The Month of Horror shambles onward! For the games channel, we’ve decided to another Roundtable on our personal scariest moments in video games. Games have the unique distinction of forcing the player to interact with the horror, and you can’t just plug your ears and cover your eyes and wait for the monster on the screen to go away. Below is a collection of our memories of the game moments that left us blubbering, shaking, and kept us up for nights afterwards.
Artimus Charest-Fulks, Staff Writer
Half-Life 2–We Don’t Go To Ravenholm
“We Don’t Go To Ravenholm” are words that are familiar to anyone who has played Half-Life 2. While it may not be the most terrifying piece of my gaming career, it is certainly one of the most memorable. The Half-Life series is not known for creepy atmosphere and frightening jump scares, but rather its outstanding storytelling and genre-defining gameplay. It is with this that the sixth chapter of Half-Life 2 is so powerful, because it not only fits so well in the narrative but is also completely unexpected in its horror. Ravenholm was once a village hidden away from the evil reaches of the Combine, however it was discovered and brutally wiped out by Headcrabs. The Headcrabs did what they do best and turned the entire population into vicious zombies.
If that wasn’t enough, two sets of enemies are introduced during this chapter. The Fast variant is just faster, but the Poison Headcrab is vicious. It can jump considerably farther than the normal species and instantly drains your health to 1. Hit points eventually regenerate, but involuntary panic ensues when these are spotted especially because Poison Zombies throw these Headcrabs at you from a distance. Fast Zombies are the truly terrifying beasts of the game. If regular zombies can be compared to George Romero zombies with their slow pace and clumsy attack, Fast Zombies are a cross between Danny Boyle zombies and a pack of cheetahs. Their screams are heard throughout the level, and they can be seen climbing buildings and jumping monstrous gaps before finally converging on you in packs.
No matter how many times I play Half-Life 2, I always dread the time spent passing through Ravenholm. I feel sadness at the loss of the once peaceful village, and relief when finally meeting Father Grigori and getting out.
Brian Martin, Graphic/Novels Editor
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem–The Bathtub
Eternal Darkness is, throughout, one of the most unnerving gaming experiences I’ve ever had. The developers at Silicon Knights weren’t content simply crafting a story full of chills or creating environments with an eerie ambiance—they went even further by turning common game mechanics like health meters against us, creating the game’s ingenious (and mortifying) sanity meter.
As our avatar slowly descends into madness, our own nerves are similarly shot. But even a game with such a pervasive degree of terror has to have one moment that stands out above the rest. For me (and a lot of gamers) that moment is the scene in which Alexandra Roivas enters a bathroom only to discover her own dead body, soaked in bloody water, slumped over in the tub. It caught me completely off-guard and, in a game where horrors are expected to be found around every corner, managed to be far worse than anything I expected.
Cameron Cook, Editor-in-Chief
Silent Hill–Deafening Silence
I’m eleven years old and I’m playing Silent Hill for the first time. It’s foggy. The graphics make the creatures vague jumbles of color and sound. It’s quiet. I have been given no direction. It’s just me in my quiet, dark bedroom at one in the morning playing a game unlike anything I’ve ever played before. A monster approaches and I don’t know how to aim my gun. I don’t even have any bullets. My heart is beating out of my chest. I hum out loud to avoid the crushing silence. Oh, Silent Hill, how you awakened something in me.
Daniel Castro, Contributor
Dead Space–Breaking Conventions
While Dead Space is an action game on its core, this title builds up enough tension that kept surprising me over and over to whatever was lurking up ahead. What I love about this game is how much it broke some of the conventions I considered true in video games.
For example; as far as I was concerned, save points were sacred –like those typewriters in Resident Evil 4; once you saw one of them, you knew you were safe. But not in this game! Even though it happened just once, being attacked while I’m minding my own business (like saving, upgrading weapons, and managing my items) was the videogame equivalent of being caught with my pants down.
Also, this game tends to make you backtrack to some areas you had already cleared before, so my video game tamered mind immediately thinks that the coast will be completely clear, but I end up being terrorized when I run straight face-to-face to another bigger, meaner threat up ahead.
I still recommend this game as one of my favorite titles of this generation; it has action, horror, and a jaw dropping ending that made me wish for more, but then I regretted that thought when I saw the vomit-inducing mess they made in Dead Space 2, and their stupid ”Your mom hates this” commercial.
Jon Hamlin, Contributor
Aliens: Resurrection–Game over, man!
Among the deluge of horror games that take place on derelict spacecrafts can be found Alien Resurrection. Alien Resurrection was a PSOne FPS game and remains one of the only Alien games not to be universally reviled by reviewers. That isn’t to say it was a good game, because it wasn’t. However, some reviews were at least middling, and for an Alien game that’s as close to praise as it’s going to get. The one thing it did manage to be was scary. Set on the Auriga and following the plot of the 1997 movie bearing the same name, it was up to you to guide Ripley safely off the ship.
There was a moment in Alien Resurrection that, to this very day, stands as one of the more terrifying experiences I’ve had while playing a game. There is a point where you walk into one of the game’s few open areas. In Resurrection that meant any space that had a ceiling higher than 7 feet tall. But, this particular area was large. There were a few boxes here and there.
It turns out that this seemingly innocuous area of the ship is crawling with aliens. Suddenly, you hear a hissing noise, then the unmistakable sound of an alien running along a corridor. A few squeaks and clicks, then silence. You sense that something is watching you. Something, somewhere is out there… waiting. Then a hiss and screech as it flashes across the screen in front of you heading toward one of the marines in the area. You watch as it grabs the marine and drags him into the darkness, screaming for help.
It is one of the first encounters you have with aliens in the game, and it leaves an impression. In the words of Pvt. Hudson, “Game over, man!”
Nate Humphries, Tech/Science Editor
The scariest game moment for me, by far, had to do with F.E.A.R. I heard about F.E.A.R. through a friend, and had to check it out. FPS + horror movie-style? Done! Even the beginning of the game was creepy. You go into the bottom of a building, searching for your next objective. Suddenly your radio goes fuzzy and you see something – what was that? – in the distance. Then you see it again – was that a little girl? Was she…floating?
The scariest part happens further in the game. When you get on a ladder in F.E.A.R. it automatically turns you around so you can start walking down it. I came to a ladder, interacted with it, and the second it turned me around to face the ladder there was the girl. AAAA! Once my heart started beating normally again I kept going down the ladder. But right when I turned around at the bottom the freaky guy was there! Seriously, F.E.A.R.? Your two-for-one specials are going to kill me.
Rachel Helie, Assistant Editor
Resident Evil–Creepy Crawlers
My roommate and I hadn’t slept for what felt like DAYS. We had been playing the first installment of Resident Evil nonstop. Bleary eyed and determined we mucked our way through the beasts and the blood but what freaked us out more than anything (and yes, he screamed like a little girl) was that damn spider. God, my skin still crawls when I think about that. The thing that makes it worse is that I’ve seen actual spiders do that. It’s horrifying. Simply horrifying. And I don’t even have arachnophobia! [Editor's note: spiders are the worst]
Stephen Wilds, Contributor
Silent Hill 2–Pyramid Head2
Silent Hill 2 has one of the scariest moments in gaming history to me, but not for any of the normal reasons. Fans of the series will know Pyramid Head as an iconic character to this dark and horrifying world, and as someone who can be one of the tougher bosses in the early games. So in Silent Hill 2 where I realized I would have to fight not one but TWO Pyramid Heads with just my trusty shotgun, I may have panicked slightly. That wasn’t the scary part though. The game trapped me in a long rectangular room with two of the most dangerous things in that world and I ran around frantically firing while screaming God’s name, only to have the last bullet set off a cut scene where these two monstrous behemoths impaled themselves on their own pikes.
There is something about a creature from hell that I fear so much getting bored with me and just taking its own life in unison with a partner. I can’t explain why, but I remember pausing the game after it happened and just staring at the television set for several moments before I felt comfortable enough to proceed—cautiously.
Nick Hahneman, Games Editor
Amnesia: The Dark Descent–The Water Part ALL OF IT
Frictional Game’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent is often herald of the return of the horror game genre back into relevance. The true horror game. Not the games that throw zombies at you and expect you to be scared, or make you wade through mounds of gore in vain attempts to make you feel ill, but the terrifying games that get under your skin, shake you to the bones, and leave you haunted. I’ve got a pretty good stomach for horror, so just throwing frightening images at me doesn’t frighten me like it used it.
Amnesia was unrelenting. Leaving me weaponless, without a way to fight back against the monsters, I was constantly on edge. Not only that, but an insanity mechanic, wherein your character’s vision would become distorted and discolored, crunching breaking sounds would fill your ears, and eventually you’d die, prevented the player from hiding in the dark or looking directly at the monsters. This created a terrifying interplay between wandering the hall of this Bavarian mansion, cowering in fear, and running and hiding from monsters sweating while your character slowly died from insanity.
The first time I played this game was utterly harrowing. And while “The Water Part” is easy to point to as the scariest segment of the game, for me the entire experience was terrifying, and I could hardly stand to play the game for more than 30 minute chunks at a time. Playing late at night, with the lights out, headphones on, and a whisky at the ready, I made it barely an hour into the game my first time in before force-quitting the program. Hiding from one of the early monster encounters, in a pattern that would become all too common while playing this game, I turned a corner to see my foe coming around the bend. Panicked, I ran back into the room I had just come out of, slammed the door shut, and hid in a closet. I heard the door being smashed open, and then the monster sniffing around for me. Compelled to stare into the abyss, I cracked open the closet door to catch just a quick glimpse of the monster tearing apart the room. It was a mistake, the horror saw me, and it was all over. Jumping away from my desk while furiously closing the game, I then went around the house turning on every light, locking every door, and paced until my nerves calmed. I hadn’t been scared like that since I was a child.
Then I sat down to play again. What is wrong with me?
Those are our scariest moments in games. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below!
Older than the Legend of Zelda, Nick has always loved games that instill a sense of discovery, exploration, and beauty. He has probably spent more time ruminating on Dark Souls than most do on their college major.