Top 10 scariest enemies in non-horror games
Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Dead Space, Dead or Alive Extreme Volleyball, all of these games have one thing in common: They are designed around scaring the player. Some have monsters jumping at you, some play with your mind and some just build up a lot of atmosphere. However, sometimes a game doesn’t have to be part of the horror genre in order to scare you, sometimes scares can come from the most unexpected places. Scary elements in non-horror games are my favorite subject to talk about, so I figured I’d make a list. Today we’ll be focusing on enemies exclusively, but maybe we’ll do bosses sometimes too.
If you have some contributions of your own, then feel free to leave them in the comment section. With that said: Enjoy!
Let’s start this game off with something a lot of people have probably undergone. You’re playing Minecraft, chopping down some trees, making yourself a cozy little house, climbing atop a hill, when suddenly it turns dark. In the distance you see a friend walking around, he’s not paying attention and walks into his house without closing the door behind him. That is when a Creeper shows up out of nothing and hops right after him, you yell into your microphone but it’s too late already. KABOOM.
I choose the Creeper from Minecraft because, especially in Hardcore mode, they can be the most dangerous enemies around. As scary as the Endermen may be, they are pretty dumb and so rare that they can’t be considered a constant threat. Creepers don’t die in sunlight, they have plenty of health and they can ruin a perfectly good shelter without even trying. Certainly not something you want to run into when traversing a narrow cave.
I’ll be honest with you guys: Kingdom Hearts is not a very good franchise. The stories tend to be over-explained to the point of frustration, a lot of the games are just the same events from a different character’s perspective and there is a lot of conflicting writing. However, the shitty writing actually makes the Nobodies scarier. A Nobody in the Kingdom Hearts universe is the empty husk of somebody who lost his heart. Most Nobodies turn pale, lose human features and just become all-around uncanny (I fucking hate how they move). They are pretty strong, but they also tend to come in packs with a variety of different types. Because of the inconsistent writing you can never really figure out any sort of tactic to deal with them, there is simply no telling what Square Enix will come up with next. There is a memorable scene early on in Kingdom Hearts 2 where a simple Nobody takes control of a friendly character and enters a competition… how the hell did it do that? It never ever comes up again and they never use that skill anywhere else in the game. I hate these guys…
How could anything be scary in a Kirby game? Everything is so colorful and cutesy. Nothing could possibly look horrifying in this game! That might be the reaction of an outsider, but those who play the games know that Kirby titles tend to have some pretty out-of-place stuff. Number 8 on this list goes to Scarfy. At first sight these enemies seem very cute and innocent, in fact, they don’t even attack you. When I first ran into these creatures I hopped over them and moved forward, but that is exactly what they want you to do. In the same fashion as Boos from Super Mario, the Scarfy starts chasing you the second you turn your back.
His color fades away, he grows massive teeth, his eyes change and he starts chasing you relentlessly. Unlike other regular enemies, the Scarfy can’t be eaten, meaning they are immune to Kirby’s main ability. While not too difficult to kill with any other ability, the Scarfy still gets this spot for the initial scare they give you and their tough nature.
The Banjo & Kazooie series is all about collecting a number of items in order to progress. There are music notes to open doors, jigsaw pieces to complete puzzles, honeycombs to increase your lives and the Jinjo-families for extra jigsaw pieces. A Jinjo is a cute bird-character that comes in many different colors, each level in the original game had five of them and they were fun to collect. It wasn’t until Banjo & Tooie (the sequel) that I started approaching each and every single Jinjo with fear. The enemy I am talking about are the Minjos. They look exactly like their cute counterpart, but when you come close they start twitching and chase after you. They are very fast and the sparks of electricity and grunts that come out of them gave me nightmares as a kid. The Minjo is scary because of how they punish you for following a natural reaction, you want to blindly collect every item you see, but that’s not the way to play this game. Games should stimulate your mind and nothing is as stimulating as a good scare.
The next entry is not necessarily part of one single game, but rather it is a trend that appears throughout numerous games. The enemies in question are Doppelgangers or copies of the player’s character. Doppelgangers are usually used as a major story-event, such as the character overcoming their fears by beating himself or defeating their inner demons. Usually these fights are also very hard and they use your own equipment against you. In Bastion the doppelganger enemy is brilliantly presented: not only is the fight very hard, but it’s also accompanied by a twisted version of the usual Narrator. You are essentially replaying the first level, doing the same things as before, but instead of the regular supportive commentary, you’ll be hearing the Narrator put all your actions in a bad light. That, along with a tough enemy to fight, makes this the most memorable scene in the entire game.
Let’s talk about some mainstream games now before people start figuring out that I am a massive Nintendo fanboy. Let’s talk about Gears of War. The normal enemies aren’t too scary, not even the ones that appear in the atmospheric sections of the game. Instead my pick for number 5 is the Berserker, especially in the first game. Berserkers aren’t very common, but they are always a challenge when they finally do appear. These blind enemies charge at you when they hear you and they are immune to bullets, that alone is pretty frightening, but most of the time you’ll also be forced to fight them in very close quarters. Gears of War 3 also introduces a Lambent Berserker, which is an upgraded version of the regular species. Not only does the Lambent do more damage than before, but it also leaves a trail of toxic which can kill you in less than two seconds when you stand too close. All this goes to show that when presentation is used well, even the most mainstream of action games can be horrifying.
There are only two enemy factions you need to worry about in Halo 3, but these two are also complete opposites of one another. The first is The Covenant: an alien alliance of multiple races that is led by a council of deceiving religious and the second is… The flood. Some might argue that The Flood is just a regular zombie-like race, but the strain is modified in a way that makes them that much creepier. The biggest plus is that you actually see the transformation happen and people reacting to it, meaning that you dread fighting these enemies so much more after they killed all the friendly Marines you were travelling with. Showing such things in a cut-scene or just not at all would have taken so much away from the experience. The Flood, and especially their “Gravemind” leaders, are also very strong. The first time you see them in Halo 3 is when they crash an airship, but not any regular Phantom or Pelican, but a whole Covenant ship held together with fleshy tissue. If that doesn’t make you reconsider blindly charging in, then nothing will.
Don’t ask me how to pronounce this, but spot number 3 goes to the Ichthyosaur from the original Half-Life. These fish-like enemies appear sparsely throughout the game and are perhaps one of the most challenging non-Zen hostiles that you’ll face. The idea is that at some points in the game you’ll be forced to go underwater to progress, that is when Ichthy shows up and starts circling around you, often charging in for a quick bite before rushing off again. He’s very hard to follow because of how fast he is and the only weapon that really works on him is the crossbow, a weapon for which ammo is very hard to come by. To summarize my feelings: if you already have a phobia for water, then you’ll be glad to know that the Ichthyosaur will only make that worse.
I can probably do a whole article about the freaky stuff that appears in the Legend of Zelda franchise (and I probably will), I already wrote an article on Majora’s Mask before, but that’s just scraping the surface. I ended up with three options for the number 2 spot: The Dead Hand from Ocarina of Time, the Shadow Beasts from Twilight Princess and the actual winner: the ReDeads.
ReDeads appear as your everyday zombie, but they don’t actually chase you or anything, they just stand perfectly still and moan a little. Curiosity is likely to get the better of you when you first see these calm beings, but get a little too close and suddenly the ReDead lets out a deafening shriek. This shriek freezes you in place, regardless of what you were doing (even in the middle of an attack or jump) and leave you open for… hugs? The zombie now jumps on Link’s back and starts clawing at his face, causing a small amount of damage per second, but leaving you immobile for a few seconds too. The scariest part is yet to come though… once you actually kill one of these guys, all of his friends will slowly wander towards his corpse. They don’t really do anything with it, but it’s just so strange to see them standing there, weeping over their fallen comrade.
What also sells these enemies is their timing in the story. Assuming you didn’t go after the Sun’s Song already, you’ll first see these enemies directly after the dark plot-twist in this game. You’ll walk into the once cheerful Market Square, which was the official safe-zone of the game, and find that all the characters are gone, replaced with these undead foes. Some of the characters you’ll end up meeting again elsewhere, but some “mysteriously vanished” from the story. Mysteriously vanished, my ass!
Now this is the story of an eight year old boy, enjoying Pikmin and Mario Sunshine on his purple Gamecube. He likes games. Video games are all so colorful and fun. Sure there are some shooters like Medal of Honor, but they aren’t too scary and very exciting from time to time. Then his dad comes home and hands him a game, a game called “Time Splitters 2”. That little kid pops it in and undergoes the most horrifying moments of his entire life.
Time Splitters 2’s story is a bit weird, but essentially it all boils down to soldiers going to different time periods to prevent aliens from changing the events that took place there. It also has a wacky multi-player and arcade mode, but the single-player decides to start you off in the underground labyrinths of a Russian science lab… with zombies in it. The zombies that appear in the game are pretty scary, but that’s way too easy. Instead I nominate the Splitters themselves. These freaky aliens (displayed in the picture, because where else) can turn invisible, shoot devastating lasers and teleport all over the place. They appear multiple times throughout the story mission to halt your progress, mostly at the end of a level to try and prevent you from finishing it. It doesn’t sound too bad, but there is a glitch that happens all too often.
This glitch occurs when you finish the last objective of a level, but forgot one of the goals that appeared along the line. Completing the last objective starts spawning the Splitters, but the portal doesn’t appear until you have finished everything else. This means you need to backtrack, solve the remaining tasks and then track back… while invisible aliens chase you down constantly. Running away doesn’t work against the faster Splitters, shooting them works, but they spawn so fast that it doesn’t make any difference. Hiding doesn’t work either because that is not part of the game mechanics, so that means you have to take the abuse and try to race towards a solution. Thanks to the Splitters, I can now play this game blindfolded and still find my way to the end of every level. Perhaps that would be better too, because then I won’t see the Reaper Splitters and I won’t scream like a little girl.