The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first-person story-driven mystery game focused on exploration and discovery. As occult-minded private detective Paul Prospero communicate with the dead to discover the fate of a missing boy and the mystery behind a dark ancient force lurking in Red Creek Valley.
User reviews: Very Positive (800 reviews)
Release Date: Sep 25, 2014

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Recommended By Curators

"A tense and spooky stroll through a gorgeous world, some fun supernatural detective work, and an efficient script with sparse dialogue."
Read the full review here.

Recent updates View all (2)

September 27

Update #2 is now live!


- fixed savegame loading issues with water level and closed doors
- turning off the turbine turns off the sound as well
- "Saving scene" instead of "Saving" for clearer messaging
- nerfed the sniper rifle

43 comments Read more

September 26

Update #1 is now live!

- invert Y now works properly on both mouse and gamepad
- can configure arrows keys now as well
- odd line under the black bars removed in modes other than pure 16:9
- players can no longer fall into the elevator shaft
- cursed miner no longer attacks during the gate sequence
- story page after the witch's forest no longer appears post-section
- checkpoint loads improvements
- checkpoint now also auto-saves every time we read a story page or see the murder (useful as a pseudo-manual location save)
- players can no longer inspect items in the total darkness
- various small streaming and lighting improvements
- sniper rifle no scope damage tweaked from 3 to over 9000
- other minor fixes

38 comments Read more


“As the layers begin to peel back, what you'll find is a story told with a level of cleverness and elegance rarely seen in games. It confirms the feeling you had from the first breathtaking view; when you enter into Red Creek Valley, you're in for something special.”
9/10 – GameSpot

“The Vanishing of Ethan Carter leaves you with several amazing memories; moments that you will want to talk to your friends about for hours and will take great pains not to spoil for other people.”
9/10 – EuroGamer

“Thoughtful, novel, and most of all, a ludicrous pleasure to stare at.”
Rock Paper Shotgun

About This Game

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first-person story-driven mystery game that focuses entirely on exploration and discovery. It contains no combat or explosions of any kind. If our game leaves any scars, we hope you won’t be able to see them.

You play the game as Paul Prospero, an occult-minded detective who receives a disturbing letter from Ethan Carter. Realizing the boy is in grave danger, Paul arrives at Ethan’s home of Red Creek Valley, where things turn out to be even worse than he imagined. Ethan has vanished in the wake of a brutal murder, which Paul quickly discerns might not be the only local murder worth looking into.

Inspired by the weird fiction (and other tales of the macabre) from the early twentieth century, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter aims to significantly evolve immersive storytelling in games. While it features a private detective and quite a few mental challenges, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is not an especially puzzle-ridden game. Our focus is on atmosphere, mood, and the essential humanity of our characters.

Still, the discoveries won’t happen on their own, or without your help. Using both Paul’s supernatural skill of being able to communicate with the dead, and your own powers of observation, you will discover the mystery behind a trail of corpses, the roots of a dark ancient force lurking in Red Creek Valley, and the fate of a missing boy.

Key Features

  • Explore and interact with the beautiful yet ominous world of Red Creek Valley, which was created with the use of revolutionary photogrammetry technology that allows for nearly photorealistic environments.
  • Communicate with the dead and see how they died in order to gather clues that help you piece together the truth behind Ethan’s disappearance -- and the fate of his family.
  • Experience, in non-linear fashion, a story that combines the pleasures of pulp, private eye, and horror fiction, all of it inspired by writers such as Raymond Chandler, Algernon Blackwood, Stefan Grabinski, and H. P. Lovecraft.
  • Conduct the investigation on your own terms and at your own pace. Although there are a few scary bits in the game, players will have no need for sedatives. Our game is less about terror and more about clammy unease.

System Requirements

    • OS: WindowsXP SP3 or higher
    • Processor: Intel Core2 Duo or equivalent AMD
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: DirectX9c compliant card with 512MB of VRAM
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 9 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX9c compliant
Helpful customer reviews
28 of 30 people (93%) found this review helpful
6.9 hrs on record
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a beautiful game.

This game is not just beautiful because of its technical prowess: number of models crammed in the game, how high resolution the textures are, how it handles long distance views, etc.... but mainly because of the artistic directions chosen. The warm autumn colors, the softly billowing clouds, how and which trees and leaves are swaying, softly moving mists and light flares, and all the little details... all combined to make a pleasant environment just to walk around and enjoy the scenery.

Luckily for us, it's not just a pretty walking simulator.

So as you're thrust into Ethan Carter's world, you hear a short narrative by your (detective) character for the first minute or two... then, nothing. You're left standing all alone in the middle of a beautiful forest and It's all up to you to find where the stories are and to tinker with the game and figure out the puzzle mechanics. I didn't know this at first, so I kept walking (passing some of the obscure puzzle pieces) looking for an area that would trigger the next narratives... if it hadn't been for the super nice environment to enjoy, I think I might have already thrown a tantrum for this ;) But in the end, it makes for a really nice and visually rewarding walk around the island.

The story parts and puzzles are littered all over the fairly small island for you to discover and most of them can be completed in any order you choose, except for the few final ones. This can be a good thing, as it gives you the feeling of freedom to roam and explore... but in my case it was a little bit confusing as I missed a key encounter (that hints on the backstory) until it was the very last one I did before the finale; and at that point I was a little disappointed at the story I wove myself in my head about Ethan.

The ending though, tied everything together nicely... and it was a really satifying ending that explained just about all the loose ends for me. I came to appreciate all the little tidbits and details that were peppered throughout the island and all the characters and happenings to reach this conclusion.

So, if you ask me... The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is not just a beautiful game, it's also a fine story.
Posted: September 29
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23 of 24 people (96%) found this review helpful
6.9 hrs on record

+ awesome presentation, graphics are breathtaking, photorealistic at times, the art behind the graphics is fantastic
+ runs great maxed out (reduce AA if you have fps drops)
+ nice soft music throughout the game, good voice acting
+ interesting story, trying to solve the mystery of the vanishing of ethan carter!
+ gameplay wise this game brings the adventure genre to a new level, you move in 1st person mode, conrtols are fluid and movement is perfect (i was amazed by the fact that you don't get stuck in the environment unless there is indeed a huge obstacle or a dead end ahead), no endless dialogues and texts to read, many things are said by the environment, puzzles are limited though, i can think of 2 puzzles in total that were easy enough but pretty original, investigation scenes are straight forward and it's easy to complete them by finding the missing items and then reconstructing the scene
+ took me 6 hours to complete the game for the 1st time and i didn't get stuch anywhere, also used the run button a lot, so it's NOT a very short game. also missed 2 scenes , so i have to replay it to see everything

- character models could be better
- some gameplay elements could be explained in the beginning (hint: first scene you investigate and have to find the crank, in order to get a vision of its location you have to align the words and press left button, this gameplay element is used throughout the game but is not explained, so keep that in mind, align the words to get the vision)
- more puzzles would be nice
- ending is predictable

great game from great developers, i'm happy they didn't waste the assets into another fps or action game, they allready cancelled an adventure game in the past that also seemed very interesting, hope they will continue developing adventure games in the future of this incredibly high quality....

p.s if steam overlay doesn't work exit fraps (or another recording program) and restart the game. if you need fraps to run (as i do in most games) minimize the game and run fraps again.
Posted: September 29
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16 of 19 people (84%) found this review helpful
5.0 hrs on record
It is hard to sum up in any given number of words what makes The Vanishing of Ethan Carter such a success. It's exuisitely rendered vistas, it's isolated creepiness, and it's love of all things strange annd weird leve a lasting impression on you long after the credits role.

Like Dear Esther, this an exploratory trip, though not as mouthy or long winded. This is first and foremost about the senses. The visuals are top notch using Photogrammety ( as the catalyst for near realistic perfection. In a sense there is no reused tiled textures, just real world goodness to trick your eyes into believing this is a random and breathing world.

If Ethan Carter suffers from anything negative it's the ending. Lovecraft buffs will find a bit of disappointment when the climax is reached. Although the game is very much an art project, the story did not have to follow suit. But Some may find the ending satisfying.

There is no mistaking the obvious: Ethan Carter is a labor of love that deserves every bit of attention it should recieve. Do not let this experience pass you by. If your PC can handle the process crunching this game dishes out (and amazingly can do quite a bit without being too extremely taxing on your videocard) then take the walk through this quiet yet haunting tale. You'll not soon regret it.
Posted: September 28
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
4.6 hrs on record
For me personally Ethan Carter is a pretty disappointing, though still good, game.

I've really come to love narrative driven games that focus on gameplay like exploration and roleplaying, Gone Home and Kentucky Route Zero being two of my favorite examples. Ethan Carter was supposed to be like them so I was really looking forward to it, but it ended up falling real short compared to them. Most of my disappointment stems from the fact that the devs, The Astronauts, have been in the industry for a while so I expected more than what we got narrative-wise.

First of all the game really is gorgeous, the soundtrack is quality stuff, and the atmosphere really is great but this becomes a problem as you get deeper into the game, it’s clear The Astronauts put way too much focus on said environments instead of making an engaging game and narrative. Red Creek Valley is beautiful, but it’s empty. The whole game world is just too big for its own good so you'll tend to find yourself running through deserted forests with nothing to do. The gameplay also starts off promising with the investigation of murder scenes but this eventually becomes extremely watered down and the gameplay just kind of devolves into the exploration version of pixel hunting. And that's another problem of this game too, it’s just too obtuse at times. The Astronauts laud themselves for not holding your hand but it goes too far in the other direction and it can be tricky to find what you need to do to progress. Also not being able to manually save is just dumb and it just seems grognardy.

The narrative is also really barebones, which for what is supposed to be a narrative-driven game is not a good thing. The characters are mostly all flat ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥s so you really don’t care about them, which kind of alienates you from the plot. Plus the ending is just unfulfilling and just feels like a twist for the sake of one. In the end it didn’t leave an impression on me at all unlike some of the story-driven games I love like Silent Hill 2, Rule of Rose, and Deadly Premonition.

The Astronauts should have taken more cues from Gone Home. Gone Home may not have looked nearly as pretty and its world was much, much smaller but it was just so dense, filled with tons of stuff to find that built on the narrative that Ethan Carter really lacks. It also was tightly paced with no padding unlike Ethan Carter's wandering and backtracking.

This review sounds pretty negative, but it’s more out of knowing that this game could have been a lot better. It’s still overall a good game worth your time. I’m just happy that so many people seem to enjoy this game. Video games don’t need combat to be games and video games can really tell engaging stories if the effort and skill are put into them. I want games like Ethan Carter, Walking Dead, Gone Home, and KRZ to succeed so more can be made so despite my misgivings I’m glad Ethan Carter exists and I hope The Astronauts can improve for a second game.
Posted: September 29
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an excellently written, technical achievement and will surely set the benchmark for World design in years to come. If you yearn for a good story that you can really immerse yourself in then look no further, but if narrative isn’t your thing then you won’t find much else here.
Posted: September 29
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304 of 329 people (92%) found this review helpful
4.3 hrs on record
Play Time: Approximately 4+ Hours

Quick Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a stunningly beautiful game that shows off what a developer can do if they focus on PC graphics. The story is engaging and mysterious and keeps you hooked until the very end as you explore the relatively large island. There are dozens of interesting corners of the island to discover that include some light puzzling and side stories. Overall it was a beautiful game worth its asking price of $20.

Meaningless Score: 8/10
Posted: September 25
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