While gaming’s biggest scares can be found in established horror franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, there are plenty of non-horror games with moments that will send chills down players’ spines. Sometimes these games have some horror undertones to begin with, and other times they are games that are actually made with children in mind.
Scary moments in non-horror games can sometimes be even scarier than horror games themselves, as they are often unexpected or stand at odds with the tone of the rest of the game. As a result, these scary moments tend to linger with the player long after the game is over, even if the rest of the experience wasn’t scary.
For those looking for the 10 scariest moments in non-horror games, we’ve compiled the 10 best examples below.
There’s a lot of weird stuff in Fallout 3‘s Capital Wasteland, but perhaps the most disturbing place players can come across is the small town of Andale. Andale’s residents seem like normal citizens living in post-apocalyptic Washington, but after speaking with Old Man Harris, it’s clear the town is harboring a dark secret.
Further exploration of Andale reveals that the “strange meat” its townspeople eat is actually human flesh, and that the town is run by inbred cannibals. Upon making this startling discovery, players are then attacked by the people of Andale, unless they have the Cannibal perk, in which case they are accepted by the twisted community as one of their own.
Super Mario 64 is a game full of bright colors and family-friendly platforming action, which makes the inclusion of the Big Boo’s Haunt level rather jarring. Set in a haunted mansion, the level creates a creepy atmosphere with its dark, depressing visuals and the unsettling cackling of ghosts from off-screen.
The scariest part of Big Boo’s Haunt is when players approach the seemingly normal piano on the first floor, only for it to spring to life and try eat Mario with its sharp fangs, resulting in one of the only jump scares in Super Mario series history. Now that a fan game lets fans play Super Mario 64 in co-op, though, perhaps Big Boo’s Haunt won’t seem quite as scary.
World of Warcraft is massive and full of secrets and easter eggs for fans to discover, some of which are rather creepy. One of the creepiest easter eggs in the entire game is the Children of Goldshire, who are creepy kids that stand in a pentagram formation. At 7:40 in the morning, players can find the children in the second floor of their house, where they are subjected to strange, otherworldly sounds, including threats from the evil entity C’Thun.
Whereas most of Pokemon Red and Blue is family-friendly as can be, there is one section of the game that may have given young fans nightmares back in the 90s. Lavender Town is the strangest city in all of the Kanto region, home to the Pokemon Tower, itself a massive structure dedicated to dead Pokemon. While exploring the Pokemon Tower, players are attacked by ghosts that can’t be seen without special technology, and also have to deal with some unsettling background music that effectively sets Lavender Town’s eerie tone.
Scarecrow’s fear toxin forces his victims to hallucinate their greatest fears, and that’s exactly what happens to Batman in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Scarecrow’s toxin tricks Batman into thinking he is trapped in a forever-looping morgue where he is subjected to a slew of horrific images, including his dead parents rising from inside body bags to taunt him.
Max Payne may be a high-octane action game, complete with Matrix-style slow-mo shootouts, but the game is about as dark as a video game can get. One particular level in the original Max Payne is outright scary, as Max has a drug-induced nightmare and is forced to relive the horrific moments when his wife and newborn baby were murdered by crazed drug addicts. This twisted dream sequence includes a perilous walk on a tightrope made of blood as Max hears the pleading screams of his dead wife and baby echoing in the distance.
Whereas most of Half-Life 2 is a straightforward sci-fi adventure, the city of Ravenholm is where the game ventures into horror territory and provides the franchise’s scariest moments. Gordan Freeman reaches Ravenholm shortly after acquiring the Gravity Gun, which comes in handy when fighting off the headcrabs and zombies that are swarming the place.
Stealth game Thief: The Dark Project takes a turn for the weird in the game’s seventh mission, The Haunted Cathedral. In this mission, Garrett visits an area called the Sealed Section, which has been cut off from the rest of the city due to a violent zombie outbreak. Sure enough, players encounter zombies and other supernatural entities when making their way through this particularly spooky mission, which helps it stand out as one of the most memorable and scariest in the entire game.
The Legend of Zelda franchise is full of scary stuff, but one of the scariest moments out of all the Zelda games is visiting Ocarina of Time‘s Shadow Temple. The Shadow Temple, accessible from a haunted graveyard, is full of disturbing zombie-like creatures like ReDeads and a slew of deadly traps. There’s also evidence that the Shadow Temple was once used as as a prison of some sort, where the prisoners were subjected to torture.
To top it all off, the mini-boss is a strange, blob-like creature with a protruding jaw and blood-stained pale skin called Dead Hand. So yeah, thanks for the nightmare fuel, Nintendo.
After traveling through the Bloodstone Demon Door, Fable 2 players are transported to a peaceful, snowy path in the woods. If they follow the path, which looks like something from a Christmas painting, they eventually come to a cozy lodge nestled deep among the trees. Upon entering the lodge, things take a turn for the weird. A piercing music note signals the lodge turning into a dilapidated version of itself, complete with a skeleton lying on the kitchen table.
Moving forward, non-horror games will continue to slip in scary moments here and there to keep unsuspecting players on their toes. However, these moments will have to be especially clever and inventive if they want to best the scariest non-horror game moments gaming has seen so far.
Which scary moment in a non-horror game stuck with you the most? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.