This year, to celebrate Halloween, I have decided to write this post to list some strangely frightening moments in computer games. The list included only moments that were scary in a strange way, such as horror-themed levels in family friendly games, elements of games that seemed more frightening than intended and weird glitches that created a terrifying image. I did not include purposely scary moments, such as horror games.
This list only included moments I, personally, found frightening, so the games mentioned will be ones I have played and the sense of fear will be personal to me. If there are any moments that you have found scary and fit the description for a weirdly terrifying moment, please comment below.
5. The Frantic Factory Boss from Donkey Kong 64
The Kongs explored the anarchic Frantic Factory, fed Scoff the required amount of bananas and opened the portal that would take one of them to the boss. The portal invites Tiny Kong to enter.
The portal leads to a dark, metal room, containing a slightly raised platform, with a large number of blue and white squares on top. One of the squares becomes illuminated by a bright light and Tiny walks over to it. After touching the flashing square, all the squares suddenly rise up to form a collection of towers. A jolt signals that the platforms have reached their full height and Tiny looks around in shock, the bright light below her illuminating her frightened face. Sirens flash and wail next to the exit of a chute, labelled REJECT, while loud banging and rumbling can be heard from within.
A small, brightly coloured box falls from the chute and lands on one of the platforms. It jumps from platform to platform, leaving a shower of sparks in it’s wake. Suddenly, a creature, consisting of a green duck’s head and hands connected by springs, is ejected from the box to scare Tiny, before disappearing back into it’s container.
Donkey Kong 64 was a very colourful and child-friendly game, where even giant spiders had a cartoonlike, innocent look. The Frantic Factory boss, however, had a more disturbing design. He seemed very neglected, with a grim colour, injured eye and rusted springs, which made him look even more disturbing. The fact that he came from the REJECT chute also possibly suggests he underwent some psychological trauma due to this rejection. I also remember this boss was irritating to fight against, mainly because it was very easy for him to knock Tiny off the platforms and into the chasm.
4. Dancing Re-Deads from Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
In Ikana Valley, Link finds the entrance into Ikana Castle. Opening a large door, Link enters a room to find four Re-Deads waiting. Forgetting that he is still wearing the Gibdo Mask, a mask resembling the bandaged face of a Gibdo, he runs forwards, expecting his enemies to attack. Instead of fighting, the Re-Deads (with skin the colour of dry mud, long limbs like rubber, visible ribs and dead eyes) inexplicably start dancing.
Two Re-Deads fold one leg underneath their bodies and twirl in a circle to music no-one can hear, yet in perfect synchronicity with each other. Two of the creatures cover their mouths and fall to the floor, folding their bodies until they become a heap on the ground, in a silent, macabre imitation of ecstasy, before rising to their feet. They repeat these strange movements in an endless loop, seemingly unaware of Link or any of their surroundings.
While there were a few scary moments in this game (particularly in the part of the game set in Ikana Valley), none of them were as strange as the dancing Re-Deads. I did not expect the Re-Deads to act this way and they seemed to be committed to their actions, even while being attacked. There was no explanation for their behaviour or if this was actually supposed to be a weird joke by the developers.
3. Mrs Cutter from Okami
Amaratsu, the goddess resembling a large white wolf, enters the Wind Valley. The area is lush and verdant, with bright sunlight illuminating the green grass covering the valley floor and the steep, rocky valley walls. Amaratsu lightly runs through the peaceful area, enjoying the calm and beauty of her surroundings.
While running through the valley, Amaratsu notices a small path that leads through a narrow passage into a small hollow. As she follows this route, Amaratsu finds that her surroundings have darkened and the light has a purple tinge. She enters the hollow to find it contains a small pool of water, a few trees, a dilapidated house and an elderly woman.
The old woman, dressed in traditional Japanese clothes and carrying a large pack on her back, is pacing around the hollow. When she sees Amaratsu, the pack on her back starts to move violently, as if something alive is contained inside and wants to be released. The woman, now obviously insane, starts to chase and attack Amaratsu, until the heroic dog can escape back to the verdant valley.
Amaratsu later returns to the Mrs Cutter’s house during the night and enters it while she is asleep. Amaratsu reveals the monster hiding within the disturbed woman and defeats it.
This game was very effective at changing the atmosphere from comedic and light-hearted to frightening and threatening (particularly though the use of music). While there were many moments when a horrifying event was mentioned or terrifying monsters appeared, they were not as scary as Mrs Cutter. This was possibly because this character was more human and realistic than the fantastic creatures encountered in the game. The way the atmosphere suddenly darkened in her presence, the captive (which, to me, hinted at cannibalism), the disturbing rumours that the player can discover about her and her obvious insanity all helped create a human monster. In fact, I was actually relieved to find out that she was not a disturbed woman, but was a fantastical beast.
2. The Music from Labyrinth of Time
You are in an old-fashioned hotel, with a corridor stretching out in front of you. You walk forward, your footsteps unheard over the ambient music that seems to be playing. You keep walking, silently passing empty rooms. Suddenly, the sound of heavy footsteps can be heard, cutting through the calming music, as if carrying a sense of dread. You turn, expecting to see a purposeful visitor, but no one is there, the corridor remains the same as if nothing has happened, but the footsteps have stopped and the music continues.
You continue on your journey, believing that you were mistaken about the footsteps, thinking that they were another rhythmic sound or they were the echo of someone else walking far away. You suddenly enter the offices of a private detective during the 1920’s, before reaching a deserted town from the Wild West. As you enter the buildings, your slight confusion at the strange events becomes replaced by apprehension as you hear the mysterious footsteps again. You are aware that you have not met another person while travelling and everywhere you have been looks as if it has been abandoned for some time. You continue on your journey with the feeling that some unseen person is stalking you.
You continue further into the Labyrinth of Time, becoming more aware that the maze itself is completely devoid of life, yet the strange footsteps still periodically haunt your journey.
This effect used to scare me when I was young, to the extent that I would play with the sound muted to avoid listening to the music. While progressing through the game, it became obvious that the setting for the game was devoid of life, but the loud sounds of footsteps could be heard. This caused the feeling that either some unseen person was observing the player for unknown reasons or there was some invisible spirit haunting the labyrinth. This added a frightening atmosphere for the game.
1. The Swimming Beast from Super Mario 64
Mario is exploring the Hazy Maze Cave. Reaching another room with rocky ceiling and walls, he sees a lift in the floor. Standing on the top of the lift, it slowly moves downwards through the roof of a large cave.
As he sinks into the dark cave, he notices that there are few metal structures or manmade objects in the room, unlike the rest of the Hazy Maze Cave that was filled with built areas. He also realises that the walls are much rougher than before, with the floor consisting of a rocky path. The cave forms a tunnel, that follows a gentle downward path and curves round to the left. As Mario runs along the ground, he wonders what happened here to make a seemingly industrious group suddenly abandon the excavation of the cave and disappear, leaving no trace of existence, except for the remains of their metallic constructions.
As Mario follows the path round the bend and down the slope, he sees that it ends in a huge cave filled with a pool of water. An opening in the cave wall allows a shaft of bright sunlight to illuminate the room, showing an island in the centre of the lake. Shining in the light was a golden star, floating in the air above the island.
Feeling excitement that his goal is within reach, Mario dives into the dark water and starts swimming to the island. As he swims through the lake, he sees a large monster swimming round the island, the shafts of sunlight illuminating it’s blue skin. Mario watches as the creature swims towards him, unsure if it is friendly or deadly.
This is another aspect of a game that used to terrify me when I was younger. It may have been because of the low lighting of the area, the unsettling music or the design of the beast (which was less cartoonlike than other creatures in the game and resembled the Loch Ness Monster), which made it a strange and frightening experience among the jolly levels set in the clouds and friendly races against various characters. I am also aware that there were other, more obviously scary parts of this game (such as the ghost’s taunts, the haunted merry-go-round in Big Boo’s Haunt and the abandoned town in Wet Dry World), but this creature caused me to avoid the entire Hazy Maze Cave level.
What parts of games caused frightened you for strange reasons? Please comment below to share your experiences.