In the northern hemisphere, as the leaves begin to change color and drop from their secure branches, and the temperature plummets from the heat of summer to a ghastly chill, and the bright days give way to longer, darker, colder nights, you know spooky season is upon us.
For many, this is the best part of the year: time to break out the hoodies, pick apples at their ripest point, indulge in the deliciousness that is pumpkin spice, and unwind in the evenings with a terrifying movie, book, or video game.
Indeed, it feels like there’s no better time than now to be a fan of horror. Many of the highest grossing films of the year have been horror focused, such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Nope, The Black Phone, Halloween Ends, Smile, and plenty more. Video games of course have been full of scary goodness this year as well, with titles such as The Mortuary Assistant, Scorn, Night at the Gates of Hell, Ghostwire: Tokyo, The Quarry, and Beacon Pines being among the most talked about games of 2022. Of course we can’t forget plenty of upcoming thrillers either, like the remakes for Resident Evil 4, Dead Space, and Silent Hill 2, along with many, MANY others.
Fear isn’t only experienced with survival horror titles though, and sometimes the most inauspicious game can deliver quite the jolt by introducing something so out of place it warps the mind; all you need to do is tune in to your TV at 3:33am in Animal Crossing to see exactly what I mean.
We here at Boss Rush love to be scared, so we’ve decided to compile a few frightening memories for your reading pleasure in honor of this horror season. And who knows, maybe make the hair on the back of your neck stand up in the process.
Siren: Blood Curse
When I received a PlayStation 3 for my birthday in August of 2008, I had very few games to play, so I hit up the PlayStation store to look for demos. This is where I came across a series that I have yet to play again.
While in a well-lit basement of a house I rented in college, I loaded up the Siren: Blood Curse demo not knowing what to expect. When it comes to horror games, I usually can complete them if I have some sort of a weapon to defend myself from monsters, versus trying to escape or hide from those hunting me. As I started playing, I cautiously walked around a dark and dreary hillside with old, wooden buildings. Hearing the chilling sounds, and squinting trying to see in the darkly lit landscape, I made my way up a lonely hill. As I began to explore, I was already feeling anxious before I even encountered my first real enemy. I tried to remain calm, and focused on telling myself it would be okay, largely to no avail. This is when I had my most frightful experience during a gaming session.
Unknown to me, my roommate had thought that no one was in the basement because I had headphones on and was being super quiet. Calling down the stairs, he received no answer from me. With that, he turned the lights off, and at that very same moment I turned my character around to be met with a grotesque villager wielding a pitchfork that came at me with a snarl and the appetite of a zombie. I screamed and threw off my headphones. With my heart rate elevated as if from running a full marathon, I paced back-and-forth in the darkness, wondering why on earth the lights went out. My roommate too was frightened after hearing a scream from the pitch black basement after cutting power to the lights. After calming down and sharing a few good laughs, it was on to a different game that was not horror related.
I have not played this game or anything in the series since.
A good game can really immerse you into its world and make you feel emotions related to the environment. A game that does that for me is Metroid Prime. This game is not a horror game, per se, but it does have many horror elements. I bring up the immersion because that’s what makes this game so creepy and unnerving.
You don’t ever talk to anyone on Tallon IV, but you do come across a lot of death and decay throughout the planet. This environment gives off that eerie vibe without any jump scares or traditional horror elements. Every time I played this game, I would get creeped out.
The eeriest locations for me were the Phazon Mines and Glacier One in the Phendrana Drifts. The music drops to a creepy tune and you can just feel the dread as you wander through these areas. Another creepy element is when you have to track down the Chozo ghosts. The lights dim and you have to use your x-ray visor to fight them. All in all, Metroid Prime does a fantastic job at using immersion to capture that creepy element without being an outright horror game.
I’m easily frightened and have generally stayed away from both horror films and video games. Of course, thanks to some wonderful podcasting colleagues, I’ve decided to put my big girl pants on a try a couple. One of those experiences involved Bloober Team’s The Medium. I first caught wind of this game in a Boss Rush Bucket List collaboration of top 50 video games to play before you die. The split world and abandoned hotel environment–and the fact that it was supposed to be more of a psychological horror title–intrigued me, so I fired it up on GamePass.
A chill crept up my spine when I first entered the Niwa resort. As I uncovered the horrors that occurred there, the more unsettled I felt. The first real shock to my system was when I entered the pool area, soaked in blood. Artifacts telling of young, innocent victims were strung about. However, that feeling was nothing when I first encountered the Maw. This constantly “hungry” and evil spirit had occupied humans in order to commit murder. It is tall and thin with pointed features. There were several chase scenes that haunted my dreams for weeks…and the origin to its existence will stay with me forever.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I may be alone in what I find “spooky” in video games, but allow me to regale you with a moment that left me almost unable to finish The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. I was about nine or ten years old when I first played this iconic Zelda title. After I pulled the Master Sword from its pedestal in the Temple of Time and listened to Rauru detail the next plans for my quest, I eagerly left the holy domain, ready to fight Ganondorf and save Hyrule.
The instant I set foot outside the temple, however, my heart fell. Gone were the bright blue skies and green leaves on the surrounding trees. In the background was Death Mountain with a ring of fire encircling its top. I could hear an unsettling wind blowing in the background and unseen crows cawing. What in the world had happened in 7 years?
When I walked into Hyrule Castle Town Market, I heard moaning and saw zombie-like creatures (I learned they are known as “ReDeads”) standing where residents once gathered. They were strategically placed in such a way that I kept running into them, causing Link to be injured or frozen in time due to their blood-curdling screams. I immediately paused and saved the game, and I turned off the game console. I did eventually resume the game and beat it, but I now smile to myself when I think of the impending Bottom of the Well and Shadow Temple. That market was merely a preview of the upcoming frights!
I love to play horror games, though I typically enjoy ones that allow me a shotgun to cope with the fear as my character progresses. The problem is that Alien: Isolation doesn’t provide much in the way of weapons, as players guide Amanda Ripley deeper into Sevastopol Station; and when players finally do get a pistol and shotgun, they are useless against the perfect killing machine that is the Xenomorph.
Even so, I remained committed to exploring and progressing through the game, being a big fan of the Alien franchise. But I must confess something: I was too scared to complete this game. It actually took me two years before I could pick it up again; I’m happy to say I finally completed the game on the Nintendo Switch.
When I initially played the game on Xbox, I was doing just fine until I got to the San Cristobal Medical Facility. Ripley is directed to explore the locked down psych ward where she must locate Dr. Morley’s keycard. The atmosphere itself is chilling, with evidence of sadistic experiments and dark endings splattered all over the facility. But nothing tops the terror of the first moment the Xenomorph drops from the air shaft vent and begins stalking you through the labyrinth of a facility. The powerful AI behind the creature is terrifying, as it rips open lockers and flashes beneath tables in a nightmare game of cat and mouse. The ability of the Xbox Kinect to listen for noise in your TV room and notify the Xenomorph of your presence adds to the terror.
Ultimately, I couldn’t handle the tension and emptied my stomach in the next room. Just awesome. When I finally completed the game two years later on Switch, I felt like I’d truly survived the perfect organism.
Mad Monster Mansion from Banjo-Kazooie. Yeah, it’s the game’s “scary” level based around a haunted house, but the house isn’t what freaked me out; it was the garden maze just next to it. The maze is required to get through in order to get all of the level’s collectibles, but I could never go near it as a kid.
The maze is simple, but has these ghosts that will chase you, and they can only be defeated in a particular way the game doesn’t outright tell you. On top of that, these ghosts move through the walls. You’re zigzagging through, trying to work your way to a Jinjo (little colorful guys you need to collect), and these ghosts are just waltzing right up to you to do some damage. On top of that, it’s a maze, so getting lost typically meant you’d get hurt more and more. Add on some spooky music and the ghost’s freaky laugh and you have one scared 7 year-old.
Horror has always been something that has appealed to me. As a child, movies like Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, and Gremlins were among my absolute favorites . . . even when I was probably too young to watch them to begin with. Video games with scary themes were also appealing; Castlevania, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and plenty others were often what I chose to rent from the video store for the weekend. The horror classic Resident Evil delivered my first legitimate gaming scares–and rightly so, what with those damn dogs bursting through every window–but I was soon able to muster through the zombie filled Spencer Mansion and escape with my wits intact.
The same could not be said about my first excursion into the small, misty town of Silent Hill.
Konami’s Silent Hill cast players as protagonist Harry Mason as he attempts to find his daughter Cheryl after having a car accident on the outskirts of the eponymous sleepy American town. Within minutes of booting up the game, gamers will chase Cheryl through the vacant streets of the town, following her down a deserted alleyway. Here, players are first greeted by the sight of a mauled dog, its intestines strewn across the alley like silly string at a kid’s birthday party. If they are able to press on past this gruesome sight, players will wander into a maddening world of darkness and steel, of stinging rain falling from the black abyss above, and skinned corpses wrapped in barbed wire and pinned to chain-link fences that encase the area. Before you have any hope of finding you bearings, Harry is surrounded by a mob of grey skinned “children” wielding knives. With no weapons, and no real escape, players will inevitably be carved up by these miniature monsters, only to awaken within a nearby dinner with not a scratch on them. What. The. Hell.
Needless to say, the opening moments of Silent Hill are among the most frightening in gaming history, and it only ramps up from there. Throughout the game you will be chased through the dark streets by laughing ape-like creatures, wander through an abandoned hospital fighting off crazed nurses, and even watch as one of the only friendly faces you encounter literally falls apart into a bloody heap. It’s funny to me now to think that in a game that contains all of this, what made me shut it off and drop it for a good month is when an innocent little kitty cat jumps out of a locker while searching the deserted school. “That game is so stupid,” I remember telling my mom in a childish attempt to mask the overwhelming fear the whole experience gave to me.
I’d return to Silent Hill some weeks later (and countless times over the years), and the franchise would go on to become one of my absolute favorites in the gaming world. I like to think that if it didn’t go to such horrifying extremes in those opening moments, the series never would have made such an impact on me as it has.
That, and also the stupid jump scare with that damn cat.
Share Your Spooky Memories with Us
Certainly you have some chilling video game memories of your own. Perhaps it’s from an established horror franchise like Resident Evil, Dead Space, or Alone in the Dark; or maybe it comes from being completely startled by a monstrous piano in a game starring a cartoon plumber. Either way, we want to hear the stories of when video games sent shivers down your spine. Tell us a scary tale in the comments section below, as well as on our social media pages. We’ll be waiting.
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The Boss Rush Podcast is the flagship podcast of Boss Rush Media and The Boss Rush Network. Each week, Corey, LeRon, Stephanie, Edward, and their friends from around the internet come together to talk their week in games, entertainment, and more while also bringing topics for conversation, answer listener and community questions, and cover major news and events happening in the video game industry. Watch The Boss Rush Podcast live on Wednesday Nights on Twitch at 8:30PM ET / 5:30PM PT or on Friday mornings at 7AM ET on YouTube and podcast services everywhere. Thanks for listening! You can also get this episode one week early on Patreon.
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