Spookytacular 2015: 5 surprisingly scary games
Horror can be a tricky thing. Where games like Five Nights at Freddy's and Outlast go for outright, in-your-face scares, others such as SOMA and Home are more about the psychological aspects of fear. Then there are games that don't fall under the horror genre and instead tread familiar action-adventure ground, yet they still manage to throw in some chilling moments.
On this week's edition of GameCrate's Halloween Spookytacular 2015, we take a look at five surprisingly scary games.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Though not considered a horror game, there are plenty of elements that make Batman: Arkham Asylum scary. For starters, it takes place in an asylum, which in and of itself is just frightening. There's also the fact that Scarecrow manages to infect Batman with his fear toxin and puts him in a hallucinogenic haze where he witnesses all manner of awful imagery. I'll never forget how creepy (and somewhat comical) it was to come across another Batman, hunched over, eating a rat, and growling. It's a bizarre moment, to say the least, and it paints Batman as an utter lunatic.
Another chilling moment in Batman: Arkham Asylum is the encounter with Killer Croc. While traveling across the sewer system beneath the asylum grounds, you just know the behemoth is lurking underwater, waiting to strike. These moments force you to tread lightly as any sudden movements will give away your whereabouts and cause Killer Croc to rampage toward you. It's straight out of a horror film.
If Pan's Labyrinth taught us anything, it's that fantasy and horror can blend together in perfect harmony. Pandora's Tower is most definitely a fantasy RPG at heart, but there are various horror overtones to the whole thing, starting with the mood of the game. Rough as the Wii graphics may be, there's an ominous sense of dread present throughout, from the overcast sky to the ancient architecture all the way to the grotesque monster designs, the setting, ambiance, and mood of Pandora's Tower are the stuff of nightmares.
The narrative is also quite horrific as it follows a young woman named Elena who's slowly turning into a hideous monster. It's up to a soldier named Aeron to help her by delving deep into multiple towers and slaying master beasts. But the gruesome nature of Pandora's Tower doesn't end there. In order to slow the transformation process and eventually return to normal, Elena, whose body becomes more and more covered in disgusting growths as the story progresses, must eat the flesh of the master beasts. It's a true tale of terror.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I would've included The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask on here, but it's not exactly a surprisingly scary game — I actually consider it to be a straight-up horror-action-adventure game. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, however, doesn't start out as grim. It begins with a young Link being summoned to stop some bad stuff from happening. After giving it a shot and collecting some stones, he goes into a seven-year slumber, only to awaken and witness a devastating sight.
The moment you step outside of the Temple of Time as adult Link, you see that Hyrule has become a haunted, desolate wasteland. Death literally pervades the land, and everything you knew as young Link has become infected by pure evil. This second half of the game introduces some terrifying enemies, as well as the death-laden Shadow Temple, one of the creepiest dungeons in the entire series.
Like Pandora's Tower and Ocarina of Time, Demon's Souls marries fantasy and horror sensibilities quite brilliantly. While Demon's Souls may not boast the most horrendous experience from a visual standpoint, it's still a harrowing game.
Like the aforementioned Nintendo titles, Demon's Souls utilizes a dreary, gray sky to communicate a sense of dread and doom. There are also plenty of gross-looking beasts, most of which are massive and imposing. But where Demon's Souls succeeds most as far as horror is concerned is in its difficulty. This is the perfect example of a game that terrifies you mostly by putting you at the center of a brutally difficult adventure. The setting and creatures are eerie, sure, but it's not knowing whether you'll make it out alive that tortures you the most.
What could possibly be scary about a 16-bit tale starring a young boy, his three newfound friends, a dog, and an overweight bully? How about the fact that those four kids are trying to save the world from impending doom at the hands of that bully after he decides to assist an evil, destructive, and mighty entity known as Giygas? Okay, so that may all seem more like straight-up RPG fare at first, but it's the imagery and dialogue that really sets EarthBound apart from typical SNES RPGs and sends it into horror territory.
The encounter with Giygas is unlike anything else seen in a video game. The entire level leading up to this encounter has been described as similar to internal female organs, and Giygas himself has an unsettling resemblance to that of a fetus — it's just terrifying, and it makes for an incredibly dark boss encounter. This boss encounter sees both Giygas and Pokey (the aforementioned bully) becoming mad with power and rambling incoherently.
Despite the fact that everything leading up to this final boss battle is lighthearted and cheery fun (for the most part — there is one especially creepy part where you enter a cultist colony), it's those final moments that essentially turn EarthBound into a horror experience. When you start the game, you may start to get the feeling that something's terribly wrong, and when you finally make it to that closing act, you're in store for a surprisingly nightmarish finale.