Alone in the Dark is widely considered to be a forefather of the survival horror game genre, setting the standard for later rival popular survival horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
The story is revealed to the player through an extensive series of books and notes found throughout the game, and is heavily influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft.
Players are given the option of choosing between a male or female protagonist (Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood respectively).
Items and characters in Alone in the Dark are three-dimensional, rendered upon a two-dimensional fixed background. Mixing polygons and 2D prerendered background images required a fixed camera angle, which designers used to their advantage to create dramatic scene setups appropriate for a horror-themed game.