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"What in fresh hell is that?"
a gamer might proclaim.
For it is neither an animal
Nor a beast they can name.
Yeah, don't worry, I won't be doing that the whole article. I've had way too many lollipops leftover from Halloween and my brain's all silly. Enough about my sugar intake, this is about monsters. Monsters that are humanoid, yet corrupted, or have limbs where they shouldn't be. Some are the resultant aberrations of human eugenics gone haywire, some are the manifestations of a character's guilt made flesh. Keep in mind that this is my personal list, so it might not align with your list of scary creatures. I'm also not being picky about whether the creatures are from horror games or non-horror games. Without further ado, let's countdown my top 10 scariest monsters in gaming.
10. Torso Boss (Tomb Raider 1, Tomb Raider: Anniversary)
I still can't make sense of what exactly the plot was for the first Tomb Raider game. Even after the 2006 remake, it's still sketchy. We're finding some piece of a scion, whatever that is. We take a round trip to Peru, where there's a T-Rex for some unexplained reason. Surely, Lara Croft, an archaeologist, would care more about slaying a motherfucking T-Rex, but it's just collateral damage as far as she's concerned. Reviewers do have a point in saying that Lara's not exactly a heroic character. She comes off greedy, still trying to please the parents who disowned her (as far the Core Design canon goes). That sounds like the backstory for a future dictator, not a hero in the making.
After we secure a piece of the scion from Peru, we go to Greece; though, if you had to guess that's where we were, you'd be very confused. Core Design seemed to have no basic knowledge of which ancient civilizations contributed to what, because there's a segment in which we're securing keys from rooms modeled around Roman mythology—in Greece. There's even a Thor room. Is this in a universe where historical happenings went a bit differently or were the developers drunk? Later on, we go to Egypt and we're fighting mutated mummies and skeleton centaurs. One level later, it's like we're playing Doom. The walls are fleshly and gross, the monsters look like raw butchery meat sewn together into vaguely creature shapes. The final boss is a hideous torso bullet-sponge creature that, anatomically-speaking, shouldn't even be upright, much less slapping Lara about the platform. The way you beat the boss is by shooting it forever until it dies. You might to want to spare your thumb and collect plenty of Uzi clips to take it down faster. Also, apparently these meat-creatures were Natla's plans for an evolution revolution, for some reason. I don't know about you, but if you're planning for survival, you might not want your creatures to have skin. Ugh, never mind, that'd be worse somehow.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary straightened the lore of the games by actually modeling the Greecian key level from Greek mythology, instead of Roman and Norse, though the Coliseum was still out of place. The story is a bit more coherent, though Lara still sucks as an archaeologist since she failed to gather evidence of an Atlantean netherworld in a volcano.
9. Ghosts/Gytrashes (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, PS2)
Bit of a weird entry if you weren't a Potterhead like I was as a child. I was a complete wimp as a child when it came to video games. The PS2 release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a polarized title, as it was made after Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which was definitely the better game. Why did I find this game scary? Just put the name of this game (followed by 'PS2') and listen to the song labeled "Stealth Sneak A". To my 11-year-old naive brain, this was terrifying. God, imagine if I had discovered Silent Hill that young, I'd probably be a serial killer from all that trauma. That's definitely on my list if I ever create a top 20 scariest game music post.
But another section of the game gave me nightmares. I was very impressionable at that age, and it didn't help that I went to a Christian school that preached certain doom if I didn't say "bless you" after someone sneezed. Ghosts, therefore, fit into the evil occult things I was being told existed (though, now I know it's all bupkiss). I can't for the life of me find a photo of them that's within good enough quality, so if you really care that much, you can find several walkthroughs of the ghostie sections.
If you know Harry Potter lore, there are ghosts capable of communing with wizards and witches (the live 'uns, that is.) But these ghosts are the more vindictive garden-variety ghost enemy. The ghosts are always female —say of that what you will—and, from afar, can look quite beautiful in a creepy way. But when they get near enough to attack... GAH. Imagine Medusa on bath salts. Gytrashes are different because they're canine ghosts, and that's really sad. These are worse because they haunt the castle grounds at night, a time in which Harry explores because he's a reckless moron. The gytrashes are even scarier because they are the sizes of horses and have creepy, gnashing mouths. These are actually in spell quest challenges given by teachers as skill checkpoints, which makes me wonder if Wizard Health and Safety are lacking after all.
8. Darkside (Kingdom Hearts)
One of my fondest memories as an annoying shithead kid was me wanting to play my brother's PS2 to play Kingdom Hearts, then get him to kill the Darkside monster 'cause I was afraid of it. It seems like this monster was a bit too symbolic for a Disney/Final Fantasy crossover, but you'd be surprised how many adult things were hidden under innuendos that went over my head a child. Why is this dude with AXL greased hair whining over philosophy and beating things with an oversized key? Drama, of course! But it was charming to take on creatures with a keyblade, silly mouse-imprinted shield or mouse-head wand. The story was strange, as to be expected of a game that involves both Disney characters interacting with Final Fantasy weirdos.
What was particularly frightening about the Darkside bosses was that each is a towering beast of nightmare tentacles with a heart-shaped slab cut out of his middle. The objective was to attack his fists as he put them down, and Heartless creatures would swarm out of the darkness beneath him. It gets even trippier when you remember that this creature was spawned from Sora's shadow, meaning that it's possibly an aspect of him. I never really got into the story of Kingdom Hearts, but I might give it a proper playthrough one day, big heart-hole dudes notwithstanding.
7. Ghoul (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban PS2)
"Another Harry Potter game, what kind of wimp are you?" Shut up. Some of the games were actually pretty terrifying as a kid. Prisoner of Azkaban was arguably the best video game adaptation of a Harry Potter title, and yes, I am counting it above the five that succeeded it. I still have a nostalgic love for them. If I ever get a computer that can manage PS2 emulation without blowing up, I'll definitely play them again.
Just like in the films and books, Neville Longbottom is really unlucky and gets suckered into a lot of pranks. He's trapped in a room with a ghoul, so Ron and Harry have to help him out. The ghoul is even hostile, it just kind of screams at you and throws stuff. You can't progress in the level until you cast Lumos on them (light spell—ghouls hate bright lights) and trap them in a gated room. Again, I can't get a definitive picture of the ghoul, just think Golum with white, glowing eyes like a Whitewalker. Spooky.
6. Bloater (The Last of Us)
I debated putting the Clicker or Bloater for number six, but I went with Bloater because of one specific encounter. While going through a hotel elevator shaft, the shaft rope holding the elevator carriage breaks, separating Joel and Ellie. Joel now has to find a way up from the dark, dank basement. Before he can, he needs to turn on a generator. Turning it on attracts some Runners to kill. Afterward, you think you're in the clear, but nope! Surprise Bloater! You killed a Bloater earlier with the help of Bill, but now it's down to you to kill it. The death scene of getting eaten by a Bloater is truly gruesome, as it seems to pull apart Joel's face.
What's even more horrifying is that the Bloater is the fourth and final evolution of the fungi affecting the population at large. Every one of the Infected has the potential of becoming a Bloater, and this makes the ending of the game much more harrowing in hindsight.
5. Reborn Laura (The Evil Within)
I wasn't too sold on The Evil Within. Okay, you want to know the truth? I couldn't get past the first part. I hate Outlast-type games, and it wasn't even like that for the rest of the story. So that was my impression of The Evil Within: other games, cut out pieces, stitched together into one cliche quilt. But I could see potential in watching Let's Plays of the game, even if its characterization was next to nil. What intrigued me was the monster design because it harkens back to Silent Hill. Each monster is a representation of the antagonist's past traumas, much like Silent Hill 4 was. Reborn Laura is a corrupted representation of Ruvik's sister who died in a fire, traumatizing him. He turned into a serial killer and created the STEM system, or the Hive Mind in which his victims and manifestations reign free.
Sebastian has to fight Reborn Laura within a confined space. The only way she can be killed is being burned (ironically, since that's how she died). She emerges from the void with a hair-raising scream and starts chasing you around. It doesn't help that she crawls about like a spider, shrieking like a banshee. Nightmares, that one. Pure nightmares.
4. Molded (Resident Evil 7: Biohazard)
Sometimes, games are so scary that I don't play them myself. I'd rather watch someone else play them, which is why Let's Plays exist. I did play the demo, which didn't impress initially, but the actual game was a pleasant, and also terrifying, surprise. You know unremarkable I (and many other gamers) found Resident Evil 6? I had forgotten I'd finished it, or at least one campaign of it. It's difficulty curve was bullshit and the bosses were little more than health-item drains, but this was a refreshing experience for Resident Evil. I wouldn't even be upset if they completely revamped from this point on.
I don't really like reboots of things all that much. I wasn't too fond of the Tomb Raider reboot, for example. It felt like Lara Croft was being attuned to a radical feminist agenda rather than given a believable characterization. No one goes through that amount of trauma with a pair of rose-colored glasses. That's why RE7 is more realistic, because the characters don't bullshit you with false hope. Ethan is scared, and rightly so, because mold creatures are literally spawning from the walls. This game also loves to put enemies just enough around the corner out of sight so they scare the living shit out of you. The Molded look like they're smiling, even though they don't have definitive faces. Also, they crawl on all fours in some areas of the mansion, just a switch up from the usual bipedal Molded, so you're never getting used to them. When you start expecting the creatures, the game starts to become predictable.
3. Nurses (Silent Hill 3)
Hospitals in the real world are already pretty creepy—stark white halls, the smell of disinfectant and piss lingering in the hallways. Now make them grungy and add some shambling zombie nurses, and it's truly like a hospital from real life! I kid. Heather doesn't like hospitals or nurses, which probably has to do with her past traumas when she was Alessa from the first game. You can make pretty quick work of them with the Katana, just be weary of the ones with guns.
The nurses are frightening not only for their slow, unnatural movements; the ambient sound that plays when they appear is creepy as hell, and their fast, labored breathing makes me do my own labored breathing of abject terror. The complete SH3 soundtrack includes the sounds of each monster, and the clip with the nurses' breathing is named "On Corticosteroids." Fitting. It's even worse traversing through the hospital halls, because they can spawn in front and behind you out of nowhere. In one hallway, you are able to investigate some padded cells. Before this, you read a memo about how one of the nurses was punished severely by the director, "Christi would have been better off if she was fired!" When you investigate the middle padded room, surprise! It's a nurse! Is it Christi? Was the doctor responsible for her turning into a nurse? We never find out. Part of the terror Silent Hill inflicts is that things you see in game are left up to the player's interpretation of what actually happened.
2. Mannequins (Silent Hill 2)
Because it wouldn't be a scary monster list without one from Silent Hill 2. Yeah, Pyramid Head is certainly a scary mofo, but he's more of a boss character that appears in certain sequences. Mannequins, however, are the beasts that never fail to make me jump every damn time I play this game. Unlike most creatures of the game, Mannequins don't make your radio blare static, so they sneak up on you. An infamous example is in the Brookhaven Hospital level. You get done taking care of all the nurses on the floor and you reach the end of the hall, so you're like, "Phew, I can breathe now." Nope! Sudden Mannequin ambush! You turn a corner, and this little four-legged shit is completely still until you shine the flashlight on it. You notice them by the way they seem to glisten in the dark, like its made of plastic.
Mannequins are symbolic of James' repressed sexuality, how he wasn't able to make love with his wife during her debilitating illness. The two pairs of legs instead of any torso or defining facial features reveals that he does admire the female form, but he wishes to remain true to his wife. That's why Maria is such a torment to him. She's everything Mary was not, and it both repulses and attracts James at the same time. The two pairs of legs could also represent both Maria and Mary—one pair of limbs holding the weight of the other. There's not one definitive description of their meaning because it's really up to the player to decide the reason for James' manifestations.
1. Regenerator (Resident Evil 4)
Leon S. Kennedy's been separated from Ashley again. We now have to go rescue the little jug-eared chimp. The President better be giving him a vacation home on a private zombie-free island after this. Leon finds a lab where some abominable research has been going on. Through the plexiglass, he sees...a thing. It's a gray thing. It doesn't look like a friendly gray thing, not at all. He goes through a door into an operation room where one of the gray things has been opened up in a gruesome display. He finds a keycard, picks it up, and immediately hears something smash. Then there's... breathing, very inhuman breathing. This isn't your average zombie, these are fast and able to extend their limbs. Their mouths are full of deadly sharp teeth and their red eyes seem to shake within their sockets. The breathing... the breathing...
These definitely aren't your garden-variety zombies. At best, what you can do to get past them is throw a grenade. You need a special attachment on your rifle in order to kill regenerators because they have three to four Las Plagas parasites within them, making them able to regenerate limbs, even their head. What you have to do is rewrite your keycard to access another room within the lab with a bunch of hideous creature prototypes hanging from hooks. Once you've secured the infrared scope, you'll be locked in the room. The regenerator music is so fucking creepy, it could give Silent Hill's soundtrack a run for its money, and I don't say that lightly. When the regenerator drops down, it's time to kill one of these creeps. Attach the scope and aim for the Plagas. Once they're all taken out, the regenerator will explode and give you a pile of money. Thanks?
But it's not over. Of course, it's not over. In fact, it gets worse. Once you get to the part where you're moving Dumpsters, an Iron Maiden is spawned. These are regenerators with SPIKES coming out of them! Oh joy! Just what they needed, an upgrade! Same method to kill them, shoot the Plagas. Just be careful not to get too near because those arms will spring out, grab Leon, and impale him on its spikes.
These were so unexpectantly frightening because you're used to just mowing down Ganados by this point in the game. Way to keep it fresh, game devs. Thanks for the nightmares and for giving them to me.
Well, that wraps up this list. Have a suggestion for a gaming list you'd like to see? Hit me up on Twitter @LadyChelseaofVA. Thanks for reading.