By Daniel Lein and Victoria Lein
Sometimes the scariest things are the ones you least expect. Sure there are jump scares, but what’s really scary is when you’re playing an innocent Nintendo game and a zombie screams like a banshee and hugs you to death. We all like to be scared a little bit at times, especially when it’s a one time experience rather than an entire twenty hour game, full of haunting atmosphere and horrifyingly deformed creatures. Here’s a list of those moments that caught us off guard; that scared us in a game that had no business scaring us.
Metroid- First Contact
Released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Metroid was a culture shock in every sense of the word. Along with several other Nintendo titles, Metroid would introduce gamers to an entirely new brand of gameplay. In addition to the exploration/combat platforming that Metroid essentially invented, the sci-fi classic also brought with it atmosphere. Though Metroid is by no means a horror game, it does have that same command over environment and audio. Every area looks and sounds foreign and daunting, just like an alien planet should. This brings us to the Metroids themselves.
An alien parasite, the Metroids are believed to be the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy. Though the player doesn’t confront these aliens until the end of the game, there is plenty of build up to their terror and their power. When the player finally does make first contact with the Metroid, it will attach itself to Samus’ head and not let go until all her health is drained. For the few seconds that the metroid is attached there is a heart pounding sense of anxiety and helplessness before that crushing game over screen.
Half-Life 2- Ravenholm
Remaining in the genre of science fiction, Half-Life 2 is our #4 pick. With G-man and the Headcrabs, Half-Life is a much darker story than that of its sister game, Portal, but that doesn’t make it a horror game. That being said, Ravenholm, one of the game’s earlier levels, feels like a horror game. A dead town full of headcrab zombies and run by a crazy priest, Ravenholm not only looks like a horror game but feels like one too.
Throw in the dark lighting and disturbing sounds of the headcrab zombies, and you have a really frightening and out of place mission in this sci-fi adventure.
Fallout 4- Dunwich Borers
Nuclear Fallout is a horrifying thing in and of itself, so there’s no surprise at the large number of scary people and places in the Fallout universe. With the creepy perfection of Covenant, the twisted serial killer of the Boston sewers, the horrifying gore of Pickman’s Alley, and many other demented people and locations it’s easy to run into something scary in the Commonwealth of Fallout 4. The most chilling of these, however, is undoubtedly Dunwich Borers. Located in the North East of the map, Dunwich Borers is a quarry that has been owned both before and after the war. As you traverse the claustrophobic tunnels of the deeper sections of the quarry you uncover simple things like employee complaints over poor working conditions as well as some accidental fatalities. You also learn about the struggles that a group of bandits experienced while stripping the place for scrap post war. The raiders met with both insanity and ghouls, which are terrifying in their own right, but are nothing compared to the true horrors of Dunwich Borers.
As you dig deeper, the tunnels give you flashbacks and audio logs that tell of a strange cult that both worshipped and searched for an artifact buried deep within the earth. Combine all of the well told story with an excellent atmosphere and you have one a truly frightening experience.
Spec Ops: The Line- Mannequins
Spec Ops: The Line is one of the best games I’ve ever played. There really isn’t enough time in the day to talk up the game’s quality. You play as Captain Walker, leader of a small Delta force team whose mission is to secure the borders of post disaster Dubai. After some near satirical levels of classic military game combat, Spec Ops evolves into an insane and anguish filled crawl through the horrors of war. There is one part in particular where Captain Walker attempts to flank a group of rogue American soldiers by going through a small clothing store, a store littered with mannequins. In this room, a heavy enemy soldier enters, the music changes, and the lights begin to flicker on and off wildly.
It is nearly impossible to describe the intense feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety as you wildly shoot in the dark at enemies that are there one second, and lifeless mannequins the next.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time- Bottom of the Well
The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of the most beloved in gaming, and there’s no question why. Exciting action-packed gameplay, lovable characters, and a gorgeous open world give Zelda games their palpable sense of adventure. That’s why many gamers were so surprised to find that the dark corners of Hyrule hide some of the more horrifying things in gaming. There are cutscenes, like Link’s deeply creepy vision in Twilight princess. There are characters, like those cursed and deformed ones who have you search for gold skulltula. However, the one that takes the cake and shows its horrors beyond our wildest nightmares is the Bottom of the Well in Kakariko village.
Acting as a sort of mini-dungeon, the Bottom of the Well is only accessible as young Link, which somehow makes the horrors that you see all the more terrible. Between the blood soaked torture devices and untraceable wailing there is a pervading sense of panic. Even though there’s no timer, you can’t help but feel pressured to leave as quickly as possible. And though there isn’t a lot of combat in this area, there is confrontation with the Dead Hand.
Nightmare fuel if there is such a thing, Dead Hand is this bloody albino creature with severed hands and a hanging jaw, giving its wearing a face of perpetual screaming. Fun fact, my sister, a Legend of Zelda aficionado, had to put headphones on and listen to other more upbeat music while playing through the Bottom of the Well. It’s that disturbing.