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Five Nights at Freddy’s order: How to play the horror game series in release and chronological order

Five Nights at Freddy’s boasts a rich lore across its series. Here’s how the games’ history unfolds in order.

The Five Nights at Freddy's animatronics lined up
Image credit: Cawthon Games

It was something every 80s or 90s kid already knew - there are few things scarier than the Chuck E. Cheese animatronics. However, it wasn't until 2014 until someone took that knowledge and made it a horrifying reality. That is, the realty of the Five Nights at Freddy’s horror games.

Created by Scott Cawthon, the original indie game spawned an entire multimedia franchise, culminating in 2023’s live-action Five Nights at Freddy’s film produced by Blumhouse. The games largely take place in pizzerias and family fun centers that are populated with haunted animatronics that stalk the player after-hours with murderously unrelenting fury.

One of the most appealing things about the franchise is its extensive lore, with fans piecing together the wider narrative from clues and other details left by Cawthon across each of the main games in the series. More than just crafting an expansive backstory for the games, this lore establishes that the games’ narrative doesn’t unfold chronologically in the titles’ release order, but rather in a timeline that jumps back and forth across its in-game history. Across all these mainline games, there is a visible through line as players evade animatronics out to brutally kill them each night.

Here is how to play all the Five Nights at Freddy’s games in both release and chronological order.

The story of Five Nights at Freddy’s

Springtrap attacks
Image credit: Cawthon Games

The figure that looms over the Five Nights at Freddy’s mythos the largest is William Afton, an entrepreneur and inventor who opens Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. After William’s youngest son Evan is accidentally killed by an animatronic in 1983, William’s psyche secretly snaps and he begins to embark on a twisted endeavor as a child serial killer. Wearing a purple Spring Bonnie costume as he hunts his prey, William gains a nickname as the Purple Man, stuffing his victims bodies in animatronic suits.

For unknown purposes, William harvests a supernatural substance from the haunted animatronic suits where he stores his victims, but vanishes in 1987 after a second incident occurs in one of his pizzerias. The animatronics remain haunted even after William’s departure and, when he resurfaces in the ‘90s, he is stuffed by his ghostly creations in a spare Springtrap costume to become the most murderous animatronic of all. By the 2020s, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria has grown into a full entertainment center, with its creations similarly haunted.

How to play Five Nights at Freddy’s games in release order

The player is stuffed in an animatronic
Image credit: Cawthon Games

There are currently eight main installments in the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, with a ninth currently in development for release at the end of 2023. Most of these mainline games retain the same basic premise of a player character stuck overnight in a pizzeria and hunted by lethal animatronics, often relying on security camera systems to monitor the robotic enemies’ locations. The initial games in the series featured a story that progressed over the course of a week, with the difficulty escalating as players endure each night until the sweet safety provided by the dawn.

Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 is a departure narratively, both a prequel and set inside a child’s bedroom instead of a public location while featuring a generally more surreal tone. Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted veers into virtual reality and playing across a series of levels as opposed to much of the mainline series’ five-night setup that's present right there in the franchise’s name. Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach is the most ambitious installment in the franchise to date, with the player exploring an entire Freddy Fazbear megaplex as they search for a way to survive and escape, seeking refuge inside a spare Freddy Fazbear suit.

Here are the mainline Five Nights at Freddy’s games in release order:

How to play Five Nights at Freddy’s games in chronological order

A light shines on a closet
Image credit: Cawthon Games

The Five Nights at Freddy’s games start in the early ‘80s, with the incident that shut down the first Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria taking place in 1983. This is referenced in Five Nights at Freddy’s 4, the earliest game in the timeline, while subsequent games have the years they take place cited in paychecks earned by the player character and through other in-game ancillary material. Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is described as taking place 30 years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria closed, effectively bringing the story into the modern era rather than the subtle period pieces from the first two games.

By Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator, the games are very much set within the digital age, including modern communications technology while Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted goes full-on virtual reality. Chronologically, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach is currently the latest game within the franchise’s timeline, with the ending confirming it takes place after the events of Help Wanted. With this revelation, Five Nights at Freddy’s covers approximately four decades of in-game history, with lore stretching back even further.

Here are all the mainline Five Nights at Freddy’s games in chronological order:

Spinoff Five Nights at Freddy’s games

Freddy fights Chica
Image credit: Cawthon Games

Not every game in the franchise fits seamlessly within the generally accepted timeline, with the series boasting a number of free-to-play titles and mobile spinoffs that have been released over the years. Fans have tried to come up with their own ways to place the games within the established canon, either as hallucinations by previously introduced characters or other scenarios to integrate them. However, these titles are a significant departure from the gameplay in the main titles and often venture far outside of the horror genre.

The spinoffs began with FNaF World in 2016, a turn-based sprite-animated RPG in the style of Squaresoft RPGs for the Super Nintendo in the ‘90s. The Freddy in Space series are side-scrolling shooters similar to Gradius whereas Security Breach: Fury’s Rage is beat’em-up like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage. Five Nights at Freddy’s: Special Deliver is an augmented reality experience, bringing the signature jump scares to mobile devices.

Here are the spinoff titles from the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise in release order:

Is Five Nights at Freddy's kid-friendly?

Image credit: Scottgames

The answer to this question really depends on the player. The Five Nights at Freddy's games are rated 12+, an age rating that means kids younger than pre-teen age should proceed with caution. However, it didn't get that rating because of gore or sex, which are the reasons so many parents keep their younger ones away from horror content, so parents who are ok with giving their kids a fright might find it acceptable.

By the way, Popverse's Trent Cannon has a handy guide if you're wondering about what ages should be watching the Five Nights at Freddy's movie.

What’s the most recent Five Nights at Freddy’s game?

The control room in Help Wanted 2
Image credit: Cawthon Games

2023 was perhaps the biggest year for Five Nights at Freddy’s in recent memory, and the franchise released a new main installment at the end of the year with Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted 2. It is a direct sequel to the original Help Wanted, and features a return to the Sister Location location environment, complete with the frightening animatronic Ballora, the evil ballerina robot.

Is the Five Nights at Freddy's game series over?

Image credit: Scottgames

Even though there's no official confirmation of an upcoming FNAF game, the answer to this is almost certainly a 'no.' Popverse wrote around Halloween last year that the creatives involved in the Freddy's film were discussing a Five Nights at Freddy's sequel even before the movie came out. That, combined with the loads of new fans that the first movie inspires, opens the door wide on the possibility of far more games.

Across its first nine years, the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise has released 15 games, including the spinoff titles, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. A new movie is sure to bring in even more players to the games, curious about the point-and-click source material that launched the franchise in the first place. Five Nights at Freddy’s is a gaming gateway into horror and, with its combination of ‘80s/’90s nostalgia, memorable enemy designs, and effective jump scares, Freddy Fazbear is here to stay.

The Five Nights at Freddy's phenomenon is lasting longer than five nights. Get up to speed, with how to stream the movie, details on the characters and lore, getting to know the FNAF animatronics, how it fits in the canon of the games, talks of sequels, how Chuck E. Cheese is responding, and even a guide to how to play all the FNAF games.

Can't get enough? We have have recommendations for five movies to watch after Five Nights at Freddy's.

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Sam Stone avatar
Sam Stone: Sam Stone is an entertainment journalist based out of the Washington, D.C. area that has been working in the industry since 2016. Starting out as a columnist for the Image Comics preview magazine Image+, Sam also translated the Eisner Award nominated-Beowulf for the publisher. Sam has since written for CBR, Looper, and, with a penchant for Star Trek, Nintendo, and martial arts movies.

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