Dust Off: A Five Nights at Freddy’s Retrospective

"Welcome to Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. A Magical Place for Kids and Grown-ups Alike, Where Fantasy and Fun Come to Life."

Where were you when you first heard of Five Nights at Freddy’s?

I remember it as clear as day; My girlfriend was hosting a party at her house in the summer four years ago, and one of the guests put on a Let’s Play on the TV (we were all nerds). It was Markiplier playing this new horror game called Five Nights at Freddy’s. I was terrified but extremely interested. I couldn’t pinpoint what drew me towards it, especially since I have automatonophobia (an irrational fear of figures like mannequins, wax statues, and animatronics).

Nonetheless, as soon as I got home I started looking into it more, and I suddenly had a new obsession. Discovering MattPat’s Game Theory on Five Nights at Freddy’s only made it better as now all I focused on was the lore of the game. Being a budding game designer myself, I was also fascinated at how such a simple game uses so many small things to make the game fun and terrifying (for the first while anyway).

Five Nights at Freddy’s is 4 years old today, so I thought it would be appropriate to do a retrospective on the series. Ladies and Gentlemen strap yourselves in. We are going on a long trip, because not only are we going to cover the games, but we are also going to cover the books, the merchandising scene, and the community. Let’s start with a backstory!

Part 1: The Desolate Hope

Scott Cawthon has been a creator for many years, writing, animating, and designing games as far back as the 1990’s. Scott worked as an animator at the company, Hope Animation, making Christian cartoons. Odd start for the man who would go on to make a huge series focused on child murder, but I digress. Scott released many games before he gained huge success in 2014, with three of the most commonly known being Sit N’ Survive, Chipper and Sons Lumber Co., and The Desolate Hope.

Scott’s game Chipper and Sons Lumber Co. was criticized because the animals seemed to be more like animatronics than real. After repeated unsuccessful games, Scott had almost given up game design, but then he thought back to that animatronic criticism. This lead to the inspiration of his new game. On August 8th, 2014, Five Nights at Freddy’s released to universal acclaim.

Part 2: Welcome to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza

Five Nights at Freddy’s (which I will be referring to now as FNaF) puts you in the role of Mike Schmidt, a newly hired night shift security guard at a Chuck E’ Cheese style restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza in 1993. The pizzeria has four animal animatronic characters: Freddy Fazbear (a giant bear with a microphone, top hat, and bow tie), Chica the Chicken (a giant chicken with a bib saying “Let’s Eat” and holding a cupcake with eyes), Bonnie the Bunny (a giant purple bunny with a red bow tie and red electric guitar), and Foxy the Pirate (a giant red fox with an eyepatch and hook hand). They all roam the hallways at night so their servos do not lock up. The catch is if the animatronics see you, they will think you are a naked endoskeleton and will try to stuff you into a spare Freddy suit that’s in the back, killing you in the process. Your goal is to survive all 5 nights of your shift while listening to the story of the pizzeria, and the person who previously held your position, known as Phone Guy.

The gameplay in FNaF is point-and-click style, where you are stationary in your office, locking the doors, using your hallway lights, and looking at the security cameras to keep you safe, all while making sure that you do not drain all of your limited power supply. You also have one more thing to worry about; the secret animatronic named Golden Freddy, a gold variation of Freddy who will appear in your office randomly in a slumped pile, then crash your game.

FNaF 2 is a prequel to FNaF, set in a bigger location in 1987. You take on the role of Jeremy Fitzgerald, the new security guard at the “New and Improved Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza”, where you once again need to survive 5 nights. You are once again greeted by the Phone Guy, who explains the story and backstory of this new restaurant. You have more animatronics than ever to deal with. You have the 6 new animatronics Toy Freddy, Toy Chica, Toy Bonnie, Mangle, The Puppet, and Balloon Boy; the first four being new plastic versions equipped with facial recognition scanners that are linked to a criminal database so they can prevent any incidents. You also have the original crew to play with who are now withered, Freddy, Foxy, Chica, Bonnie, and Golden Freddy, all trying to kill you while you try to survive 5 nights (and some bonus nights).

The controls and the basic idea are still the same from FNaF, but with a few new additions. First, you now have 3 entrances into your office, a front door and two side ventilation shafts, all without doors to close. You have light controls for the vents, and are now equipped with a flashlight so you can see down the hallway in front of you, and when you look at the cameras you can use the flashlight to illuminate the area. The final addition to the main gameplay is the need to check the camera location of the Prize Corner to wind up the music box to keep newcomer, The Puppet, away from you. And finally, on top of all of this, you have the secret arcade/atari style mini-games you can play to get more of the story.

FNaF 3 takes place 30 years after FNaF in 2023, where you are the new security guard at a new attraction called Fazbear’s Fright, a haunted house style museum filled with paraphernalia from the Freddy Fazbear locations, and based around the horrible events that occurred there. You are employed by the one known as Phone Dude, who finds training cassette tapes that are played for you each night to give you more story and lore, and the person who recorded the tapes just so happens to be Phone Guy.

On night 2 you are informed that they have located a real animatronic, a golden bunny type one, but this one appears to be much older and has deteriorated. Its name is Springtrap. Now you are in danger as he will try to kill you each night. You also have phantom animatronics (just hallucinations) to deal with, these being Phantom Freddy, Phantom Chica, Phantom Foxy, Phantom Puppet, Phantom BB, and Phantom Mangle.

The gameplay, once again, is very similar to what the series has offered to this point, with some extra levels added on top. Survive 5 nights in your office (as well as the extra nights) which now only has 2 entrances, the door and the vent shaft. You also now have access to a maintenance panel, which is used to keep three mechanics running; the audio system (used to lure springtrap away from you), the cameras (so you can see what you’re doing), and the ventilation, which must be reset after each hallucination. You also are able to block off certain vent paths to keep Springtrap out of them. Finally, coming back from FNaF 2, there are hidden Atari style mini-games to play which not only provide you with more story and lore, but also completing all the mini-games with their secret, helps you receive the good ending.

FNaF 4 (originally named FNaF: The Final Chapter, stereotypical horror stuff) takes place in 1983, making this a prequel to FNaF 2. It places you in control of The Crying Child, a kid who seems to have seen something happen at his local Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. He suffers from nightmares every night and we must help him survive all 5 nights (and the standard extra nights). We have some familiar yet twisted faces in the form of Nightmare Freddy, Nightmare Bonnie, Nightmare Chica, Nightmare Foxy, and Plushtrap (a small plushie sized springtrap for a mini-game).

We also have 2 newcomers in the form of Nightmare FredBear (an older version of Freddy who is gold), and Nightmare (a negative version of Nightmare FredBear who is supposed to represent death). And on top of all that, we have the non-canon Halloween update which adds Jack O’ Bonnie, Jack O’ Chica (both of which are just Halloween themed reskins of Nightmare Bonnie and Nightmare Chica), Nightmarionne (a Nightmare variant of The Puppet), Nightmare Mangle, and Nightmare Balloon Boy (Note that Nightmare BB is the only Halloween update animatronic that is canon).

FNaF 4’s gameplay changes almost everything that came beforehand, as now you do not have any computer systems to worry about. You have 4 positions in your bedroom you can run between; the foot of your bed where you can see your entire bedroom and you can turn around to see on your bed, the closet across the room where you can open and close the door, and the left and right doors where you can open and close the door to look into the hallway. In between each night, you also have top-down 8-bit story segments to play.

FNaF World is the first spin-off game, taking all the characters from FNaF and turning them super cute in a super cute world (with some dark story elements later on that, after the 1 major update, teases the next FNaF game). This game is non-canon and is only available now via GameJolt. FNaF World was very poorly received due to the game seeming to be unfinished, and Scott Cawthon removed the game from Steam, offering refunds for anyone who bought it (though if you are like my girlfriend, who didn’t return it, you can still re-download and play it via Steam).

The gameplay in FNaF World is a poor mans RPG with some mini-games thrown in for good measure.

FNaF: Sister Location takes place… uh… We don’t exactly know when it takes place but it is not before FNaF 4. You play as Michael Afton, a new maintenance worker at his new job at Circus Baby’s Entertainment and Rental, aaaaand that is all I am going to say about the basic plot as Sister Location is the most story-heavy FNaF in the series so far and is something that should be experienced.

You have 8 brand new animatronics in this game known as the Funtime Animatronic series; Circus Baby, Ballora and her Minireenas, Funtime Foxy, Funtime Freddy and his hand puppet Bon-Bon, Bidybabs, and finally Ennard. Each of these animatronics that you interact with provides new gameplay that I will not spoil here. Survive your 5 nights if you can!

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is actually FNaF 6, this game being the final conclusion to the FNaF story (at the time of this article). You take control of a new Fazbear Franchisee, and the point of the game is to build up your new Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. The gameplay is a basic tycoon simulator in the vein of Roller Coaster Tycoon, but there are 2 other types of gameplay in this game. After the tycoon sections, you must complete the rest of your tasks every day on a computer in your office.

There are 2 entrances, a vent on both sides, where animatronics can get in, which brings us to the third type of gameplay. Your employer informs you that you must check the back alley every night as an animatronic might appear there. You must collect them and then decide whether you will salvage it or throw it back outside. Choosing to salvage it requires you to complete a survey sheet, and will net you some more money for your pizzeria, but you also add that animatronic to your place and they will try to come to get you when you are in your office. There is only 4 animatronics this time coming in the forms of Scrap Baby, Molten Freddy, Scraptrap, and Lefty. Survive 5 nights, and you’ll have finished the FNaF story.

Ultimate Custom Night is the most recent game released (at the time of this article) and the second spin-off, this being an amalgamation of almost every single animatronic, where you can select between FIFTY different animatronics and adjust their difficulty level, getting more points and unlocking some cutscenes. The gameplay in this game is most similar to FNaF 3, but each animatronic has a different mechanic.

Part 3: “What on Earth are you doing there?”

Now we come to every FNaF fans favorite part of the franchise; the Books! (That, folks, was sarcasm!) The books, while entertaining (they are actually pretty interesting) are not considered to be very good and honestly while I still like them, they do not have the best writing. The books are considered to be non-canon to the games, instead being their own retelling of the FNaF story, but certain things do leak over, such as the reveal of purple guy and his real name which we see pop up in later FNaF games.

FNaF: The Silver Eyes takes place in 1995 and revolves around Charlie, the daughter of Freddy Fazbear owner and animatronic maker Henry. The book focuses on Charlie trying to forget a tragic incident 10 years back at the pizzeria, but her and her friends discover an evil history of what happened, leading them to try and solve the mystery of the Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza incident.

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones

The year is 1996, and Charlie is trying to move on past the horrific events at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria last year by going to a new college, but when a string of murders starts occurring in the area, Charlie starts investigating and soon realizes that the horrors of Freddy Fazbear are not over yet.

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet

John is having a real crisis in his life. His girlfriend Charlie seemingly died but has come back no worse for wear. He just wants to forget everything about Freddy Fazbear’s but can’t seem to escape, as a new animatronic themed pizzeria opens in the area, bringing a slew of kidnappings with it. The gang gets back together once more to discover the secrets of this new place… and possibly Charlie.

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Freddy Files

The Freddy Files is Scott Cawthon’s official guide for Five Nights at Freddy’s 1-4. This book helped clear up some theories, most popular being the Pink guy theory.

Five Nights at Freddy’s Survival Logbook

The Survival Logbook is an activity book in the style of a repurposed Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Security Guard Logbook, filled with lore, and new art of your favorite animatronics.

Part 4: MERCHANDISING, MERCHANDISING!

As with any successful franchise, you get a TON of merchandise. You have shirts, hats, belts, PJ’s, costumes, figures, posters, plushies, and the ever so popular POP vinyl figures (which I almost had a complete set of until they came out with FNaF 4, which at that point my wallet finally asked me what I was doing and convinced me to stop).

We also have a FNaF movie to look forward to, being helmed by production studio Blumhouse, known for classic horror hits such as Paranormal Activity and Academy Award winner Get Out. We do not know much else about the movie, but I think we have something good to look forward to and not another horrible video game movie (stay tuned to Gaming Historia for a future article!).

Part 5: Welcome to the Family!

Great job Sport! You made it all the way through Five Nights at Freddy’s with me!

The FNaF community is huge, spanning from young kids to old folks. This game touched so many people, from its characters all the way to the story. Even in my own life, FNaF is something me and my girlfriend really connect over, watching streams, discussing lore, collecting merch, and playing the games. I highly recommend picking up the game and playing it with a friend or family member if you already haven’t. 

You can purchase each of these games on Steam, except for FNaF World which is obtainable via GameJolt: Five Nights at Freddy’s, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2Five Nights at Freddy’s 3Five Nights at Freddy’s 4, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator, Ultimate Custom Night, and FNaF World.

Thank you for reading! After Dust Off’s little hiatus, I’ll be returning weekly every Wednesday starting next week! Stay tuned to Gaming Historia for more content and don’t forget to support us on Patreon and Humble Bundle!

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Tyler McKerracher

Tyler is a young writer, geek, video game enthusiast, and just all out goofy dude all the way from Canada

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