Contributions by Cody Johnston, Eric Young, Joe Baker and Jose Herrias.
In the spookiest time of the year, we are here to go over our Top 10 scariest moments in gaming. These are the moments that left us gripping our controllers with sweaty palms, afraid to play in the dark. They sometimes even drove us into the tender loving arms of Nintendo or another fluffy, forgiving game. Take a look at what was 2spoopy4me…
10. Alien Isolation – First Encounter
Alien: Isolation reignited the flame we hold for that bumbling Xenomorph of the 70’s with an experience that still shits me up just thinking about it. Whether it was the creepy red-eyed androids shuffling around or the Alien itself (so adept at hunting you’d think it was using a Ripley discovery app), the Sevastopol was one terrifying place to be. It’s the first encounter with this invulnerable, unrelenting space beast that brings home how much of a nightmare Isolation is going to prove. Slinking down from his vent, whopping his tail within inches of you, slime dripping from his craw. . . it’s almost as if Mr. Alien knows you’re there already. But he’s not going to kill you that easy. He’s going to take his time – a long time. Too long to be honest. Can you hurry up? This campaign is 15 hours long! Still, that moment was great.
9. Dark Souls – The Capra Demon
Perhaps the most impressive part of this scare is how it works even though it’s telegraphed without any ambiguity. The trek to the boss involves a tight undead ghetto absolutely stuffed with ninjas doing their damnedest to backstab you. Needless to say, you’re already tense. You also see a white fog gate which is a Dark Souls way of saying, “Here is a boss fight, prepare yourself.” Naturally, you ready yourself for a fight. However, you are not ready. Every boss you’ve fought before (and almost every fight after) begins with a reasonable amount of time to get your wits about you, take stock of the arena, and form a battle plan – not this time. Before you see anything, you hear a pair of angry dogs coming for you. Instinctively, you raise your shield, allowing only a chance to block their attacks. Then you see the Capra Demon: a twelve foot tall, bipedal goat-man wielding two fat swords roughly the size of the playable character. The demon slams both down and almost certainly kills you. All of this happens within two seconds. Admittedly, this isn’t very frightening the second or third time. Once you figure him out, the Capra Demon is a fairly manageable fight. But, the first encounter is guaranteed to scare the Estus right of you.
8. Outlast – The First Encounter
Mental hospitals can be scary on a normal day, never mind during the night. It’s even more so when the place is abandoned and overrun by psychos. Outlast played this card well, pitting players against anxiety and forcing them to slowly creep through the eerie establishment, waiting for that moment for something to jump out. For the first thirty minutes of the game players were left wondering when they were about to be targeted by their assailants. Instead, the game lures players into a false sense of security. It only takes one bang on the door before it’s evident that something is about to bare its ugly face. The tension comes from the classic need to hide, something that saw me wandering into a closet only to be dragged out and beaten to death.
7. Halo: Combat Evolved – The Flood
Halo: Combat Evolved was the sci-fi shooter of everyone’s dreams upon release. It had cool aliens, space marines, laser weapons, spaceships, and power armor. Halfway through the game though, as the narrative unfolds and secrets of the Halo ring come out, Master Chief comes to a moment where he finds the remains of a marine unit. As he watches the recordings, the player watches in horror as the marines are slaughtered by a then unknown enemy. Soon after, the Chief has his first encounter with the Flood. The moment comes right out of a horror movie as the wave of creatures swarm the Chief. They are followed by the infected bodies of Covenant Elite, only to be shredded by shotgun blasts. In this moment, Halo successfully scared the crap out of me, and had me gripping my controller.
6. Eternal Darkness Sanities Requiem – Sanity Effects and the Bath Scene
It’s rare that a game can scare in a way that genuinely effects players in real life. There are scares that make us shiver a bit, but then there are the moments that make us re-evaluate what just happened. Silicon Knights provided us with a unique sense of fear that wasn’t really found in gaming beforehand via sanity effects. Eternal Darkness pitted players against their own rationality with this trope. It leads to all sorts of crazy moments such as saves being deleted, walking into upside down rooms, and even a teaser for a sequel (which we still haven’t received). Believing that the volume was being changed on the TV was one thing, but the moment that had players going was the famous bath scene. All players had to do was examine the bath, only to be treated with an abrupt scene of the main character bleeding to death in the tub.