Shack Chat: What was your scariest moment in a video game?

The Shack Staff gets into the Halloween spirit, discussing some of the scariest sequences in gaming.

29

As fun as video games are, some would argue that they’re at their most effective when they’re scaring your pants off. With Halloween season in full swing, it’s time to revisit some of the scariest movies, shows, and games in recent memory. To get in the holiday spirit, this week’s Shack Chat is all about the most terrifying moments in gaming. 

Question: What was your scariest moment in a video game?


Getting jump scared by the Xenomorph for the first time - Ozzie Mejia, can't stand jump scares

I still haven't forgotten my first impression of Alien Isolation way back at GDC 2014. I was so used to cookie-cutter Alien games, but I never expected a game that would actually live up to what the franchise is meant to be. So when I went in for that press preview and got tossed into a dark room with only the PC and a pair of headphones, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for.

Then I carelessly walked around and got jumped by the Xenomorph for the first time. I will never forget it.


Stalkers in The Last of Us Part 2 - Donovan Erskine, doesn’t play scary games

The village attack sequence in Fable was the first video game sequence to ever terrify me, but I already wrote about it in a previous ShackChat. 

There are a couple of sequences in The Last of Us Part 2 where you have to deal with stalkers, a stealthy form of the infected that hides behind cover and sneaks up on you. Usually, I’m not frightened by zombies or undead in video games and movies, but the stalkers really got under my skin. Being alone in dark silence, with just a handful of bullets, knowing that you’re being watched and followed really put me on edge. In any other game, I would have just shot anything that moved, spraying bullets everywhere. You don’t have that luxury in The Last of Us Part 2. The game already puts the player in such an anxious state that these sequences had me completely on edge. The most “scared” I’ve been playing a game in a long time.


Losing a 3v1 to Discoryne - Blake Morse, Thought he was good at Rocket League

I don’t play a lot of horror or jump scare games, and nothing along those lines comes to mind immediately when I think of my personal scariest gaming moment. However, it was excruciatingly horrifying to be on a team with two colleagues I consider to be very good Rocket League players and get our butts squashed by a singular, lone DiscoRyne. The game was only five minutes, but each second of punishment was pure cruelty. I think I’ve been a little shell-shocked since it happened too. It’s definitely affected my confidence in my own abilities at the very least. I hope nothing this scary ever happens to me in a video game ever again.


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 the 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.


Redeads, Ocarina of Time - Sam Chandler, Please don’t yell at me

I was but a wee seven year old when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released. I remember going over to a friend’s house and playing it on her Nintendo 64 late into the evening over the course of a weekend. It was the first Zelda game I’d ever played, and it remains, to this day, my favorite.

The dramatic shift in atmosphere at major plot points, the stories of the towns and areas you visit, they all worked together and left me enthralled. But one thing that shook me to my core were the Redeads.

These terrifying zombie-like creatures are found crouching in shrouded darkness. As they slowly rise and shamble about their dark world, if they so much as spot Link, they let out a horrifying screech, petrifying Link, freezing him in terror. They remain one of the most terrifying creatures to me, made even more unsettling by the lore surrounding them.


Bloater in The Last of Us - Bill Lavoy, Managing Editor

It’s hard to say if this is my scariest moment, but it’s a chunk of gameplay that stands out to me as being terrifying, even though it’s really not that bad. 

The Pittsburgh chapter from The Last of Us saw Joel in the basement of a hotel, trapped with a Bloater. Bloaters, if you don’t know, are people who have been infected for a very long time. They are large and gross to look at, and very difficult to kill. Bloaters don’t move particularly fast, but they are unrelenting.

In this sequence, players had to move through the area and find a way to get a generator working to escape, all while dealing with the Bloater. Now, if you’re not paralyzed with fear like I was, you might be able to pull this off easily. However, I was terrified, and that only ensured the Bloater killed me, confirming my fears and causing me to become more frightened. A vicious cycle.

I eventually killed the Bloater and escaped, and even went back on subsequent runs and handled business easily, but that has always stuck out to me as a sequence that terrified me. In fact, just watching a clip of this on YouTube got my heart racing again.


Being stalked in Alien: Isolation - Josh Hawkins, Professional Scaredy Cat

When it comes to horror, I’m a bit of a baby. I’ll be the first to admit that. That still hasn’t stopped me from trying to play games or watch movies and shows in the genre though. Despite the various games I’ve played in the horror genre, though, nothing has even come close to the feeling of being stalked by the Alien in Alien: Isolation.

The feeling of anxiety that creeps up on you as you move through the world, always knowing that this vicious creature could be just around the corner, or in the vent just ahead of you, was something that was hard to shake. I remember going to bed with my hands shaking several nights throughout the playthrough, and honestly, had I not been playing the game for work, I’d have probably never finished it. While it isn’t necessarily a single moment, nothing has come close to the fear that plagued me throughout that game.

I don’t even think the Alien is that scary when it’s on screen. It’s that tension and constant anxiousness that comes from the excellent sound design that really drives the fear home at a level that I haven’t experienced in any other game to date.


Silent Hill 3’s mirrored death room - TJ Denzer, Never dropped a controller since

So here’s the situation: Silent Hill 3 features normalish and nightmare version of its locales. Deep into the game, you end up in a hospital, and once you get to that hospital’s nightmare version, there’s a certain room with a washtub and mirror. In the mirror, you’ll see inky black tendrils creep their way towards the tub. All the while, the in-mirror you will start to rot. Then the tendrils you saw in the mirror will creep out of the tub near you, outside the mirror. You’ll keep rotting in the mirror while your actual room is encased in writhing reddish black. Then the you in the mirror will stop moving and you will begin to die if you don’t escape the room.

It’s easily one of the most psychologically terrifying sequences I can remember in a video game. And for me personally, it was made worse by my own folly. I was playing this part, got really nervous, and knocked the TV remote off my couch where it hit the ground and perfectly landed on the power button to turn the TV off. Panic mode. I jumped off the couch and scrambled to get the remote and turn it back on. When it turned off, the tendrils were creeping out of the tub and the corpse-like me in the mirror had stopped. When I turned it back on, the me outside the mirror was starting to look like the corpse-like me in the mirror and the room was covered in that reddish black and boiling. I noped the heck out. And to this day, I have gone out of my way to never drop a remote controller ever again. Especially during horror games.


Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s water monster - David L. Craddock, long reads editor

In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, what you don’t see is even scarier (and able to do more harm) than what you can. For the first quarter or so of the game, you must solve puzzles and piece together the story while avoiding monsters that stalk you through Castle Brennenburg. Eventually, you descend into the cellar and find it flooded, its books and casks of wine ruined. Ah, if only that was your biggest problem.

There’s something in the water. Something that takes slow, heavy footsteps that splash water as it hunts for you. Your only way forward is to hop along boxes floating in the water. Fall in, and those heavy footsteps increase in speed. The video I’ve linked barely does the scene justice. When you’re the one playing, headphones on and your computer room dark… yeah. Good luck.


Exploring the Ship - Resident Evil VII Greg Burke, Head of Video

There’s a part in RE7 (spoilers) where you explore a derelict ship, while you’re being chased by some kind of sludge monster. You are completely defenseless and have no choice but to run. The ship is like a maze and the creepy noises make this a terrifying scene. 


The House of the Dead 2-Steve Tyminski, Contributing Editor

Halloween is right around the corner so the question becomes what is the scariest moment I’ve witnessed in a video game? I don’t really play scary video games all too often but if I had to come up with a scariest moment, I’d go with seeing a chainsaw-wielding zombie charging at you in House of the Dead 2. My first experience with House of the Dead 2 would have been when I was a kid, playing it in an arcade on family vacation. You’d get into the large cabinet and play with either my father or brother and we’d go to town on some zombies. Being young, you’re not expecting all the zombies to jump out and there are some jump scares, like the zombie with a chainsaw.


So, now we turn the question over to you. Please share with us your scariest moment in a video game!

From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 23, 2020 4:30 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What was your scariest moment in a video game?

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 4:48 PM

      A really cool scary moment was my freshman year in college living in the dorms. A guy had the doom3 leak burned on a disc and his PC couldn't run it. I loaded it up with him and some friends gathered around my obscenely large crt. When a pinky (I think that's what those demons were called) burst out of a wall with no warning and we all jumped, it was spooky.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 4:55 PM

      that fuckin' ladder in FEAR

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 4:57 PM

      Deus Ex. Creeping around on the roof of a cathedral. Gunther calls me, says he is watching me through the satellite. He says he can see my heart beat. He can see that I am scared. He was right.

      • reply
        October 23, 2020 8:26 PM

        Many great super-tense moments in Deus Ex. Loved the one you’re talking about. Crawling around in the rafters of the secret lab with MiB all over was another one that was completely WTF.

        • reply
          October 23, 2020 9:10 PM

          Yeah its time for another playthrough. That RTCW and NOLF. I was legit scared many times in return to castle Wolfenstein.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:29 PM

      *Waves at the entire marine campaign of the original Aliens vs. Predator FPS*

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 8:45 AM

        At the first *bleep* I closed AvP and shut down the PC.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:33 PM

      The lady with her back turned you in Uninvited.

      Christ. I ran screaming to my mom and my parents thought I had broke the computer

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:36 PM

      That goddamn doll room in Fatal Frame. Not only had the game been ratcheting up tighter and tighter to that point, here you were with creepy dolls in the most enclosed space you’d been in yet and then......

      In fact, after that segment, when you realize that now the environment is even more hellish and that this game is only going to tighten the noose even further literally, that is where not only I noped out, but all my friends noped out on their attempts too. Even making a point to play together on the couch caused more nopes at the same spot. I did eventually get a bit further in, but I still don’t know anyone who actually finished it, other than 1 or 2 Shackers who make the claim. They are all dead now. ;)

      • reply
        October 23, 2020 8:47 PM

        It's not the scariest moment but "the moment" in observer fucked me up big time. I literally yelled and cried at the screen. Subsequent replays are good and I'm interested in the ps5 remaster, but nothing will replicate lifting that towel for the first time

        • reply
          October 23, 2020 8:51 PM

          The scariest part of Observer for me was right after, when you jack in and realize you are so so fucked, in that ridiculous colorful Tetris boobytrap way

          • reply
            October 23, 2020 8:54 PM

            BORZOI IT'S SO GOOD. Like the entire ending(s) and how it all intertwines is so good. Nothing compares. I'm playing amnesia and it's off the rails in the horror video game usual way and nothing makes sense so I lose interest but God damn obersver is so grounded and how the plot all comes together is just fucking chefs kisssssss.

            I feel like I'm too harsh on bloobers later games because the story doesn't work like it does in observer. Gah

            • reply
              October 23, 2020 9:45 PM

              I think you should give LoF2 and Blair Witch another appraisal. Neither are as tightly integrated as Observer (almost no game out there is), but Blair Witch has some peak fantastic moments and LoF2? Well, you know how important I think it is to play it to the end to get the Full Effect

              Observer really is special, though. I genuinely hope The Medium can pack the same punch, but I’m afraid it might be a little too culturally Polish and also a bit more teen than adult in its sensibilities, unlike Observer. Time will tell!

              • reply
                October 23, 2020 9:51 PM

                I can't even remember the protagonists name in blair witch. I think the enemy was the carver? it didn't really matter. The story didn't really seem to be the focus. It was fun being in the blair witch house. (Even though I already had in th3 nocturne blair witch games!!!)

                "My name is Daniel Lazarski and I am an Observer"

                Boom. Perfect. It describes the beginning, middle AND end of the game (you are now Adam...Daniel) in that one sentence.

                I remember really digging the game and even more liking it when you did those posts explaining the entire story beats. Nothing is wasted, it's like a great meal. Everything is there for a reason. It's like a movie like Se7en where the more you think about it the better it is

                • reply
                  October 23, 2020 10:30 PM

                  Maybe I need to do something like that for LoF2? Just the number of movie homages goes past my ability, and I know for a fact I’ve caught at least one that’s beyond obscure that nobody else on the internet has listed.

                  Talking about Se7en, did you make it to the the entire level paying homage to it?

                  • reply
                    October 23, 2020 10:38 PM

                    Maybe? I got to a part where I was in an office I think. Some mannequin head puzzle and I just put the game down because I still had no idea what I was even doing. It was like Myst where you just are doing puzzles for puzzles sake.

                    • reply
                      October 24, 2020 7:57 AM

                      Nope, that’s way before it.

                      When I replay it, I will genuinely consider writing a bit of a narrative guide, but that game is supposed to start out being confusing and then makes more and more sense until you think you know what’s going on, until that gets blasted open too at the end. At the very end, it all makes sense (including all those mannequins). It puts the whole game in a brand new light.

                      That’s not just my opinion, either. The positive reviews all say the same thing too, praising the narrative structure. It’s not a mentally relaxing game.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:39 PM

      Half-life: that first time in the vents with a face hugger

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:41 PM

      I'm playing through RE7 now and the whole gane has me tense so far.

      • reply
        October 23, 2020 8:54 PM

        In the old house
        When you go up the stairs and Margurite throws you in the pit. I had explored the area, including going up to the door before I could open it, so I felt safe. When I got whatever it was to go through the door, I just went running up to it, which was a bad idea. I actually had to pause for a couple of minutes to collect myself before continuing.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:44 PM

      System Shock 2 Spoilers: This voicelog freaked me out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdoCJO0QniU

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:46 PM

      I can’t recall the single scariest moment but I couldn’t play more than an hour of Dead Space at a time. My heart couldn’t take it. Loved that game. Finished it twice! I’m a sucker for punishment.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:48 PM

      Recently? Getting the flashlight in Half-Life Alyx.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:48 PM

      Of recent games, Layers of Fear 2 has a few supreme moments that are not only NOT jump scares or chases, but 2 out of 3 are just pure interactive storytelling- not exposition! You just play through and the realization dawns on you gradually and then all at once what the true scope of the horror actually is. The ending is not only chilling, it puts the entire game you just played and all the assumptions you made in a completely different (and even worse) light. AND makes you feel compelled to play it again with your new understanding.

      Bloober’s done many great games and LoF2 may not be their overall best, but in my opinion it is one of the finest horror experiences in any medium in many years. It’s many layers and nuances put PT to shame.

      But don’t take my word for it! It’s FREE on EGS until the 29th!! Try it yourself. If you stick with it to the end, I guarantee you will have a 100% unique experience. I don’t think even Bloober will ever make another experimental game like this again.

      • reply
        October 23, 2020 8:53 PM

        Note I haven’t listed these amazing moments, not even with spoiler tags, because you all should just play it already.

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 8:55 PM

      Opening the Butcher's room

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 7:01 AM

        I still remember that!

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 8:45 AM

        definitely had a lot of moments like this playing d3 on hardcore and trying new bosses or rifts for the first time

    • reply
      October 23, 2020 10:55 PM

      The first chase scene in "Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth" terrified me.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 5:38 AM

      STALKER. That motherfucker in the tunnels.

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 6:54 AM

        i know exactly who you are talking about lol

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 6:23 AM

      Eternal Darkness bathtub scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFYlu_ZBo5U

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 6:24 AM

        loooking back on it it's retarded. but fuck it scared the shit out of me at the time

        • reply
          October 24, 2020 8:03 AM

          It was timed well, as far as all the dread leading up to it goes. It wasn’t a totally throwaway jump scare. They tried to build up to it.

          I actually got caught by the save file deletion. It was late at night and that area right before it was tough, and I thought woah, did I fuck up??!

          • reply
            October 24, 2020 8:25 AM

            yeah there wasnt alot of jump scares in that game so it caught me by surprise

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 7:00 AM

      Ravenholm. I pussed out immediately and turned on god mode. Then when the first fast zombie sprinted at me I was even more done. Turned on no clip and flew up into the air for the rest of the level.

      The one that nearly killed me though was Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Hate zombie levels (obviously). Forced to drop down into the crypts, I'm playing it like Rainbow 6, taking it slow, avoiding surprises. Until one jumps out at me and I literally felt a pulse of blood race up my carotid.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 7:01 AM

      Bioshock dentist!!!

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 7:25 AM

      Playing the CD “talky” version of System Shock at 2 am when I was 15. It was new, and you didn’t have the Internet spoiling games. I get to the server room in the first level and start smashing the big machines... and Shodan’s voice starts telling me I’m fine detail how she’s going to tear me apart.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 8:21 AM

      Thief.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 8:22 AM

      Batman: Arkham Asylum, that one little scene. I thought my CPU or GPU got damaged.

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 8:42 AM

        I love how that scene demonstrates that a gamer’s greatest fear is a system crash.

        • reply
          October 24, 2020 9:30 AM

          PC gaming can make it very expensive to replace the picture card or thinker chip thing! Fancy new Core2Duo or GTX260 replacement had me a heart attack.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 8:33 AM

      Eternal Darkness. In the hub area when I was just walking around it started knocking SUPER LOUD like someone was in the house knocking on the door.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 8:39 AM

      The dogs jumping through the window in RE

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 9:03 AM

        One of the first and most memorable in all of video gaming for sure.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 8:44 AM

      Mannqeuin level in Condemned

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 8:57 AM

      I wish I could do scary games. I've tried before but I always end up too freaked out and can't finish the game lol.

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 9:29 AM

      I think when you finally encounter Marguerite for real in RE7 is a contender.

      • reply
        October 24, 2020 9:32 AM

        Walking around with my severed stump for a hand gushing blood out always sticks with me

        • reply
          October 24, 2020 9:37 AM

          Game goes hard as hell, right from the jump haha. I feel like it's recognized as an all time classic of horror gaming and is STILL underrated.

          • reply
            October 24, 2020 9:40 AM

            It's so amazing that the 7th (more like the twentieth) game in a long long franchise was able to be so fresh and reinvigorate the entire franchise and take a risk by going to an entirely different perspective. I love it. Although the last few levels outside the house do kind of suck but it's still a 9/10

    • reply
      October 24, 2020 9:37 AM

      Once you’ve experienced horror in VR, all other horror you’ve ever experienced doesn’t matter

      I was playing A Chair in a Room and I came across a creepy bathroom. Bathtub, mirror, dark, peeling paint. I knew what was going to happen. I’ve been alive long enough to know a setup for a classic “look away, and when you look back someone will be there” scene. But even knowing that, when I looked around the room and back at the bathtub to find a creepy fucking person standing in the tub like 4 feet from me, I literally screamed at the top of my lungs and fell to my knees and ripped the Vive off my head.

      I haven’t played the game since.

Hello, Meet Lola