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As a kid, I remember coming home from school and bolting to a tiny little television on which my Playstation 1 was hooked up to. I’d spend hours upon hours of time playing some of my favorite games, and it’s something I never really outgrew. Today, about 15 years later, I still enjoy playing video games. I’ve had the privilege to own a handful of different consoles, which also means that I’ve came across some seriously dark video games.
Some games were straight up terrifying, while others had some eerie animations and themes hiding in the background. Here’s a few of the games that still haunt me to this day.
1. 'Heart of Darkness'
This was a rather bizarre game for me at the time. The graphics wasn’t something I was used to seeing on a PlayStation 1, with 2D animated characters moving around on the screen against (what appeared like) hand-painted backgrounds. The player takes control of Andy, an ordinary kid who enjoys spending his time out of school with his dog, Whiskey. One day, while at the park, the two pals witness a once-in-a-lifetime event: an eclipse. While most people had their eyes on the disappearing sun, Whiskey got kidnapped by some dark figures reaching out from the sky. Andy runs home as fast as he can to his treehouse. He straps on some home-made weapons and ventures into another world with a spaceship he built out of stuff he found around the house.
Remember, it’s a video game. Nothing is supposed to make sense.
The thing that terrified me about this game, is the ways you could get yourself killed. It was cartoonish, in a way, but it was still horrifying. Some of the more memorable ways you could die was getting your neck snapped by a shadow figure. That crunching noise… Or how about getting your spine snapped in two, a boulder instantly crushing you to death or even a snake-like creature dragging you underwater?
DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A GAME THAT WAS RATED 'E' FOR EVERYONE?
The game had an option of skipping to a certain level, since the difficulty was somewhat frustrating at times. On the very last level, Andy ends up in a pitch-black room. No matter what you did, no matter where you moved, you always end up dying. I’ve checked the walkthrough of the game, and apparently, Andy has to do a certain pattern of walking and jumping inside this room to escape alive. After that, you’d get the last cut scene in which Andy’s mom would yell at him to get out of his treehouse and come inside for dinner.
I’ve never completed the game 100%, to be honest. The last level freaked me out too much because I was convinced that Andy was condemned to die in that mysterious room.
2. 'Chicken Run' (PS1)
I know what you’re thinking. How can a game based off of a DreamWorks animated movie be scary? Well, if you’ve watched the movie, you’d be familiar with the dark themes. Basically, it’s about a group of chickens yearning for freedom in their prison-like farm. If a chicken stopped producing eggs, they’d end up being dinner. When one of the farm owners decide that selling chicken eggs is not enough and buys a machine to start making chicken pies, the chickens band together to devise a way to escape the farm before ending up being someone’s meal.
The game has roughly the same storyline. You’d play as Ginger (and in some instances other characters) and run around on the farm, solving puzzles to gather the necessary things to attempt an escape plan. The game had some fun and innovative mini-games, but the one thing that gave me nightmares was the dogs. The dogs were like guards walking around every area of the game’s map, and if you happened to walk into their line of sight, they’d run towards you and catch you. The game over screen that appeared was, for 5-year-old me, absolutely terrifying. The damning music, the dog’s animation staring you down angrily… It was always too much for me. I’d switch off the console right after that and take a break from playing games.
Obviously, as I got older (and I mean about four years older), I revisited the game because it was one of the few that I never actually finished on the PlayStation 1. Turns out, the game was a buttload of fun.
3. 'Project Zero 3: The Tormented'
I borrowed this game from one of my sister’s friends. I can’t remember much of it, but it was one of the scariest games I’ve ever played in my life. It was so scary, I had to play it with my sister (who’s 6 years older than me). Your character was a Japanese woman, and if I remember correctly, she and her boyfriend were in a car accident and he passed away. She struggled to cope with her loss, and retreated into her apartment. Every night when she slept, she’d dream of wandering through an ancient Japanese mansion, which was haunted. You can see where this is going…
The game had some creepy camera angles, and jump scares were something that happened often. One moment you’d be walking up the stairs, the next you’d notice someone looking at you from underneath the steps. Ghosts would often attack you, and your only line of defence was to either run away dramatically or take a picture of them using a special camera called the Camera Obscura. Since the ghosts were constantly bobbing and weaving, if you weren’t fast enough they’d end up colliding with you face-to-face. In one part of the game, the ghost of a butcher attacked us unexpectedly, and me and my sister both ended up running out of the room. Dramatic? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.
4. 'Dino Crisis' (PS1)
Okay, my copy of the game didn’t have any audio for some reason, but I could make out what the story was about more or less. The player took on the role of a red-headed woman part of some kind of forensic team investigating a string of deadly incidents at a research facility. And what were the scientists researching at the facility? You guessed it. Dinosaurs. Somehow, the scientists were able to bring dinosaurs back to life. Cue dead bodies, blood-smeared hallways, and some rather confusing puzzles.
I was too much of an idiot to figure out what to do exactly, but when I watched while my cousin took a swing, things quickly went sideways. Apparently, there were quite a few gruesome ways to die, from getting munched up by a T-Rex to falling to your death. Every time you were in danger of dying, the screen would flash with the words: DANGER. That’s comforting to see when you realize you didn’t save your game in a while. The graphics were forgiving in the sense that you didn’t see much gore, but this was most likely due to the fact that the graphics was literally a few nicely dressed polygons. Still, for what was at the time cutting-edge graphics, it was quite a horrible sight to see unfold.
5. 'Serious Sam: The First Encounter'
This game wasn’t nearly as scary as the others on this list. In fact, it was one of my favorite games to play on our old computer. It. Was. Badass! You take on the role of Serious Sam, a man sent from the future to Ancient Egypt to stop a bad guy called “Mental” from causing havoc. As much sense as that makes, the game was a pioneer in the FPS genre at the time. With a wide variety of weapons at your disposal, you had to battle wave after wave of disturbingly nightmerish monsters out to kill you.
I remember the first time I played this game. At first, I was incredibly confused. What kind of sick mind would come up with these kinds of monsters? One of the more memorable moments I experienced was when I was running through the dessert on my way to the next tomb. A headless, well toned guy was running towards me, screaming and with bombs in both of his hands. I shot him down, and the bombs in his hands made him explode after death, no problem. But did Sam, the character I was playing as, stop there? No. “AAAAAAAAH YOURSELF!” he screamed mockingly, only to draw more attention to himself and cause about 50 kamikazies to run towards me. Smooth. As you can see, the game does have some humour, but just to a certain degree.
The only thing that I found disturbing sometimes was, of course, the ways you could die. You could drown, get ripped to gory pieces, or even fall into a pit of spikes. Every time you died, you got to see your body (or what’s left of it), either surrounded by enemies or drenched in blood. Nevertheless, the game was still a heap of fun to play, and it always made you feel like a badass when playing it.