If you’re the type of veteran horror fan long desensitized to scares, then delving into the world of horror video games is a great way to get your heart pumping again. Nothing submerses you in fear quite like a horror video game, where you play as a character forced to confront the terrible things head on if you want to progress the story.
This form of storytelling is limitless in creativity and can employ so many varying tactics to elicit chills. From familiar genre trappings, jump scares, to downright depraved psychological terror, horror video games can scare like nothing else. Take a look below for our 10 scariest moments in video games.
1. The Surgeon From Bioshock
During his trek through the Medical Pavilion, Jack is required to find Steinman’s key so he can disable the security lockdown in Emergency Access. As a result, Steinman is the first boss that the player encounters.
In the Medical Pavilion, the player can see many of Steinman’s works of “art” painted on the floors and walls, as well as mutilated corpses left from Steinman’s operations. In many cases, the mad doctor took photographs of female faces and modified them in eerie ways before posting them on the walls like framed artworks. His Audio Diaries are the first real exposure the player has to the total effects (mental and physical) of repeated splicing.
As Jack travels through the tunnel to Dr. Steinman’s Aesthetic Ideals, Steinman can be seen on the television monitor addressing the “moral obligation” of beauty. When Jack enters the lobby of his domain, Steinman can be overheard wondering why humans have two of most body parts. The minute Steinman sees Jack approach he rushes into the corridor leading to his surgery, chucking a grenade behind him.
The explosion causes rubble to block the entrance. After the player removes the debris, Steinman sets up a Turret and sends a Security Bot to attack Jack before retreating to his operating theater to continue his “art”. There the player will be forced to fight him to the death.
2. Pyramid Head From Silent Hill 2
Pyramid Head or Red Pyramid Thing is a monster (and in two cases, a duo of monsters) that debuted in Silent Hill 2 as one of the primary antagonists. Since its creation, Pyramid Head has become one of the most well-known and iconic monsters in the franchise, turning into something of a mainstream and flagship figurehead for the series.
It is more likely that Pyramid Head is a type of monster rather than a single entity, given two Pyramid Heads side-by-side at the end of Silent Hill 2, and there could have been many more wandering the town of Silent Hill, Maine.
Pyramid Head has been called various names throughout his many appearances in various media. In official Japanese resources, his name is translated into English as “Red Pyramid Thing”, based on James Sunderland’s description of the monster while meeting Eddie Dombrowski for the first time. However, his full name is just as often shorted to “Pyramid Head”. In other media, he has been called Red Pyramid, as well as the Bogeyman and the Shadowed One.
Apart from Silent Hill 2, Pyramid Head has made his main appearances in the video games Silent Hill: Homecoming, Silent Hill: The Arcade, and Silent Hill: Book of Memories, with cameo appearances in Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Downpour. They also appear in the films Silent Hill and Silent Hill: Revelation, the comics, and the Silent Hill pachislot.
They are usually portrayed as, at the most basic, violent monsters. A deeper meaning given to them explains their existences as punishers and executioners of sinful humans. In Silent Hill 2, one Pyramid Head proves his acts of violence are not aimed solely at humans, as he has also brought harm to the other creatures that inhabit Silent Hill.
3. Piggsy Boss From Manhunt
Piggsy is a deranged and cannibalistic mass murderer, who wears a skinned pig’s head over his face while slaughtering victims with a chainsaw. Appearing to be an obese middle-aged man, he’s almost completely inhuman in behavior and has lost all connection with reality.
His mentality has degraded into an animalistic and child-like state, as he seems to only be capable of speaking a few basic words or mimicking a pig’s grunts. He’s a remorseless killer, butchering all those who come across his path with a chainsaw.
Because of this, Piggsy became Starkweather’s star performer in his snuff films and slaughtered dozens, if possibly hundreds, of runners. Starkweather kept Piggsy chained and locked up in the abandoned attic of his estate while feeding him human flesh, which was delivered to him by Cerberus guards. Despite the fact that they were cold-blooded professional killers, the Cerberus operatives treated him with both genuine fear and disgust. He’s the final adversary Cash faces off against in the game, and is a deadly opponent.
4. The Mannequins From Condemned: Criminal Origins
Bart’s Department Store is a location featured in Condemned: Criminal Origins. It is an abandoned department store infested with enemies posing as mannequins. It also serves as a crack-den and a squat, and is linked to Burnback Alley.
Bart’s Department Store shut down approximately ten years ago and is now serving as a squat and a crack den, as well as the hideout of the notorious serial killer known as The Match Maker. It is home to scores of live mannequins, who are actually heavily mutated addicts in disguise. A number of murders have been committed by the mannequins of the tenants (crackheads, squatters, bums, etc.) possibly for territorial reasons.
The department store still has Christmas decorations up, including a dead Christmas tree some and some warped holiday music playing in the central hub. The rest of the store features slightly dated shopping mall fare. The exterior of the store includes the buildings that make up Bumback Alley. The basement of the store, where its custodial and delivery areas are located, has severe flood damage. Living down there are the Rejects, who also inhabit the Central Metro Station.
5. The Cyber Demon From DOOM 3
The Cyberdemon is the final boss and most powerful monster of Doom 3. It is found at the Primary Excavation Site, where it stands guard over the massive Hell Hole.
It stands roughly 20 feet tall, more than 3 times as tall as a human soldier. While the Cyberdemon overall retains its appearance as a minotaur-like giant, there are some differences of this new incarnation of the monster compared to its classic counterpart.
This incarnation has a long tail, extending from the machinery on its back, and both legs are mechanical – as opposed to its original version, whose only mechanical leg was the right one. Another noticeable difference is that its rocket launcher is now located on the right arm instead of the left one.
6. Creepy Little Girls From Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
Akane and Azami Kiryu are hostile female spirits in Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. They were twin sisters residing in All God’s Village and previous victims of the Crimson Sacrifice Ritual. As Twin Shrine Maidens, their duty was to perform the ritual and ensure the village’s survival. Although they succeeded in this, their love for one another ran deep and Akane, the surviving twin, suffered from serious trauma. Both of their spirits remained following the Repentance, trapped within the lost village.
Although Azami left the womb first, and therefore was born first, by village custom she was the younger sister. As the elder sister, Akane was given the task of sacrificing Azami once the time of the ritual came. During this time the village was in a desperate condition, and so their ritual was held while the two were still quite young.
Nonetheless, both sisters were resolute in performing the sacrifice. During the ceremony, Akane had difficulty with the task at hand and a Veiled Priest attempted to help her. Azami refused this, and insisted that her sister should be the only one who takes her life. Upon completion of the ritual, the Hellish Abyss was appeased and Akane became a Remaining.
The sacrifice did not pass without taking its toll on Akane’s psyche. Feeling tremendous guilt over the loss of her sister, Akane began to fall into depression. Hoping to ease the burden of the psychological trauma, her father, Yoshitatsu Kiryu, a dollmaker, built for her a special doll in the image of Azami. Akane became so attached to the doll, whispering to it as if it were indeed her sister, that a spirit possessed it and began to control her.
Yoshitatsu was able to see the darkness taking hold of the doll and his daughter, and, in a dream, he was asked by Azami’s spirit to hang the doll and throw it into the Hellish Abyss to destroy it and free her sister. However, the doll told Akane of his plan and so Akane dismantled the doll and hid the pieces. Yoshitatsu was not able to save his daughter and he was soon strangled by Akane, now fully controlled by the evil spirit. The spirit then consumed Akane’s soul and the Kiryu family was ended.
7. The Bathtub Scene From Eternal Darkness
Whenever someone mentions the Gamecube cult classic Eternal Darkness, someone else will mention the bathtub scene. This very brief moment is just a few seconds long – and yet it’s probably the most famous moment from the game. It is a jump scare, but one implemented in such a way that it catches you completely off guard – provided you don’t know about it beforehand, of course.
Eternal Darkness had an interesting concept: it let you play with many different characters in different timezones, from a soldier from the Roman Empire to a firefighter in the 90s. The protagonist of the game is Alexandra Roivas, who, by reading through a book found in the mansion of her grandfather, experiences past moments, allowing you to play as several different characters.
In between those moments you are free to explore the mansion, which serves sort of as a hub world, and a moment of rest from the fighting scenes and from the tension. Though there is an eerie atmosphere with some strange things going on (such as moving statues whose gaze follows you as you walk past), there are no enemies in the mansion, and it’s very quiet in its abandoned halls.
This is why the bathtub scene is so effective: it happens when you least expect it. You may have expected it during one of the combat sections, but not now. Now, you are simply exploring the mansion, looking for clues and extras, in a completely different state of mind. You enter a bathroom, and walk towards the bath tub. The prompt ‘examine’ appears on screen.
A shrieking scream suddenly shatters the silence, and the camera jump cuts closer and closer to the mangled corpse of a woman, stuffed into the tub (what’s funny is whenever realized it was Alexandra herself, it’s over so quickly we had not recognized her). This moment stopped many a gamer’s heart. Looking back at it, it may not seem that shocking. But you have to consider the context: the game deliberately messes with the false sense of security you have in the mansion, breaking its own rules, in a way. All of this combined makes for a moment many people won’t soon forget.
8. Searching For Tibbits From Condemned: Criminal Origins
After Ethan Thomas and Rosa Angel conclude that the Torturer is next on SKX’s list, they set out to find him. The two discover that Samuel Tibbits, a former teacher at St. Joseph’s School, has gone missing after going to the police with information on the Torturer, who is revealed to be one of his former students. Ethan and Rosa head to the school, where they believe Tibbits and the Torturer are located.
As Ethan searches the school, he finds a number of disturbing clues, including a pair of lips on a chalkboard and a severed arm stuck in a basketball hoop. Ethan then experiences a vision of a frightened and mutilated Tibbits stumbling about in the locker room and hiding inside one of the lockers. By the time Ethan arrives at the locker room, no body is found, prompting Rosa to suggest checking inside the lockers.
Ethan finds Tibbits’ corpse, which has heavy facial damage and a missing left arm. Ethan proceeds to take a photo of the body, only to discover that Tibbits is still barely alive. Tibbits informs Ethan that it was Anderson who did this to him, and that another man knocked Anderson out and took him away. Ethan then orders Rosa to call an ambulance, but Tibbits dies of blood loss before she can do so.
When Ethan gets near the shower block, he’ll hear some eerie vent sounds and if he gets back to Tibbits’ corpse, it won’t be there. When Ethan jumps into the pool, Tibbits’ corpse will fall down from the skyglass, though this seems to be a hallucination as when the fighting stops, it disappears again. It could be that Tibbits’ corpse disappearing was no hallucination, just that the crawlers got it as food.
9. Slender Man From Slender
The Slender Man was created at the Something Awful Forums in a thread entitled “Create Paranormal Images.” He is described as wearing a black suit strikingly similar to the visage of the notorious Men In Black, and as the name suggests, appears very thin and able to stretch his limbs and torso to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his prey. Once his arms are outstretched, his victims are put into something of a hypnotized state, where they are utterly helpless to stop themselves from walking into them.
Not much is known, as no specific information has been found about origins, but his objective and habitat are made very clear. He has the need to kidnap children, and is seen right before the disappearance of a child or multiple children. He seems to prefer fog enshrouded streets and wooded areas as a way to conceal himself from being noticed.
It should also be noted that children have been able to see him when no other adults in the vicinity could. Children also have dreams or nightmares concerning The Slender Man before their disappearance. Confiding these stories to their parents are met with the usual parental admonition: overactive imaginations.
10. The Scarecrow From Batman: Arkham Asylum
Taunted and bullied in his youth, Jonathan Crane vowed to overcome his fears through the study of psychology and biochemistry on phobias and the nature of fear. Kicked out of the university he taught at for experimenting on human subjects, Crane adopted the identity of the Scarecrow, and armed himself with a specialized fear-inducing gas that makes a person’s deepest phobia become a frightening reality. Scarecrow’s ongoing reign of terror makes him one of Batman’s most recurring and psychologically dangerous foes.
When The Joker took over Arkham Island, Crane was released to cause as much death and chaos as possible. Using this to his advantage, the Scarecrow tried breaking the mind of Batman again and again, only to fail. When attempting to poison Gotham City’s water with his toxin, Crane was brutally mauled by the mutated criminal, Killer Croc.
Seething with rage, Scarecrow exacted revenge on Batman and Gotham with his allies, the mysterious Arkham Knight and former assassin, Deathstroke. However, in the end, Crane’s plan to break Batman’s will failed, and he was forced to endure a dose of his own improved toxin. Reduced to a harmless shell, Scarecrow was left to suffer visions of bats.