Things, not just video games, are at their scariest when you’re simply not expecting it. This universal applies to everything, whether it’s random post through your front door, or a sudden knock on a window. Panic and fear don’t always have to come from horror-based video games, because even in the brightest of titles fear can always strike. Even during silly moments, gamers can feel horror creeping up on them. This list aims to cover the scariest incidents from games of any age that weren’t, and aren’t, horror games by any means: but still made us jump with fright at certain moments.
10) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Discovering an unmarked enemy suddenly next to your position
In MGSV: TPP when you’re crawling around heavily fortified enemy encampments, packed full of hostiles armed to the teeth with guns, and explosives, it helps to know where every hostile is. Taking the time to spot enemies from afar really pays off once you’re actually inside the base because marking enemies means you can see them through walls. Not only that, but watching them move around their patrol space means you get the chance to learn walk patterns from them.
This is why when a random hostile you forgot to spot, or simply missed because they were walking somewhere else, shows up behind you, it’s absolutely horrifying. The initial panic of having to scramble to find them, then either put them to sleep or murder them, then make sure you have not disturbed any of the others, isn’t exactly a needed distraction in any mission.
9) LISA: Fighting the Playground Mutant
For the most part, LISA is a dark comedy RPG packed to the gills with witty humor, dislikable (yet lovable) characters, and nail-biting fights. Which is why the mutant fights are so jarring to the player. Not only is it a complete mood shift, but it’s the combination of the music that makes your skin crawl, and the awful visual of the abomination that just feels wrong.
Fighting early game mutants, these twisted figures of what were once men is simply horrible. They gurgle at you, they look disgusting, and to top it all off, they hit like trucks. It all makes your skin itch in an uncomfortable way.
8) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: The Entire Shadow Temple
Nintendo seems to have a long history when it comes to getting certain child-friendly video games past the ESRB containing elements that are very much not for those aged three and above. Ocarina of Time is a colorful, powerful adventure that still manages to pull strings in hearts across the globe because of fondly cherished memories. But as a child, playing the game for the first time, the Shadow Temple hidden behind Kakariko Village was such a polarizing, terrifying experience that it cannot be overlooked.
It’s the closest the game comes to being genuinely scary, even now. The mood, combined with the enemy placements, and music, creates an area that feels ‘wrong’ to explore. This feeling is aptly justified later in the temple when Link finds a tombstone stating that the Shadow Temple is a dumping ground for “Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred”. How lovely.
7) Demon’s Souls: The Entire Tower of Latria
Before From Software hit the market jackpot with Dark Souls in 2011, Demon’s Souls still stood as their first excursion in the Souls series. Because of the nature of its creation, director Miyazaki, and his team were essentially free to create whatever game they wanted to. Thus leading them to create what felt less like an RPG stage, and more like a rejected concept from a Silent Hill title: The Tower of Latria.
It’s a giant prison, corrupted by the madness of the land’s former king (now a demon himself) who sought to somehow create more abominations even after his reign ended. Not only is the mood totally different here, but the unique enemies of 3-1, the Mind Flayers, are just evil. These tentacle-headed, bell ringing spellcasters are the bane of any player in Latria, and their notoriety alone is enough to warrant another list. But this is the only area in the game that ever truly feels broken by the demonic scrouge.
6) Fallout 4: Super Mutant Suicider Bleeping
The Fallout series isn’t exactly renowned for its tense, scary moments. It’s always been a buggy, black-humored, lovable mess that people either can’t get enough of, or hate until the end of days. Fallout 4 didn’t buck this trend either, instead opting to streamline into more of an action-based FPS rather than a by the book RPG. It wasn’t scary in the slightest (except that one section down a certain quarry), even the prolific Deathclaws were weedy compared to their Capital, and Mojave cousins.
That being said, the incoming bleeping noise of a Super Mutant carrying an armed Mini Nuke, when you can’t find the Mutant, is horrifying. The reason for this fear is because of the sheer unprecedented damage that these reckless loons can deal to your survivor. Coupled with the fact that playing Fallout can make you forget to save because you’re too busy doing stuff, it’s less than brilliant when this bleeping starts ringing from a distance.
5) Darkest Dungeon: Being Critical on Death’s Door
Saying Darkest Dungeon by Redhook is difficult is like saying “water is wet”; it’s not exactly a revelation. The combat is intense, and constantly forces players to gamble on damage-dealing to kill enemies or trying to heal whatever just nearly murdered your heroes in the previous round. Because that’s just not enough for the Redhook team, however, they also elected to implement randomly occurring critical strikes that deal massive damage to whoever takes the hit. Critical strikes that enemies can get as well.
Even in lower level dungeons, critical hits are king when it comes to winning or losing at the right moment. A single, horribly devastating hit can render a hero either dying or dead instantly. So having a squishy hero (like the Plague Doctor) take a round one crit to the face, placing them on Death’s Door, is heart-wrenching.
4) Overwatch: Hearing “It’s high noon!” (But not being able to see the enemy McCree)
Much like the majority of horror, it’s all in what you hear (or don’t in some cases). Naturally then, when a player hears any of the carefully crafted ultimate voice lines from the wide cast of the Overwatch characters, they turn to try and find the source. This instant reaction is like a knee-jerk for experienced players, because if you know where an ult is near you, you can react to it accordingly. This is why when you hear the line “It’s high noon!”, and cannot locate the enemy McCree, everything becomes a frantic game of “find cover somewhere”.
The issue is with finding cover, because Overwatch isn’t cover-based compared to other shooters, sometimes there simply isn’t any cover nearby. But there’s another, far worse, problem with the non-existent McCree – because you can’t dodge an ult you can’t find. You only really get a couple of seconds of safety if you’re playing a tank character, but even then you run the risk of eating a powerful revolver shot if you stand in the wrong place.
3) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Encountering Giant Frostbite Spiders for the First Time
The re-released action adventure that Bethesda just can’t let go of has seen a lot of dumb, funny, and stupid moments over its considerable near six lifespan from players all over the world. But it’s not scary. Daft, campy, spacious, and enjoyable it is: but not scary. So the initial reveal in Helgen of the giant Frostbite Spiders wasn’t to be expected from a game where the first-born of the God of Time can be killed by a wooden sword.
The enemy design on the spiders is fantastic, and the design team must be commended for giving thousands of players nightmares for years to come. Even if you didn’t have any form of arachnophobia, these things were just nasty to deal with. They usually came in packs, made disgusting movement noises, and dealt weirdly high poison damage. Don’t even mention Nimhe and her quest either.
2) Dishonored: Fighting the Whalers
After blasting, or dodging, your way through most of the main missions in Dishonored, you’ll suddenly find yourself in the Flooded District as a prisoner. This entire area is diseased beyond saving and is also packed to the gills with Whalers – assassins who work for, and with Daud. While the area itself is a tad creepy due to its visuals, these other assassins are awful to deal with. Attacking one will often lead to many more turning up to help finish the job, and they’re just as trained as you are.
Problem is that some of these murderers-for-hire have access to the powers of the Outsider, armed with a similar brand as your own. Meaning that they can teleport over short ranges. This becomes horribly apparent if the enemy you were previously looking at suddenly melts away in a flash, only to reappear behind you with a knife to your back. Nothing quite like a taste of your own medicine to get your blood pumping.
1) Minecraft: Being Snuck up on by a Creeper
If you’ve ever played the cultural phenomenon that is Minecraft, then you’ll be initially confused by this crowning top spot being named as it is. A Creeper is an enemy in Minecraft that exists solely to ruin your evening (literally, as they can only spawn at night). Whenever the player approaches one of these green-pixelated fish sticks of death, they explode, dealing massive damage. While it’s normally obvious when one is about to detonate, as they have a trademark “hisssss” that leads up to just before the blast.
Occasionally though it can catch you off guard. The warning “hisssss” from before can become far less apparent once you’re battling other enemies, or concentrate on what to mine next in your pit of misery. This shock of being blown up without any warning at all, just instant death, is the perfect example of fear-inducing tactics in a game that’s normally so kid-friendly, fluffy, and safe.