There are times when I love nothing more than devouring seemingly endless lists that explore the most horrifying moments in movies or gaming. Sometimes I would agree (especially when I knew exactly what the author was talking about) and other times I’d never played the mentioned game so I couldn’t really agree or disagree. As I’ve discovered not only through experience and the countless posts I’ve read on the topic, that some games – like movies may only a few or one horrifying moments. Regardless however they can be just as unsettling and disturbing and leave that lasting impression as much as an entire game can. Like most things what scares one doesn’t scare another, and this isn’t a definitive list as some games are scarier than those listed but I thought I’d make a list at the moments that have left a mark on me.
Resident Evil 2 (1998) – What’s behind the mirror?
How can any definitive gaming horror list not include an entry from the Resident Evil series? The poor citizens of Raccoon City infected by Umbrellas’ t-Virus brought the zombie apocalypse to a whole new level. Out of every single Resident Evil game the Licker jumping through the magic mirror in the police station in Resident Evil 2 has remained to this day the most memorable and horrifying moment in the series history (I’m bias here as I played the sequel before the original and the dogs jumping through would probably be on par). What makes this moment so superb in every way is it’s simple and B-movie brilliance. Yes, something jumping out of glass unexpectedly is scary albeit tired and cliché, but somehow it doesn’t in anyway diminish how much it scared the shit out of me. Time and time again. The game managed to create a chilling horrific atmosphere through its perfect blend of music, sound effects and desolate silence. The cries of the walking dead in the distant only added to the fear that you were never truly alone or safe. This particular moment in the game, you reach a room that was initially locked so once you do the surrounding area has been thoroughly cleaned out of zombies so it lulls you into the false sense of security that everything for the moment is fine. You were finally safe to explore the small unassuming interrogation room. Right? Mostly. Resident Evils’ infamous, and in my opinion amazing camera angles leads you to casually walk past the mirror with not a thought in mind. That is until a licker crashed right through it once you walk back past it. The utter shock combined with the silence broken by the shattering glass and the fact that half your screen was momentarily taken up by an inside-out mutant with talons is enough to make any eight-year old turn off the PlayStation. The fact that it still made me jump (albeit less, although I did know it was coming) more than 14 years on only goes to prove what a truly memorable moment it was.
Silent Hill 3 (2003) – Knock knock
I have a love/hate relationship with surrealist and psychological horror. Mostly due to the fact that my brain only works with logic and rational and anything that deviates from it infuriates me, but at the same time I’m compelled to understand it even more which only proves futile. The original three Silent Hill games perfected this genre and created a truly disturbing game with an amazing storyline. Picking any one moment from Silent Hill 3 (and frankly all the series) as the most horrifying and unsettling is simply one of those things that just can’t be done. Moments from this game range from beyond disturbing to outright disgusting, but there is however one moment in the game that has been ingrained into my memory and the swell of fear it literally sent throughout my body. The general atmosphere of Silent Hill is that you never you are never safe, because when all the monsters are created from the characters’ own psyche how can you escape yourself? Early on in the game the protagonist Heather can knock on a cubicle to find it locked and a knock in response. Nothing out of the ordinary since everything is still normal. That is until everything isn’t normal when you return and you realize you’re in the delightful Otherworld Mall, inhabited by the abhorrent creatures of Heathers’ repressed nightmares. Upon reentering the toilets trying to escape them, she realizes the cubicle is still locked. Except when whoever or whatever is inside knocks back at you. It was only in that moment in total fear that I made Heather escape the toilets, only to be compounded when the cubicle door opens revealing a toilet soaked in blood. Perhaps it’s the combination of the unsettling reality Heather is in, faced with what could possible be the same person behind that door or the simple and greatest fear of the unknown at what lies behind that drives this truly unsettling moment.
Blood (1997) Next stop, Hell!
I’m not sure anyone younger than me would remember this game, and I don’t know about anyone else but for the lack of a better word scared the fuck out of me. It was also incredibly funny. It basically deals with a former cult member being resurrected and wanting revenge for the murder of him and his wife at the hands of his former demonic leader. What entails is a fun filled adventure through graveyards, cities and a wonderfully demonic circus complete with lunatic cult members in monk robes wielding Tommy guns and screaming in what I always assumed to be Latin. Flying demons, mimes and of course, zombies inhabit this early 20th century world on the verge of being taken over by Hell. I revisited this game out of curiosity a few years ago and I found it (probably because I could actually understand what was going on) that it was as disturbing as I’d remembered. However there’s one particular part that stuck with me not only as a child but when I played it again that I found completely and utterly unsettling. After butchering through a horde of zombies and the Tommy gun wielding maniacs, you heard at first in the distance a voice on a loud speaker (try to imagine the distorted sound voices came out as on old gramophones) announcing the arrival of a train. As you approach the station steps the voice gets louder and louder and soon dominates and forces you to listen to the most disturbing, devilish voice amidst the screaming please of people whilst they are being mowed down by bullets. When you discover the person behind the speaker, his scream, which is almost childlike but truly evil, tries to distract you whilst he sprays a sea of bullets at you. The combination of the games’ atmosphere, plot and voice acting make for a truly disturbing and genuinely unsettling moment.
Manhunt (2003) We’re gonna’ getcha!
I can’t remember if this game was actually banned, then unbanned and then banned again but I do remember hiring and playing it. And regretfully (maybe thankfully) I haven’t played it since. For me, Manhunt has to be the most disturbing game I’ve ever played. Yes, games like Silent Hill are disturbing but to a degree that is what you expect from them but with this game I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was violent, but video game violence never bothered me but it was the unexpected level of psychological horror. You play as a prisoner whose execution has been faked and you’re forced to carry out brutal executions for an underground snuff film. What entails is an isolating and truly chilling journey through a derelict corrupt city littered with hundreds of psychopathic murderers specifically out for your blood. There’s a particular moment that has stuck with me I think brilliantly captures everything so twisted and disturbed about this game. As you’re sneaking through a building (this is from a ten year old memory) there are various carcasses hanging from meat hooks with something along the lines of “We’re gonna’ get you fucker” scribbled across the wall. The bleak isolating atmosphere of the city coupled with the screams and cries of murderous psychopaths that seemingly all go silent for that moment when you read what’s on the wall, only makes you realize you’re completely alone in a city of pure insanity.