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Five Nights at Phony's: the terrifying world of Five Nights at Freddy's clones

The horror is amazing

Everyone knows about Android game clones — the ripoffs that are generally named something like Flappy [Insert Noun Here], Crush Some Candy-Like Objects, and Mine Block Craft Story. I'm willing to accept that there's a clone for just about everything, given how cheap and easy it is to rip off a mechanic, slap some new art on it, and put it in the Play Store. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I discovered the beautifully weird rabbit hole that is Five Nights at Freddy's clones.

Five Nights at Freddy's, for the unfamiliar, is an extremely popular series of horror games — it's also got a film adaptation in progress. Over the first game's titular five nights, players take the role of a security guard, using a limited power supply to cycle through security cameras, turn on lights, and slam doors to avoid the clutches of murderous animatronic animals. Cloning its extremely distinctive and deceptively simple gameplay isn't as easy as making a vaguely Halo-ish shooter or a reskinned version of Flappy Bird.

But that hasn't stopped the developers of Nights at Cube Pizzeria 3D, Bear Haven Nights Horror, One Freddy Story 4, or any of the other games you'll find beneath Five Nights at Freddy's in the Google Play Store search. All you need to trade on the series' success, it turns out, is killer bears, jump scares, and the word "night." Do you want to play through most of them? Probably not. Did I have some fun cycling through the lower end of the Android game barrel? You bet. Here's a guide to the best, worst, and weirdest Five Nights at Freddy's clones.

The art swap: Five Nights at Doll House

FNAF Android Clones

Rather than make an obviously off-brand Five Nights at Freddy's, the obvious cash-in choice is to take the non-copyrightable mechanics and port them into a different setting, which is exactly what the somewhat ungrammatically named Five Nights at Doll House did. Five Nights at Doll House takes its predecessor's "perversion of childhood joy" theme even further by effectively making you Sid from Toy Story; it's set in a world where the dolls you mistreated as a child get revenge by "locking you in their hunted [sic] house for five nights." In some ways, it's creepier than FNAF, but only because it plays on the cheapest of cheap shocks — bloody dollhouses, eerie children's songs, and mutilated Barbies. Think of it as the Saw to FNAF's Se7en, if Saw were covered in banner ads for food delivery services.

The Doom clone: Four Night at Fear

FNAF Android Clone

To be clear, Four Night at Fear is not a Five Nights at Freddy's clone. Four Night at Fear is a Minecraft-based Doom clone where you fight fireball-spitting giant bears. This is sadly much, much less cool than it sounds, primarily because it's so hard to move and aim that I initially thought the point was to stand in one place and wait several minutes for a bear to wander into your field of view. Granted, it didn't get that much better once I figured it out.

The missed opportunity: Bear Haven Nights Horror

FNAF Clone

"Please note that it is not yet another Five Nights at Freddy's clone," the developer of Bear Haven Nights Horror promised in the game's Play Store description. I scoffed a little and booted it up, and... it turns out they're right! Bear Haven Nights Horror is a 2D game about performing maintenance jobs in a creepy motel. Conceptually, it's a tiny bit like Ice-Pick Lodge's Knock-Knock you move through various rooms looking for broken electrical panels that could leave the motel in the dark, then hide from the teddy bears that have managed to get inside in the meantime, making sure to turn off anything that could attract their attention.

The game's execution isn't always great, but its central premise is sound. It's got a simple cartoon style, and you cleverly look around rooms by tapping the screen to flip them 180 degrees, like rotating a dollhouse. But aside from attracting Five Nights at Freddy's fans, there is absolutely no reason for you to be running from bears — it undercuts both the art style and the theme of the game. Also, its name sounds like either a disastrous mistranslation or an SEO-optimized phrase on a domain landing page. Then again, would I have ever found it if I hadn't been looking for Five Nights at Freddy's? I doubt it.

The empire: One / Two / Five / Seven Nights at Fready / Buddy

FNAF Android Clones

By far the most prolific clone artist is a company that's put out no fewer than eight variations on the game, including 7 Night at Buddy, Five Night at Buddy 3, and Night at Fready 2. The numbers are picked and spelled basically at random, and they all sound like someone tried to write Five Nights at Freddy's into a SyFy miniseries: you're either guarding a "future science station," hiding from robots that have taken over the world, or trying to escape the "mascot" of an asylum.

If they weren't so awkward to play, you could almost call these games Five Nights at Freddy's low-poly demakes, and they manage to be terrifying in their sheer emptiness. Your security camera map is apparently drawn in MS Paint, the rooms are almost totally featureless, and Buddy/Fready is a gliding, smooth-faced abomination who either appears and murders you within seconds or sits forever outside a closed door until you take pity on him and open it. As the Play Store description puts it: "The horror is amazing."

The nightmare: Five Seven Nights at Fernando

FNAF Clone

Whatever else I might say about the games above, they're playable — not great, maybe, but I can at least imagine the developers deciding that they've created something that another human being might willingly engage with. Five Seven Nights at Fernando is like something auto-generated by a game design bot. As the Play Store image above suggests, it's a Temple Run or Subway Surfers-style runner made from clip art. The description invites you to "race against time to avoid the scary teddy bear that will run into your path as always" and touts features like "cutting edge five 3D graphics night and gnarly impact at Freddy's with 2 sound effects demo." It favorably quotes an obvious joke review that calls it "one of the finest video games created in our time." It claims to be "played by majority [sic] of the Google Play Store community."

It looks like this.

FNAF Clone

I had sort of hoped this was a neophyte designer's first attempt at making a video game, but the developer has over a dozen other titles, including multiple obvious copies of Subway Surfers. That said, they've also got some of the best names in Android knockoff gaming. If you hadn't seen the image above, tell me you wouldn't be into Turbo Dinosaur Racing 3D, Crazy Triple Zombies, Criminal Hidden Case, and Cutie Alien Touch.

Five Seven Nights at Fernando claims to have 48 levels, but I never got beyond collecting three coins, because I kept dying for no discernible reason. I'm still not clear on whether the bears had anything to do with it.