Ten Personal Scary Videogame Moments

(originally posted November 7th 2014)

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the following games:

Batman: Arkham Asylum
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Persona 4
Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Super Paper Mario
The Walking Dead Season One
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

I know I’m a week late to the party but I figured that with all the love for Halloween, I’d share some of my personal scary moments from videogames. Though I should note that I don’t play a lot of horror videogames. Hell, I don’t even like the horror genre all that much, so don’t expect the usual titles or scenes that plague most ‘scary moments’ lists.

1. The Boss Races (Diddy Kong Racing)

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Yeah, it sounds stupid and hardly ‘scary’ but as a kid, these terrified me for a number of reasons. One, their voices. I could barely understand what they were saying but they were so deep I thought they were possessed by a demon (they’re actually hypnotised). Two, the music that plays during the race. Listening to it again, it’s not really scary but compared to the rest of the soundtrack, it was oddly threatening to me.

And finally, they were big. In normal races, your opponents were roughly the same size as you so you felt you were on equal footing, but with the bosses? If you so much as bumped into them, you were sent careening to the side and pretty much guaranteed to lose. Coupled with the sheer challenge (and that triceratops’s ungodly laugh) and those races made me put the game down out of fear.

2. Carnage (Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions)

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Shattered Dimensions was a lot like its main character; tense and tough but ultimately quite goofy and light-hearted. Yeah, you were dealing with some of the most threatening members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery but Spidey himself was always there to make dumb jokes about his enemies… until you run into Carnage.

While the main universe Carnage was a serial killer combined with the mutant offspring of the alien symbiote that created Venom, he was entertaining because he was completely insane, giggling like a schoolgirl every time he showed up. The Ultimate universe Carnage, however, is not human at all. It is just a feral beast whose only purpose is to kill and destroy everything in sight, and in this game, he’s made even more dangerous when idiot scientists expose him to a fragment of the Tablet of Order and Chaos, giving him the ability to reanimate the dead.

Carnage’s level is very much one of the very few times when Spidey just drops the jokes; upon seeing Carnage’s return, he sets off to hunt him down and put an end to him. He does dispense the occasional one-liner but they’re more threatening, lacking his usual playfulness. While the level has too much action to be atmospheric, Carnage certainly ranks as one of the most intimating and frightening comic-book baddies to exist.

3. The World of Nothing (Super Paper Mario)

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The thing I love the most about the Mario RPGs is when they get oddly dark. And I don’t mean turning the lights off and plonking Boos and Dry Bones in front of you. I mean, when it deals with things like demonic forces, psychotic villains and an actual apocalypse.

Mario and co’s mission is to stop the Void, which will eventually consume and destroy every world in existence, and in Chapter 6, we actually see what that looks like. Midway through, the Void begins to consume everything and while you are saved at the last minute by being pulled back to the hub world, you don’t know what happened to the Sammer’s Kingdom.

You go back through the door and all you’re met with is white. Just an empty, blank canvas, with only the odd bit of the world remaining. The game forces you to walk through it, accompanied by a haunting piece of music; you walk for so long that you think you must encounter something but, no. There is nothing. All life just ended so easily, and then you remember that is what the villains want for everything. Zombies and mutants are scary and all, but Super Paper Mario proves that sometimes, the scariest thing of all can be nothing.

4. The Granwyrm Spell (Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)

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Both Layton and Phoenix have encountered some pretty creepy and disturbing things in their lives, but the paranormal events in Layton are soon explained which renders them harmless, as knowledge can do. And with the Ace Attorney games, you always catch the murderer in the end and put them away before they can do any more harm. A dragon-like monster born of fire by the Great Witch, however, can’t be dealt with a finger pointing.

Towards the final chapters of the game, the group witness their friend, Espella, seemingly summon this beast with magic and instantly put an end to the Storyteller’s life, AKA her own father. It’s a short scene but the music highlights how demonic this thing is, as if its design wasn’t enough. But I think what it makes it truly scary is how out of place it is. Look at it. Does it look like something from a Layton or Ace Attorney game? They deal with mysteries and intelligent, but mortal and ordinary, human beings. A beast seemingly dragged up from hell itself and born from the psychological trauma of a little girl? That’s outside of their expertise.

5. Nanako’s Kidnapping (Persona 4)

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This is a very different kind of fear. You’re not dealing with the kind of fear you get when you encounter a monster or something. This is the heart-in-your-mouth feeling you get when you realise something terrible is about to happen, or has already happened, to somebody close to you, like a younger sibling.

Though technically your cousin, you will have essentially begun to view Nanako as a little sister. She’s always there to greet you when you get home and is almost perpetually happy. She’s one of the constants in the normal side of your life. So when you discover that she will be the next kidnap victim, already you’re feeling tense. But what makes it worse is that, at the time, you are currently being held in an interrogation room at the police station by Dojima, Nanako’s father. The sheer helplessness is enough to drive you mad, and it hurts that there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Then there’s the whole TV world thing. Anyone who’s in there for too long will begin to suffer some serious side effects. Plus there are the roaming monsters that could potentially attack her, and to top it all off, the kidnapper himself went in with her. A lot of people can probably deal with zombies and mutants but a young relative being in danger – any parent or older sibling will admit that something like that is much scarier.

6. Your Own Paranoia (Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward)

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In Virtue’s Last Reward, you are trapped in some kind of abandoned warehouse with eight complete strangers and are forced to play some bizarre game about trust and betrayal. To fully explain it would take a while but to sum up, if everyone agrees to ally, then they could escape easily with no casualties. And your fellow captives seem nice enough, but it’s not long before the doubt seeps in. And then the dead bodies start popping up.

Everybody else is wrapped in mystery; you know very little about them. You don’t know what they’d be willing to do, especially when they have enough points to open the door and leave. Would they stay and wait for everyone else or save their own hide? Let me tell you, there is nothing more creepy and unnerving to be on your own with ominous music playing. Or no music playing at all; that’s usually a precursor to some terrible discovery.

I highly recommend this game, but if you want to experience the maximum amount of dread, play it in bed at the dead of night and find yourself shivering despite the lack of cold.

7. The ReDeads (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

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A remake of Majora’s Mask was announced earlier this week, and while it is arguably the darkest, creepiest and outright disturbing Zelda title, I think most can agree that their first scare came from the ReDeads.

You first encounter them when Link wakes up from his seven year coma and arrives in Castle Town. Only a few minutes ago, it was peaceful and thriving, but suddenly, it’s in ruins and the only inhabitants are the shambling, moaning ReDeads. Not only are they physically repulsive, looking malnourished and soulless, once you get spotted by one, you’re forced to hear that inhuman scream. Suddenly, Link can’t move for a second and they shamble towards you. They’re usually easy to avoid but one area sticks you in a small room full of them, and seeing them latch onto Link is just freaky. The more experienced will get used to it, but on your first time, you will do whatever it takes to avoid these things, just so you don’t have to hear them wail.

8. The First Scarecrow Sequence (Batman: Arkham Asylum)

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In Arkham Asylum, Batman must save Commissioner Gordon in an early part, but before long you find him dead. Batman calls up Oracle, his partner and Gordon’s daughter, to regretfully inform her of his failure, only to be met with an answering message. He then spots a shadow and follows it, walking past a swarm of cockroaches before arriving in the morgue.

There’s no one there, and no matter how hard you look, there’s nothing to interact with or another exit. Stay in there long enough and the hatches to the containers for dead bodies begin to open and close, getting steadily faster and louder whilst a voice whispers “Get out,” which also gets louder and louder.

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Eventually, Batman does what it says and goes back the way he came, winding up in the… morgue. It’s the exact same place, only now with three body bags – two containing the corpses of Batman’s parents, who ask him why he let them die. The last bag contains the fear master himself, Scarecrow, revealing that Bat’s is hallucinating thanks to his fear toxin.

It’s then that Batman must navigate a distorted area, avoiding the sight of a now giant Scarecrow, cackling all the while with his spotlight-like eyes, killing him instantly if he spots him. Eventually, Bat’s takes him out with a Bat-Signal to the face and Gordon is revealed to still be alive. Scarecrow does try the fear toxin thing twice more, but I don’t think any player will forget their first time encountering the guy or the feeling of confusion and fear.

9. The Situation (The Walking Dead Season One)

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While the titular walking dead are scary enough on their own (being zombies and all), surely the most terrifying thing about the game (and comic book and TV show) is the entire situation the survivors are in.

Not only are they living in constant fear and caution due to the zombie apocalypse, there’s the fact that being bitten by one isn’t what turns you. Just dying is all that’s needed. Gunshot to the chest, heart attack, choked on an olive pip; doesn’t matter. Die and you come back as a zombie. Oh, but it’s alright; everyone will work together in keeping each other safe, right? Hell no!

Not all humans are friendly sadly; you’ve got bandits out only for themselves, some people trying to establish themselves as some kind of ruler, cannibals and the people of Crawford, who kicked out their old, sick and even children to be zombie food. And what makes it worse is that there is no sign of outside help. No American government, not even a foreign one. Has the entire world succumbed to whatever has happened, or has America just been abandoned? I don’t know which answer is worse.

10. Nemesis (Resident Evil 3)

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I don’t play survival horror games, purely because I’m a massive coward, but despite my unfamiliarity with the series, even I am aware of one Resident Evil’s most infamous creations and its legacy deserves it being mentioned.

Nemesis is just plain terrifying; there’s no other way to describe it. It’s hulking mass, it’s lumbering tread, it’s deformed face, it’s inhuman growls; all that alone would be enough to make it scary but no. Turns out it’s actually quite fast, capable of running faster than your average human, and it’s intelligent enough to operate a rocket launcher and understand the concept of an ambush.

Nemesis can seemingly come out and attack you at any point during the game, and while it can be temporarily downed, it requires a lot of skill. If you choose to stand rather than run, you need to make every bullet count, but even if you succeed, there’s always the knowledge that it will come back and try again. No matter where you go, how fast you run or how many times you try to kill it, Nemesis will keep hunting you down, simply because that’s what it does, and I don’t think any other Resi monster will be as effective as good old Nemesis.

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