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Halloween 2013: Our Scariest Video Game Memories

Posted by Dave Letcavage

These are the reasons we sleep with the lights on.

To celebrate the arrival of another Halloween, a few brave members of our staff have reopened old wounds by recalling their scariest video game experiences of all time, simply for your enjoyment. In an attempt to get the most authentic, and possibly embarrassing tales of fear from our writers, no game or console was off limits.

Once you’re done perusing through our terrifying accounts, we’d love to hear about your personal moments of horror. Did a game ever scare you so badly that you had to turn it off? While it's a stretch, did your controller ever tremble in your hands, long before we were introduced to Rumble Paks and Dual Shocks? Be sure to stick around until the end of the article, because we want all the juicy details.

Don’t be shy. We’re all wimps here, so there’s no judging.

Damien McFerran

The first game I remember which genuinely scared me was Dungeon Master on the Atari ST. This was back in 1987, so we're talking crude 2D sprites rather than the hyper-real visuals we're used to today. The monsters may only have had a few frames of animation but they scared me witless - so much so that I would cower behind the game's button-operated doors, refusing to open them because I knew a mummy or skeleton or massive rat was on the other side!

Not long after that, I recall the original Alone in the Dark being a source of constant terror. Again, what's amazing about this from a modern perspective is that the 3D visuals are incredibly primitive by today's standards; the zombie enemies were little more than a random selection of triangles, yet the moment the first one shuffled into view, I was running for a change of underwear. Sadly, the series has been downhill since then!

On the 360, the scariest game I've played has to be Dark Souls. In fact, it could very well rank as one of the most terror-inducing video games I've ever experienced. Of course, some of this is down to the fact that death can mean losing hours of progress and all of the souls you've collected since your last save, but that's only part of the story. Dark Souls is set in one of the most oppressive worlds I've ever experienced in a game, with nameless danger lurking around every corner. I can't wait for the sequel, and I'm pretty confident that it will spook me just as much as the original.

Dave Letcavage

I can still recall jogging down that L-shaped hallway for the first time, the camera angle giving off the impression that something terrifying was about to happen. Then when the view switches from in front of you, to behind you, for a second you think you’re in the clear. It’s at that exact moment, when your trepidation is waning, that a decomposing dog crashes through a window, front and center of the screen. I nearly tossed the controller across the room as I ejected from my seat, straight into the air. At that point ANOTHER dog barrels through glass. Scrambling to not be mauled to death, my instincts sent me running full speed for the door, instead of pulling out a gun and engaging the threat. Immediately upon entering the next room, I paused the game, looked at my friends, and had to catch my breath.

Before that point, I never thought a video game could actually scare me. Sure, there were games that presented creepy atmospheres that could keep me on edge, but none had toyed with me psychologically…. and won. Resident Evil remains one of my favorite games of all time, and also one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had with interactive media. I know this may seem like a predictable selection, but this is bar none, my most terrifying gaming moment.

Worth mentioning, however, would be that creepy, looming Phanto from Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES. I was only about four years old when SMB2 released, so you can imagine that darn mask could really put me on edge. Every time I'd come across a key, I'd stare at it for a while before picking it up. Almost immediately after the mask would swoop onto the screen, I'd throw the key away and turn the game off. Yeah, I was a big wuss. Still am, apparently, as Phanto freaks me out to this day.

Anthony Bacchus

Dead Space is chockfull of intense, heart-pounding moments throughout the game, so it is quite difficult narrowing down a specific moment for me. However, there is but one section in the game that I recall being so terrified that I had to stop playing shortly afterwards: Your first encounter with a regenerating necromorph, or known as The Hunter in the game. I frantically ran around the room, keeping as much distance as I could between the menacing monster and poor, vulnerable Isaac Clarke. Dead center in the room was a large, circular contraption that only seemed to get in my way as I emptied my Plasma Gun (and then my Pulse Rifle) bullets at the Hunter's protruding arms, legs, torso — EVERYTHING. I had managed to dismember each part of him and killed those annoying creatures that would attack you from afar, and I was convinced he was dead.

Oh, how naive I was back then.

Slowly — as if to mock me — the necromorph grew back all of the limbs, one by one, that I had just discarded from his body. My eyes widened, my heart raced and my ammo was nearly gone. I didn't react quick enough as The Hunter moved immediately towards Isaac, which signals one of the most gruesome and unsettling death scenes I've ever seen in a video game.

It was just too much for me at the time and I turned off the game to catch my breath. Of course, now I know that I have to stasis the Hunter while he is dismembered inside of that circular contraption, make your way to the back of the room and hit the switch. Sure, it sounds so easy and effortless now but Dead Space does such an excellent job of instilling that fear into you where you just can't think straight.

Dead Space is one of my favourite franchises this generation and while its two sequels have crossed into the action threshold (but are still incredibly well-polished horror games), the scares in this series will leave a lasting impression on you.

Mike Zatorski

My scariest moment happened with Rise of Nightmares. It was a completely different experience than any horror game I have played before, primarily because of Kinect. There is a certain part in the game where you are walking around and this lovely looking character named Ernst, who looks like he belongs in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is walking around in a hallway that of course you have to pass through. As he walks away, you have to hide in a corner because he can only hear you, he cannot see you. Your objective during this part is to stay completely still and silent. The awe of this moment being quite realistic as if you were in horror movie was phenomenal. I’ve endured some scary moments in the past from video games, but this was, and so far is, the only game that has truly terrified me at a given moment.

There you have it. We've divulged our embarrassing moments just for you. Now it's finally your turn to do the same. Did any of the games discussed above have a similar effect on you, or did you cower in fear before something completely different? Dig down to the comments's time to spill your guts.

Oh yeah, and Happy Halloween from all of us at Pure Xbox!

User Comments (4)



Generik said:

I'd give an honorable mention to Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth for the original Xbox. That game had some great visuals and the sanity effects were awesome. I tried playing it in the dark multiple times and could only handle about 30 minutes at a go with the lights low and the sound up.



holchasaur said:

@Generik - I've personally never played it, but as soon as you mentioned "sanity effects" I thought of Eternal Darkness for GameCube. That one toyed with my head in a big way. I knew nothing about it going in, so I was the guy that tried to swat the fly from the television set. Even fell for the corrupt memory card bit. Such a sucker.

I just looked up Call of Cthulhu. Hm. I might have to add that one to my shopping list and keep my eyes peeled while retro shopping. Looks interesting.



Generik said:

@DRL A nice thing with Call of Cthulu is it is on the Xbox backwards compatibility list for the 360.. if that sort of thing is important for you.

Good call on the Eternal Darkness.. great game!



Mr_Stuey said:

Condemned frightened the life out of me. It was a really different game from anything I had played before.

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