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Games and Fear 145

Happy Halloween, game folks. There are a couple of creepy-themed game articles floating around the web today, and they're all lists ... disturbingly. eToyChest gives us the top five most horrifying moments in games. Next Generation offers a ten-point guide to inspiring fear in games. And finally, has an entertaining top ten scariest games list, complete with video. Even if I don't agree with some of their placements within the list, I think their #1 is a pretty accurate pick.
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Games and Fear

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  • Max Payne, the crying baby hallucination level... scares the crap out of me still.

    And the first time I played Quake 1 home, alone, in the dark.

    • Quake was pretty scary the first time. Diablo, when I played it for the first time, seemed pretty scary(I think it came out when I was only about 14.)
    • by daranz ( 914716 )
      The scariest level for me would have to be the Shalebridge Cradle in Thief 3. The neat thing about is is that you start it with no idea of what awaits you ahead. You don't know if there's any actual physical threat, and you don't know how to deal with it at first. Throughout the entire level, I just wanted to get the hell out, as soon as possible.
      • by Kouroth ( 911586 )
        Hell yea! That level was very scary and ranks right up there with the max pain baby one. The cradle level takes the cake though because of how the atmosphere was designed. Thief 3 was a great game and that was a great level. I only wish it was more open ended. I'd love to see a much bigger city to explore with more non-story line driven sneaky-thief fun.
    • The sound was all that level had going for it, though. The "running through the trail of blood" puzzle was just annoying.

      On the other hand... man, the sound was freaky.
    • System Shock 2 is very scary. One of the things that makes it scary is the fact that enemies spawn randomly. You're always on guard because they could come from anywhere at any time. Then there's the spiders (including but not limited to stealth spiders), zombies and creepy CP30-esque droids ("sir, where are you?" and so on).
  • by El_Smack ( 267329 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @04:47PM (#16663981)
    I don't think you hit an alien till about the 3rd level, but it was in a dark hallway and he came out of a hidden spot.
    I think I crapped my 256 color, 320 x 240 pants.
    • by EnderGT ( 916132 )
      Absolutely best mod ever. My roommates in college made me play with a surround sound system and in the dark...

      For anyone who's interested, I found a link for it here [], although it doesn't seem to be working, at least not from my job.

      If anyone does find a working link, share with us please?

  • F.E.A.R. is a scary FPS. The horror did sag a bit in the middle by not being there as much. I'm going to finish playing and get the expansion pack.
    • I think the main problem with F.E.A.R. in the middle point is that damn office level that lasts forever. Go up the office building, go down the office building, through cubicles that all look the same.

      Maybe they were going for some high brow horror by evoking all that "scary" symmetry and uniformity, but they should have at least added some computer programmer ghosts into the cubicles or something.

      "Ooooooooh, I'll be using Windows 3.1 FOREEEEEEVVVVEEEEERRR!!!"

      "We do all our accounting software in COBOL!!!!
      • by witte ( 681163 )
        "Ooooooooh, I'll be using Windows 3.1 FOREEEEEEVVVVEEEEERRR!!!"

        "We do all our accounting software in COBOL!!!!"

        Tsk tsk ! Displaying such heinous crimes against humanity in a game is not done !
    • The best was when you go down that ladder and as your POV swivels around you see that creepy little b**** coming towards you. You -know- you're on a ladder and have no chance of defending or evading in 'jump' I think I've had from a game in a long time.
      • Totally. I was actually more afraid of using ladders than anything else in that game after than point.

        Although I have to admit the full screen bloodied face didn't exactly do me any favours either. But that was a cheap scare, and it more pissed me off than proper scared me.
      • F.E.A.R. and Doom I (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jgoemat ( 565882 )
        That and when walking in the office building I turned a corner around a cubicle. It had been a long while since I had seen the girl and wan't thinking about it one bit. I swivel to check out the cube for anything of interest and BAM, she's there crawling like that creepy chick from 'The Ring', only faster.

        One of the scariest moments I've had in a video game was also playing Doom I. There was an Aliens mod that replaced the monsters with different aliens from the movies, and replaced a ton of the sounds

    • F.E.A.R. was a joke of a game; the so called horror bits where a good laugh, and they where totally irrelevant to the rest of the game.
  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @04:50PM (#16664017)
    looked something like this


    Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 3.6).
  • But a couple of the scariest moments I can think of come from first person shooters. Like the discovery of the Flood in Halo, or in Unreal where you walk down a hallway and all of the lights systematically shut down, leaving you to face a Skaarj in the dark!
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
      I'd say in Half-Life in the reactor with that gigantic green spiked tentacle. With the lights off, speakers on full, and no one else in the house. I spent a good bit of time cursing that stupid thing.....I was out of grenades and couldn't distract it, so I had to do it the hard way.

    • by Barny ( 103770 )
      Pfft, try doing the same in Zork.
  • Well, one of TFAs is not responding, another requires flash...

    But I will say that there is NOTHING scarier than "It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

    Because eventually, if you keep messing around in the dark, it's going to happen... and only your imagination limits how terrible a grue is. This game experience was why I demanded my parents install a nightlight.
    • LOL - I have to admit, that to this day, if I ever walk into a dark room (I'm a "turn the lights on only if absolutely necessary" kind of guy), that EXACT phrase always runs through my head.
  • The little shadow child in the first Silent Hill, you couldn't kill it, and it didn't hurt you, it just followed you around. Creepy.

  • When I was in grade 4, I got addicted to last half of darkness. that game scared the shit out of me, especially with it's PC Speaker sound effects...which were eerie on their own.
  • You know, a game doesn't have to make you jump to be scary.

    A great example would be Silent Hill. Oh sure, I jumped here and there, but nothing big. It wasn't until hours AFTER the game, that I got creeped out. It affected me for DAYS afterword.

    I stopped when I got to that sick and twisted school-house. I kept expecting things to jump out at me. I was convenced that just around the next corner, I would run into a hidious boss that would take all 5 of my bullets and then eat me alive.

    I just can't get up the c
    • Silent Hill affected me for days too, I was like 12, I played it late at night with the lights off, by myself...I didn't want to go in my room for weeks
    • by antime ( 739998 )
      When I first bought my Playstation I didn't have money for a memory card, so I played Silent Hill for three days straight until my nerves became so fried I simply had to shut it off.

      More scary games: Alien: Resurrection for the PS1 and the Ravenholm level in Half-Life 2.

    • by Reapy ( 688651 )
      Haha yeah the school house is waht killed me too! I don't think I've ever been that creeped out before during a video game before in my life. I was handling version 1 of the school reasonably well. But then when it get all metalic and demonic, *shiver*.

      But man, downstairs on the "big tv" after everybody is in bed, with the lights off round 12am. That damned STATIC getting louder and louser! WHERE THE HELL IS IT?!?! DAMNED PS1 CLIPPING PLANE!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH Great game :)

  • Oh well.

    I haven't gamed in a good many years (the occasional hop onto the 'family' PC to play my kids' copy of The Sims doesn't count), so I'm sure I've missed out. However, the only *truly* frightening experience I ever had was while playing the Doom TC Aliens conversion, in the dark, with a good set of headphones. I can't count how many times I jumped while playing that game, or held my breath while I hesitated to turn a certain corner.

    So, to anyone who remembers the Doom mod I mentioned above.. do

  • Hearing those skinless howler money things come ratling up the drainpipes *still* freaks me out a little.
    • by sdaemon ( 25357 )
      no freakin' kidding.

      HL1 was, until HL2, the most immersive, pulse-pounding FPS-with-a-storyline I'd ever played. HL2 outdid it in every way.

      Ep 1 was pretty darn good as well. Looking forward to Ep 2!
    • by Lazbien ( 788979 )
      Definitely. The rest of HL2 was a hoot. This level was not. Especially with the venomous headcrabs coming out of nowhere.

      The level title "we don't go to Ravenholm any more" is pretty self explanitory.

    • Yeah... although I have to say that as soon as the level started, I groaned a little. "Crap. Another one of these "scaaaaary" levels." I'm tired of them.

      And since my computer is pretty much obsolete, the worst thing about the steroid zombie things for me was that by the time I heard one, I knew that my framerate was going to drop to 1 frame every other seconds. *Screeeeech* *rending and slapping sounds, with accompanying slide show*. "Whoops. Guess I'm dead."
    • Their is only one chapter I don't play in HL2 anymore: Ravenholm. I play the intro chapter, the boat chapter, and the jeep chapters much much more. The howlers...grabbing onto my car in ep 2? That'll be frightening!

      Not surprising, Father Grigori is by far my favorite character...
  • So scary!
  • We don't go there anymore.

    Alone. In the dark.

    Nuff @#$%ing said.
  • Scariest moment for me was walking into a room and seeing 8 huge zombies lumbering towards me. It wasn't the zombies that scared me as I found myself completely unable to attack them. I could run around helplessly, but I couldn't fight back. I freaked out thinking my controller had broken and swapped in a matter of seconds. When that one didn't work I became terrified that my first player port was broken. I had iterated through my controllers twice before I finally died.

    Flash, "This can't be happening!"

  • Picture it: 2am in a thunderstorm after having drank WAYY too much coffee. It's exam routine for finals, and you're playing Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty... you're hopelessly addicted to it, and desperately need to finish the damned game so you can get some studying done... you're near the end and... the game starts going all crazy.

    Suddenly the screen turns itself off and then on, and then the colonel says "You've been playing the game a long time, haven't you?"

    I nearly had a fucking heart attack...

    • by DarkJC ( 810888 )


      Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Reason: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.
    • Yeah that freaked me out a bit when the guy says "haven't you been playing too long" and "seriously you need to step away from the console" or whatever. I thought the game was going to quit because I played it too long or something, I was having virtual boy flashbacks and I had been playing for about 10 hours without getting up. I just did this like a week ago, and only on very easy, because I am big dumb gaijin, or more to the point since I hit the age of about 13 or 14 I had better things to do than to pl
      • Don't get me wrong, there are tons of games that scared me in the same way that someone jumping out behind me yelling "GOTCHA!!" does... but never has a game actually freaked me out more than that... I think maybe it was the stress, the lack of sleep and the retarded amounts of coffee I was drinking... but I was like "ZOMG MY PS2 IS POSSESSED!!11oneone" ... sounds stupid, but I've never been more freaked out by a video game than that time.
        • That was pretty much my experience too. Playing that game for too long makes you paranoid, for obvious reasons - the whole "government agent" genre always includes plentiful fucking-overs and backstabbings. So there I sit in the dark, having played for far longer than is healthy, and the console starts babbling at me in crazy people talk.
    • Maybe for a game like Resident Evil... Have the game recognize a character name you enter. If you could have high-quality voice synthesis, that would be great. Maybe it could use the real name on an online account or something. Otherwise you could at least have a lot of common names pre-recorded. Imagine the game playing 2/3 the way through, then all of a sudden you hear your name whispered softly. So softly you cannot make out what it's saying at first, maybe only during a time when static is playing
    • Oh, it happened to me at 1 AM. The worst part was: I thought I was about to fight the final boss so I figured I would beat it before I went to sleep even though I was way too tired. Because I was tired and it was late, I was sitting far closer to the TV than usual. and then the game tells me..."You'll ruin your eyes playing too close to the TV!" Unbelievably scary.
  • Feargames that completely scared the crap out of me: Alone in the Dark 4, PS1 (the PS2 was probably scarier, with better graphics?) Fear Effect 1 & 2, though iirc, the first was more intense. The first Dino Crisis. Resident Evil 2 on the PS1 (it was one of the first 3D games i ever played, back when i was 13-14) --- Horror games that were not ultra-spooky, but still outrank most games out there: Silent Hills (the first one deserves to be in the first category). Cold Fear. The remaining Resident Evils,
  • Lots of scary games, but I particularly remember playing Alone in the Dark, well... in the dark, and the music and ambiance was excellent despite the old graphics. More recently, doom3 is scary in a different, monster-suddenly-jumps-out-of-the-shadows-when-yo u -least-expect-it kinda way.

    Alien vs. predator also comes to mind.. when the motion sensor starts beeping faster and faster and you can't see a thing and before you know some aliens are kickin' the hell out of you.. just like in the movies (first two I
    • Doom 3 was scary for the first little bit, but after the 50th god damned time I was walking along in the dark and a monster appeared behind me it felt pretty tiresome. The guys at id need to learn that good horror is more than a guy in the shadows jumping out shouting "BOO!"
  • I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.
  • by Chuckaluphagus ( 111487 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @05:20PM (#16664611)
    I was playing Thief on a stormy night with a cheap 4.1 speaker setup, because you need some reasonable positional audio for Thief. On the second level, where you're trying to get into the prison through the abandoned mines, I came upon a decayed corpse lying on the ground. First in the game, mind you. After waiting a moment at the edge of the room to see whether it would rise up and try and eat my brains (as decayed corpses are wont to do in such situations), I decided everything was safe and walked right over to it and looked down to see whether it was anything interesting.

    That's when it chose to jump up and take a swipe at me. I screamed bloody murder and yanked the power cable from the back of my computer, turned on all the lights in the apartment and didn't turn the damn computer back on until the next day. For serious immersion in a game, Thief is amazing. Much, much more interesting than most of your regular first-person games. Like a lot of people here, I am a huge fan of Half-Life 2 and Ravenholm, though.

    • Thief worked so well, and was even scary in the non-horrific moments because you had to simply wait, and listen. To do well, you had to pay careful attention to the slightest sound. Is the guard far enough away? No? Then you wait, and hope his patrol route doesn't find you. In many cases they would pass mere feet form your hiding spot and you'd simply have to stay still, waiting. Once he's gone, will you have time to make it to another spot to hide before he turns around? I hear another guard. Is he
  • The Downtown level I believe. I climbed that one lone tower about half way back. I got to the top and experienced some acrophobia and a lurch of panic in my chest as I got close to the edge that first time. That's probably the only time I was actually scared in a video game.

    Man, that was great!

  • A true classic game and pretty scary at times, when you get into the village for the first time when the locals have killed the cops - that was scary.

    As was the bit where you have to kill the zombies who are chasing you and Ashley in the big truck, it's them getting you from behind that get me...

    Oh! and when those walking things are suffling along in a really scary way and you can shot them all you want but they just don't seem to want to die...
  • I've yet to find a game (or series) that freaks me out as much as the Project Zero games.
    I mean, Silent Hill? Resident Evil? I have WEAPONS! Project Zero... a camera, a bloody old camera with no film.

    And that insane ability for them to put dolls everywhere that don't move...
    then there's that one that catches your eye, but doesn't move...
    until you finally put the camera away and decide it's just another doll.
  • I've been a gamer for years, and don't find much scary these days, but when I first played the F.E.A.R demo, and that bit when you go down the stairs, when you turn around and theres nothing behind you, and then turn to go down the ladder and that kid is there scared the shit out of me, and then at the bottom of the ladder that guys there.....thats really all that scared me...
  • Those terror missions really lived up to their name, especially when its set at night/dusk, and in real life its 3 AM, and its you're first time going through the game. Ah yes - memories - the wind blowing at my window, the pulsing soundtrack echoing from the speakers, and the expletives streaming from my mouth the first time a Chrysallid charges out of the black at me, and I just about leaped out of my chair (waking my roommate).

    Those old VGA graphics and tinny sounds had more atmosphere than most horro

  • The first one, in case that isn't obvious...
  • Resident Evil - Was playing this with a friend late at night. First time I entered the mansion I said "screw this, don't want to deal with the zombies" and tried to walk out the front door. That's when the dogs came through the door-opening animation. Definitely was not expecting it.

    Thief 1 - One of the last levels inside some house where the interior was all space-disoriented and whatnot. The creatures in that level freaked me out. It's been a while so sorry for the lack of details.

    Unreal - All the lig

  • I'm probably the only person who was scared by this, but the first time I went into the Bottom of the Well it scared the hell out of me. False floors, enemies jumping out of nowhere, and some seriously creepy music...
  • Okay, it's older--but it was damn creepy in its day.


    • by Gonzo73 ( 703628 )
      Here here. I loved 7th Guest, frustrating puzzles but a great classic PC game. wish I could find some other puzzle or adventure games with a great horror hook these days. I tried Raven Hill - Complete POS I thing Res. Evil 3 and 4. The first time I ran into Nemisis I nearly shat myself. And just about everything in RE4 is just nuts. Those crazy ladys with the chainsaws... some really f'd up shat...
  • that game scared the shit out of me and my brothers and sister. My younger brother would start to cry if we sang the theme that was played when you met the monsters, oh the memories... anyone else play this?

    See here for a review: []

    another scary and more recent one is System Shock II (haven't played the first one), at some point I even quit playing that game because it was to stressful....
    • Alright, another fan of this game!

      Aside from having to swap and wait for disk loads, this game was fantastic: good (for the time) graphics, non-linear gameplay, and multiple endings...

  • Ok, it wasn't that scary, but there were plenty of chances to jump and get surprised in RTCW.

    Aside from San Andreas, probably the last REALLY good single player game I've played.


    Doom 3, halflife 2, the other ones were just "eh".
  • No mention of My Little Pony Runaway Rainbow or Strawberry Shortcake: Summertime Adventure? Inconceivable.
    • That's not scary, that's mind destroying torture. There's a difference:

      One makes you kill yourself out of terror, the other out of sheer pain and the destruction of one's will to live.
  • I played SH2 before SH1, so I was freaked out more by it. I was expecting a Resident Evil "jump out and scare you" type game but I got something totally different. There really wasn't a specific scary part, but the audio really helped. The whole freaking game scared me. Even at the start when you are walking down the path in the fog I could swear there were footsteps following me... but when you stop, they stop.

    Sometimes while playing I couldn't tell if the controller was rumbling or if I was shaking.
  • now THAT was creepy, playing the marine, walking around with that hyper-sensitive motionsensor that would bleep everytime a door opened, scared the crap out of me. that, and ravenholm. oh, and xcom.
  • I started playing this at 2 AM on a Saturday night with the lights off, thinking it wasn't going to be bad. I was busy running around until I heard something yelling "Kill me! NyaaaAAGGH! *whack*". I turn around and nearly jump out of my chair as this crazy hybrid is beating me with a wrench.

    After another hour of the game, I was looking over my shoulder in real life every few minutes to ensure no hybrids were after me.

  • by balthan ( 130165 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @06:42PM (#16665761)
    The Ocean House Hotel was one of the creepiest areas I've ever played in a game.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by JimmehAH ( 817552 )
      There's so much attention to detail and care put in to that level. It's excellent.
      The whole game is.
      Terrible shame about what happened to Troika, really.
  • My wife was really into Fatal Frame 2 on the PS2. I usually watched, and I have to say that is one scary game. Hard as hell to find, but a gem if you like scary.
    • by tapo ( 855172 )
      Oh dear god, how I agree. Monsters are one thing, but ghosts you can't escape from, appear randomly, and they give you a camera for a weapon? Jesus monkey christ. I had nightmares about Fatal Frame 2.
  • Nobody has mentioned Undying yet. That game scared the crap out of me. The first time I played it my wife made me turn the lights back on because it was scaring her and she wasn't even watching the thing.
  • ... for me personally to find it even remotely scary. I can get creeped out by games in third person, sure (Fatal Frame for example), but I can't get scared to the point I wanna turn the lights on or put the game down unless I'm playing first person, and preferably on a PC (I sit a lot closer to my monitor than I do to my TV, and generally wear headphones).

    Games like FEAR and Thief and Arx Fatalis genuinely scare me (Arx Fatalis is a highly under-rated game, and much creepier/downright scary than has been r
  • LucasArts' Rescue on Fractalus - every time the rescued pilot turned out to be an alien and you couldn't see his little green head running towards the ship. A brief silence where you expect the pilot to knock on the door and BAM - he'd jump up in front of your ship's cockpit and scare the bloody life out of you.

  • Surprised no one's mentioned this yet. When the Colonel at the end turns into a skull face and starts ordering you to turn off the game console, and starts talking gibberish. Then you realize that the main character is simply an allegory for you, the player, and that the designer, Hideo Kojima, has spent the entire game building up to this moment to freak you out of your mind.

    At least with "scary games," you're expecting them to be scary. This was a perfectly normal game that suddenly became very differe
  • by Thornae ( 53316 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @09:02PM (#16667357)
    This is the only game that made me empty a whole magazine into something I knew was dead, just because it scared the crap out of me.

    Evil story: Years ago, I moved into a sharehouse with a couple of friends. One of them hadn't played HL yet, so I set it up on his machine and left him to it.
    A couple of days later, I came home late at night and saw that the door to his room was open.
    He was playing one of those freaky bits where you're crawling through badly lit ventilation tunnels, and headcrabs jump out of the dark. He was hunched over the keyboard, right into it, with headphones on, with his back to me...

    Naturally, I did what any good friend would do. I sneaked up behind him, grabbed his shoulders and yelled "Hi, Mat!" ...

    He didn't speak to me for a week.
  • I don't know why Doom3 isn't mentioned that much. I still can play only about 10 minutes at the time, although with the sound turned down really low I can muster maybe 20 minutes. It's not the visuals a la 'scary monsters jumping out of the cabinet'. It's the sound. It's the scariest shit I ever heard (especially when played on my massive 5.1 setup with that enormous subwoofer that just seems to emanate low frequency, scary sounds).

    While the gameplay is rather boring and scripted, kudos to the audio engin

  • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) * on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:36PM (#16668707) Homepage Journal

    It's "just" a text adventure, but it's reach, convincing, creepy, and free. I highl recommend Michael Gentry's Anchorhead [] . Your husband has just inherited an old family home from a relative he didn't know he had. You've just moved to Anchorhead. Your husband has gotten a position at the local college. You have a simple task: head over to the real estate agent's office and pick up the keys for your house. Unsurprisingly things go downhill as it turns out that your house and the town have a dark past.

    For anyone new to interactive fiction, you'll need a free interpreter. I recommend Gargoyle [] on Windows or Linux and Spatterlight [] on Mac OS X.

  • Scariest moment was in Wall of Slaughter, having just run out of mana killing a named Bazu, and having Shadowhunter zorch us from the other side of the zone with his AOE and watch my air pet light out across the horizon at warp speed after it.

    My keyboard took that moment to stick, and I couldn't kill my peLOADING..PLEASE WAIT.

  • Played it on my 286, scared the shit out of me.

    I've actually become more pussy over the years than I used to be.

    I played the AVP2 demo and quit on the second level - no monsters for 1 level was long enough for me.
    System Shock 2, lasted 5 minutes in the demo and quit - not a chance, scared the shit out of me.
    Doom 1, E1M5 - never forget that last room which turned dark.
    The suffering, played 5 minutes, quit that one too.
    Doom 3, lasted about an hour before using cheats - only way I could reduce the fear factor
  • I don't recall the particular level, but it involved ghostly voices and bloody footsteps. It perturbed me so much i had to let go the game for the rest of the day, i swear.
  • What was up with the spooky white face that every so often would appear in the center of the screen and get larger while screaming at you? That thing scared the hell out of me, especially since it seemed to have no connection to anything going on in the damn game.

    Jonah HEX

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham