Little Nightmares is a Limbo-like 2.5D platformer that is based around evading the grasp of various substantially larger horrors that attempt to capture you. The game features light puzzle solving but is primarily a stealth game. Navigating most areas revolves around baiting the large horrors away from whatever exit you are attempt to reach. If one of these horrors does manage to catch you, the game is immediately over. Unlike games like Limbo and Inside, the player-character is very rarely brutalized upon being captured instead fading to black instead.
The plot of Little Nightmares is very open to interpretation as the game contains no dialogue or written word. The main character is a small raincoat wearing creature that breaks out of the brig of a large seafaring vessel. The first stage revolves around escaping the brig by avoiding a lethal blinding light that turns the player to stone should they get caught. Once free of the prison, the player must navigate past a long armed creature seemingly placed in charge of preparing prisoners for the chefs to cook upstairs. This functions as stage two and is the longest in the game. This creature is blind and relies on sound to track you down. After a lengthy chase through the midsection of the ship, the long armed horror corners the small creature. Through quick thinking, it manages to crush the horror's long arms under a door allowing for a hasty escape.
Stage three is the kitchen where the small creature observes the grisly preparation of a whole myriad of meats. The chefs that run the kitchen make every attempt to capture the small creature before it once again manages to evade capture. In between stages, the small creatures finds itself needing to feed on larger and larger prey this time consuming a large rat. At the start of the fourth stage, the small creature emerges from a porthole to spot a parade of horribly obese humanoid creatures boarding the now docked ship. The small creature then has to move through the lavishly decorated dining hall to reach its true target upstairs. This stage features a lot of hiding in plain sight as the obese creatures are typically too enamored with their meals to pursue the small creature.
The final stage revolves around destroying a slender geisha monster that cannot bare to see its own reflection. The small creature moves through its ghostly chambers in search of a mirror that it hasn't yet destroyed. Once procured, the small creature forces a direct encounter with the geisha forcing it to witness it's reflection. Upon using this to disable it, the small creature consumes the geisha monster granting it new power. From there, the small creature escapes up to the main deck and onward to freedom.