There are games that entertain and games that entice. Then there are games that make you debate whether you should play them late at night, or be safe and go to bed early so that you can face them in the daylight.
Video games, like any other narrative form, have found ways to terrify us in a frightfully delectable way. Though video game storytelling has a long way to go, many titles have embraced horror as a way to convey real human emotion and create empathy.
Here are some of the most frightening game scenes I’ve come across; by no means is this a complete list, but it’s a start.
Halo 1: The Flood are coming, the Flood are coming!
Maybe it’s because the Halo series has now been out for so long, but I think we’ve forgotten how new and exciting that first Halo world was. A superhuman warrior landing on a huge, overgrown machine world, where aliens and a mysterious enemy are hunting you down? Everything about that first game was surprising because it was all brand new to us. We had never seen anything like it.
From our naivety came the most frightening scene of the game. Halo already had an eerie feel to it: remember walking through giant, cavernous structures underground, where it would be completely empty, except for that one invisible swordsman. The soundtrack only heightened the horror, filled with its beautiful yet frightening tones.
But this time, it was different. As Master Chief gets ready to open the door to the tomb room, he hears a booming in the distance. He looks around, sees nothing. He opens the door and a soldier’s body falls into his arms. Master Chief picks up the soldier’s helmet and watches the horrifying scene of the soldier’s death. For a moment afterward, silence. Then a horde of Covenant, an enemy you haven’t seen before, breaks through the wall and start chasing after you.
Dead Space: Pretty much every freaking moment
There are two responses to the inherent horror of Dead Space. Either you become accustomed to the constant fear and become deadened by it, so that when the Necromorphs attack, you barely blink your eye. Or, if you’re like me, you get just as freaked out and scared every single time, and live in constant fear, jumping behind corners and peeking to make sure you’re not about to get eaten.
This movie redefined game horror and was one of the first to really embrace its frightening aspects as its very best part. I still go to sleep with my makeshift Plasma Cutter, just in case another one of those creepy crawlers comes after me…
Batman: Arkham Asylum: The Cell Block’s Armed Guards
This scene wasn’t as frightening as it was tense. At this point, you’re still a relatively new player in the world of Batman: Arkham Asylum. So you’re combat skills are shaky and you haven’t learned to be completely stealthy yet. Now you walk into this room and there are these armed security guards, waiting to blast holes into you as soon as they see your shadow.
So tense, because if you make a single mistake, it could be your last.
Also, this scene is one of the first where you use Batman’s stealthiness to your advantage, leaping from gargoyle to gargoyle, dropping silently to take down guards from behind. Once you’ve played this scene more than once, it gets easy and significantly less tense. But until then, it’s a frightening moment. Also, it doesn’t help that the Joker’s voice cackles over that intercom for most of the game.
Gears of War: The first Berserker
You would think that with a machine gun that has a chainsaw attached, nothing would really frighten you, but Gears of War proves that Berserkers scare the shit out of anyone. You’re just chatting with Baird and suddenly you hear a screeching sound. All you know is Baird’s troubling words,
A Berserker. She can hear us. She can…smell us.
Cut to the Berserker, who tears herself free from her drone guardians. One of your soldiers can’t handle the pressure and tries to run off. The Berserker promptly breaks through a wall and starts to rip him to piece. All you see is her shadow and his spattering blood.
After a seriously gratuitous blood letting (seriously, it goes on for a full 10 seconds), Marcus gets the lowdown from HQ. Once you start playing, you round the corner and see the mutilated corpse of the soldier. After that, you play a “fun” game of follow the leader, where you act as bait for the Berserker, who promptly charges through a wall to get to you.
As if that weren’t enough, there are three moments where you have to stand, waiting, and let the Berserker charge at you, so that she will break open the door to get you outside.
It’s like an alien version of bullfighting, but I’ll tell you this: I did not sign up to be a matador when I bought my Xbox 360.
What are your favorite movie horror scenes? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments below and maybe I’ll get a chance to include them in my next wrap up.