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What’s your scariest gaming memory?

There are people out there who’ve never been frightened by a game. No matter how many sudden scares a game throws their way, no matter how much work its creators put into crafting an atmosphere of isolation and dread, no game will ever elicit a reaction more severe than a sudden jump and a laugh from them. And they can’t understand why or how anyone could be scared by anything as hokey and silly as a videogame.

This article isn't about those people. It’s about those of us who’ve delved headfirst into horror games, giving ourselves over to the immersion only to regret having gone to the slaughter so eagerly. It’s about those of us who’ve had to walk away from a game just to work up enough courage to continue. And it’s also about our editorial staff, who – as Halloween draws ever nearer – have dug deep and laid bare the faintly humiliating moments when games managed to scare them shitless.

Carolyn Gudmundson, previews editor

Pokemon doesn't have any jumpy scare moments, and it certainly isn't big on blood and gore. Instead, Pokemon's horror is of the more psychological variety. In the original Pokemon Red, when I entered Lavender Town for the first time, something immediately felt a little off. Lots of Pokemon towns have themes, like Cinnabar Island's Fire-type theme, or Pewter City's Rock-type theme, so there's nothing especially unusual about Lavender Town's emphasis on Ghost-types. It soon became clear, though, that things had gone too far.

Above: It's no wonder that Lavender Town inspired one of the creepiest urban legends in all of gaming

The music alone began to subtly eat at my psyche. As I ascended through the Pokemon Tower, dodging ghostly Pokemon disguised as humans along the way, I imagined Death itself was watching the Game Boy screen over my shoulder. At the time, seeing all the Pokemon trainers wailing in torment over the graves of their dead Pokemon companions was more sad than anything, but something about the town's eerie fixation on death coupled with the unsettling, discordant looping audio track really stuck with me long after I'd become the league champion.

Charlie Barratt, senior reviews/previews editor

Wait, aren’t I the guy who said that "scary games are never scary?" Yes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be incredibly creepy, gory and disturbing. My favorite survival-horror moment is all of these adjectives at once, and while it didn’t give me a nightmare or phobia like movies, television and even books have, it did give me quite the unexpected, unusual shock.

You enter a hallway. You hear banging from the far end, as if someone is rhythmically knocking on a door. You hesitate to approach the sound, because you’re sure a monster will jump out at you in predictable Resident Evil style, but instead you discover a harmless, solitary man, facing a wall. Slowly and patiently smacking his head against said wall. Committing suicide with that wall since, no matter how rudimentary or painful, it’s the very last chance at escape he has from the horrors that surround him. That now surround you. And of course, even though he’s been at this task for hours, possibly days, he finishes the job just as you get close enough to witness the final, skull-crushing blow.


Forget creepy, gory or disturbing. The best thing about this Dead Space moment is that, with its demand that you approach the scene of your own volition – and at your own pace – it’s only possible to pull off in an interactive medium like videogames.

Cheryll Del Rosario, designer

As a self-proclaimed scaredy-cat, it’s impossible for me to play any kind of game that even hints at anything remotely terrifying. Because of this, my scariest gaming moment revolved around watching two of my old roommates play Fatal Frame III: The Tormented in complete darkness while I cowered on the couch. Fatal Frame, known for protagonists whose fastest speed is an achingly slow trot and a camera “weapon” that requires that you stare your enemy in the face, pulls no punches with the scare tactics. You can’t run, you can’t hide, but you sure can take a great portrait!

Going against all good sense, there’s a portion of the game where you’re required to enter a crawlspace underneath a moldering traditional Japanese home. The reactions of the players in the following clip are pretty much spot-on to what my roommates and I felt during the same sequence. I slept with the lights on for at least a week.

Mikel Reparaz, senior features editor

I always rankle at people who scoff at stories like these and say games can never scare them, because – as much as the current generation of horror games has been kinda limp – there are plenty of times when I’ve been not just startled by, but actually frightened of a game. And while basic manliness dictates I should be ashamed of that, the fact is that I absolutely love being scared shitless by games. I have ever since I was four years old, when the ancient 3D Monster Maze (an early first-person game that stalked players with a blocky T-Rex) terrified me to the point of nightmares.

Above: Trust me, if you were a preschooler in 1982, this would be PETRIFYING

Years later, while playing Ecco the Dolphin on Dreamcast – fucking Ecco the goddamn Dolphin – I got a serious case of the heebie-jeebies when the massive Great White shark boss showed up, to the point where I actually had to put down the controller, turn off the TV and walk away. (Eventually I overcame this fear by repeatedly hurling Ecco into the beast’s mouth until I’d gotten used to seeing it.) Not long after, Silent Hill 2 got me spooked to the point that I had to actually make an effort just to go further. And don’t even get me started on Fatal Frame II; there’s nothing like being forced into a claustrophobic, slow-moving first-person view when surrounded by terrifyingly quick J-horror ghosts.

Probably the biggest scare I ever got, however, was from Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, a game that delighted in messing with players’ heads in startling and disorienting ways. As terrifying as things like seeing my character decapitated on entering a room (only to find out it was a hallucination), there’s one moment that stood out as more terrifying than the rest: finishing the fourth chapter, only to see this:

Above: GHHHAGGHGHGGAGGHGGGHGH!

Bear in mind, Eternal Darkness was published at a time when abrupt cliffhanger endings that teased sequels were an emerging trend in videogames, and for a brief second, I was horrified that the game was over so quickly. Because monsters, ghosts and sharks are one thing, but a game that ends halfway through its story with a bullshit cliffhanger? That’s real.

Fortunately, it was just another of Eternal Darkness’ many, many vicious mindfucks, and the game continued for another eight chapters of soul-wrenching terror. Thank God.

Henry Gilbert, news editor

The first Condemned got some recognition just for being one of the few playable 360 launch games, but most ignored the sequel to the horrific FPS, which is too bad. There are plenty of spooky moments in the game, but none are better or scarier in their simplicity than when you’re stuck in a rundown cabin with a fucking bear! You hear the roar first, and you’re already spooked before you’ve even seen what’s left of the corpses of his previous kills.


You walk around the empty cabin with your flashlight, just waiting for it to strike, but you continue to just hear it nearby. When you finally spot the monstrous creature, you’re constantly running for your life from the deadly beast looking for any chance to escape. The build of intensity as mystery turns into a seemingly endless sprint for survival gets your heart racing in a way only games can pull off when everything falls into place just right.

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Halloweek

137 comments

  • john-kiff - February 24, 2012 11:34 a.m.

    Oh and the scariest moment is the Choir Hall. They are just walking around willy nilly. Its terrifying! What also makes this so tense is the atmosphere, one of the best I have seen. "Is there something there waiting for me? Is something going to pop through that door and run for me? How long do I have to put myself through this?" and the SOUND. The music is not some wiener piano spooky theme, this is proper intense sh*t. I dub thee, scariest experience ever. I actually do not recommend playing this game, because I don't want you to put yourself through it.
  • john-kiff - February 24, 2012 11:29 a.m.

    Amnesia: The Dark Descent I have played A LOT of horror games. But this one is evil and cruel and shows no mercy. It is genuinely terrifying. Being absolutely helpless to the grotesque enemies is horrific, running away is your only option, or hiding. If you play it without stopping, it takes 8 hours... I took about half a year because of stopping and starting.
  • rongunz - November 21, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    scariest memory? seeing the 3 ghosts in Act 2 of Sandopolis Zone in Sonic & Knuckles. That almost made me pee on myself! LOL
  • kskuse - November 2, 2011 11:49 a.m.

    when i got my first ps1 and r.e when you run into your first zombie and he slowly turns around. i swear crap trickled down my leg
  • ChiChiRocket - November 1, 2011 11:41 a.m.

    One word: piano. Big Boo's Haunt in Super Mario 64 was one of the scariest moments of my early gaming career. Back before I knew the horrors that video games could deliver. Maybe I should have expected such a scare in a haunted house, but I was a naive fifth grader. Searching for red coins in the house, I came across the one sitting next to the piano. I go to grab it, and the piano suddenly springs to life. The way it jumped out me, with chaotic keys pounding, complete with teeth, left me terrified. After that point, I dreaded going into that level again, let alone going near the piano. The only place I felt safe was in the merry-go-round area. Anywhere else, with the creepy music playing, left me feeling pretty unsafe.
  • GhostNappa2k10 - November 1, 2011 4:15 a.m.

    The scariest moment I remember is trying to defeat Fire Leo in Viewtiful Joe with one life left, and one heart of health. If you lost, you had to fight all the bosses again! So scary *shivers*
  • lennontorres - October 31, 2011 10:25 p.m.

    I would have to say my first scary moment I experienced was in Resident Evil 4 when you first face the regenerators. Their breathing and the fact I had no rifle ammo made it terrible. Another one of the scariest moments would be in f.e.a.r. 3 when you go through the homes. The music sets up most of the scare for me
  • GorditaSlim - October 31, 2011 9:19 a.m.

    Resident Evil 2. First Licker scare. My childhood friend and I nearly pissed our pre-teen pants.
  • grimreaper144 - October 29, 2011 11:37 a.m.

    mine?ok well when i was like 5 was playin a game with my best bro micheal it was on ps1 not too sure what the name was but you were this dude just randomley walking through a grave yard all of a sudden a werewolf jumped out of a coffin i was so scared i left my friend in the room and hid in a cupboard with dad's screwdriver at the ready
  • jmcgrotty - October 29, 2011 2:33 a.m.

    It's embarrassing to say it, considering the video that was in this article, but for me it is definitely various parts of the Fatal Frame series (Can't pick out just one or two specific examples, though). And isn't even close.
  • CitizenWolfie - October 29, 2011 2:07 a.m.

    Completely missed the Resident Evil 4 siege when I first played it on GC - I ended up circling round the village funneling the villagers into bottlenecks and picking them off that way. Still scared the Hell out of me though. Then I played again and tried to hide in that house and I still occasionally have nightmares about it. Some of my other highfrights include hearing The Witch for the first time in Left for Dead, Lisa Trevor from REmake and my first ever 10 minutes in Silent Hill. But the absolute worst horror I've ever felt is the moment I tried to format an external hard drive for my PS3 and ended up accidentally wiping about 2 years of EVERYTHING from the HDD. First came the horror, then the tears. My God, the tears...
  • Thequestion 121 - October 28, 2011 10:43 p.m.

    The scariest moments I've had in a video game was when i first played though the Ravenholm section of Half Life 2. The atmosphere immediately took me and I was constantly jumping every time I encountered crab-heads, the zombies, and especially the god damn leaping ones! I was so glad when I was done with the section lol
  • Jared117 - October 28, 2011 9:25 p.m.

    That fatal frame video is one of the funniest things i've ever seen. I'm crying right now from laughing so hard
  • HankVenture - October 28, 2011 8:58 p.m.

    Mine would have to be one of the Resident Evil games. I don't know exactly which one because I didn't own a console and wasn't into gaming back when I played it, my brothers friend brought his playstation and the game over. I started to play it halfway into the game and was just scared shi*less. Walking down a hallway with doors on my right and windows on my left, just slowly creepy because I was terrified of something jumping out to grab me. and when something did grab me I jumped and threw down the control and declared that I would never play a Resident Evil again and I haven't since then. ps. so the editors can say sh** but I can't?!
  • stevethetree - October 28, 2011 5:46 p.m.

    It's not exactly scary, but the cougars in Red Dead Redemption still startle the crap out of me. Hm, I know I can think of a better example than that... oh well.
  • SDHoneymonster - October 28, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    Also, I can't be the only person who finds Demon's Souls scary, surely? Not just the difficulty, but the whole atmosphere just gets to me. The first section of the Tower of Latria especially, with all the torture chambers and tentacly buggers, was as creepy as anything I've played.
  • SDHoneymonster - October 28, 2011 4:21 p.m.

    I thought the first encounter with the Spider Splicers in Bioshock was terrifying - their heckling from the shadows and the screams as they come for you, armed with your camera, was pretty hairy. The twitchers in Dead Space too were pretty nasty - I thought that whole section of the game did a really good job of actually being scary again after you got used to it all.
  • Overlord153 - October 28, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    The first time I got scared was a strange one. I was playing a Fallout game for the first time. Didn't have a clue what to expect. Then I saw this thing out in the distance. Naturally my first thought was to shoot it in VATS. But when it zoomed in on the thing my skin crawled. The sad part was.... it was a f*cking bloatfly. That thing terrifies me for some reason. Cazadores too. Also I seen some go walk outside a door and 3 giant radscropions were just waiting for him. That made me exit every door in 3rd person.
  • Overlord153 - October 28, 2011 4:03 p.m.

    After reading through most of the comments it made me remember a game called Eversion. I paid no attention to the H.P Lovecraft quote because at the beginning it was so happy. Jesus that game gave me nightmares and i wasn't even the one playing it. Also Centaurs are some of the freakiest things I have ever seen.
  • FrozenImplosion - October 28, 2011 2:58 p.m.

    There are a couple moments that came to mind when I saw the title. The first one was actually already mentioned: the Bioshock 1 dentist scare. That scared the crap out of me the first time! The second one is in Dead Space, you come into a new room with a workbench (at which you can upgrade weapons) so I go to the bench and upgrade my stuff, and IMMEDIATELY upon exiting the workbench screen there is a necropmorph down your throat. It's scripted of course, but organically scared the crap out of me nonetheless. Third one is definitely the Condemned 1 mannequin part. Actually, all of Condemned 1 and 2.

Showing 1-20 of 137 comments

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