Ahhhhhh, velcome to the most terrrrrifying veature you vill ever read. Velcome to … THE SCARIEST VIDEOGAME MOMENTS OF ALL TIME. I am your host, Dracula. You may know me from such games as Castlevania, Castlevania II, Castlevania III, Castlevania IV, Castleva … vell, you get the idea. I have been in a lot of vreakin’ Castlevania games.
BUT NOW I AM HERE TO TERRORIZE YOU, not that stubborn fool Simon Belmont. What a miserable little pile of secrets …
In this veature, all the delicious, varm-blooded Destructoid editors picked their scariest videogame moments of all time. Vhat videogames have scared them the most? Vhich have turned their hair vhite? Vhich have left them frozen in fear?
Enjoy … and make sure to keep one eye open vhen you go to sleep tonight. It is Halloveen, after all. The most appetizing day of the year. I vill be vatching you …
There are many videogame moments that have scared me over the years: The zombie dog jumping through the window in the original Resident Evil; the spine-chilling Phanto chasing me through Super Mario Bros. 2; the evil wizard Manannan randomly appearing and killing main character Gwydion in King’s Quest III.
As scary and traumatizing as these moments are, nothing will ever top the most terrifying videogame sequence I have ever experienced: one that occurs in Resident Evil 4.
I will never forget the specific moment.
I had just purchased Resident Evil 4 for the GameCube. I brought the game home during the day, but decided to wait until late at night to play it. It was a Resident Evil game — and a revolutionary one at that! — and I wanted to experience it the way a Resident Evil game should be experienced: in the dark with all the lights off.
I sat down with the GameCube controller in my hand, started up the game, and was ready for an amazing, chilling adventure.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
When I first started, I was impressed by the game’s incredible graphics and vastly improved control scheme. As I journeyed through the woods in the game’s early moments, I was tense, as I knew something was most likely waiting around the corner.
Then I entered the small, European village.
Once I saw the deranged villagers burning a body, I knew something bad was about to happen. Once they started chasing me from all angles I started freaking out.
What terrified me the most was that there was nowhere to hide. If I climbed onto a roof, the villagers would follow me. If I barred a door, they would climb through a window. Everywhere I ran the villagers would chase me, never letting me rest for a second.
As much as this scared me, it was nothing — and I mean, nothing! — compared to what happened to me once the chainsaw maniac Dr. Salvador was unleashed.
Once Dr. Salvador started coming for me I could barely breathe. I will never forget hearing the chainsaw in the distance, getting closer and closer and closer …
When I ran somewhere to hide, he would find me.
And, unlike the villagers, Dr. Salvador has a giant chainsaw that could kill me with one swift swing.
Then the moment happened.
If I wasn’t traumatized enough, there I was, trapped in a house, nowhere to run. I quickly jumped through a nearby window and ran around a corner to get away from the attacking villagers.
As I turned the corner, Dr. Salvador was right there.
Before I even had a chance to react, his chainsaw swung forward, ripping the head off main character Leon Kennedy.
I screamed. Like, really screamed. As Leon’s bloody body fell to the ground and the words “Game Over” appeared on the screen, I was somehow standing up over my chair and breathing hard. I was noticeably terrified. I was shaking. I had never had such a physical reaction to a game before. I actually had to put the controller down and leave the room.
The way Dr. Salvador just surprised me. The way the chainsaw came out of nowhere. The sound it made as it chopped Leon in two. The blood. Oh God, the blood. It was such a visceral, frightening experience for me — one that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
I have played Resident Evil 4 many times since, and still start shaking every time I am about to enter the village.
It is the scariest videogame moment I have ever experienced.
Friday The 13th on the Commodore 64.
No joke, it’s one of the scariest games I have ever played. If you’ve never played it, the idea is to rescue all the Crystal Lake kids before Jason Voorhees murders them.
In a rather stretched case of artistic license, Jason is in “disguise” as one of the kids so you don’t know who the killer is. It’s all fine and dandy as you get kids to follow you to a safe house, but if Jason gets to one of them before you do, he offs them. When he does this, there’s a digitized shriek which, thanks to the aged technology, is one of the most blood-curdling and horrific sounds in the world. Even worse, some of the deaths are randomly accompanied by intricately (for the time) detailed images of heads with machete’s going into them and skulls. So, you have this game in which there are vague collections of blocks made to look like people, and every now and then the game will FUCKING SCREAM AT YOU while an image that’s a hundred times more detailed than the rest of the game is shoving DEAD HEADS AND SCARY SKELLINGTONS IN YOUR EYES!
GOD DAMN IT JASON, YOU’RE HORRIBLE!
My scariest videogame moment has to do with Resident Evil. Now I could just claim that classic “zombie dog through the window” bit, but it’s actually a moment in Resident Evil 3. Up until this game, I was confident in the knowledge that if a room in a Resident Evil game looked like too much trouble, I could just go back through the door and have time to strategize a bit before continuing on.
And then I met Nemesis.
I remember encountering him for the first time and being freaked out hearing him yell “STAAAAARS” that I immediately went though one of the doors. I naturally assumed I was safe, but then as I continued on in the room I heard the infamous Nemesis music play. HE KNOWS HOW TO OPEN DOORS?! WTF?!?!
I ran as far as I could through door after door, never looking back, and he continued to follow me. It appeared that nowhere was safe, until I finally reached an area that he didn’t follow. I still remember that as a moment when I realized Nemesis was an all new enemy.
I went throughout the rest of the game in fear of him.
I like having control and mastery over my virtual environment, so any game that has respawning enemies, invisible enemies or the like just scares the crap out of me at a very basic level. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth had a really tense sequence where you had to escape through a hotel in Innsmouth, not having any real tools to survive the mob if they caught you.
In Fatal Frame, though, knowing you had to go places and that there were scary ghosts that could hurt you on the way, and THEN having to use a camera to dispatch of them instead of being to shoot them in the face, that was enough for me to go “Ok, yeah this is great but I’m just going to watch something less scary like Ringu now.”
Nowadays I can rationalize the scary factor of bosses or survival horror enemies in games away with a simple “Oh this is just an annoying design decision to put this in here” or a “Well that boss seems to have a pattern so he’s not that scary if I see him as a box with scripts I can work around.” Fatal Frame will always be that game I played for an hour and never finished, and probably never will finish.
Well done, Fatal Frame.
Underwater sequences in videogames scare the crap out of me. I have no problem with swimming underwater in real life, but put a game character underwater with a little air meter on the side and I freak out. I can pinpoint the origin of this crippling fear with one of my first 3D games, Banjo-Kazooie.
After two levels featuring relatively harmless water, the third level forced the player to swim underwater most of the time for the items they needed to reach the next level. “Clanker’s Cavern” was drenched in dingy water lit by dim lights, with a giant, grinning, terrifying (albeit friendly) mechanical shark sitting in the middle of the main water pit. As far as my younger self was concerned, there was no telling when Clanker was going to drop the act and chomp down on me with those giant metal teeth!
But the always-present threat of Clanker wasn’t enough to scare me. No, the jiggies I needed for the next level were always at the very end of a long swim, depleting my precious supply of air. Hell, one of them was at the very bottom of an extremely deep hole in the cavern that you could just barely make it to before your air ran out! Sure, there was a helpful fish that made air bubbles to replenish your breath, but when you figured in the iffy underwater controls, it was too easy to miss those bubbles, never mind maneuver yourself through a key three times.
Suddenly, I panicked. I wanted out. I started swimming towards the surface that looked prohibitively far away at the moment, becoming more and more frightened as my air slipped away. It finally ran out, and all I could do was watch as Banjo and Kazooie suffocated what felt like miles below the surface, alone.
(Of course, Rare would have guessed at my fear and decide to make things even scarier in Banjo-Tooie with a level that, beyond a few buildings, was entirely underwater — “Jolly Roger’s Lagoon” — but at least they had the courtesy to turn the water breathable for that level.)
System Shock 2 is a pretty terrifying game, but it’s 10x scarier when you suck at it.
The atmospheric hum of the ship, cautionary signs, desolate living quarters, and grotesque “humans” on-board the Von Braun starship disturbed me more than any other game at the time. It’s important that I highlight just how unsettling the hum of the ship can be, especially with a proper setup. I had just received a surround sound, 5-piece speaker set for my birthday which increased the detailed, haunting sound design by a great measure.
There is one moment that I remember from the game that I will never forget and, no, it’s not that moment. It’s one that organically came about through the game’s environment. I was a good four-to-five hours into the game, lost in some sort of cargo area with no ammo. I had already cleared the area but was completely lost. Not exactly the proper setup to impress a friend/console-gamer. Despite this, my friend Jeremy was into the game and my journey for an exit. I eventually came across an elevator in one of the cargo rooms.
“Finally! Press the button!”
“No shit, I’m going to press the button.”
Yet, nothing happened. No elevator came down. Instead, I received a text response stating: “Maintenance will arrive shortly.” I tried a couple more times but nothing happened. We decided it was just one of those meaningless messages games sometimes throw at you for atmosphere. There is no maintenance and this elevator will never work. No one was coming. Right?
So, we continue to walk up, down, and all around the cargo room in search of something. Anything. All the while, we hear a strange noise in the distance. At first, we think it’s a figment of our imagination or a random sound bite in the soundtrack. But, it grows louder and louder still.
“Maybe the elevator is back.”
“Is that what future elevators sound like?”
So, we make our way back to the elevator. The noise now is deafening. It’s the sound of cogs twisting and turning, grinding metal. It’s like nails on a chalkboard played through an amplifier. The sound is unbearable and the bass is shaking my entire computer table. And …
“Oh, no. The door is … closed.”
As we stare at the shut elevator door, we notice the deafening noise had ended. Something has arrived. Something?
We turn around and before we can even get a good look at it, a towering maintenance bot — which looked very much like the one Ripley powered at the end of Aliens — smashes us with a single deathblow. The noise its attack made was the most unnerving sound of all. We were so caught off-guard by the sound and sight of the robot that my friend had dug his fingers into my shoulder and I fell backward in my chair.
It seemed like a good moment to look at the FAQ.
Since I reviewed Amnesia: The Dark Descent and called it one of the scariest games in years, I’m practically obligated to talk about that, aren’t I?
Anyway, one of the best parts of that game was the “flooded hallway” sequence from that game, which is scary and great because all the way up to that point the game’s mechanics all contribute to the scariness of the chase, making up a kind of “perfect storm” of fright, where everything makes everything else better.
Where light is the one thing that keeps you from going crazy in Amnesia, there are no torches in that area, and you’ve probably used up all your lamp fuel solving the puzzles that came before that point. Where just looking at the monsters might make you crazy in Amnesia, you cannot see the monster chasing you, only able to hear it breathing and snarling (and I swear that I heard it muttering at some point) as it chases you around.
The game’s movement-based interaction also made the section extra-frantic. Because you have to open a door in Amnesia by “grabbing” it with your mouse and “dragging” it open, the fact that all the doors in that area open inwards makes you dread opening any room, because you feel like that guy in a horror movie who runs into a door and struggles with the knob until the monster comes to eat him.
You’ve been learning how to play Amnesia all the way up to this sequence, only to find out, to your horror, that the end result is not success, but a reaffirmation of your helplessness and the hostility of your environment. It’s like teaching yourself to read the text on a sign, only to learn that the sign says “Dude, if you can read this, you are SO boned.”
My scariest videogame moment comes from an arcade title called Chiller.
Chiller is a light gun game from the ‘80s, before the ESRB existed, before people gave much thought on what violent videogames might do to a child’s mind. Being a child at the time, I was quite concerned about what videogames might do to my mind, as there was one particular game that would freak me the fuck out to the point where I couldn’t even look at it. Chiller was a blast of sexually charged, ultra violent anarchy that completely shorted out all my brain cells. The fact that the game even existed scared me.
You know how when you’re wandering around in a dark cave, and you see a skeleton, you immediately pee your pants with fright? That’s what Chiller did to me (sans pee pants). The skeleton itself isn’t a threat; it’s the fact that it’s there that’s scary. Where there is a skeleton, there is something that kills people. That means you could be next. Come to think of it, Chiller was worse than a skeleton. It was like a dead child’s naked body, but in videogame form.
Chiller is a game where you shoot at things. The way I remember it, you get points for everything you shoot. The things that you can shoot range from ghosts, bats, rats, and COMPLETELY NAKED MEN AND WOMEN THAT ARE BEING TORTURED. You can shoot the implements of torture to activate them (shoot the rack to make it pull a man apart, shoot the vice to make it spin and crush a woman’s head), or just shoot the people themselves, blowing their arms, legs, and even faces clean off their bodies.
It’s pure sadism. The people are totally vulnerable, totally defenseless. The fact that they are mostly naked only adds an additionally perverse, revolting twist on the whole thing. The game was so disgusting to me that, after my first morbidly curious play of the thing, I wouldn’t even let myself look at it. I memorized its location in my local super-arcade, and refused to even walk close to that area of the floor.
Part of me was scared of the game, another part of me was scared of the people that were playing the game, but more than anything, the fact that this game even existed made me afraid. Even as a child, I understood that it was the responsibility of adults to protect children. The fact that this game was created, bought, and displayed in a public place largely inhabited by children showed me that adults did not always do their job. If this purely evil game was allowed into the arcade, what other things would be allowed? What other terrible experiences would the adults permit me to have, or worse, what would they permit others to do to me.
I still can’t play a game of Chiller without having the urge to throw up.
The last thing I remember REALLY creeping me out was the part in Limbo when the giant spider slowly follows you through the cave. To be fair, I was playing it projected on a wall in a dark room, with surround sound, and that game has incredible sound design.
Also, I’m a gigantic baby and spiders are scary.
Last year, I made a list of eight videogames that frightened me with the caveat that none of the games could technically be categorized under horror. Consider the following an addendum to that piece.
The Battletoads series is best remembered as being brutally difficult — sometimes unfairly so — yet with just enough leeway to entice players to return again and again. It stands to reason that failing and replaying the same challenges ad nauseam would mess with your head. If you stare up at a wall long enough, eventually you start to fear that wall.
For me, that fear exploded into full-blown terror during my time with the Game Boy version of Battletoads. In the fifth stage, you have to race through the seemingly endless intestines of a river serpent while a giant ball of brain matter tries to flatten you. It is a sick and sinister course that twists, turns, and doubles back on itself. Should you make even the slightest miscalculation in your jump or turn just a smidgen too early … BAM! Toad tostada.
I wouldn’t have been so frightened had my pursuer been an Indiana Jones temple boulder, but a sentient organ that bounces instead of rolls? That’s the kind of B-movie horror that’s just campy and irrational enough to tuck itself somewhere in your mind, only to return should you make the mistake of allowing your imagination to wander even for a second. Just remembering the sound that thing made and how the ground would shake as it bounded along, even while it was out of view, fills me with dread as I type this.
But the worst part is the very beginning of the level. The trial is set up like a race, and naturally, the race won’t begin until you cross the start line. The brain is right there too, hopping up and down in anticipation but otherwise doing nothing. You know that the second that you cross that line, the temporary truce that you and the brain had established will end. The longer you stand there, the more your confidence will wane as the anxiety gnaws away. The brain even has the balls to give you a head start, only to freak the ever-loving shit out of you when it tears into view from beyond the screen border.
Watch the longest two minutes in gaming here, then imagine failing and retrying this nightmare until your thumbs crumble from sheer attrition.
Silent Hill, the original.
I was a mere child at the age of the game’s release, and I had borrowed the title from, let’s face it, the coolest high school math teacher ever. My mother didn’t know, my father didn’t know … no one knew what I was doing. Alone in my room. Door locked. Furiously paddling my joysticks.
The game was eerie, no doubt. And I wouldn’t come to understand its sublime take on fatherhood and familial distress until much later in life, but it wasn’t exactly scaring me just yet. I was unnerved, but not terrified. Skinless pterodactyls crashing through diner windows would make my heart skip a beat, but that adrenaline quickly boiled over to rage with Harry’s inability to fire a fucking pistol. Shoot. Just shoot. Shoot STRAIGHT. He’s right in front of you. Shoot! SHOOT! JUST SHOOT THE FUCKING THING, GOD DAMN YOU HARRY!!
Finally though, the game got me. And it got me good. Why? Because it knew how to take its time with this lady. Foreplay, gentlemen. Horror foreplay. Walking around an abandoned school creeped me the hell out. It just plain did. My mom was a teacher. My dad was a teacher. I spent plenty of late nights with them working, and I knew exactly what it was like to walk down darkened halls, absent both of light and life. So when Harry entered the locker room (which ought to have been terrifying on its own – SPORTS!!) I was on my toes. A banging sound; but from where? Around the corner there, a small door. Rattling, clanging, groaning as if something inside furiously yearned to be free. Harry reached out with slight hesitation. Was this a good idea?
A cat burst from the locker, sprinting and clawing feverishly in its attempt to escape. A sharp yelp from just outside the room. And then, silence.
Later, Harry would re-enter a twisted, hellish version of that same locker room, only to hear that same distinct twang of metal on metal as the same locker door banged heavily again. But how was this possible? Had Harry traveled back in time? Or was this some nightmare, reminding me of the jump in my chest that had happened just a few short minutes ago? Harry reached out with that same hesitation, more unsure than ever if he should open this cage. His fingers touched upon the door and… stillness. The locker turned limp; lifeless. No more banging. No more noise. The door swung out with its hinges squealing, revealing an interior caked with blood and gore. Having grown up on a farm, the smell of dead animal was a familiar one. My nostrils flooded my brain, reminding me of the stench. My stomach lurched as the adrenaline from anticipation began to settle. Harry turned to walk away, nothing more to be found here. He took two, maybe three steps toward the exit.
Another bang, this one even louder than before, as a blur fell before him; a corpse, twisted and mutilated, its face twisted in tortured agony.
While my virtual avatar of Harry Mason only reeled back in horror, I ran screaming from my room, tears in my eyes.
Or at least I would have, had I not forgotten I’d locked that door. *WHAM!*
I could go on for forever talking about the scariest moments in videogames. I seek scary games out, and I’d like to say that I’ve played them all. Maybe that’s why my scariest moment came from my imagination.
It happened while I was playing the first Dead Space. I was marathoning it for work, so that meant I was playing it for hours a day, late into the night. One night I had a nightmare that fused all of my survival horror gaming memories into one that I WISH would somehow turn into a real game. I still remember a bit of it.
It was definitely a Dead Space world, but it was set to music that sounded like it came right out of Akira Yamaoka’s head, meaning that there was a lot of rhythmic metal clanging and screeching. I was running from something that I was sure would be the flat, headless, floor-crawling things that would bite your legs but you’d never see in the later Silent Hill games. I felt hopeless in moving around, like in Fatal Frame, but of course, my movement was somewhat hindered like they are so often in dreams, like the first Silent Hill game. It all came to a head when I was trying to move, but running slow as molasses, and then got caught in Dead Space‘s sliding bookcases. I fucking hated that part of the game, and now it was in my nightmare!
If this didn’t do it for you, I have a runner-up: The Pyramid Head rape scene from Silent Hill 2. I remember walking into that room and being so surprised that it really scared me from that instant. I thought, “What…is that really what I think it is?!” It was humorous for a second, and then shocking. And then, hiding in the closet, peeping through the slats in the door, made it somehow worse. What would this thing to do you if you saw it? What really brought it home is that I tried to play all of the Silent Hill games while keeping mindful of what each scene and character might represent as symbolism. It reminded me that I was right inside the messed up head of James, and that the scariest things, just like my horror game dream, come right out of our heads.
My moment also came from Silent Hill 2, but since that’s a story most of us share I’ll lend you my only scared-shitless retro moment.
After weeks of wanting to rip my eyeballs out of my face and cursing Mother Russia I had finally arrived at what I believed must be the last boss at Karnov. This weird ass music starts playing in front of these cave-like windows and there’s like a 30 second period where nothing happens and you’re just standing there, big bellied in a dark blue room, freaking the fuck out. I had no shields remaining so my adrenaline was going insane. I was sweating and pumped to beat this stupid game once and for all so I could return it to the video rental store. If not, I’d be out yet another dollar for being late. The stakes were high.
I was fixated on a demon statue in the middle of the screen that I thought was going to come to life like the dog-demons in Ninja Gaiden, but instead these beady little green eyes suddenly lit up from one of the caves directly above me and then suddenly this dick-like dragon immediately beams out with this horrible metallic cry and fucks me in eye! It caught me off-guard so bad that I literally fell backwards from my borrowed patio chair, yanked the controller cord, and the console got unplugged and fell on top of me. The screen goes blue and blinking, and I just stood there looking at the little red power light blinking on the console. I wanted to kill myself. I was so pissed I just ran out screaming … which got me yelled at by my parents … at which point then I ran back and pulled out the cartridge. I lost it, sending burning eyes of hatred deep into his stupid mustache, but he ignored me because he was busy yelling at a pterodactyl already. I felt like one of the monkeys in the background.
I beat the game later that night with rage and revenge and spite, because video games are FUN. The icing on the cake: do you know what the motherfucking ending is to Karnov? A black screen that says “Congratulations. The End.” FUCK YOU, DATA EAST! FUCK YOU IN YOUR GRAVE WITH A DRAGON PENIS!
Now it’s your turn. All of the editors have shared their most terrifying videogame moments of all time. Vhat is yours? Is there any character more frightening than me, DRACULA?! BLAAAAAH!
<turns into bat>