As fun as video games are, some would argue that they’re at their most effective when they’re scaring your pants off. With Halloween season in full swing, it’s time to revisit some of the scariest movies, shows, and games in recent memory. To get in the holiday spirit, this week’s Shack Chat is all about the most terrifying moments in gaming.
Question: What was your scariest moment in a video game?
Getting jump scared by the Xenomorph for the first time – Ozzie Mejia, can’t stand jump scares
I still haven’t forgotten my first impression of Alien Isolation way back at GDC 2014. I was so used to cookie-cutter Alien games, but I never expected a game that would actually live up to what the franchise is meant to be. So when I went in for that press preview and got tossed into a dark room with only the PC and a pair of headphones, I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for.
Then I carelessly walked around and got jumped by the Xenomorph for the first time. I will never forget it.
Stalkers in The Last of Us Part 2 – Donovan Erskine, doesn’t play scary games
The village attack sequence in Fable was the first video game sequence to ever terrify me, but I already wrote about it in a previous ShackChat.
There are a couple of sequences in The Last of Us Part 2 where you have to deal with stalkers, a stealthy form of the infected that hides behind cover and sneaks up on you. Usually, I’m not frightened by zombies or undead in video games and movies, but the stalkers really got under my skin. Being alone in dark silence, with just a handful of bullets, knowing that you’re being watched and followed really put me on edge. In any other game, I would have just shot anything that moved, spraying bullets everywhere. You don’t have that luxury in The Last of Us Part 2. The game already puts the player in such an anxious state that these sequences had me completely on edge. The most “scared” I’ve been playing a game in a long time.
Losing a 3v1 to Discoryne – Blake Morse, Thought he was good at Rocket League
I don’t play a lot of horror or jump scare games, and nothing along those lines comes to mind immediately when I think of my personal scariest gaming moment. However, it was excruciatingly horrifying to be on a team with two colleagues I consider to be very good Rocket League players and get our butts squashed by a singular, lone DiscoRyne. The game was only five minutes, but each second of punishment was pure cruelty. I think I’ve been a little shell-shocked since it happened too. It’s definitely affected my confidence in my own abilities at the very least. I hope nothing this scary ever happens to me in a video game ever again.
Friday the 13th (NES) – Chris Jarrard, Weed and Pre-marital sex
For better or worse, I was exposed to the Friday the 13th movies (as well as its contemporaries) at a rather young age. I found slasher flicks to be lots of fun. As was the case in the late 1980s, movie and video game consumption was done via rental in my household. On most weekends, I looked forward to the trips to the video store. I was mesmerized by horror flick VHS box art and rentals were the way I got to play most NES games.
One weekend, Friday the 13th for the NES showed up on the rental rack and selecting it was a no brainer. The game drops you into the shoes of several counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, the location where most Friday the 13th movies take place. The central antagonist of the series, Jason Vorhees, is running wild across the game map and you must defend the camp’s children from him while not getting murdered yourself.
A combination side-scroller and third-person behind the back (when you are inside cabins, etc) suspense thriller, Friday the 13th suffers from faults inherent in many licensed games, but it succeeds in one area — jump scares. While playing the game, Jason Vorhees can pop up out of nowhere and every time it happens, the occasion is celebrated by a loud sound effect that, when coupled with the anxiety of the player’s impending doom, make things pretty scary, no matter how many times it happens. Due to NES limitations, Jason is represented in purple coveralls and a blue mask, but somehow everything still works to make me hop out of my seat 30 years later.
Redeads, Ocarina of Time – Sam Chandler, Please don’t yell at me
I was but a wee seven year old when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released. I remember going over to a friend’s house and playing it on her Nintendo 64 late into the evening over the course of a weekend. It was the first Zelda game I’d ever played, and it remains, to this day, my favorite.
The dramatic shift in atmosphere at major plot points, the stories of the towns and areas you visit, they all worked together and left me enthralled. But one thing that shook me to my core were the Redeads.
These terrifying zombie-like creatures are found crouching in shrouded darkness. As they slowly rise and shamble about their dark world, if they so much as spot Link, they let out a horrifying screech, petrifying Link, freezing him in terror. They remain one of the most terrifying creatures to me, made even more unsettling by the lore surrounding them.
Bloater in The Last of Us – Bill Lavoy, Managing Editor
It’s hard to say if this is my scariest moment, but it’s a chunk of gameplay that stands out to me as being terrifying, even though it’s really not that bad.
The Pittsburgh chapter from The Last of Us saw Joel in the basement of a hotel, trapped with a Bloater. Bloaters, if you don’t know, are people who have been infected for a very long time. They are large and gross to look at, and very difficult to kill. Bloaters don’t move particularly fast, but they are unrelenting.
In this sequence, players had to move through the area and find a way to get a generator working to escape, all while dealing with the Bloater. Now, if you’re not paralyzed with fear like I was, you might be able to pull this off easily. However, I was terrified, and that only ensured the Bloater killed me, confirming my fears and causing me to become more frightened. A vicious cycle.
I eventually killed the Bloater and escaped, and even went back on subsequent runs and handled business easily, but that has always stuck out to me as a sequence that terrified me. In fact, just watching a clip of this on YouTube got my heart racing again.
Being stalked in Alien: Isolation – Josh Hawkins, Professional Scaredy Cat
When it comes to horror, I’m a bit of a baby. I’ll be the first to admit that. That still hasn’t stopped me from trying to play games or watch movies and shows in the genre though. Despite the various games I’ve played in the horror genre, though, nothing has even come close to the feeling of being stalked by the Alien in Alien: Isolation.
The feeling of anxiety that creeps up on you as you move through the world, always knowing that this vicious creature could be just around the corner, or in the vent just ahead of you, was something that was hard to shake. I remember going to bed with my hands shaking several nights throughout the playthrough, and honestly, had I not been playing the game for work, I’d have probably never finished it. While it isn’t necessarily a single moment, nothing has come close to the fear that plagued me throughout that game.
I don’t even think the Alien is that scary when it’s on screen. It’s that tension and constant anxiousness that comes from the excellent sound design that really drives the fear home at a level that I haven’t experienced in any other game to date.
Silent Hill 3’s mirrored death room – TJ Denzer, Never dropped a controller since
So here’s the situation: Silent Hill 3 features normalish and nightmare version of its locales. Deep into the game, you end up in a hospital, and once you get to that hospital’s nightmare version, there’s a certain room with a washtub and mirror. In the mirror, you’ll see inky black tendrils creep their way towards the tub. All the while, the in-mirror you will start to rot. Then the tendrils you saw in the mirror will creep out of the tub near you, outside the mirror. You’ll keep rotting in the mirror while your actual room is encased in writhing reddish black. Then the you in the mirror will stop moving and you will begin to die if you don’t escape the room.
It’s easily one of the most psychologically terrifying sequences I can remember in a video game. And for me personally, it was made worse by my own folly. I was playing this part, got really nervous, and knocked the TV remote off my couch where it hit the ground and perfectly landed on the power button to turn the TV off. Panic mode. I jumped off the couch and scrambled to get the remote and turn it back on. When it turned off, the tendrils were creeping out of the tub and the corpse-like me in the mirror had stopped. When I turned it back on, the me outside the mirror was starting to look like the corpse-like me in the mirror and the room was covered in that reddish black and boiling. I noped the heck out. And to this day, I have gone out of my way to never drop a remote controller ever again. Especially during horror games.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s water monster – David L. Craddock, long reads editor
In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, what you don’t see is even scarier (and able to do more harm) than what you can. For the first quarter or so of the game, you must solve puzzles and piece together the story while avoiding monsters that stalk you through Castle Brennenburg. Eventually, you descend into the cellar and find it flooded, its books and casks of wine ruined. Ah, if only that was your biggest problem.
There’s something in the water. Something that takes slow, heavy footsteps that splash water as it hunts for you. Your only way forward is to hop along boxes floating in the water. Fall in, and those heavy footsteps increase in speed. The video I’ve linked barely does the scene justice. When you’re the one playing, headphones on and your computer room dark… yeah. Good luck.
Exploring the Ship – Resident Evil VII Greg Burke, Head of Video
There’s a part in RE7 (spoilers) where you explore a derelict ship, while you’re being chased by some kind of sludge monster. You are completely defenseless and have no choice but to run. The ship is like a maze and the creepy noises make this a terrifying scene.
The House of the Dead 2-Steve Tyminski, Contributing Editor
Halloween is right around the corner so the question becomes what is the scariest moment I’ve witnessed in a video game? I don’t really play scary video games all too often but if I had to come up with a scariest moment, I’d go with seeing a chainsaw-wielding zombie charging at you in House of the Dead 2. My first experience with House of the Dead 2 would have been when I was a kid, playing it in an arcade on family vacation. You’d get into the large cabinet and play with either my father or brother and we’d go to town on some zombies. Being young, you’re not expecting all the zombies to jump out and there are some jump scares, like the zombie with a chainsaw.
So, now we turn the question over to you. Please share with us your scariest moment in a video game!