Creeped out: spookiest video game moments

As discussed in my Question of the Month response last week, it’s often the strangest things that scare us. We all have those gaming moments that have stuck with us, the memory of which only surfaces during the dark of night, scratching at the corner of our brains and making our hair stand on end…

In honour of Halloween and all things eerie, Brandon over at That Green Dude posed a question to the community recently: what is your spookiest video game moment? Below is the list of my own, which includes a few expected horror titles; but there are also a few less obvious releases that may just surprise you.

Warning: some spoilers are included below so if you haven’t played a title, you may wish to skip forward to the next entry!

1993: Myst

Myst, video game, Achenar, bedroom, Mechanical Age, tiles, poison, cage, torture chamber

Since receiving my keys from the Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been working my way through the Myst games recently. Replaying the original not only reminded me how much I loved it but also how much Sirrus and Achenar made my skin crawl. Reaching the Mechanical Age and finding their bedrooms revealed more about the brothers but it was Achenar’s space that I found particularly disturbing when I was younger: a hidden door to a secret torture chamber exposes an electric chair, bottles of poison and even a rotting head. These siblings are twisted.

1995: Shivers

Shivers, video game, ghost, spirit, water, Ixupi, river, boat

This was the title I chose for my Halloween QotM answer recently. It looks somewhat laughable now but as a teenager with an overactive imagination, left with a small group of friends alone one day, our first encounter with the evil Water Ixupi while navigating our boat on the underground river into Professor Windlenot’s Museum of the Strange and Unusual brought us all out in screams. Although we laughed it off, that night I went around our house turning every single light on and was extremely relieved once my parents arrived home.

1996: Resident Evil

Resident Evil, video game, dogs, window, hallway, corridor, broken glass

The original Resident Evil has appeared on numerous lists across the internet this Halloween, including Bandicoot Warrior’s own QotM response. It was the first real horror I played as a teenager and the bit I’ll always remember is the scene that sticks with most gamers: that moment when the mutant dogs come crashing through the window, splintering the glass and snapping at your heels. As well as genuinely terrifying the hell out of me and taking a few years off my life, it showed that horror games can be just as frightening as films.

1998: Sanitarium

Sanitarium, video game, Innocent Abandoned, statue, angel, man, child

This point-and-click isn’t exactly a horror, but its atmosphere is incredibly unsettling and I remember feeling constantly on edge while playing it. As if putting the player into the bandages of a man who wakes up in a derelict asylum with no memory of how he got there wasn’t creepy enough, the Innocent Abandoned scene with its ruined playground full of horribly-disfigured children who keep talking about ‘Mother’ is unnerving. The backwards clock and haunting music just add to the sense that everything is ‘off’ and you need to get out of there as soon as possible.

2008: Dead Space

Dead Space, video game, necromorph, alien, blood, spacesuit, astronaut, gun

Come on, admit it: you screamed too when that first ‘dead’ necromorph jumped up and started attacking you on board the Ishimura. After reading Fitzy’s recent post about Dead Space over on Game Time, I know I’m not the only one who started cautiously approaching the corpses throughout the dark corridors from that point onwards. I love the way Dead Space manages to capture a perfect feeling of dread, isolation and claustrophobia, and it’s the title that started my fondness for space sci-fi. As Fitzy said: “Once bitten, twitchy and paranoid forever.”

2015: STASIS

STASIS, video game, man, John, surgery, spine, blood, computer

Time for another space science-fiction now: how would you feel if you had to perform dangerous surgery on yourself while still awake, in order to remove a chip that’s wrapped around your spine? Utterly petrified, that’s how. This particular scene in STASIS had me squirming in my seat and looking away because it’s very uncomfortable to watch. It’s gory but not overly gratuitous –well-handled in terms of both timing and how it fits in with the title’s storyline – but it’s some pretty-messed-up-stuff that will stick with you.

2015: SOMA

SOMA, video game, chair, robot, body

SOMA leaves the player questioning what it is that makes us human through a storyline about scanning human intelligence. Say the body you’re currently in is failing and you’re offered the opportunity to be copied into a new one. Which version of you then takes precedence? Should the old version be terminated? If both copies should be allowed to live, how do you come to terms with there being multiple versions of yourself in the same space? And how would you feel if you found out you were the copy? These thoughts are far scarier than any blood and gore.

2017: Stories Untold

Stories Untold, video game, House Abandon, text adventure, monitor, lamp, desk, keyboard

When I played text adventures as a kid, there was always that feeling that if you looked up from the screen you’d start to see elements of the game in the real world. This is exactly what Stories Untold recreates. I had to resist the urge to look over my shoulder as I played through The House Abandon episode and found it difficult to stop myself expecting my phone to ring when the handset does in-game. For a simple and unassuming release, it creates an awful lot of atmosphere through a number of very clever moments that I won’t spoil by saying more.

So there you have it: eight moments from both horror games and other genres that left me spooked. Let us know which gaming scenes sent a shiver down your spine in the comments below.

Step right up: a video game theme-park

Have you ever played a video game you’d love to experience in real-life? Nintendo fans will have something to look forward to after the company announced at the end of 2016 that themed-areas will be coming to the Universal theme parks in Japan, Orlando and Hollywood over the next several years. But what about the rest of us?

There are so many games that would make an excellent theme-park or at least an attraction within one. The lovely Luna from the GamersUnitedGG Blog posed this question to her nominees for the Mystery Blogger Award recently and this post is dedicated to her: here’s what I’d do if I was going to build a pleasure ground dedicated to the world of video games.

The planning stages

Theme Park, video game, snake, slide, visitors, planning

This one may be obvious but what else would you use to plan the layout for a new theme-park? Bullfrog’s construction and management simulation enabled players to design and create their own attractions with the goal of making money and expanding across the world. I’d use Theme Park to give a visual representation alongside my business case for a profitable amusement park, which I’d take to the bank and convince them to give me a huge loan so I could start the building work. Simple.

Sonic Boom rollercoaster

Sonic the Hedgehog, video game, Green Hill Zone, palm tree, rings, blue hedgehog

A rollercoaster would be the perfect way to recreate Sonic the Hedgehog’s speed: imagine hurtling round the track to the music from the Green Hill Zone in a train of blue cars. Cliff-drops and vertical loops through palm trees would have your stomach flipping over and screams being let out involuntarily. You know how Sonic looks when he loses his rings after taking damage? That’s exactly the look I want to see on visitors’ faces when they get off the ride – before promptly throwing up.

The Ishimura’s Dread ghost train

Dead Space, video game, monster, alien, necromorph, Isaac, astronaut, space suit

Imagine a trip through the USG Ishimura, the necromorph-infested space vessel from Dead Space. Live actors would take on the role of these mutated antagonists so the experience is slightly different each time and the fear-factor is amplified. Isaac Clark would make an appearance to ‘save’ the visitors just in time at the end of the ride – and also provide an excellent opportunity for autographs, signed t-shirts and photographs upon exiting. For which of course you’ll be charged an over-inflated price.

Welcome to Rapture log flume

BioShock, video game, Rapture, 1959, sign, New Year, rubble

Step onto my log flume for a tour through the wondrous underwater city of Rapture. See the amazing sights of BioShock’s setting: Neptune’s Bounty, Arcadia, Big Daddies and Little Sisters. The ride would grow gradually darker as it progresses and scuttling will be heard in the shadows as robotic Splicers draw closer… before you’re thrown over the edge in pitch-black and plunged into a pool of freezing cold water. You may have to spend the rest of day wearing soggy clothes, but it’ll be worth it.

Bowser’s Bash bumper-cars

Mario Kart, Mario Kart 8, video game, racing, cars, race track, Bowser, Mario

The bumper-cars are one of the most-loved attractions at any amusement park so how about combining them with one of the most-loved racing games, Mario Kart? But let’s give our visitors a proper race-track rather than a square plot to drive around. Optional plastic cagoules would be handed out before the start of the ride to protect your clothing from squid ink; however, it should be noted that the park management cannot be held responsible for any injuries resulting from wayward shells and stray banana skins. Thank you.

Aperture Science educational area

Portal, video game, GLaDOS, robot, eye

Most of the theme-parks here in the UK have an area where school-trip kids are taken for some ‘learning’ – usually as a way to stop the teachers from feeling so bad about their class going somewhere fun as part of their education. Que the Aperture Science room, where tutor GLaDOS teaches the little darlings about physics through the wonders of high-tech virtual reality. She may have them crying by the end of the lesson but at least they’ll be rewarded with cake on the way out. Or is that a lie?

The Uncharted: Live show

Uncharted, Uncharted 4, A Thief's End, video game, Nathan Drake, explosion, jump

What do you get if you combine a cheesy Nathan Drake lookalike, appearances from Sully and Elena, pyrotechnics, vehicle crashes and plenty of climbing action? The Uncharted: Live show! Audience participation would be highly encouraged with selected volunteers taking on the role of pirate hostages, so our hero can rescue their butts and save the day. And of course there’s the additional perk of another autograph and photo opportunity – just watch your mum around Drake and make sure she keeps her hands to herself.

Mother’s Heart Zero Zoo safari

Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, robots, beasts, animals, dinosaurs

A lot of theme-parks have a zoo or safari-type attraction but in this day of eco-awareness and conservation, perhaps using real animals isn’t the best way to go. That’s where Horizon Zero Dawn comes in: mechanical beasts are the future! No need to feed them or clean-up their mess, just turn them on and watch them go. Of course, the park staff will need to be watchful for unexpected murderous stampedes; but at least visitors can take home their very own blaze canister as a souvenir.

The Big Whoop restaurant

The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island, video game, Scumm Bar, pub, inn, pirates, Guybrush

A sure-fire way to rake in money at theme-parks is to have a restaurant complete with mascots, and Monkey Island fits the bill perfectly. Imagine Guybrush or Elaine showing you to your table in a place decked out like the Scumm Bar, undead pirates serving up ‘meat with condiment’ and cheese squigglies, and a three-headed monkey showing up halfway through your meal? With root beer for the kids and grog for the adults, there’s something on the menu for everyone – plus complimentary breath mints.

Tingle’s Treasures gift shop

The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, video game, shop, Hyrule Market

Following on from the restaurant above, no pleasure ground can do without a gift shop – how else are you meant to claw those last few pennies from exhausted parents trying to drag their screaming offspring out of your theme-park at the end of the day? With the music from The Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule Market shops playing on repeat without a pause, visitors will be all too eager to hand over their remaining cash for some overpriced toot so they can get out of there and away from the annoying assistants who keep telling them to ‘listen’.

I feel a Kickstarter campaign coming on… anyone want to be my first backer?

(A big thank you to Tim, Kevin and Nathan who helped me out with the names of some of the attractions!)