With Halloween right around the corner, we talk about the times when games have scared the living daylights out of us!
The best video games can elicit an emotional response from even the most hardened of gamers. Whether it’s through sound, visuals, writing, or simply circumstance, games get their value and their acclaim through their ability to manipulate and take control of our emotional state while we play them. This month, with Halloween around the corner, the Doublejump Staff sat down to discuss some of the most intense moments we’ve experienced in gaming, and they range from the conventionally frightening to the circumstantially nerve-racking. Enjoy!
Abir: Meeting the Librarians in Metro 2033
4A Games’ Metro 2033 is a masterclass in suspense and tension. The constant need to conserve ammo and monitor your mask’s vision and filter stock are a solid foundation for uneasiness, but their effect is doubled when encountering giant spider-scorpion hybrids, humongous mutated bats, and telepathic humanoid mutants. While battling this bunch of ball-busting bogeymen was fun its own right, it was my experiences with the innocently-named Librarians that required more than one change of pants. These ape-like brutes lurked among Moscow’s abandoned buildings, with one particular unavoidable encounter seeing me run from room to room as I avoided a large Librarian’s claws and jaws – firing my limited ammo frantically and hoping that each shot was the one to finally put the beast down.
While this was a particularly harrowing scene, the one that is permanently etched into my memory is one that involves a sleeping Librarian that could be avoided if one were to tread carefully. In my case, however, I was as stealthy as a family of possums in the gutter as I tumbled down from a platform right next to the brute. I let out a yell as soon as I heard the creature wake up and begin its bloodthirsty pursuit. In almost pitch black darkness, I clambered onto any ledge that I could find to get to safety. When I finally made it out of the Librarian’s clutches, I had to sit back with my heart racing and sigh. You got me, 4A Games, you got me.
Cai: Combing the hall in Silent Hills’ “P.T.”
Back in 2014, a new game called PT suddenly appeared for free on the PlayStation Network. Predictably enough, a mysterious and free game attracted a lot of attention very quickly, which would have been fine, except for the notable fact that PT is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering. With the benefit of hindsight, this is much clearer since PT stands for “Playable Teaser” for the planned next game in the Silent Hill series, but back in 2014, there was no predicting just how haunting this game would get.
From the fridge full of blood hanging over your head to that inexplicable foetus that alternates between crying and threatening you, PT is a mind-bending lesson in terror that demands you figure out it’s twisted puzzles or continue suffering in fear. I know nobody who played it who wasn’t terrified beyond belief, including more than a few who only watched somebody else play it and were scared by proxy.
Tragically, amidst the Konami vs Kojima dispute, PT was taken off the PSN and vanished forever, taking the flickering red lights and unearthly wailing with it. It now lives on in the permanently increased heart rate of everyone who came into contact with it (the foetus apparently got another role in Death Stranding, so at least it found success).
Damon: When the sun set upon Harran in Dying Light
Although I’m a bit of a horror movie buff, I haven’t actually played too many horror games; my only real experience with the genre is in BioShock, which isn’t a horror game by definition. It was extremely captivating, but it never scared me. Granted, I’m not bulletproof when it comes to jump scares and the like, but given the amount of horror movies I watch it’s hard to come across anything that really surprises or frightens me these days.
That is, of course, until Dying Light released, and my oh my was the tagline – “good night, good luck” – true. I breezed through the game pretty nonchalantly, having fun in co-op with my friends… until night fell. Nighttime in Dying Light may well be the single most intense, anxiety-inducing experience I’ve had in the horror genre. The Volatiles, these extra-large, hyper-aggressive mutated zombies are absolutely horrifying the first few times you encounter them, with their ability to outrun and overpower you with relative ease making them an enemy that you’d definitely prefer to avoid.
My first encounter with a Volatile was while I was playing with friends, and I got so frightened that I panicked and ran inside a bus, getting myself cornered. After I’d killed it, I had to sit there for quite a while trying to work up the courage to make my run from the bus to a safehouse. No matter how I played it from then on, nighttime in Harran always scared the hell out of me, and that doesn’t happen often.
Emily: Playing Resident Evil 3: Nemesis at a young age
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was the first Resident Evil game that I played – at quite a young age, I might add – and it’s the game that made kid Emily scared to look out the window in case there were zombies walking around the streets. I’m fascinated by horror games nowadays and I get a real thrill from playing through them, but this was before all of that, and Resident Evil 3 scared the absolute hell out of me.
I’ve now played through the game more than ten times, and I love it to death, but that first experience (particularly the scene where the zombies stampede down the street and you simply can’t stop them) will be with me forever. On top of all the zombies and the frights to be had, you’ve got the titular boss, Nemesis, a monstrous character who shows up out of nowhere and can kill you with one blow. The real horror, though, is realising that you didn’t save the game for the hour before you encountered him and you’ve got to play through it all again.
Jake: Running around for my first MOAB in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Despite having the highest kill-death ratio (by quite a margin) and more often than not coming away with the fewest deaths in a game, I was the last of my friends to call in a MOAB. It wasn’t a game-winning explosion like Modern Warfare 2’s Tactical Nuke, but it was a status symbol; the greater your MOAB counter (displayed in your clan tag) was, the better a player you were seen as being. It took me a few months to finally get a MOAB, playing Kill Confirmed on Interchange, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt my heart rate go as high as it did that day.
It was a pretty run-of-the-mill game for the first eight and a half minutes, most of which I spent picking off anyone who decided to visit the high-traffic areas with my sniper rifle. That all changed when a friend started calling out “no tags!” – a means of prolonging the game to give a player on a streak as long as possible to get the MOAB – and I realised that he was calling it for me; I had 90 seconds to get another four kills. Shaking and sweating with nerves, I picked up a light machine gun that someone had dropped for me and got to work.
In that moment, I learned that ducking around corners and into the high-traffic areas you were controlling earlier in the game, knowing that someone could get the jump on you just because they were monitoring the area, is more frightening than some horrors. My nerves affected my accuracy, as well, meaning that the next two gun fights were more difficult than they had to be. Fortunately, my last victim was facing the opposite direction with five seconds remaining… and everything was right in the world.
John: Playing Silent Hill for the first time… Even on a Vita
I played Silent Hill, the 1999 PlayStation classic, for the first time two years ago. It was on the tiny 544p screen of a PlayStation Vita with headphones, and it was sunny. It’s still my pick for this month.
Silent Hill’s soundscape is easily its strongest, scariest quality, attacking you with a dreadful cacophony, a sonic claustrophobia. The gargled shrieks. The industrial, mechanical grinding. The oppressive, deafening, sinister ambience of the town as you blindly wander through its the opaque fog.
It’s an endless confrontation that assaults and corners you at every turn. It saddles you with discomfort. It handicaps you with this unagile tank of a man, a personified lead foot, then blinds you with fog and deliberately unhelpful perspectives. Meanwhile, the ‘monster’ is the town of Silent Hill itself. A world of paranoia that dares you to run, to fight, to even act at all.
I started Silent Hill 2 not long after and I barely managed a few minutes; the original was enough for me.
Kristian: The final pursuit in Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)
I’m not one for horror games, so my idea of something scary needs to be a little outside the (Black) box. 2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted isn’t going to scare the pants off you, but the final police pursuit is certainly enough to get your heart racing. Police finally reach code level 6 for the first and only time in the game, where all cops are now driving upgraded versions upgraded versions of the Corvettes seen at level 5 pursuits. These beasts have the speed to match any vehicle in the game, and they swarm in numbers like never before.
What makes the final pursuit even harder is that there technically is no escape – at least not until you get a phone call instructing you to jump the broken bridge out of town. Even if you immobilise every active cop car, the metre will never rise up and allow you to escape. You’ll have to hold off the pursuing forces until Mia calls you. Only then can you escape the pursuit by making your way to a previously locked part of the map, with dozens of cops right on your tail.
If your car gets caught in a pack, expect to be pushed around like your vehicle is made of cardboard, especially if you find yourself head-on with a Rhino, a heavy SUV deployed to stop all forward momentum. These behemoths can easily halt a car going 300 km/h down to 30 if you drive right into one. In any case, you’ll need to use all your skills to hold off the forces and clear the game.
Nick: Booting up Quake for the first time as a kid
Christmas 1998. Older brother’s bedroom. Boot up Windows 95. Double-click Quake.exe. Let’s begin.
Executing Quake for the very first time was truly a sight to behold. I hadn’t played Doom before this and my only experience with first person shooters was GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 that same year. The horror that would befall me at that moment would only be usurped in 2008 with the release of Dead Space. For the time, every element of Quake’s production shocked me to my very core. The gameplay was enthralling; every move you’d make was slow and almost insignificant, instilling a real sense of hopelessness. Ammo was almost useless, as hundreds of rounds fired into an enemy would only inflict a fraction of damage. The monster sprites were terrifying, with their janky movements and spine-tingling screeches and roars. The designs of the monsters and settings went hand-in-hand with the Lovecraftian sci-fi atmosphere. The soundtrack was pure nightmare fuel for a child, and Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame), who composed the soundtrack, also voiced the player character.
Quake scared me as a child and still entertains me as an adult to this day. id Software really outdid itself on this one.
Steve: Taking on Resident Evil’s Nemesis
Nemesis was one of the first in a long line of many survival horror endgame bosses to see the light of day. The fact that many (including myself) hadn’t seen an enemy like Nemesis – one that just cannot be killed and won’t die after being taken down again and again – before only served to increase his sphincter-clenching impact!
Not only would he keep wreaking havoc when a shit-ton of ordinance had been emptied into him, but he actually got stronger and more dangerous as the battle wore on and he continued to mutate. Being able to use weapons, as well as his armour and sheer brute strength just made Nemesis even more of a daunting proposition.
Ty: Encountering the alien in Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation is a great game, probably the only good use of the license in recent years (that includes the latest movie Alien: Covenant). It’s tense and exciting, and the retro sci-fi aesthetic is pure beauty.
Something that doesn’t get much credit, though, is the unscripted encounters with the titular alien. The way the game is designed and the implementation of the A.I. leads to some really unpredictable scares. I remember my first encounter with the alien all too well, the sequence at the beginning where you have to make a run for a tram as you hear it scurrying through the vents as it chases after you until finally, just as the tram pulled up and safety was in sight, it impaled me with its tail.
The real terror came after I respawned and tackled the moment again, when the alien simply stopped chasing me and headed for another part of the level. That’s when I realised that everything that had happened prior was unscripted. I turned the game off and didn’t touch it again for six months.
There you have it, a selection of moments that had each one of us bracing our controllers with sweaty palms and white knuckles. What have been some of the scariest gaming experiences for you? Let us know below!
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