Halloween is rapidly approaching and like many other gamers out there I am popping in some of my favorite horror titles like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. Lately I’ve been trying to get some friends to join in on the fun, but many quietly declined stating that while they do like games and scary movies, the mix of the two was not for them. The way these games put a player in the middle of the scare, forcing them to actively engage is a bit too much for their tastes. So, in response this, I made a list of my personal top five scary moments from non-horror games. If Resident Evil or Dead Space is too much for you, maybe check these out:
5) Drowning Sonic- Sonic 2 (Genesis/Mega Drive)
Ok, ok, hear me out on this one. While a platform character biting the dust with lives to spare is normally no big deal, the process of Sonic’s underwater death are just pure anxiety. Seriously. Show of hands. Who has ever gone into a mini panic at least once as you hear that music switch as the countdown starts? Those of you who aren’t raising your metaphorical hands are lying. The worst part is that when this happens, more often than not there are no air bubbles to replenish oxygen within reach. Upon this realization, you just start running and jumping like a maniac, biding time until your inevitable demise. Frightening.
4) Phanto- Super Mario 2 (NES)
Phanto is what I like to call a stalker enemy. And gawddammit, he is one of the worst. Usually when you get a stalker enemy chasing you in a game you can kill it, stun it, or at least hide and take a different route then it. Not Phanto. As long as you have the absolutely necessary key, you better look out. The little jerks are relentless. He forces you to endure a sadistic game of red-light, green-light, a terrible game of tag until you reach the end of the level. It’s trauma tag, and Phanto is it.
3) Poo’s Meditation- Earthbound (SNES)
I almost put Giygas’ final form on here but I switched it for two reasons. First, Earthbound is a great game and I’d rather not play the spoiler card, and second, It’s been discussed to death, while this creepy little moment doesn’t get nearly as much coverage. When the player first encounters Poo in Earthbound he is meditating with his master. In this trance a ghost speaks to you and asks you to mutilate yourself. At the first request the player becomes uncertain, but it’s not too hard to choose yes or no, but it goes on further from there. You’re eyes, your arms, your legs, one by you are asked if it’s alright that they be taken from you, and you, the player, have to choose for poor Poo. After the second or third request, you become scared that not only have you maybe majorly screwed up the game file, but that you may have made a boatload of bad choices for a game world you’ve come to love. It’s scary, but powerful with a purpose.
Remember the movie Misery?
2) Intro Cinematic/First World- Evil Twin (Dreamcast/PS2)
This is kind of an obscure choice, considering it was only released in PAL territories, but man,does it deserves a spot on this list. Evil Twin is a 3D platformer built on the Rayman 2 game engine, but the spirit of this game is far from Rayman. In Evil Twin, you play as the orphan Cyprien. It’s his birthday and the other ragamuffin orphans in the rusted, dingy orphanage throw him a party. Cyp, unhappy because his parents died on his birthday, storms out and expresses to his teddy bear how he wishes that everyone would disappear into a world of darkness. As he wishes this, darkness fill the room and an electrified tentacle monster takes all of the other children away forcing Cyp to go find them in a dark fantasy world. The game has a beautiful art design and overall feels like a place Tim Burton would have a nightmare in (with orphans thrown in for good measure.)
Cyprien reminds me of Chuckie from Child’s Play
1) The Moon- Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
When I was a kid, this thing gave me nightmares. The Moon in Majora’s Mask is just made with pure dread. Right from the beginning it is there, slowly inching closer and closer as it lowers it’s demonic face so it almost literally breaths down your neck. The Moon is a problem that hits you right away, but you cannot face until the end. You can slow time down, you can rewind it, but you can’t run away. The Moon in Majora’s Mask creates a powerful presence of urgency and evil that you can’t ignore, you can only prepare for the day you face it. The more you think about it, the scarier it is.
Please keep in mind that this is a personal list and is therefore limited to games I have played. Do you have a specific scare moment from a not-so-scary game that you think belongs here? Leave a comment below!