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 (1,537 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 (5)

October 9

Tags and album art added to OST (Collector's Upgrade)

Are you using Steam Music Player? This way or another, we have updated the OST in Collector's Upgrade/Preorder Extras with proper tags and the album cover. Much nicer this way!

5 comments Read more

October 3

Collector's Edition Upgrade is out now!

Collector's Edition Upgrade is out now, including the entire OST (over two hours of music), "Making of" PDF album, the digital map of Red Creek Valley, high-res digital poster, and exclusive wallpapers.

26 comments Read more


“A story told with a level of cleverness and elegance rarely seen in games.”
9/10 – GameSpot

“Leaves you with several amazing memories; moments that you will want to talk to your friends about for hours.”
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
36 of 41 people (88%) found this review helpful
7.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 3
Personal Rating: "Worth playing"
Traditional Rating: 7/10
Genre: Point and click mystery adventure

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the new game from The Astronauts (those guys previously known as People Can Fly) is an enticing name for a game that flouts itself as a detective mystery. Without even delving into the games synopsis the title evokes just the right amount of mystery and just like a chilling good book or thrilling film, Ethan Carter's opening segments really draw you into its superbly detailed and beautifully realized world. Red Creek Valley is town that is in the process of loosing the battle with nature itself. Located somewhere along America's Rust Belt, decay and degradation are everywhere as nature wages a war to claim back what rightfully belongs to her. There is also a distinct gothic-horror vibe the actual town evokes the first time you lay your eyes upon it. In fact the very first run-down shamble of a house you see from across the bridge that leads to the towns centre is pitched so perfectly high atop a grassy hill that it evokes the Bates Motel from Psycho.

Not since delving into Skyrim for the very first time has a game evoked such a sense of wonder and place. Red Creek Valley, in all its digital glory, feels so alive even when juxtaposed against the silence and solitude of its ghost-like town, a town the world has long forgotten about. To walk through its forests, climbs its hills, listen to the chirp of its birds is to be transported immediately into a world that is uncannily lifelike that at times one can barely believe it's simply made up from a series of horizontal and vertical pixels. Grass and flowers sway convincingly, trees shake then calm down then shake again as they dance with the wind. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an astonishingly beautiful game to look at. As I explored Red Creek Valleys surrounding areas I could not stop thinking what an awesome experience this would be with an Occulus Rift attached to my head (in fact I can very well see these very forests and hills becoming my walking digital playground when I finally get my hands on the device so soothing and relaxing are they to witness, explore and experience).

The towns silence is also almost deafening, even though audibly the player is constantly surrounded by the ghostly sounds of the leaves in the trees swaying on the wind or that very wind whipping up around funneled corners to the popping sound of the gravel underneath the feet of Paul Prospero, the detective summoned to this town to find a missing young boy. Paul Prospero is no ordinary detective though. Blessed with supernatural abilities, Prospero is able to take information (that comes in the form of objects, letters, newspaper clippings and even dead bodies) and look into their past for further information or evidence and this is what makes up the bulk of gameplay in Ethan Carter as you try to make sense of what the past is telling you. Not everything is as simple as it looks though. The past's clues are often just as muddled as the run down town's remaining foundations. It's left up to the player to make sense of what they are seeing and what they are being told in order to advance the storyline. At its heart, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is point and click adventure. You will be required to solve puzzles and uncover clues and then uncover more clues in order to progress. Ethan Carters puzzles are not particularly challenging and most veteran puzzle enthusiasts should see the solution to all of them immediately which was a bit of a disappointment. The game is also incredibly short and can be blazed through in just over 3 hrs but to do so would be doing the digital world that The Astronauts have so painstakingly and lovingly crafted a disservice.

Where Ethan Carter does take some missteps is with its storytelling. To be honest - it's not particularly compelling or believable and it wraps up with an incredibly disappointing twist that made me feel like I should not have bothered with solving the mystery of the missing young boy in the first place but instead just continued roaming Red Creek Valleys forests and hills. While the script tries to go for poetic it often feels forced and the line delivery by all actors is often stilted and not particularly believable which kept pulling me out of the mystery and had me imagining a giant piece of cheese instead! I really was expecting the game to have more of an emotional punch and this seemed to be missing throughout the entire game from a narrative standpoint.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is still an experience and one well worth grabbing, if just for its sublime digital world alone. The Astronauts must be commended for crafting a beautiful and often creepy adventure even when the sum of its parts don't always add up. From such a strong beginning that resonates with emotional clout and complete awe unfortunately slowly withers and fades away like the unreliable memories of its protagonists the further along you progress. For a game that delcares itself as a narrative piece with no hand-holding right at the start of the game, it's a pitty they didn't put as much effort and care into the narrative part in the same way they lovingly crafted Red Creek Valley.
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22 of 24 people (92%) found this review helpful
4.9 hrs on record
Posted: October 1
I was very, very pleasantly surprised by The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It isn't at all what I feared it would be after Chmielarz's call to "kill gameplay." It's not a glorified cutscene. It's not just a trek from point A to point B. It's a good old first person adventure game, crafted with narrative impact and freedom of discovery in mind, with incredible presentation, an incredible atmosphere, and some of the most fluid, accessible puzzle design I've ever seen in a game of its type. It teeters a little when it comes to its story and knowing exactly how much it needs to show to get its point across, it's got some technical irritations, and it might not be worth $20 to everyone. But The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is still one of the best games of its type to come out in years.

Read more here
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19 of 22 people (86%) found this review helpful
5.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 11
The graphics are amazing, the story is ok, the gameplay is not impressive, but ok too. It's short (~5 hours), but overall it's a GOOD game. Nice job, developers, Keep her steady!
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18 of 21 people (86%) found this review helpful
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: October 20
I had been following this game for a while and had decided to wait until it was on sale before I bought it. The more I read, the more I wanted to try it out so finally I just said screw it and picked it up.

Gotta say, $20 well spent!

Sure, the game is only 4-5 hours long, depending on how much exploring and running around you do, but the whole package is so interesting that it feels much deeper than it really is.

GRAPHICS: Everyone talks about how pretty this game is. Well, it's no lie. I found myself taking constant screenshots like I was on some sort of nature hike. You know, those shots that everyone takes when they go on outdoor trips. Trees, rocks, water, old buildings. All of it looks great in this game and I was a real shutterbug. I just left the settings alone, but with my system it was at max by default. Smooth animations too!

SOUND: The voice overs, the music, the ambient sound effects. All very authentic. Similar to the above comments on graphics, the sound can realy draw you in. Just put on some headphones, go stand by the water and just listen. Wind, water flow, bugs, birds. Nature. It is very peacful.

GAMEPLAY: This is another part of this game I really enjoyed. The whole discovery mechanic for finding objects and solving puzzles is refreshing. I could do without time stamping events, but thankfully those are few and far between. If anything, I wish there were MORE puzzles. This game makes me want a full blown "Sherlock Holmes" style mystery adventure with similar mechanics in place. Would be awesome!

STORY: This will be my only knock on the game. Don't get me wrong, the story is really good, but it became a little obvious too soon (for me at least) what was going on. So a few times in the game I found myself rushing a bit. So when I say it's a negative, I mean like when an actor in a movie does a bad accent. It doesn't make the movie bad, it just is someting that bugs you if you pay too much attention.

VALUE: I just wanted to touch on this one more time. Some might say $20 for such a short game is too much. And maybe you are right, but the overall package is really what is worth every penny.

So in the end, I would highly recommend this game to anyone who just wants a refreshingly new adventure in a beautiful world. Just dive in, and enjoy!

Hope they make another like this soon :)
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12 of 13 people (92%) found this review helpful
3.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 30
Step into an eerily haunting, beautifully detailed world to uncover this decrepit backwaters dark secrets.
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11 of 12 people (92%) found this review helpful
4.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 8
+ Stunning graphics
+ Fun to find clues and solve 'cases'
+ Excellent story(telling)
+ 'Detective mode' works just great

+/- Voice acting is hit and miss
+/- I wish there were more crimes to solve

- Backtracking
- Character models lack detail in comparison to the environments
- Performance issues affect the immersion

[Rating: 85/100]
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12 of 14 people (86%) found this review helpful
5.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 24
I absolutely loved playing this!
To make the review short and simple I'll stick with the pros and cons of it.


+ Graphics - it's one of the best looking games I've ever played, incredibly well polished.

+ Immersion - there's no HUD, no hints, nothing on the screen to distract you from this immersive experience (I can only hope to replay it in a few years with oculus rift support).

+ Soundtrack - one of my favourite things about this game! It can be beautiful and yet, at the same time, bitter. It really helps to set the tone.

+ Story - it's not the game's strongest point and it ends in a bit of a cliché way, but it still manages to be very enjoyable and interesting.


x Playtime - sadly this game is very short, you can finish it after around 4-6 hours. It might help extend it's duration if you just walk around in the woods, the scenery is beautiful and perfect to expand your screenshot library.

x Low Replay Value - pratically nonexistent. No achievements, no side stories. After you finish it, it basically becomes the best walking simulator in your game library (which might be fine for some).

Playing "The Vanishing of Ethan Carter" was like going to a really good restaurant - you pay for the quality, not the quantity - because even though it's quite short, everything about it is close to being perfect. 9/10
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10 of 12 people (83%) found this review helpful
1.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 13
I will make this very simple. The save system cripples this game.

The game is absolutely stunning to look at and a joy to walk around in and play.

I don't care about the price, because even if it's only 5 hours or so the atmosphere is so well done and it's so pretty to look at that I feel it's worth more than $5 or $10.

The deal breaker is the save system where you can play for 30 minutes or even a whole hour or more... and you need to go out or go to sleep... and you return to the game and nothing you've done has saved. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to 1) have no idea when something has saved, and 2) Not be able to save when I need to take a break.

Why? What reason would they have for making you lose all your hard earned progress pretty much every time you quit? And make no mistake, it will happen pretty much every time you quit because you never have any idea when the game is saving or where.

Were it not for that one thing I would whole heartedly, 100% recommend this game... but the save system really, really sucks!
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36 of 62 people (58%) found this review helpful
3.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 4
The game is graphically amazing and the ambiance is as it should be.
The levels are beautifully designed.
I like the way the main character thinks and how you can impersonate him.
The death scenes are interesting.

Storyline not present enough.
Lack of vitality (it's getting long, walking for minutes with no one to talk to or without seeing any animals... The game is TOO dead).
One of the most disapointing finals for a game.
WAY too much walking around. If you skipped something, because the game isn't really intuitive, you have to walk all they way back around the map.
Some spots are not easy to find. Took me a while getting into the mine.
Not enough puzzles for the fan of puzzle games.

TL;DR Game is visually stunning but, unless you have a good walktrough or hours to waste, this game is going to make you cringe.
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6 of 6 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 1
This game is first and foremost, jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Immersive and beautiful, you will be sucked in. It's also haunting, contemplative, layered and complicated. It demands at least two playthroughs. The ending willl leave you stunned, then force you to immediately replay to see the whole game from a new light. It's that kind of twist, and that kind of awesome.
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6 of 6 people (100%) found this review helpful
5.7 hrs on record
Posted: October 4
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first person mystery game with some puzzles with an emphasis on narrative. I'd say, if you are in to atmospheric stuff, puzzle games, or just really like good looking environments, this game is absolutely for you.

I'll say it right away; this game is quite short. Like most indie games that seem to surpass that level of quality that we "expect" when something is made on such a small scale (Journey, Dear Esther). As an Indie developer you can only make a game truly good if it's short (we're talking about linear traditional type of games, where it takes a long time to set up environments and set pieces). Either you make it linear and short, or you can make it open (which is a hit or miss design choice) and very long.

Not only is it short, but it also has very little replayability. There aren't many things to "discover" that aren't already integral to your progression in the game. So once you've finished, you've done everything there is to do, as far as I know.

So it's safe to say that TVOEC is one of those games that might not be worth the full price, if you don't appreciate short, but good games. I'm sure it will go on sale soon, anyways.

(I'll try not to spoil anything or even mention the narrative)

You kind of go in to this game not knowing much about it. It's called "The Vanishing of Ethan Carter", but who is Ethan Carter, and why are we here? How do we find Ethan? Do we find him at all? Is he real? Is anything real? What do I do? That's probably my favorite aspect of this game: It doesn't hold your hand, it gives you MINIMAL information and you get to put the peices together at your own pace. That's very much missing in most games these days.

The game starts out putting you right in the beautiful forest of Red Creek Valley. You''ll be impressed by the visual fidelity. Screenshots don't have anything on the actual beauty of seeing this game in motion. It has a very moody, melancholic aesthetic. You could say that it's "photo realistic" but no, I cannot agree with that. It has realistic assets, but the actual treatment of movement, sound, and color are not realistic, they're romantic and depressing (in true Swede nature).

Once you get to the first few puzzles, which are surreal, HP lovecraftian mini-adventures, you'll notice that some of them are thematically unrelated, that's because their only connection are narrative. There's sci-fi, fantasy, modern fiction, ect. all to be found in this game's stories. Which is actually incredibly creepy. It's hard to pinpoint why. I guess the surprise of seeing something so disconnected from what you expect the game to throw at you can be really off-putting (hopefully in a good way though).

The consistent mechanics that go in to the strictly narrative parts of this game are fairly straight forward, you inspect things, find a dead body, and find out what happened by placing everything in the place where they were before the murder, and "contact the dead". It is actually a really cool idea, and the execution is perfect.

Well, that's kind of all there is in this game, not including the story. It's short, but very very sweet. I'd say it's worth a swing if you're not insecure about non traditional gameplay *cough* people calling Dear Esther a walking simulator *cough*.
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 11
This game is a masterpiece. Beautiful, but fun to play. Well written, scary, fun, sad, thoughtful.
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 6
Great Game, Awesome Graphics and Story.
But way to Short :)
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
8.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 4
Incredible, excellent, strange ...
I can not find the words.
Great music, excellent graphics, an original storyline ... and an incredible ending, one would expect the least.
We found you Ethan Carter.
11 caps of 10, one of the best games in recent years.
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
4.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 26
I am in awe of this game; an absolutely beautiful interactive experience. Although short, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is very well designed. It does require some patience and some rather keen observation – however, this is precisely why the game excels so greatly in rewarding the player. To those whom it may entail, heed the statement the developers strive to uphold so well "This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand." As such, it may not be best suited for those whom are impatient to advance through the narrative quickly. Indeed, critical thinking is of considerable aid.

Upon entering the world, I'm overwhelmed with a spectacularly crafted environment, the world's detail is immense. As described by the developers, they utilized photogrammetry system to create this world. Thus, the environment which engulfed my field of view was phenomenal. An artistic quality that persisted throughout the entirety of the game. Thank technology for this, I only wish the immersion could not be broken by invisible barriers; there are limitations after all.

Each puzzle I encountered required a moderately satisfying amount of thought. And each piece provoked further story speculation, gradually aiding in my understanding of the narrative. Much of the story is told through the environment, which amounts to an accumulation of inferences working together to amalgamate all the narrative segments.

If anything I've been able to articulate intrigues you in the least, I encourage you to give the game a try. The experience I've attained through playing the Vanishing of Ethan Carter is vehemently profound. I will remember this game for years to come and I welcome more interactive experiences like this one; so many more stories to explore with this medium.
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6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
4.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 18
Yes. I Highly recommend this game. The adventure and discovery will leave its impression on you.
It's one of those games I really hope to be able to play with VR someday.

It's also a type of game I really to see more of !
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
8.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 18
Wonderful Game, Way to short. While I was leda to believe there was exploration, this made me think of skyrim. and that was my mistake for comparing anything to skyrim!

This game is more linear in objectives than the impression given by the makers and producers of the game, but...I love it. I am torn between my OCD story telling and Love of Horror to complain too much.

All in All The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was a delight for me to play and I really hope to see more games just like this one with bigger maps and more freedom on Quests.

Beautiful and refreshing Horror Mystery Concept. I absolutely Recommend this game, it was, regaurdless of my sadness that it ended so quickly, it was worth every penny and I enjoyed every second of it.

I was able to play this game on the lowest graphics smoothly on my Surface Pro with HD Graphics 4000 and it still wowed me. This game felt more alive than Most games today.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 18
Wow. This game started so incredible. Graphics, Atmosphere, Gameplay, Story. I thought this is one of the greatest games ive ever player. The first two murders were so incredible. the first sidequests were very cool too. But then it makes a big step backwards, the murders become easy to solve and i rly didnt like the ending, well, i think it suxx big time :-/

like they ran out of ideas after the first part of the game..

its still a cool game, but its rather interesting as really good.

and it is very short too
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
4.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 19
Game is very short but delivers a whole lot of emotions. Graphically it is insane how they managed to offer this level of detail and immersion with the Unreal Engine 3.

The story is amazing and narration is more than perfect. A little bit longer maybe, but I don't regret having bought it full price. 95/100
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 18
This game is gorgeous, not only that but it is also compelling and intriguing. I was very quickly drawn into the world, and I stayed there until I had completed everything.

It is a short game, but a very nice ride, with a wonderful soundtrack.
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