Layers of Fear is a psychological horror video game developed by Bloober Team and published by Aspyr. It was released on Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One worldwide in February 2016.
Layers of Fear: Inheritance was released on 2 August 2016 as a direct follow up add-on to the first game. A definitive port for the Nintendo Switch, entitled Layers of Fear: Legacy, was released on 21 February 2018 and it features, in addition to the Inheritance DLC, Joy-Con, touchscreen, and HD Rumble support. A limited physical retail release for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, published by Limited Run Games in North America, would be available starting October 2018. A sequel titled Layers of Fear 2 was announced in October 2018 and was released on May 29, 2019.
Set in the 1920s United States, the unnamed protagonist returns home from a court hearing. After briefly exploring his empty house, he goes to his workshop to start working on his "magnum opus". After he adds the first layer, he starts having hallucinations about his past encounters.
The man was an ambitious young painter who used his pianist wife as a model for his painting. Soon his wife became pregnant and she bore a daughter. After she gave birth, he decided to spend more time working on his paintings, leaving his wife to care for their daughter. After buying a dog for his family, he started to have drinking problems due to constant stress and noise outside his workshop. He attached a muzzle to the dog, but was soon plagued by rats, likely a figment of his schizophrenia...
His talent started to slowly decay and his vision for the painting became twisted, and he began to drive away his friends by painting gory and horrific works for simple jobs, including a set of illustrations for Little Red Riding Hood. After a long period of neglect, his wife decided to burn his paintings, including his most cherished work, "The Lady In Black". He had a drunken fit and apparently beat her, driving her to leave with their child. He tried calling her multiple times but failed to reconcile with her. After some time, he got a phone call telling him that she was critically injured in a fire. She ended up horribly disfigured, but their daughter survived.
After the fire, he took his wife, now a wheelchair user, and daughter back home so he could take care of them. His drinking problems continued due to the constant "distractions" of their presence. After regaining her ability to walk, the wife was neglected even more because her husband thought she lacked "beauty". After he had another drunken outburst, his wife committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the bathroom. In the present day, it is revealed that he went insane and possibly took six body parts of his wife to work on his painting: her skin as the canvas, her blood as the overlay, her bone marrow as the undercoating, a brush made from her hair, her finger for the smearing and her eye as the spectator. The character is shown using these items, but considering the cyclical nature of one of the endings and the general ambiguous nature of what is shown throughout the story, it's possible that this isn't meant to be taken literally.
The player takes control of an artist who has returned to his studio. His initial goal is to complete his masterpiece, and the player's role is to figure out how this task should be accomplished. The challenge comes from puzzles which require the player to search the environment for visual clues. The house appears straightforward at first, but it changes around the player as they explore it in first person. These changes in the environment provide scaffolding for the puzzles and provide regular jump scares common to games of this genre.
The game is divided into six chapters with various items for the player to find in order to complete his work. The game is heavily dimmed, and there are objects that uncover certain aspects of the painter's history. While completing the painting, there is a letter that is slowly pieced together, which shows the origin of his masterpiece, and objects which explain the secret of the painter through dialogue flashbacks.