Ooooooh, it’s all spooky right now, isn’t it! The nights are getting longer, there are horror movies being released, and OH MY GOD IS THAT A DISEMBODIED HAND BEHIND YOU?! Just kidding, it’s ACTUALLY IN FRONT OF YOU! We like to have fun here, don’t we…
Anyway, last year I wrote about 5 scary games to play at Halloween. This year, a friend suggested I do 5 scary video game characters as something a bit different. Not a lot different mind, but different enough. So I went to do some research because some of these were so scary I’d forgotten about them due to the trauma. It sounds like a joke but it’s probably true in one or two cases.
As is often the case with these lovely lists, I’m only going for characters from games I’ve played. I’m not going for characters that have only appeared in games, because sometimes a movie monster is just as effective in game form. And whilst they don’t have to be from horror games, they almost certainly will be. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.
Necromorphs – Dead Space
I’m going to start with something fairly obvious, but no less horrifying for it. I know body horror isn’t something that gets to everyone, but holy hell are these things disgusting! They’re human bodies that have been grotesquely altered by the corrupting influence of the Marker, a key object in the Dead Space universe. But what sets these apart from your run-of-the-mill zombies is just how deformed they are. In even the regular enemies, there seem to be appendages everywhere, and simply shooting them in the face doesn’t do the job. Those appendages are your targets, and shooting them off is your only way to stop them. Not that it always stops them of course, seeing as they’ll use their remaining ones to claw their way across the ground to jam them down your throat.
You regularly get to see the effect these monsters have on the human body too. Early in Dead Space 2, you get a very close up view of the transformation the human body goes through. Bladed limbs sprout from the back, the neck hyper-extends, and the face tears open to look more like Predator than a person. Then there are the deaths they can inflict. Some of the animations of Isaac dying in these games are genuinely horrifying. Honourable mention must go to the Cherub enemies, which are corrupted babies that crawl towards you before exploding. That’s just horrible…
Protocol Droid – System Shock 2
System Shock 2 had its fair share of scary moments (the final scene of the game being horrifying for all the wrong reasons), but the crown goes to the protocol droids from the game’s engineering and cargo decks. These robots walk around these areas, carrying out tasks to help the crew. The crew that’s no longer there. It seems that the renegade AI Xerxes has reprogramed them to act as proximity mines.
Visually, they’re not terrifying in the slightest. In fact, there’s nothing that’s truly scary about them, unless you can’t see them. The engineering deck, in particular, is a cramped maze of containers and hallways, meaning that these droids can be very dangerous if they charge at you. Their cheery greetings of “Can I help you?” can be heard as they rush towards you. But it’s truly frightening when you hear that announcement without having a clue where the robot is. They know where you are and they’re coming for you. Are they hiding in a container? Are they behind you? Will you round a corner to be met with explosive death? You’re never sure, and that lack of knowledge makes them the most frightening enemy in the game.
Shibito – Siren: Blood Curse
I was quite torn between these and the Broken Neck ghost from Project Zero (you keep that Fatal Frame name to yourself!), but I went with the Shibito because they, at one point, made me stop playing. Shibito are, at their core, zombies. Reanimated corpses that will try to kill you because that’s what reanimated corpses do. Unlike zombies though, these guys have some sense of intelligence and tend to hunt the player rather than simply chase them.
They’re damn scary. They walk around repeating the same few phrases over and over again, which is creepy. They look horrible, with blood dripping from their eyes. They stalk you when they know you’re there. You can run and hide if you’d like, and use your sight jacking ability to see through their eyes (which just makes things scarier as far as I’m concerned) and you can get away from them after a while. But what happens when they turn into flies? Or dogs? Or a goddamn spider?! I don’t want to think about them anymore. Next monster, please!
Xenomorph – Alien: Isolation
Well, I did say there might be movie monsters. I bet more than a few of you saw this one coming because I’ve mentioned this game on more than a few occasions. The Xenomorph is scary. Very scary. Once it appears in the game, it’s always there, hunting you in some way. You might not see it, but you’re just one loud noise away from bringing it right to you and having it tear your face off. Did I mention you’re almost defenceless against it? Oh, and then there are the manual saves meaning that your hard work can be lost if you’re careless.
The way the game’s AI works with the Xenomorph is very interesting, as the creature has two brains. One knows exactly where you are, and gives hints to the second. This gives you the feeling of being gradually hunted down when it’s nearby. Knowing that takes the fear away a little, but there’s only ever been one game that’s made my wife yell “OH SH*T!” as the monster appears right in front of my face (I survived). The downside with this one is that Alien: Isolation was far too long, diminishing the effect of the Xenomorph towards the end of the experience. Still, it’s terrifying for a long time.
Alma Wade – F.E.A.R
Damn, I loved playing F.E.A.R! Every gunfight was exhilarating, with your slow motion powers and kung-fu skills making you feel more like Neo than a soldier (although there were narrative reasons for that). But as gamers know, you can’t have constant action for eight hours without it becoming stale over time. Thankfully F.E.A.R was very well paced, with some genuinely unsettling moments featuring the little girl, Alma.
Alma was a girl with psychic powers who was experimented on repeatedly from the age of three, who may or may not have died years after these experiments began. Understandably annoyed, she appears as a young girl throughout the game, normally just in the corner of your eye, carrying out acts of violence against other characters. Whilst she doesn’t attack you herself, her appearances can be quite unsettling. I’ll never forget the moment she appears right in front of you just as you reach the top of a ladder. It’s a shame that F.E.A.R 2 lost some of the horrors (although it was still a fun game) and that F.3.A.R was just plain bad.
Some other characters worth mentioning! The Witch from the Left 4 Dead games, who can be scary for a while just because of how powerful she is. Her effect is lessened considerably the more often you play, though. Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill games is an obvious choice (especially in Silent Hill 2), but it’s been cheapened by appearances in so many games that bastardise its original purpose. I have a soft spot for Golden Freddy from the Five Nights at Freddy’s games, the first one in particular. The dead eyes, him just appearing out of nowhere, and the fact that he causes the game to crash are all pretty cool features for a horror character.
There are plenty of others, but I’d love to know what characters cause you to have a trouser change! Who’s terrifying and who’s not! Tell me who to steer clear of!