I started playing videos very young, and my relationship with them will probably be a blog post of its own. Being brought up on the horror genre as a whole, I typically play horror/survival style games. Needless to say I have experienced my fair share of late-night-solo-game-session-freakouts and jump scares. But some of my utmost terrifying gaming moments have come from some rather unlikely places…
This list certainly isn’t a guide to scariest games. In fact some of the games included aren’t even actually scary games, or they were made for kids. It based totally on opinion, and from my INITIAL game experience, meaning that some of these freaked me out real bad…when I first played the game as a third grader. Furthermore, some of these moments are scary BECAUSE they are surprising, so there are going to be some spoilers ahead. Ye have been warned.
OK SO HERE WE GO!
My first moment comes from a game that’s not so surprising on this list: Silent Hill. In fact I assume its on most “scariest moments in gaming” lists out there. However its probably not a moment you would typically think of. It’s not when the pterodactyl monster busts through the diner window or when evil Cybil staggers out to murder you. Instead its a moment with literally no monster or dangerous consequences.
Harry walks into a restroom with no monsters, no radio buzz, just quiet. But when you step forward a sudden, loud sob can be heard echoing through the stalls.
That’s it. But I threw my controller a mile the first time I heard that sob, and my heart must have stopped. It took all my strength to finish exploring the bathroom, but of course there were no monsters. And really that’s the power of Silent Hill and what it excels at: making you fear the unknown most of all. That’s why the fog and darkness is so terrifying. Imagining what MIGHT be there is usually worse than just fighting a dang monster.
The next game in the list is another that excels at making a really fun, creepy atmosphere, and is also included often in “scariest” lists for video games. I am still not totally sure if Bioshock is even actually a horror game. It’s one of those games that is hard to categorize. But regardless of genre, it certainly succeeds in some scares. Most people think of the surprise dentist or the splicer with the baby carriage, but by far my scariest moment was the very first Big Daddy battle.
Talk about HYPE. I remember thinking “NO. IM NOT READY THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING OHGOD”. I probably also paused the game to hyperventilate a bit.
Bioshock sets up the Big Daddy so well. You travel through the game witnessing what the Big Daddy can do but always safe out of reach. The most interesting part of the Big Daddy fights of course is that YOU have to initiate them, which usually makes things easier….but also often ends up with you unloading on the hulking mass and praying to God that your ammo holds out.
Most boss battles involve you being basically trapped in a room with the thing trying to kill you, which is how it was in the next game on the list, Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider (and all 258490 of the sequels) isn’t really a scary game, just scary hard, mostly due to Lara’s nearly impossible controls and the few save points. The boss that scared me most as a child however was actually one of the easiest. It was slow moving, not super strong, and didn’t really have long distance attacks (and considering the terror of the T-Rex boss battle it was a welcome fight).
The thing mostly scared me because-
IT WAS A GIANT TORSO MONSTER ABOMINATION.
Like what even the hell is that thing?!?!? Not to mention the way it movies, dragging its torso stump around with its long weird arms…Worst of all is the way it actually kills Lara when it grabs her.
It would SLAM HER VICIOUSLY INTO THE GROUND until she was a limp meat sack. Trust me, go watch some gameplay of this moment. Something about the ultra violence of the death scene really stuck with me. As a kid I laughed it off with my brother as a wtf moment. But I never ever forgot it, and I can’t even tell you a third of the Tomb Raider bosses there have been since then.
Plus there has definitely been at least one giant torso sliding after me in my nightmares.
Speaking of chasing, if you want to play a game that will assure you a panic attack, I recommend the next game on my list, Haunting Ground. Its of that hallowed genre shared with Silent Hill of horror/puzzle games, because nothing says fear like trying to finagle a door open with a counter balance system while about to be murdered.
In Haunting Ground however, unlike Silent Hill, you can’t really fight the things trying to maul (or in this case possibly brutally rape, torture, and eat ?) you. You can only hide. AND if you use a spot too many times the thing chasing you will rip you out of said spot.
So basically the game consists of you exploring a giant castle solving puzzles and then RUNNING ALL THE WAY BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM AND GETTING HORRIBLY LOST WHILE FRANTICALLY TRYING TO FIND A STUPID DOOR TO DUCK BEHIND
That’s the moment I guess, although really the whole game is this moment. But that moment where you are praying to the lord baby Jesus that gorilla man keeps walking…you don’t know fear until you see him sniffing for you.
Frantic running away is a prevalent theme on this list. The next game is far from a ‘horror’ game despite being about ghosts; it’s Casper, and this game was apparently marketed toward kids despite being infuriatingly difficult. Casper is a puzzle game that consists of you searching through a literal maze, with no map, to find keys to lead you to more parts of the maze and still have no idea what is going on. Also eating broccoli which may have also scared children.
But there is one room where you very abruptly get MAULED BY UNCLE FATSO
Like most of the Casper game this bit isn’t exactly intuitive. There is no warning that Fatso is going to charge you and chase you around (except the abrupt speed up in music). And you just have to flail and run to a door to escape. I would say that “I was just a kid and I don’t know why it creeped my out” but that would be a lie because everyone else who has played this game agrees with me.
Speaking of uncalled for terror in children’s games, one of my favorite games of all time is Spyro The Dragon, a generally light hearted, even adorable game. But there is definitely some underlying creepy. There’s puppies and turtles that turn into monsters when not in the light, an entire world called “Beast Makers” full of things that want to eat you, and don’t even get me started on the level “Jacques”
But the thing that got me was the monsters of the level “Misty Bog” which start off looking innocuous enough, like palm trees. Then they puff out of the ground and look a bit more like unhappy beets. Then they start vibrating. If you keep approaching…
I mean, are there really even any words?
And yeah, it eats you.
I can’t really imagine where this idea came from unless the designers had just watched The Langoliers.
I still hate those things.
Anyway, moving on, like most monsters in games, when you go back and play again, the evil turnips and most others on this list just aren’t as terrifying second time around. They may still residually unsettle you, but they are easy enough to get past or kill.
One such creature is the Witch from Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead was a challenge the first time you played a campaign, and the first time you experience a Witch?
I remember I never even saw her before she was on me. It was during a horde attack, so my teammates and I were just shooting frantically, and apparently I hit her because in a flash of claws and an earsplitting scream I was on the ground being torn to bits. I yelped and threw the controller across the room. I am not even remotely exaggerating.
Its humorous now, considering how easy Witches are to avoid and that most groups involve one guy going up for a headshot and screwing it up and laughs all around. But regardless of replay value, you never forget your first Witch.
Half Life 2 is a really good game. It’s one of my all time favorites. The game is really good at making YOU feel like Gordon Freeman, and of course that just makes the fear all the more real. And Ravenholm is about as edge-of-your-seat-pantswetting as it gets.
Half Life 2 is filled with scary moments despite not really being a horror game by any means. I mean you are fighting zombie alien….things. And giant bugs. And a government that would make George Orwell shudder. But the game gets legitimately scary when Gordon has to cut through a deserted, alien infested town called Ravenholm. Its a place just filled with awful, and its also the place where you meet all your favorite reoccurring headcrab zombie types, like the lumbering one that throws the screaming poisonous facehuggers at you and the stupidly fast ones that mostly always look like this
as in right about to land on your head and tear you to shreds.
The whole level is a ball of anxiety, but the final rooftop battle against an onslaught of those things is a definite member of this list. Of course one of my other most anxiety inducing moments was this baby right here. Damn Antlion Guards.
The final member of this list is an unlikely choice; the game is Condemned 2. (If you want the FULL SCARE stop reading now and go play the game, this is one of those ones that is scary partially due to the fact you don’t really see it coming).
Condemned 2 isn’t really a “great” game; it has a lot of flaws (don’t even get me started on the end fight -_-) but I found it to be a generally enjoyable one. It had some disturbing and frightening moments, even if the main character is about as likable as stale bread and the plot makes about as much sense as purposefully making a sandwich with said bread. But there are some nice parts and the game actually has the moment that has frightened me the worst in a video game. And that moment was this.
That’s a bear. A BIG bear. A big RABID FRICKIN BEAR.
In a game where up till this point you have been fighting zombie humans, this is a pretty startling switch over in the final leg of the playthrough. And the game has fantastic build up. You are walking along a snowy path, find drops of blood and the occasional body part on the ground, then you start getting in radio reports about rabid animals, then you get to a big hunting lodge…
And then this dude charges you and you have to run down tiny hallways to escape and it can crash through walls to get you so even just when you think you’re safe he busts in again.
I may have literally cried playing this.
It helps that this scene likely gave me PTSD from THIS time in my life…
I feel you, Crash.
But I think we can all agree that this is NOT the last thing you want to see before you die.
Well folks that concludes my scariest gaming moments list. I hope you enjoyed! Maybe it gave you a case of nostalgia, or gave you ideas for new games to play, or maybe you think I’m crazy and disagree with everything I said.
But either way, I hope you stay curious!