As one moves into adulthood, it’s possible to look back and laugh at things that once terrified you. Sure, the adult world contains more than its fair share of horrors worth recoiling from, but at least we gamers can look back at the digital scares of our youth with a satisfied smile, knowing we’ve conquered our childish fears. Right?
Well, mostly. We’re sure the Sonic drowning countdown music will forever spark instant, sweaty panic whenever we hear it. However, in the entries below you’ll find Team NL discussing some of their childhood gaming traumas — game moments that once gave them the absolute willies, but which now they can handle, no problem (for the most part, at least).
So, as we continue enjoying this long Halloween weekend, let’s delve into some games and moments that made a particular impression on our young minds…
Kate Gray, Staff Writer
I know this is going to make me sound like an utter wuss, and that’s totally okay, because I am, but… for me, the thing that gave me nightmares as a kid was… just the wind.
Not in a “huh, thought I heard somethin’, musta bin the wind” sort of way. The actual sound of the wind, in Ocarina of Time. It’s scary enough to find out that you’ve been catapulted into a horrible, post-apocalyptic future in your nice little adventure game, and then you find out that the town is full of zombies, and that’s pretty bad too. But for whatever reason, going to Ganondorf’s Castle, and standing in front of that lake of lava, surrounded by ashes and rubble — that was the scariest bit for me.
And accompanying that miserable scene was no music, no sound, only the wind blowing across a desolate, burned-down Hyrule. Now, what you have to know is that at the time, I hadn’t really experienced much. I was a kid. That wind sound effect? To me, that was a sound effect, and nothing more, until I heard it in real life on a camping trip. I lived on a cul-de-sac in a village! We didn’t get spooky wind noises! But when I heard the wind blowing through bare trees for the first time in real life, I did not sleep a wink.
I had a lot of nightmares related to Ocarina of Time, mostly about the Re-Deads and the horrible things Under The Well, but for some reason, it’s the wind that scared me the most.
Alana Hagues, Staff Writer
Look, Banjo-Kazooie is a weird game. Even ignoring the kidnapping for vanity and experiments, the toilet humour, and some of the brutal deaths between the two N64 games, there are some other moments that are genuinely terrifying, especially to kid-me. No, I’m not talking about Snackers, but I am talking about another shark that you meet — and eventually befriend.
As a wee lass, figuring my way around the N64 controller and generally having a blast with one of the best N64 games ever, I eventually unlocked the third world of the game, Clanker’s Cavern. I’d gotten used to the swimming in-game thanks to the previous level, Treasure Trove Cove, but this murky water and dank setting were a bit more unnerving. It wasn’t out of character for the game, so I just carried on, diving under the water and into the main chamber… only to be greeted by teeth. Rows of sharp, metallic teeth, a rusted face, and imposing eyes. And I ran out of the room.
I only came back in after I’d heard the drowning music — which is also etched into my brain — but big ol’ Clanker absolutely terrified me. When I tried to enter the level again, I did it through squinted eyes, trying to avoid looking at the muck and flesh-like markings on the garbage disposal unit.
I could barely get through the level, let alone free Clanker or go inside of him, without pausing every few minutes. And that night I couldn’t sleep because all I could think about is this giant metallic shark chewing me up. But, as it turns out, he’s really, really friendly. And, by the time I returned to the game a few years later, I loved him.
Mr. Patch from Banjo-Tooie still has the upper hand on me, though.
Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer
This is an easy one for me, and although I played this game on the PS1, its availability on the N64 and GameCube makes my choice valid (so there!): Resident Evil 2.
It wasn’t a specific moment that gave me nightmares, it was the whole flippin’ game. From the opening moments exploring a ravaged Raccoon City to evading the devastating attacks of the Tyrant (Mr. X), I was quite frankly two jump scares away from wetting myself. If push came to shove and I had to choose a specific moment from the game, however, it would be the opening encounter with Robert Kendo, the proprietor of the Kendo Gun Shop.
After a brief exchange, Leon turns to exit the room — but what’s that? — you spot some tasty handgun ammo just sitting on a nearby counter, so of course you grab it. When you turn back around, however, you hear the store’s window smash, triggering a cutscene in which Kendo is torn apart by zombies.
It was infinitely more visceral than anything shown in the first RE game; you can actually see Kendo’s body turn red from the pouring blood. It scarred me more than I care to admit.
Granted, I was only 9 at the time. Maybe that’s the issue.
Jim Norman, Staff Writer
I have always been so easily scared by video games it is frankly a wonder that I have maintained a passion for them for so long. I’d like to quickly give a shoutout to my mum, who I would regularly ask to take on a particularly scary part of a game while I left the room. She might not have necessarily beaten every task that I gave her, but her bravery in the face of my childhood fears was always the best.
As for the moment that I was most scared of, I am going to have to align with Kate here and also pick one from Ocarina of Time (weird how many people were scarred by that game growing up). Mine, however, is wayyy earlier in the story. If I was to be non-specific then I would say the entirety of Inside the Deku Tree is my all-time scariest video game location. The weight of knowing that you are onto something, the taunting Deku Shrubs, seeing Queen Gohma’s eye on the ceiling for the first time — wow, that level really messed me up.
I will be more specific though, because I very easily can. The thing that scared me silly was (and still is) the clicking sound of the Skulltulas. It’s a huge credit to the sound design that such a simple repetition was enough to keep me up at night, but hey, it worked.
Still to this day, hearing that sound makes me shiver.
Gavin Lane, Editor
I could have gone with something from Zelda, but let’s go back a little further. This is less a scary ‘moment’ and more an all-encompassing feeling of dread I experienced whenever I landed in Transylvania in Quackshot. It was only the third level (well, you could visit earlier but you needed items from the previous levels in order to make progress), but I found it tough as a kid.
Looking back now, it’s all so chunkily twee and non-threatening! But those bulbous bats and balls of bouncing gloop caused me grief at the time. I never really understood what the bubblegum was supposed to be, or how it apparently ‘dissolved’ bricks in Dracula’s castle. After the bouncing brass of Duckburg, the creepy music and setting all melded together to create an alarming, unnerving mental block I struggled to overcome for years — long after I’d learned the skills necessary to beat the level. I remember going back and completing the game around a decade ago and wondering how the hell I’d built it up so much in my mind.
Then again, is there anything scarier than a vampire duck?
A small selection for you there, some sillier than others, but all enough to play on a kid’s mind. What moments from video games scared you as a child? Feel free to share your scares below…