As the credits rolled, I found myself staring into infinity, pondering what I had just witnessed. I might have only spent four hours existing within Tarsier Studio's grim world, but that's all the time that was needed for me to want to learn everything about it.
As I began to piece together bits of its story, I began to realize why I found Little Nightmares so fascinating. Like many of the best stories told in gaming, it was subtle and concise. It didn't betray my interest with long, drawn out dialog. In-fact, there is no dialog to be found—unless you count the grunts and shrieks of its ghastly monsters.
Instead of direct storytelling with long arcs and complex relationships, Little Nightmares keeps it simple. It tells its story with imagery and experiences. This imagery and these experiences are something to remember, and incredibly grotesque.
In this feature I will go over each of the characters in Little Nightmares, the world that they live in, and finishing it off by describing the game's major events and ending.
[Spoiler Alert: Below are major story spoilers for Little Nightmares. We suggest completing the game before reading further.]
A Protagonist Named Six
As the adventure begins you take control of a nine-year-old girl named Six. Bearing nothing more than basic climbing skills, a lighter, and a bright yellow raincoat, she's ill-equipped to escape the confines of The Maw—more on what this is later—, but is willing to take the risk.
Six's malnourished state can be immediately recognized by how skinny she is. As with the many other children trapped inside The Maw, she has been given little to no food to eat since she was taken as a prisoner from her own home. Stomach grumbles nearly debilitate her during the harrowing four hour escape.
Six might be quiet and unsuspecting, but she isn't to be underestimated. As you learn toward the latter portion of the game, she will do whatever is necessary to survive.
Inhabitants Of The Maw
The Maw is a sick and twisted place with unspeakable horrors. There are four main enemies that you encounter during your escape, each with its own creepy design and mechanics.
The Janitor - The Man With The Long Arms
The Janitor is tasked with the every day upkeep of The Maw. He can be seen doing laundry, tailoring, and even mechanical repairs. He resides in one of the darkest regions called the Lair. It is here that he performs his repetitive tasks through day and night, cast away from social interaction.
The Janitor serves as a great introduction monster due to his blindness. Without access to this important sense, he relies on touch, smell, and sound, which are much easier for Six to exploit.
His defining feature are his long arms. Without any torso or legs, his mobility is severely crippled. These long arms allow him to perform janitorial tasks with ease, in addition to it making it easier for him to crawl quickly enough to capture anyone who tries to escape The Maw.
Official Description: With long forgotten things from long forgotten places, he fled the world and found The Maw. Now as The Janitor he is a tall tale hiding in the shadows, stalking the silence, a monster alone.
The Twin Chefs - A Pair of Brutes
Eating is the main attraction of The Maw, and to satisfy its food-craving Guests an incredible amount of food must be prepared.
The Twin Chefs spend all their time cooking food. More specifically, they process meat constantly. Due to their confinement to The Kitchen, a relatively small place, they have gained tremendous weight that poses great danger to their health. They can be heard gasping for air and struggling to move, both of which prove advantageous to Six who seeks to avoid confrontation.
Official Description: With a love of violence and a feeling for meat, the twins were born to be chefs. As they shuffle across the cold floor, chopping, mincing, preparing the feast, the Twin Chefs sense something that makes their skin itch. A dirty, unwelcome presence. Vermin will not be tolerated in the kitchen.
The Guests - Full To Bursting
The Maw wouldn't be able to sustain itself without a population of Guests who pay for its hunger-satisfying delights. So, it invites gluttons by the hundreds to come and enjoy its seemingly endless supply of meat.
Guests spend most of their time at The Maw consuming food. There is little else to do, after all. When not eating, they are usually sitting around chatting with other Guests.
The initial introduction to Guests shows them entering The Maw with robes covering their large bodies. However, many can be seen adorned with Kabuki masks during the final minutes of the game. This suggests Japanese influence in The Maw.
Official Description: The Guests are an essential part of The Maw’s life-cycle. Herded into the large hall, they slump into their bowing stools, and there they feed. Without taste, without need, without end. And then they leave, one way or another.
The Lady - A Watchful Eye
The Lady is an attractive Geisha who resides in the most well-decorated location of The Maw: the Lady's Quarters. She is briefly seen at the beginning of the game in what could be described as a brief nightmare, but isn't met in-person until the final chapter.
The Lady is the head mistress of The Maw, benefiting most from its profits while spending most of her time dressing up in beautiful garbs and doing her hair.
She possesses great power that allows her to teleport through darkness and consume the soul of anyone nearby. This, along with her visual design, suggests that she is a banshee of sorts.
Most of her on-screen time is spent showing how obsessed she is with her appearance. Interestingly enough, she has no mirrors to actually see herself—the mirror she stares at during her introduction is broken into pieces. This eventually proves to be her undoing.
Official Description: With graceful restraint, The Lady casts the hypnotic spell that keeps the engine running. Amidst the chaos of the world outside, The Maw is the only place that makes sense, and now this rumour of an escaped child threatens everything. Nothing can be allowed to interfere. The guests must eat. The Maw must survive.
A Nightmarish Place Called 'The Maw'
At a basic level, The Maw is an underwater resort—hello BioShock—where people visit for vacation. It has all the traditional necessities of a resort: living quarters, a kitchen, well-furnished rooms, and staff. However, all semblance of normality ends there.
Six is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of children who have been taken captive by the inhabitants of The Maw. As evidenced during the early portions of the game where drawings can be seen in jail cells, there are many other children like her who have been trapped inside the darkest reaches of The Maw's Prison. Many are kept in cages that provide no room for movement, while others are given toys to play with while they wait for their demise.
So why are these children taken as prisoner? There's no way to say this nicely. The children are processed in the Kitchen where they are made into sausages and other meat dishes. They are then served to Guests, who crave food and don't seem to mind cannibalism.
There is evidence throughout the Kitchen chapter that suggests this grim reality, including sausage making machines, bloody meat scattered across the floor, as well as animations when captured by The Chefs that show you becoming part of the meal-making process.
Further supporting this are bodies wrapped in sheets that can be seen in many areas of the game. Hanging from hooks, there is no mistaking that these are human bodies. They are clearly shown in locations where meat is processed, enforcing the idea that the meat Guests consume isn't from animals.
To top this all off, the Guests are anxious to consume you during the Guest Area chapter. They'll stop stuffing their mouths and even plummet to the ground in order to crawl toward you and see what Six tastes like.
This isn't a pretty sight, but thankfully a heavy dose of vengeance is put on full display during the closing minutes.
Revenge For The Helpless
Throughout the game Six is shown progressing through several stages of hunger. Early on, she is given some scraps that allow her to push on, and later this progresses to her going as far as biting into a rat; her environment would teach her that ravenous consumption is okay.
Things take a turn for the wicked when Six is seen rejecting a meat sausage and instead bites into the flesh of the gnome who offered the food. It is as this point that she has turned—a dark musical piece played in minor key is cued to signal the moment. As they say, "you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain".
During the final chapter Six gets in a scuffle with the Lady of The Maw. Although the Lady is obsessed with her appearance, she has never seen herself before, and is wounded by viewing her own reflection when Six holds a mirror in her direction.
After several times of gazing at herself through Six's mirror, the Lady collapses. Instead of showing mercy or anything of the sort, Six consumes her. But not in cannibalistic fashion. Instead, she preys on her dark soul.
Presumably this satisfies Six's hunger in addition to granting her the powers that the now deceased Lady once had. Six is no longer just a nine-year-old girl, she's a walking monstrosity.
Six fully embraces this new reality, and is seen walking through the dining area consuming the lives of any Guests that come near her. Within seconds the area transforms from being pandemonious with gluttonous Guests, to devoid of life.
As Six walks sternly up the stairs to escape the place that once confined her, she has become a little nightmare.
After the credits roll, the entrance to The Maw, which is apparently a tower located on a miniscule island, is shown with a foggy yellow backdrop. The horn of a ship can then be heard, indicating that a new group of meat-hungry Guests have arrived. It can be assumed that Six will devour everyone on the ship, and make her final route to freedom.