The season of the witch is upon us, so what better excuse to dust off some of your old horror-themed classics for a good scare? Like its movie counterpart, gaming's horror genre is awash with bone-chilling set pieces and jump-out-of-your-seat moments. So to celebrate Halloween, we rounded up some of our favourites.
Resident Evil: Dog Attack
The Resident Evil series may have shamelessly pillaged the original Alone In The Dark trilogy for all its worth, yet the zombie franchise has continued to raise the bar for the survival-horror genre where good old-fashioned scares are concerned. There are numerous set pieces from throughout the saga that could have made it onto this list, but when pressed to choose the most hair-raising moment in its timeline, we'd have to go with the dog attack scene from Resident Evil.
One minute you're walking along an L-shaped hallway minding your own business, the next all hell breaks loose as flesh-hungry zombie dogs come crashing through glass. It's two-bit shock horror at its finest, amplified by effective camera angles, mood-setting sound effects and chilling creature design. The speed that these canines move at begs the question of why their human counterparts are so slow, but the laboured crawl of the undead wouldn't have been nearly as adrenaline-inducing.
Splatterhouse: Jennifer's Transformation
For anyone not well versed in their late '80s arcade beat 'em ups, Splatterhouse was a side-scrolling bloodbath from Namco inspired by classic Western horror films such as Friday The 13th and Evil Dead. Granted, it's hardly a classic when you take its lack of variety and linear structure into account, but it wasn't short on blood and guts. The game relied primarily on its aesthetic design to unsettle the player - enemies would explode like pus-filled balloons, hulking bosses awaited at the end of each stage, and the backdrops looked like something straight out of a nightmare.
Horrific imagery is rife in Splatterhouse, particularly towards its conclusion when protagonist Rick finally tracks down his kidnapped girlfriend Jennifer. Rather than offer up a happy ending, the developers took a meat cleaver to the book of clichés and had our hero's better half turn into a hideous monster. What made this scene particularly unsettling was the fact that the creature changed back into Jennifer at intervals to beg for your help; and to make matters worse she didn't even survive the ordeal. A delightfully twisted offering, albeit a morbid one.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem: Blood Bath
As far as bathtub scenes in horror go, this one is up there with The Shining and A Nightmare On Elm Street. Flying in the face of Nintendo's family friendly ethos, Eternal Darkness was a groundbreaking GameCube release that was criminally underrated by the console's user base. Through what was known as the 'sanity meter' the game played on the mind and got under the skin. Every cheap trick in the book - from ominous footsteps to bleeding walls - was thrown in for good measure, and the result was enough to put the faint of heart in therapy.
There were many standout scares throughout the game, though none more potent than the infamous bathtub scene. First timers were guaranteed to jump out of their skin when examining the bathtub. A stark white corpse submerged in blood and an ear-shattering scream greeted the player for a text book shock. It's a cheap trick that loses its impact a second play through, but this scene is responsible for more damp trousers than a log flume.
Doom: The 'Missile-Launching Skyscraper With Goat Legs'
First-person shooters have come a long way since Doom's debut in the early '90s, but few have been quite as memorable. id Software's definitive run-and-gun fest owed much of its success to the bone-chilling atmosphere it conjured up through shrewd sound effects and lighting techniques. In hindsight, the only thing truly terrifying about this one is how much of our adolescence it devoured, yet the Cyberdemon's first appearance as a boss in the original sticks in our mind as a genuinely unnerving moment.
The game's manual describes the monstrosity as "a missile-launching skyscraper with goat legs", and that's pretty much accurate. Prayer was your only option when confronted by this tower of terror, unless there happened to be an invincibility power-up nearby. One thing's for sure, Doom really lived up to its name when one of these monstrosities reared its ugly head.
BioShock: The Living Statue
You can always rely on the BioShock series for some dystopian chills. 2K Games' FPS masterpiece is an unforgettable journey into the nether regions of the soul. If the idea of a doomed underwater city populated by mutants and murderous mechanical drones isn't unsettling enough for you, just wait until you cross paths with Sander Cohen.
Cohen is a sculptor with a twisted penchant for combining people with stone. Upon entering his abode, you might notice one of his works of art in the bathroom, thinking little of it at first glance. Look around again, and you'll notice that the statue has vanished. By the time this information has registered it's already too late, as the freakish stone being is upon you. Again, this is an age-old trick that has been employed by filmmakers since time immemorial, and BioShock times it perfectly. This sequence will shock unsuspecting gamers to the core.
Silent Hill 2: Pyramid Head
Konami's Silent Hill series is another of those franchises that we're spoilt for choice with. From the demonic babies to the writing on the wall, the survival-horror saga has long provided some of the most psychologically harrowing moments in gaming history. However, for us there are no scenes more terrifying than those featuring Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2.
A hulking figure clad in bloody butcher's overalls and a triangular-shaped helmet that completely obscures his face, this insidious stalker is worthy of a place in the modern horror hall of fame alongside Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers. It was the player's imagination that made Pyramid Head an effective monster. We never saw what lurked beneath that mask, yet each individual no doubt envisioned their own worst nightmare. The enigmatic creature had no dialogue, backstory or motivation for its actions, which helped it play on our fear of the unknown. Every inch a classic horror creation, Pyramid Head will have you running for the hills.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts: Back To Square One
As terrifying as zombie dogs and animate statues are, nothing made us scream like Capcom's Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts did the first time we experienced its cruel trickery. Simply put, this SNES offering is one of the most brutal games you'll ever play. After grinding your way through swarms of monsters and negotiating countless traps across levels that could only have been designed by Satan himself, you might think you'd be treated to an ending sequence worthy of this near-impossible feat. However, your only reward was to be sent back to the beginning of the game. The fact that the player was granted a new special power was little consolation after enduring such torture the first time around.
We still wake up in a cold sweat at the thought of having to beat this brutal game twice. If you're looking for a truly haunting experience this Halloween, nothing will chill your blood like this platformer's brutal difficulty.
What do you think are the scariest moments in gaming? Add a comment in the space below!