Terrifying moments aren’t just limited to horror games; even the most innocent and huggable of children’s titles can house within it a level filled with twisted mockeries of sanity that bring us to the brink of madness before killing us and forcing us to start over again. What makes these levels all the more frightening is their sudden appearance, in a game we would’ve never expected such an experience.
We’ve toiled away spending hundreds, possibly thousands of hours researching dozens of games across all imaginable platforms just so we could be sure to give you the definite list on the 15 shit-out-your-spine scariest moments in non-horror games. So go ahead dear reader, and muse over our list, vigorously disagree with it, and tell us just how wrong we are. Come on, we can take it.
The idea of a hive mind is already pretty damn terrifying: A single consciousness occupying many bodies, all with a single goal: to make you wet yourself, turn off your console, and run crying to your mommy. Despite being on our side, that’s what the Zoni did to us when we first came across them. Their wee beady eyes, glowing with a blue hatred that peered deep into our soul. We’re pretty sure these guys knew our innermost secrets and because of that, these little bastards kept us up at night.
Not what you expected, right? Well, that’s what you get for trying to predict our moves. When you think we’re going to zig, we zag, and when you’re sure we’ll zag, we do zag, just to fuck with your head.
This level was scary for more than one reason. First, it had ghosts, and these ghosts could faze in and out of existence, creeping ever closer to innocent, unsuspecting Mario, before dismembering him with their Boo Buddy powers. This level is also damn hard to complete without slamming your controller into the nearest wall or small animal.
Dark Sector wasn’t the greatest of games, but its Zelda and Resident Evil 4 inspired gameplay made it a fun experience. You’re a badass with a throwable weapon called the Glaive, which can be used to dismember your foes in satisfyingly gruesome ways, or to solve puzzles. We did more of the former.
For most of the game we felt unstoppable, decapitating soldiers in slow motion or bisecting two enemies with a single throw. Nothing could stop us until we entered the graveyard and came across waves of zombie-like creatures that weren’t much of a threat alone. Unfortunately for us, they rarely attacked alone. Trying to escape that creepy cemetery while being bombarded by waves of mutated creatures had us screaming like little girls (no offense to any little girls reading this article).
The Uncharted series is usually filled with excellent platforming and the occasional clever witticism uttered by my virtual man crush Nathan Drake. This only made one of the final levels in Drake’s Fortune all the more frightening when we found ourselves in a dilapidated ship infested with cursed zombie-esque creatures that came at us in hordes. The only way to survive the onslaught was to keep moving and never stop shooting.
One would think that experience would make our encounter with the Abominable Snowman’s little brother a little less terrifying. It didn’t. Not only did he give us a little scare, he also managed to kick our ass multiple times.
I can see the meeting now: a bunch of sleep-deprived designers at Treyarch are trying to figure out a way to cash in on the currently ultra popular zombie genre. They decide to throw some zombies into the game, but that’s not enough, oh no sir. These can’t be plain old zombies because that’s been done before, some might even say excessively. These things need to be the worst kind of zombies: Nazi zombies. Well, I guess they could’ve been Nazi zombie pedophiles, but that idea might not have made it past their legal department. This mode made for some very intense gaming session in an awesome title some gamers otherwise might not have checked out. Oh, and the Nazi zombies will be making a triumphant return in the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops, so yay for that.
Never thought you would see this game listed in anything related to horror? Neither did we. Fortunately for us, there are some seriously twisted people out there with incredible imaginations and a ton of free time. Thanks to the game’s deep level creator, players can create pretty much anything they want, and that has led to some stunning levels inspired by Silent Hill, Dead Space, and a plethora of unique creations that had us running for our lives in a game usually filled with flowers, sunshine, and happy tunes
Arkham Asylum surprised everyone when it ended up breaking the Batman video game curse to become one of the best games we’ve played this generation. For horror fans the experience was brought to a whole new level when we came across the psychopathic Scarecrow who pitted us against our darkest fears (like the fear of our console glitching, you pricks). Walking into an Autopsy Room that quickly came to life with creepy noises and bloody body bags remains as one of the standout moments in a game filled with excellent levels. But seriously, making us think our console glitched is so not cool.
Halo is usually anything but scary so the first time we stumbled upon the alien popcorn known as the Flood was pretty intense. Then we discovered the Flood’s ability to assimilate other organisms into itself, mutating and bending them to its will, and that’s when the world of Halo officially became a damn scary place to live. Plus it turns out the Flood is a hive mind controlled by a malicious flytrap with a deep velvety voice, so yeah. That’s scary too.
Resident Evil used to be survival horror until Capcom decided to mix things up a bit and transition the series to something along the lines of action horror, with the last two titles being more action comedy. Despite a steadily degrading resume (Lost Planet 2, Dark Void, Bionic Commando) Capcom has proven it can evolve its games with mostly positive results. Resident Evil 4 almost completely removed the series from horror planting it firmly in the action genre, but it still managed to have some terrifying sections. The Chainsaw Man and Regenerator in particular, the former who had the unique talent of slicing us into neat little chunks and the latter who had the ability to keep coming at us even after its legs and arms were blown off made up for an overall lack of horror.
Resident Evil 5 followed the same formula and provided way less scares but still delighted us with the return of the Chainsaw Man and the addition of a Licker filled level that had many of us nostalgic for the original Resident Evil games. Then they took it a step further with the Lost in Nightmares DLC that pitted us against twisted versions of the Axe Man, who looked like a hunchback with a leech’s face and armed with a rusty anvil on a stick. Seriously, who thinks up these things? I’m guessing some psychedelic drugs are involved.
I never finished Fallout 3, a fact I blame on my progressively worsening attention span when it comes to longer games. One of the creepiest sections in the game (and that’s saying something for a game filled with giant mutants and pseudo-vampires) occurred the moment I decided to ignore the warnings of the small town of Andale’s eerily cheery inhabitants and explore their basements. Without warning I was greeted by mutilated corpses, bags of body parts, and the occasional obviously used tool of torture. Definitely not a terrifying moment, but certainly one of the more unsettling experiences I’ve had in a game. I suppose, in an apocalyptic wasteland, it’s eat or be eaten, right?
I played this with a friend of mine the day it came out and by the end of the first Act we were positive there was a boss fight just around the corner. Call it Gamer’s Intuition or the simple fact that nearly every game has a boss at the end of a section, but we knew it was drawing ever closer. Our thoughts were confirmed as soon as we saw a soldier get pummeled into the floor by a hulking shadow of a creature, and while that got us a little anxious at least we knew the thing wasn’t terribly big.
So we’re walking through these empty halls, hearing occasional growling, and checking to make sure our guns were full, until this big goddamned thing breaks through the wall incapacitating me instantly and leaving my friend to run away. Needless to say we didn’t survive our first time through, or our second or third, but trying (and failing) to dodge that colossal beast’s charge remains as one of the most memorable moments I’ve had in a game.
This game popped my stealth cherry so it holds a very special place in my heart because of that. It also has one of the creepiest levels I’ve ever played, which takes place in the abandoned Shalebridge Cradle. The Cradle started as an orphanage, then it took the obvious next step and became an insane asylum, which was then engulfed in fire slowly burning its inhabitants to death. If that’s not the perfect recipe for a haunted place, we don’t know what is. This level successfully managed to burn itself into our minds forever, as well as creep us the hell out.
This is another example of creep factor over actual scares, because you see the corpses of people impaled on spikes but you never expect them to be lowered down to the ground so they can come alive and eat you and your unsuspecting team alive. Knowing that these things were once human, having been transformed into bionic zombie-like creatures by a merciless alien race makes the encounters with the Husks all the more disturbing.
Come on, admit it: you saw this one coming. Widely regarded as one of the best games of all time, Half-Life 2 took shooters to a whole new level with its beautifully realized world and extraordinary storytelling. But if you ask a horror fan what they enjoyed most about this game and they’ll undoubtedly say Ravenholme, the Head Crab infested town inspired by Resident Evil’s Raccoon City, where the town’s citizens had been transformed into mindless, pitiful creatures who now aimlessly roam the deserted town in search of… well, whatever it is a headcrab zombie searches for.
We almost felt bad for them as we used the various ingenious saw traps scattered about the level to quickly take them out. However, all feelings of empathy were quickly vanquished when we heard the loud screams of a more powerful mutation that can run and scale buildings with ease before beating us into submission with its long black hands. The sounds in this part of the game are what stayed with us the longest, but the experience as a whole is truly intense.
Demon’s Souls is an intensely difficult game that rewards you for being careful but punishes you severely for not being an amazing gamer. This game is filled with plenty of terrifying sections, but the Blood Swamp is the scariest by far. First off, in case you didn’t glean this already: it’s a fucking swamp filled with blood. This blood also has the incredible ability to poison you, and I feel I should also mention this level is filled with living gargoyles and giant centipede monsters with human faces? Yes. This level is terrifying on more than a few psychological levels.
So that’s our list of the most terrifying moments in non-horror games. Now you can scroll on over to the comments section and tell us how much you disagree with our opinions. Just go easy on us, we’re delicate flowers like that.