We gamers put ourselves through a lot, and we do so in the name of fun. We tell ourselves t”his is entertainment,” before we open that creaky door and enter a room to fight a gargantuan living mass of bone and jagged metal with nothing but a pipe and a prayer. I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, and over the years I’ve seen some truly horrifying things. When a stranger asks me about my escape from Raccoon City, my vacation in Silent Hill, or my time aboard the USG Ishimura, I answer them with a thoughtful silence and a thousand yard stare. It’s the only way.
If you’re reading this then you undoubtedly have tales to tell and therapy sessions to endure, so let’s get this started with a look back at six more horrifying moments in video games.
Returning to the Ishimura – Dead Space 2
The first Dead Space was a remarkable achievement in action horror gaming and a fresh take on the zombie genre. It was gorgeous and terrifying without disarming the player with a clunky, difficult to control character, and it added a new term to the gamer lexicon with strategic dismemberment. Its sequel managed to successfully build off the foundation of its predecessor by injecting more action into the gameplay without sacrificing the horror fans had come to expect from the franchise. The elementary school is an area that stands out to many, but to me it paled in comparison to Isaac Clarke’s forced return to the USG Ishimura, where the horrors of the original game took place.
A sense of dread is masterfully built up as Clarke explores the long emptied halls of the Ishimura without anything really happening for a good 15-20 minutes. Those minutes stretch on forever as you’re kept on the edge of your seat, anxiously waiting for something to happen. When something finally does happen, it still manages to be absolutely terrifying.
Splash Monster – Amnesia: The Dark Descent
I’ve come to affectionately refer to the most terrifying denizen of Amnesia: The Dark Descent as the “Splash Monster” because it’s caused such irreparable harm to my psyche that giving it a cute name is one of only two ways I can get over the fact that it absolutely terrifies me every time I play that game — the other is therapeutic coloring, in case you’re wondering, but that rarely works as I’m always too afraid that if I stray outside the lines the invisible bastard will take me away Slenderman style to some horrible hell dimension.
The flooded hallways this creep calls home make up one of the most cleverly designed levels I’ve ever seen in a horror game. You can’t see the creature that hunts you unless you jump off a box and into the water, but if you do that you alert the thing and this always ends with my character dead and me lying in the fetal position on the floor of my apartment.
SHODAN’s Big Reveal – System Shock 2
Sadly, System Shock 2 is a hugely underrated gem of a game that I’ve taken upon myself to bring up every chance I get in hopes that enough people will buy it — now well over a decade old — forcing Irrational Games to give me the sequel I’ve been aching for.
Huge spoiler here, by the way. For the first half of the game you’re being led through the dangerous corridors of a horror-infested space ship by Dr. Janice Polito, a woman who seems to know her way around the vessel. You come to think of her as a friend, that is, until you finally make it to the room where she supposedly is only to find out she’s been dead the whole time. That’s where SHODAN decides to unveil herself, with a lovely flair for theatricality, as the puppeteer behind Polito. You were doing that malicious rogue A.I.’s bidding the whole time.
Thankfully, you get to kick her virtual ass at the end of the game, but even over a decade after its release and that deception still stings.
Alma Rapes You – F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
No means no,” said absolutely no one to Alma.
Anyone who’s played F.E.A.R. 2 had to have felt bewildered, and possibly a little violated, after witnessing the ending. It’s an intensely strange ending because you essentially get raped by the game’s evil psychic girl turned hideously malnourished psychic woman, Alma. The game ends with an obligatory forced encounter with a “boss” that isn’t terribly satisfying, than you wake up from the dimension where you just laid down the law to find you’re being violated. I just… wow. At least now I know how those mannequins felt.
Meet The Chainsaw Man – Resident Evil 4
As far as first encounters with an enemy in a horror game go, the first time you meet the chainsaw-wielding Ganado in Resident Evil 4 stands out as one of the more terrifying ones. The fact that Capcom decided to throw this dude in at the beginning of the game when we had only just begun to get used to Resident Evil’s new reboot smell only makes this even more horrifying.
The first time I fought this guy I remember thinking there’s no way he’d kill me with one hit from that chainsaw — take my health down to a sliver, maybe, but not immediate death — because I had only just started playing. Insta-deaths were reserved for later in the game, or so I thought. I went full power, shotgun all the way, baby. The only problem is this guy can take a lot of shotgun shells. After I had emptied my gun into his chest and saw him start to get up, I politely requested with a flurry of button presses that Leon hurry the fuck up with the reloading. Unfortunately, like me, Leon still hadn’t gotten used to the new Resident Evil, so I was forced to watch as he took a chainsaw to the neck.
This Game Is F**king With You – Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
On a scale of 1 to 10, how awful of a person am I that upon hearing about Silicon Knights’ financial troubles the first thing that came to my mind was damn, now I’m going to have to wait even longer for an Eternal Darkness sequel? I’m thinking a solid 7, maybe? I feel bad for them, or more specifically, the people that work for the company, and I wish them all the best, but seriously, someone needs to get on this.
The best feature in Eternal Darkness was also its most innovative: the sanity meter. The idea is simple enough. Crazy awful things happen to your character, sapping away at their sanity — a feature Amnesia went on to borrow — and once the meter is drained your character goes bonkers. Their head might explode, the walls might bleed, or worst of all, you might get a (fake) error message saying your game is corrupted (this idea was later used in Batman: Arkham Asylum). Sanity’s Requiem was easily one of the best games to release on the GameCube and it’s certainly among my top three horror games on the console. Hopefully we’ll get more of it in the future, and preferably sooner rather than later… I can feel my sanity meter draining already.
That’s it, folks! If I missed a game, or games, feel free to berate me in the comments below. By the way, if you missed my first batch of horrifying moments, you can read them here.