Sometimes the biggest scares in gaming come when you least expect them, and today we're taking a look at some of the scariest moments in non-horror games. Come inside to check out our picks!
As a big horror weenie, I don't play many scary games, even during the Halloween season. I've played a few in my time, but they aren't something I'm big into and it takes a special horror game to keep me coming back to it (Alien: Isolation comes to mind). We expect scary things to happen in those games, and that's part of their appeal for many gamers...
Creepy things can pop up unexpectedly in games that aren't part of the horror genre, which manages to make them all the more terrifying. As we look forward to Halloween this year, I wanted to take a look back at some of the scariest moments in non-scary games.
Metal Gear Solid - Corridor Leading to Gray Fox
The Metal Gear Solid franchise is known for two things: impressive stealth action and convoluted storylines. Within that, however, there’s also an incredible amount of tension. This is mostly brought about via the game’s mechanics and your efforts of staying hidden. I think ALL of us jumped in the first few moments of the original game, walking around Shadow Moses and having a guard track us down via our footsteps in the snow.
That said, MGS, isn’t known for being a horror game despite many supernatural elements. While the series has a few scenes that you probably feel would qualify as scary, my pick for this one has to go to our first encounter with the Cyborg Ninja/Gray Fox. What makes this scene so scary is the fact it comes out of nowhere. Up to this point, things have been pretty straightforward with stealth action, but when you suddenly enter this corridor filled with dead bodies and no explanation...it’s easy to get creeped out.
The direction of this scene is expertly handled, and I remember when I first played/watched it, I didn’t want to keep walking down the hallway. I had no idea what was waiting for me at the end of it, and I wasn’t in any hurry to find out.
Psychonauts - Milla's Secret Room
Think about it long enough and the entire premise of Psychonauts can be mildly terrifying. You’re jumping inside the minds of other characters, seeing their innermost thoughts/fears, while dealing with any baggage that comes with. Oh, and that’s not to mention the villain in the game out there literally stealing people’s brains. Even so, Psychonauts is a quirky action game, with fun characters and a cartoony design style. While it gets into some heady (heh, see what I did there?) themes that make you think, it’s not a game that’s meant to give you chills. That is, until you enter the mind of Milla Vodello.
Her mind is set up like a 70s dance party, with everyone having fun and it’s very upbeat. This goes along with Milla’s generally chill attitude, but dig deep enough to find the secret room and you’ll find something horrifying. Turns out, she used to work at an orphanage where she failed to save kids from the burning building. Inside a toy chest, you'll enter another room where you're surrounded on all sides by bars. Behind the bars is a fire and burning landscapes populated with twisted nightmarish creatures crying out about how much it burns and "Why did you let us die?"
It’s the stuff of nightmares. Beyond the creepy factor, it’s also incredibly sad to think about these kids dying and the guilt Milla obviously feels over it. For a section of the game that’s supposed to be carefree and fun loving, this secret room makes for a scary discovery.
Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis - Creepy Watson
The scare factor in Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis isn’t intentional by any means, but that doesn’t make it any less creepy. The point and click adventure game released back in 2008, and gave players the chance to take on the role of the iconic Detective, Sherlock Holmes. It’s a pretty typical adventure game, with its first person mode and intricate story many come to associate with the character. Nothing scary here, right? Wrong. Where the game managed to get scares out of people is thanks to a glitch. Hell, it’s not even a glitch, it’s more like an oversight from the developers than anything.
You see, in some sections of the game, Holmes is followed around by his trusted companion Watson. The problem? The developers never gave the Watson character a walking animation. Instead, he’s tied to the main players’ movement, so whenever you moved somewhere, he’d teleport directly behind you.
What this meant was you’d move away across the map, turn around, and suddenly be face to face with Watson and his cold dead polygonal eyes. It prompted plenty of unexpected jump scares when players first went through the game, even sparking a Creepypasta story. While the HD remaster finally gave Watson a walk-cycle, it doesn’t detract from the creepiness of the original game.
Mass Effect 3 - Banshees
The Mass Effect trilogy is still among my favorite RPG franchises out there. The science fiction game is well known for its story and how the player affects the world, along with lots and lots of shooting. While there have been plenty of creepy/scary moments throughout all three games, the most terrifying sequence is undeniably in Mass Effect 3.
Screw these Banshees… I mean, everything about them. Just absolutely screw them. Your first encounter with the Banshees comes during the Ardat-Yakshi Monastery mission on Lesuss. These horrifying creatures are Asari Ardat-Yakshi who’ve been corrupted by Reaper tech into incredibly powerful enemies. On top of looking creepy as Hell, they elicit a powerful scream that not only sends shivers up your spine, but knock down your shields at the same time.
Oh, and they can teleport. So not only do they scare the crap out of you, they can pop up behind you unexpectedly and eat your face (seriously). It’s not a long mission, but it feels like a lifetime, and I’d never been happier to be done with a mission than when the last banshee was put down. While you face more of them down the road, this creepy first encounter isn’t one you’ll soon forget.
Batman: Arkham Knight - Man-Bat Appearance
The Batman Arkham franchise is known for its grittier take on the Dark Knight and his rogues gallery. The result is a handful of surprisingly creepy experiences in Gotham throughout the series. Just about every Scarecrow encounter in the first game ups the creep factor, and no one forgets the first time the shark jumps out at you in Penguin’s lair in Arkham City...For me, though, no other scene in the Arkham games scared me most (or elicited the biggest scream from my lips) than meeting Man-Bat for the first time in Arkham Knight.
One of the coolest aspects of Arkham City and Arkham Knight is how we can fly around Gotham city via our cape. Traversing the skies, zooming down on enemies, and zipping away was surprisingly cathartic. Despite having access to the Batmobile in Knight, I still found my primary mode of travel was across the rooftops and flying about. It’s liberating, knowing you’re alone in the sky, waiting to strike on unsuspecting bad guys from the shadows…
That sense of security goes away entirely when you first encounter the Man-Bat. It’s a jump-scare moment that’s so effective I can’t think of a single person who wasn’t affected by it. The problem is, there’s absolutely no way to prepare for it, or see it coming. The encounter happens randomly when you’re exploring Miagani Island and grapple up to a rooftop. You think everything is normal, but suddenly, this giant bat is screaming in your face. Talk about a “code brown,” pants changing moment.
There are plenty of other scary moments in non-horror games out there (from Pokemon, Zelda, and even Kirby), but for me, these five moments stand out the most. They had a big impact on me while playing through and aren’t ones I’ll soon forget. What are some gaming moments you would add to the list?