While most would actively avoid putting themselves in real danger, there's something thrilling about experiencing terror in a fictional setting. Watching split-second escapes, haunting buildups, and unnerving atmospheres tickle the intrigue of society on the most primal level. Video games have tapped into this sensation with a multitude of spooky titles over the years, from the Resident Evil franchise to underrated gems like Alien: Isolation.
Most would expect these creepy moments and things that go bump in the night specifically from the horror genre. However, in some instances, there have been games that scared the life out of players simply because it was the last place they expected it to happen. From kid-friendly video games to epic superhero simulators, these titles contain some of the most surprising jumpscares around.
Pamela's Father (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)
To be fair, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is already a game rife with spooky moments, and is usually considered the scariest in the series. The disturbing subject matter, dark themes, and chilling music are already unnerving, especially for a game that is rated 'E' for everyone. Even so, it is still a game in The Legend of Zelda franchise, a Nintendo property. So it would never be expected to have anything too extreme.
While exploring Termina, players cross paths with a young girl named Pamela in a deserted town near Ikana Castle. She keeps her father locked away in the basement of their home, fearing that he has transformed into a Gibdo, a mummified monster. Upon entering the house, the closet bursts open and Pamela's father charges at Link in a completely unexpected moment. It all happens so quickly and is likely one of the prime reasons why Majora's Mask is considered so scary even to this day.
Man-Bat (Batman: Arkham Knight)
Batman has a rogues gallery filled with freaks, monsters, and other ghoulish adversaries. Bane, Killer Croc, and more all feature elements of horror, but Man-Bat is perhaps the spookiest of all, quite literally being a man transformed into a giant bat. Batman as a character is influenced by many elements of gothic horror but is still more a symbol of the superhero genre. This is what gamers thought when first playing Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015, the latest in Rockstead's blockbuster franchise.
At a certain point in the game, players had quite the jolt while pursuing the villains of Gotham City. While exploring the city freely, players will come face to face (literally) with the monstrous Man-Bat at the top of a building. This happens at random, regardless of which roof the player chooses to grapple up to. Man-Bat enters the frame so swiftly and lets out a shriek so blood-curdling that gamers will leap out of their seats before they have even registered what happened.
Lurker Shark (Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy)
Before taking a more mature game design with The Last of Us series, Naughty Dog was known for titles more appropriate for a younger audience. In the PS2 generation, the Jak and Daxter franchise showed off the amazing capabilities of the console during its heydey and still doesn't look too shabby nowadays. The colorful vistas, charming characters, and action platformer gameplay were the last place that players expected to find anything horrifying.
Naturally, as is the case with others entries in this article, those players were in for a total shock. Curiosity is often something piqued by players in games, wanting to follow the desire to explore new locations and see what awaits off the main path. For those who chose to swim around in open waters a bit too long, a gigantic yellow fish would suddenly appear and swallow Jak and Daxter whole, before plunging back into the depths.
Primarily enjoyed by younger audiences, Minecraft's simple visual design and carefree nature of the game makes for a lighthearted and enjoyable romp. Players can explore, gather and build structures to their hearts' content, making it one of the more open-ended and accessible games on the market.
That being said, the world of Minecraft isn't without dangers of its own to keep players on their toes. Sometimes, often completely at random, little green creatures called Creepers will appear and stalk the player, with the capacity to explode and destroy anything they were building. These encounters occur without warning and can cost the player both resources and time if the Creeper successfully destroys their hard work. For this reason, seeing a Creeper suddenly approaching from the distance is an immediate cause for concern.
Finding the Crucifix (Gone Home)
Gone Home is one of the most celebrated games in the "walking simulator" genre. The minimalistic approach to storytelling, somber atmosphere, and great visuals make for a thoroughly enjoyable indie hit. Set in 1995, the game follows the perspective of a young woman returning to her rural family home in Oregon. Upon arriving, however, the house is empty and the family is absent, and it's up to the player to put together the pieces of what happened.
While Gone Home is somewhat unsettling, as the concept alone is a scenario nobody would want to be in, it isn't technically as scary as other first-person games like Outlast. This is why when players discover a crucifix in the house, they may not have expected what happens next. Upon picking it up, a light bulb will burst above the player's head, immediately enveloping them in darkness and heightening the tension to a fever pitch.
The Ghost of Mt. Gordo (Grand Theft Auto 5)
Nearly a decade after release, Grand Theft Auto 5 remains one of the most actively played and top-selling games around. This is largely due to the near limitless amount of activities to be seen in the game, as well as the numerous mysterious and easter eggs to find. Players have scoured every square inch of the world to discover. However, some things are better left unfound.
While exploring the heights of Mount Gordo, players may discover a trail of blood along a flat rock that spells out the word "Jock." If this location is visited at a certain time of the night, players will be able to see a ghost manifest itself on top of the aforementioned flat rock. If the player gets too close, the ghost will vanish. Furthermore, if players explore a campsite near the location, high-pitched screams can be heard in the dead of night. For an otherwise tongue-in-cheek action-comedy tone, this moment is sure to spook even the most hardened of gamers.
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