Happy Halloween! In honor of my favorite holiday of the year, I thought I’d look at something in tune with the season. In gaming, there are a great many horror games, but even non-horror games can have scary or creepy moments. So let’s pay tribute to some of those today. Remember, I’m talking non-horror games, so no Resident Evil, no Silent Hill, no Dead Space, nothing like that. I’ve also left off Bioshock, as while not exclusively a horror game, has a lot of the same elements of one (man, getting down to Rapture and having a splicer scream and claw trying to get at you in your bathysphere… eep.). Some spoilers, too, as I can’t really talk about stuff that happens in-game without them. I’m not limiting myself to one per game, either, as some games have multiple instances of creepiness.
- Honorable Mentions:
Half Life 2- Ravenholm
I had to go back and reacquaint myself with this one, as it’d been a while since I played the game. And I didn’t find it that scary. The headcrabs are creepy and unsettling for sure, but they’re like that throughout the game. I didn’t find that sticking them in a dark, abandoned town to really amp that up all that much for me. I know this is high on a lot of other lists, but this one didn’t really do it for me.
Max Payne- Dream/Hallucinations
I’m pretty sure my reaction while playing these was well this is messed up. I loved Max Payne for it’s noir, comic-inspired vibe, and I thought that these sequences weren’t horribly out of place. I also didn’t really find them scary. When you’re in the headspace of the game, they fit.
- Dead Rising 2- Slappy
Now I know what you’re thinking, I said no horror games and then I include Dead Rising? Yes, while the game may have zombies and a pretty serious storyline, this game is more of a send-up of the genre than anything else. Claim to horror pretty much goes out the window when one of your buildable weapons is a teddy-bear sentry gun that spouts cheesy one-liners (not to mention the ‘Super Ultra Dead Rising 3' Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + α’ mode for the third game). Each game also has a number of mini-bosses, known as ‘psychopaths’. Some are gross, some are sad, and then there’s Slappy. From the moment he appears over your shoulder, to his final jump-scare before death, everything is made much, much creepier with that giant, grinning mascot head. While some psychopaths might be more disturbing when you stop and think about them, Slappy just hits that creepiness button as hard as he can.
- Diablo III- Reaper of Souls Opening Cinematic
Let’s get this out of the way first: Diablo III is not scary the way the first two are. I love it, but it’s definitely more fantasy than horror. I first saw this cinematic as a trailer for the Reaper of Souls expansion, and it looked so good. After steamrolling through the game a couple of times with my Lady Barbarian, here was stuff getting real. You see the lank, almost skeletal figure float in, twin scythes in hand and hear Tyreal call him Maltheal, the Archangel of Wisdom. I like how he was creepier by not saying anything until the very end, a wraith that melts the Horadrim and tears away their souls for his own. Blizzard always has beautiful game cinematics, and this is no exception.
- Star Fox 64- Andross
Here’s the scenario, you’re comfortably playing your rail shooter starring a team of fighter pilot animals and you get to the final boss. He’s a floating head and hands, and that’s nothing too scary. Upon defeating said head and hands he turns either into a terrifying robot skull or a freaking brain with eyeballs (depending on the path you took earlier in the game). Starfox 64 had really cool level bosses with some fun variation, but nothing as pants-crapping as what awaits you on Venom.
- Arkham Asylum- Scarecrow Levels
We all know the levels: imagery of Batman’s lost parents, evading a giant Scarecrow, and even recreating the opening sequence of the game with roles reversed. They’re unsettling, twisted visions in a dark, gritty game, giving you something a little different from endless goons to beat up. There’s not much to say here, they really speak for themselves.
- Mass Effect Series- Various
Mass Effect 1: The first creepy thing you encounter is right near the beginning of the first game. Human corpses, impaled on large spikes, drop down covered in blue, glowing circuitry. Which proceed to charge you like a fast moving zombie. And that’s how you meet the Husks, which will show up throughout the series.
Mass Effect 2: Moving on, Overlord was a DLC for Mass Effect 2 in which you investigate a research base where they were working on a virtual intelligence. Relatively standard sci-fi fare, and so it was, until I was investigating a bunch of terminals. This face jumps out of the terminals with a loud, mechanical shriek. It shows up more than once, and though it never made me jump the way that first one did, I was thoroughly unsettled by it. It all ends with a revelation that’s both heartbreaking and horrifying that you cannot walk away from unscathed. Excellent addition for an excellent game. Honorable mention from the series also comes from the second game, with the reveal of what the Collectors are doing with the humans they capture, and the ‘Human-Reaper’ that is also rather unsettling (even if it does resemble an oversized Terminator).
Mass Effect 3: The third game brought in new enemies, the scariest of which is the Banshee. Similar to the Husk in that it is a blue-glowing corruption of a living creature, the Banshee is far smarter, stronger, and deadlier than its counterpart. Not only are they terrifying to look at, but their wheezing breath and chilling screams are the stuff of nightmares. I’ve seen less frightening creatures in horror games, and definitely ones less efficient at killing you. Needless to say, my first encounter with one did not go well.
- Jade Empire- Old Tien’s Landing and Pilgrim’s Rest Inn
What could possibly go wrong investigating the remains of a town that was flooded when a dam was built? How about finding out that the people of the town may not have been given notice about the flooding? Plenty of ghosts float around the remains of the town giving it a quietly eerie feel, but nothing gets you quite like going into one ruined building and finding the ghosts of two children. An orphanage that had been locked when the flood came, drowning the children inside. Then you find the quarry, and the mine… and it’s not much better.
Another location in and around the town of Tien’s Landing is The Great Southern Forest. Within that forest is an inn, a fairly nondescript place, one of a thousand such inns in fantasy games. The people are a bit odd, but there’s a lot of weird stuff going on in the forest anyway. Until you find out the truth; they reveal themselves as twisted cannibals following a demon ‘Mother’ that you must then defeat. Great game overall though, and it'll hopefully get more love now that it's been ported to mobile.
- The Dragon Age Series- Various
Dragon Age: Origins- Of all three games, the original has the most creepy moments. There’s the abandoned orphanage in the elven part of the capital city. Nice place, minus the demons and spirits who took up residence after a massacre there, and ghostly children’s voices. Then in the Deep Roads when you find the dwarf Hespith and what she has to say, which leads into your first encounter with a Broodmother (all of which hit harder for me the first time, playing as a female dwarf character). The DLC Golems of Amgarrak introduces new creatures in the Deep Roads like the Harvester, a twisted creature created by the dwarves long ago trying to recreate the work of another.
Dragon Age: Awakening- This expansion provides one scare that’s a bit sad, in the form of a ghoul that had been someone close to one of your companions.
Dragon Age II- There’s one particular mission in this game that plays out just like a horror movie. It involves a suspected serial killer, a lair in the sewers, and your mother. There’s some definite suspense and creepiness through the whole thing.
Dragon Age: Inquisition- There’s a village called in Crestwood with eerie similarities to Old Tien’s Landing. ‘Nuff said.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time- Shadow Temple and The Bottom of the Well
And these guys:
Need I say more?
- Fallout 4- Various
To round it out, let’s talk Fallout. Let’s talk about a Deathclaw in the first hour of gameplay. Or another lurking around above you as you make your way through the basement of the Museum of Witchcraft. Not a deathclaw, but equally terrifying is Swan, who I ran into by accident and ended up in a desperate fight with. But what really gets me are the mannequins. They are everywhere, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, and always creepy. I have accidently shot more of the damn things thinking they were enemies than I care to admit.
Let’s not even talk about the monkeys (those I shoot on principle).
Have a great Halloween everyone!
I remember playing Halo at Best Buy during my lunch breaks and not having read a single article or walkthrough about the game, so I didn’t know what was coming. When I first saw the Flood, I let out a manly scream in the middle of the store while having my character bravely run away as fast as possible.
My favourite scary moments in non-horror games are (spoilers for multiple games):
UNDERTALE (2015, unrated)
Ok, so if you’re not aware of what Undertale (or UNDERTALE as it’s sometimes called) is, it’s an indie RPG by Toby “Radiation” Fox (yes, THAT Toby “Radiation” Fox) and Temmie Chang (and oh so many others) with LOTS of endings. Sound good? Wanna look it up? Well, word of advice; DON’T. You will have all 3 (technically more) endings spoiled. GO INTO IT BLIND. Anyway, I’m gonna talk about
The True Lab
Alright, so kicking this list off is the scariest place in the game; Alphys’s true lab. In the incredibly sweet Pacifist Run, you can go on a “date” with Alphys (where she confesses that Undyne is her girlfriend). After the main drama part, Papyrus shows up and starts to train Alphys. On the way out of the area the date happens in, you get a phone call from him (Papyrus) telling you to go to Alphys’s “lab…house…thing”. When you get there, the lift is open. Entering takes you into a normal Hotland lift…until you interact with the buttons, at which point the lift hurtles downwards. When the screen fades back in, you find yourself in a dark teal laboratory filled with abominations. At least there are some funny bits (“Just ordinary Popato Chisps”, Dogsong playing when Endogeny is contented, Alphys leaving a message about her boss Asgore finding a teacup that looks like her (a yellow lizard), Alphys referring to rubbish as “[her] element”), but it is still horrifying. And yet, it’s REALLY fun and explains things like Undyne melting and Flowey’s origin.
Spore (2005, 12)
Alright, this is a bit less obscure; Spore is a 4X life simulation sci-fi game by Will Wright (yes, it IS related to Sims) in which you create an alien species and evolve by adding parts to yourself (at least, until Tribal Stage)
It Came From the Sky
Ok, so this isn’t in vanilla (basic) Spore, but instead is in the Galactic Adventures DLC (2009, 12+). One of the Maxis (co-developers of the game BTW) adventures that can be unlocked in Space Stage is based on The Color Out Of Space by HP Lovecraft with a dash of The Thing (1982) thrown in. Scientists on an icy planet start mysteriously going missing after an alien spaceship crashes in front of their base. At the end, you have to escort the only person in the base who is immune to a virus that the alien from the ship was carrying to a teleporter, all the while being assaulted by infected scientists. And worse, if you want to try it out with your ultra OP octopus-with-rocket-launchers-at-the-tip-of-each-tentacle-thingy captain, you have to complete it as your low-level pikachu-bat-thing first.
Pretty much every Skylanders game from 2 onwards if you have Eye-Brawl (Giants (2012) to Imaginators (2016), both 7)
Ok, so you probably know about this one, but let’s talk about Eye-Brawl; a headless undead giant and a flying eyeball who team up to fight evil and *beep*. Now, let’s examine a particular attack of his;
OK, so I can’t remember much about this attack, but what REALLY sticks in my mind is this pink string of flesh that “Eye” (his “head”) is attached to. Now, I know what you’re thinking; “But DF, that could just be gum left behind by a troll or something!”, “DF, what if it’s just a tentacle inside the giant’s body?” and all that rubbish. But let’s focus on one thing which proves that it’s an optic nerve; IT SNAPS. Yes, in a 7-rated game, a character can snap off their own OPTIC NERVE. Basically, one of Eye-Brawl’s MANY attacks involves the eyeball detaching and flying around while firing lasers. But the animation before it features pale yellow particles emerging from under the eye. But back to the visible optic nerve-thing; in another one of his MANY attacks (which just about outnumber his eye puns), the eye launches out and fires some OP beam. The only thing keeping it on his body is a pink fleshy THING. Yeah…nice going, Activision.
Portal 2 (2011, 12)
Oh yes, Portal 2. The game everyone associates with ATLAS and P-body, even though they are only playable in multiplayer mode. Anyway…
Brain uploading clips
Alright, so this is something that’s not even IN the game; unused voice clips of GLaDOS being created. Due to the way Ellen McClain said the lines, it sounded like Cave was trying to do…the R word. Yes, THAT R word. Good thing Valve chose not to use them.
Minecraft (2009, 8)
Allright, everyone knows at least half of everything about this.
In minecraft, you might come across an item called Disc 11. Right-clicking a jukebox while holding it plays creepy sound clips of someone reloading a gun and running from a yet-to-be-added eldritch mob before dissolving into static. C418 must have been on some SERIOUS tea when he recorded that.
So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my lonest ever post. And remember to gain plenty of LOVE! =)
I listened to those. They’re unnerving to say the least. From what I understand J.K Simmons didn’t even want to record them. Very creepy.
Oh yeah, ATLAS and P-Body! I don’t play multiplayer… pretty much ever so I never really did anything with those two.
Nice list, though! I always like to see other opinions. 🙂
Apparently the story about JK Simmons wasn’t true.