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Spooky Moments in Video Games

Well, the witching hour is finally among us. Children will be knocking on doors dressed up as their favourite characters to collect sweets, adults will dress up in a range of creepy, sexy and Squid Game outfits, Rocky will go as Fred Flintstone. So much fun. Of course, Halloween is also associated with the spookier elements, such as witches, ghouls and mother-in-laws. Horror films such as Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street and Casper The Friendly Ghost will be viewed in houses around the world tonight. I thought I put together my own little list with regards to video games (I mean, I write about video games every week). If you want to catch up on Count Rockula’s 13 Games of Terror from last Halloween, you can do so here. Below is a list of some of the creepier elements in video games. They won’t all be from horror games and they only include games I’ve actually played. Also, I’ll try to limit it to one per franchise or else it will be all Resident Evil. Enjoy.

Zombies Through the Door – Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil is full of scary moments. Most people will fondly remember the first zombie and the dogs jumping through the window in the first game, Lisa Trevor in the Remake and being chased by Nemesis in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Even Resident Evil 2 (Remake) has some excellent moments, including the absolutely frightening sewer section. I’ve gone with the original Resident Evil 2, released on the PlayStation in 1998. The game improved upon the first in the series in a number of ways, from better graphics to new enemies. The Lickers are particularly noteworthy, especially the one that drops through the ceiling. However, even after all these years, one scene sticks with me. At some stage in your playthrough, you have to take a trek out to the boiler room. It’s a small room on the grounds of the Police Station. It’s nothing special but it does have a typewriter so it feels like it’s safe. When you’re ready to leave, you’ll head out the door opposite where you entered but you’re in for a shock. As you open the door, two zombies come shuffling in. This terrified me as a kid for a number of reasons. The door animations are often used for loading the next area and doesn’t contain anything other than a door opening but this time you’re greeted with two zombies. You’re then pushed back into the tight space of the boiler room, which you thought was safe. You have to confront these zombies in order to progress, there’s no way around it. The combination of the false sense of security, what seems like a regular loading screen and the moans of the undead make this a truly memorable moment. Resident Evil 2 (Remake) would have a reference to this scene but as zombies regularly walk through doors it isn’t as frightening… also, I wasn’t getting caught twice…

Ghosts – Alex Kidd in Miracle World

I’ve always had a bit of a fear of ghosts, vampires and zombies. As an adult, zombies still freak me out but as a kid I was really spooked by the supernatural. That’s what makes this entry so creepy for me. Alex Kidd in Miracle World on the Sega Master System was the first video game I ever owned. It was built into my Master System II. I got it for Christmas one year in the 90s (I can’t remember when) but I loved it. There was just something about the colourful graphics, catchy music and fun gameplay. I never made it far but, boy, did I try. There was one element of the game I hated though. At some stage you’ll encounter a block with what looks like a skull on it or one with a “?”. The skull boxes always spawn a Ghost while the “?” blocks can have either a Ghost, Power Bracelet or an extra life. On the first level you’ll encounter one of these blocks and a Ghost will pop out. When I first bumped into one of these, it scared the life out of me. These haunting figures will chase you until you can outrun them by moving the screen but they will lead to an instant death if touched and you can’t defeat them. The game encourages you to spawn them in the “?” blocks because it then makes the next “?” block spawn a life but I was so terrified of them, I would just avoid anything with them. When I see a skull box, it makes me panic as I attempt to avoid drawing out this miscreant…

Wraithmarsh – Fable II

As a series, Fable is a light-hearted RPG romp, filled with fart jokes, British humour and colourful locales. The trilogy doesn’t really take itself seriously even if you’re fighting off a dragon, a demented king or an unknown evil. It’s a series that delivers fun combat that can be suited to every player’s style, along with a host of spells to cast. That’s what makes Wraithmarsh in Fable II even creepier. It sort of flies in the face of what came before. The Hero must travel through the swampy ruins on his way to reach Bloodstone. Upon transporting to Wraithmarsh, you are confronted by the fearsome Banshee, whose blood curdling screams will haunt you. The area lies desolate, with no life whatsoever outside of Banshees, Balverines and Hallow Men. What makes it even more frightening is its backstory. If you’ve played the first Fable, you will be familiar with the town of Oakvale. It’s the Hero of Fable’s hometown. It’s a cheery farming village theming with life. Some time after the events of Fable, a resident made a deal with the Shadow Court in exchange for eternal life. This deal would lead to all the residents being sacrificed, turning the village into the eerie swamp you encounter in Fable II.

Titan Elementary School – Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2 is a haunting game from start to finish. Isaac Clarke has awoken on the Sprawl just as its going to Hell. There, he must make his way through the space station and escape this nightmare. Unlike the first Dead Space, this game constantly keeps you moving forward, battling the necromorphs along the way. As the Sprawl is a massive civilian space-station, there are plenty of victims for the Markers to take hold of. As you progress through the space-station, you’ll eventually enter the Titan Elementary School. This was where the children would be looked after and attend classes. The walls and floors still decorated with colourful designs. You’ll glance through some of the windows to see what remains, and the horrors each room has. You’ll be attacked by Crawlers and the Pack, both of which are children turned into necromorphs. This is where it really sunk in for me that the Markers affected everyone. It’s a tense scene that doesn’t shy away from the reality of life on the Sprawl. Most horror games don’t really deal with children when it comes to virus outbreaks or hauntings but Dead Space as a series went in head first and unlike Dying Light has you violently confront these beings in order to survive.

Phanto – Super Mario Bros. 2

While the Ghost in Alex Kidd in Miracle World was giving me nightmares, kids on the other side of the Atlantic were probably being haunted by Phanto. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a strange game in the Mario series but strange in a good way. It introduced a load of new enemies from Wart to Shy Guys. It had an interesting “carry” mechanic to help you pick up enemies, bombs and keys. The keys were required to unlock doors in the game (well, duh) and often had to be carried over head while avoiding enemies. One of these enemies was the fearsome Phanto. When you find a key, it is often surrounded by creepy masks. The masks won’t do anything until you pick up the key. Then, one of them springs into life and starts chasing you. These Phantos can’t be hurt and they will chase you from screen to screen, causing immense panic. The only way to stop them is to either drop the key or reach the locked door. It’s a heart-stopping chase where you’ll need to have your wits about you, or just throw away the key, whichever works for you. My first encounter with these was in the Super Mario All-stars collection that came with my Super Nintendo. I had never played Super Mario Bros. 2 before this so I was excited to try it. When I got to the key, I thought nothing of it but the moment I picked it up, I entered a panicked state, terrified of these flying demons. I bet I wasn’t the only one to experience this.

Doll House – Shadow Hearts: Covenant

The Doll House is somewhat of a stable in the Shadow Hearts series. Each game contains their own version of it as an optional dungeon. They often contain challenging yet annoying enemies and are best tackled late game. They are worth it though, often hiding strong items or equipment for your characters. I’ve chosen the Doll House from Shadow Hearts: Covenant for this list as it’s both creepy and has a connection to one of the playable characters. Gepetto is a character you’ll encounter at the start of the game. He’s an elderly puppet master who carries around a puppet modelled after his late daughter. When you arrive at the Doll House, you’re forced to have him in your party. When you enter, you’ll discover some talking puppets, each is used to solve a puzzle. You’ll also find journal entries that explain the house owner’s history, a puppet master who lost his daughter but tried to use magic and puppets to bring her back. As you head deeper into the basement, you’ll discover the connection with Gepetto. It’s an eerie and dilapidated location that fits in wonderfully with the series and I feel it’s the best Doll House in the entry due to its layout, scenery, puzzles, enemies and backstory.

The First Volatile – Dying Light

Dying Light is a spectacular first-person adventure from Techland, the makers of Dead Island. Here, you’re parachuted into a city and forced to aid the survivors. The main rule they give you is never go out at night. Sticking to this, you’ll use your parkour skills to scale the buildings (and hop on infected heads) in daylight in order to avoid trouble. The game controls incredibly well and looks beautiful. As the game progresses, you’ll have to undertake a mission that will send you out at night. At first, you won’t think anything of it. It’s a bit dark but you’ll make your way through it. That is until you encounter the Volatile. This hulking beast will hunt you down and literally smash your face in. It’s a terrifyingly hulking monster that only comes out at night. When you encounter your first one, your heart will begin to pound and sweat drip down your face as you try to flee. I haven’t played much of Dying Light but I do recall meeting these for the first time. It was horrifying. They were relentless as I attempted to make my way to safety. It was the last time I played it. It’s been a while but I will have to go back some day.

The Bride Witch – Left 4 Dead 2

The Witch in Left 4 Dead is a terrifying enemy. Her howls can be heard as you enter her vicinity. When you do finally meet her, she is hunched over on the ground. Get too close and she will launch at you with her sharp claws. The Witch is probably the most dangerous enemy in the series and as such, she is best avoided… unless you’re Sharon with a shotgun, then she’s easy meat. During Left 4 Dead 2’s The Passing campaign, you’ll encounter an outdoor wedding. As usual, you’ll encounter the infected but up at the altar is a solidary Witch, crying. The Witch isn’t any more or less dangerous than the other’s you’ve encountered but it is a sad sight as she’s dressed in white. This Bride Witch’s wonderful day has been ruined. You can take a moment to reflect on this as it’s probably one of the few scenes in the series that shows how the infection ruined people’s lives, before moving on towards the safe house. Or you be like Sharon and run up with a shotgun and blast her in the back of the head while shouting “BOOMSTICK!!!”. It’s up to you…

I hope you enjoyed my little list of creepy moments in video games. Of course, there are many, many more, especially in games like Silent Hill, Alien Isolation, The Evil Within, The Thing and Amnesia: The Dark Descent but as I haven’t played any of them, I felt it would be best to leave them out. Have a wonderful Halloween, wherever you are.

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