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We all remember experiencing our first jumpscare on the internet at a young age. I could probably recite my experience as if it happened yesterday because these terrors stay with you – even decades later.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional giggle or thrill to get your heart racing, but as soon as something keeps your little one up and night, there’s something wrong. As a parent, you feel it’s your job to protect your child at all costs, even down to the media they consume.
However, even though a franchise like Five Nights at Freddy’s may have a cuddly, approachable appearance, the horror and fright hidden behind the animal animatronics can easily be ignored or unnoticed by any unaware parent. It’s always important to know the content your child is engaging with like the back of your hand, so we’ve created this guide for you to use to see if Five Nights at Freddy’s is an appropriate game for your mini-me.
Five Nights at Freddy’s predominantly piqued my interest due to its haunting yet fascinating character design. So I can see why children would find themselves interested in the franchise. My curiosity got the better of me when the first game was released in 2014, and over the years, I’ve become obsessed with the franchise.
Additionally, I had the skeptical anxiety toward the game as any child would. But after exploring it myself it was hard not to adore. Of course, I was a little older than the suggested age rating, so it may not have been as scary for me. But I am not the bravest when it comes to anything that will send a shiver down my spine.
Bottom Line Up Front
When your little one takes an interest in video games, it’s hard to maintain control over what they’re playing. While this may cause a lot of anxiety or worry, especially as there are so many horror, thriller, and graphic games that your child may have access to, it’s important to remember that these games may not impact your child in the way you’d expect.
Just because something may petrify you doesn’t mean it’ll terrify them. I mean, how many people have you met who are terrified of spiders or snakes, yet you’re unaffected by them?
The Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise is designed to spook. It’s filled with jumpscares, tension, and a remarkable amount of unsettling characters. But it’s undeniably fun, and its childlike branding and engaging nature are intriguing for any young gamer. Although it still has the requirements of a horror game, it’s not as graphic or violent as a considerable number of titles out there.
If your little gamer has shown interest in this franchise, don’t shut the idea down as soon as it’s mentioned. It seems like a nightmare filled with violence at first glance, but there’s much more than meets the eye with this game.
Because there’s so much to unpack, I’ve broken it down to explain why your child might be able to play it without staying awake at night.
What is Five Nights at Freddy’s?
The franchise has become rapidly popular on the internet over the years, which may be why your child is showing an interest in playing. Walkthroughs, gameplay commentary, and history recap videos are incredibly popular on sites like YouTube and a lot of social media.
So if you’ve got a young gamer in your family, there’s a significant chance they’ve already stumbled across the world of Five Nights at Freddy’s because of its ample coverage and popularity.
Long story short, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a point-and-click survival horror game based in a family-friend pizzaplex. However, even though I mentioned the location was family-friendly, I want to emphasize the horror description of the game. Even though the main antagonists are bears, bunnies, foxes, and chickens, this game isn’t as wholesome as it may seem.
It’s the players’ job to either roam the location or watch via camera to ensure nothing is out of the ordinary during their night shift. However, the animatronics which are usually used as mascots for the location, tend to adopt their own quirks at night.
Their main intention is to locate and harm the player, so it’s up to them to protect themselves. Each animatronic takes on a different form depending on which game you’re playing, and I’ll admit several characters I find more intimidating than others. Still, to a young mind – each animatronic can be some serious nightmare fuel.
Since its first release in 2014, eight additional horror games have been released. And while some may be slightly more terrifying than others, they all revolve around the central mechanic of protecting yourself from rouge animatronics.
Since I’ve spent so much time with the first game, its jumpscares are predictable and significantly less terrifying to me than when I first played. But if I were younger and more impressionable than I am now, I could see these jumpscares sticking with me into adulthood.
FNaF’s Age Rating
Regarding certified age rating, the consensus for Five Nights at Freddy’s is anyone above the age of twelve. Each game contains some relatively dark lore, occasionally some blood and gore, and enough jumpscares to make a grown adult yelp.
So it’s not generally suitable for most preteen players, but even outside of the certified rating, it’s down to the individual and how they react to horror.
I was easily scared when I was younger, so even a loud noise was enough to make me jump. Because of this, I stayed away from horror games, horror films, and any jumpscare-filled media. Of course, this made it harder to enjoy as I grew up, but in a way, I think it only encouraged the sense of tension and thrill of being frightened when I eventually gave in to my burning curiosity. But many people aren’t as easily scared as me, and Five Nights at Freddy’s might not be enough to scare someone.
Even though it will always surprise me, some children just love to be frightened, and your child might be one of them. Maybe they’ve shown an interest in horror culture before, and perhaps you’ve had a scary movie night together.
It depends on how comfortable you are with letting your child experience a Five Nights at Freddy’s game firsthand and their reaction to being scared before playing. I’m sure you’ve hidden behind a door, poised to jump out at a poor unsuspecting victim. How did they react to that? It may be a perfect example of how they’d respond to the jumpscares in a FNaF title.
If you know your child may run screaming and crying from a room after being frightened, then maybe try a more wholesome, less fang-filled franchise, and save Five Nights at Freddy’s for when they’re slightly older. It’ll be worth the wait, and by that point, there might be even more additions to its timeline to keep any gamer occupied.
What Makes it Scary?
Despite being titled a horror game from the get-go, there is more to consider than just taking its description into account. Several elements apply to the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise that give it the label of a horror game, and each may impact your child differently.
For example, while they could react positively to anything jumpy, the game’s storyline could fill their brain with things less than ideal.
Naturally, the game is designed to make players jump. The game’s design and audio are enough to send a shiver down your spine, and audio levels peak during jumpscares and can be rather distressing and loud. To combat this, I’d highly recommend not allowing your child to play with headphones if they end up playing a Five Nights at Freddy’s title.
While this may strip a sense of immersion, it’ll prevent noisy sound effects and tension primarily caused by audio. In addition, many humanoid sound effects are used in the game, such as heavy breathing or subtle footsteps, which could scare a child before any jumpscare takes place.
Each audio element is designed to create a feeling of high-strung tension, so it’s hard to decipher which audio signifies an upcoming jumpscare.
Additionally, the animatronics intent to harm can be terrifying. It’s important to remember that these characters are not to entertain in these games. Instead, their designs are stereotypically scary and feature a lot of typically terrifying things, like Foxy’s fang-filled mouth and Freddy’s vacant yet consuming eyes.
Potentially showing young children the characters before they play might change their minds or at least familiarise them with what they are about to see. The jumpscare version of each character is slightly different, and they usually pounce toward the player with mouths wide open and teeth bared, so that’s worth considering too. Like I keep saying, the game is designed to scare, especially when you’re least expecting it.
Jumpscares are one of the most predominant features of the franchise and are more than likely the thing that will send a child running from their screen. Every Five Nights at Freddy’s game features many jumpscares, even if they aren’t directly from the animatronics to get the player.
I’d argue that jumpscares are one of the most consistently featured elements of the franchise, so I’d advise warning your child about this before playing since there is no way to experience Five Nights at Freddy’s without them.
Furthermore, the topics subtly hinted toward in the games, accompanied by the lore surrounding the franchise, may not be age appropriate for your little one. There is an extensive history behind how Five Nights at Freddy’s came to be, so that’s another thing to consider before agreeing to let them play.
The Dark Topics Covered by FNaF
Now you are familiar with the in-game content of Five Nights at Freddy’s; it’s time to learn a little about what story the game is trying to tell. Five Nights at Freddy’s is an incredibly in-depth piece of gaming, and it’s much more than just a cast of animatronics trying to destroy a security guard.
Once a player has engaged with a Five Nights at Freddy’s game, they may want to continue the story through games or go out of their way to research the storyline in writing, which can expose a young mind to a lot of dark topics.
The first topic your child will more than likely encounter is a story of murder and death. The franchise revolves around one central character, William Afton, committing five murders. Each of these murders involves a child, so it can be potentially harmful to a young mind witnessing the murder of someone the same age as them.
Of course, if your player gets captured by an animatronic, you can assume they are dead. But reading about murder is a different experience.
We’ve all been told a scary story about death or murder in our pre-teen years, and they probably kept us awake at night on more than one occasion. In this case, the story of the ‘five missing children’ is unavoidable in the FNaF franchise.
Without it, the games simply wouldn’t make sense, so much like the jumpscares; there’s no way to enjoy and appreciate the game without it. Much like exposing a child to the characters before playing the game, it might be worth sitting them down and explaining the story to them. This way, they’ll know what to expect if they should start discovering lore outside of the video games.
Additionally, a theme that goes hand in hand with William Afton’s murders is child abduction. Although it’s not explicitly stated within the games, the truth is that he did kidnap the children before murdering them. Afton preyed on each child until he found their weaknesses and exploited them to lure them away and murder them.
It’s a very uncomfortable element to the story and not something a young person may realize initially. However, at least you could spin the story and use it as a valuable lesson about not trusting strangers!
The final dark topic the franchise covers is slightly more paranormal and is possibly something that a player can overlook if they don’t know the history of animatronics. But accompanying the murders and the child abduction, the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise promotes ideas of almost demonic possession.
After the murder of the children, Afton is said to have stuffed their bodies into the animatronic suits, and their souls are said to have possessed the animatronic suits, which gives them the personalities they have. It’s not covered within the gameplay of the first few Five Nights at Freddy’s titles, but as I said – if your child begins to investigate the story behind the franchise, they may come into contact with these themes.
Of course, over the years, the subject of demonic possession and the paranormal has become less taboo, and more media is showcasing these themes in a more approachable and accessible way. So typically, this subject may not be as scary as it was when you and I were younger, but it’s still worth noting if you do end up allowing your child to play these games.
Options to See If It’s Age-appropriate for Your Child
So now you know the ins and outs of what Five Nights at Freddy’s is, what makes it scary, and what themes it has to offer, you’ve probably decided whether you should let your child play or not. However, if you’re still on the rocks, I’ve come up with a few ideas which may soothe both you and your child’s anxieties when it comes to sitting down with this horror franchise.
As I mentioned a little earlier, this franchise is arguably one of the most popular gaming franchises, so there are hundreds of playthroughs on the internet showing the game’s ins and outs. In addition, YouTube personalities tend to create family-friendly content about the game, which may be more of an appropriate way to expose your child to the game rather than letting them play straight away.
Even though I’ve played the games now, I used to spend a lot of time watching playthroughs of Five Nights at Freddy’s games, and the commentary sometimes takes away a lot of the fear factor!
However, if you don’t have the time to sit and watch a full playthrough, or if you don’t find a gamer you can get on well with, you may want to face playing the game for yourself first. Even though this guide is filled with information about the games, it might not be enough.
So if you have the time, you can always give the game a go yourself. If you end up being haunted by animatronics or feel an overwhelming sense of fear while playing, your child may feel the same.
But playing the game will probably consume the same amount of time as watching someone play it. So if you’re short on time, it might be worth reading a few reviews written by parents about their children playing. In addition, open forums like Mumsnet or Reddit always discuss the pros and cons of letting your children play violent or scary video games, so there’s no harm in sparking a discussion to help you come to a conclusion.
You can always play alongside your child if these alternatives aren’t enough to help you decide. While this may be a wholesome experience in itself, it will also provide your child with a sense of safety and security while playing the game.
This way, you can monitor the game’s content and reassure them if it’s too much. You’ll also be able to turn it off if your child decides it’s too scary.
In addition, you’ll be there for them if it is to much, or if you’re the scared one, they may be there for you. So instead of saying no right off the bat, this may be the best alternative to let your child have some fun with the game. Plus, you never know; you may end up loving the franchise as much as they do.
Question: Why is Five Nights at Freddy’s called a parent’s worst nightmare?
Answer: When Five Nights at Freddy’s was first released in 2014, it was considered a nightmare to parents. It presented a cute, cuddly, approachable game to children and then ended up terrifying them with jumpscares and haunting characters.
Unfortunately, no one really knew what it was because of how new it was – and you certainly didn’t have experts like us to help you through it. But as the years have passed and the franchise has released further games, it’s become more familiar with families.
So I wouldn’t refer to the franchise now as a parent’s worst nightmare, but I can understand why it caused such a stir upon its first release.
Question: Why does the merch for Five Nights at Freddy’s look nothing like the characters?
Answer: If you’re talking about the plush version of Five Nights at Freddy’s characters, these plushies are based on in-game items rather than the characters themselves. Since Fazbear pizza is a marketable location, it’s only assumed that it comes with its own merchandise.
The real-world Five Nights at Freddy’s merchandise mirrors the in-game version, hence the less horrifying design. However, several figure collections and various other pieces of merch showcase the terrifying, nightmare version of the characters.
I understand that the cuter versions are more popular, so they are possibly more of what you’ve seen in store, but I promise terrifying game merchandise exists!
Question: How does my child know about Five Nights at Freddy’s?
Answer: As I’ve mentioned a few times within this guide, the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise is one of the most popular gaming series. There’s no rhyme or reason why it became so popular, but fans have been loving it and sharing their love for it on the internet since as early as 2014.
If your child is an avid gamer or even just a casual gamer who shares their passion for gaming on social media, there’s a high chance that they’ve stumbled across the franchise in one way or another.
The fact they’re aware of the game is nothing to worry about, as from the get-go, it’s hard to gauge how scary it is. But it’s among one of the hardest games to avoid on the internet due to its popularity. Furthermore, the franchise consistently releases new content, encouraging fans to begin talking about it again.