With Halloween right around the corner, I thought of my previous Halloween-themed post and thought I needed to do something more “traditional.” While I’m not the most adventurous when it comes to horror games, I have dabbled in the genre and come out fairly frightened and thoroughly entertained on many occasions. The bigger the game, the more likely I am to play it, so all the Resident Evil’s and Dead Space’s tend to stay on my radar, while the smaller scary games like Amnesia (though, apparently, just as valid if not better than the aforementioned series’) are just not going to see my time. Despite this, my list of “Scariest Video Games” is likely not the same as anyone else, mainly because what I consider to be my most frightening moments don’t necessarily come from the survival horror genre. Let’s reminiscence about the scariest moments in gaming before Halloween is upon us!
Resident Evil 2
This right here was the very first time I was ever scared in a game. I literally was so freaked out when these damn crows came through the windows in Resident Evil 2 (which I played first on the GameCube) that I got up, walked out of the room for a bit, pretended to just be getting a drink so my parent’s wouldn’t question anything, then turned on every light in the room, and continued playing, albeit much more meticulously. I have heard many gamer’s express this scene (or the similar “Dogs jumping through the windows” scene in the first RE) as one of their scariest, so I’ll get it out of the way first.
*I couldn’t find a better quality image online than this one, which is from a YouTube video of a Resident Evil 2 playthrough. So thanks, YouTube Let’s Player, for the image!*
Though I never personally got these truly frightening sanity effects, one of the cruelest things a video game developer can do is make the player think they are deleting all of their saved game data from their memory cards! Eternal Darkness (GameCube horror FTW!) had many clever tricks to clue the player in on their character’s loss of sanity, but none was more frightening than seeing that little progress bar fill up, signifying all of your hard work completing Metroid Prime, Super Mario Sunshine, and yes, even Eternal Darkness was going to be lost forever. Damn you Silicon Knights!
Certainly not a horror game by any standards, Gauntlet Legends and it’s sequel Gauntlet: Dark Legacy were played heavily by my brothers and myself. Though we would go on to play Dark Legacy a lot more than Legends, it was with the first game that I had a scary run-in on the Nintendo 64. Every character you had in the game could be raised to a maximum level of 100. Aside from the obvious time and dedication it took to reach level 100, doing so also let you be completely unaffected by the level-stealing Death enemy, affixing your hero with a permanent anti-Death halo! Each character’s data was saved to a slot on your memory card, and different characters occupied different spaces. So, after getting my Blue Wizard to level 100, I decided I needed to start an entire army or Blue characters at level 100. I jumped into the Valkyrie next, and after getting her up to around level 14, I decided to call it a day, and saved my game… right over the save data of my Level 100 Blue Wizard! I did it by reflex, instinctively pressing “A” to save and confirm, just like I did every other time, only I forgot I was saving over my prior save slot. I was so sad and scared I actually started crying (Hey, I was only 10 or so!) and went to my mom! She… didn’t really understand. But all was not lost, as this was the catalyst that allowed my brothers and I to try the much better Dark Legacy!
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII happens to be one of the only video games in which I decided to dive into the end-game content and play the game after I conquered the main storyline. Of course in FF7 this means Ruby and Emerald Weapon. Ruby was daunting, fighting you in the pit of that desert thing, and instantly killing two of your party members from the get-go, but with some patience, practice, and strategy I was able to overcome him. Emerald Weapon was a different story. This guy not only looked a hell of a lot scarier, but he was the only boss I can recall that had a time limit in the game! Sure, you can forego that nuisance by equipping a very specific Materia, but then you’re wasting a Materia slot! Emerald always wiped my team before I could get out any attacks of significance, and after a few days of trying, I gave up and said it wasn’t worth it. Also, I have an unnatural fear of large creatures in bodies of water…
If this wasn’t the most horrifying image you saw as a child, then I’m very sorry. What was Rare thinking putting this into an otherwise gentle themed adventure game? When I was playing this game for the first time, I literally avoided doing this mission because I thought Clanker, a huge, robotic shark in a polluted pond was the scariest thing I had ever seen! Making matter worse, the creature lunged forward the first time you swim into his little area, and if you’re unaware he’s there, get ready to poop your pants because you’ll have your life flash before your eyes as you guide a little bird and a bigger bear toward their inevitable doom!
Maybe there’s a trend here with all these Nintendo consoles. Anyway, it continues with Perfect Dark, the spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007 and easily the better, more refined of the two games. My friends and I played plenty of PD back in the early 2000s, and one weapon always stood out to us more than any other: The Slayer. More terrifying than the machine-gun-turned-auto-turret Laptop Gun, or the one-hit-kills, auto-aiming, shoot-through-walls alien gun the FarSight, the Slayer was scary for one thing and one thing along: remote controlled rockets. Trust me, there was nothing more nightmare inducing than seeing a small explosive moving on it’s own, turning freakin’ corners, and exploding in your face! Hell, even using it was scary, because while you were watching the video and guiding said remote controlled missile, you were totally vulnerable to attacks from anybody else. Whenever one of those suckers came around a corner we screamed like schoolchildren. It was great!
No, not John Romero’s severed head on a stick, but the “actual” final boss of prolific PC game Doom 2 was scary stuff for me back in the 90s! Sure, I could never manage to make it there without cheating (did any of us?), but that didn’t make the goat-like final boss in Hell seem any less terrible. I think what did it for me were the demonic words he’d babble every few seconds. Ugh, even now they just give me chills. The stage is also full of all kinds of nasty enemies, so not only is it pretty creepy to look it, it’s incredibly difficult to beat!
So this game has an interesting introduction: you’re attending an otherwise boring Opera, when the lead singer ends up being some Mitochondria-enhanced something-or-other, and she makes ALL THE OTHER PATRONS OF THE OPERA SPONTANEOUSLY BURST INTO FLAME! If that didn’t shock you into wanting to play the game more, I don’t know what else would. I mean, people’s faces were melting off, and you’re just sort of sitting there all like, “Hmm, something’s not right here,” as the singer keeps going, when you should (or at least I’d think you should) be getting the Hell out of there as fast as you can! But that’s Aya Brea, the best detective Japan has seen!
I’ll end with Splatterhouse 2 for the Sega Genesis. This game was pretty messed up every way you slice it, from the demonic mask you wear to become the “hero”, to the zombies, decapitating swinging blades, gallons of blood drenching each stage, and mutilated, crying babies. Yes, all of these things passed by the censors back in the day, though it is now considered an M rated game in all subsequent re-releases. What sticks in my mind most, and I wish it didn’t, are the truly creepy cries of the babies when you’re fighting them. It’s equal parts sad and grotesque, as you slice them up before they vomit poisonous stuff all over you. If you want a difficult and bizarre game, look no further than this horror gem from the 90s!
Well, now that I’m thoroughly creeped out for the night, which games are on your “Nope” list? Any odd candidates like my Gauntlet: Legends inclusion? Let me know, and Happy Halloween!