE

A man walking with a briefcase, looking straight ahead. Five large posters left followed by a smaller one. Two “No Smoking” posters on the right. Three doors. Two vents. A row of identical yellow tenji blocks for the blind. Symmetrical lights. One utility box on the right. A sign labeled “↑出口Exit 8” on one side and “↑ 地下広場 Concourse” on the opposite. This is what you should look for in one of the best 4 dollar games I have ever bought – The Exit 8.

A normal hallway in The Exit 8 with several posters, a sign indicating the exit, a man, tiles for the blind, 2 doors, 5 posters, and several symmetrical lights.
A normal subway hallway. Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

The Exit 8 could technically be called a horror game, but the term “anxiety game” feels more appropriate. You start off in the hallway of a Japanese subway. Signs are leading you to Exit 8. The goal is to reach that exit. You can run, or you can walk. But another sign warns you of the very simple rules.

A sign in The Exit 8 that lists the rules of the game.
The rules of the game. Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

“Don’t overlook any anomalies.”

“If you find anomalies, turn back immediately.”

“If you don’t find anomalies, do not turn back.”

“To go out from Exit 8.”

A yellow sign that says "Exit 1"
As yo progress, this number goes up. Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

The first sign you will encounter indicates Exit 0. The hallway loops. Every time you walk down the hallway, you must check to see if anything is off. If something isn’t wrong and you loop through the hallway, the next sign is for Exit 1. If you miss an anomaly, or if you go back when you should proceed, the exit sign will reset back to zero. That might sound easy but let me tell you know: this game is a real motherfucker.

A hallway in Exit 8 but there are too many no-smoking signs on the wall.
Looks good! Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

Sometimes the anomalies are patently obvious – big spooky Japanese Horror jumpscares. But most of the time anomalies are tremendously subtle, and it turns out that those are far more terrifying. Were the posters always like that? What was that noise? And on top of everything, there is the constant hum of fluorescents, an occasional mechanical -click-. Welcome to hell, my man. 

Subway tiles but they have the texture of a human's face.
Have the subway tiles always looked like this? Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

If you have OCD or regularly experience anxiety, this game is either the Olympics you have been training for your entire life, a trigger for a full on panic attack, or both. The Exit 8 is a game whose primary verb is checking. You are trapped here, in this place, until you do everything right. I have never felt so immediately tormented by and at home with a game’s internal logic. How can I be mad at a game whose thought process so thoroughly mirrors my own? That’s like getting mad at certain tiles on the floor for being made of hot lava

The commuter from Exit 8 but he's smiling.
Every tiny thing must be accounted for. Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

What was that flickering? I should go back. The tiles are slightly off. I should go back. Why is the man looking at me this time? I should turn back. Oh no, I was wrong this time? What could I have missed? I checked everything, didn’t I? Was the poster always like that? Is that moving? I should go back. I should go back. I should go back.

Finally, the exit! Well, an exit. Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

It would be easy to slot this game neatly into the current zeitgeist of American horror, since it is a game about liminal spaces and backrooms. But The Exit 8 is first and foremost a Japanese game. Horror YouTubers and several Japanese Vtubers have already picked it up, it’s blown up on Japanese Twitter and as of this writing it has more than 1,800 reviews on Steam, the majority of which are overwhelmingly positive. The lineage of P.T. is so patently obvious it barely needs to be stated, but it also reminds a lot of LSD: Dream Emulator – a game whose primary action is to parse the cryptic changes in a space from day to day and see how they connect to your actions. 

Oh hell no dude. Credit: KOTAKE CREATE

What I appreciate so much is the repetition and banality of it all. If you have ever commuted on public transit, this dread is an old friend. After thousands of commutes the placement of every damaged tile, every flickering light, every step on the stairs that’s a half an inch too short becomes instinct to you. You can spot when something has been altered out of the corner of your eye, and when you do it throws you off a little. This game is about that.

Take comfort in the fact that The Exit 8 is a solvable game. If you know what you are looking for, you can beat it in a few minutes, and speedrunners are already on it. I finished it in about an hour or so and can reliably beat it in under five. If you get really frustrated you can just look up a compilation of every anomaly, make a checklist, and then beat it. But where’s the fun in that? 

Anyway yeah, fun game, pick it up on Steam. And remember to check everything before you leave. And I mean everything.

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