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Creeped out: spookiest video game moments

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!

1993: Myst

Myst, video game, Achenar, bedroom, Mechanical Age, tiles, poison, cage, torture chamber

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.

1995: Shivers

Shivers, video game, ghost, spirit, water, Ixupi, river, boat

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

Resident Evil, video game, dogs, window, hallway, corridor, broken glass

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.

1998: Sanitarium

Sanitarium, video game, Innocent Abandoned, statue, angel, man, child

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

Dead Space, video game, necromorph, alien, blood, spacesuit, astronaut, gun

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.”

2015: STASIS

STASIS, video game, man, John, surgery, spine, blood, computer

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.

2015: SOMA

SOMA, video game, chair, robot, body

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

Stories Untold, video game, House Abandon, text adventure, monitor, lamp, desk, keyboard

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.

19 thoughts on “Creeped out: spookiest video game moments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the mention, Kim. Good list. I don’t remember the game Stasis but I want to try it . Based on your descriptio though, I think it’ll get to me haha.

    Surgery or body horror scenes always give me goosebumps. It seems to be a theme with space too. Like the ‘Eyeball’ scene in Dead Space 2 or the self surgery bit in the film Prometheus. Too intense for me!

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    • Honestly, that scene in STASIS is so excruciatingly uncomfortable! It’s a good game though, particularly if you enjoy isometric adventures; there are an awful lot of sci-fi elements included in the storyline (some of which aren’t entirely necessary) but it creates a great sense of atmosphere.

      As mentioned to Rob above, I’ve saw enough eyeballs while searching for a Dead Space image for this post…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I might have a look into then, it sounds good. And yes that scene in Dead Space 2 is infamous for a reason. Great scene just tough if that stuff touches a nerve. Especially since you can fail it and the failure scene is……..something else. I had to do a quick pause and pace round the room after I failed my first attempt.

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  2. Awesome response. 🙂

    I share the dread of Dead Space. I played that when I was in high school and fearing each room. That last scene though… That scared me so bad that I threw the controller in the air and fell of my chair.

    I’ve always wanted to play Shivers but as usual, so many games, so little time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One day soon I’m going to attempt to play Shivers again, maybe do a stream. Regardless of how lame it looks now, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the fear comes rushing back and I end up hiding behind my hands ha ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The one I find most memorable to me probably isn’t even all that scary of a scene but in the orignal Silent Hill when entering the school, a little ghosts kid starts moving towards you. I was playing the game with a friend, in the dark when this happened and we both jumped in terror at the ghost and I put an entire clip in to the ghost and then reloaded and took an extra shot for good measure. Turns out the ghost kids couldn’t hurt you but considering the game starts off with you dying (which I reloaded multiple times because I thought I was doing something wrong), there was no way to tell what was safe and what wasn’t.

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    • I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never actually played any of the Silent Hill games… but then I am a massive wimp, so that probably comes as no surprise. I’ll have to see if I can find a video of the original, which I’ll then proceed to watch while hiding my hands behind my eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve heard that I should check out Stories Untold, so I’m gearing myself up. SOMA Is the best horror story I’ve ever seen in any medium. It gets to the heart of so many human fears and does it brilliantly. I have a BA in Psychology, and the question of consciousness is something that’s always fascinated me. I used to be afraid of the word “brain” when I was a little girl lol, and Mother Brain from Metroid STILL terrifies me. There’s something about a disembodied brain that’s so unsettling, because in some sense, that’s all we are. The technology in SOMA is obviously not something we have…yet, but we’re getting closer and I think that drives the horror in. It speaks to the “Transporter Problem,” too, which I’ve seen nerds talk about in regards to Star Trek. Really interesting if unsettling stuff!

    I bookmarked the link to your SOMA article. I want to read that, but it’s nighttime where I am and I need it to be day so I have time to fill my mind with other stuff before bed time o.O

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    • Stories Untold is so good. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s ‘scary’ as such but there were definitely a few moments where I felt my skin prickle and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I think that’s in part due to how I used to react to text adventures when I was a kid – they had the power to really creep me out!

      I’m really looking forward to seeing what Frictional Games come up with next. If it’s anything like SOMA, I can’t wait (although I’m a little bit frightened).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t played most of these, but boy that dog crashing through the window in Resident Evil was just the worst! The face of the first zombie slowly turning around, particularly in the vintage pixelated Playstation graphics will forever be etched into my mind…

    I have to say, I still think the scariest and most ahead of its time game I’ve ever played was Penumbra: Black Plague. The entire game is insanely terrifying but there is one moment where you turn on the light in a pitch black room, after like 20 full minutes of sneaking around in total darkness, and there’s insane ramblings written all over the walls in blood. Absolutely scared the bejesus out of me. I could only ever play that game for ~45 minutes at a time, I could actually hear my heart beating out of my chest the whole time.

    Recommended A++ Great Game!

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    • When I first met my other-half, I recommended Amnesia to him and he ended up buying it in a bundle with Penumbra. We never actually got around to playing it though so this seems like a good recommendation for a dark night!

      I’m guessing I’ll be hiding my eyes behind my hands for most of it though…

      Liked by 1 person

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