Halloween. A time for tricks, scares, and costumes. A time to exploit the emotion that grips many of us when it rears its ugly head: Fear. In videogames, there are unnerving things that we aren’t really ready for when they happen, or that make us jump out when they happen. In this list, I’ll be showcasing things in videogames that just scare the crap outta me. Did it make me jump? Was there a moment of tension? Or was there a place that I wanted to leave quickly? Hit the jump, and lets explore my Top 10 Moments in Videogames That Scared The Crap Outta Me.
-One game per franchise
-The moment, regardless of genre, must scare me through either tension, setting, or a cheap jump.
Let’s start with the least scariest thing to ever make me jump. I’ve played quite of a lot of Ace Combat games and in many of them, it’s pretty common hear that “missile alert” alarm go off. When hit by one, there’s a little jolt of the plane and some rumble of the controller, but nothing that’ll make you jump out of your seat. Even the sound made sounds like stock noise. But in Ace Combat 6, they improved the sound quality a bit, and changed the sound of a missile hitting you, and it’s LOUD! It’s sounds like a stack of kitchen pots being dropped on the floor. Maybe it’s because I play the AC games in First-Person view, but a lot of things in on my plane sound quiet, and even the plane’s system voices are pretty quiet, including the missile alarms. With every missile launched at my plane, I moved like crazy to avoid it so that it wouldn’t jolt me. I guess it worked since it improved my flying over previous games.
This is more or less something that applies to my childhood and not my adulthood. As a kid, I used to be pretty scared of the dark. It’s a pretty common fear to have. In videogame form, darkness could be a black screen. But it didn’t bother me since, for the most part black screens were for a floor, background, or filler. And yet, for some reason, Stage 4 in Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout would scare the shit outta me. In the stage, there is an oil can that emits some kind of vapor that makes everything (except enemies and hazards) go completely dark. Safe to say I was pretty scared. Worse still was that the screen flashed before going dark, reminding me of my other childhood fear, thunder and lightning. When this happened the first time, I turned off the game, losing any progress I made. Unbeknownst to me, the lights would come back on after a few seconds.
One of the things that Dead Space excelled in was sound design, which is pretty important in a horror game. Every spark, every step, and every shambling crawl of a necromorph was audible. The feeling of horror when traversing the Ishimura also heightened your sense of hearing, preparing yourself with every thud and bump you heard. Then came the vacuum of space, these moments when you would walked around the outside of the mining ship. In these areas, everything is muffled and muted. So now you have to work with just your eyes, and necromorphs show up without any sort of warning (which is usually a scream or musical accompaniment). On top of this, you only have very little time to stay in the vacuum since oxygen is quickly being depleted. It gets very tense in these areas.
While I’d love to put something from the other Silent Hill games, like Pyramid Head, sadly I only ever played Silent Hill 4: The Room. The flow of gameplay is like this: Henry’s Apartment > World > Back To Henry’s Apartment. Navigation is done in first-person view while in the apartment. So in between worlds, I usually messed around with what ever was in the apartment, like the peephole to Eileen’s apartment, the kitchen area, and most of all the window. Being the nosy bastard I am, I would look though the window to see what the other tenants were doing (the builidng complex was in a U shape). Some would be watching TV, exercising, or other random stuff. So after an extended period of shit-talking voyeurism, suddenly this fucking head just zips passed the window! This took me and Rei, who was watching me play and helping, way off guard and made us scream like little bitches. After that, I never looked out window in the game ever again.
How about a little nightmare fuel. Legion, which was called Granfaloon in Symphony of the Night, is this big ball of naked bodies. The room of this boss is the skeletal remains of these bodies. It didn’t really faze me at first. If anything I probably didn’t know what I was looking at at first. But then I started thinking of this ball of tormented bodies. Imagine being one of ’em, crying in agony, dealing with other bodies around you. You’re on top of someone while someone else is on top of you. The smell of these bodies must be putrid too. Many could be un-bathed, rotting, or probably dead. Your position in the ball could be awful since you might be face to face with the rotting genitals of another person. It could also be equally humiliating if someone else was that close to your junk.
Have fun getting this out of your head.
Rei was borrowing Parasite Eve from a friend after being told it was really good. She showed me the game, and I told her I my awareness of the series since I saw the commercials for the second game, Parasite Eve II. This was around the early 2000’s, probably 2001. We looked in the back and saw the content descriptor of “Mature Sexual Themes” for the first time, so we popped the game in to see what this was about. The timing couldn’t be any more creepier. The game takes place in New York City. “Hey, we live in New York City!” The first day in the game is Christmas Day, December 25th. “Hey, today is December 23rd…” The first scene of the game takes place in Carnegie Hall. “Hey Rei, you played in Carnegie Hall when you were in the school’s band…” And we were playing this in in the middle of the night. The spotaneous combustion of the people, the charred corpses (some still living), and the rat transformation really creeped us out. Central Park, Chinatown, the Museum of Natural History were all familiar locations to us, re-imagined under the scope of horror.
Megaman Legends (surprisingly) has no shortage of really creepy ruins to explore. Dark lighting, creepy music, and autonomous Reaverbots just waiting to pop out and attack you from out of nowhere. But, to me, the creepiest part of the game lies above ground, in an area that, at first, you can’t access until later in the game. This place is the Old City of Kattelox Island. It has no people, no cars, and no music. Just emptiness and ambiance. Worse still is that this is not considered a hazardous area (yet), so you can only kick. So you’re running around, investigating the place, when all of a sudden you hear barking from a stray dog. They come in fast, and they hurt a lot. At first I didn’t know what to do, eventually getting killed by one. On my next visit, I would plan out my route around the Old City and cautiously avoid the dogs.
While we’re on the subject of dogs, lets talk about Resident Evil. The first game on the PS1 was my first experience with a survival horror game, so I had to expect jump scares. The first moment was with the infamous Dog Hall, a long L-shape hallway where two dogs come bursting out the window. The first one pops out behind you while the second one comes out in front of you.
The scary part came during the remake on the Gamecube. With my family watching on (they got really into this game), and my prior knowledge via the first game, I would pass by this hall, expecting a dog to show up. I told everyone this. So I turned around for the first dog, walked backwards, and…… *crack*. No dogs, but instead a crack on the window. “Huh? Did they change this? Maybe they both come out then the second one comes out.” So I walked carefully to the next area where the dog usually shows up. No cracks, no dogs. “I guess… they don’t show up here anymore.” After fidgeting around with whatever I had to do in the room after this one, I had to come back here to go to the other side of the mansion. “Well there’s no dogs here so I’ll just ruHOLY SHIT!” The dogs pop out when you come back, not when you pass around the first time. Good game Capcom.
The fear induced by this game isn’t so much through jump scares or enemies (much), but through the atmosphere and the isolation you experience in much of the games. There are no allies to help you (or a few for the most part). But knowing that there’s no one else to aid you adds to the tension of traversing whatever planet Samus finds herself in next. In Metroid Fusion, you’re in the Biologic Space Labs, and stalking you for the whole game is the SA-X, an X-parasite possessing your old, fully upgraded Varia Suit. In many instances of the SA-X showing up, its footsteps echo throughout the room while you’re in hiding, blasting away doors that it can’t open otherwise. The ship AI warns you to not fight it and to just run. The good thing though is that you more or less get a warning of the SA-X’s presence with either with a blasted door, footsteps, or its theme playing.
Except for one moment. Upon returning to the TRO sector of the labs via a crawlspace, you hear its footsteps. but you have no idea of where it could be. When you drop down, you land directly in front of SA-X. What follows is a tense chase sequence between you and this thing, with plants to jump over, walls to bomb, and doors to open. At the end of the chase, there’s a wall that you can hide behind as the SA-X looks for you. I made sure to not move nor fire anything. When the music calmed down and its footsteps disappeared, I was hesitant to step out.
Finally, here’s something that I wouldn’t expect would scare the living crap outta me. Super Mario, a world full of color and life with nary a scary thing in sight. Save for the Ghost Houses that is, but the scares here are no more scarier than the stuff you see in children’s media like Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark. It’s more or less stuff that might scare kids, but not someone in their teens.
Enter Big Boo’s Haunt, a huge, labyrinthine mansion full of the the Mario series ghosts, the Boos. The place has some creepy moments, but nothing that would make you quit the place. Probably the scariest thing in this place is that music that plays. But here’s this piano. Pianos are cool, always tried to play them in any RPG that had them. They won’t harm me right? Well I walk up to this piano getting read to play (and probably use it as a platform, when all of sudden *CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP* “OH SHIT! FUCK! FUCK!” I ran back out the to previous room, paused the game, and had to take a breather. Now that scared the crap outta me.
And with that, I wish everyone a Happy Halloween! And comment below and tell us what scared the crap out of you when playing videogames.