The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Game review by
Chris Morris, Common Sense Media
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Game Poster Image
Well-done atmospheric game has some bloody moments.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The main character expresses himself through writing and likes to explore the world around him, though that doesn't necessarily result in good things. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The hero, Prospero, tries to help a young boy who suddenly vanishes from his home. Prospero is an occult detective whose supernatural and perceptive skills help him solve mysteries, but his motives are secret.

Ease of Play

No hints, and no direction about what exactly you're supposed to do. It's an open-world feel, with very few nudges in the right direction. It lets you explore how you'd like, but you may miss some of the puzzles as a result. 


Some flashback scenes can be graphic, which adds to a sense of dread you get during your investigation. During one sequence, you'll discover a pair of severed legs on a train track and will find the remains of the body by following a trail of blood through the woods. Eventually, you'll piece together and witness the murder via psychic vision. Other visions include the bludgeoning of a person with an iron bar, and the graphics are very realistic.


For an extra $10, players can buy a collector's-edition upgrade featuring the game's soundtrack.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a downloadable mystery/puzzle game. The biggest issue is the story's violent moments; there are graphic flashbacks showing a character's legs being cut off by a train. There also are flashback scenes that show a fatal bludgeoning. (Players aren't the ones performing those actions.) It's an atmospheric game that conveys a real sense of dread to the player, but it doesn't offer any real assistance, which could prove either freeing or frustrating, depending on the player. Although there aren't any multiplayer elements in the game, the lack of a privacy policy on the developer's website leaves questions about what data is collected from players and how it's used.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydrubie19 June 10, 2018

Not for kids

There is no way that this game is meant for kids. It's got a lot of disturbing moments along with some gory images. The amazing graphics only add to how di... Continue reading
Parent Written bysimon.u October 25, 2015

Its a dark world

I showed my 11 year old son this game when I got it, mainly to show off the quality of the graphics environment, which is beautifully rendered. But after playi... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 4, 2017

not bad

this game id not bad
Teen, 17 years old Written byShazents December 23, 2014

Really good game, but very dark and violent.

The story and graphics in this game are amazing. The way you go around solving puzzles is fun, as well as exploring the beautifully made world. However, there a... Continue reading

What's it about?

In THE VANISHING OF ETHAN CARTER, players take on the role of Paul Prospero, a private detective with the psychic ability to see into the past. One day he receives a disturbing letter from a young boy, Ethan Carter, and decides to investigate Ethan's town of Red Creek Valley. When Prospero arrives, Ethan has disappeared, there's been a vicious murder, and the town is deserted. Through exploration and puzzle solving, the detective must learn the town's disturbing secrets if he wants to save the boy. 

Is it any good?

Although it might technically be classified as a puzzle game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is primarily focused on atmosphere. The game exudes it, and that quickly draws players in. It's not an especially long game -- the puzzles aren't overly hard -- but that's not a problem, since you'll spend nearly as much time exploring and gasping at the sheer beauty of the graphics and shivering at the real sense of dread the developers are able to communicate through shadows and music. 

Ethan Carter pulls from a variety of influences, ranging from Lovecraft to Phillip Marlowe. And it's hard to go too deep into its best parts without ruining them for new players. Early on, though, the game declares it won't "hold your hand." That translates into complete freedom, which is a rare quality in games today. The only problem is that, without any real background or knowledge of what your quests are, it's possible to spend a long time wandering without really knowing what you're supposed to do next. And that could frustrate some players. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Talk about how the violence in Ethan Carter differs from that in other games. Prospero doesn't participate in violence, but his gifts uncover violent acts from others. Does that make the depiction of incidents more acceptable than those in other violent games on the market?

  • Discuss helping someone in trouble, even when it makes you scared. Are there ways to get over your fear to help people? Why is it important to make sure that you help others?

  • Talk about the pros and cons of curiosity. When can it get you in trouble?

Game details

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