Take a trip down memory lane with me as I reminisce about 10 moments that made me pee my pants in terror as a kid playing non-horror video games.
After hungrily watching the teaser clips for The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan some time ago, I’ve been daydreaming idly about my favorite moments in horror gaming. Everyone remembers their first time dipping their toes gingerly into the icy waters of spooky gaming. The first horror game that gave me proper nightmares was Project Zero, known Internationally as Fatal Frame. I could not walk up the stairs of my family home in the dark until I was about 14 years old (even at that, the stairs would have to be mounted at a cut throat speed, a la gorilla).
Yet, I got to thinking of other moments of gaming that shot the shivers firmly up my spine. Many of the scariest bits that spring to mind exist in games outside of the horror genre. Easing me into a state of trust and sheer joyful delirium, these moments would then spring out at me and leave me yelling at my dad “GET PAST IT” just so I didn’t have to look at it anymore.
Here is a little list of things that scared me in non-horror games as a small waif.
*Disclaimer: just because it made me brown my breeches doesn’t mean it will make you brown yours, this is simply my opinion.*
1. Accidentally Drowning (Sonic Adventure 2)
Anyone familiar with the Sonic franchise at all will know just how anxiety-inducing the watery demise of our favorite sneakered hedgehog truly was. Although the harrowing animation of Sonic slowly losing consciousness and meeting a soggy grave was disturbing, it was not the worst part.
Pounding music quickening in tempo soundtracks our hero’s slow death as you, the player, murder him aquatically. The music is so unsettling and panic inducing that I would pause the game indefinitely, suspending Sonic in a sort of cyber limbo. Horrible. Still hate it. Definitely sweatier than the Jaws theme music.
2. Any Slightly Spooky Enemy (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
“DAAAAAD, CAN YOU GET ME BACK TO HYRULE FIELDS???”
Look, I just wanted to toot some woodwind and ride my horse. I had no time for battling any demonic entity swinging for me – my Link was less of a hero, more so a 3D doll to pamper. Seeing any sort of spooky bastard wobble towards me was game over.
Honorable mention also to The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and its fucking terrifying moon, which rendered the game unplayable instantaneously for Baby Megan.
3. Big Bitey Piano (Mario 64)
Mario really dicked me over by becoming a human sandwich for a teethy piano.
An otherwise colorful romp through paintings and cute worlds, Mario 64 was very fun. However, when traversing Boo’s Castle, things got a bit scary fart time. This jumpscare was so scary, it legitimately made me cry.
It didn’t stop being scary until I ran out of the in game room, to silence the chomping mandibles of a piano. Sounds stupid but it was really, really scary.
4. Massive Monkey Man (Starfox 64)
Big monkey bastard with decapitated head and hands floating through space. Says it all.
5. Favorite Cow Dying (Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life)
This was more of a subtle, nagging, psychological panic.
My first ever Harvest Moon cow became sick well into the game. No amount of medicine was curing her: she was just getting old. Death was imminent. Inevitable.
So, like pausing Sonic as he drowns, I just stopped playing the game forever. Good luck claiming Daisy now, Grim Reaper.
Shout out to Viva Piñata for creating a similar situation when that floating ball bag came to bash my sweetie filled pets.
6. The Idea of the Kitten Dying if I Don’t Feed It Enough (Shenmue)
Everyone knows the best thing about Shenmue was collecting your money in the morning, visiting the kitten in the box and then spending the day at the in-game arcade. The idea of the kitten perishing became an all consuming fear for me. To lose the kitten was to lose a third of my gaming exploits in Shenmue.
I never did avenge my father, but I did feed that kitten loads.
7. Weird Bird Boss (Dead Or Alive 2)
I hate his sandals and feet.
Note: Though he was “weird bird boss” to me, his real name is Bankotsubo (also known as Tengu). He is the final boss character of Dead or Alive 2. Since his appearance, Bankotsubo has been appearing as a secret character in other Dead or Alive games, such as Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate and Dead or Alive 4.
8. Munch’s Family and Pals Getting Taken (Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee)
If you’ve played this game, and the words “Where did everybody go?” don’t break your heart…
Having developed a deep love for Munch on the get go, to discover his mates have been stolen and he’s alone is so upsetting and scary. Waiting for the Glukkons to harvest my mates and my ma was pure nightmare fuel.
Abe’s Oddysee felt like a fever dream I could not wake up from, but in the best way. Although this scared me, this was a game which I actively sought to reach the ending and gain retribution. Thankfully, I never got THAT bad ending, which would have broken my achy breaky heart.
9. Dying At The End Of Every Day (Doshin The Giant)
In hindsight, Doshin The Giant was an incredibly cruel game. Once every generation, a big giant (you) comes out of the ocean and helps (or hinders) the community on a little island. This is nice and all, but at the end of every visitation, the giant slowly begins to stop moving. And seems to die. Because he does.
As a very sensitive Cancerian child, this really bothered me and made me stop playing the game prematurely every visitation just to keep Doshin alive and kicking, much to the chagrin of my little islanders who couldn’t build better settlements because of his ungainly house squashing feet.
10. Your Dad Dying And Your Mum Screaming At You All The Time (Elite Beat Agents)
Okay so. For those who don’t know, Elite Beat Agents is a music game for DS, which relies on you hitting the beats of the song to make your agents dance to the rhythm and ultimately solve the issue at hand. The issues varied from helping a man fight off a flu, to helping actors act in a film, to preventing alien invasion. The soundtrack has more bangers than a butcher’s, all sang at varying degrees of success by cover artists.
All pretty silly, harmless fun, right?
One song in particular tugged at the heartstrings so badly that it left me close to traumatized.
Tapping along to ‘The Inspiration’, the agents are meant to be helping a little girl come to terms with the passing of her father. Her mum is devastated. The girl is devastated. She bakes her dad a birthday cake and everything.
This would make even the most robotic gamer cry, as the lyrics of the song tugs firmly at the heartstrings. Yet to show weakness would be a mistake because then you can’t see the beats and the scenes play out the bad ending for your poor performance.
The mum will scream at the little girl her dad is never coming back, the girl will cry herself to sleep. It’s also Christmas.
What. The. Fuck.