Do the creep
It's happened to all of us at some point. You pick up the latest E-rated mascot platformer and get ready to settle in for some family-friendly fun--and suddenly you jump out of your chair in disbelief as you stare at the monstrosity before you. This isn't a horror game, and the developers didn't intend to drench their players in a cold sweat--but something about the character on-screen just seems downright wrong.
Whether due to limitations in hardware, cultural differences, or simply the result of someone's demented idea of "cute," these characters are all creepier than a TLC song--even though they clearly weren't meant to be. Here are some of the most unintentionally nightmare-inducing video game characters of all time.
Tingle (The Legend of Zelda)
Tingle was never meant to be a creeper, but when you examine his unique personality traits, you can't help but shiver. He's a 35-year-old adult male with rosy cheeks and a massive beet-red nose, who wears green tights and frolics around the countryside looking for fairies. He's obsessed with fairies--so much so that he tries to emulate them in everything he does.
Imagine being a person his age, trying to get away with what he does in the real world. You'd be committed to a mental hospital (or at the very least, severely ostracized). But no, in Hyrule, he's treated as just a regular, plain old dude who needs rupees to live. Literally. Like, he'll die if he runs out. Link may be cool with him, but I think he can kooloo-limp-right-off, thank you very much.
Noby Noby Boy (Noby Noby Boy)
Aww, look how cute Noby Noby Boy is! But beware--beneath the adorable faade lies a horror that the human mind cannot even begin to fathom. Basically, Noby Noby boy is the human centipede of the video game world.
His rainbow-colored exterior belies a thirst that cannot be quenched, a hunger that cannot be slaked. He consumes, quickly and without mercy--and he excretes, his victims none the wiser of the frightful journey through Noby Noby Boy's digestive tract. He twists and grows and shrinks and contorts and bounces with a chaotic fury that the universe cannot control. To gaze upon the face of Noby Noby Boy is to look into the very depths of despair.
Nintendoland is pretty great. Yes, it's yet another minigame collection from Nintendo, but the games are a ton of fun, and they look like theme park adaptations of classic franchises. But every time I decide to fire it up, I get chills down my spine because I have to deal with Monita.
Monita is Nintendoland's host--a bow tie-wearing computer monitor with a single hand sticking out from its underside. It speaks in a monotone voice that sounds somewhere between Siri and the warbling of demonic forces from another world. It feels no pain, it expresses no emotion, it desires no love. This is what humanity's subjugation by our future robot overlords sounds like--best get used to it.
Everyone (L.A. Noire)
The "uncanny valley" is a term that describes the difficulty of making realistic virtual characters--the more "real" something looks, the more our brains reject it like a child rejects broccoli. L.A. Noire doesn't so much approach the uncanny valley as it nosedives into the abyss and explodes into a massive fireball on impact.
The problem with L.A. Noire is that it does two things to our heads at the same time. We get the recognition of real actors playing digital roles--"Oh, look, it's the entire cast of Mad Men! And Greg Grunberg for some reason." But because the facial animations don't exactly gel with their dead eyes and robotic body movements, we end up screaming "Oh God, what have you done to his eyes?!" at our television sets--which is probably not the developer's intended reaction.
Yellow Monkey (Ape Escape 2)
Ape Escape is supposed to be a charming and goofy game for all ages. You trap monkeys with crazy gadgets in various cartoony locations. Sounds like harmless fun, right? Then, please, tell me--how do you explain the Yellow Monkey's horrific existence in an innocent child's game?
Yellow Monkey combines everything that is wrong with clowns in one single character. The googly eyes, the high-pitch, nails-on-a-chalkboard voice, the undulating belly button (THE UNDULATING BELLY BUTTON)--it's as if he was specifically created to creep out every single person in the world in very specific ways. The worst part? He and his terror can grow to be as big as a skyscraper. This will be what I see when I close my eyes, the vision of my nightmares from now on. Yellow Monkey, devourer of worlds.
Unagi the Eel (Super Mario 64)
You're swimming along underwater, exploring the depths of the ocean. Coins dance in the waves, seaweed slowly drifts back and forth, the music lulls you into a state of calm. It's kind of nice down here--HOLY SHIT, THAT EEL CAME OUT OF NOWHERE.
With his soul-piercing dots for eyes and his gaping maw, Super Mario 64's Unagi the Eel accounted for an abnormal surge of heart-attacks in children during the 1990s. And it wasn't enough to just have it jump out and scare you--there's a precious star hanging out precariously close to the edge of its tail, and you have to go get it. You know, behind all of Nintendo's charming mascots lies a hidden sinister streak a mile wide.
Chop Chop Master Onion (Parappa the Rapper)
Chop Chop Master Onion didn't start out as a creepazoid. Sure, he was a weird, pungent bulb vegetable that taught karate, but at least he had some important wisdom to impart on Parappa the Rapper. But shortly after his first appearance, his life fell into a weird downward spiral.
In Umjammer Lammy, Chop Chop's life is in complete disarray. He invades Lammy's dreams to tell her that, even though he lost his dojo, he's still got a dojo in his mind--complete with casino. Uh, ok. And in the completely forgettable Parappa the Rapper 2, Master Onion hosts a show called "Romantic Karate," where he teaches viewers how to woo potential mates with kung fu moves. The length of time it takes to go from respected martial arts master to uber-creep is about three games, apparently.
Clanker (Banjo Kazooie)
I remember Banjo-Kazooie as a colorful game, with goofy cartoon characters and whimsical humor. And then I remember Clanker, an unholy abomination that would give H.R. Giger the heebie-jeebies.
Clanker is a giant metallic cyborg shark (with a blowhole like a whale, so what he actually is is anyone's guess), and he spends his days in grimy water as Gruntilda's garbage disposal unit. He implores you to set him free--which involves swimming inside him and exploring every nook and cranny of his internal organs to unlock his restraints. It's tragic, really. He seems so nice when you talk to him, but he's really just endless nightmare fuel for every child who plays this game.
A simple glance at Cubone won't register much on the creep-o-meter, what with it's big, beady eyes and pudgy dinosaur body. It looks so cute, like you just want to take it home and tickle its ittle-wittle belly. But then you take a glance at your Pokdex, and I dare you not to freeze in horror.
According to Pokmon Yellow, the Cubone wears the skull of its dead mother, and its cries echo inside of it, creating a haunting melody. In fact, Cubone's dead mom is the reason why the Lavender Tower is haunted in the first place. And it's not just one Cubone--it's every single goddamn one. Not so cute any more, huh? Jesus Christ, Nintendo--this is dark.
Everything (Viva Piata)
At first glance, the creatures that inhabit Viva Piata are adorable, effervescent little things. They've got googly eyes, their "fur" is made out of papier-mch, and they hop around doing their little dances. Your heart just oozes because it's all so damn cute. But then, realization slowly creeps in--you're now the reluctant owner of a murder garden for hellbeasts.
In order to feed your piatas and make them stronger, you need to give them candy, which explodes out of these party favors when they die. It doesn't matter if it's another species or one of their own--they'll munch on the sugar-coated remains happily either way. Also, piatas can breed to increase their population, but they don't care if their mate is a relative close enough to keep their family tree from forking. And when all is said and done, you're ultimately selling off these pitiful creatures, sending them out into the world to be beaten to death. For profit. Cannibalism, inbreeding, dealing with whatever the hell Fanny Franker is--it's all in a day's work as a piata rancher.
No, it's ok--I didn't want to sleep any more, anyway
These games may not be all that scary, but these characters will certainly haunt my every waking moment for years to come. Are there any other seemingly-innocent-but-actually-super-creepy characters that torment your dreams? Let me know in the comments below! I'll leave a light on for you.