Some of the things that scare us the most are the unknown and the unexpected. That’s why moments where our favorite video games surprise us, with a startling jump scare or a terrifying sequence, stick with us. We weren’t expecting to be scared in our action or puzzle game, we definitely didn’t want to be, so these moments frighten us even more than an actual horror game might. Here are the top 10 scariest moments in games that betrayed our trust and frightened us!
10. Super Mario 64 – The Mad Piano
Mario games are some of the least intimidating games you can play. They are all about a fat Italian plumber jumping around in a magical, chromatic world. But that didn’t prevent Nintendo from giving kids from all over heart attacks.
In Super Mario 64, there is an empty room with a piano and a chair in front of it. When you approach the piano, it opens its mouth, knocking over a chair, revealing a large set of sharp teeth. It chases you down, chomping constantly, with the smashing of piano keys ringing out with every bite. There is no way to defeat the piano. You simply must avoid its deadly teeth and grab the red coin that it is guarding. This is the reason why what I will call pianophobia is so common in today’s young adults.
9. Dark Souls 3 – Screaming Corpses
The Dark Souls series has always had a dark atmosphere, but this jumpscare was just uncalled for. In Irithyll Dungeon, there is a corpse in a cell near the first bonfire. It shines with that ethereal white light, meaning there is loot on the body. Being the good RPG player that you are, you go to pick it up. When you do, the corpse reaches out suddenly, letting loose a terrible, horrifying scream. It is a shocking and terrifying experience in a game that usually doesn’t indulge in such tactics.
What’s worse, there are multiple corpses in the area that do this, and you won’t know which ones scream until you loot them. Even when replaying the game, you’ll probably forget which ones they are, and so you’ll jump in fright anyways. This is one jump scare that gets you over and over and over again.
8. Fallout 3 – Andale
Fallout 3, due to its great size, has quests that encompass all genres such as action, comedy, etc. It is not a horror game, though, until you stumble upon the town of Andale.
The residents of Andale have survived the nuclear apocalypse and are going about life like before. They take pride in their town as the finest in Virginia and welcome the Lone Wanderer. However, make it into one family’s basement or a shed nearby, and you will discover that they are cannibals, having survived thanks to incest among family members in the community.
Although truly disturbing, what happens next is up to you. Do you keep their terrible secret, or do you kill the entire town? Hopefully, you choose the latter. Otherwise, I am as scared of you as I am of them!
7. Half-Life 2 – Ravenholm
Half-Life 2 is a lot of things, such as a revolutionary technical achievement and a fantastic first-person shooter, but a horror game is not one of them. Ravenholm is an abandoned mining town that you, as Gordon Freeman, must venture through.
Initially, the area is extremely frightening. Head crabs and zombies wander the infernal streets. To make matters worse, the deadly poison headcrab is introduced in this location. This creature bites you and reduces your health to one, making the next hit you take your last.
The horror of the environment does wear off once you realize how useful the gravity gun is, and you start throwing things with reckless abandon. However, your intro to the town is tense, scary, and unforgettable.
6. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – The Descendents
The Uncharted series contains some of the finest action-adventure games ever made, embracing every ounce of the humor, fun, and ridiculousness of the genre. At the end of the first game, though, someone else’s script must have been mixed in with Naughty Dog‘s because things get scary real quick.
In the search for the El Dorado, Drake, his allies, and his adversaries are attacked by groups of these horrifying monsters. Running quickly on all fours, these naked humanoids look like feral zombies. The game then includes an entire sequence in which you wander the dark, identical, and tight hallways of an underground German facility with only your flashlight to help you find your way. Don’t get lost, and always keep your gun at the ready in case one of the creatures pops out to attack you.
5. Halo: Combat Evolved – The Flood Reveal
The Halo series has some of the finest games the first-person genre has ever seen. They are exciting, action-packed, orchestral adventures, definitely not overwhelming, tense horror games.
But the reveal of the Flood in Halo: Combat Evolved enables Halo to be horrifying. The reveal begins with Master Chief watching a recording from the helmet of a member of a slain unit. The video has almost no music, and the dialogue is only interrupted by a monotone, consistent beeping. It doesn’t take too long until the unit is ambushed by a swarm of tiny parasitic creatures: the Flood themselves. They surround the soldiers, jumping and attaching themselves to their faces, infecting them and killing them.
The video then goes black, and you have control of Master Chief once again. It won’t take long until a swarm of the Flood burst through the wall, charging you, jumping to literally eat your face. Even with an armor and shield, this is a terrifying sight.
4. Batman Arkham Asylum – Morgue Sequence
The Batman Arkham series isn’t known for its candy and rainbows, or an emphasis on sharing and caring, but it certainly isn’t as downright horrifying as the morgue sequence is in Arkham Asylum.
It all begins with a horrifying cutscene of Scarecrow’s fear gas at work. Behind a glass once you enter the morgue, they scream for help, scratching their bodies to fight off some imaginary insects. As you continue to hunt for Scarecrow, your eyes glow red, the camera tilts lazily in different directions, and you begin to imagine the deaths of important characters.
Finally, ignoring the anxiety-producing soundtrack, you reach an area that is typical of a morgue, with autopsy tables and cold locker doors slamming. You enter the room and a cacophony of voices begin breathing, telling you to get out. Forced to leave the way you came, you end up just entering the room again.
You then must interact with the body bags on the autopsy tables, two of which are your dead parents, shaming you for their death. The final bag contains Scarecrow himself, and he ambushes you. What begins now is a tense, frightening, hallucinatory stealth sequence. For those 15 or so minutes, you forget that you are playing an action game! Hopefully, there will be even more scary moments in another addition to the fantastic series.
3. Pokémon Red and Blue – Lavender Town
Pokémon, I think we can all agree, is adorable, lighthearted, and sweet. If we ignore the fact that we are forcing animals to fight each other, there is seemingly nothing wrong in a world where children can wander unsupervised. I mean, it must be safe, right?
Wrong! Lavender Town shows the dark side of Pokémon. The town has a dark purple hue and a soundtrack that so creepy it is rumored to cause children to kill themselves. Lavender Town is home to a Pokémon graveyard, and one of your tasks to finish in the town is to help free the spirit of a Marowak who was killed by Team Rocket protecting her daughter, Cubone. Oh, did I mention that all Cubones wear the skulls of their dead mothers? No? Well, they do. Creepy.
2. Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Death Hand
Another game where you play as a small child, Zelda is known to have some creepy moments. Nothing compares, however, to Dead Hand.
At the Bottom of the Well, you will find this white blob, with a long neck and a face that has human teeth, covered in blood. Yes, blood, a lot of it, in what can be considered as a kid’s game. Dead Hand bites and claws at you, but it also can summon infinite hands from the ground to hold you still while it closes in on you.
You will fight this creature again in the Shadow Temple, but nothing compares to the first time you fight the creature due to the sheer shock of its gruesome design. Dead Hand has been the source of nightmares for many children.
1. Max Payne – Valkyr Sequence
Max Payne is an incredible game, memorable for its marvelous contribution to the action genre with its bullet-time mechanic. However, when our protagonist Max is injected with a dangerous drug, Valkyr, things get scary real fast.
The hallucinatory sequence begins with Max walking down a series of identical hallways. They seem to almost get longer as you walk down them, but you are soon chasing after the sound of a woman crying your name. The hallways soon come to an end, welcoming you into a dilapidated and run-down house.
After finding your way out of the house, you will walk through a hallway drenched in blood to arrive in a black void with only a slim line of blood guiding you through. It is easy to fall to your death here, so you must walk carefully. Ignore the baby crying and the creepy lullaby music, and you will eventually arrive at a baby’s room with a crib tossed over, covered in blood. This is the stuff of nightmares; specifically, Max Payne’s nightmares.
I hope this list puts you in the mood for a spooky Halloween. If you have any of your own horror stories from your seemingly innocent favorite games, make sure to let us know in the comments. Happy Halloween!
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I am an English (Writing Specialization) major at the University of Nevada, Reno, and I also LOVE video games. I’ve been playing everything I could get my hands on since I was a kid playing my Nintendo GameCube. When I’m not playing the latest titles or replaying Dark Souls for the umpteenth time, I am usually trying to write my novel or write and edit for clients as a freelancer.