Flesh-hungry zombies, ghostly entities, and creatures from worlds beyond our limits have haunted the gaming industry since the release of the original survival horror title, Haunted House (Atari, 1982). While these digital creations should logically have no impact on our frame of mind, somehow they continuously creep their way and embed themselves into our subconscious, simply waiting for us to turn out the lights before attacking our biggest fears. Over time, developers have learned what really gets under the skin of gamers and, in only the sickest of fashions, have utilized this knowledge to bring to life creations whose soul purpose is to crack our fragile minds. Amongst the lot of these digital monsters, there are those with traits and characteristics that have warranted them a spot on this list of gaming’s Top Five Nightmare-Inducing Foes.
At the bottom of this quintet is an enemy known only to Xbox 360 console owners. Creeping in the shadows of the fictional town of Bright Falls, Washington, the Taken are a dark presence that offer both a psychological and physical threat to gamers in Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake. As the writer makes his way through the paradisal town, he faces off against the possessed patrons who are no more than mere shadows of their former selves. Powered by a dark entity, the Taken are vulnerable to physical attacks and firearms after exposure to light. Of course, as the bulk of the game takes place at nightfall, Alan must use limited resources such as a flashlight, flares, and scattered tools such as broken down spotlights to overcome his otherwise invincible enemy. What makes the Taken such a threat is not just their initial impervious nature to physical attacks but also their ability to teleport within the darkness to flank and ambush the unsuspecting Wake. With a slew of taunts, threats, and unpleasantries, the Taken watch the writer and wait for the opportune moment to strike. While Alan finds himself running from these inhuman foes, he can still overcome them somewhat easily with a very natural and controllable element, warranting their spot beneath the next cringe worthy addition to the gaming industry.
In 1996, when Resident Evil first graced the Playstation console it was assumed that zombies would wind up being the most terrifying digital humanoid creature. With the release of Silent Hill in 1999, that idea quickly dematerialized with the introduction of the town’s manifestation of Pyramid Head. Becoming an iconic figure in the survival horror genre, Pyramid Head is a massive brute with a thirst for blood and sexual degradation,. Throughout the series, Pyramid Head acts as the games executioner, chasing around both the game’s protagonist and the creatures of Silent Hill. Komani’s creation earns his scare factor by both his inhuman size and assumed invincibility. Equipped with either a giant knife, spear, or muscular bare hands, Pyramid Head is a persistent and dangerously freakish creation of the town’s unstable and unsteady subconscious, earning him the number four spot in gamers’ dreams across the world.
One of the most heart pounding scenes in gaming history comes from an interpretation of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. Investigating the mysteries behind the town of Innsmouth, MA, Detective Jack Walters finds himself in the company of a peculiar group of individuals who act all but pleased with the detective’s inquiries about the disappearance of an individual. After a day of questioning, the tired private detective takes residence in a local hotel. It is here where Walters unsuspectingly uncovers the truth behind the Innsmouth residents – they are hiding something worth murdering over. They may not be monsters in the most accurate sense of the term, but the people of Innsmouth are as creepy as any inhuman creation. Breaking down doors and makeshift blockades as they chase Walters through the broken down hotel, these residents show what can happen when you don’t follow that gut feeling that’s telling you “something just isn’t right about them” – and through Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth that feeling is quite nagging. After your encounter with the ill-mannered Bay Stater’s, chances are you won’t look at residents of any sleepy town the same way again.
It’s no secret that fans of horror love a good ghost story, and chances are you can always count on the Japanese to produce. Revolving around the supposed true story ofthe massacre at Japan’s Himuro Mansion, Fatal Frame is one of the few successful video games that translate the horror behind ethereal fiends effectively. Pitting the game’s protagonist with nothing more than a mystical camera – the antiquated Camera Obscura – that has the ability to capture ghosts, Fatal Frame uses the shock aspect behind a manifesting spirit to keep gamers on edge. The ghosts encountered throughout the entire Fatal Frame series take on numerous forms, but none is more unsettling than the Broken Neck ghost. Floating towards the gamer in a twisted display, the Broken Neck ghost is the vision of a tortured soul who was bound to the mansion after her suicide. In true J-Horror fashion, this ghost is a simple yet horrific apparition whose scare factor is accentuated by her ability to come and go as she pleases. Everything you could want out of an encounter with a malicious spirit is here within the haunted halls of the Himuro Mansion.
New to the gaming industry in 2008, this race of parasitic extraterrestrial beings has haunted xenophobes across the world. Spurred by the disturbance of a mysterious artifact, these creatures are a ruthless swarm with nothing but a thirst for blood and proliferation of their species. With the ability to reanimate fallen people and turn them into a member of their near endless army, the Necromorph is the ultimate alien being. When faced against any variety of Necromorph (and, unfortunately, there are numerous different types), the only way to defeat them is to systematically sever their limbs – and even that doesn’t guarantee a quick defeat. Where most enemies are susceptible to the coveted head shot, these creatures, like the common roach, are just as dangerous without anything above their shoulders. Scyth-like appendages, corrosive vomit, and explosive sacks are just a few of the dangers a Necromorph poses. Outside of being simply dangerous and aggressive, these inhuman organisms are about as ugly and disturbing as they come. With swarming child-like and explosive baby-like varieties, it is inevitable that these otherworldly life forms will hold a space in our dreams for quite some time.