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Joystiq's favorite unintentionally scary games


Earlier today, we brought you one brave admission of childhood trauma caused by a game you wouldn't normally think of as scary. Now, the Joystiq staff is chiming in with their own tales of games that, despite not being traditional "horror" games, still managed to inspire absolute horror.

Let the nightmares of our collective youth entertain you! Happy Halloween!

  • Christopher Grant (@ChrisGrant): (Ed. note: Chris initially read the prompt to be about any horror game. However, he was able to make one quick stealth edit and save his entry! See if you can spot it.) I remember playing COMEDY ADVENTURE GAME Resident Evil 3 in my sophomore year of college. My roommate and I took the opportunity to play only at night, and only with the lights off. For those of you who haven't played RE3, I should note that the subtitle is precisely what made the game so scary: Nemesis. You see, Nemesis chased you the entire game. Think Scissorman in Clock Tower, but horribly mutated ... and without the vagaries of a point-and-click interface. Oh, and he has a rocket launcher. The nice thing about playing Resident Evil 3 with a friend is that if one of us got too freaked out to play, knowing Nemesis was right around the corner, the other would tag in, replete with a fresh reserve of steely nerves.
  • David Hinkle (@DaveHinkle): Serious Sam. The first time I played that game, panic crippled me to the point where I couldn't even move. As I played it more and more, fear and tension grew to an extent I haven't felt in another game since. I was literally frightened to death to walk forward in that game. The occasional much-needed health pack off to the side taunted me to the point of anguish. It may not have been a horror game, but I still have nightmares to this day about crazy kamikaze dudes running after me. That scream is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
  • Griffin McElroy (@griffinmcelroy): Willy Beamish was supposed to be an edgy, animated point-and-click adventure game for kids who were too young for Monkey Island, but too old for baby toys. The result was utterly horrifying: Imagine an adventure game featuring a kid whose failures were frequently met with his grisly murder. I had nightmares about being slowly devoured by my vampire babysitter for months.
  • JC Fletcher (@jcfletcher): I don't think the top-down NES shooter Ikari Warriors 2: Victory Road was meant to be scary, but I don't think SNK could have made it any more terrifying if it tried. From the very first scratchy, nonsensical voice sample, this game genuinely freaks me out. The monsters, the environments, the items, the blinky Michelin Man characters -- it all looks too weird, too off to have been made by a deliberate human process. It's the "numbers station" of classic video games.
  • Jess Conditt (@JessConditt): I never played Ecco the Dolphin because, as a game that takes place in the ocean, I expected it to include oceany things, such as sharks and vastness (ahem, Richard), and I am psychologically opposed to all of that. However, I didn't expect Batman: Arkham City to include a giant, hungry shark that leaps out of an icy sea to devour your tender, caped flesh. A. Giant. Hungry. Shark. I can handle insane clowns, demented doctors and immortal madmen, but that shark just about ended the game for me. I still haven't played past that part and honestly, I may never be the same again.
  • Jordan Mallory (@Jordan_Mallory): Mega Man Legends. It remains one of my all-time top-5 favorite games, but something about the tall, isolated, quiet construction of its dungeons paired with the abstract, ferocious nature of the creatures encountered within sent me into several panic attacks during my tenure with the title. The Lake Jyun Sub-Gate, specifically, forced me to quit for months at a time, several times. In fact, it was probably a full year before I was able to make it all the way through a game I desperately loved, all because of some deep, primal fear that was triggered by an integral part of Capcom's design philosophy.
    I'd like to say that I've since conquered this abstract fear, and that I'm now free to enjoy one of my favorite games without panic attacks, but just a few seconds of that YouTube clip is enough to make my skin crawl. Some things never change.
  • Justin McElroy (@JustinMcElroy): Double Switch: A lot of FMV games have this quality, but for some reason, Double Switch's focus on monitoring several rooms at once was genuinely scary to me. Seeing people in my TV get angry at me, knowing that I could miss things if I wasn't quick enough made the danger more real in some way. Somehow, to my mind, letting a terrible actor in 1994 down is a genuinely scary prospect, a fact I'd prefer not to analyze too much.
  • Ludwig Kietzmann (@LudwigK): Don't laugh -- I was creeped out by a comedy adventure game. Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers sees the janitorial protagonist trying his best (read: not very good) to avoid a time-traveling assassination attempt. Early on in the game, he winds up in an unnerving, desolate future that wouldn't be out of place in one of Robocop's nightmares (assuming he still has those). The atmosphere was chilling -- thanks to those 256 colors and the CD-ROM version's excellent audio -- and the visible departure of human life was tough to shake as you moved from screen to screen. Oh, and you could die instantly if a robot spotted you. Eek!
  • Mike Schramm (@MikeSchramm): Black and White was a strategy game unlike any other, and as goofy as it was, it kept me up late a few nights on college, trying to tame and wrangle both my creature and my followers. When you lost a follower's life, however, the game didn't play a sad song or just put a minus one near your population. It very quietly, in a woman's voice I can still hear to this day, whispered "death" into your ear. After experiencing that very late one night in my dark dorm room, I was too spooked to keep from turning it off and sleeping with the lights on. I only played it during the day after that.
  • Richard Mitchell (@SenseiRAM): One game that unintentionally scared me (and I doubt I'm the only one) was Ecco the Dolphin. There was something about the vastness of the ocean and, of course, sharks – the movie Jaws horrified me as a kid. Throw in the fact that Ecco is almost always on the brink of drowning, and you've got a recipe for terror.

    And let's not even get started on Ecco's 3D Dreamcast outing, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future. Between the great white boss fight and the cyber sharks, I may never go swimming again.

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