Top 10 Spooky Videogame Moments

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 31, 2007

Filed under: Video Games 85 comments

Jay did this the other day, and it seemed like a good Halloween post. Note that this is just my own personal list, sorted roughly according to just how much the experience stuck with me after I was done playing. Here they are, from the timid to the terrifying:

10. Quake 4 – Stoggification: I still think that this could have been one of the great moments in gaming – right up there with Shodan’s reveal in System Shock 2 – if not for the fact that they made the whole process part of the marketing campaign. Everyone knew it was coming, and was in fact waiting for it, so that the event lost most of its potency. If they had left this a surprise it would have blindsided players and given them something to really talk about. My write up here. A YouTube video here.

9. Doom 3 – Trites: This game had spooky moments, although it was never quite the sum of its parts, fear-wise. It started out spooky, but the more I saw of the plot the less frightening it seemed. The story worked against it, keeping me from taking things seriously enough to get worked up. Every time I started to get immersed Dr. Betruger would get on the intercom and start hyperventilating about his awesome plans to BRING HELL TO EARTH LOLZ!!!11!1!, which just ruined it for me. Still, those little spider things were well introduced and quite scary to those who might not be so fond of bugs.

8. F.E.A.R. – Hide and Seek with Alma: I was crawling through an area of cubicles. I’d forgotten about Alma for the moment and was more worried about the soldiers ahead. In a moment of perfectly timed scripting I edged forward (crawling) and then looked to my left to see her crawling towards me like an animal. I flinched so hard I lost my grip on the mouse and it slid off the back of my keyboard drawer. If someone had filmed me at that moment it would have turned into a YouTube video labeled DUMASS GETS SCAERD AND DROPS HIS MOSE, and it would have half a million views by now.

7. Doom – E1M2: That dark area with the computer walls, blinking lights, and moaning zombies.

6. X-Com – First Mission: Steven is with me on this one. It’s a turn based game with stone-age graphics, and it can still evoke a sense of fear in the player. There is something about the way it does line-of-sight that makes you painfully aware of what you can’t see.

5. Silent Hill 2 – The Hospital: This was my first survival horror game, so it will always have a special potency to me. The hospital was pretty bad to begin with, but when the nurses showed up I really just wanted to run away. I have a lengthy (even by my standards) plot analysis here.

4. Unreal – The Sunspire: Everyone gives this game a nod for the moment when the lights go out and you have to fight a Skaarj in the dark. That seemed a little contrived to me and didn’t give me quite the scare that others got from it, but sections of the SunSpire terrified me. Those little bugs gave me the willies.

3. System Shock – Level 3: It’s bad enough being inside of the belly of a space station run by a xenophobic AI who wants to murder you and turn your corpse into a meat puppet, but it gets worse when you’re fighting small, translucent blobs in the dark that seem to be immune to regular bullets.

2. System Shock 2 – Polito’s Office: I knew I was about to meet Shodan. I’d figured it out just before I got there that I wasn’t dealing with a human, and that somehow Shodan was involved. This was mostly due to metagame thinking, but still: I thought I was ready. When the walls vanished and I saw my old nemesis towering over me in some sort of strange vision my heart rate went through the roof.

1. Thief Deadly Shadows – The Shalebridge Cradle: This entire section of the game was a masterfully executed effort. There were many techniques layered together to generate fear, and all of them fit together to make a truly frightening whole. Everyhting was well done. Scenery, monsters, voice acting, story. My own writeup on the experience is here. A YouTube video is nothing compared to playing it yourself, but if you’re curious there is a series that depicts the entire mission. It begins here.

Happy Halloween. Save me some Skittles.


From The Archives:

85 thoughts on “Top 10 Spooky Videogame Moments

  1. MintSkittle says:

    NO!!! DON’T EAT ME!!!

  2. Mike says:

    The theme music and spider in the Commodore 64 game Forbidden Forest. Still makes me jump off my seat every time.

  3. Hal says:

    No way, Shamus. My first horror game was Eternal Darkness for the gamecube. The game had a “sanity meter” in it. You had to kill zombies and other ghoulies a certain way or else proximity to them would lower your sanity meter without end. As it became lower, the game would do . . . things . . . that altered your perception of what was taking place. Some of it was clever, such as moments where the television would seem to turn off or the volume would suddenly disappear. Others were more gameplay mechanic based; you might exit a room to be surrounded by an overwhelming number of zombies, you might get a sudden “game over” screen, or your controller might just cease to function.

    Of course, the game would suddenly flash back to where you’d left off before the change, only to hear your character screaming, “This . . . isn’t . . . happening!” Once you’d experienced it a few times, it wasn’t too bad. The first time through that game? I didn’t dare play it in the dark.

  4. Hal says:

    Oh! How could I forget this? Half-Life!

    Seriously, that scene when you first encounter the huge, tentacle creature in the rocket test-fire chamber? That was a seriously creepy moment.

  5. Relayer71 says:

    Eternal Darkness rocked, such a well written story.
    Surprised no Resident Evil titles were listed.

    The original RE scared the crap out of me many times back in the day.

    Another game with really spooky atmosphere was a Dreamcast game I played a few years ago, Shadowman. Creepy.

  6. nilus says:

    I have to say the scariest moment for me was the first Resident Evil. Near the begining when the first Zombie dog bursts through the window. Scared the hell out of me. Also opened me up to the fact that at any time something could burst out of me in the game. Made me paranoid the whole rest of the way through.

  7. Dev Null says:

    I thought the scariest thing about SS was those creepy little monkeys with their brains exposed, screaming.

    Most of American McGee’s Alice, despite being essentially a platform game, goes on my scary list just for the fantastic art. The Duchess fight was particularly unnerving for some reason; I think because I really believed she was going to eat me.

    There was also a brillant little game from _years_ back that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of – been trying for several months now. Maybe someone here will know. Something about being in a gothic asylum and trying to escape, but then off-and-on you’d have these (psychotic?) breaks and the gargoyles would come alive, or you’d find yourself in some twisted version of a carnival or something. Most of the game, as I remember it, was involved mental journeys proving to yourself that you were sane, while occasionally bopping back to your body and also trying to escape the asylum. And even though I can barely remember any details about it (like the name, or whether it was a straight adventure game or had action sequences) the _feel_ of it still creeps me out thinking about it.

  8. Hanov3r says:

    Oooo, Half-Life. There are so many scary throw-away moments in that game. I remember playing it for the first time, in the dark, wearing headphones (didn’t wanna wake the wife). I was crawling through an air duct, came to an intersection with a slightly lower duct and… a head-crab jumped up at me.

    IRL? I screamed and threw the mouse away.

    It took about 5 minutes for my heartrate to return to normal.

    That game seriously brings the creepy sometimes.

  9. Locri says:

    I can think of a few other ones that had some good creepy moments in there. The top three for me would be:

    Clive Barker’s Undying. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re missing out on some fun horror/FPS gaming. I bought it randomly and played it with the lights out ^_^

    7th Guest… old, but good. I think anyone that played it would remember the Doll room *shivers*

    Phantasmagoria, especially some of the scenes right towards the end.

  10. Robert says:

    Spookiest moment in gaming: coming to 20-sided and having it show white and blue text on a black background! Aaaaah!

  11. Eric J says:

    How about in Tetris when a tower starts building up, and the bricks are still coming, and you’re throwing them left and right just to get them out of the way without any way to complete a line, and theyjustkeepcomingandcoming…

  12. Taelus says:

    I can’t believe we’re leaving off Resident Evil. In the second of them my most frightening experience came roaring to the surface:

    A friend and I were playing the game (well, he was playing while I watched) and it was night with a storm outside. We were in a small room, all lights off so we could see the tv and the stuff on it without squinting. At one of the moments in the game where you just know something’s going to come blowing through a wall at any moment, there was a flash from lightning and my friend’s cat, Shibbles, took a flying leap to head-butt my friend in the chin. I saw fast motion to my left and then heard screaming. I immediately started screaming myself and we both nearly had heart attacks. Needless to say, we stopped playing for the night.

    Now *that’s* a scary video game moment.

  13. Anon says:

    There was one point in Bioshock, in the apartment complex, where there’s this partially flooded room and at the end you can see a large bed with a corpse on it. That’s not scary in of itself, but I could just tell the game was setting me up for a splicer to appear behind my back. Naturally, I said “AW HELL NAW” and got out of there.

  14. Mob says:

    My top 3 spooky/scary games:

    1. Clive Barker’s Undying
    2. Bioshock
    3. Doom 3

  15. hank says:

    Shalebridge Cradle. Definitely. Eep.

  16. Mob says:

    The scariest moment in Bioshock for me was the dentist’s office. As I walked in steam filled the room and I could hear someone moving around. When the steam cleared there isn’t anyone around. As I moved toward the desk near the wall the steam filled the room again. Only this time there were no footsteps. Once the steam cleared, I turned around and a splicer was standing right behind me. I froze. He just stands there. His inaction kept me paralyzed for about 20 seconds. Then he comes at me. I was still shaking when I stopped playing that day.

  17. icekatze says:

    hi hi

    I’d agree with a lot of those ones, but I think there’s a few that deserve placement in the top ten, or at very least honorable mentions.

    Alien vs Predator (first edition): It’s dark, it’s cramped and one mistake can be the end of you. To make matters worse (unlike the sequel) your opponents spawn with a degree of randomness. You know they’re coming, but you never know when or from which direction they’re coming. Every time you die they seem to change their strategy to keep you guessing. I’ve never been able to steel myself enough to finish marines level 2, though I’ve seen it done. I’ve also seen people scream and refuse to play past the first level.

    Metroid (super or prime versions): The first time in either game where you come face to face with metroids. They’re fast, they’re hard to kill and they’re frightening as all get out.

  18. Phlux says:

    Must go play some of these games, or play them again in some moments.

    I went into Quake 4 completely cold. I’m usually well up on my gaming news, but somehow Quake 4 completely went under the radar and I didn’t know it was being made until about a month before it came out. As a result I went in without knowing what was up, except that it was a sequel to Quake 2, and was made on the Doom 3 engine.

    As a result the Stroggification sequence was AMAZING for me. I didn’t know it was coming, and I was shocked when not only had I become a strogg, but that I would STAY a strogg for the whole game. I wondered at first if maybe I’d done something wrong and this was going to be the world’s longest end-game death cutscene, and then I’d just have to hit F9 at the end to quickload my last savepoint.

    It isn’t my number 1 moment, but it’s up there.

    I also would put on the list the first Alone in the Dark game. Something about that werewolf thing coming up to the window and jumping in made me jump.

    I’m not a big Survival Horror guy, so Silent Hill and Resident Evil don’t do it for me. Alone in the Dark was mostly a novelty because 3d modeled characters were still new at the time.

  19. Ryan Speck says:

    Realms Of The Haunting had some good moments in the first part.

  20. TravisL says:

    There was a game I played several years ago — I wish I could remember it! — and in parts of the game, where the mood is tense and the sound is silent except my footsteps, where a hushed voice whispers. I swore that it whispered my name; it made me jump straight out of my seat. I remember not playing it with the lights off for days afterwards.

    The rumor on the net at the time was that it grabbed the name out of the registry, but others pretty much downplayed it as people hearing things. Dang, what was it? Neverwinter Nights? Quake 3? Alice?

  21. Phlux says:

    Half Life: the first couple of levels with the headcrabs and zombies…those were seriously creepy moments.

    Bioshock: The best scary moment in that game for me was in the level with the crazy theater guy, and those white statue splicers. You went into a hidden room, and there were a few statues, and then you turn around and one has moved, then you get close to it and it comes to life and attacks you. Super scary

  22. Neil says:

    Another vote for Shalebridge Cradle. I don’t tend to creep out easily, but that level literally had my heart pounding. The most brilliant part was that there is nothing in that level that could actually hurt you, but by the time you figured that out… well, things changed.

    And just for the old timers out there, is there really anything scarier than “BEWARE, I LIVE!! I HUNGER!!”

  23. Hal says:

    Actually, I came up with another one (not to spam the thread or anything). It’s gonna be somewhat unconventional to other people.

    In the first X-Men Legends, you eventually found yourself raiding a Sentinel research facility, and you discover that they’re creating plastic sentinel cyborgs out of people. If not necessarily “scary,” I found it to be gut-wrenchingly creepy, with the blood caked research equipment and tables everywhere.

    Granted, a game of that sort is unusual to consider scary, but that moment of realization stuck with me for a while.

  24. Neil says:

    Oh, and Dev Null — was it Sanitarium?

  25. JB says:

    I see it’s already mentioned, but the game I’ve played which had the greatest tension is definitely Alien vs. Predator as marine. You never know where the aliens will come from next, and when they do they come at you fast. And often in lots of numbers. And then there are of course the facehuggers jumping at you when you least expect it.

    And when you down a predator, there’s always the rush to finish him off. If not… well check out the original predator movie if you don’t know.

  26. Grue says:

    I agree with icekatze about playing the Marine in alien vs predator. The section where aliens are attacking you in some claustrophic sewer/maze area has been the first and only time I’ve had to take a break from playing because of the fear.

    Shalebridge Cradle is a good level, but I thought the scariest Thief moment was from thief II (?) where you had to get a book out of a haunted library. (Maybe it’s just because I’m too jaded now.)

    Vampire Bloodlines also had a good haunted house level that I still remember.

  27. Poet says:

    Oh, man, there should be some Resident Evil moments in every list of spooky games. Also, Eternal Darkness.
    But, how about the abandoned hotel in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines? That entire area kept my heart pounding.

  28. GregB says:

    What about the Fatal Frame franchise? Yeah, its about a character that photographs (and kills) ghosts with a camera, but each game is supposed to be based off of real Japanese ghost stories. One of the creepiest ghosts in the game is ‘Woman in Box’. Basically it looks like the girl from The Ring coming out of the well.

    I watched my friend play the second game all the way through, but he was house sitting for someone that I didn’t know. Its pretty creepy trying to navigate through a dark house in which you are unfamiliar with just to go to the bathroom. Around almost every dark corner I was waiting for something to pop out and scare the piss out of me. Play the games if you have a chance.

  29. Dev Null says:

    Neil, you rock; Sanitarium it was. Spent half the morning looking up “Asylum” and getting nowhere.

  30. Arumin says:

    I have to agree with most people here, the marine levels in AVP (especially the first game) were very tense… I remember the first two levels where I had to pause every odd minute because the little bleep on your movement scanner got closer and closer… and then would just vanish 3 meters away from you. you turn on your flashlight, and thus your scanner doesnt work, and see nothing. Back to the scanner, its silent. then another bleep, its a hose that got ejected out of a machine (pause to stop my heart from going beserk) move on, and get jumped by a alien… Needless to say I used a lot of quickloads in that game.

    The dental ward in Bioshock was a nice one too where the room filled with steam and you see nothing for a second, you move around and there is a splicer staring at you 3 feet away. The white statue splicers in the theater were nice too.

    Other great scare moments:

    *The hotel in Vampire bloodlines
    *The hallway in Doom3 where you would here a small child running by and seeing little footsteps appear on the floor.
    *Almost everything that had to deal with Alma in F.E.A.R.
    *Am I the only one who was actually more terrified by the first level of Unread and not that stupid Ubend where the lights go off? I mean walking around in a crashed ship, with screams of pain and terror comming from every direction, doors that only open a bit and reveal monsters eating the crew and you expecing to be next while you still have no gun in your hand, the constant flickering on and off of the lights… It gave me the creeps.
    *The great old Doom game (I was still young when I played that actually gave me some nightmares. The sound of the monseters around you all the time, the suspence music and then walking in a corridor and a pinky would pop up from behind.
    And I can go on and on…

    P.S. most scary moment ever in a game, almost finishing a game of minesweeper on expert and then clicing on a mine…

  31. BlackJaw says:

    The marine levels in AVP are still some freaky stuff… but more for me was AVP2 Multiplayer LAN party games (at night) with alien life cycle turned on. You knew the movement on the scanners WAS aliens, face hugger, or that one Predator… although sometimes it was just another marine. And those aliens sneaking up on you were other players, every bit as sneaky as they could be. Still the scariest time I’ve ever had in a game… and it was essentially multiplayer FPS!

    Ravenholm in halflife 2 with the mad priest tending his flock (and the Poison Crab Zombies).

    A headless zombie in Doom 3 in a dark room (I woke up my roommate one night screaming “Where is it’s #*$!ing head?!” completely sure that a zombie head was going to leap at me from an airduct.) Of course it didn’t… God example of the repetative “stuff jumps at you” bits in Doom3. The more hell like levels, like the first trip there, were fairly freaky attempts… but we knew it was coming.

    Runners up: Mad Hatter’s level in Alice, and the Nightmare level of Max Payne. There were more annoying then freaky at times, but there was a strong attempt to do something freaky three, and they were close.

  32. Arumin says:

    The nightmare levels in Max payne were scary the first few moments, but they just dragged on and on, and then gave you some more and even a bit more.

    Ravenholm, meh I dunno the whole grav gun/sawblade combo kinda made you invincible, altouhg some parts were a bit scary, I was never really on edge there TBH

    I just remembered one more.
    In condemned on the XboX360 where you find the body of the teacher in a locker and you need to take a picture of him. And when you look at him trough the lens of you camera his eyes open and he grabs you. Seeing that on a bigscreen tv in the middle of the night with headphones on scared the shit out of me

  33. Adamantyr says:

    Old game this… in Rescue on Fractalus, you’re flying an aircraft picking up downed space pilots off a hell-world, rife with aliens. Depending on what angle you’re at when you land, you can sometimes see the pilots. White helmets are normals, purple are aces. Then there’s the green helmits… aliens in disguise! My brother was playing and didn’t know about them, and suddenly a monstrous green alien was up against the cockpit glass banging his fists on it. He was so startled he yelled and fell out of his chair!

    Riven had a lot of suspenseful moments… all of which was aided by the superb musical score created by Robin Miller. The art, settings, and elements of the game all reinforce what a dangerous tyrant and madman Gehn is. I think one of the real shocker moments was when I re-entered the temple through the front entrance and saw Gehn’s face… knowing that the room with the projector was just a short distance away, and I could, possibly, run into him…

  34. Eric says:

    The original Diablo scared the hell out of me with its creepy atmosphere and satanic imagery. I remember the first time I saw Diablo himself in all his might, I turned tail and *ran*. To say I was spooked would be an understatement. Didn’t help that he was twice as tall as my measly warrior, and ran faster than me. I made it to the stairwell back to the 15th level, heart racing out of my chest, and didn’t dare go back down for a good five minutes.

  35. Lain says:

    I don’t like horror, so I’m a coward and never played AvP or Doom III. My kind of games are Splinter Cell, Thiefs, something like that.

    Also System Shock II brought me to my edge. No one mentioned the creepy “denmothers” who wanted to take care of their BABIES.

    Also I want to mention Quake II with the pervert splattering machines of unlucky humans. Same creepy moment like today with Prey.

    Back to “my Games”:
    So in Thiefs I the creepiest moment for me was the first level with zombies and the theft in hell, stealing from the devil.

    In Thiefs II I get a crawling in the neck, when the poor lad in his robotarmour asks me, what happened to him and that he not understand, that he is now a 18th century version of a terminator…
    There is also exisitng a fandesigned level from Lady Rowena with a really beautiful english ghoststory. Look at thiefmissions . com

    Thiefs III: Definetely the cradle. The most fearful moment is the whole f*ing level in actual time.
    You wait for guards or monsters or anything, but nothing happened, or? Better take a short peek around the next corner…
    Nothing? Then it must be after the next corner…

    Hm, I must activate the generator for making light. Well, light is bad for the thief. But I can see the enemies. I’m sure, after the activation they must come.

    Not here? Then they must come after the next corner.

    At that time I get my first white hairs…

  36. krellen says:

    It’s already been mentioned in passing, but the only time I have ever been scared by a video game is the hotel in [u]Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines[/u]. Even replaying, knowing what is coming, I have to do that level with the sound off or it creeps me out too much.

    I wasn’t really scared by it, but the sewers in the same game come pretty close to being creepy, with all the tubes available for a Tzimisce beast to leap out of.

  37. krellen says:

    I take back my earlier comment (and apologise for using BBCode. I’m so used to forums.) There was another game that scared the hell out of me. Back in my TRS-80 days, there was a game I had that I’m pretty sure was called ‘Dungeon’. It was a vector graphics first person dungeon-crawl game. I’d get pretty deep, doing pretty well, and all of a sudden I’d hear “blurrrrgle!” – the sound of a Blob, the strongest thing in the game. I feared that sound with every essence of my young self, and if someone could dig it up, it’d probably still send tingles down my spine.

  38. That part of Metal Gear Solid 2 where your character is stripped of all weapons, totally naked in a frigid cold room for whatever reason and your are hunted by armored supersoldiers.

    Then suddenly the game starts talking to me.

    It’s 2 AM. My hands are already cold and little numb because the heat isn’t on and it’s that time of year in Michigan. It’s 2 AM; the game starts talking to me and asks “haven’t you been playing an awful long time?” and the creepy music is playing.

    I had been playing an awfully long time…. I took the talking game’s advice…. I turned the freaky thing and went to bed.

    It takes a creative genius to freak me out with a VIDEO GAME! I was so freaked out.

  39. Rask says:

    Right up there is the Aliens mod for Doom 2. The first level didn’t have a single enemy in it, yet the suspension was heavy because of the expectation of an alien to jump out at you at any moment.

  40. xbolt says:

    I had a lot of fun playing Penumbra: Overture, a great horror game.

  41. John says:

    Yeah i remember MGS. Like in 1 when you got sore hands from pressing the torture button and they massaged your hands with the controller vibration. That was awesome. The only time Ive actually been scared by a game was STALKER, when you run into your first bloodsucker and then controller – ie a very powerful invisible mutant (you can only see the glowing eyes until its tearing you apart), and a mutant who can mess with your mind and vision. In a twisty, dark sewer lit only by the glow of radioactive waste.

  42. guy says:

    in Xcom, the part where those chrysalids charge your lines and zombifiy your troops is also pretty scary, even in total silence. and the part where the zombies swell up and split open to reveal a new, glossy, black chrysalid. the chrysalid death scream in the original is also said to be very scary indeed.

  43. Neal White says:

    Picture this: a home-made desk in the unfinished basement. Computer is a few years old, but it was enough to run Heratic. I’d played it through several times at verious dificulty levels and jsut got the sound card installed that night. The basement is cold (dead of winter) the 1200 sq ft all open area is directly under an open heater vent. There are not lights on except the monitor (15′ crt) and I am playing with head phones on because my wife can hear EVERYTHING and she is trying to sleep.
    I am thrilled to be able to hear the creepy sounds the game produces, gurgles of monsters somewhere out of sight, etc. This new area has a very soft hissing noise – just below my ability to comprehend. Right at the time I start to realize the “hissing” is some vague voice saying something like “I want you to get out” all breathy and spooky the furnace clicks off and the hot air that was blowing down over my body stopped – allowing the cold air to rush in – instantly chilling me at the same instant I realized VOICES were in my head saying, basically “get out!!”
    got the worst case of the willies I’ve ever had

  44. Joshua says:

    I agree with Phantasmagoria about the end scene, although the easy ways you can die at that point(as opposed to being unable to die the first 99% of the game) made the whole scare factor repetitive, and thus less scary.

    I’d also say HL2 in Ravenholm, where you first REALLY experience the fast zombies when the priest throws you the shotgun. You can run, but you definitely can’t hide……

  45. Will says:

    Shalebridge is definitely at the top of the list, but one that got the biggest jump out of me was actually a player-made level for the Wheel of Time PC game.

    You spend most of the level working your way through very well lit rooms. You walk through a doorway into just another room. It slams behind you, everything goes pitch-black, you hear this evil laugh coming at from all sides, end of level. If I remember right, it was supposed to be part of a single player campaign this girl was putting together, but that was as far as she got. Gave me the willies all the same.

  46. Katy says:

    I watched that Stoggification video (never knew much about this game) and I was horrified. For my entire 45-minute commute to work, I was disturbed. To be physically altered, violently so, without permission and without anesthetic… Jesus Christ… that’s some scary shit.

  47. Katy says:

    Stroggification* sorry

  48. The Asylum in “Zork Nemesis” was creepy as hell. A lot of things in that game were creepy, but the asylum gave me the willies.

  49. Ash says:

    Not ‘spooky’ as such, but the thunderous sound of those footfalls in the the first Tomb Raider, just before the T-Rex appears. My all-time favourite gaming moment.

  50. Peter says:

    I’ll have to second the Fatal Frame plug. It’s a three-game series so far, and the first (though hard to find) is definitely the creepiest. What makes them so freaky is the combat system: you have to go into first-person viewfinder mode to aim the camera, and you have to wait for the ghosts to get as close as possible before you take the picture. The plot for each game involves some sort of grisly ritual designed to keep Hell at bay. Some of the ghosts are victims or participants in these rituals, so their mutilations are creative and disturbing. Highly recommended.

  51. Phlux says:

    I wish I had a lower threshold for horror. Sometimes I’ll jump when something unexpected suddenly happens, but that’s not really being scared, it’s just being startled. That’s fun enough, but sometimes I wish I could detatch the “it’s only a model” portion of my brain so that I could better enjoy some of this horror stuff.

    My horror scale ranges from startled to moderate creep-out, but I think it would be fun to turn it all the way up to “pants-wetting fear” sometime.

  52. 10Kan says:

    My scariest moments were all in Condemned: Criminal Origins. In one part, I’m mucking about in the basement of a library, closed for repairs and apparently now home to hordes of addicts, squatters and crazy bums, all violently insane. I’m forced to walk down maze-like halls of the basement stacks, most of which are empty of books. I haven’t seen anybody down here yet, but I keep hearing sounds. I’m armed only with a small pipe and my trusty taser gun. Then, a couple books fall off a shelf further down the corridor.

    I continue moving onward, now constantly checking behind me and being very careful at the intersections. Things keep happening to suggest that there’s someone hunting me in here, sneaking along right on the other side of the shelves. The enemies I’d faced so far weren’t nearly this subtle. Then I come to the end of the hallway and enter a reading area with a little open space. A row of books are knocked flying off the shelf on the other side, and something crawls halfway through the gap, screeching at me. I started so badly that I nearly dropped the controller, but, by dumb luck, I also hit the taser button, zapping the thing dead. It tumbles through the hole in the shelves, allowing me to get a better look at it.

    Up until this point, I’ve only been fighting people. Violent mutilated lunatics, but they’ve all been clearly recognizable as human beings. This thing isn’t so easily defined. It’s got a stunted little body, clawed hands, bulging black eyes and a needle-toothed maw.

    Then I hear more scuttling sounds from all around me.

    I glance at my taser. Six percent charged…eight percent…ten…

  53. ngthagg says:

    RE2 was the first game that really got to me. I was used to blasting away at anything that moved and saving every chance I got. Playing that way, I wasn’t far into the police station before I was out of ammo and out of saves. Having zombies pop out of hiding isn’t scary when you’re loaded up with ammo, at full health, and you saved just five minutes ago. When you’ve got only one clip left, you’re already injured, and you’ve been playing without saving for a couple hours, things get tense. I wanted to stay where it was safe, but I knew if I wanted to resupply I had to explore new rooms, risking fatal encounters.

    Unfortunately, once I got about halfway through the game, I started to get the hang of things and then tension level dropped. But that first bit, through the police station, was excellent.

    This wasn’t a “spooky” moment for me, but the number one instance of a game affecting me physically was taking on the Ancients at Hell difficulty in Diablo II. Failed attempts would leave me literally shaking.

  54. ArchU says:

    To name a few more:
    -The first time encountering a Rocket Demon in Doom 2
    -The mausoleum/tomb level in Thief.
    -The creepy (and indestructible) metal child in Thief II who appears only in the last 2 levels although this was more creepy than scary.
    -The torture room below the chapel of the city guard captain’s estate in Thief II. There’s a death knight patrolling in a maze (surprisingly easy to backstab, though) and around the corner is an old torture chamber with a dead body tied to a rack. Only the body is actually a zombie that sits up and attacks when taking a close look at it.

  55. Graull says:

    It hasn’t been mentioned yet, so… The first time I was scared so bad that I jumped and dropped the mouse was playing Ultima Underworld. It was the first truly 3D game I had played (you could look up and down, unlike Doom). The setting was the typical fantasy dungeon you might expect from Ultima, and I was fairly new to the game and low-level. I had been wandering around for awhile alone (late at night, RL), searching for the way forward, and had completely gotten out of the mindset of being in danger. Then, I turned to my right just as a (very detailed for the time) skeleton came up on me with a mace, and planted it on my skull. It seemed like it had come out of nowhere, and I shrieked, jumped, and actually looked to my real-life right, as if it were in the room with me. I don’t think anything has ever topped that.

    The Thief series definitely did excellent work in the scary department, as has been mentioned above. Shalebridge Cradle was probably the scariest extended period I ever played in a game.

  56. Rick Tacular says:

    My scariest computer game moment was when I was playing Ultima VII: The Black Gate. It was in the middle of the night and it was quiet save for the gentle caress of the waves playing upon the shore of the island I was exploring and the chirp of the occasional bird. I happened upon a chest laying in the middle of Nowhere, and so approached to investigate it. When I opened it, I heard the booming voice of the Guardian tell me “YOU HAD BEST NOT DO THAT, AVATAR!” from the stereo speakers I had hooked up under the desk I was at.

    After piddling myself, I turned off the game and went to sleep in a cold sweat.

  57. Dix says:

    Console gamer here, apologies. I don’t play a lot of first-person stuff either. But just in case anyone else has ever even heard of it…

    Koudelka. The whole thing. But the ending especially.I had a lot of ack-jump-out-of-seat moments with Koudelka, and the whole thing was just full of grim horror.

  58. SWCrusader says:

    One not mentioned (because not a lot of people never played it) is Call of Cthulhu, dark corners of the earth. There were so many scary moments in this, but the one that freaked me the most was whe fleeing the town in the back of a truck. Someone else is driving, and you’re on the back of the truck. Earlier in the game (and this is similar to FEAR) you get a little girl killed, and start seeing her in scary places. In this section the bad guys are shooting from all around you as you hurtle through the Innesmouth couuntry side. I duck down to reload and turn to look through the cab to see whats coming ahead, and just about throw my controller as the little girl sitting in the passenger seat turns to me a smiles. Of course only I can see her and the driver looks blissfully unaware.
    Of course system shock2 scared me a ton too. Something to do with creeping through the cargo hold and hearing bad guys moaning *somewhere* gets the blood pulsing.

  59. Hal says:

    Heh, thought of a few more. Somebody stop me.

    Anyone ever play Deus Ex? I’m thinking of the part when you’re in Paris and you enter some random office building. Suddenly, the phone starts ringing in the office above you. The phones never ring. You go in and answer it . . . and the enemy AI who’s been taunting you for a while suddenly starts talking to you. It knows where you are and what you’re doing. Not necessarily a pant-wetting moment, but I got a chill down my spine.

    Also, I’m thinking of Oblivion. My first trip through an Oblivion gate was pretty scary. I even remember finding that guy and wanting desperately to free him and being completely unable to do so, seeing the bodies of dead Kvatch soldiers everywhere . . . it was pretty freaky.

  60. I know you’re not a console player, but I have to throw in with the Eternal Darkness people. That game gave me chills. One time my sanity meter was low and I didn’t realize it. There was a particular monster that took over normal people, including my servants, so when I talked to one of my servants and she looked hateful, I killed her. Only to realize that it was my own insanity, and that I’d just killed an innocent woman. So when my character wound up in an insane asylum for killing all his servants to drive the monsters out of them, I completely understood.
    And the corpse in the bathtub freaked me out.

  61. Dark Psion says:

    Resident Evil 4, right at the begining as you aproach the village you go into “Binocular mode”.

    There are the zombie-like villagers roaming around, there are the cops who brought you being burned alive and then a chicken walks into view,…..stops,……turns,…AND LOOKS RIGHT AT YOU!!!!

    Everytime I ran into a chicken in that game, I was waiting for something,….I knew the chickens were up to something,….they were just waiting for me to let my guard down.

  62. Rason says:

    Gears of War. Berserker. Never been so terrified in a video game when she came ripping thru the wall and charged me. Well Except for when it seemed I lost her and I peeked around a corner just in time to see her charging me.

  63. Zaghadka says:

    Creepiest moment ever for me came in Decent: Freespace (the original).

    There was this mission called “Enter the Dragon” (IIRC) where you have captured an enemy ship and it’s been retrofitted with Terran/Vasudan tech. Anyway, it’s a cloaking ship, but because it’s been retrofitted, all the stuff might stop working at any time, and there’s no telling if the thing will just blow to a million pieces if you have to jump out.

    Then they order you to go “spy” on the entire Shivan fleet. The one that has a “Lucifer” class flagship. Holy crap.

    I literally never got past that mission because I couldn’t stand the tension.

    The first contact mission was pretty good too, where all you have to do is scan a few cargo containers in Vasudan space, and an untrackable ship (the first Shivan in the game) shows up, tears your wingmates a new one in seconds, and then proceeds to start busting you up just as you’re getting your scans.

    And it’s hard to fight back, because you can’t see the damn thing.

    Great game. It’s been redone under the Freespace 2 source code project, so if you’ve never played it, and you like a good white knuckle space sim, it’s worth grabbing.

    I think it even runs under Linux.

  64. Jez says:

    I would have to say the scariest moment I’ve ever had in a video game was in FEAR Extraction Point when your ally departs in a very graphic and sudden way. I won’t go into detail to spoilt it but suffice to say it’s pretty gruesome and scared the hell out of me.

  65. Zerotime says:

    Bioshock, in the funeral home. You walk through one room full of <those roll-out corpse drawers> and into a short corridor with about a foot of water on the floor. In the next room, you can see the silhouette of someone doing… something. Sloshing a bit further forward, you hear the person gasp. Then the lights go out. And someone runs past you. And the lights come back on. There’s nothing much interesting in the next room, so you head back to the previous one, and just as you walk past one of the <corpse drawers>, the door bursts open and the guy who ran past you earlier leaps out and tries to take your head off with a bonesaw.

    That, and the zombie chickens in They Hunger. I hated those things.

  66. Henry says:

    I personally remember the first time I met up with a Tank in Quake II. I turned ’round a corner, and there it was. Carrying a chaingun at the time, I opened fire, and just stood there pumping bullets out until I realised that the damn thing was already dead and I was out of ammo.

    Another was the Spellhold sequence in Baldur’s Gate II. Not viscerally scary, but very definitely creepy.

  67. Miako says:

    wow, bioshock is kinda impressive, just in that everyone seems to have =different= moments of fear.

    Phlux: you =want= to wet your pants? You don’t think that would be sorta… embarrassing? (not to mention the probable property destruction).

    Shamus: The name of the level is Robbing the Cradle. Repeat after me. ::silence:: Oh, just, nevermind.

    And the flaw with shalebridge cradle is that the mission dragged on a little long. Not that that detracted from its scariness.

  68. Phlux says:

    Miako: Well…I didn’t mean literal pants-wetting. I sometimes think it would be fun to get as creeped out and scared as other people seem to. I get a good moment of horror every now and then, and I can feel the good tension building, but then something in my brain whispers to me “It’s only a model” and it’s lost.

    Everybody likes getting scared by harmless things like horror movies and games to some degree. I just wish it happened to me more often is all.

  69. kellandros says:

    I’d recently been replaying through a semi-obscure Dreamcast game – Illbleed. It is technically a survivor horror, but with a rather differently implemented system. The basic thing is there are trap-like encounters distributed all over, and if you don’t prepare for them something will jump out(ghosts, glowing eyed face, jet of flame, zombie attack) and hurt you.

    Its limit is that there are dozens of these on each level(so the repetition reduces their effectiveness somewhat). Most of the ‘boss fights’ are you trying to survive until you find out the trick to defeat the otherwise invulnerable boss. But the game still has a marvelously twisted sense of humor(see the Toy Hunter: Cork goes to Hell mission with the evil Zodnick final boss).

  70. Adamantyr says:


    The game you’re thinking of on the TRS-80 is “Dungeons of Daggorath”, probably one of the best first FPS type games. You can play a PC remake that’s very faithful to the original with some welcome refinements to gameplay at:

  71. Marty says:

    I guess it didn’t effect many others, but the first time fighting the Flood in Halo was kind of freaky. It wore off after a while, of course, once you shotgun your way through, but I still hate the little scuttling/slurp noises the brain pods make.

    Also, harkening back to old school Bungie, the first time you start playing Marathon… walking through the dark ship and you hear the Pfhor “chirping” at you. That was a good moment… especially with headphones. It loses some of its effect with speakers.

  72. Smileyfax says:

    I’d have to say that overall, System Shock 2 was the scariest, for its atmosphere. You’re on a starship trillions of miles from Earth, the last living human among the insane zombies out to get you. The feeling starts going away once you get powerful enough, but it’s still pretty unsettling.

    Morrowind provided a frightening moment, too. I was in Balmora, standing on a staircase outside a house late at night (both ingame and in real life). I jumped off the staircase and turned around, just in time for the vampire to scream in my face. (I was using GIANTS, which puts vampires in cities at night, among other creature additions).

  73. andy says:

    Alien vs Predator – a friend playing on my computer in my room, as a marine, light off, so immersed he forgot I was there… I waited till his motion sensor was going then I jumped up and grabbed him from behind…

    Once he calmed down he thought it was pretty funny :)

  74. Roy says:

    The first Silent Hill game gave the heeby-jeebies all the way through- that was some terrifying stuff there. There was a part where I was in the nightmare world and I the little doll creatures were had been all over the place, and I’m creeping through the dark, and… nothing… is… happening…

    And slowly, this music starts coming on, and the static on the radio is acting weird, and my heart is pounding, and every step I take I’m turning around and looking around and waiting for something to come flying out of the dark at me…

    Those games know atmosphere.

  75. Mike says:

    I am not a fan of horror games or books or films. But I am a big fan of Thief. The Cradle was definitely very scary and disturbing, but it’s expected because it’s meant to be scary.

    The moment in Thief that scared me the most and sent me flying back out of my chair halfway across the room was in Thief Gold, the Mage Towers level. It’s not a scary level anymore than other Thief levels are, but I sneakily descended some stairs into a dark area, turned the corner and there was a guard right in my face. I hadn’t even heard a footstep. The tension of playing the game was so great that I just jumped back across the room. It’s intense.

  76. gedece says:

    I still remember almost jumping from the chair when my Commodore 64 suddenly said “Another visitor. Stay a while, stay forever” while playing Imposible Mission (Ohhh, it speaks). An of course the classic “Destroy him, my robots”

  77. SWCrusader says:

    Heh. Impossible Mission. I used to torment my friends… Stay a while. Stay Foreverrrrrrrrrr. Also an extraordinarily lethal game.

  78. Sect says:

    Going back to Riven… my sister’s greatest fear: The Children.

    I mean, it’s not really anything big. There’s one point where this child pops outta nowhere, which is a bit startling. My sister was hovering at my shoulder, and it freaked her out. She was paranoid for the rest of the game.

  79. Thomas says:

    Metroids. I do *not* like Metroids.

    In Prime they’re scary enough, considering that after the first one breaks out of its containment chamber and jumps you, you then have to walk past some more contained Metroids which bash on the walls. Then the lights go out, and now you have to make your way out of that dungeon, with Metroids leaping out at you. In the dark. You do have an infra-red visor, but the penalty for using that is losing the enemy radar.

    In Prime 2 I never really got far enough to fight them. In Prime 3, on the other hand, you again have to fight a bunch in the dark. Although it’s not as dark, there’s no night vision, and this time you hear them. Oh, they can do cheeky tricks like travel through walls, and phase out so your missile goes straight through them. And they zap you, and then laugh at your misfortune. They do less actual damage than in Prime 1, but that didn’t stop me jumping at shadows and overkilling anything that moved in that section.

  80. Serdic says:

    I couldn’t even get through the first 5 minutes of the F.E.A.R. demo.

  81. Katrani Merack says:

    I’ve never played most of the games mentioned, but here’s my list of ‘creepy’ moments if not ‘spooky’. They’re not in any order, just as I thought of them.

    1. Shadow Temple in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I still ahven’t beat the game because of that.


    2. Starcraft, Kerrigan’s hatching or whatever into being a Zerg.

    3. Chrono Trigger, Crono’s death. Don’t you DARE tell me having the main cahracter be killed off didn’t unnerve you. A close second: walkthing through Lavos with the beating heart thing. *shudder*

    ((END SPOILERS. For now.))

    4. Illusion of Gaia, the ‘town’ with the face-spirit things that always went ‘Kukuku…’ I had nightmares. xD

    5. Sly Cooper, the battle with Clockwerk. When he’s repairing himself and says random things. A robotic evil guy saying ‘flowers’ just makes me nervous.

    6. Harvest Moon, going into the cave to rescue Nina when she falls. I don’t know, I just thought something like a bear would be hiding in there. No idea why.

    7. Kingdom Hearts, the battle with the shadow-mountain-guy. That scene from Fantasia always creeped me out, and seeing him on a 62-inch HD tv… *shudder*

    8. FF4, the part where you’re fighting the dolls in the Dwarf castle. The dolls creeped me out.


    9. FF7, Aeris’ death. Not the death itself- that was just sad- but that her theme starts playing and then you have to a boss fight with it still going and it makes you think there’s some hope of bringing her back but really there isn’t…

    10. Kefka from FF6. Just… Kefka. He actually SUCCEEDS in taking over the world, plus he’s a clown.


    So… Yeah. That’s my ten. ^^

  82. Dannerman says:

    Silent Hill 1;

    That cat, in that locker.

    Also in Silent Hill 1;

    That cat, which is NOT in that locker.

    The only time I have ever screamed out loud and had to pause while playing. It’s a cheap scare, but a perfectly executed cheap scare. Still made me jump second time through the game.

  83. Bloodlines. Hotel scene. ‘Nuff said.

    Also: Eversion.

  84. Harley says:

    @Arumin, I actually knew Mr. Tibbits was going to grab me somehow, but him asking for the paramedics instead of trying to kill you scared the hell out of me for some unknown reason.

    And when the floor disappeared from beneath me in Janice Polito’s office in System Shock 2, I wasn’t fazed until the walls and ceiling went out too and Shodan’s face showed up.

    Also, I was playing Silent Hill 3 on the second playthrough, and that one hall in the underpass SUDDENLY BLED AND TURNED TO FLESH.

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