little nightmares

OPINION  —  In April of 2017, a small part of the internet busied itself with discussions of right and wrong. In February of this year, a larger part of the internet took up that same discussion yet again, this time with more fervor. Nerds argued with each other over black and white morality. Things got heated as gamers wondered whether or not it was truly possible to wholly label someone as evil. Theorists contemplated whether or not all of mankind is evil, even if just a little bit.

If you took the time to look, you would notice that in the eye of that hurricane of information stood a nine-year-old girl wearing a yellow raincoat. She is the main character of the game Little Nightmares.

Little Nightmares and its sequel, Little Nightmares II, have both earned more than their fair share of positive reviews and awards. Most recently, Little Nightmares II was awarded an Editor’s Choice crown by PlayStation. 

The praise is well-deserved. Both games, released by Tarsier Studios, use a muted art style, creepy character design and eerie music to make their games perfectly unsettling. The games lack dialogue, but the environmental story-telling manages is so good that players won’t miss it.

Named Six, the players follow the girl in the raincoat’s adventures as she travels through a horror-filled boat called the Maw. They assist her as she dodges nearly-human monsters, hugs friendly gnomes and eventually escapes into an unknown fate.

In the second game, Six is the one who does the assisting.

Little Nightmares II takes place before the first game despite coming out four years after. This time, players control a boy named Mono, whose face is covered by a hat throughout most of the game. In this one, Six is a non-playable character (NPC) who assists the player by offering Mono a boost, helping to push something around or holding a toy behind an x-ray machine.

It’s difficult to picture how a character as helpful as hers could be caught up in a maelstrom of conspiracy and philosophical debates, but the picture gets a little clearer once you’ve played the games. Before we continue, I’ll let you know now that this article will contain heavy spoilers for both Little Nightmares and Little Nightmares II.

It all starts with Six’s appetite.

As she travels throughout the Maw in the first game, Six gets hungry. It was unnervingly realistic in the sense that it was the first horror game I had ever played that actually made players worry about their character’s hunger. In games like Amnesia, characters are too focused on escaping and surviving to worry about their stomachs. 

In Little Nightmares, Six’s stomach will begin to rumble. Eventually, it will grow to be unbearable for her, and she will be reduced to a slow walk, unable to jump. Every time this happens, the game will offer her a piece of food. It begins with a piece of bread given to her by another NPC. Later, she finds a chunk of raw meat inside of a cage. Six even resorts to eating a rat at one point.

In each of these situations, her actions are increasingly worrisome, but understandable. She has to do whatever is necessary in order to survive. Things don’t get hazy until her second-to-last meal of the game, in which a gnome offers her a sausage. 

Players have the option to aid the gnomes along the course of the game by doing things such as freeing them from jars, giving them a hug or lighting fires for them. The gnomes are small NPC’s who never hurt Six, and hugging all of them offers a slightly altered ending to the game. 

Despite this, in a moment that horrified many players, Six shoves the sausage away and lunges for the gnome instead. It’s over almost as quickly as it started, and soon the gnome is no longer moving as Six continues throughout the Maw. 

This moment is quintessential in the argument of Six’s morality, and it’s often something players point to in an effort to paint her as evil. It’s sound logic. Why would she throw the perfectly good sausage to the side and eat a gnome?

That moment isn’t the last time Six kills a creature by eating it. The final boss of the game, known as the Lady, is defeated by Six with a mirror. As she lays on the ground, seemingly defeated for good yet still alive, Six’s hunger returns with a vengeance and the Lady becomes Six’s next victim.

Her appetite isn’t the only thing in the first game that has some questioning her morality. After one of her meals, Six gets captured. Her cage is put into a room with a couple of other cages, most of which contain another child. The players get to watch as a monster drags away a cage with a child inside.

Once the monster is gone, Six is free to throw herself against the side of her cage until it topples onto the floor, breaking it open. In most games, the protagonist would be able to release the other children from their own cages before continuing on. Instead, she simply drags another child’s cage to the side so that she can reach a handle and swing herself to the safety of the next room.

When Little Nightmares II was announced, players hoped it would clear up some of the confusion surrounding Six. They wanted to know how she arrived at the Maw and who she really is, but more importantly, they wanted to know whether or not she was a good guy.

Instead of answering those questions, Little Nightmares II dropped a new stack of them right on top of the preexisting ones.

When the game begins, Mono is alone in the woods. He doesn’t meet Six until a few minutes later. It takes a little bit of effort to get her to trust him, but their duo is formed quickly as they work together to escape the first boss of the game.

Throughout this game, Six continues to make moral decisions that unnerve some players. For instance, in one scene, she’s seen aggressively breaking the fingers on a mannequin’s hand while waiting for Mono to return, and she animalistically attacks an enemy (a bully) in a perfect example of “overkill.” 

These can be explained away easily enough. Mannequin hands attack Mono and Six at one point in the game, so Six could see it as preventative measures. Alternatively, she could just be a bored child with something fragile in her clutches. It’s important to remember that Six is only nine years old, despite her obvious intelligence. She’s angry at the cruel world she’s living in and doesn’t have anything better to do. I can’t blame her for breaking a mannequin in a hospital that wants to kill her. 

As far as her attack on the bully, I can’t really blame her there either. The attack comes soon after rescuing Six from a group of bullies who have her strung up from the ceiling by the time Mono is able to reach her. Six is small, and since the only way to defeat the bullies is to smash their porcelain heads, brute force is necessary. Her attack is over the top, but it’s hard to blame her when she was just captured by them so recently.

The biggest testament to Six’s character -- or lack thereof -- is at the very end of the game. After essentially saving Six from herself, Mono races to follow her out of the crumbling Signal Tower as they are chased by a fleshy blob of eyes. At the final moment, Mono takes a leap of faith across a wide gap and manages to grasp Six’s hand.

This is a direct parallel to other scenes in the game in which the same scenario played out over and over again. Mono would help Six get across a large gap, and once she was there, he would jump and trust her to catch him. She always did, and she always pulled him up so they could continue to escape together.

Except this time.

Six takes a few moments to stare at Mono’s face, and then drops him into the fleshy blob below. She makes a clean getaway through a TV on the right-hand side of the screen, and Mono falls. He survives, and in the final cutscene, players get to watch as he slowly turns into the Thin Man, the main antagonist of the game.

Why would Six go through the entire game helping Mono, only to betray him in the end? There are many theories floating around on the internet -- primarily on Reddit -- but there are two in particular that most people seem to gravitate towards, and they both hinge on those moments right before Six lets go.

The first theory depends on that and a brown paper bag.

All throughout the game, Mono wears a brown paper bag that obscures his face. As players progress through the game, they may find hidden hats that they can replace his bag with, but no matter which hat Mono dons, his face is completely hidden from view.

That changes in the final part of the game. After defeating the Thin Man, Mono’s hat gets knocked off, and he leaves it on the road as he rushes into the Signal Tower to rescue Six. 

The moment where Mono is dangling over the fleshy pit, both his hand and life resting in Six’s own hand, is the first time she’s able to see his face over the course of the game. It also takes place after Six has been kidnapped, and presumably tortured, by the Thin Man.

The Thin Man that Mono turns into. See where this is going?

This theory suggests a time-loop in which Six recognizes Mono as the Thin Man, and in an attempt to prevent him from living out that fate, inadvertently causes it.

If this theory is true, then I don’t believe Six can be set in stone as an evil character. Regardless of whether she dropped him to protect herself from being kidnapped or to protect him from himself, it’s a well-meaning decision. 

The second theory is a bit darker, and it hinges on something I haven’t brought up in a while: Six’s hunger.

As the game begins and Mono eventually meets Six, players who have already experienced the first game wait for the tell-tale sign of Six’s hunger. When it happens, will she turn on Mono? Will he have to find food for her?

Those players will end up waiting until the game is over, because Six’s hunger never makes an appearance. 

Obviously, this is confusing. Six’s hunger is a large part of her character in the first game — so much so that her description on the official Little Nightmares website calls her “A hungry child.” 

Beyond being a character trait, Six’s hunger was also used numerous times to progress the plot and add to the atmosphere of certain scenes. Why spend so much time establishing a trait for a character and emphasizing its importance, only for it to not exist in the new game?

Actually, it does exist in the new game. You just have to be a completionist to see it.

Throughout the game, Mono will encounter black, glitchy figures. When he approaches them, he will appear pained for a moment. The figure then disappears and the game continues.

Some of these figures are hidden, and if you find all of them, you unlock a cutscene after the one in which Mono turns into the Thin Man.

This cutscene follows Six through the TV, and players watch as she stumbles into the room. A glitchy version of Six appears in front of her, and they both stare down at a photo of the Maw for a few moments before the glitch disappears.

Then, Six’s stomach begins to growl, and the cutscene ends.

This theory states that Six could feel herself getting hungry and simply dropped Mono to avoid eating him. Whether or not she was trying to keep him alive in this theory is debated, but most seemed to have decided that it doesn’t particularly matter. Either she decided that Mono dying from the fall was better than him being eaten by her, or she was confident that he would survive.

Either way, Six was doing what she thought was best for Mono, as messed up as it is. 

There are even explanations for the things her hunger made her do in the first game. When Six infamously declines the sausage in favor of eating the gnome, some have speculated that it’s because she knew the sausage was made out of children after having gone through enough of the Maw, but was too hungry to simply not eat.

Many people hypothesize that Six’s hunger is something she cannot control, and when she gets hungry enough, she blacks out and acts purely on instinct. This could explain why she elected to eat the Lady as well, although that could also have been her simply trying to finish the job, so to speak. 

Both theories are the same at their core, and they both rely on a fact that’s easy to forget despite Six’s small stature and bright yellow raincoat. 

Six is only a child. She’s a scared nine-year-old girl trapped in a nightmare. When you boil it down, both theories are just Six trying her best to make decisions that will benefit her friend. Although she’s very clever, she doesn’t know everything. In fact, I’m willing to bet that she barely knows anything. She has no way to know what the consequences of her actions are going to be. All she knows is that she’s scared, she has to make a decision, and she has to make one quickly. 

I think Six is a product of her situation, but I don’t think she’s evil. Everything she does has a reasonable explanation if you look at it from the right angles. Even if you don’t, believe any of those theories, bear in mind that Six is a child. 

If you were in her situation, what would you do?

Load comments