The Deep Web and “Sad Satan”

The majority of the gameplay, for a lack of a better term, can be described as a “walking simulator” as it revolves around traversing a bleak, maze-like environment with dark colors and an intentionally buzzing field of vision.

By Ken Nguyen

Almost four years ago, on June 15, 2015, a deep web horror game built with the Terror Engine first premiered on a YouTube gaming channel titled Obscure Horror Corner. This infamous game, whose origin remains a mystery until today, is called Sad Satan.

Greeting players upon launching, is a title screen with the words “Game Title” written at the top, while a reversed version of the Chinese children’s song “I Love Bejing Tiananmenn” plays in the background.

The majority of the gameplay, for a lack of a better term, can be described as a “walking simulator” as it revolves around traversing a bleak, maze-like environment with dark colors and an intentionally buzzing field of vision. As can be seen from the gameplay footage by Obscure Horror Corner, the main elements of horror are psychological, appearing in the form of changes in lighting, audio, and visual interruptions, in which the entire screen is covered by brief flashes of black-and-white or colored photography. Said interruptions can be bizarre, unnerving and make many references to real-life crimes, including the assassination of JFK and pictures of alleged sexual assault criminals.

According to an interview with the channel’s owner by Kotaku, a gaming blog originating in 2004, the game is said to have been downloaded via Tor hidden service following the suggestion of an anonymous subscriber, who in turn claimed to have found the link via deep web through a user called “ZK.”

In a surprising turn of events, a new version of the game was posted to 4chan by someone claiming to be ZK, stating that Obscure Horror Corner had not been showing what was truly in the game. Members of the 4chan community who attempted to play this version experienced technical difficulties in running the program and even encountered viruses in the form of malware. The few who succeeds claimed to have seen highly disturbing imagery.

Redditors who are aware of this supposedly “true” version of the game created a version without gore and malware, which became the currently most featured and accessible version of “Sad Satan.”

Speculations surrounding the origin of Sad Satan so far points towards three possibilities:

One: Everything Obscure Horror Corner said is true, the game really was retrieved from the deep web, and it was really ZK who posted the “true” Sad Satan on 4chan.

Two: Obscure Horror Corner created the game himself using Terror Engine, created the entire story surrounding its retrieval as a publicity stunt and also created the “true” version posted on 4chan while calling himself ZK to further reinforce his claims.

Three: Obscure Horror Corner created the game himself to feature on his playthrough, but the “true” Sad Satan was created by a random member of 4chan to ride on the scandal’s popularity.

Starting out with the least plausible theory, which states that Obscure Horror Corner is speaking the truth, there are two main inconsistencies. Firstly, if Obscure Horror Corner truly didn’t want to distribute illegal content, why inform the public of the game’s existence in the first place, even going so far as to list every single detail of how he retrieved the game and admitting the fact that he used the deep web himself? Secondly, why would ZK appear on the surface web after all his effort in remaining anonymous in the deep web?

Moving on to the second theory, it is stated that Obscure Horror Corner created Sad Satan to feature on his channel and also created the fictional character of “ZK” who posted a more graphic version of the game to reinforce his claim that the game came from deep web. This claim is supported by how the majority of Sad Satan gameplay can be created with Terror Engine’s default assets as can be seen through many YouTube tutorials of this program. While sensible in hindsight, a quick comparison between Obscure Horror Corner’s gameplay footage and that of an average YouTuber who can only access the cleaned up “true” version, it appears that his gameplay is easily four times as long. This begs the question of why Obscure Horror Corner would shorten his own game’s duration when he posted it on 4chan under the guise of ZK.

It is this inconsistency that brings us to the final theory: Obscure Horrror Corner created the game, and someone on 4chan simply rode on the wave of its popularity by recreating a shorter version of Sad Satan with illegal images and malware. This is by far the most plausible theory, bypassing every logical barrier the previous two encountered. That said, there still hasn’t been any concrete evidence to confirm that Obscure Horror Corner really created the game, aside from how no other Youtuber has stumbled upon the same version of Sad Satan he played.

Whatever the truth may be, it is unquestionable that Sad Satan’s appearance on the surface web has brought along many unfortunate consequences. Most notable among them is the distribution of illegal content following ZK’s post on 4chan, whoever he truly is. Ever since, Obscure Horror Corner has seemingly abandoned his YouTube channel following his rise to fame, most likely to avoid controversies surrounding this game.