I’ve talked about a few horror games already. These days, true horror games are finally making a comeback, mainly thanks to indie developers. These games continue to push the boundaries of fear, throwing you into terrifying situations and testing your mettle.
However, a game doesn’t necessarily need to be a horror game to freak you out. You know what I mean… sometimes you’ll just be playing a seemingly innocent game and then WHAM, something comes from out of nowhere and terrifies you. These sort of things happened all the time throughout my childhood, and I know I’m not the only one. So here’s my personal list of the 10 pants-pissingest moments in non-horror games.
10. Pokémon Red/Blue – Lavender Town
Most Pokemon games feature some sort of haunted environment, but none of us will ever forget Lavender Town. Despite the ghostly happenings in the town, what really unsettled us was the absolutely chilling music. Though Lavender Town also appeared in the remakes FireRed and LeafGreen, it just didn’t feel the same anymore.
9. Epic Mickey – The Clock Tower
It’s a Small World is already terrifying enough, so when Warren Spector created his twisted tribute to Disney history, it’s only natural it became an even more terrifying boss. The Clock Tower is the first boss you fight in Epic Mickey, and is accompanied by a creepy version of the Small World theme. Allegedly, it was originally going to feature the Small World song backwards, but thankfully this never came to pass. You can choose to kill or save the Clock Tower, but why the hell would you want to?
8. Pokémon X/Y – Ghost Girl
In North Lumiose City, if you go to the second floor in one of the unassuming office buildings, this shit happens. Though the girl shares the same appearance as the Hex Maniac trainers that appear throughout the game, this particular event seemingly serves no purpose and is never mentioned again. What the hell, Nintendo?
7. Super Mario 64 – Umagi the Eel and the Mad Piano
It goes without saying that these two would make the list. Both of these unkillable monsters haunted kid’s nightmares at the time, with Umagi in particular always terrifying me. As if the ocean wasn’t terrifying enough already, they just had to throw that thing in there. Jesus.
6. Sonic CD – JESUS CHRIST WHAT AM I LOOKING AT
This one’s actually fairly well hidden, but it still makes the list. By inputting a specific sequence of numbers at the sound test, you’ll be greeted with this nightmare. Sonic now has a terrifying human face, and is accompanied by the already-creepy Dr. Robotnik battle song. The Japanese translates to “Fun is infinite with Sega Enterprises. Majin.”, and the fact that “Majin” essentially translates to “Demon” is just the cherry on the horror sundae.
5. Earthbound – Giygas
Earthbound is an… interesting game, to say the least. Despite its seemingly cartoony, friendly appearance, there’s a definite foreboding feeling over the whole thing. This comes to a head at the end of the game when you face Giygas, a shapeless eldritch abomination straight out of Charles Manson’s nightmares. Apparently Giygas was inspired by an event that traumatized the game’s designer Shigesato Itoi. Walking into the wrong theater as a child, he witnessed a scene that he believed to be a rape, which stuck with him to adulthood and ended with the design of Giygas. Y’know, for kids.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Dead Hand
Ocarina of Time brought us this horrifying thing. The Dead Hand appears to be a bloody, distorted corpse-like being, with a wide grin and stump-like hands. The Dead Hand’s twitchy, jerking motions were the stuff of nightmares, and we had to face TWO of these things. Luckily, they were surprisingly easy to beat, mitigating the horror a bit.
3. Fable 2 – Winter Lodge
Though the Fable series has its share of creepy moments, this one from Fable 2 takes the cake. One of the game’s many Demon Doors leads to a quaint home in the winter. However, once you step through the front door, there’s a jarring shift to nightmare fuel territory. The once-beautiful country home is now in ruin and full of dead bodies and torture devices. This scare comes from out of nowhere, and I distinctly recall launching my controller across the room at this point. Fuck you, Peter Molyneux.
2. Half-Life 2 – Ravenholm
This one may be a bit debatable, but I really don’t consider Half-Life 2 to be a horror game. Though there’s certainly some horror elements at play, the game is primarily a Sci-Fi action game, with lots of exploration as well. Of course, that all changes once you enter Ravenholm. Once a peaceful town, Ravenholm is now overrun with zombies of all kinds, and littered with traps built by the sole survivor, Father Grigori. Your escape takes you throughout the city, and is one of the most harrowing moments of the entire game.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – The whole game
I feel as if the ESRB only played the first five minutes or so, because it’s baffling how this game got an E rating. Majora’s Mask is, without a doubt, one of the most haunting, chilling, and downright unsettling games ever made. It’s the kind of game that actually gets scarier as you get older, as you pick up on subtext you missed as a child. It sticks with you, and there’s really no other game I can think of that’s affected me in the same way. Majora’s Mask could almost be considered a horror game in its own right, offering a dark and forboding atmosphere that carries throughout the whole game. From the creepy face on the moon to the horrors of Ikana Canyon, the game is full of memorable frightening moments, and it’s really impossible to single out just one. Majora’s Mask is my favorite game of all time, and rightfully so… it surpasses Ocarina of Time in almost every way and is still just as thrilling to play today as it was 13 years ago.
So that’s my list of the Top 10 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Games! I hope you enjoyed it. I’m interested to hear of other scary gaming moments I may have overlooked, so let me know in the comments!