Retro gaming, four of a kind: scariest moments in video games

Posted on 5 November 2015
By James Brookfield
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To commemorate Halloween, the previous Four of a Kind discussed the top retro horror video games. Despite the fact that the annual event has been and gone, this week will expand on the occasion by detailing the top scariest moments and or scenes in retro horror video games.

1. Resident Evil 3 – Nemesis window introduction

By the time Resident Evil 3 was released fans of the series became fully aware of enemies jumping through windows to induce fear and Nemesis, the antagonist from Resident Evil 2. Both tropes are shocking on their own, separate merits so how could Konami top this for the third instalment of the franchise? By having Nemesis crash through a window. The reason this moment creates instant dread is due to the unexpected nature and the incident occurring in a small, enclosed hallway.

Atmospheric tension continues to increase as, once the glass settles, Nemesis can open doors meaning the safety of hiding is removed and the player must persistently run in order to escape.

2. Sanitarium – Innocent Abandoned

Sanitarium is a classic point-and-click adventure game released in 1998. Many cite the game as one of the creepiest experiences due to tone, plot and music. A good example of how these three aspects work perfectly to create a chilling scene can be found in Innocent Abandoned section. This moment contains one of the most common horror tropes; children. However each child in this sequence is, in some manner, deformed. Fear also derives from; the playful, normal personalities of the children, the unnerving music and finally the concluding action sequence with “Mother”.

3. System Shock 2 – SHODAN reveal

SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network) is the main, antagonist of System Shock 1 and 2. Believed to be destroyed, following the events of the first game, the benevolent artificial intelligence is brought on board Von Braun and given to Dr Janice Polito. The player is guided by Polito’s voice, via radio, throughout the game to a safe haven. After entering the safe room the player finds Polito’s body, discovering SHODAN has manipulated events in order to exact her revenge on the player and all mankind.

The character is also chilling owing to; her chaotic, distorted voice (provided by game designer Terri Brosius) and cyber-punk inspired appearance. System Shock 2 contains; a haunting atmosphere, a steep difficulty curve, a diverse range of possibilities and a brilliant sound design nonetheless the unhinged supercomputer’s return is the game’s memorable, chilling moment.

4. Silent Hill 2 – Pyramid Head

Silent Hill is a series that grows stronger with each entry as each game captures eeriness and suspense through various methods. Therefore a lot of scary moments could be chosen from any title however the most memorable is Pyramid Head, the iconic antagonist of Silent Hill 2. Essentially the character serves as the psychological manifestation of James Sunderland’s psyche. Thus the antagonist is the embodiment of the protagonist’s subconscious desire to be punished, only ceasing as a threat once Sunderland comes to terms with his guilt regarding Maria’s death.

The way in which this conclusion is drawn is also traumatic. Furthermore Pyramid Head’s appearance is large, horrendous and muscular immediately evoking that of dominating figure. Once introduced the player is ill-equipped to combat him and subsequently never is during each encounter.

That concludes this week’s Four of a Kind. As always feel free to leave a comment discussing your favourite scary moment listed above or one that has been omitted from the list.

Honourable mentions: Half-Life 2 (Ravenholm), Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth (Hotel scene), Halo (the Flood introduction), Thief Deadly Shadows (Asylum mission), Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines (The Ocean Hotel) and Fatal Frame 3 (The Ghost behind You)