As discussed in my Question of the Month response last week, it’s often the strangest things that scare us. Video games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast can be terrifying but it’s often the subtler things which remain in our minds long afterwards. We all have those gaming moments that have stuck with us, the memory of which only surfaces during the dark of night, scratching at the corner of our brains and making our hair stand on end…
In honour of Halloween and all things eerie, Brandon over at That Green Dude posed a question to the community recently: what is your spookiest video game moment? Below is the list of my own, which includes a few expected horror titles; but there are also a few less obvious releases that may just surprise you.
Warning: some spoilers are included below so if you haven’t played a title, you may wish to skip forward to the next entry!
Since receiving my keys from the Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been working my way through the Myst games recently. Replaying the original not only reminded me how much I loved it but also how much Sirrus and Achenar made my skin crawl. Reaching the Mechanical Age and finding their bedrooms revealed more about the brothers but it was Achenar’s space that I found particularly disturbing when I was younger: a hidden door to a secret torture chamber exposes an electric chair, bottles of poison and even a rotting head. These siblings are twisted.
This was the title I chose for my Halloween QotM answer recently. It looks somewhat laughable now but as a teenager with an overactive imagination, left with a small group of friends alone one day, our first encounter with the evil Water Ixupi while navigating our boat on the underground river into Professor Windlenot’s Museum of the Strange and Unusual brought us all out in screams. Although we laughed it off, that night I went around our house turning every single light on and was extremely relieved once my parents arrived home.
1996: Resident Evil
The original Resident Evil has appeared on numerous lists across the internet this Halloween, including Bandicoot Warrior’s own QotM response. It was the first real horror I played as a teenager and the bit I’ll always remember is the scene that sticks with most gamers: that moment when the mutant dogs come crashing through the window, splintering the glass and snapping at your heels. As well as genuinely terrifying the hell out of me and taking a few years off my life, it showed that horror games can be just as frightening as films.
This point-and-click isn’t exactly a horror, but its atmosphere is incredibly unsettling and I remember feeling constantly on edge while playing it. As if putting the player into the bandages of a man who wakes up in a derelict asylum with no memory of how he got there wasn’t creepy enough, the Innocent Abandoned scene with its ruined playground full of horribly-disfigured children who keep talking about ‘Mother’ is unnerving. The backwards clock and haunting music just add to the sense that everything is ‘off’ and you need to get out of there as soon as possible.
2008: Dead Space
Come on, admit it: you screamed too when that first ‘dead’ necromorph jumped up and started attacking you on board the Ishimura. After reading Fitzy’s recent post about Dead Space over on Game Time, I know I’m not the only one who started cautiously approaching the corpses throughout the dark corridors from that point onwards. I love the way Dead Space manages to capture a perfect feeling of dread, isolation and claustrophobia, and it’s the title that started my fondness for space sci-fi. As Fitzy said: “Once bitten, twitchy and paranoid forever.”
Time for another space science-fiction now: how would you feel if you had to perform dangerous surgery on yourself while still awake, in order to remove a chip that’s wrapped around your spine? Utterly petrified, that’s how. This particular scene in STASIS had me squirming in my seat and looking away because it’s very uncomfortable to watch. It’s gory but not overly gratuitous –well-handled in terms of both timing and how it fits in with the title’s storyline – but it’s some pretty-messed-up-stuff that will stick with you.
SOMA leaves the player questioning what it is that makes us human through a storyline about scanning human intelligence. Say the body you’re currently in is failing and you’re offered the opportunity to be copied into a new one. Which version of you then takes precedence? Should the old version be terminated? If both copies should be allowed to live, how do you come to terms with there being multiple versions of yourself in the same space? And how would you feel if you found out you were the copy? These thoughts are far scarier than any blood and gore.
2017: Stories Untold
When I played text adventures as a kid, there was always that feeling that if you looked up from the screen you’d start to see elements of the game in the real world. This is exactly what Stories Untold recreates. I had to resist the urge to look over my shoulder as I played through The House Abandon episode and found it difficult to stop myself expecting my phone to ring when the handset does in-game. For a simple and unassuming release, it creates an awful lot of atmosphere through a number of very clever moments that I won’t spoil by saying more.
So there you have it: eight moments from both horror games and other genres that left me spooked. Let us know which gaming scenes sent a shiver down your spine in the comments below.