As I’m installing Luigi’s Mansion 3 onto my Switch, I figured why not take this opportunity to look back at all the most frightening moments I’ve experienced in video games on this, the spookiest day of the year.
Fighting King Boo in a Boswer Suit
While I’m fairly certain nothing in Luigi’s Mansion 3 will actually scare me (although I’d love to be proved wrong), the same cannot be said for the first Luigi’s Mansion and 5-year-old me. After hours of scouring the creaky, boo-infested mansion I’d finally found King Boo, only to be sucked into a painting and witness King Boo possess Bowser and roar to life.
King Boo was scary enough with his black, souless eye holes and shrieking laugh but when Bowser showed up I got flashbacks to all those Mario 64 boss fights I’d struggled with and I was truly scared. In retrospect, it’s funny imagining being scared by this moment, but I swear, at the time it was terrifying.
Being Hunted by an Alien
Holy fuck this game nailed it. That feeling I got in my gut watching Alien for the first time, dreading what was around every corner, my heart racing for every second Ripley held her breath in the vents… Alien Isolation translated that experience into one of the most tense games I’ve ever played.
I remember frantically pointing my radar around me, watching that green dot get closer and closer as I scramble behind cover, peeking out and seeing the looming creature spot me- and in a blink of an eye it’s all over. Alien Isolation is a masterclass in terrifying AI design, and definitely one of the scariest games I’ve played.
Nazi Zombies Running on All Fours
Uncharted is known for a lot of things, but one of the most underrated segments of the game that scared the shit out of me as a kid was the one where you’re just walking down the halls of this abandoned WW2 Nazi base and then some cursed zombie-like thing comes barrelling down the hall on all fours screeching at you. Holy shit this level is scary.
Cursed by the ancient treasure they disturbed from its resting place, the Nazis turned into these creepy dog-like monsters. They now hunt you around the dark corners, and as you slowly run out of ammo you’re forced to pick up old Nazi guns, adding to the suspense of it all.
Navigating Killer Croc’s Lair
Maybe it was just because I was playing at 3 AM, or maybe it’s because I had been playing the game from the start all day without taking a break, but something about this section of Arkham Asylum really messed me up. I remember my hands getting very sweaty as I slowly stepped across the floating platforms of Killer Croc’s sewer lair, batarang raised, waiting for him to leap out and run at me.
I had to walk slowly or he’d hear where I was and grab me off the platform, dragging me down to my death in the sewer waters below. By the end of this level I was as far onto the edge of the couch as I could physically sit, transfixed on the screen, determined to outsmart this killer crocodile on his turf. And I did, goddammit! Well, I did eventually… not after getting jump-scared by the big stupid crocodile man sevreal times.
Restoring Power to Mount Massive Asylum
After a few cheap jumpscares to start off the game, Outlast showed its true terrifying conceit when I was tasked with restoring power to the Asylum by turning on the generator- which was in the basement, of course. I was playing Outlast for the very first time, and I was with my friend Cody who sat next to me on the couch clutching a pillow. We descended into the Asylum’s basement in the pitch black of our living room, at two in the morning.
As I flipped the first power switch a screeching noise tore through the basement and I was instructed to hide. Shutting myself in a locker, one of the inmates kicked the door down and began opening the lockers to my left, one by one. I could barely make him out through the slits in the door, but when he came to my locker he decided to turn and walk out of the room.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but when I looked over at Cody who was still clutching the pillow to his chest I could just make out some tears in his eyes as his face was lit up by the glow of the television. He noticed me looking at him and smiled saying, “This is fucking scary dude” and we laughed. That was the last time Cody hungout while I played a horror game, but it’s cemented in my memory to this day.
First Encountering a Bloater
There’s a lot of scary moments in The Last of Us. The first time I encountered a clicker, being hunted by the guards in Boston, escaping the cannibal town… but I think the moment that got me the most was the first time I encountered a bloater.
Trapped in a highschool gym as runners pound at the door trying to get in, at the other side of the room a set of double doors burst open and a creature twice my size and bloated as fuck lumbers out. “What the fuck is that?!” Ellie shouts. “It’s a goddamn bloater!” Bill shouts back, telling us it’s an infected that’s been around for a long time.
I empty everything in my inventory onto this monster, every bullet, every molotov, every bomb but it barely even staggers it. Eventually it catches me and begins to pry open Joel’s mouth way wider than it should go. As the screen cuts to black I hear the crunchy sound of Joel’s jaw getting ripped off. Scary shit.
Jack Baker Kool-Aid-Man-Bursting Through the Wall with an Axe
As a true glutton for punishment I played through Resident Evil VII in virtual reality. So when I was creeping down the hall after escaping the Baker’s dinner table I screamed like a small child when an arm wielding an axe burst throught the wall in front of me, sending drywall flying and almost causing me to empty my bowels. No other time after this one hit me as hard, but holy shit I was on edge for the rest of this game.
Confronting the Cult in the Woods
Night in the Woods made me feel a bit of everything- including looming existential dread. When Mae and her friends finally catch up to the deragned cult who’s been kidnapping kids and sacrificing them to the creature in the woods trying to save their town, they truly come face to face with despair.
A generation of people who saw the complete collapse of their way of life when industry closed, their kids moved away and life as they knew it changed, permenately. And whether the creature in the woods actually exists, or just serves as an analogy for the town’s despair, I’ve never quite figured out. But that moment, when you’re face to face with it, scared me a great deal.
That Freaky Water Girl Who Tries to Drown You
If you dropped the girl from The Ring into a lake and had her chase you relentlessly that’d essentially be this level from INSIDE. The first time she caught up with me and pulled me down into the depths, my body going limp and my last breath escaping my lungs was truly terrifying.
All of Fort Frolic
I’m absolutely not the first person to make this obeservation (I’d argue Mark Brown breaks down the ingenious atmospheric level design of Fort Frolic better than anyone), but to this day Fort Frolic remains one of the creepiest, most memorable levels in any game I’ve played. From the ceiling tiles that fall making you look up to see the splicers crawling around, to the mannequins that move when you’re not looking at them, Bioshock‘s Fort Frolic is filled with so many moments that made me panic.
The level is also chocked full of environmental horror, as Sander Cohen has made the rooms and halls of Fort Frolic his canvas- and at times makes you his paintbrush. I won’t spoil it much more then that, because even though it’s been a decade since it released I still think that if somehow you haven’t played it yet, please do, cause it’s scary as fuck.
👻 🎃 😱
Thanks for reading! I hope you have a great Halloween and maybe boot up a spooky game this evening, and if you found any of these moments as scary as me or have any other spooky moments I should check out from a game let me know in the comments!