The current generation of video games is not the scariest. Sure, we’ve had Alan Wake and Dead Space was awesome, but overall the focus seems to be on creating virtual thrill rides. You run, you gun and chances are you’re never horribly eviscerated by a monster with six inch claws. But I digress; here are five gaming moments that scared the living bejesus out of me!
5. Red Dead Redemption: Cougar Hunt
When Red Dead Redemption was released one of the first things I did was work my through all of the hunting challenges. This was mostly because at the time I had been commissioned by GamesRadar to write a guide on the subject. As far as paychecks went it was one of my favorites. Walk around, shoot a bunch of virtual animals and make enough money to justify buying yet another new game!
There was one moment during my hunting adventure though that startled me pretty good. I had just starting harvesting cougar pelts. I had somehow managed to miss encountering any of them up to this point and didn’t know what to expect. I dismounted my horse and pulled out my trusty repeater. Suddenly, with a high pitched roar a cougar leapt out of the bushes and knocked me flat on my back. Surprised, I jumped about a foot in the air (in the real world). With my character back on his feet I tried to toggle on my dead aim. It was too late, the cougar was on top of me. With another swipe of its claws I was dead.
While not specifically a scare moment, my first cougar encounter brought back all sorts of Resident Evil jump scare memories. Unlike the iconic cerberus zombie dogs however, the cougar is actually a dangerous foe. Moreover, with my previous hunting experiences falling mostly along the lines of gunning down hordes of helpless animals, it wasn’t something I was in the least prepared for.
4. Demon’s Souls: Controller One Battery Low
This technically wasn’t a scary moment on the game’s part, but if I wanted to there would be plenty to choose from. Demon’s Souls is nothing if not an eerie game that often shocks with the degree to which it pulls no punches. The moment I realized for instance, that the final boss had the ability to permanently decrease my experience level made the fight one of the edgiest I’ve had in recent memory.
That said, the moment that sticks out as the scariest for me was one of my own idiotic concoction. I was going through my usual Sunday morning Demon’s Souls session. I had been at the game for two hours or so when my PS3 warned me that my controller’s battery was low. No biggy, I told myself. I was going to be finishing up soon any ways. An hour later I was still slaughtering my way through Boletaria Castle. I came to a monster. Poised to skewer him with my trusty long sword I hit the trigger to strike. Nothing happened. I looked down at my controller, the lights that had been flashing to indicate low battery power had gone dead.
The monster attacked, taking a chunk out of my already low-ish health. I panicked. I had been gathering souls for a good long while and if I died there was a chance I might not recover them. Throwing the controller away, I dove to the floor and started digging through my cord drawer. I yanked out the nearest USB cord and with it came a tangled mess of cables ranging from AV cables to a leftover microphone that came with the Wii version of Boogie (my wife’s fault!).
I glanced at the screen. I had taken another hit. I sorted through the mess desperately, finding at last the other end of the cord. I plugged it into my PS3 and then stuck the opposite side into the controller. I pressed the home button and the controller reactivated… just in time for me to hit continue. “You Died” stared at me mockingly. I died on the way back to my blood stain. Just plain stupid.
3. Starcraft 64: Atomic Scramble
“Nuclear launch detected.”
Three little words, but amongst the ranks of Starcraft players I can think of nothing more terrifying. Whatever you were doing, be it resource collection, building an army or launching a full blown assault on the enemy camp, it all becomes secondary. You scan your base frantically looking for the small blinking dot spelling your doom. Finally finding it you use your comm. sweeps and then, if you’re lucky find an enemy Ghost nearby. By this point you have only a few precious seconds.
You gather all your nearby units and you send them after it. The clock is ticking. Your chances are dwindling. You imagine your base, built with such care and attention engulfed in nuclear fire. But your troops make it in time. With a guttural scream the Ghost explodes in a tiny cloud of gore. For now the threat is over, but you know that at any moment you could hear those words again and the race will start all over. It lends an urgency to your every move, because no matter how strong your army, no matter how fortified your base, one well placed bomb could turn the tide.
2. Resident Evil 2- Mr. X
Screw Nemesis. The first time I played the B Scenario of Resident Evil 2, Mr. X genuinely scared me into impotence. No, not the genital kind you perverts! The prospect of running into Mr. X was so frightening that I actually just stood in one room, not wanting to leave because I knew that at least for a moment I was safe. It’s a special game that can do that to you.
What made Mr. X so scary? Well, picture Nemesis except more subtle. He doesn’t have a rocket launcher, freaky tentacles and didn’t run around muttering “Stars.” He just walked toward you, slow, silent and unrelenting. Unlike most every other enemy in the game that wanted to eat you, he beat you down with his fists pummeling you like a beef tenderizer.
Many count Nemesis scarier because his appearances were somewhat random. There was a chance of meeting him most anywhere. Mr. X’s encounters were scripted, but unlike Nemesis you couldn’t escape him. The game always stuck you with him in a narrow room or corridor. You had to fight him, and it always hurt.
1. Final Fantasy- Warmech Lane
The original Final Fantasy is hard as hell. It never gets harder however than in the Sky Castle. Home to the last of the four elemental fiends, a fellow by the name of Tiamat, it is stocked to the brim with high level monsters and a maze like deisgn that can leave you wandering for hours.
It’s also home to one of the scariest and most subtle sequences in any game. Just before you meet Tiamat, you need to pass through a narrow hallway wherein you can run into the Warmech. Most random encounter monsters were pretty manageable. The Warmech however was a boss fight in its own right. Decked out with high HP and top tier spells, it could plow through a top form party with ease. And by the time you did encounter it you would not be in top form. Battered and bruised, your chances of victory against this monstrosity were low and even if you did succeed you then had to face Tiamat who was just as likely to trounce you.
Now granted, the odds of encounter Warmech were low but that made it all the scarier. You could never mentally prepare yourself for it because there was no guarantee you’d run into the bastard. You could play the whole game and never meet it or your first step in the room could pit you against it.
For me, one of the scariest things about Warmech is that the area it inhabits is made to be deliberately claustrophobic. Granted this doesn’t really matter in a technical sense. Final Fantasy is a game of random encounters, so it’s not like more space would allow you to avoid it. But the confined aesthetic did wonders to make you feel trapped. There was no way to go but forward and forward might be to certain doom. A doom made all the worse by the fact that the original Final Fantasy had no save points. If you died, you had to start the whole dungeon over again.
When was the last time Square did anything that cool/cruel?