Halloween is the perfect time of the year to dress up in outlandish costumes and have a party full of tricks and treats, but it’s also a good time to reflect on the horror genre within video games. The interactive medium is perfect for those looking for a frighteningly good time, as players are literally put into the shoes of the unfortunate protagonist. Horror films can effectively generate jump scares and moments that will burrow under your skin but it doesn’t compare to a horrific sequence or moment from a game that affects you and your actions directly.
Horror titles throughout the years have provided highlights that left gamers sleeping with the light on – whether that was thanks to a zombie dog crashing through a window or a Xenomorph catching you off guard. Our gaming writers at Filmhounds have banded together to tell the tale of how they survived a particularly terrifying video game moment. We advise to not read this at night.
It’s 2014 and indie horrors are all the rage. A little game comes along called Five Nights at Freddy’s and YouTube is awash with it. Horror isn’t normally my bag, but the concept is so unique and, considering myself quite hardy, I can’t resist giving it a whirl. Here’s a little recreation of my supposed hardiness being put to the test:
DAY 1: Getting used to checking the cameras. Bonnie and Chica going for a wander. Ooh, one’s at the door – naughty! Nothing too stressful though. Success!
DAY 2: Gals are a little more restless now. Getting speedy on those door controls though – I’ve got this. Take a peek at Pirate Cove. Who’s that behind the curtain?! Eek, Bonnie’s at the door! Only 5% power. 6AM, phew!
DAY 3: 3AM. East door closed and running low on power. Go away Chica! How long’s it been since I checked Pirate Cove? The curtains are open. It’s gone! Where’s it gone?! Find it! Check the West Hall cam. Wait, it’s running, it’s RUNNING!
Enter Foxy and and cue me flying backwards in my chair with a high-pitched squeal.
Even now, after many incarnations and spin-offs, Foxy’s original entrance still stands out as a solid gold scare: easing you into a rhythm before suddenly rushing in and pushing your heart into your mouth.
…did you check Pirate Cove yet?…
One Ringwraith To Scare Them All
In the early noughties, I was but a wee lad filled with Sunny Delight, Simpsons references, and an intense obsession with The Lord of the Rings that continues to this day. I recall obsessively playing the relatively unknown Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring video game on PC from 2002. Despite the game being very dear to my heart, and containing a litany of memorable moments that are in-jokes with my innermost circle of friends, it isn’t particularly well made nor was it of much note in the history of gaming.
However, there is a section near the beginning where, after frolicking around the happy, sun-drenched meadows of The Shire, you – as Frodo – are confronted with the prospect of escaping the boundaries of Hobbiton in the dead of night as several Ringwraiths on horseback comb the cobbled streets for you. I vividly remember the chest-tightening sensation of tip-toeing past hobbit-holes as distant horse galloping, ominous cellos, and demonic wailing enveloped my ears. You could tell when a Ringwraith was approaching as a sweeping dark shadow covered the landscape as it neared you. You are armed with nothing but a ‘creep’ button and some rocks you can use to distract them. That was it.
With no clear way to go, navigating those roads in the game unseen, at night, with nothing to defend oneself, as a child, was too egregiously terrifying to properly convey within this paragraph.
Mr X Gon’ Give It To Ya
Recently, I’ve been playing the Resident Evil 2 remake. I was longing for a hit of nostalgia with a side dose of horror (and questionable voice acting). What I got, however, was a hearty dose of genuine, unexpected fear. Hordes of zombies? Fine. Lurking lickers? Meh. A mass of G-virus pus-filled sewage rat monsters? Sure, whatever. Yet, the continual and relentless pursuit from Mr X? Oh hell, no.
In his long coat and fedora, he actually reminds me of Nick Valentine, the wise-cracking synth and private detective sidekick from Fallout 4. Who, for the record, I still maintain should’ve been a romance option! Like Valentine, Mr X makes my heart stop every time I see him…but for the wrong reasons.
I know the Tyrant isn’t scary. He soaks up bullets and is actually more of an annoyance. And yet…whenever I hear his footsteps, I instinctively hold my breath and tense up. His presence, or lack thereof, keeps me permanently on edge. Psychologically speaking, I think it’s the fear of being pursued, stalked or followed that scares me. Because the section where you play as Shelly hiding from the chief of police rendered me a panicky mess too.
Overall, playing this RE2 remake taught me something about myself. Years ago, I would actively seek out every single horror game. Survival horrors, creepy point-and-click adventure games, obscure Japanese horror titles; inject them all into my veins, please and thank you. But my recent experience signals to me that I can no longer handle the genre I love so dearly. And that is scarier to me than any horror game.
Primordial Blackness, Bratan!
There have been plenty of games that have provided a devilishly fun jump scare or an adrenaline-fuelled horror sequence – much like the fantastic House Beneviento level in Resident Evil Village – but no game had truly got under my skin. That all changed when Disco Elysium: The Final Cut launched.
Developers ZA/UM have crafted a modern RPG masterpiece that isn’t a horror game in the slightest but does feature anxiety-inducing and terrifying moments. The story sees you role-playing as an amnesic cop dealing with depression and running from a tragic past but for me, the worst scenarios were the numerous sections where you converse with your own Ancient Reptilian Brain and Limbic System.
The very start of the game sees you in a state of unconsciousness with only your Reptilian Brain and Limbic System for company. The screen background is pure black, and the voice actors each have an antagonistic, hoarse voice. What makes this scene particularly nightmarish is the dialogue and music. These characters, your own subconsciousness, are trying to persuade you to dwell in the abyss of nothingness than face cold harsh reality. The score too, from English rock band Sea Power, is melancholic and ethereal, adding to the nihilistic horror. With an extensive dialogue system, the power is completely in your hands with whether you float in the endless void or wake up to whatever hell awaits for you. I’ve never felt such existential dread in a game – and that was only Disco Elysium‘s first five minutes.