While last week involved rambling off about weird and eerie things in real life, I think I’ll make a return to the realms of pop culture. In this case, I’m talking about video games! Or rather, I should say moments in games that genuinely creeped me right out! Now, there are plenty of moments that truly disturbed or scared me a bit, but only a couple moments felt truly memorable. Let’s start with some runner ups, shall we?
Image Source: Jontron
- Half-Life 2 Episode 2 – What’s worse than Headcrab Zombies? Zombines! Their agony is much more blatant and quite comprehensible too! Not to mention, that fight against the zombies while an elevator is slowly coming to your rescue? Spine chilling!
- Max Payne – Here is a man who has lost it all and now has nothing to lose. That said, dealing with everything he has dealt with is taxing on the mind. And when he has a moment to catch some sleep, you can bet it’s always a nightmare. And boy are Max’s nightmares a trip into the depths of mental terror as you relive the death of Max’s wife and kid… over and over again!
- Batman Arkham Asylum – Any time the Scarecrow pops up, you have a good idea of what to expect. Needless to say, Batman becomes afflicted by Scarcrow’s neurotoxin gas and is transported to Scarcrow’s demented playground of frights! It’s filled with plenty of cliche horrors, but they all work within the surrealistic framework of this fractured dungeon of doom.
- Silent Hill 1 – For a game rife with psychological horror, it’s pretty light on peekaboo-type scares. But, one example of an effective one is in the Elementary School following a fake-out scare with a stray cat. Upon further investigation in a locker room, a corpse greets you instead of the cat.
- Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Zelda games always have creepy moments and this game had its fair share. My favorite will always be Zant’s ominous giant hand that’s hovering like a wallmaster as you try to steal a twilight orb from his alter. It’s not too dangerous and it hinders progress, but holy crap is it unsettling! Hell, it scared me more than Link’s trippy LSD vision *shudder*
- Fatal Frame series – You’re stuck in a realm of ghosts and your only means of defense? A camera! Yup, you have to get past them by getting close enough and stunning them with a camera flash. Forcing you to get up close and personal with the unquiet dead is quite the experience. Sadly, I never got too far in the series to truly appreciate them to their fullest extent.
- Half-Life 2 – RAVENHOLM! There’s a name that strikes fear. In the events leading up to the game, Ravenholm was an old miner town converted into a rebel base. The combine responded to this growing threat by bombarding them with one of the creepiest enemies in the Half-Life universe, head humpers! On top of that, there’s bred variants that probably gave Valve some ideas for Left 4 Dead. From the moment you enter the gruesome city to the moment Father Grigori takes your last stand, you fight waves of parasitic horrors as you slink your way through a collapsing Gothic town. It’s mad atmospheric and more fun than truly scary. That said, it’s still rife with chills in its own right.
13. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of Earth – Fish Men Attack!
The main game involves a constant struggle to remain sane after the realization that sinister cosmic forces threaten not only our existence, but our concept of reality! But, one moment stood out as truly memorable to me. After being dragged away by deep spawned horrors who want you killed, you’re forced to defend yourself by any means necessary and escape the Dagon-loving onslaught! Your means of defense are knocking over book shelves, making makeshift barricades and pushing the horde back long enough to make a break for it. To make things worse, your sanity becomes afflicted by the whole ordeal. Your vision blurs and everything seems more warped and frantic around you as your situation feels more and more grim. And to make things worse, you need to break from running to heal yourself with a medical kit or to reload a weapon. Either way, you’re likely to bump into a handful of murderous Innsmouth citizens a couple times and take a fair bit of damage along the way.
12. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask – World of the Dead
For such an otherwise charming tale of heroic fantasy, there are some truly messed up moments in this Nintendo 64 classic! Kakariko’s Village is hiding some fucked up secrets, to say the least. Not only is their Graveyard Temple a psychologically tormenting house of horrors, but their washing well is a gateway to the Abyss! Chilling music narrates a trip into an undead nightmare! These dreadful pits are filled with rape-crazed zombies, twisted death traps, giant skull demons and a mutilated horror that traps its victims with massive arms before lowering its sickly head to feast upon its prey. Exploring both the Well and the Shadow Temple alone is a horrid experience. Spirits inform you that this is a place housing Hyrule’s blood filled past and that angry spirits observe you. Not to mention, there are countless dungeons filled with corpses and bloodstains, leaving a lot to the imagination. In fact, some of the walls are literally lined with bones! This continues with Ikana Valley in Majora’s Mask. Here is a land where spirits go when they die… most of the time. In fact, the few living souls are held hostage by the dead themselves… They seek to transform these poor hostages into one of them! On top of that, the realm of Termina itself is held hostage by a nihilistic psycho who wants to bring the apocalypse upon the world. His weapon? Only the most terrifying version of the moon ever conceived, of course. Combine this with the existentialist gloom that’s pervasive through the world and MM as a whole is a potent source of nightmare fuel. When Nintendo wants to ensure childhood trauma, they deliver!
11. Silent Hill 2 – The Mad Descent
Sure, the whole game is terrifying… and no one will forget the image of Pyramid Head brutally raping the zombie nurses (even though we all want to.) But, we know things go from bad to worse once you enter the prison. The prison itself is filled with the dark chants symbolic of the weird cult activity throughout the series, as well as the usual assortment of horrors. Eventually, you hop into a pit deeper down the rabbit hole. Here you mean the unstable psycho known as Eddie. He’s creepy… As you continue, you dive further down holes, in some possible allusion to Louis Carrol and the trek from the world of reason to the world of madness! As you dive deeper, the characters you met before seek more disturbed and maniacal, which is appropriate given Silent Hill’s push towards the psychological.
10. BioShock – Danse Macabre
Sure, the mania of performer and creator Sander Cohen is chilling in its own right, but there’s one aspect of the tortured artist that’s certain to put you in a state of shock and dismay. His many imprisoned splicer pals were practically entombed in plaster as statues. When you smack said plaster statues, they bleed! What’s worse is that they’re all over Fort Frolic, put in all sorts of majestic and whimsical positions. Scary, huh? Well, there’s something even worse about them… When you go down to the basement of a wine cellar, you discover a lot of them are actually still quite alive! These melted and mutilated souls are completely silent as they sneak up and ready to slice you up. Consider that any of the statues could be splicers and that’s a lot of paranoia to eat you up!
9. Resident Evil (Remake) – “Mooooottthhhheeeeerrrrr!”
Sure, the dogs jump scare is truly iconic to the game and has been since the moment they first leaped through the windows in the first game. But, the Gamecube remake (and later ports) reshaped how we imagined the game as a whole. In fact, it teased a new villain at multiple points of the game before revealing her misshapen form for all to witness. Of course, I’m talking about Lisa Trevor. If reanimated and running zombies weren’t bad enough, here’s more proof that Umbrella is batshit insane! When the mansion was contracted by Trevor’s dad, his family was kidnapped and he was brutally tortured not long after the place’s completion. His daughter was experimented on while her mother was slowly dying. Lisa eventually grew more and more unstable before she was pushed into a ramshackle cabin in the woods. As you make your way out of the mansion, you hear her mournful cries as you slump through the creepy forest. As you encounter her multiple times, she sloshes her deformed body over to you as she continues to cry in agony and madness. After your final encounter with her, she’s driven over the edge by the revelation her mother has been dead for ages as she leaps to her suicide… a chilling end to a chilling boss!
8. System Shock 2 – Before Fontaine, there was S.H.O.D.A.N.
Ah, Janice Polito! She introduces herself as the scientist who can help you survive the mutated nightmares that romp around your cosmic hell. Just like you, she’s pinned in a desparate situation, but was still able to augment you with bolstering cybernetic technology. You make it your mission to find Polito in deck four in hopes of the two of you teaming up to stop this infecting menace. Needless to say, you get ready to shake hands with Janice to discover she’s merely a stiff… And whose been puppeting her corpse the whole time? Why, it’s your disturbed AI nemesis herself! This reveal is as brilliant as it was truly terrifying. Your only source of light in a screwed up world is quickly extinguished as you realize your troubles just got much worse. What’s worse is SHODAN is put in a situation almost as bad as yours. The enemy of my enemy is my friend?
7. Nightmare House 2 – Lisa, get out of my face!
Nightmare House 2 by itself is a brilliant mod, only requiring Half Life 2 and the episodes to work. Based off an old haunted house mod, this one ties in its own story. You are trapped in an abandoned hospital after exploring a haunted mansion. The only person to help you is a doctor by the name of Romero (coincidence?) As you explore the nasty halls, you come to realize that something twisted is going on deep within this ironically named “Never Lose Hope Hospital” and an eerie ghost lady is your guide to the Hell that awaits! After a while, the scares slightly diminish (next to a few brilliant homages with creepy manikins, nods toward DOOM and other things), but the journey to the main hospital is something to remember for a long time. Also, the announcer of the intercom urges you to … look behind you! Also, when Romero says you’re better off escaping? Well, Lisa the Ghost Lady doesn’t take too kindly to that… resulting in a jump worthy ending, to say the least.
6. Thief: Deadly Shadows – You came to the wrong Orphanage!
Where does your heist take you now? An ex-insane asylum turned orphanage turned haunted house! While most of the scares aren’t too overt, your investigation leads to disembodied childrens’ voices taunting your living existence… Hell, Garret mutters to himself that the place gives him the creeps… and for good reason! Your attempt to rob the cradle leads to trying to free the soul of a young girl from this tainted and cursed location. And by all means, the building resists your attempt to rob it of the property’s many damned souls. If that wasn’t worse, the cradle has its own security. No, it’s not guards… It’s the reanimated husks of former asylum inmates turned into unholy puppets! In fact, this level is widely celebrated as an iconic moment all its own! And to be fair, the creator also made a brilliant section of BioShock! But, that’s another story.
5. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – Checking In At the Ocean House Hotel
Sure, the World of Darkness universe by itself is filled with some really messed up and scary moments. And by all means, this game highlights them pretty well. Being too far out in a forest can result being chased down by werewolves that are pissed to have your vampiric existence near their turf. Diving deep into the literal underworld can result in some nasty conflict with a clan of Nosferatu. But, what’s probably the most nerve racking part of Bloodlines is the old haunted hotel. Sure, it’s every trope in a haunted house level played straight, but that doesn’t keep it from being absolutely freaky. The hotel itself has a fascinating little story that slowly unfurls as you explore its decaying halls. Sure, you may be an unholy creation of the undead, marked by Caine, but that doesn’t mean the ghosts of the hotel have to like you any more!
4. Alien Isolation – I’m gonna make you proud, Mama!
Isolation acts as a sequel to the original Alien and perhaps a precursor to Aliens. In it, you play as the Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley. You receive a distress call similar to the one that your mother’s crew encountered many years ago. Upon making your way there and several malfunctions plaguing your crew, you’re stuck on the derelict that is the Sevastopol Station. And wouldn’t you know it, the same alien menaced that plagued your mother is now coming for you! This is the survival horror experience for those who wanted to live the world of the Alien movies. As Amanda, you need to avoid the Xenomorph, fighting it off with limited supplies as you encounter insane former crewmen and rogue androids (much like the one in the first movie!) The grimy space station brings to mind Citadel and Van Braun from the System Shock series, but with one central menace stalking you in a way that would make The Nemesis proud! As mentioned before, there are plenty of minor antagonists to keep you on your toes and maintain that element of stealth game as well. That said, some of the tension can become frustration as you can easily be pinned in one point for a long time or even chased back to the same point by the Xenomorph. And at that point, it becomes a constant loop of getting nothing accomplished. And more often than not, there’s little you can do about it without the risk of really quick death. But, what would your Mother do in this situation?
3. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – My Brain Hurts!
Oh boy, Eternal Darkness. The game itself has a story that feels like August Derleth’s attempt at writing Lovecraftian horror. It’s kinda scary, but mostly a fun and pulpy ride. But, it’s a mechanic in the gameplay itself that makes this a real treat. I’m referring to the Sanity Meter. While the threat of death is always apparent, there’s the threat of also going mad. When you see abominations, it drains sanity. When your sanity goes too low, the game starts to screw with the player. Some are within the game itself; suddenly you’re overwhelmed by monsters or your next attempt at eldritch magic makes you explode! Some are on a more meta level; bugs are crawling through your TV screen, attempts to unpause a game result in deleting your save file, a fake ending prompts a fake trailer for a sequel game that doesn’t exist! And worse yet is your environment can change with low sanity too. For example, the Roivas Mansion warps into a wretched hellscape filled with demonic paintings and rotten walls. That said, the game goes a little bit Haunted Mansion when the library becomes filled with flying books. But, when you’ve lost that mind that much, almost everything is fear inducing. And by all means, this is an idea that I had never seen in games (to that magnitude) before. While a more psychological answer to a jump scare, it still satisfies me greatly!
2. Amnesia The Dark Descent – Oh shit, they’re intelligent!
The core game itself was brutal and caused me plenty of nightmares for a while (ignoring the farce that it became thanks to plenty of Let’s Play videos). The grunt and its other mutant buddies butchered me plenty of times as I did all I could escape and hide in the comfort of closets and cabinets… only for futility to occur. And trust me, their introduction in the prison segment of Dark Descent was enough to have me running for miles, at least in game. However, most of these enemies were reduced to mindless and savage hunters. Sure, their backstory is a bad dream generator in their own right, but there’s an enemy that kicked it up a notch for me. In the expansion called “Justine”, the enemies called “Suitors” changed all of that. They look just as torn apart and warped as the other Amnesia monsters, but they’re capable of speech, rationalization and they’re more adept at seeking you out! The Suitors are stuck in the basement, each of which have their own distinct and demented personalities. All of them are ex-loves of Justine and all of them have their own morbid ways of showing it. While they’re all blind, it’s still a real heart stopper when they catch up to you and deliver a witty quip while delivering tons of pain.
1. Silent Hills P.T. – The Entire Experience, Good Lord!
Let it be known that Konami is a bag of dicks that deserves whatever collapse will soon come upon it! That out of the way, P.T. was a horror experience that will go down in history as one of the greatest experiences ever. While it’s a shame it will never become a full game, let alone be available ever again, it’s still something to cherish forevermore. Now, P.T. itself was a truly unique experience. Sure, you collected notes like in Slender and observed your surroundings like Freddy’s. However, the game was so much more than that. It was alone layers upon layers of sinister ambiance that constantly built up a relentless dread. You never felt safe and had no chance to be at ease. Even after completing P.T., you felt tense. The entire experience was a trip through the darkest points of countess realities, literally. It was a hellscape of the character’s creation, their guilt and terror transformed into a labyrinth of ghosts. You try to piece the puzzles as the nightmare known as “Lisa” can pop in your face at any moment. You see gruesome sights such as a bleeding box (that could probably contain a small child) while the demonic sounds of a corrupted radio inform you of something breaching our reality. You feel like you’re always observed as you hear the sounds of faint breathing, the cries of an infant in dire pain, the demented radio rambling about a murder; you can never get away from the evil that lies within this house! Even the coat rack feels like a viable threat! This was the experience that gamers wanted and it continues to haunt me to this day. On top of that, the experience was shared. Everyone on the web was trying to crack the puzzle while suffering in P.T.’s evil world together. In the end, the horror we experienced brought up together in a magnificent way. It wasn’t just viral marketing, it was a great time to be a part of the community. And because it left a profound mark on gaming, it deserves a top spot!
With that, those are my 13 favorite scary moments in video games. Please, share your own moments in the comments below. Thanks for reading and enjoy your Halloween.