Moments In Horror Games That Left Me Cowering In Fear
Far from being a horror game fan, occasionally a game will catch my eye that looks so interesting I can’t stop myself from giving it a go. Here are some examples of times I’ve come to regret those decisions.
Dead Space’s Elevator
Defenceless, disorientated and dismayed are three words used to describe my first encounter with a Necromorph from 2008’s Dead Space.
Starting off in a mysteriously abandoned spaceship after answering a distress call, engineer Isaac Clarke leaves his companions to figure out why the USG Ishimura has sustained so much damage. I spotted Isaac’s friends on the opposite side of a window, when the room they were in suddenly entered lockdown - why? Because a grotesque humanoid-like creature came storming in to attack the crew before turning its attention towards me. A frantic chase ensued where the Necromorph was hot on Isaac’s heels - spotting an elevator and diving inside quickly, begging the doors to close as I saw the shambling mutant edging ever closer towards the wide-open doors, thankfully they bang shut just in time - close call!
Except no, it wasn’t. The elevator began to judder and the Necromorph pulled open the doors and burst in, leaving Isaac exposed and me a quivering mess on the floor. I was eventually brave enough to boot the game up again (in broad daylight this time) and whilst Dead Space does have many alien spooks, this one has stuck in my memory for over ten years.
For what was literally a playable teaser (P.T. geddit?) for a game that was unfortunately canned after the messy break-up of publisher Konami and the game’s director Hideo Kojima, this was one hell of a horrifying experience.
Playing as an unknown protagonist, I travelled through an endless cycle of the same corridor in a clearly haunted house, with the ghost of a woman named Lisa making her presence known early on by; peering at me from behind a door, standing at the end of a corridor, watching me from the first floor balcony... it was all very unsettling. Each time I exited the corridor I found that I was right back at the beginning of the level, but with very subtle changes to find and investigate; A radio news broadcast could be heard mentioning various brutal killings, a refrigerator suspended from the ceiling, leaking blood, and a paper bag covered in yet more blood that moves and speaks to the player. It sounds quite silly as I type it out, but there was absolutely nothing comical about my time with P.T. Well, perhaps my reaction was.
As I rounded a corner of the now familiar corridor, the ghostly Lisa appeared right in front of the character's field of view with zero warning, her decomposing face pressed right up to the screen, black voids where her eyes should be staring directly at me as she lifted the protagonist off their feet before killing them and dumping them on the floor. Coupled with the audio cue of a quick, sharp scream and the muffled sounds of bones being snapped, I genuinely yelled - followed by some words I won’t repeat here. It was so unexpected that I very hastily uninstalled P.T. from my PlayStation 4.
Maybe it’s for the best that Silent Hills never saw the light of day.
Until Dawn’s Basement Banshee
Until Dawn provided several opportunities for me to shut down my PS4 during my first (and only) playthrough of Supermassive Games’ interactive horror thriller. It’s absolutely packed with jump-scares and the slightest mistake or incorrect choice can lead to any of the eight playable characters meeting a gruesome death at almost any given time. I outlasted the unrelenting horror with just two survivors; it really is that easy to get a protagonist accidentally killed.
Just like Dead Space mentioned earlier, there is one moment in particular that has really stayed with me many years after finishing Until Dawn and that is a scene in which I played as Ashley, accompanied by Chris, roaming around the basement of the lodge inside which much of the game takes place in. Some seriously creepy stuff happened, such as a shadowy figure wandering in the background, and objects moving seemingly on their own. When it was finally time to get as far away as possible, the door leading to the exit slowly creaked open, mist seeping from beneath it. Our brave heroes went and investigated, slowly opening the door to reveal… absolutely nothing. I was given back control of Ashley, barely taking a step forward, when the corpse of a woman leapt out from nowhere, blood dripping from her mouth, emitting an ear-piercing shriek before disappearing into nothingness.
Chris almost acts as if nothing happened, casually continuing on his way as Ashley stood unmoving because I dropped the controller in a spasm of sheer terror.
Silent Hill’s Nightmare Alleyway
Released in 1999, I was just eight years old when I decided I was a big, brave, manly man and could easily play Silent Hill on the original PlayStation. This was to be my first encounter with a horror game and I was determined to play it after someone at school said they completed it and that it wasn’t even scary (liar). So, without my dad’s knowledge, I snuck downstairs one morning to give the game a try. I was not an intelligent child.
After a few minutes of wandering around an eerily empty town, I navigated protagonist Harry Mason down a seemingly normal alleyway, when the tone very quickly shifted. The camera begins to become more dynamic; panning up, down, left, and right; it feels more natural, almost as if something was watching Harry. Darkness descended out of nowhere, corpses littered the ground and the only thing to be heard was an air raid siren; a noise that has always unnerved me and sent a chill down my spine.
But continue on I must, how else would I have earned the adoration of my school peers? The atmosphere was thick with tension, my hands trembling as I walked further and further down this now pitch-black, claustrophobic alley. Harry came across a corpse strung up on a fence; the music is really reaching its crescendo now and I decided I wanted to get out of there fast. I turned around to see these three child-like, pale things shambling towards me, knives at the ready. They promptly surrounded me, stabbing and slashing at my legs as I tried desperately to manoeuvre Harry to safety. Finally finding an exit, I rushed to it only to find out it was locked. As the creatures backed me into a corner it seemed like all hope was lost. What happened next? No idea, I turned the console off and never touched Silent Hill in the 22 years since.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood’s Demo of Dread
Okay, this is the one I’m most embarrassed of. I visited a friend who’d just purchased a PlayStation VR and had downloaded a variety of games and demos for us to try out. I outfitted myself with the headset and dove straight into the demo for Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. It’s like I never learn. This being my first foray into VR gaming I wasn’t sure what to expect, but straight away I felt more immersed than ever before and steeled myself for what I expected was to be a few jump scares and an on-rails shooter. Three minutes is how long I lasted, a new personal record.
After a minute or two of preamble, my roller coaster cart trundled along its tracks before stopping in an inky-black, derelict building. With only my dual pistols’ flashlight attachments for light, the first thing I spotted was a young girl clad in grey, walking backwards out of shot singing a haunting rendition of Frère Jacques. Silence. I looked to my left and spotted her just as she ducked behind a pillar, laughing as I squirmed in my seat. Over to the right my gaze wandered, again there she was. Before my mind could process whether or not I should blast this creep into oblivion I saw something at the edge of my vision. Glancing round preparing to fire, I came face to face with two nightmare-inducing ghostly figures, hands outstretched and making a horrific guttural sound. Sure, this would have frightened me in a non-VR game; but this was a whole new level of terror I never, ever, wanted to experience again.
As my friend cackled at my lack of a backbone, I booted up Astro Bot Rescue Mission to calm myself down and look at all the pretty colours.
Those were five examples of times I was very brave and definitely not left shaking. I’d love to know which games other people have had similar experiences with so I can definitely check them out!