This is what the jumpscares look like (WARNING: NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED!)
The main character, whose name is later revealed to be Mike Schmidt, has started a job working as a night watch security guard at the restaurant Freddy Fazbear's Pizza (a pastiche of restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese's). A voicemail message left by Mike's predecessor who explains that the animatronic animal characters used at the restaurant—including the titular Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken, and Foxy the Pirate Fox are able to roam freely around it at night, because if they were left off for too long, their servo motors would lock up. He also adds that the characters were no longer allowed to roam freely during the day following an incident referred to as the "Bite of '87", which apparently involved the loss of someone's frontal lobe. The employee warns the player that if one of the robots encounters a human, they will automatically assume that it is a robot that is not in costume yet, and "forcefully stuff them" into a spare mechanical Freddy Fazbear costume, killing them in the process.
Newspaper clippings in the background of one of the scenes reveal that the restaurant was site to the disappearances of five children whose bodies were never found, after a man dressed as Freddy lured them into a back room, and was said to have murdered them. Later, the restaurant received complaints that the animatronics began to smell foul and became stained with blood and mucus around the eyes and mouth, with one customer comparing them to "reanimated carcasses".
The player must survive their shift, lasting from midnight to 6:00 a.m. (approximately 8 to 9 minutes of real time), without being attacked by one of the animatronic animal robots roaming the facility. The player is given access to a network of security cameras throughout the facility to track the movement of the animatronic robots. Each of the four characters have distinct movement patterns; however, most of the characters' movements take place off-screen. The camera feeds are dimly lit and distorted, one of the rooms only contains an audio feed, and the cameras do not cover certain areas of the building, most notably the two hallways directly to the left and right of the player. The player cannot leave the guard room, but can close the doors to defend themselves, and briefly turn on lights in the hallways to check for animatronics. Use of these actions consume the player's limited electrical power; if the power runs out, the cameras become inoperable, the doors open, and the lights go out, leaving the player with no defense against an attack.
As the title suggests, the game has five levels comprising five "nights" in the game, which increase in difficulty. Completion of the game unlocks an even more difficult 6th Night level, and completion of this level opens up a "Custom Night" level editor where the player can adjust the AI difficulty of the individual characters.
ive Nights at Freddy's received positive reviews from critics. Indie Game Magazine praised Five Nights at Freddy's for its simple take on the horror genre, noting that its artistic direction and gameplay mechanics contributed to a feeling of "brutal tension"—worsened by how a player may be familiar with similar restaurants such as Chuck E. Cheese's, and that "it's an incredibly terrifying experience to try to save yourself from the single jump scare that ends the game". In conclusion, Five Nights at Freddy's was considered a "fantastic example of how cleverness in design and subtlety can be used to make an experience terrifying". However, the game was criticized for taking too long to load when launched.
Omri Petitte for PC Gamer gave Five Nights at Freddy's a score of 80 out of 100, commenting that the game took a "less-is-more" approach to its design, and that while "the AI isn't some masterwork of procedural unpredictability, it would [still] head straight to you and eat your face off, or it'll play around like an innocent child before closing in for the kill. Your mind will fill in the rest." The game's overall atmosphere was praised for emphasizing the fear and suspense of an approaching threat, rather than the arrival of the threat itself as in other horror-oriented games. However, the gameplay of Five Nights at Freddy's was criticized for becoming repetitive once a player masters it, as there is "not much more to expect beyond managing battery life and careful timing of slamming doors shut, so those with steely willpower won't find anything else past the atmosphere of it all." Ryan Bates of Game Revolution gave the game a 4.5 out of 5; comparing its camera-oriented gameplay to the 1992 game Night Trap, he praised the game's minimalistic presentation (with particular emphasis on its audio design and lack of music) for contributing to the terror of the game, along with the fact that the "nervous impulses" of its repetitive gameplay would "[reach] almost OCD-type levels, adding to the tense environment." In conclusion, he felt that the game was "horror done right", but that it was too short.
Eurogamer's Jeffrey Matulef compared the animatronic animals in the game to Weeping Angels — predatory creatures from the universe of Doctor Who — due to their ability to only move when they are not being observed. Softpedia gave the game 4 out of 5 stars, with reviewer Cosmin Anton noting that it "drifts away from the classic first-person horror survival titles", but that the "inability to move combined with the limited power available will make you feel quite helpless in front of those relentless robots that just want to share a bit of their 'love' with you".
On September 12, 2014, an image was uploaded to the game's official website featuring the number 2 and the text "Grand Reopening 2015", hinting at a sequel. A subsequent teaser image was released in late September 2014, featuring one of the old characters missing a face and a newer looking character, accompanied by the text "something borrowed... something new...".