We all get scared sometimes. We all have fears, aversions, doubts, little tickles on the backs of our necks that send chills down our spines. Sometimes these fears are justified—falling out of a moving vehicle, spontaneously combusting, being flattened by a piano falling out of a seven-story building. Others, not so much. The great Oingo Boingo once said "there is nothing to fear but fear itself," and while these words are wise and sensible, I'll have to disagree with the skeleton-obsessed, new wave octet. After all, we have video games.
Some video games are meant to terrorize. Others are meant to harmonize.
No matter the game's original intention, however, an innocent gamer (me) may find themselves mildly concerned (absolutely terrified) and sitting up in surprise (throwing their controller across the room) at even the most ridiculous of non-frights. I am not at all embarrassed (I am) to reveal this list of completely unscary moments that have scared the utter crap out of me over the course of my gaming career.
No Shame: 5 Traumatizing Moments In Games That Are Simply Not Traumatizing
1. King Zing, Donkey Kong Country 2
This piece of honey-covered, yellow-and-black insectoid scum has given me more heart attacks than I'd care to admit (eight). "Oh, he's just a little pixelated bee—he can't hurt you!" "He's just a bigger version of every other bee in that agglutinative maze of honeycomb!"
—it doesn't matter.
This king with a sting was the first six-legged monstrosity to give me an aneurysm.
It's not the boss level itself that gets me—that thing's cake! It's the preceding level, the innocently named "Rambi Rumble," that terrifies me beyond all reason.
You're gallivanting along, minding your own business, when suddenly the music changes and you're being chased down by a massive bee of death! There's no indication it's coming, no lead-up, just BAM! Killer bee at 9:00! I remember playing the level again years later and reminding myself every five steps of what to expect... but I miscalculated which drop he appeared after and literally threw my controller across the room. To this day, I still close my eyes, drop down the hole, and simply let him go past me.
2. King Gojulus, Mega Man 7
In an age where terrifying, CG-rendered dinosaurs run amok on our TV and cinema screens, you'd think a tiny, pixelated, robotic dinosaur would rank pretty low on the list of frightening jurassic wonders.
Well, think again.
Mega Man 7 was the first Mega Man game I ever played (too bad it didn't make the legacy collection...), and boy was I in for a treat. Shooting things, nabbing powers, getting frustrated that my stupid little guy couldn't jump far enough... What I wasn't prepared for, however, was this horrifying, robotic creation dropping from the sky and chasing me across pits of spikes before trapping me in a corner!
This king of robo dinos, King Gojulus (referred to as a "silly mini-boss" by some), shows up about halfway through the Slash Man stage to wreak destruction on your pre-pubescent (or not-so-pre-pubescent) nervous system. Just look at those eyes, that massive set of jaws—if that's not the scariest thing you've ever seen, I don't know what to tell you. Well, aside from the fact that you're much more sensible than me.
3. The Bruiser Boys, Home Alone GB
If there was one game I used to play constantly while riding in the backseat of the family van, it was Home Alone. It was by no means an amazing game—some may argue it wasn't even a good game—but there was something about little Kevin's quest to nab all the valuables in his house and protect them from the Wet Bandits that kept me plugging the cartridge into the back of that bulky, gray brick that made your hands fall asleep if you played too long.
One thing, however, that terrified me no matter how many times I played the game, was the Bruiser Boys (I had to look up the original instruction manual to see what they were called—I always just called them the "muscle men").
These stocky, rough-and-tumble, black-white-and-pink pixel men were too tall for you to jump over, followed you from screen to screen, and ground-pounded the floor to drop things on you if they couldn't reach you. The second stage was the worst, too—the upper floor consisted of nothing but Bruiser Boys! The feeling of dread when I climbed those stairs was real! Did it matter that they moved at the speed of a snail? Did it matter that you could barely tell what they were in that tiny mass of pixels? I think you know the answer to that question.
4. South Ocean, Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia fascinated me with its wide open skies just begging to be explored. I used to spend hours just flying around, catching fish, looking for discoveries, and enjoying the ever-changing scenery of that massive world (wouldn't a sequel be great?!). With so much opportunity, however, there are bound to be feelings of desolation, alienation, fear of the unknown...
...but I'm not here to talk about any of those.
I'm here to talk about the swirling vortexes of tornadic destruction proliferating the South Ocean!
How anyone can sail through this throng of winding, warping, cyclones of death is beyond me. As soon as that silhouette appears in the distance, I'm done. Maybe it's because I grew up in Iowa where the threat of tornadoes is real and potentially traumatizing, but this was just not okay. I'll pick up the game again in Ixa'Taka, okay?
I still remember one time when I was watching my sister play: we'd gained the ability to fly over the clouds and were having fun just sailing around and exploring. At one point, we dropped back below the clouds to check where we were and landed smack-dab on top of one of the tornadoes. Cue another controller launch! We had to ask our other sister to fly us away from the computer-generated twister...
5. The Card King and the Terminator, Animaniacs SNES
To be quite honest, this entire game terrified me. I'm not sure why, either. I still played it, of course, but not without this strange feeling of dread building up in the base of my skull the entire time. Perhaps it was partly due to the controls—they were cumbersome at best, and the whole "three different layers of depth" thing left me feeling helpless against whatever the game decided to throw at me. The soundtrack, as well, had some decidedly unsettling tracks that still give me the willies when I listen to them.
The two things that frightened me the most, however, were the Card King and the Terminator.
The Card King was a creepy little devil of a boss that appeared at the end of the Fantasy Stage. You find his body first, then his head floats down to adorn his fat, neckless torso, and then he charges! He comes at you with the speed of a crazed chimpanzee, following you relentlessly back and forth across the screen, and the only way you can kill him is by timing your dash so that he'll get flattened by the falling anvil. The doll-like demeanor of the king, as well as the sinister, circus-like depravity of the music made this a battle for me to avoid, and I never did beat the Fantasy Stage.
Now, you may not agree with me on the Card King, but you have to agree that this next example is at least a little traumatizing...
...WHAT IS THIS?!
First, you're chased down by a rampaging semi-truck, then this terrifying abomination emerges from the flames, and the only way you can kill it is by desperately slamming your body into some switches while trying not to get killed! I know this is a tribute to the Terminator, but come on! Like I could distract myself from the rampant terror long enough to hit those switches? Needless to say, this was another stage I've still yet to finish...