Sonic’s underwater levels
No matter what Sonic game you play, there’s always one zone that’s sure to strike fear into the heart of any gamer – the water area. The hedgehog moves at a snail’s pace through the currents, giving the player a constant sense of ever-increasing anxiety as they strive to reach those much-needed air bubbles. Paired with an urgent soundtrack, these levels are enough to raise anyone’s heartbeat.
Being chased by ghosts in Pac-Man
As you progress through Pac-Man, your palms get sweatier, your eyes get drier, and your heart beats faster. What starts out as a relatively simple maze-run soon becomes a matter of life or death, where you never thought you’d have such intense feelings about 8-bit pieces of digital fruit.
Joining the Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion
If you commit murder in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and nobody’s around to see it, you may think you got away with you crime. That is, until you rest in a bed. When you awake, you’re met with the hooded figure of Lucien Lachance, who ominously tells you that his order witnessed your sin. From here, you enter a world of death, betrayal, and deceit.
Seeing a shiny Pokémon
Stumbling across a shiny Pokémon is every Pokémon Master’s dream – though it comes with its fair share of anxiety. Do I have enough PokéBalls? Did I remember to save my game? What if the critter decides to turn and run, or I accidentally make it faint? With a one in 4096 chance of encountering a glittering beast, the stakes have never been higher.
Battling Deathclaws in Fallout: New Vegas
The nuclear wastelands of Fallout are filled with some of the scariest monsters in gaming, with death lurking around each and every corner. Perhaps the scariest of these beasts are the Deathclaws – overpowered monsters that can kill you in just one hit if you go in unprepared. Still, it’s worth the risk for that sweet, sweet loot.
Robbing the Cradle in Thief: Deadly Shadows
This mission in Thief: Deadliest Shadows takes the high-stakes stealth from the rest of the game and ups the ante. In addition to having to sneak through the shadows, it also features a strong survival horror theme, with the player exploring the game’s creepiest setting – a haunted orphanage and insane asylum.
Running from Darth Vader in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Fighting Lord Vader is truly a terrifying experience, with the player knowing there’s no way they can win against the Sith Lord. Having explored countless planets with Cal, it seemed as though Vader would eventually become his undoing. After an intense lightsaber fight, the player sprints away from Vader as the villain attacks you with all of his Force-based might.
Hunting for Bigfoot in GTA: San Andreas
Although Bigfoot was never actually put in the game, it didn’t stop gamers from putting in countless hours trying to discover the in-game legend. Exploring the Badlands as fog rolls across the bleak forests brings a great sense of isolation to the realm of San Andreas, with CJ desperately seeking out the mythical beast to no avail.
Running from ghosts in Mario
Although Boos are kind of cute, they’re still pretty terrifying when you encounter them in-game. Being swarmed by the spooky specters as you try to traverse the level can get your heart-rate up in no time flat, with the horror-based soundtrack only adding to the growing sense of dread.
Battling the Broodmother in Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age is filled with lavish forests, magical towers, and awe-inspiring cities. When you fight the Broodmother, however, all of that goes out the window. Not only is it one of the hardest fights in the entire game, the boss herself is made of the stuff of nightmares, with her terrifying tentacles constantly depleting the player’s health.
Visiting Lavender Town in Pokémon Red/Blue
Most of Pokémon is kid-friendly, with its chirpy 8-bit soundtrack and colorful creatures bringing a sense of timeless wonder. When you get to Lavender Town, however, that all changes. Ghosts plague the location, with Pokémon trainers mourning their deceased partners. The soundtrack is perhaps the creepiest in all of video game history, deepening the sense of dread.
Seeing the ghost in GTA: V
The Grand Theft Auto series is packed full of fun Easter Eggs, rewarding the player for their exploration. In GTA V, however, there’s an Easter Egg that’ll haunt you nightmares – the ghost of Mount Gordo. The apparition appears between 23:00 and 00:00 in-game time, staring at the player with a vacant gaze.
The morgue scene in Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman finds himself in some hot water when he traverses through the morgue scene, with the pure nightmare fuel being pieced together by his long-time nemesis Scarecrow. Dead bodies, powerful enemies, and mind-bending horror all ensue, leaving the player thankful to return to the familiarity of Gotham City.
The Vortex Queen in Ecco the Dolphin
Ecco was an innocent, joy-filled game, with the dolphin merrily enjoying the depths of the ocean to a catchy soundtrack that sticks in your head for days. The horror comes in the guise of The Vortex Queen, the end-game deep-sea boss that’s sure to fill your nightmares for weeks to come.
Waking up a Guardian in Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Exploring the gorgeous watercolor fields of Hyrule is one of the best parts of Breath of the Wild, with untold secrets hiding in the plains. Sometimes, however, you’ll stumble upon Guardians – powerful pieces of machinery that can deplete poor Link’s health with just one shot. Their glowing eyes and laser beams are enough to make any player sprint in the opposite direction.
Fighting a big boss in Resistance
Resistance was an underrated game, with an array of interesting weapons at the player’s disposal. These weapons became futile, however, when facing off against the game’s gigantic bosses, leaving you feeling weak and exposed. The sheer scale of these gargantuan beasts has rarely been replicated in games since, making Resistance a truly unique experience.
Running out of time in Stardew Valley
This simulation game is supposed to be relaxing, with the player forming loving relationships and tending to their quaint farm. Sometimes, however, it’s filled with stress. You have a time limit each day, giving you until 2am until your character passes out from exhaustion. If you’re on the other side of the map, it can result in a stressful sprint to return to your bed.
Entering House Wellows Manor in Octopath Traveler II
As the player carries a cursed box, you’re summoned to an abandoned mansion by an eerie voice. Once inside, the usually cheery soundtrack is suddenly silent, birthing an ominous vibe. You’re also met with some of the game’s toughest monsters – a great place to grind for exp, but terrifying if you aren’t leveled up enough.
Finding zombies in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
This Indiana Jones-esque game is a modern classic, with Nathan Drake even getting his own movie. His adventures aren’t all wise-cracks put to incredible set pieces, however, as the first game sees the adventurer encountering blood-thirsty zombies. You have no choice but to run from the creatures, with your weapons becoming useless against the endless swarm.
The Shadow Temple in Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Guillotines, blood splats, and eerie hooded ghosts turn Zelda: Ocarina of Time from a child-friendly game into a straight-up horror fest. The sudden change in tone is extremely jolting, with the screaming specters and ominous soundtrack creating one of gaming’s most iconic creepy moments.
Being chased by the Midgar Zolom in Final Fantasy VII
Seeing the shadow of a giant serpent chase Cloud and co beneath the ground is a memory most gamers share, alongside trying to take down the mighty beast. If you’re skilled enough (and grind hard enough) you may just slay the monster, but it’s probably best to wait until you get a Chocobo so you can merrily ride to safety.
Being followed by the creepy butler in Tomb Raider 2
Though he’s innocently trying to bring Lara a refreshing cup of tea, many gamers remember the butler as being pretty eerie – with his silent shuffle following you throughout Croft Manor. Thankfully, you’re able to lock the butler inside the freezer, leaving him trapped in an icy prison as you explore Lara’s home in peace.
Hollow Bastion in Kingdom Hearts
Arriving at Hollow Bastion is when Kingdom Hearts ups the ante, with some of the most powerful enemies in the game trying to take down Sora and co. Many of the game’s toughest boss battles take place here, from fighting a dragon to battling a darkness-infused Riku. With its dramatic, chill-inducing soundtrack, there’s something about Hollow Bastion that gives most gamers the creeps.
The Monster-Ock chase in Spider-Man
This monstrous supervillain was only a minor character in the PS1 game, but he was enough to haunt many gamer’s nightmares for years to come. With no other option but to run from the terror, Spider-Man finds himself in close quarters with the beast, with one error resulting in the hero’s doom.
Exploring Caelid in Elden Ring
Elden Ring is known for being one of the toughest video games out there, leaving the player to explore the realm at their own risk. If you accidentally stumble into Caelid without the appropriate gear, you’ll find yourself tackling monstrous creatures in a Hell-inspired landscape, from carnivorous crows to deadly dragons.
The Ravenholm Sequence in Half-Life 2
After being separated from Alyx, the player finds themselves exploring the eerie location of Ravenholm, a sequence that belongs in a pure horror game. Gordon has to explore the ominous, zombie and head-crab infested town until he reaches safety, while having to cautiously conserve ammo.
Getting caught in Metal Gear Solid
Stealth is an important mechanic in the Metal Gear Solid series, with Solid Snake needing to use all of the tools at his disposal to traverse through the game’s many levels. It’s an anxiety-inducing experience that’s only worsened by the exclamation mark that appears whenever you’re spotted by enemies – making each and every move vitally important.
Chapter 13 in Final Fantasy XV
Leaving the lavish hills of Eos behind, Noctis finds himself in cramped quarters during the game’s thirteenth chapter, packed full of Silent Hill-esque robots that’ll attack the prince without mercy. The constant jump scares only add to the terror, turning the action game into a straight-up horror experience.
The ghost hunt Rugrats: Search for Reptar
Just because it’s a children’s game, it doesn’t mean that Rugrats: Search for Reptar is safe from terror. The lonesome, eerie atmosphere is amplified when Tommy Pickles is sent on a ghost hunt, armed only with his trusty milk bottle as a way to defend himself.
Getting through the Niflheim maze in God of War
Kratos is no stranger to his share of horror, having taken down some of the biggest names in the pantheon. When he arrives at Niflheim, however, he experiences a trial like no other – wading through toxic mists while he simultaneously tackles some terrifying enemies – including a powerful Valkyrie.
Exploring Blackreach in Skyrim
There’s something that’s deeply unsettling about Blackreach, a lonely cavern filled with floating jellyfish and feral Falmer. While a questline can take you to these depths, you’re also able to stumble upon the realm entirely of your own accord, leaving the player feeling stranded within an endless labyrinth.
The ending of The Wolf Among Us
While The Wolf Among Us deals with fairytales, it’s far from a wholesome experience. With werewolf Bigby investigating the murders of many beloved characters, the stakes are well and truly upped when (spoiler alert) he encounters the decapitated head of his long-time friend Snow White.
Discovering the killer in Heavy Rain
This PS3 classic is filled with dread from start to finish, with themes of child abduction and murder being apparent from the get-go. Discovering the Origami Killer’s identity is one of scarier moments of the game, with the player feeling betrayed by the dramatic reveal as they’re left battling for their lives.
The abandoned theater in Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon
There’s just something about early 2000s graphics that put many gamers on edge. While there’s nothing that’s outright scary about the theater in Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, there’s an ominous, creepy vibe that lingers in the location, creating a sense of ever-increasing dread.
Sneaking past the trolls in The Hobbit
Poor Bilbo Baggins is no match for three giant trolls, with his walking stick being futile against their powerful attacks. Instead, you have to sneak past the creatures, with one wrong move resulting in the Hobbit’s untimely end. Requiring a great deal of patience, this level is only beaten through repeated trial and error.
Super Mario 64’s creepy piano
The Mad Piano may look innocent enough at first, but when the plucky plumber approaches the instrument it suddenly bears fangs, chasing Mario to the sound of clashing piano keys. The instrument only lets up when the player is far enough away, resulting in a terrifying sprint to safety.
Going into buildings in Jurassic Park
While most of the game takes place with a bird’s eye view, entering buildings switches the player into first person. While it was a novel achievement at the time, it resulted in some truly terrifying bouts of gaming. With deadly dinosaurs lurking around each and every corner, the interior levels of Jurassic Park are truly the stuff of nightmares.
Max Payne’s Nightmares
Though it isn’t a horror game, Max Payne features a truly terrifying level. Exploring a complex that’s filled with blood trails, Payne is left investigating the murders of his beloved family. With distorted corridors that stretch into an endless maze, echoes of cries and screams accompany the player’s journey through the nightmare-inducing labyrinth.
Bioshock: Infinite’s Boy of Silence
These enemies are unlike any other in Bioshock, from their strange, off-putting design to the way that they act. These watchmen will let out a blood-curling, piercing scream if the player is caught in their steely gaze, summoning all sorts of deadly minions to their side.
The moon in Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The moon in this game truly is the stuff of nightmares. Armed with an evil gaze and worn teeth, the celestial body is destined to crash into Clock Town, reducing everyone and everything within to rubble. Thankfully, Link is here to save the day – though it’s not without his fair share of strife along the way.