5 of the creepiest things you can experience in non-horror games
Non-horror game scares are terrible, because you’re never expecting them.
I recently wrote a post talking about the scariest games to play this Halloween, which you can read here. But all those games had something in common – a consistent, pervasive sense of dread. That unique tone that keeps you terrified for as long as you play them.
Sometimes the tension and constant fear are just a little too much to handle, and that’s entirely understandable. If you want to enjoy the spirit of the spooky season, but not have to deal with relentless panic, then this article is for you.
From weird levels to one-off jump scares that might cause a code brown, I’m going show you some of the creepiest things to see in otherwise non-horror games.
We Don’t Go To Ravenholm – Half-Life 2 (PC, Xbox, Linux, Mac)
We all know Half-Life 2 was one of the greatest FPS games ever when it released in 2004 (hot take: It feels dated now, but that’s a debate for a whole other time). The action was great, the sci-fi atmosphere second to none, and the set-pieces were truly ground-breaking. But then we get to Chapter 6 and discover why that level is called “We Don’t Go To Ravenholm.”
From the moment you step into the town, it’s filled with disturbing imagery. Disembodied legs hang from trees as a not-so-warm greeting. Blood-stained walls point your attention to sawn-in-half bodies. The area is littered with zombies, and the music gets under your skin so well. It’s also where you’re introduced to fast zombies and headcrabs, which are awful to deal with when everything around is already raising your blood pressure.
While the rest of the game may be full of sci-fi goodness, heading to Ravenholm and experiencing that stark contrast for the first time is a fantastically creepy time.
Ghost Lady – GTA V (Ps3, PS4, PS5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, PC)
Rockstar is an expert at slipping little mysteries and strange one-off happenings into their games. Red Dead Redemption 2 has UFOs, mutants, and vampires to discover all around the map. GTA V has Bigfoot, the Los Santos Slasher, and the Ghost Lady.
Now admittedly, you have to do a little digging to find the Ghost Lady. Her ghostly sounds and final words can be heard in the campsite at the base of Mount Gordo after 10 pm, but if you head up the cliffs you can actually get a glimpse of her between 11 pm and midnight.
While her petrified open mouth and translucent, Fatal Frame-like appearance are strange enough, if you head over to where she appears, you’ll see the word ‘Jock’ written in blood on the cliff edge. It turns out Ghost Lady is Jolene Cranley-Evans, and she seems to be placing the blame for her death squarely on her husband, John ‘Jock’ Cranley.
Banshees – Mass Effect 3 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
I hated these when Mass Effect 3 came out in 2012. I still hate them now. Their first appearance comes in the middle of an emotional cut-scene, where they let out a pained, ear-piercing scream. They can teleport across the map. Their movements are, slow, awkward, and disturbing. They take a battalion of bullets before they give up the ghost, and even when they do finally die, they give one final farewell shriek before collapsing to the floor. That’s without mentioning their naked, distended form and horrifying faces.
These awful, awful mutated Asari made me want to give up on Mass Effect 3, retire Shep forever, and let the universe handle itself.
Man-Bat – Arkham Knight (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
The Arkham trilogy was fantastic. All three titles in the series had fantastic moments and were an absolute masterclass in how to do a superhero game. Even Arkham Knight was a great game despite its disappointing moments. It gave us the first experience of the Batmobile, new ways to use gadgets, and had plenty of fun bosses (the less said about the titular Arkham Knight himself though, the better).
But what wasn’t fun at all was encountering Man-Bat for the first time. You’d be happily zipping about the map, enjoying the flow as you glide and dive-bomb around Miagani Island before scaling another building, and BAM! Man-Bat screaming in your face.
Rocksteady had already pulled this trick off once before when Tiny burst through the ice in Arkham Asylum, so you’d think it wouldn’t be too bad to be fooled again. You’d be wrong. The random nature of this encounter means it’s a truly heart-stopping moment the first time it happens, and even on repeated playthroughs, you’ll still feel the tension until he rears his ugly head again.
In the Heart of the Woods – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Ps4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, Switch, PC)
Let me start this one by describing a Leshen for you. Known as something that only lives to kill, a Leshen is a terrifying creature that hunts lone wanderers. In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, their head takes the form of a stag’s bare skull, and they have rootlike arms that can dig into the ground to attack you. Think Groot on meth.
In The Heart of the Woods, the mission has you take one of these primaeval creatures, along with its army of angry wolves. And in case the name of the quest didn’t give it away, you fight deep in a creepy woodland area. It wouldn’t be so bad if this was a regular fight, but the fierce beast can control the animals around him, and will also transform into a swirl of smoke when being attacked.
It’s one of those enemies that doesn’t seem too bad at first glance, but the more you think about one, the more you’ll want to throw some wolf hearts on a sacrificial altar to keep it happy. And far, far away from you.
More than anything, the five examples above show that a game doesn’t have to be particularly scary to hit that fight or flight response in the back of your brain. In some ways, these titles are more creepy than actual horror games. A change in tone or random jump scare can quite literally come out of nowhere, then never happen again. It’ll leave you just a little worried that another one could pop up at any time.
This list obviously isn’t definitive either. Nintendo alone has tons of accidental and intentional creepiness in everything from Mario 64 to Pokémon Red and Blue. I could go on and on exploring all the different things that may not give you nightmares but will definitely stop you from falling asleep for a little while. The ones shown here are just my personal favorites.
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