Horror games are the best. The tense, creepy atmosphere that builds over hours of play before reaching its pinnacle is a incredible feeling. I love being scared… but only when I am prepared for it.
It’s not only horror games that have managed to scare us, though. Oh no. Skulking in the shadows, unabashedly disguised as regular non-scary, non-horror games, are a number of titles waiting to lure us into a false sense of security, before freaking us out. There is nothing worse than jumping right out of your skin when you least expect it. Here are ten times games have done that to us.
1. Theme Hospital‘s opening scene
Theme Hospital has got to be one of the best things that Bullfrog Productions created, and that’s saying something considering their incredible back catalogue. A hospital building sim with an amazing sense of humour that played beautifully, Theme Hospital has even aged pretty well due to the weird art direction that involved bloated heads and invisible men with walking canes.
However. Before you could get stuck into the charm of this amazing title you had to survive through the opening sequence — a funny little skit about a patient who is rushed in to be saved by a doctor. The doctor knocks nurses away in a slapstick manner before preparing his chainsaw for surgery. All very harmless and not scary. Until we discover that said patient’s bank balance is low. Then he is unceremoniously dumped into a pit. Cut to a terrified face, screaming as it fades to black.
It makes the already dark humour of Theme Hospital that much darker, and the younger me was thoroughly freaked out.
2. The death of the Amigos in Heart of Darkness
For a game called Heart of Darkness you’d expect to be scared at least somewhat. But the game turns out to be a platform puzzling romp through an alien planet with a quest that is simply to save your dog, Whisky. You do fight dark creatures, but all in all, they act in a silly manner rather than a scary one.
However, there are just too many times in this game where the creepy and dark overtone manages to override the slapstick humour. For one, the death animations are as brutal as they are funny; they make Crash Bandicoot’s death animations seem like a CBeebies animation. The thing that truly freaked me out, though, is when you see the friendly orange “amigos” attacked by the dark creatures, and one is horrifyingly turned into one. This is the only game that made me hide behind the sofa when my cousins played it — and they played Resident Evil.