King Boo. Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde. That one guy from the bathroom in Hitman. Yes, the world of video games has its share of spooks and apparitions--fluffy and adorable, bratty and tricky, or insane and covered in blood of unknown origin (so, so much blood). They add a hair-raising charm to the games they inhabit, floating their ghoulish way into our hearts and night terrors.
However, we often spend so much time thinking about their effect on us that we dont really think about whats going on with them. Who are they, really? Where did they come from? For every afterlife theres a lifeand some of them are a lot more tragic than we would have thought. What follows are eight of the most tragic ghouls in gaming and their sad, earthly origins. These ghost stories might not scare youbut they might make you cry just a little.
The Ghost: If you didnt know anything about Yamask, it probably wouldnt stand out from the crowd as a tear-jerker. A weirdly cute, oblong blob with big eyes, its meant to play mini-ghoul to the cartoonish Cofagrigus, and apparently wanders around ancient cities to make sure you didnt miss the theme they were going for. Not anything to write home about
The Tragedy: until you learn about its mask. As it turns out, Yamask isnt just an ancient Egyptian scribble, but the soul of a dead human that was somehow transformed into a Pokemon. (Because everything that isnt human in this world has to be a Pokemon, right?) The seemingly innocent mask it carries is actually a copy of its own face from when it was human, a constant reminder of what it once was and will never be again. Sometimes it even looks at it and--my God--cries, then one day its captured by some transient kid and forced into brutal subservience for the rest of its days. If you were Yamask, youd probably be crying too.
Hyrule Castle soldiers (Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
The Ghost: Some spirits fade into the background as much figuratively as they do literally, and that sums up the ghosts inhabiting Hyrule Castle in Twilight Princess fairly well. Helpful spirits that direct Link to objects of interest and help him solve puzzles, theyre a nifty resource while he tries to save Zelda from Ganondorfs clutches. Useful for sure, if not exactly memorable.
The Tragedy: In all likelihood these ghosts were once guards who were killed during Zants invasion and are being held there by something. Is it feelings of failure for being unable to protect the castle when they were needed most? Is it a desire for revenge, for which Link is the sword? Or is it a deep and abiding love for the princess they were unable to protect, rooting them to the place of their demise to ensure the Hero of Time is able to do what we never could? Carry on brave, faceless soldier. (Though hopefully not actually faceless. Eugh.)
Lady Comstock (BioShock Infinite)
The Ghost: Lady Comstock is a force to be reckoned with--and will you ever be forced into that reckoning. First encountered as a vicious ghost busting out of her own preserved corpse, she sends Booker and Elizabeth on a wild goose chase through Columbia while trying to murder them with her band of undead minions. Thats really all the motivation you need to want to take mommy dearest down.
The Tragedy: You hear about Lady Comstock pretty early on, and as you progress the game lays out plenty of hints about how she turned poltergeist. Brainwashed into believing in Father Comstocks righteousness, she gets to watch the charade of her life collapse once Elizabeth comes into the picture, and she realizes her husbands kind of a psychopath. When she finally decides to reveal his dastardly deeds to the world, he has her murdered and blames the help, then reanimates her in a form that is simultaneously alive and dead to attack his rebellious child. Whoa. Talk about your domestic disputes.
Sim ghosts (The Sims)
The Ghost:The word tragedy might seem a bit strong for a game where players regularly fill their characters houses with fireworks and ladderless swimming pools like malevolent gods. For the most part, The Sims responds to those maniacal impulses lightheartedly, introducing colorful ghostly family members in place of those we accidentally drowned or electrocuted or set on fire. Nothing wrong with that, right?
The Tragedy: Its easy to go on letting these games enable your sociopathic tendencies, until you stop to think about the implications. Your dearly not-departed Sim seems happy with the afterlife, but they also look to carry the circumstances of their death with them: electrocuted Sims let off sparks and twitch, starved Sims constantly raid the fridge, drowned Sims complain of exhaustion and drip water everywhere. This points to your Sims constantly reliving, and therefore never escaping, the pain of their untimely demises. Maybe think about that next time you fill their house with fireplaces, rugs and cheap wood furniture, you monster.
Sae Kurosawa (Fatal Frame 2)
The Ghost: About two seconds after Sae makes her metaphysical debut, you know that this girl in the red and white kimono (hint: it didnt come that way) is not to be messed with. Responsible for the slaughter of every person in the cursed village where youre trapped, she follows close on your heels while you try to escape, and does her best to make that harder for you. Her hobbies include laughing maniacally, chasing you down narrow passageways, and choking the life out of people. Nice girl.
The Tragedy: Sae wasnt always so crazy and murderousin fact, her main goal in life was to die during a protective ritual and become one with her sister, Yae. That dependence was her downfall when she tried to sabotage her and Yaes escape from the ritual, and big sis went on without her. Betrayed and sibling-less, she was tossed down a literal hellhole to appease the demonic forces within, only to come back as one of them and wreck the place. Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl scorned.
Auron (Final Fantasy X)
The Ghost: Auron is the kind of guy that would be at home in a Shyamalan movie. Killed ten years before the events of Final Fantasy X, he shuffles back onto the mortal coil to become one of Yunas guardians and doesnt bring up the whole being dead thing until way later on. He wiles away the in-between time drinking, killing huge monsters, and standing next to Tidus in silent disapprovalafter all, somebody has to do it.
The Tragedy: Once upon a time, Auron was a stern but optimistic monk who believed he and his friends, Braska and Jecht, could defeat the world-destroying Sin if they just believed hard enough. Then he realized it was a scam about five minutes after his friends kicked the bucket for the cause, and bought himself a ticket to Deadsville when he attacked the deity responsible in a rage. He probably would have been happy to call it quits, but instead chose to go back and take care of his friends kids, Tidus and Yuna. And looks at the thanks he gets. Ingrates.
Chozo ghosts (Metroid Prime)
The Ghost: If the Chozo are the galaxys peaceful arbiters of knowledge and pacifism, the Chozo ghosts are the opposite of that. These ghosties are insane and vicious monsters, and the sole inhabitants of the destroyed world of Tallon IV. They have a habit of killing anything that encroaches on their territory, up to and including adopted daughter and honorary Chozo Samus.
The Tragedy: The sudden personality shift of the Chozo--who, to reiterate, used to be about as dangerous as a box of kittens--was caused by magical crazy goo called Phazon that infects and destroys the minds of living beings. According to entries in Samus logbook, the Chozo were perfectly aware of what was happening to them but powerless to stop it. In the end they turn into rabid, ghoulish versions of their former selves who dont even recognize Samus, and there isnt enough left of their minds to stop them from trying to kill her. Most depressing family reunion ever--and thats an impressive feat.
Alma Wade (F.E.A.R.)
The Ghost: In terms of creepy little girls, Alma probably pulls Samaras hair and steals her lunch money. A powerful psychic, she was inducted into an advanced testing program and started mind-fracking people left and right. Following her death in the depths of the testing compound, she became a wrathful, half-adult half-child phantom that murders some people, mentally destroys others andoh, Becket. Poor, poor Becket.
The Tragedy: That psychic testing thing? Started when Alma was 3, and was less testing and more electroshock therapy. When she protested her circumstances by giving people hallucinations and mood swings, the scientists put her in a coma and shoved her in the basement like so many old Christmas decorations. Then they thought getting her pregnant to clone her would be an amazing idea, and she had at least two children before she turned 16. Then they decided theyd had enough of her and pulled the plug, letting her waste away in a locked vault and my God, were they trying to cause an office haunting? Because they sure did a bang-up job.
Rest in peace
Here lies the most tragic ghosts in gaming, and the stories that made them the sad specters that we know and love and/or fear. Is this business finished? Did someone not get a proper eulogy? Tell us in the comments below, and we can add to the list of these spooks that might just be a little misunderstood.
though were still whacking em if they come near us. Sympathy only stretches so far.
For more ghostly goodness, check out Ways horror games use psychology to scare the crap out of us and The 13 nastiest things we saw, did, and suffered in The Evil Within. And, of course, our Murdered: Soul Suspect review.