Shack Chat: What was the first game to scare you?

As the darkness of fall presses in, the Shack Staff inches closer to the fire to talk about the first games that spooked us.

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Happy Halloween! A day late. Oops. Oh, well. The weather outside is getting frightful, so the Shacknews staff decided to gather 'round the campfire and tell spooky stories about the first games that spooked us. Read what we have to say--IF YOU DARE--and then tell us about your "Shinji Mikami's going to make me pee my pants!" moment in the Shacknews Chatty comments below.

Question: What was the first game to scare you?


Alien: Isolation - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

Alright, so I'll make a bit of a confession. I've never been the type of guy to actively seek out horror games. And if I did find myself playing them, they'd never really "scare" me. Sure, I might get wigged out by elements of the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games, but there was never anything that outright frightened me. Having said that, Alien: Isolation scared the bejeezus out of me. It's the game that haunts you with the spectre of a nigh-unkillable extraterrestrial, one that's in constant pursuit throughout the entirety of the game. And more than that, if you make too much noise or squirm too much in its presence, it will lunge at you and get right in your face, murdering you in gruesome fashion.

I still remember seeing this game for the first time at the Game Developers Conference several years ago and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I was one of the handful of media attendees who had their hair nearly turn white while playing this game. The Alien's sudden movements and its tendency to strike completely out of nowhere make this the scariest game I've ever played and the first one to truly scare me out of my wits.


Resident Evil 2 - Blake Morse, Reviews Editor

Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2

I still remember the night I rented Resident Evil 2. I had driven out to my local Hollywood Video to get a copy. It was two towns over from where I lived back in the long long ago and by the time I got home to pop in the game the day had turned into a very dark and spooky night. I was the only one home and all the lights in the apartment were off. I booted up the game thinking that a rugged manly man (I was 17) like myself would be able to handle it. I noped out before I could even get through the police station.

I still to this day can’t really explain why it got to me so much. I’d played horror games before, but I guess this was just some sort of perfect storm of the right game in the right environment to really make me jump. I’d also factor in the weird-ass control mechanics that the series is famous for because they can be panic-attack inducing all on their own. I’ve played Resident Evil games before and since Resident Evil 2, but if we’re talking first-time spooks, it will always be my number one. 


Veil of Darkness - David L. Craddock, Longreads Editor

My gut response to this question is the infamous corridor of Resident Evil where dogs crash through windows and charge at you. If I really think back, there were games that scared me worse, and--germane to this question--scared me first. The earliest of those I can recall is Veil of Darkness.

Released in 1993, Veil of Darkness was billed as an action-RPG, though it’s far from the mold that Diablo would set a few years later. You don’t gain experience, level up, upgrade gear, or advance skills. Veil is more analogous to Zelda’s action-adventure template, where you advance by solving puzzles and finding items in areas as they open up for exploration.

The premise is that you, an amateur pilot, are flying over a valley when your instruments go haywire and a bat splats against your windshield. Your plane goes down, and you find yourself trapped in a valley caught in a curse. Night never ends, and no one can leave, which means the townspeople you encounter are unaware of modern inventions such as the airplane that dropped you in their midst.

To escape, you have to fulfill the demands of a prophecy by solving puzzles. Doing so involves brush-ups with supernatural creatures such as vampires, banshees, and werewolves, just to name a few. One of the puzzles concerns a werewolf killing off townsfolk, so you have to search for clues and accuse the right NPC of being a shapeshifter. If you’re wrong, they’ll laugh you off. If you’re right, the beast will transform and charge you. The revelation and subsequent transformation can be quite shocking if you were just lobbing out guesses and were unprepared for the attack, as 10-year-old David was.

From areas blanketed in perpetual darkness to the horror-movie monsters that haunt them, to a moody soundtrack and spooky death scenes, Veil of Darkness always made me tense. It may not hold up, but I’ll remember it as one of my fondest, and most terrifying, gaming experiences.


Resident Evil 2 - Bill Lavoy, Auston Matthews’ Inner Rage

The first game to scare me was Resident Evil 2. Not the 2019 version, but the original that came out in 1998, although I have no clue how close to release I played it.

What I do know is that I was in grade 12 and it was a particularly awful time. My family was going through something rather heartbreaking. Because of this my mom headed to her sister’s across the country to take a mental break, and I was left with the house to myself for a couple weeks. In the time I was alone, my best friend’s mother died suddenly and far too young. Four of us spent a weekend camped out in my living room playing Resident Evil 2 from start to finish.

I’m not good with scary games. I enjoy scary movies and some scary games, but most of them are not for me. Resident Evil 2 was different. First, it’s a lot easier to play a scary game with your friends there. Secondly, it was the best game I’d ever played at the time. There was a mix of combat and puzzles and a bunch of teenage guys covering up their fear with jokes and laughter. I recall appreciating having those guys there because playing that game, as terrifying as it was for me, was keeping my mind off other things, and I was able to cope with the game and life at the same time because of that.


Friday the 13th (NES) - Chris Jarrard, Weed and Pre-marital sex

For better or worse, I was exposed to the Friday the 13th movies (as well as its contemporaries) at a rather young age. I found slasher flicks to be lots of fun. As was the case in the late 1980s, movie and video game consumption was done via rental in my household. On most weekends, I looked forward to the trips to the video store. I was mesmerized by horror flick VHS box art and rentals were the way I got to play most NES games.

One weekend, Friday the 13th for the NES showed up on the rental rack and selecting it was a no brainer. The game drops you into the shoes of several counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, the location where most Friday the 13th movies take place. The central antagonist of the series, Jason Vorhees, is running wild across the game map and you must defend the camp’s children from him while not getting murdered yourself. 

A combination side-scroller and third-person behind the back (when you are inside cabins, etc) suspense thriller, Friday the 13th suffers from faults inherent in many licensed games, but it succeeds in one area — jump scares. While playing the game, Jason Vorhees can pop up out of nowhere and every time it happens, the occasion is celebrated by a loud sound effect that, when coupled with anxiety of the player’s impending doom, make things pretty scary, no matter how many times it happens. Due to NES limitations, Jason is represented in purple coveralls and a blue mask, but somehow everything still works to make me hop out of my seat 30 years later.


Halo (The Flood) - Sam Chandler, Guides Editor

In 2001, a masterpiece was released called Halo: Combat Evolved. Bungie, always the king of storytelling and universe-building, was able to take me on a journey across the galaxy to an alien artifact. I was lost in the world, living every moment. A victorious battle was exhilarating, each death of a marine a soul-crushing loss. But I also felt something else: terror.

343 Guilty Spark, the sixth level in Halo: Combat Evolved, offered a dramatic shift in the tone. You had gone from fighting in bright vibrant areas full of action, to the creepy and eerie dripping of a swamp. Enemies appeared on the periphery of your vision, gone before you could make out what they were. Hallways were empty save for blood and bodies. There was a deep foreboding and sense of dread. I had never felt anything like it.

When Jenkins collapsed into my arms, I was taken, hook, line and sinker. His helmet camera showed me true horror. The terror rose in my chest as I realized the monsters I was about to face. I was trapped, dozens of miles beneath the surface, and I had to fight my way out. Clawing my way to the top like the undead clawing out of a grave. I had encountered The Flood.

It was the first time I felt true terror in a game.


Fable - Donovan Erskine, Intern

Listen. As a kid, I kept myself a safe distance away from scary games and movies. However, I was always taken by fantastical worlds (see: Harry Potter and Star Wars). I also loved to watch my older brother play games that were a bit too complex for my young mind. 

I remember the day he brought home Fable in 2004. The box art and description sounded like something  akin to Lord of The Rings, so you can imagine my excitement to see this story unfold. 

For those who may need a refresher, Fable opens with some brief narration that sets the stage for our protagonist - a seemingly simple boy living in a generic village. However, on his sister’s birthday, the village is attacked by bandits. These bandits kill your entire family, including your sister. At a mere 6 years old, I found this subject matter to be so unsettling. The imagery of decapitated and deceased civilians and the village burning were disturbing. I didn’t watch my brother play Fable after that. Moving forward, whenever he popped the disc in, I calmly excused myself and left to play Pokémon Emerald.

This memory stuck with me so strongly that I didn’t touch the Fable series until nearly a decade later when Fable III hit the “Games with Gold” program. 


Phatasmagoria - Asif Khan, Actually an FMV character

Just hearing O Fortuna as the game’s intro kicked off scared the crap out of me. The game is super campy, but it has some very violent moments that were pretty graphic for its time. This and RE2 are probably the earliest times I was ever genuinely scared by a game. 


Silent Hill 4: The Room - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

Probably Silent Hill 4: The Room. I'm very hard to scare when it comes to games (or anything else related to horror). I'm more terrified of having a bug touch me. Or going to the doctor. I was pretty terrified of that game though, mostly because it kept me out of my comfort zone. I'm used to having a safe area in games, and those are usually right around save points or close to them in Silent Hill. When I realized that ghosts (that you can't immediately or permanently kill at first) could start appearing in Henry's apartment and that I wasn't safe from them even if I was just trying to regroup and save, that really got my heart racing. It felt like my personal space had been invaded, and I had no idea what to do. 


System Shock 2 - Josh Hawkins, That guy that does things

I can still remember 17-year old me, nestled up in front of a crappy laptop I’d bought with my high school graduation money, literally sitting on the edge of my equally crappy computer chair, my face planted into the screen as I explored the dingy and decrepit hallways of the Von Braun as ghoulish enemies lurked around every corner.

Despite being a game created in the late 90s, System Shock 2 didn’t simply devolve into jump scares to try to get something out of you. Instead, it painted the entire game with an oozing atmosphere that left you unsettled and unsure of whether what you were doing was the best thing or thing. It’s a feeling that not many games have managed to reproduce for me, and one that I hold onto quite dearly.

System Shock 2 is by far one of my favorite games of all time, and it’s a game that I’ve revisited often over the past nine or so years. But, no matter how many times I play it, I can’t seem to get rid of that uneasiness that settles over me or that fear that grips my heart as I slink my way through the Von Braun. A fear that has been a welcome companion each time I have booted up the game since 2010.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 1, 2019 2:06 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What was the first game to scare you?

    • reply
      November 1, 2019 2:06 PM

      Not scare but Maniac Mansion was definitely creepy.

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      November 1, 2019 2:08 PM

      F.E.A.R - and THAT ladder scene I think.

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        November 1, 2019 2:17 PM

        That's the one I posted too.

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          November 1, 2019 2:36 PM

          There were definitely things that weirded me out! I was more intrigued by things like 7th Guest tho. I know the voodoo shenanigans in Gabriel Knight messed with me a bit (I was 12 at the time) but the first time I remember jumping and taking stock/pausing was definitely F.E.A.R.

          I’m a bit of a wuss. Tho I did love my many playthroughs of Dead Space 1/2 and various Resident Evils.

          I’ll get around to RE7 and Evil Within one of these days.

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            November 1, 2019 3:44 PM

            It sent a genuine shiver up my spine. I mean, I come from a "saw Friday 13th at theater with friends" sort of background, so I'm hardened to everything but sheer body horror. But "unnerving" can still work on me.

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        November 1, 2019 11:42 PM

        Yup this

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        November 2, 2019 5:26 AM

        this for me

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      November 1, 2019 2:09 PM

      I wanna say Wolfenstein 3D. To be fair I was like 6 and sometimes the fuckers would be right behind a door and scream about hot dogs.

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      November 1, 2019 2:42 PM

      Thief: The Dark Project https://youtu.be/9V3aczp4BMw?t=221

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        November 1, 2019 11:41 PM

        That and System Shock 2 weren't the first, but they were the best.

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      November 1, 2019 3:32 PM

      First legit scare came from Batman Arkham Asylum (or was it city? Which one had scarecrow?) when the game did an intentional crashing/glitch effect.
      I've told this story before, but the long and short of it is that I was in the middle of a series of back and forth shipments of Xboxes to Microsoft for repair (Went through this process 7 times) and this game was the one I was working through during the crashes.

      I finally gave up with the RMA process and their insistence to try and "fix" a broken Xbox, tossed it and bought one of the new "Jasper" models with the improved power supply.

      It was running great, I was finally content (though mildly pissed off that I had to buy a new xbox) and then that scene came up. I nearly threw a controller through the TV before it "recovered" and was made clear it was part of the game.

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      November 1, 2019 3:48 PM

      Silent Hill in the school.

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      November 1, 2019 5:10 PM

      I couldn't play System Shock 2 with headphones if it was dark. Sometimes the situation was so tense that if someone in the hall walked past my door IRL, I would hear the noise faintly through the headphones and be terrified. I'd flick the mouse over to the left, ready to blast away at whatever monster had snuck up on me, and only a few seconds later realize it wasn't an in-game sound.

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      November 1, 2019 5:14 PM

      playing rogue was tense shit

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      November 1, 2019 5:15 PM

      Resident evil. Couldn’t even make it past the first level.

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      November 1, 2019 5:22 PM

      Silent Hill 2

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      November 1, 2019 5:23 PM

      Doom E1M5 just near the exit in the dark at 15fps flashing, roaring darkness. Great

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        November 1, 2019 5:24 PM

        Followed by alone in the dark, the real first resident evil

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      November 1, 2019 5:40 PM

      Castle Wolfenstein on the C-64 with the volume turned up load. When the SS entered the room yelling "WAS IS DAS???!!" it scared the crap out of us.

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      November 1, 2019 5:54 PM

      Archbishop Lazarus was a creepy dude.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6CCjRWz79I&feature=youtu.be&t=35

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      November 1, 2019 6:05 PM

      AvP multiplayer messed me up pretty good. I've never played anything quite like it.

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      November 1, 2019 7:26 PM

      I was really scared of the Jurrasic Park game on Super Nintendo. I'm not sure why but going into the first person mode and getting attacked by raptors was terrifying. I was pretty young and also saw the movie at a young age in theaters and I remember how scary those raptors were as a kid. I was 6 during all of this.

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      November 1, 2019 7:44 PM

      Half-Life 2. A bleak and despairing post-apocalypse world. creepy sound design. a persistent feeling of dread. plenty of body horror. the poison headcrab zombie really freaked me out. the stalkers. Ravenholm!

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      November 1, 2019 8:01 PM

      Silent Hill 2. Made me swear off horror games for years when I was younger, just freaked me the fuck out. My current love of horror games comes from a deliberate attempt to "face my fears" or whatever and get through that game many years later. I did successfully and it definitely broke some kind of mental repression block I had about horror games or something because they're much easier for me to appreciate now.

      Game is messed up.

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury mega
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      November 1, 2019 8:05 PM

      Condemned Criminal Origins

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      November 1, 2019 8:10 PM

      Didn't think I'd ever get scared of a game 'cause movies don't scare me but L4D2 had just come out and I was playing co-op with some Shackers and I was sort of baked and we were in that Hard Rain one and I was in the cornfield on the way back with the gas cans and it was dark and it started to rain really hard and then the wind came up all loud and making noise in my ear and I could barely hear my teammates like faint radio static and I was lost and suddenly I heard a witch crying somewhere nearby and I was all FUCK THIS and yanked my headset off before could start crying

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      November 1, 2019 8:11 PM

      Pathways Into Darkness. Brothers and I used to see how far we could get before we chickened out or got killed.

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      November 1, 2019 8:22 PM

      FEAR for sure

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      November 1, 2019 8:22 PM

      Alone in the Dark or Ultima Underworld.

      Not sure which one I played first.

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      November 1, 2019 8:32 PM

      Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64, I was scared of the opening 'ghostbusters ahahahaha' sfx. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw-XHU9l-hI I was young, ok?

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      November 1, 2019 9:58 PM

      the 7th Guest]b]s, I was pretty young and the whole vibe of that game was creepy as heck, playing in a dark room with the volume up, and going down into that claustrophobic dungeon maze with those music cues when you hit a dead end?

      "Feeling... lone-ly?"

      My brain twisted that all into something far scarier than it actually was.

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        November 1, 2019 10:00 PM

        Oops, transposed that last ]q.

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        November 2, 2019 6:29 AM

        reminds me of a game called "Mansion of Hidden Souls" I played on SegaCD.

        One part near the end had you traversing this sort of dungeon/maze area.
        The music would get all hard and crazy, and at some point, when you fkd up, you'd turn around to have some big dude standing over you and get a game over. Scared the piss out of my friends and I every time.

        Then we'd laugh about it and do it again.

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          November 2, 2019 9:15 AM

          Fascinating, I never knew about {Mansion of Hidden Souls}. Both are really similar narrative and design concepts and both released the same year. Though the 7th Guest is more just pure puzzle games whereas Mansion seems to only have a few puzzle-puzzles, rather it focuses on hidden objects/exploration/lock+key related goals similar to less animated Japanese first person adventures/VNs.

          What gets me though is that both have really similar foyers, with a central staircase flanked by doors and globe lighting.

          I wonder if one of them was inspired by an early industry preview of the other?

          They at least both have distinct cultural flavours of soul stealing and a distinct presentation of the ghosts. dolls and deathly + translucent figures vs glowing butterflies.

          And Mansion even had a sequel, which launched a year earlier than THE 11TH HOUR, which itself was also a return to the location but later with a new protagonist who learns more, including about the prior journey.

          Mansion:
          https://youtu.be/9NWxCx2gxME

          7th Guest:
          https://youtu.be/45Z-Q5KVTyI

          It’s a shame that neither have decent digital releases, with 7th/11th now being published by a careless mobile company (Nightdive's release was great) and both Mansion games being dependent on old hardware or emulation.

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            November 2, 2019 2:44 PM

            To be fair I don't remember Mansion for being particularly "good."

            I do still have 7th Guest and 11th Hour in the cd-case/sleeve w all the disc's for 11th.

            Considering they put Night Trap, of all things, on digital/re-release, you'd think they'd do the same for 7th guest and 11th hour... being sort of pioneers and all.

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              November 2, 2019 2:57 PM

              I don't know that any of them are particularly good games, especially not by anything resembling modern standards.

              As for availability, I meant that it's a bummer that the Mansion games didn't have releases.

              7th and 11th are available digitally, but 7th's "Remastered" iteration is generally considered to be borderline poor, and even Nightdive's still-available port of 11th Hour has some stability issues.

              On the bright side, if you have the original data files, 7th Guest is supported in ScummVM which makes it significantly easier to play. Sadly it doesn't support 11th Hour.

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                November 2, 2019 3:04 PM

                Oh, I wasn't even aware they were released digitally. A SCD EMU shouldn't be hard to run on a modern PC, so I guess there's always that route. Though a legit release would be ideal.

                I remember something about Night Trap being a pita. How dude was independently working on it and went through contacting the devs and getting support w high res footage and things before it was finally finished and released on digital distro. I believe he had to match different pieces from different sources and do color correcting and, basically, everything you would do to film, I guess.

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      November 1, 2019 11:31 PM

      system shock 2, i think... got it in high school and it definitely 'got' me sometimes, heh. i'm trying to remember something earlier chronologically, but i don't know..

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      November 1, 2019 11:32 PM

      Jump scares for sure prior but P.T. set the bar to really mess with me.

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      November 1, 2019 11:44 PM

      System Shock 1, as a mutie opened a bulkhead just behind where I was standing

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      November 1, 2019 11:46 PM

      Alien vs Predator on the Jaguar while playing as a marine. Crawling through those air vents and finding an Alien was a code brown moment every damned time.

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      November 1, 2019 11:51 PM

      Undying

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      November 1, 2019 11:59 PM

      Shadowgate. I remember playing that shit in like 4th or 5th grade. There was a skeleton guy that would pop out of a coffin. Little me freaked the fuck out.

      First time I was actually fully scared from a game was Fear 2 in the school level. That game had some eerie and spooky moments but that school was on another fucking level. You feel powerless, weirded out, panicked, turned around and completely vulnerable. Shit was amazing.

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        November 2, 2019 12:16 AM

        I came across Shadowgate sneakily installed on a School Mac. Was definitely scary, though some of that was fear of getting caught playing it.

        Never did know where it came from.

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          November 2, 2019 12:19 AM

          I remember telling my dad about it. He said it sounded like quite the game. I told him it was hilarious that you could click on the sword to use it on the walls, chains and that if you clicked it on yourself you stabbed yourself and died. He didn't find that funny at all and told me I couldn't play the game anymore. That made playing it at my friends place all the more fun and dangerous. So I can easily see where you are coming from.

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      November 2, 2019 12:11 AM

      Shutterspeed

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      November 2, 2019 12:15 AM

      Maybe Quest for Glory 4? It got creepy in places. Also some horror-themed text adventures.

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      November 2, 2019 12:23 AM

      Resident Evil 1

      But recently, P.T. That game is legit scary as hell.

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      November 2, 2019 1:56 AM

      Resident Evil 2. Then RE-Make, which required my brother and I to be LoS of all entrances in the room.

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      November 2, 2019 3:29 AM

      Alone in the dark terrified young-kid me with just a few giant pixels

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      November 2, 2019 4:24 AM

      Wolfenstein, zombies that could block bullets with shields. I uninstalled the sp.

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      November 2, 2019 4:40 AM

      Silent Hill 4. I had to go a friend's place because he refused to play it alone.

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      November 2, 2019 5:30 AM

      First Half Life, when you're walking out onto that little piece of broken metal grate up high, just before you have to jump up on the pipes on the right to get around to the left.

      The loud creak-pop it made startled me as if I was actually going to fall to my death. It was super late and speakers were up and it was dark. It was just a little jump scare but it happens so infrequently that I remember it.

      Also, FEAR. Ladder. You know the one.

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      November 2, 2019 6:23 AM

      Shadow Gate on NES tripped me out a bit. That death music..

      I think the 1st game, where i actually realised i was freaked out, was Silent Hill 1.
      RE1 I watched friends play so wasnt quite as scared as I was playing through SH1 alone, in my room, all by my lonesome.

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      November 2, 2019 6:56 AM

      DOOM

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        November 2, 2019 8:09 AM

        I still remember the exact corner and the exact room where I first encountered a pinky demon in the DOOM shareware. So damn good.

        I can't remember the name or number of the level, but I have a mental image of it.

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