With pumpkin spice lattes finally making their return and creepy pumpkins peeking through every window you pass, it can only mean one thing: it’s Halloween, folks! And you know what that means, right?
Yep, you guessed it! It’s time for a list about gaming’s most terrifying ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. Actually, spoiler alert: no goblins made the final cut, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration so let’s just run with it… These are 10 of the best horror game characters that made their games so much scarier.
Shodan – System Shock Series
Designed on earth by a bunch of scientists to help astronauts, Shodan was originally created to assist mankind (as is the case for many human discoveries and inventions). The fly in the ointment? A hacker hijacked Shodan’s program and deliberately removed the AI’s decision-making guidance software along with all her ethical restrictions. As you may’ve guessed, that didn’t bode very well for humankind.
Soon after, the pesky machine — whose name stands for Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network — developed a god complex and went completely rogue. She began systematically killing the human staff aboard Citadel space station, and those who managed to survive were transformed into hideous biomechanical mutants against their will.
This is all terrifying enough, but how she plays into the System Shock titles is all the more terrifying. She constantly monitors and goads the player with promises of their death and subjugation, even interrupting calls between them and more friendly characters. Her presence is omnipotent, and even after she’s finally been dealt with, there’s the lingering sensation that she’ll cut in with another threat at any moment.
The Hunter – Dead Space
What’s worse than a hulking space zombie that wants to eat your face off? Well, the answer’s simple: an unkillable hulking space zombie that wants to eat your face off.
Yeah, the Hunter is one of those rare enemies that can’t be put six feet under by Isaac Clarke’s limb-slicing weaponry in Dead Space. Instead, this terrifying beast will simply regenerate its limbs like the tail of a horror-struck salamander. It appears just as most players start to find a groove in dealing with the more standard Necromorphs too, obliterating any sense of safety you might have built up.
As a result, you’ll have to find something that’ll annihilate every cell in the Hunter’s body — like, say, the scorching heat from the ignition of a space shuttle engine. Luckily for you, there’s one of those lying around aboard the USG Ishimura, but you’ll still need to position the beast in a particular location before it can be stopped for good.
The Raincoat Killer – Deadly Premonition
Smalltown whodunnits are few and far between, but Swery65’s so-bad-it’s-good gumshoe thriller is so off-the-wall bonkers, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the sheer madness of it all. Thing is, even though it feels like it’s been written by an AI random generator, it’s easily one of the most memorable experiences in survival horror, and the Raincoat Killer is largely responsible for that.
This cloaked and relentless axe-murderer is responsible for a string of grisly, ritualistic murders. He pursues you with an inexhaustible drive, and no matter how hard you fight back against him, he can’t be killed until you unravel the mystery surrounding him.
It serves to give the plot an over-arching sense of importance and tension, and while the characters and dialogue are endearingly awkward, the core story is truly sublime thanks to some genuinely mind-bending twists and turns surrounding this fear-inspiring foe. To top it off, you’ll never guess the identity of the real murderer. Absolutely essential!
Scissorman – Clock Tower Series
Through the years, the identity of the Scissorman has shifted and changed, but he’s always been a core reason for the Clock Tower series’ special sense of dread.
In the first 1995 SNES incarnation, Clock Tower, ol’ Scissorman was a masochistic demon baby called Bobby Barrows who had an unhealthy obsession for antagonizing young women with an oversized pair of shears. However, as the point-and-click horror series evolved, the murderer’s identity did so, too. In the 1996 sequel, for instance, the killer can actually be one of three different characters depending on the choices you make in the game.
Nevertheless, we still have nightmares about this wee whippersnapper, especially when he does his signature, weirdly disturbing dance just before he lops you into pieces. *Shivers*
Alma Wade – FEAR Series
It’s scientifically proven that children in horror make everything scarier, and Alma Wade from the FEAR series is a terrific example of this.
Born with telepathic powers, she was subjected to sadistic experiments at an early age by an evil corporation known as Armacham Technology Corporation. As the distressing experiments ramped up, Alma became rebellious toward her captors, ultimately unleashing her psychic powers on the scientists around her.
You’re then dropped into the games in the aftermath of this, witnessing Alma in all of her unleashed glory. She pops in and out of reality, tearing the environment apart as you watch on powerlessly. And yet, even though she boasts a terrifying presence, it’s fair to say that there’s an element of sympathy that pervades her origin story and character as you uncover what happened to her. It’s haunting all around, and chances are the Fear games wouldn’t be half as scary without her in them.
The Wendigos – Until Dawn
The Wendigos’ origin story is a classic case of man vs. nature, and lend a special air of scariness to Until Dawn as a result.
See, these spindly monstrosities which serve as the main antagonists in Supermassive Games’ thrilling cinematic horror experience can be traced back to a patch of sacred ground atop of a special mountain called Mount Madahee. While the local natives steered clear for many centuries, western explorers cracked open the mountain in the early 19th century to hoover up its valuable resources.
Much like the dwarves in the Lord of the Rings, the prospectors mined too deep and unleashed an ancient evil on the land. After an explosion killed most of the diggers, the remaining survivors were twisted into vicious cave dwellers after they were forced to feed on the flesh of their fallen comrades to survive.
Fast forward to the modern day, and a group of partying teens heading to Black Mountain (formerly Mount Madahee) are forced to contend with these representations of human hubris and desperation. They’re scary enough as they try to stalk your party of characters throughout the wilderness, but their creep factor is cranked up by the fact that all of them were once normal people who were forced to make a terrible decision.
Freddy Fazbear – Five Nights at Freddy’s
When life gives you lemons, seek vengeance and kill everything in sight. That’s pretty much the deal with Freddy Fazbear, an animatronic puppet who’s less powered by double-a Energizers and more charged up by the soul of a wee kiddo.
Why’s the soul of a dead child inhabited this robotic doll? Well, a nasty Brit called William Afton — who also happens to be a pizza restaurant mogul — murdered the youngster along with a bunch of other children. To unleash vengeance on this heinous crime, the evil robots take justice into their own hands by killing any customers that enter the store after hours. Talk about bad customer service, huh?
In all seriousness though, the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise wouldn’t be nearly as legendary as it is without the unnerving visage of its namesake animatronic. While the other bots are scary in their own right, there’s an underlying maliciousness to Freddy’s sideways glance and girthy exterior. He knows you’re scared of him, and he’ll overpower you in an instant if you don’t ensure he can’t reach you until your shift is complete.
Big Daddy – BioShock
Since the discovery of a specific sea slug, the universe of 2K Games’ politically charged and thought-provoking deep sea horror adventure was never quite the same. With the help of the slugs, Adam — a powerful serum that could alter genetic material, turning its users into electricity-wielding badasses — was created. Of course, the handy liquid was soon marketed and sold to the general population, and it quickly became the du jour of the moment and a trigger for the dystopian society’s collapse.
With Little Sisters harvesting the Adam from dead bodies around Rapture, the Big Daddies are the sole protectors of these sweet and innocent little cherubs. Not only do they boast some serious deep sea diving armor, but they also pack a devastating punch with their iconic drill, rivet gun, and rocket launcher. They’re walking armories, and more than happy to blow anyone who threatens them or their wards to smithereens.
Given you need to fight them in order to get Adam and grow stronger, the Big Daddies make up the bulk of the fear you experience while playing Bioshock. Hearing their lumbering footsteps in the distance, or their cries of anger after they’ve shrugged off one of your starting attacks, always leads to a sense that you’re in for the fight of your life; and that they’ll pursue you relentlessly until one of you is dead.
Baby – Resident Evil Village
When it comes to real-life fears, having kids has to be right up there near the top. And in Capcom’s eighth entry into its beloved survival horror series, the Japanese developer takes this idea and runs with it… to the blood-drenched hills and beyond.
Indeed, players will stumble upon this monstrosity in the House Beneviento set-piece in Resident Evil Village, and just thinking about it gives me shellshock-like flashbacks. You see, the beast in question resembles an overgrown fetus with a gigantic, gaping maw. It crawls along the floor at a snail’s pace, but the cramped environment makes it feel like you have nowhere to run and that it’s constantly on your heels.
The worst part? It gurgles and mutters words, much like a toddler. There’s genuinely nothing worse than being swallowed whole by an overgrown baby uttering the words “YUMMY.” That sentence alone just flooded my soul with repressed anxiety. Somebody hold me!
Pyramid Head – Silent Hill Series
And so here we are, the big daddy of the horror game world: Pyramid Head.
Yes, this iconic monstrosity is the manifestation of James Sunderland’s deep-seated guilt. Guilt for what I hear you asking? Well, without going into major spoiler territory, he’s been a naughty boy, and Pyramid Head is the judge, jury, and executioner!
What makes Pyramid Head so disturbing is that everything about his scrupulous design screams pain. From his oversized triangular helmet to his colossal butcher’s knife, every movement he makes seems to bring an excruciating, almost masochistic tear to our eye.
Combine all this with the fact that Pyramid Head’s pretty much indestructible and constantly hounds the players through Silent Hill’s foggy streets, and it’s clear to see why this tormentor played such a big role in making Silent Hill 2 one of the most terrifying horror games of all time.