Has there ever been a gaming device more tailor-made for scares than VR? Curiously, the actual developers of VR devices aren't actually keen on the idea. Earlier this year Palmer Luckey from Oculus specifically commented on a Reddit AMA session that “...we are strongly discouraging developers from using jump scares.”
That might make sense from a fiscal standpoint - no hardware company wants to be liable for that one person who literally has a heart attack playing a scary game, but for the rest of us, VR is all the about the horror.
There are plenty of great ways to create legitimate dread in a player through VR's very immersive interface, from the sounds of doors opening and closing behind you to the much-maligned but reliably utilized jump scare.
Here we're rounding up 9 of the best VR jump scares currently available. Many of these videos have very NSFW imagery and language. so watch at your own risk!
Dreadhalls: Monstrosities Looming In The Darkness
One of the earlier Oculus Rift horror games, this one unceremoniously plops you in a dungeon populated with all sorts of nasty beasties. The horror comes from odd things suddenly appearing where they weren't just a moment before when you turn your head.
Whether is a winged gargoyle statue, creepy long haired ghost girl, or demonic hulking beast, there's a metric ton of excellent jump scares when something appears just out of the corner of your eye.
Paranormal Activity: Ghost Appearance
Yep, the Paranormal Activity universe is officially invading VR, and its got scares galore. A jump scare involving a mirror breaking in the bathroom while looking for a key is particularly effective, because you don't see it coming and it really sets the tone.
The jump scare that has everyone screaming most though is the appearance of a ghostly girl figure near the staircase, even causing one player to completely fall over and start bawling. Favorite player quotes: “I don't feel like I'm in a safe space” and “I just really need the lord Jesus right now.”
The clip below also showcases how VR still has some issues to overcome, maybe best summed up when a Paranormal Activity pre-alpha player tries to lean on a table that doesn't exist.
Dead Secret: Figure Appears In The Mirror
While VR horror takes its first fledgling steps, there's going to be a lot of exploring houses, turning old locks, and picking up random objects, which is what's on display with Dead Secret.
It feels a bit like those old PS1 days of first discovering horror (think Clock Tower or the first Resident Evil). But there's plenty of sudden shocks, like seeing a masked and covered figure appear in a mirror – guaranteed to get a real life jump from a virtual scare.
Alien Isolation: Any Time The Alien Jumps At You
If ever there were games just tailor made for VR, it's the defenseless horror titles like Outlast or Alien: Isolation that don't let you kill the creature stalking your helpless character.
This new take on the Alien franchise is legitimately scary on its own, but in VR the game is taken to a heart-pounding level, between both the spot-on sound and the knowledge of impending xeno death.
There honestly should be an extra warning label above and beyond the standard disclaimer on stuff like this for people with heart conditions. Just take a look at the reaction video below, where the most common thing players say is “Shit, shit, shit, shit shit, shit!”
Terrorift: Screaming Dead Girl Pops Out Of A Book
Hearing animal sounds in the background and a heartbeat stopping when something bad's about to go down creates a great sense of dread in this VR title. But all that's just leading up to the jump scare.
Now I'm going to let you in on a secret that probably won't endear me to many of you: I'm not actually a big fan of the Markiplier clips. Yeah, I know, he's definitely not the most obnoxious YouTuber out there, but I still don't see the appeal of watching him play games and pretend to be scared.
That being said, Markiplier's reaction to this jump scare in particular is worth seeing. Even though he knows its coming, it still effects him enough that he literally knocks the Oculus Rift headset off his head!
Boogeyman: Boogeyman Leaps From The Window
This one takes the standard fear anyone has of being alone in a dark room at night and turns it into a full video game.
As you'd imagine, there's a boogeyman lurking in all those typical hiding places: up in the vents, under the bed, behind the closet door, and in one case that really seems to affect players, just outside the bedroom window.
While there's lots of fun to be had watching teens be terrified by the boogeyman, the most interesting part might be the idle musings such as “Where are this kid's parents?” and "This is some next level terror, although I mean, I AM on the second level."
Monstrum: Creature Breaks Down The Door
Finally changing up the scenery, this VR game moves from the creepy abandoned house to a creepy abandoned ship... except maybe it's not so abandoned.
There's lots of opportunities for great jump scares here while hiding from the monstrous creatures onboard, and there's more than one monster to worry about, each with different tactics. Sometimes hiding from them doesn't work out so well either, like when a door gets broken down and messy death ensues.
Emily Wants To Play: Giggles And Appearances
Just take a look at that cover image up there: why are both dolls and little girls so inherently terrifying?
The little girl laughs in the background are almost their own jump scare, but this one's chock full of jump-out-of-your-seat frights when the lights pop off and the little girl appears just where you least expect.
Slender The Arrival: Screen Spasms
Seeing the screen flip out is one thing on a monitor, but it's another when hooked up to VR and that's your whole field of vision. When things start to get to the real goods in this take on the Slenderman urban legend, the screen goes nuts and glitches out periodically, offering some unexpected scares even before anything starts chasing you.
For those without VR headsets, an honorable mention for jump scares you can try out is the very cheap but also very highly rated Sophie's Curse.
At this point there's something like 30 pages of indie virtual reality games on Steam, and a pretty good portion of those are horror, so if you want jump scares, there's more than enough to be had. What did you think of our list, and what VR games have been scaring the pants off you?
My question though, is when are the FNAF games going to get Oculus Rift or HTC Vive support? It's a match made in animatronic jump scare heaven!