I used to be something of a big gamer. I guess I still am, but my dislike towards most FPSes and most multiplayer games has led to me sticking more and more to indie games and older games lately.
Digging through old games, I realize something. Video game devs were dicks back then. Not to say they aren't dicks now, they were just dickish in a different way back then: They wanted to give kids nightmares. I don't see this as much anymore, outside of some new games like Minecraft (the ambient noises will fucking scare you), and Epic Mickey (its creator actually explicitly stated his intent to frighten kids in an interview with GameInformer. This man is a hero.)
Keep in mind, these are explicitly ten things that scared -me- as a -kid-. They don't precisely bother anymore, merely things that as a kid were nothing but the purest nightmare fuel, and as such this is purely subjective.
#10 : Sinistar
Sinistar was something of an oddity when it first came out. You start the game thinking it's just sort of an Asteroids clone, which it is. Don't get me wrong, it's more fun than Asteroids, and certainly better looking, but it is basically Asteroids+. And then... this happens.
A giant, roaring thing comes out, screams at you, taunts you as a player, and quite possibly destroys the living crap out of you.
Sinistar is tough, Sinistar is a dick, and holy crap will that roar scare you.
It's like if suddenly a xenomorph dropped out of one of the ships in Space Invaders and started screeching at the screen while ripping apart your ship.
That and there's just something about a video game monster taunting the -player- and not the player character.
That's part of why I find Ghasts terrifying in Minecraft. They don't attack your character, no. They attack the screen. That fireball is aimed at the -screen-. I love fourth wall breaking horror.
#9 : Starfox SNES
Starfox NES is a fun game, albeit a pretty trippy one.
The graphics haven't aged well at all and can make the game pretty hard to play. On a recent playthrough I found myself even feeling confusion as to what was a powerup and what was an enemy.
First off, there's Andross. He's only mildly creepy/unnerving, but I feel like he deserves mention.
I don't know what it is. Maybe it's that he starts off as a flat surface that turns into a really screwed up looking mask thing and starts vomiting polygons at you. Even in the N64 sequel/reboot, Andross is honestly the creepiest thing there, except there he's either a flying brain or a flying robot skull.
But that's not what made this game scare me as a kid. No, the horrors this game unleashed were far less sensical.
Y'know how Starfox 64 had that sort of hidden level that was a warp point between worlds?
Well, SNES Starfox had its own, only far, far trippier. I mean sure, that's pretty weird itself, and feels out of place in SF64, but it could be far worse.
My dear readers, feast your eyes upon "Out Of This Dimension."
Seriously, what the fuck?
Where to begin? There's the weird wavey effect everything has, the moon-faces in the background, there's a giant slot machine enemy, and then you fight... the credits? What the hell?
I got stuck in this level as a kid, couldn't figure out how to get out, or how I even got here. I worried I'd broken the game somehow or something.
#8 : Sim Ant
I love sim games, I really do. Hell, Sims 2 and Sim City 4 are still easily two of my favorite PC games ever. Sim Ant... I had trouble playing.
No, it wasn't that the gameplay was bad. It was a fun game. It wasn't that I didn't own it, I certainly did.
No, the real reason should be obvious to anyone that has both played the game and read my Jaws review.
To an arachnaphobe, SimAnt becomes a fucking survival horror game. Sadly, I can find very little on this game. I remember there being a special closeup of the spider once it kilsl you, and this being the scariest thing ever. I keep finding people talking about it, but no pictures. Sadly, I no longer have my copy. Wonder if it'd even run on Win7 64bit.
There's also the giant lawnmower, which comes out of nowhere, is super fast, and has almost no warning beyond a brief second where you can hear the whirring before it kills you.
#7 : Ecco the Dolphin
How could a game about a cute dolphin be scary? I don't blame you for asking that. That means you never touched this game, or at least never beat it.
For the most part, it's a really cute game. The music is fantastic, the graphics are really pretty, and it's overall an awesome game.
Well, this awesome game suddenly goes to hell when, after leaping up above the water a few times, fucking ALIENS ABDUCT YOU. Out of nowhere. Not cute aliens, not friendly aliens. Horrible, creepy aliens.
The last level alone is... I'll let the video explain it.
Yeah. Wow. You wouldn't think a game like Ecco the Dolphin would have a boss like -that-.
Seriously. It's just so damn out of the blue, and completely unexpected.
The entire series is based around out-of-nowhere nightmare fuel now, and it's all the more awesome for it.
#6 : Earthbound
Speaking of creepy bosses...
Earthbound takes the cake for scariest endboss ever. Seriously. I'd imagine most of you probably knew it'd be popping up in this list due to how well known this creepy thing -is-.
Seriously, what the crap?
Earthbound's hardly a normal game, but it's far from creepy. For the most part it's just a super surreal game full of odd pop culture references and the like.
There's all sorts of explanations as to what the hell is going on there, some even claiming that it's a form of abortion. Honestly, even without explanation (and maybe -because- of the lack of explanation), this is just screwed up.
If you didn't think it could get creepier, have some Ronald!
#5 : Ski Free
Oh hey, it's a game that comes with Windows! Nothing could be wrong with it!
I'm skiing! Weee! This game is fun!
Hey, there aren't any other skiiers, I wonder what my goal i-What the hell is that!?
OH MY GOD!
Seriously. What the fuck, Ski Free?
You can't escape the yeti, either. Keep going, and a second yeti comes out as well. At best, you can just delay the inevitable.
-That- is the true purpose of this game. This is like a survival horror game in disguise.
#4 : Pokemon (RBY)
I fucking loved Pokemon as a kid. I was big on the first gen games, I loved the anime, I played the TCG. I even went to Pokemon TCG tourneys. ...But even I have to admit Pokemon was chock full of nightmare fuel.
First off, we've got a few of the Pokemon. Drowzee feasts on dreams, Hypno leads children away like some scary looking Pied Piper, you've got the ghosts...
And then you've got Lavender Town. It's got this creepy, slow, depressing music, and on top of that the town is home to a huge haunted Pokemon crypt. This entire segment also inspired Pokemon Black. Not the latest entry in the cashcow franchise, but a hacked ROM inspired by Pokemon creepypasta.
Just listen to that music. Seriously. You can see why it inspires such things.
The biggest bit of nostalgic nightmare fuel in this game though, to me, is the dreaded glitch Pokemon Missingno.
Imagine you're an 8 year old kid playing pokemon, and you run into that thing. It's a sentient glitch that starts screwing up the text of your game, and you've heard that it can erase your saved data. That is horrifying.
Want that to be made worse? Pokemon Yellow. Nintendo tried to remove Missingno entirely, and Wikipedia claims they did (good luck putting Yellow Missingno in the Missingno article. "Notability over factuality.")
Yellow Missingno does everything normal Missingno was alleged to do, and more. Seriously, just look him up on youtube, you'll find all sorts of weird things it's capable of doing, ranging from creating a glitch city and then populating it with clones of your character.
Missingno is Pokemon's Colour out of Space.
#3 : Majora's Mask
Where do I begin?
Majora's Mask is easily one of the most screwed up N64 games, which is saying a lot since the Nintendo 64 was like a magnet for nightmare fuel.
There's a creepy swamp you have to go through, there's a house full of giant spiders, there's the ghibdos and redeads, there's the zombie hand coming out of the toilet...
There's that damn moon. If I had to pick a moment though, it'd be the UFOs. You see, for some reason, aliens attack the farm on one of the nights. This comes completely out of nowhere, doesn't feel like it fits into a Zelda game, and it's just creepy as hell.
Seriously, what the hell game?
To make matters worse, if you don't fight the aliens, this happens.
THEY LOBOTOMIZE THE LITTLE GIRL. SERIOUSLY.
What the hell, game!?
#2 : Super Mario 64
How could a Mario game be scary?
And that's just one thing. Seriously, this game was so screwed up as a kid. Besides the piano, we also get such memorable bits of nightmare fuel as the eel...
...The big Kamina fish that can eat you alive...
Seriously, what the crap? That last one made me jump as a kid, threw my controller in fear. I think I was maybe 7 or 8 years old.
On top of that, there's all the Mario death animations. Ever wanted to see Mario realistically drown?
What were they thinking? And then there's that Bowser laugh as Mario lays there, dead. It's just... -what-.
After all that, you may be wondering what I'd put as #1. #1, to me, has to be a game that is so full of nightmare fuel, yet somehow not a horror game, that I'm not even sure how to write about what all is horrifying about it. That game...
#1 : Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time
This game is nightmare fuel unleaded from start to finish.
You go inside of the mouth of a giant tree, you fight giant spiders inside of him, you get face-raped by zombies, giant hands come out of nowhere and grab you...
Even the music in this game is horrifying.
That's just the forest temple, which is full of ghosts, the killer hands, and spiders. It's also got some weird non-euclidean elements, including a weird twisting hallway that sort of distorts reality.
Shadow Temple. Full of zombies, spiders, invisible bottomless pits, giant scythes that can instantly kill you, a huge ghost ship, and the corpses of everyone that has failed to survive it before you.
The scariest thing though, to me? Dead Hands.
What the crap, Nintendo? That... thing. Seriously. That is, easily, one of the scariest things I've ever seen in a video game. I don't just mean in a non-horror game. This thing scares me more than anything in Silent Hill and Resident Evil.
I'm almost hesitant to play it on 3DS just because of that thing. I can see it now, me tossing my 3DS in fear when that thing comes out. Just... no.