Terrifying Moments in Non-Horror Video Games- Wilhelm Screamfest VI

October often becomes the time when brave gamers finally download that scary title that has been sitting idle in their library to experience some spooky chills during Halloween. As these players scream and hide behind their controllers and keyboards there are others out there who have been so scarred by the horrors of years past that they can’t muster up the courage to dust off their copy of Resident Evil VII that has been staring at them from their shelf. There’s no denying that horror isn’t for everyone, but even those who have never played a scary game have become frightened in their gaming lives. Video game developers have slipped in some truly horrific sequences into games that would be otherwise overlooked by the avid horror aficionado. Here are some of the most terrifying moments in non-horror video games.

  1. Encountering  Man-Bat- “Batman: Arkham Knight”

By having a fear-inducing villain like Scarecrow as one of the predominant antagonists in “Batman: Arkham Knight” it’s expected to have some scares in this action-adventure title. It wasn’t, however, expected to have one of the most memorable moments to come from a lesser-known villain Man-Bat. Much like his fighting style, Batman’s ability to glide evolves throughout the trilogy; especially given the fact that each game’s map grows significantly larger than its predecessor. Since Batman can’t fly like his Justice League friends, he must utilize his trusty cape to soar the skies of the forsaken Gotham streets. With the help of his zipline, Batman propels himself in the air as he grapples edges of architecture. Players quickly begin to use the transportation mechanic over and over again, until this fateful moment.

  As Batman zips to the rooftop the camera quickly zooms in to a grotesque creature that is Man-Bat. Being a product of a failed science experiment, Man-Bat is equally scary as he is gruesome-looking. The screech belted out is so unsettling, it might have players take the batmobile to locations for the remainder of the game. There’s no preparation for the jump scare as it occurs randomly. To makes matters worse, once Man-Bat is captured after successfully completing the mission “Man-Bat: Creature of the Night” a similar jump scare occurs once more, but this time by the Joker. 

  1. Don’t Wake Wiggler- “Super Mario Party”

“Mario Party”, the franchise that has been throwing toxicity into ruined friendships since 1998 has finally produced a game that offers more than just industry-leading couch competition. The mini-game known as “Don’t Wake Wiggler” in “Super Mario Party” takes the intensity that the franchise has delivered time and time again into borderline horror. In this 4-player mini-game participants find themselves in a garden while discovering Wiggler, a giant caterpillar that is both adorable and a cold-blooded killer. Before the game even starts a short but effective synth jingle plays for a few seconds. The echoing of the notes paints an ambiance of a dream sequence in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, however instead of a razor-sharp clawed glove, they are faced with an 8 legged yellow behemoth.

The point of the game is to simply rack up the most points without waking Wiggler. The first player is randomly chosen and they have a 5 second time limit to pet Wiggler as much or little as they decide. The ticking time bomb that is Wiggler has an arbitrary amount of pets until it is awoken. From the initiation of the first pet, everyone will be on their heels as the game of chance commences. Greed in pets can produce points and more importantly fear into your opponents as the tally rises. It’s advised to have the Switch remote’s safety wrist strap as sweat will begin to drip profusely from the hands, causing the grip of the controller to be compromised. Adding to the tension, Wiggler will abruptly open an eye or move in his sleep. These animations only make you second guess your next pet on top of the creature’s head. With no warning, Wiggler will produce a short but effective jump scare as he awakens. The face transforms from a cuddly plush toy to a rage-infused berserker. The only thing that would make this mini-game more terrifying would be the inclusion of a motion camera that captures every movement you perform in an effort to raise the stakes.

  1. Mortal Kombat Krypts-  “Mortal Kombat X and 11

 NetherRealm Studios has been sprinkling horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees into the “Mortal Kombat” franchise since 2011, nonetheless, the games aren’t necessarily horror titles. They do however have some major jumpscares. Nearly every fighter title, and the majority of games for that matter, have straightforward menus for their unlockables; except “Mortal Kombat”. Instead, players are controlling either a character in first or third person point of view, depending on the game, in what is only referred to as the Krypt. 

In order to obtain alternative character skins, concept art, and fatalities you must physically open chests and destroy gravestones with currency acquired through previous matches. Around every corner is a potential jumpscare so be weary and hold your controller tight when trekking into the Krypt. One example is the web-covered caves of “Mortal Kombat X”. Giant arachnids will creep and crawl in the background of the cave’s hallways until one makes a leap at you from out of frame-causing your heart to drop. 

  1.  Yeti Monster- “Uncharted 2”

Just like Indiana Jones, Nathan Drake has had his fair share of the toe-to-toe battles with the supernatural. In the series first game, “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune”, Drake found himself battling mutant Nazis in an underground bunker. That moment teetering on the scary level, but isn’t as memorable as Drake’s encounter with the ferocious Yeti in “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”.  

While trekking into an icy mountain Nate performs the game’s most utilized mechanic of parkour climbing. As he climbs up a slippery cliffside, a rock hidden by the shadows of the cave system comes into the frame in the foreground. Players will be focusing on the background landscape as they control Nate and attempt to not fall to his death. Just as Nate comes to the top of his ascent the rock suddenly turns towards the camera, revealing piercing blue eyes and horns as the creature snarls. It’s done in such a calculated way that it’s nearly impossible for anyone to predict this jumpscare if they were going in blind; especially given the fact that there is little to no music played during this excursion. Once Nate is dropped into the following location stress begins to arise as you await the next appearance of the creature. 

  1. The Flood- “Halo: Combat Evolved” 

After experiencing top-notch first-person shooter gameplay and at the time groundbreaking graphics you come to the halfway point of “Halo: Combat Evolved”. Once dropped off by the Pelican players will discover they are in a swamp-like environment as the tonal course of the game begins to shift. Covenant troops are firing at an unknown enemy, which leads you to a subterranean structure. As you progress further into the underground hallways you’ll discover scenes ripped straight from a slasher film with mangled bodies of your foes littering the floors. You’re then faced with the difficult task of killing a lone and erratic comrade who has seen some truly awful things moments before.

The true terror comes when the horde of parasitic aliens called the Flood begin to swarm you. These squid-like creatures can easily overwhelm you as easy as they are to kill; jumping towards your face as their multiple appendages reach for your skull. Things quickly go from terrible to worse when the reanimated corpses of the covenant and humans join the bunch. “Halo: Combat Evolved” quickly has players beg the question “This game was supposed to be fun, what happened?” as the claustrophobic setting of the tunnels seemingly close in with the Flood

  1. Day 76- “Firewatch” 

Nothing beats a relaxing summer of solitude with fresh air and the soothing sound of a babbling brook. “Firewatch” is that perfect game for introverts who wonder what it’s like to be out in nature. The majority of the game is full of well-written dialogue and even better-executed voice acting by the main character Henry and radio counterpart Deliliah. Of course, there’s the streamer-highlighted jumpscare moment “The Life and Times of Raccoon Carter” achievement, but it falls in comparison to what occurs on day 76.

Similar to real life, some players might have experienced the feeling of being watched as they roam throughout the wilderness alone. These suspicions are confirmed when a clipboard is found with a word-for-word written record of the conversations that Henry has been having with Deliliah. Then, a startling sound of static emerges from nowhere. Once you discover a walkie-talkie on the ground you are abruptly hit from behind, knocking you unconscious.  This is the moment where you contemplate whether there’s a much more sinister tone to the game that was filled with flirtation and exploration. From then on you are on edge until the credits roll. A slight rustling of a bush triggers a jump, even if it’s just the wind blowing on a hot summer day.

  1. Loot Crate Jump Scares- “Call of Duty Warzone”

Some may consider the ever-going search for the perfect location while looting and under gunfire is the most stressful element of the popular battle royale “Call of Duty: Warzone”, however nothing peaks that of 2020’s Halloween event “The Haunting of Verdansk”. Players found out the hard way how all that adrenaline coursing through their veins would be released into the ether- jump scare loot crates! Adding to the already creepy atmosphere of ghosts forming out of thin air in certain locations on the map, these jump scares brought fear into the souls who decided to play the game last October. The worst thing about it is it there is no telling which ones have the jump scare.

When opening a jump scare loot crate one of a handful of different ghosts will pop up on-screen instantaneously. They are always accompanied by an ear-piercing sound of distortion and screeches. “Call of Duty: Warzone” already has its default volumes turned pretty high, but it really felt like they were out to get every player as the sound effect to the jump scare was seemingly cranked to 11. In some cases, you can’t help but jump out of your seat as you rip off your headphones. It is hilarious to hear a squadmate scream randomly during a session or even better watching a streamer react to the jump scares as their eyes are focused solely on getting loot as quickly as humanly possible. Being on the receiving end is the complete opposite as you’ll be huddled in the corner rocking back and forth questioning the decision on playing a game you thought would be fun.

  1. The Joker’s Funeral “Batman: Arkham Knight”

Again, “Batman: Arkham Knight” adds a moment to the list, this time with the cinematic climax of the Joker. After compromising Batman’s subconscious, the Joker finds himself alone in a dark corridor. It’s revealed that he is witnessing his own funeral, adding physiological warfare to Batman’s repertoire. During this whole segment of the game, the point of view is switched from third to first person, which puts players on their heels as the mechanics become a first-person shooter with a shotgun in hand.

Once Joker becomes flustered by the lack of legacy to his career as a villain the real terror commences. Joker then walks into a courtyard that has a menacing Batman statue that can be shot by the shotgun. As soon as you turn, another eerie Batman statue will spawn that seems to be inching closer each time you turn away; very similar to the Weeping Angels from “Dr.Who”. This happens again and again as the statues multiply alongside the crescendo of string instruments that screech a horror movie score. As the intensity reaches as high as your blood pressure, Batman abruptly emerges from one of the statues to attack Joker; which is one of the most frightening yet perfect representations of being in the shoes of a Gotham thug who comes face to face with the Dark Knight. 

  1. Discovering Caves “Minecraft”

Chances are if a young video gamer isn’t playing “Fortnite” they are playing “Minecraft”. “How can a game played predominantly by children be scary?” you may ask. It’s simple, mining the depths of the game. Mining is a necessary gameplay element, so it’s safe to say just about every player has experienced the terror of mining. Whether you are the type of player that digs straight down to block 12 for diamonds in a smooth well-constructed path or one that chooses to live in the chaos of random directions, you have discovered openings that lead to underground cave systems. A wide variety of enemies await those who dare to enter.

It’s wise to bring a few dozen torches on the journey as pure darkness will fill the screen. From then on you’ll be gambling with fate, for a cave system could lead to a dead-end or a dungeon on enemies like endermans and spiders. The hissing of a creeper as it closes is just as terrifying as anything in gaming, especially if you are cornered and without armor. One miscalculation of your surroundings and you drop everything you were holding on your person- pray that lava isn’t nearby or else everything will be lost for good. The most frightening aspect of mining is the music cues. There is nothing to trigger these scary sounds so preparing for them is out of the question. The sounds, which range from echoing roars to booms will haunt the dreams of your villager.

  1. Leviathans “Subnautica”

When first dropping into “Subnautica” your character is no doubt squishy; being exposed to the elements without any form of protection. After some gathering of materials within the vicinity of your home base you are able to build and captain a submersible vehicle to aid in your exploration of the ocean. One key aspect of this game is to be aware of your surroundings, yet that doesn’t help you from jumping out of your seat. No matter the time of day, although the darkness of the vast ocean at night is terrifying in its own right, you must always be on guard. For example,  you can be minding your own business with the slight hum of the submarine and “boom”, you’re attacked by a creature. In most cases, these attacks are rather tame, unless you come in contact with the leviathan class of organisms.

These monstrous beasts range from 20-200 meters, making the submarine microscopic in comparison. Sometimes without warning a leviathan will abruptly take hold of your ship with the arms located directly behind its face; bringing you face to face with a horrifying set of teeth. While stuck in this animation, the submarine’s multiple safety alarms trigger which only makes the experience all the more authentic and traumatic-not to mention a single hit can disperse 50% damage to a vehicle. In other cases, a distant monstrous roar can be heard bellowing into the abyss which seemingly never ends. This does offer a warning to explorers that a large being is in your presence, although it offers little reassurance that you won’t be scared; if anything it just adds tension to the moment. The most horrifying of all might possibly be the Ghost Leviathan for its roar alone. The sound can only be described as a demon from hell screeching at a high pitch frequenting as it ferociously scrambles to possess its victims. 

  1. Sonic about to drown “Sonic Franchise”

The “Drowning” theme has gone through many evolutions within the 30 year existence of the franchise. Somehow composers responsible at  Sega have created a theme very similar to John Williams’s “Jaws” theme without hitting any legal tape along the way. It’s just different enough by changing the “duh-nuh duh-nuh” to a “duh-duh-duh-duh nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh” pattern. Incarnations like “sonic adventures” and “sonic colors” have layers upon layers of instruments that make it feel overly manufactured instead of an authentic experience of terror.

The versions that nails the assignment of bringing the intensity are the “Sonic the Hedgehog” trilogy and surprisingly “Sonic Mania”. The chiptune track grips into high gear as the countdown to Sonic’s death trickles down to zero. One cannot help but imagine a shark zeroing in on them as the gravity of the water shuts down the speed of Sonic. This countdown perfectly captures the near death experience from a audio to visual interpretation as the light begins to narrow in the player’s eyes as they rush to the nearest source of sweet sweet oxygen.

  1. The Entire game “Seaman”

By being a Dreamcast exclusive, this title is already the most obscure game on the list; even though it has grown in popularity through the power of the internet. “Seaman” prompts you to raise an ancient being through various degrees of steps in an aquarium. Thoroughness is a must when following the process instructed in the manual. After following these steps you are rewarded with a creature so gruesome that calling it an abomination is an understatement. The only description one could make is a poorly computer-generated face, which was captured by primitive technology, that is attached to a fish’s body in what is only referred to as Gillman. Often times the face has no facial expression as if it knows its very existence is a heinous act.

Adding to the terror is the fact that the game utilizes the Dreamcast’s microphone, making it possible for the player to have a conversation with the creature. It might seem like fun and games when the fish asks you questions about your life until Gillman will begin to act incredibly rude towards you. Even the great Leonard Nimoy, who narrates the game, adds his own sassy flair “You visit often. If one didn’t know better one would assume you are quite obsessed or have nothing better to do.” Not cool Spock, not cool. What comes next is quite possibly the most terrifying aspect in gaming history.

Gillman will eventually have the audacity to ask questions that are incredibly personable questions. Topics such as if your parents truly love you to your own self-confidence are just a few examples. Gillman isn’t a licensed therapist so it all seems a bit inappropriate and the conversations can have a significant toll on one’s mental state; leading to an existential crisis. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself “Do you actually like yourself?”, because Gillman will.

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