Are there any old, preferably 2D, games that have mechanics similar to modern-day horror games? Like for example in Soma there's a part where you're in a maze-like area where an enemy is following you, and you can close doors behind you to slow him down. Or in Knock-knock (pic related) where you have to repair lights to slow down enemy-spawning. Like you can't directly attack enemies, but you can do stuff in the environment to slow them down?
I started playing Clocktower. It's pretty fun, it's cool that there's lots of different ways of escaping the villian.
BUT the methods of escaping are all scripted, and I'm kind of hoping to find some retro games where the main gameplay is using some mechanic(s).
I just remembered Illbleed kind of fits that category. You have to scan the environment for traps and mark them to keep them from hurting you.
It's not quite what you're looking for, but may be close enough it hits on the same things. I would look into Roguelikes.
Typically the game is a dungeon crawl, you need to get to the bottom and sometimes back out. Every time you play, the floor layouts, the monsters and items that are randomly generated. There will also be scrolls, potions, wands and the like which are randomized. So that a wooden wand in your last game may have been a wand of sleep, in this may be a wand of invisibility.
The other important aspect is that when your character dies, it's game over and everything is gone. They're also typically quite challenging so you certainly will die many, many times before actually making it through for the first time.
They're very complex for older games with a lot of choices and mechanics. You do fight monsters, but a lot of the time you're running away from them just as much as you're fighting them. There's always a lot of methods for identifying items and getting out of tricky situations.
It's not retro, but I would recommend Powder. It's one of my favorites. Fairly straight forward in that it follows the premise of just getting to the bottom of a 25 floor dungeon, killing Beelze'bub and getting out.
But it's got really complex interactions, including a very interesting deity system. There's a pantheon of gods who basically align to classes like wizard, barbarian, cleric, etc and they're all watching what you do. The wizard god likes it when you cast spells, the barbarian god hates it, and whatnot.
I've been playing it for years and usually die at least a dozen times in between each time I actually win. It was programmed for GBA, but has all sorts of versions. I play the PSP one. Find it here.
and a very handy wiki
I would also recommend Rouge itself which is the game that all these came from. You can play it in browser here https://archive.org/details/msdos_Rogue_1983
Shiren the Wanderer, Nethack and Angband could also a;; be good starting points.
>Are there any rogue-likes you'd recommend that are easy enough for a beginner (to the genre)
Brogue or Angband would be my recommendations for beginners. They've got pretty different styles within the genre (Angband's a little grindy, Brogue's a little more focused on puzzles), but they're both very well-put-together games. Nethack's a little more traditional (and I'd say a lot more brutal), but it might be closer to what you're looking for if you want a horror game where running away is necessary.
There's a roguelike general on /vg/ that has quite a few pastebins you might want to take a look at.
>hard enough to stay interesting?
That would be almost all of them.
I'll drop a recommendation for Castle of the Winds as basically the first roguelite. It's got actual (if crude) graphics instead of ASCII, a story to follow, you can save your game, and there's generally less trial and error involved than in Rogue and its more traditional descendents. It's fairly easy compared to other Roguelikes, but the genre as a whole is many steps above most others in difficulty, so even the easy ones aren't going to put you to sleep.
Only thing is it's a 16-bit Windows game, so if you don't have a 32-bit computer around you're going to have to get Windows 3.1 installed in DOSBox or use a VM to play it. It's nothing too difficult, but if you don't want to do any work at all there should be various downloads you can find of DOSBox bundled with a Win3.1 installation already completed for you.