6 of Gaming’s Scariest Creatures (2019)
Regular readers of these pieces will doubtless be amazed to learn that I’m not always so alpha. Yes, I may often cross the road without waiting for the green man or looking both ways. I’ve swallowed my chewing gum more times than I’d care to mention. I’m even tough enough not to blink at this time of year when fireworks are constantly exploding overhead or shooting straight towards my head. You’ve never met me, I hope, but we can probably both agree that I’m by far the bravest man you know – until it comes to games.
See, because I still treat games with the same kind of childish reverence as that kid did when he opened his N64 on Christmas Day, it often happens that I get a bit too much into my games. And that means, when things start to get really scary, you can always find me with my eyes scrunched shut, reaching for someone’s apron to clutch for dear life. With Halloween nearly on us, it’s high time we took a look at some of the scariest creatures that gaming has produced over the years. The ones that caused millions of us to squeal in terror, jump for the power button and skip out on sleep for a good 3 or 4 nights so as not to fall victim to vicious nightmares. We’ll be looking at 6 in total, so strap yourself in and feel the fear.
- The Chompy Piano (Super Mario 64)
Actually, the revolutionary Super Mario 64 provided us with three great candidates for underpants-filling enemies: one was the gynormous burns-victim eel from Jolly Roger Bay. And the others were the mansion-dwelling Boos, if you’re frightened by big white puffs of polygons. But it’s the monstrous piano in that very same mansion that gets my vote. You’re furtively creeping around each of the mansion’s rooms, until you find a grand piano and a chair in an otherwise empty room. You head over to investigate the piano, maybe cheekily pick up the Red Coin it’s hiding.
Then CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! The piano’s suddenly gone nuclear, grown an impressively sharp set of gnashers and it’s actually starting to drag itself across the floor to take a nice big bite out of our Mario. Each chomp it takes makes a heart-stoppingly off-key piano note play as well – a small thing, but it really adds to the creepiness. And, depressingly, the wee chair gets knocked over as well. Anyone who’s ever been accosted by this hungry Joanna will remember what I’m talking about.
- Redeads (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Another series that threw up an awful lot of fodder for this here feature, 3D Zelda games couldn’t have got much of a better start to life than with Ocarina of Time for the N64 – you hardly need me to tell you that it’s simply phenomenal. Even the game’s atmosphere is absolutely first-rate. Which is why, when you stumble into the rainy Kakariko Graveyard and find your way into the Royal Family’s Tomb, you really get that sense of foreboding. Then you get to the next room, and you hear this demonic sort of moaning early doors. You steel your nerves, put your best sword face on and charge in – suddenly, there’s this ghastly banshee scream, Link gets frozen in place like Boris from GoldenEye and this 8-feet tall poo monster starts performing perverse sex acts on you.
Now, how can that not be scary? I know they’re Japanese and that always explains a fair deal, but really, what on earth were Nintendo thinking of? The mummified Gibdos, classic enemies of the series, do the exact same routine in Ocarina of Time. But the Redeads got there first. These guys did an absolute number on me for years, and even now I still don’t like the look of them (big strong brave man, remember). Even making them dance in Majora’s Mask or seeing them as green Maoris in Wind Waker didn’t help matters – Redeads are legitimately scary. A special mention to the gurning Dead Hand from the same game as well… it might just be better for you to avoid the Shadow Temple entirely.
- Sonic Drowning Music (various Sonic games)
“Hang on!” you cry in disbelief. “That’s scary music! Not a scary creature!” Yes, quite well observed. But the music that starts blaring in the Mega Drive Sonic games when Sonic’s lungs are about to run on empty is so chillingly traumatic that it might just as well be a monster in its own right. This song is what the ISIS boys used to rave to on a Saturday night. You don’t get an awful lot of time underwater in those early Sonic games anyway; a couple of chimes play, and then suddenly that horrid cacophony kicks in and you’ve either got to nab yourself an air bubble or meet a watery grave.
And since AI-controlled Tails will inevitably jump in and steal the only air bubble that could have saved you, you’ll most like have to listen to the whole of the drowning theme all the way up to its hauntingly abrupt finish. No wonder Sonic ended up hating the drink. Every Sonic player who got caught unawares in Labyrinth Zone, Chemical Plant Zone or Hydrocity Zone will remember the very first, life-changing time they heard the drowning jingle. Be afraid…
- Clickers (The Last of Us)
Although I’d prefer to stick to retro games, I felt it necessary to include at least one frightening creature who we could call pretty new. And since Old Snake’s geriatric, latex-clad derriere from Metal Gear Solid 4 wasn’t acceptable as a scary enough monster (which shocked me), I had to plump with the Clickers from the seminal survival-action game The Last of Us instead. You can’t exactly Rambo your way through this game: about the best you can tool yourself up with is a piddly handgun that holds about five rounds of jelly, and beyond that a scabby brick or two. But you’ll thank the heavens for these bricks when you come up against the fungi-faces known as Clickers and you need a way of distracting them.
The Clickers are so called because they just stumble around all day (no jobs or hobbies available in the post-apocalyptic world, of course) making these inimitable throaty clicking sounds. They’re supposed to be blind, although so are the AI players in RTS games when there’s Fog of War, know what I mean? Make a few silly sounds (like entering pun-to-pun combat with your wee partner Ellie) and the Clickers will be on you like a snot to have a nice feast on your character’s Gregory Peck – a one hit kill as well. It’s the stealth aspect that really gets the heart racing with these ugly lads. There’s times when you’ll have to creep right past their nose (or whatever’s left of it). One false step and you’re dead fungus.
- Regeneradors (Resident Evil 4)
Yes, when looking at the Resident Evil series I could have picked something like the usual zombies, or the rabid dogs, or the giant alligators in the sewers or even the Lickers. But let’s be honest, it’s quite a few years later now and those enemies are not really that scary. No, a proper representation of the Resident Evil series would have to have a few tricks up its sleeve, a few unique selling points. Step forward the Regenerador (and big strong brave polyglots like me can helpfully tell you that that’s Spanish for ‘regenerator’).
I can hardly even describe this big beast, but I’ll give it a bash: Regeneradors are hulking masses of flat-footed white flesh and fat. They’ve got narrowed, red, predator eyes to lock onto you and seek you out with. And you’ll definitely hear these guys coming, thanks to their raspy, inhibited, what-under-the-wide-canopy-of-Jaysus-is-that breathing sound, possibly supplied by the asthmatic Helga admirer from Hey Arnold.
Everyone agrees that the Regenerador’s breathing is absolutely terrifying. But the fact that there’s no discernible weak points on its body (unless you’re blessed with thermal imaging capabilities) plus its ability to live up to its name and literally just regenerate and grow back damaged parts of its body in seconds mean that this guy really is one of the scariest customers in gaming. It loves to feast on Leon’s jugular more than anything else. Probably Ashley’s too. But to add to the misery, even blowing its arms off won’t stop it in its unquenchable quest for neck: it’ll just latch onto Leon with its razor sharp teeth anyway. Or else, if you leave it legless, it’ll creepily slither across the ground before making a gargantuan leap and clinging onto your neck that way. No, the best thing you can do to beat a Regenerador is to put as much distance between you and it as possible and hope it goes away. Hope it goes back to living in the fridge or playing hide-and-seek with Oven Man or something.
- Giygas (EarthBound)
And here it is. I’m sorry to be the bearer of spoilers, but I had to have the Embodiment of Evil at the very top of this list. Through word-of-mouth and the Smash Bros. series, the SNES RPG EarthBound’s popularity has really grown. We never saw it over here in its original form, and the price it commands these days ensures that there still isn’t all that many copies on our shores. All that aside, EarthBound is a must-play, a real offbeat and goofy adventure – that is, until the last few hours of the game. At that point, your party of 13-year-old children are forced to undergo brain surgery and have their brains and spirits implanted into robots with no guarantee of returning to normal. Then they must travel back in time to this terribly eerie cave with incredibly powerful monsters. Finally, they reach Giygas’s lair, where duodenum-floors and demonic breathing ambient sounds are en vogue.
Then the final battle begins, and you eventually get onto the real form of Giygas itself. Actually, it doesn’t even really have a physical form, and it throws out attacks that your characters literally cannot even grasp the true form of. All the while, these terribly inhumane sounds are playing in the background, your attacks seemingly have no effect, and Giygas is throwing this uncomfortable baby talk at you. And that leads to the popular (though probably ridiculous) theory that the reason you’ve gone way back in time to defeat this formless creature that exists from behind a cervix and taunts you with childish babble is because you’re actually aborting the game’s villain before he can ever get started. And if you believe that… well, you can see why this game wasn’t released in 1990s Ireland, at least. EarthBound is a fine endeavour, but I would say it’s almost worth playing purely to scare yourself silly with the last act of the game. Bloody hell, is it creepy.
29 October 2019