6 Unforgettable Jump Scares In Video Games!

TREX

Let’s talk about jump scares. Not everyone likes them. In fact, ever since some of our favorite franchises took the inevitable plunge into action horror, jump scares have become the bane of many a horror fan’s existence. Dead Space has been criticized for relying on them too heavily, Doom 3′s abundance of monster closets were a common complaint, and more recently, Capcom tried to toss a few into Resident Evil 6 — Leon’s campaign in particular — in their attempt to make it appeal to horror fans. That obviously didn’t work, but sometimes, a jump scare can be well designed. Like any good scare, timing is important, as is building up to the moment (and I’m not talking about fading the music before a loud noise — I’m looking at you, Hollywood).

You might not be a fan of them, but when they’re well done they can be great. Here are six games that did them particularly well.

That’s A T-Rex! – Dino Crisis

(Skip to around 2:30 for the scare)

After that abysmal third game, Capcom decided to sweep Dino Crisis under the rug. I imagine it sits in the darkness of that big, evil rug, patiently waiting next to other prematurely shuttered franchises like Red Faction and Prince of Persia for another chance. The thing is, as a series, Dino Crisis was actually one of the best. The first game was especially terrifying, as it mixed terrifying, long-extinct monsters with classic staples of the genre, such as item conservation, puzzles, and an atmosphere thick with dread.

But we’re not just talking about Dino Crisis, so let’s get specific. One of the most terrifying moments ever is when the T-Rex busts through the window and tries to eat you. Usually, it succeeds in finding its snack, though that’s mostly because 99% of gamers dropped their controllers out of sheer fright (the other 1% died on the spot — rest in peace, you guys).

The Broken Neck Woman – Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

If you haven’t experienced the horrifying series that is Fatal Frame, there’s a good chance you’re young and live in the States. Sadly, the latest game in the series hasn’t made it stateside, so the last Fatal Frame game you could’ve played — barring any shady black market dealings you might’ve had — was with Fatal Frame III back in 2005. That’s a long time to go without the unique thrills that only that franchise can provide, and I’m sorry, but Spirit Memoir sucked.

It was surprisingly easy to pick my favorite scare (though I’ll admit I never finished The Tormented, so I’m mainly drawing from the first two games here). It’s the Broken Neck Woman. Sounds spooky, huh? That’s because it is. This wicked spirit gets her kicks by introducing herself to you in the same manner in which she passed on: by dropping down on your unsuspecting ass from above. Did I mention she emits a blood-curdling scream as she falls, because she totally does. She broke her neck when she fell, so that’s how her ghost makes itself known, and I hate to say it, but I think that may be more effective than my technique of violently swinging open a bar door and winking at the nearest waitress as I confidently request she pour me a pint of their strongest lager.

It Isn’t Dead – Dead Space

(Skip to around 0:50 for the scare)

Just wait a second before you angrily scroll down to the comments where you plan to prepare the meanest of rants that absolutely tears me a new one for including a game from a series that’s practically brimming with jump scares. As much as I love this series, I’ll agree that it might rely a little too heavily on loud noises and things suddenly jumping out at you, but for every one of those is an incredibly well-designed scare that actually works. I almost went with the multiple times a Necromorph managed to creep up behind me from a vent I forgot was there, but then I realized Visceral Games did something far more interesting.

They gave the Necromorphs the ability to play dead. Its effect might’ve worn off after the third or fourth time, but the first time a Necromorph I thought I had sent to that bloody Ishimura in the sky reanimated itself in front of me, I lost it. It’s such a simple scare tactic, but as they say, some of the best ideas are often the simplest.

Locker Room – Silent Hill

This is easily the most cleverly set up jump scare on the list. Team Silent has proven themselves adept at the art of mindfucking — seriously, I could dedicate a weekly series to the crazy things from the first three games — but they were at their most sadistic, and perhaps their most playful, with the cat in the locker. The first time you visit the locker room you’re drawn to that specific locker by a loud banging. Forgetting that curiosity killed the cat, or perhaps in this case, freed it, you investigate. As soon as you open the locker door a harmless feline leaps out. You were expecting it, so the scare is minimal, but little do you know that Team Silent was only setting up the foundation for the real scare.

Upon returning to the locker room, now in its rustier Otherworld form, you hear the banging sound again. Because you’re a glutton for punishment, you again move in to investigate. This time, when you open the locker you’re greeted with a grisly, bloodied interior. As you walk away from the locker, recently disturbed by its macabre contents, an unidentifiable corpse bursts out of a nearby locker and lands with a sickening thud.

Bath Tub Scare – Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

This is one a few of you brought up in my lists of some of the most horrifying moments in gaming (feel free to read part one and part two if you haven’t already), but since it’s more of a jump scare I decided to give it a mention here. Eternal Darkness was an underappreciated horror game from Silicon Knights, the studio that also brought us the disastrous flop that was Too Human.

I could go on and on about Eternal Darkness and how amazing and ambitious it was, but I feel like I’ve done that every time I’ve mentioned it in a list, so let’s instead focus on the random scare that is the bathtub scene. Now, as far as jump scares go, this takes the classic approach. It waits for you to drop your guard, and what better place to do that than in the equally as underappreciated safe haven that is the common bathroom, before it throws a unsavory scene of a woman’s corpse lying in a tub filled with blood paired with a crazy loud scream. It’s a scare you might not fully appreciate until after your ears stop ringing.

The Doberman – Resident Evil

I surprised no one by including this often discussed scene in this list. A list about video game jump scares is not a list worth reading unless it gives the classic Doberman jumping through a window scene in the original Resident Evil a well-deserved nod. Even those who haven’t played the game have likely heard about it somewhere. It was a simple, yet extremely well crafted jump scare, because you just knew that pack of dogs that chased you into the Spencer mansion were in the woods surrounding the place, it was really just a matter of time before one or more of them found a way in. In related news, if you played the fantastic Lost in Nightmares add-on for Resident Evil 5, Capcom paid homage to that moment by having a bat burst out of the window when you visit another of Ozwell Spencer’s estates, which just happens to be designed to be identical to the original mansion. They packed more fanfare into that expansion, including unlockable classic camera angles — though honestly, that’s the one thing from the original games I can do without — so if you never played Lost in Nightmares, I definitely recommend it.

I’d also like to give an honorable mention to another moderately iconic moment from the first game (that was also mentioned in Lost in Nightmares). It happens when Jill is reading the diary of a man who had been infected by the T-virus. It’s where the phrase “itchy. tasty.” originated from, and after you set the book down the reanimated corpse of the man who wrote it jumps out of a nearby closet. Also a great scare, it’s just not as iconic as the Doberman scene.

That’s it, folks! Or rather, that’s it for this list. I’m sure I missed a moment, or two, or a dozen, that you feel should’ve been given a mention. If you’re feeling betrayed that I would do that to you, I suggest setting me straight in the comments below.

Have a question? Feel free to ever-so-gently toss Adam an email, or follow him on Twitter and Bloody Disgusting.

  • divisionbell

    Doberman. Totally scared the shit out of me as a kid!!

    I remember the T-Rex and I was one of the ones who dropped their remote. Good time!!

  • doomas10

    Dino crisis was actually pretty scary despite having dinosaurs. I loved the setting – although number 2 was oriented more into action, i liked it as well! Good to see some recognition for Dead Space. My personal favourite from the series is when you encounter the various survivors of Ishimura. Since they haven’t been sliced and diced by the necromorphs, they have gone completely insane from the massacre. I do not know why but that these moments give me chills

  • Seal_Clubber

    One of the biggest scares for me was walking by the eviscerated Killer Whale in “Cold Fear” and having it come to life after me! Almost had a heart attack ….

    • Adam Dodd

      Holeeey crap, I completely forgot about that scene. That was terrifying.

  • Abes

    Scariest was doberman. But enytime when Nemesis appear on scene I jumped out of my skin. :D

  • horror_geek1331

    My favorite/most memorable scare was from Doom III. While you’re exploring you come across a large bathroom with a mirror. I looked in it just to see my character and holy crap did I scream like a little girl at the cheap scare.

    • JonathanBarkan

      I totally remember that! Definitely startled me.

  • otruja

    yeah, almost shit myself on this t-rex scene, back in the days…

  • BornVillian

    The greatest example I can remember is from Fear 2. I had heard so much about the first one and how it was scary.Then I heard how much scarier the 2nd games was. So I spent the entire game walking, never using the run button in fear of something jumping out of no where. I spent around 3 hours of gameplay slowly walking never to have a thing pop up at me. So I decided to run and of course the first corner I turn something crazy jumps out at me. I spent the rest of the game walking.

  • macdeth

    Great list. For the next time one of the best jump scares I’ve had recently was from Arkham City (largely because it isn’t a horror game to begin with) the first time the great white shark jumps through the ice to eat you.

    • Adam Dodd

      That’s definitely a good one!

    • DexterAHS

      YES! I was hoping someone thought of this one too haha. Also, when the T-Rex bursts through the window/mirror in the Museum.

  • Skull-And-Crossbones

    i think the more memorable jump scares that Dead Space had was when you walk into a room or whatever and you see some aliens on the floor and you assume they’re dead but it wasn’t you that killed them. they were just there. then they jumped up at you when you walked past them – unlike the video because that alien was unmistakably alive when then elevator opened.

    another very memorable jump scare for me was in Resident Evil 2 when you were in the police station and a Licker came crashing through the glass.

    • Laugh Riot

      That one sent my controller flying I might have even done a spit take with coke lol

  • ThunderDragoon

    Awesome list, Adam. I’d have to say out of all horror games I’ve played, Fatal Frame got me the most times. It’s probably the fact that the game randomly generates ghosts and BOOM it happens. So no matter how many times you play the game, you’re always kept on guard. Yeah, that Broken Neck Woman scared the fuck out of me the first time I played it. Another memorable scare is towards the beginning of the game where you open one of the doors and a ghost pops up from nowhere. Freaky shit lol.

    I remember both of the scenes you listed from Resident Evil and Dino Crisis scaring me so bad when I first witnessed them as a kid. When I first played Silent Hill a couple of years back, that locker room scare was so damn scary! I’d have to say one scare that got me scarred as a kid (and isn’t mentioned much) was in Resident Evil 2 when you open a door and a couple of zombies come out of it. I think I was scared to open doors for a while after that lol. It’s just that you don’t expect that to happen so it got me good. So the next time I played RE2, I always had my guard up when opening doors because I didn’t remember which door it was. I always love your articles, Adam. You’re so awesome.

  • Se_7_eN

    Great article Adam!

    1) Now I really miss Fatal Frame :(

    2) Extremely happy to see that damn locker mentioned from Silent hill 1. Isn’t it funny how no one else will do the chain link fence everywhere environment? 1 is by far the darkest of all of them.

    3) Kinda sad that Scissor Man (Clock Tower) wasn’t mentioned.

    • Adam Dodd

      Thanks! Trust me, I WILL be doing another of these. There are so many that didn’t get a mention here.

  • Sick_skwerl

    Towards the end of F.E.A.R., you are going to start climbing down a ladder and you turn around to start going down and BAM suddenly Alma is standing right in front of you. Sounds incredibly simple, but playing in the dark in the middle of the night, coupled with the false sense of calm the game lures you into, and it works. I jumped out of my damn chair.

  • 905Justin

    When nemesis would appear out of nowhere in resident evil 3 was the scariest. Also when you saw mr x in the camera coming after you in resident evil 2 was scary.