They say the most successful scares are the ones you don’t see coming. When you play a horror game, you know you are going into the game expecting to wet your willy, so the scares that hit you are much less effective. Take Dead Space for example, a truly terrifying game, but by the end of the first and throughout the sequels you grew accustomed to the horrors and the series turns into just another over-the-shoulder shooter. Now if you were to add horror elements into games that don’t fall into the horror genre, you will find scares to scar you for life. This list covers ten truly frightening moments from non-horror games that prove that you are never safe from the perils of the afterlife, paranormal and science gone rouge!
Max Payne’s Nightmares
Max Payne chronicles the gritty revenge-drive world of a detective who loses it all. Yeah, the story is predictable as all hell, but there are some twists that make the series memorable. Most notably, Max’s hilariously horrid nightmares that the player must play through! When Max catches some Z’s, his past catches up with him and makes him suffer by reliving the events that transpired the murder of his wife and child over and over again. This results in the game going from a fast-paced third-person shooter with an emphasis on bullet time to a somber, ominous tale of physiological warfare. You’ll hear creepy music-box tunes, the weeping and pleading of his wife and the crying of his child. The sights seen are so surreal and unlike everything else in the game, there’s no way to shake the haunted imagery they instill.
At one point, you must tip-toe across a thread-thin trail of blood across the vast abyss of nothingness that ends in the room where his infant child was brutally murdered. This is scary because if you step one megapixel off the path you fall to your death. Bad game design is a fright!
Metal Gear Solid’s Nuke Warehouse
While the quality of the series has deteriorated over the years, the original Metal Gear Solid will forever be remembered for its perfect blend of action and stealth, as well as the reveal of the forth-wall breaking Psycho Mantis. While his ability to read what was on your memory card was a fantastic spook in its own right, the lead up to the encounter was much more blood-curdling.
When you enter the nuke warehouse you’re greeted to the “corridor of death” – a hallway that is home to the scattered remains of the soldiers stationed there. Their bodies lay motionless with their blood is strewn all over the floor, walls and even the ceiling. As you start to progress a soldier stumbles around the corner, weakly claims a ghost did this and then expires in front of you. You’ll hear the gunfire and cries of soldiers up ahead attempting to fend off whatever was responsible for the slaughter and catch a glimpse of the ghastly Psycho Mantis killing an unsuspecting soldier while donning active camo. At that moment you know you’re about to go toe-to-toe with someone unlike anything you’ve faced before – and that’s terrifying!
Halo’s The Flood
Halo: Combat Evolved is a game about a super soldier killing cartoonish aliens in space while wearing a suit of armor that regenerates his health/shield. While the Elites certainly have ugly faces, they aren’t scary and only serve as bullet sponges. Nothing about Halo is scary. Well, except for The Flood. The Flood are a parasitic alien life form that’s discovered in Halo: Combat Evolved. It served as an unexpected plot twist and rightfully so. When you’re playing a game about a space soldiers shooting aliens, the last thing you expect to run into are space zombies!
The Flood come in all shapes and sizes, so once you encounter them you never know what variant the game will throw at you next. The Flood has four developmental stages; each is frightening , but those in the feral stage are the most memorable. In this form, they take on the host of other living things. In the case of Combated Evolved, the living things are humans. Watching fallen comrades morph into the terrifying Flood for the first time is something that’ll stick with you.
Super Mario 64’s Big Boo’s Haunt
Mario games serve one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to supply simplistic gameplay that even the youngest or oldest gamers can pick up and play. The violence is almost non-existent, as jumping on enemies results in them disappearing off the screen or into a cloud of smoke. Same goes for Mario “dying.” Super Mario 64 brought the classic Mario format and made it three dimensional. Every world you go to feels different from the last, and even those filled with lava hazards are a whimsical endeavor. All is fun and games in Super Mario 64… until you enter Big Boo’s Haunt.
The level’s theme song is eerie in its own right, but discovering the enemies in the haunted house is where the true terror comes into play. Prior to Super Mario 64, Boos have always been easy to escape. This remains the case in Mario 64, but unfortunately for the player the haunted house is home to terries that haven’t been seen before. Imagine entering an empty room with nothing but a piano and chair in it. You know there’s something special about this room, but your greedy mind is only focused on finding stars. You carelessly walk over to the piano and it springs alive, knocks over a chair for dramatic effect, and takes a bite out of poor ol’ Mario! This jump scare has remained one of the most effective in the history of video games.
Batman: Arkham Asylum’s Morgue
As a character, I have always loved Batman’s Scarecrow. He’s easily tied with the Joker on my top comic villains of all time list. Instead of using blunt force or delusional greed to fuel his dastardly endeavors like so many other villains, he’s a (relatively) sane psychiatrist that attacks the fragile psyche of his victims.
Without a doubt, Arkham Asylum breathed new life into Batman’s classic foes. While the game was fantastic up until the point where Batman enters the morgue filled with fear gas, the game really gets a double dose of “holy shit” once the hallucinations start to take place. Not only is scarecrow’s appearance actually scary, but the context of the hallucinations Batman must endure are equally disturbing and frightening. While most of his tactics are targeted at the mental state of Batman himself, some of the words spewed will send chills down your spine and potentially even serve as triggers for the more tenuous-minded. Psychological horror is the most effect horror!
Thief Deadly Shadow’s Shalebridge Orphanage
The Thief series is about sneaking through the shadows and stealing things from those deserving of having their pockets fingered. Who would have expected to have to enter an orphanage turned asylum and encounter the horrors within? And boy, were there some horrors within! The entire story surrounding the orphanage is as grim as they come. Medieval “treatments” were preformed on the mentally ill. Electroshock, lobotomies and my ever favorite “submerging” hydrotherapy were all performed on the unfortunate inhabitants.
But that was long ago. They are all dead and gone and the riches inside are ripe for Garret’s taking, right? Wrong! Garrett encounters the ghost of a woman who convinces him to assist her in releasing her soul from the shackles of the orphanage. This requires navigating the orphanage that is now inhabited by 8-9 “Puppets,” which are the zombified remains of the inmates that lived and died in the asylum days. If that’s not bad enough, you’ll encounter the shadowy remains of the orphanage’s staff. They can’t attack you, but that doesn’t make their creepy appearances any less frightening.
Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines’ Haunted Ocean House Hotel
Sure, Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines is a game about vampires, but much like Twilight, the vampires in it are fluffy bunnies. I guess in that regard, it is a horror title… but I digress. For the most part, vampires are barely anything more than humans. Sorry Edward, but there has never been anything scary about a human with fangs. Bloodlines gets you used to expecting nothing but run-ins with humans and vampires, so when you stumble into the Ocean House Hotel, you’re expecting more of the same – and that’s where your world gets turned upside down.
Upon stepping foot inside the Ocean House, you will immediately regret your decision. You will hear unsettling voices, see apparitions and get household objects hurled at you. As you progress through the eerie establishment, your experience gets more violent until it reaches its malevolent climax. The amount of terror that goes on in the Ocean House turns a pretty forgettable game into a lifetime’s worth of memories that will forever be seared into the minds of those who have witnessed the madness.
Half-Life 2’s Ravenholm
The entire plot of Half-Life 2 revolves around a theoretical physicist turned resistance hero who fights “the man” and aliens in a world gone to shit. Needless to say, that makes the game awesome. You know what else makes it awesome? Headcrabs and zombies. Sure, by themselves they aren’t really anything special, but put them into the context of Ravenholm and they become much more daunting.
Ravenholm was originally a mining town, but it was turned into a Resistance stronghold where refugees fled from City 17. They flew under the radar for a while, but once the Combine discovered the town, they responded in the evilest way imaginable. They gave the town crabs. In Valve’s trademark story-telling fashion à la Left 4 Dead, you discover the story through exploring the remains of the town in an nonlinear fashion. You can speed through it, shooting zombies and headcrabs along the way, but for the first time in the series you get an understanding of how horrendous those little buggers are if you take the time to slowly explore the consequences of the Combine’s headcrab bombardment.
World of Warcraft’s The Pentagram Children of Goldshire
Back in my day, you had to earn your place in Azeroth. Nowadays you can acquire just about anything you want in World of Warcraft without even trying. Hell, now you can even look up creepy random encounters on dedicated wikis to read about what happened. I didn’t have that luxury when I encountered “the pentagram children.”
I was a naive young hero. Not only did I proudly join the Alliance, I also slept in Goldshire Inn every night before I logged off because I didn’t know I could set other structures as my home. One night, long ago, I was at the right place at the wrong time. Just returning from a hunt of wild boars other other under level 20 monstrosities, I headed up to my room only to find a Night Elf and a Gnome engaged in role-play intercourse. Instead of interrupting them, I ventured to a different house to log off. I found a quaint little cabin and made my way upstairs. The first thing I noticed was creepy music playing and what sounded like a banshee scream. Then I noticed them, the six human children standing in a pentagram formation. I had the mod Quest Helper installed at the time, and it told me I was 666 yards away from the Elwynn Forest/Stormwind border. While my jaw was on the floor over something that couldn’t be merely a coincidence, an in-game voice spoke “Death is close.” Needless to say, I signed out after that. Being the curious cat I am, I logged back in almost immediately to see if they were still there. They had vanished and to this day I haven’t encountered them since. Sure, you can read all about them on WoW Wiki, but at the the time discovering and speculating their existence was much more immersive and terrifying.
Everything to do with Majora’s Mask
Okay, what the fucking shit is going on in the above picture?! I played the game and I don’t think I even know what was going on when I encountered it myself. Hell, I doubt I made it far enough to see that heinousness mess. From the get-go, you know Majora’s Mask is unlike every other Nintendo game in existence. The entire plot revolves around a doomsday scenario where the moon is falling from the sky in three days time. Like many others playing Majora’s Mask for the first time, I expected it to be along the lines of Ocarina of Time – a generic tale of good vs evil and the child who grows up to save the world and the love of his life. I did not not expect it to be the most horrifying video game experience I’ve ever played.
The somber tale of the apocalypse aside, the dark themes leak over into every aspect of the game. The main antagonist, Skull Kid, lets out the most blood-curdling scream imaginable. The moon isn’t just a moon, it’s a living, breathing, satanic organism with the creepiest face renderable on the Nintendo 64. The musical score is dark and gloomy, making it even more memorable than Ocarina of Time’s soundtrack. The wearable masks in the game resemble the mask from the movie The Mask in the sense that they bond to Link’s face, essentially becoming a part of him every time he puts one on. On top of that, you never feel safe in the game since the clock is always counting down. At every given time you know the world is ending and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. All you can do is use the Song of Time to transport you back to the beginning of the three days to relive the horror again and again.
What’s the scariest video game you’ve ever played? Tell us in the comments!