Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of the most popular horror franchises. However, with nine mainline games and a Rolodex of fan-made spin-offs, getting started for a new player can be an incredibly overwhelming experience.
There’s a lot to unpack, and if you’re going into the series completely blind, it can be hard to understand where the best place to start is. However, I’m here to soothe the transition and introduce you to your new favorite franchise.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a grueling tale of a partnership gone wrong and the haunting story of lives lost along the way. It’s a chilling franchise that will stay with you for years, and the lore has been causing conversation since the release of the first game in 2014, so it’s about time you take the plunge and join in; and this guide is designed to make the process and accessible as possible.
What is Five Nights at Freddy’s?
The best place to start with the franchise is to understand what it is and why it’s so popular. Five Nights at Freddy’s is a survival horror game first released in 2014. Within the first game, you take the role of a security guard in an old pizzeria, where you quickly learn the mascots have a mind of their own.
In the point-and-click survival game, you must spend five nights at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza (hence the title) while defending yourself against a group of man-eating animatronics. While it isn’t explained straight away why these animatronics are so aggravated, the story begins to unravel as you spend more time with the franchise.
But as the years pass and more FNaF titles are released, they vary in style and location, as well as introducing both new and old characters. Occasionally, the gameplay may stray from the traditional point-and-click approach, but every game revolves around the mechanic of you protecting yourself from a mass onslaught of angry animals.
Since its release, Five Night’s at Freddy’s has been a groundbreakingly popular horror game. Fans have been pouring hours into discovering the lore and history of the title, which is only encouraged by the consistent release of content. This is the thing that keeps players coming back time and time again, but it is also the thing that makes being a new player so confusing.
There is an almost ridiculous amount of story behind the franchise, which is why playing it properly is so significant. Otherwise, you’ll come face to face with a fang-filled bear without knowing why. The story is unraveled across nine fear-filled games, and the developer, Scott Cawthon, has made it very clear that the future of Five Nights at Freddy’s is bright. So there’s no better time to get invested than now.
Important Characters To Note
Although Five Nights at Freddy’s is home to hundreds of characters to learn about, I consider four the most important when it comes to getting started. The following characters play the most part in setting up the story and explaining the lore fans have become invested in and are consistently referenced by in-game characters and the gamers.
Here is a list of my most important characters, followed by a brief description of their role and responsibilities within the franchise:
William Afton has a few aliases in Five Nights at Freddy’s lore, so you may hear him referred to as ‘Purple Guy’ or ‘The Employee’ or occasionally the shortened term ‘Afton.’ He was the co-founder of Fazbear Entertainment alongside Henry Emily and is the father of Elizabeth Afton. Many suggest that William Afton is the main villain of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, as he is responsible for all the chaos caused.
Much like William Afton, Henry has a few aliases too. Also referred to as the ‘Cassette Man,’ Henry is the partner of William and is responsible for creating the technology to power the animatronics. Because of this, many players assume he is a bad guy, but throughout the timeline of FNaF titles, it’s exposed that Henry Emily was innocent and played no part in any of the murders.
As the name suggests, Michael Afton, also known as Mike Schmidt or Eggs Benedict, is the son of William Afton. He’s the main protagonist in the majority of early Five Nights at Freddy’s games and is seen as a popular and likable character, unlike his Father. He’s the manager of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place and the older brother of Elizabeth Afton.
Elizabeth Afton is the youngest of the family and the secondary antagonist of the franchise. She loves and adores William’s creations and spends a lot of time with the animatronics, which is dangerous considering their dodgy mechanical faults. Elizabeth becomes an integral character in the story within Sister Location, but I’ll let you play the game to understand why.
The Chronological Way to Play the Game
Even though it makes logical sense to begin at the beginning, with a franchise so rich in lore, sometimes this isn’t the best way to play.
For example, I was among the few players who picked up Five Nights at Freddy’s when it was first released, so as a player, it’s made more sense for me to progress alongside the franchise rather than dipping out and back in. But, if you’re going into it completely new and open-minded, this isn’t the method I would suggest.
As I’ve already mentioned, if you want the best experience with the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, you’ll need to disregard the release dates and focus mainly on the games’ position in the storyline. I understand that this may be a confusing approach to the franchise, but in terms of story, it’s the best way to understand what’s happening.
Here’s a list of the chronological order of Five Nights at Freddy’s Games, followed by the dates in which they are set:
- Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 – 1983
- Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location – 1983
- Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 – 1987
- Five Nights at Freddy’s – 1993
- Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 – 2023
- Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzaria Simulator – 2023
- Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted
- Five Nights at Freddy’s: Special Delivery
- Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach – Between 2024 and 2029
Although this doesn’t make much sense right now, I’ll explain in more detail why this is the optimal way to approach the franchise as a first-time player without spoiling any significant plot points or inner workings of the game.
The Order Explained
Starting with the fourth Five Nights at Freddy’s game is essential to capture the story’s beginning. Unlike every other title, this game isn’t set in a pizzeria or Fazbear-branded location. Instead, you take on the playable character of a child in your bedroom.
When I first played Five Nights at Freddy’s 4, I felt like this was a ridiculous addition to the timeline. It didn’t feel like it fit in with every other game I had experienced, but upon revisiting the timeline, it makes more sense to start with this game than play the first three in order of release.
The playable character of FNAF 4 has an intense focus on the Freddy Fazbear plushie on his bed. At first, you might question why because this plush bear seems harmless, but there is more than meets the eye. Throughout the game, the child must defend themselves against appearing nightmare animatronics, which is where you’ll meet Chica, Freddy, Foxy, and Bonnie for the first time.
Making the jump from FNaF 4 to Sister Location may seem drastic. Still, Sister Location exposes a lot of lore which is essential to understanding why FNaF 4 is so relevant in its position. We are introduced to characters like Circus Baby and Ballora, who are exclusive to the title, alongside the Funtime versions of the animatronics you have already met. This game has a traditional FNaF feel, where you are on location with the animatronics and must defend yourself against them.
Many FNaF fans suggest that either Sister Location or FNaF 2 can be played second in the timeline, but I will always jump to Sister Location. In terms of time, Sister Location is set in 1983, while FNaF 2 takes place in 1987, so it makes more sense to follow the timeline chronologically. FNaF 2 will explore more of the original Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza location and talk about ‘The Bite of 87’, as this is the game in which it occurs.
This is when we go back to the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game. By this point, you will have set yourself up nicely to understand why you’re in the location and why the animatronics are acting the way they do. Upon its first release, this game had me transfixed with the franchise, and I fell in love with Five Nights at Freddy’s. You take on the role of Mike Frtiz and remain stationary in the office for a week while defending yourself against the animatronics.
You’ll jump to the franchise’s third installment from Five Nights at Freddy’s. This haunting depiction set in 2023 takes you through the history of the Fazbear Family Diner and explains the spring lock animatronic suits and just how dangerous they are. You are also introduced to Springtrap, a terrifying animatronic that William Afton inhabits, and he won’t hold back on trying to find you.
Following this game, the next few titles muddy the timeline slightly. I’d love to just jump straight to Security Breach. Still, Help Wanted, Special Delivery, and Pizzeria Simulator have integral positions in the timeline, even though their gameplay may be confusing initially.
Starting with Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator, which feels like an off-the-wall sim game rather than an integral piece of the FNaF story. However, in between setting up a Pizzeria, this game unravels a much deeper story, making it significant to your playthrough.
In Help Wanted, we begin to attempt to rebuild the soiled name of Fazbear dining. But it seems almost impossible to try because of the dark past you’ve just spent your time unraveling. I adore Help Wanted, but be prepared to face some fears you didn’t even realize you had. This game touches on developing a Fazbear-inspired video game, but there are some unusual glitches you encounter as a developer that make progress impossible.
To me, Special Delivery is a hit-and-miss title in the franchise. If you just want to experience the best of Five Nights at Freddy’s, then I wouldn’t say this game is integral to your experience, but if you’re looking for more FNaF content to sink your teeth into, then you can always turn to this game. It’s essentially a setup for Security Breach, but you can still enjoy it without playing Special Delivery.
This leads us to Security Breach, the most recent addition to the timeline. This game reignited my love for the franchise and adopts entirely different gameplay than we are used to. Due to being set so far in the future, you can play Security Breach as a standalone title, but there are hundreds of easter eggs and nods towards the original games that first-time players would miss if they jumped right in.
What About The Spin-Offs?
So now that you’ve played through Five Nights’ main titles at Freddy’s, you may want more content to tear into, which is where the world of fan-made spin-offs opens up to any eager animatronic lover. However, it’s important to note that these spin-offs are made by fans and may cover conspiracies or theories rather than canon lore.
When it comes to spin-offs, I will always recommend completing the canon titles before even considering any spin-off title. Then, after that, you’re free to play spin-off titles as you please. As I’ve said, they pose no canon significance to the story, so there is no right or wrong way to play through them.
My favorite spin-off game is FNaF World, which features many characters you may have missed along the way, alongside the original few you’ve probably become obsessed with by this point. It’s entirely different gameplay to any core FNaF title but is also a super fun way to play as some of your favorite characters and explore worlds that the franchise has introduced. It’s more of a hands-on, immersive experience with the animatronics without exposing any in-depth story.
Additionally, I love Custom Night for the same reason. It allows you to face off with a cast of your favorite animatronics without following a storyline yet maintains the core mechanics of traditional Five Nights at Freddy’s games. So if you’re after a more true-to-the-original experience, this would be my suggestion over any other spin-offs.
Question: Is Five Nights at Freddy’s Based on a book?
Answer: The Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise wasn’t based on a book but was a response to criticism of Scott Cawthon’s earlier projects. Before the fruition of Five Nights at Freddy’s, Cawthon released three games unrelated to the franchise he’s known for. However, critics and gamers said his character design was terrifying and unnatural.
So rather than giving in to the criticism, Cawthon decided to utilize his scary character design and do something with it, which is where Five Nights at Freddy’s came to be. However, if you are looking for a written equivalent of the game, the book ‘Five Night’s at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes’ by co-written by Cawthon and released in 2015.
Question: Is Security Breach the final Five Nights at Freddy’s game?
Answer: Although Security Breach has a satisfying ending that could symbolize the franchise’s end, I struggle to believe it would be. There have already been rumours circulating of a second Security Breach-inspired FNaF title, and with the incredible popularity of the series, I don’t think Cawthon is finished just yet.
Furthermore, Security Breach leaves the doors open for future games, as most previous releases did, so I believe Cawthon likes to keep his options open.
Question: Is it the bite of 83 or the bite of 87?
Answer: The bite of 83 and the bite of 87 are two different instances, so it’s quite confusing for new players to understand. Although most gamers will reference the bite of 87, more often than not, they are referring to the bite of 83. This is because both instances involve a child being killed by an animatronic, but the bite of 83 references the event in FNaF 4 within Fazbear’s Family Diner, and the Bite of 87 references the instance during the birthday party in FNaF 2.
Where to Start FNAF: Summary
The Five Nights at Freddy’s timeline isn’t exactly straightforward, so it’s crucial to find a good starting point, and I hope this guide has prepared you to take on the challenge. I adore this game and every piece of lore it offers, and as soon as you know what you’re doing, I assure you will too. I know there’s a lot to unpack, but it’s worth doing!
The future of the Five Nights at Freddy’s timeline is incredibly bright, especially with such a buzzing fanbase and active community. It’s hard not to become obsessed with such a popular franchise, no matter how horrifying some of the history and character backstories can be. So if you’re looking for a genuine piece of horror, this is the direction I would point you in.
If you’re still a little confused about the history of Five Nights at Freddy’s and want to do more research before you take the first step into the game, then developer Scott Cawthon released ‘The Ultimate Guide to Five Nights at Freddy’s in 2021. As the face behind the franchise wrote this book, it would be the best place to go. It also contains tips and tricks to unlock secret events that even veterans like myself might have missed!