Childhood is a time of innocence, of folly, of playing games that you never dreamed would scar you for life. Of course, at that time, you didn't know the true meaning behind many of your favorite video games when you were a wee one. But how could you? After all, video games have those neat flashy graphics, those cool sound effects, those...interesting plot twists... those macabre looking villains that you just can't get out of your head...
You didn't look too deeply into that as a kid, did you? Of course not! However, now that you're an adult, you can dive back in with a replay (or two). Right off the bat, you start noticing some things that didn't even cross your young little mind when you played before. Why is that boss so terrifying? What's the true aim of this game? Clearly, there are much darker elements to the most game plots than you remember.
We at TheGamer have dug deeply into the games of our childhoods to bring you our most terrifying favorites, the ones that linger long after you have turned off your console and moved on to some other menial task. Now that you've looked at these games a second time with more knowledge in your noggin than your childhood self could even dream of, you just can't help but wonder for some of the especially dark and creepy entries, what were the developers thinking????
15 What Lies Within Lavender Town (Pokémon)
Lavender Town doesn't seem too bad when you first look at it. The only strange thing is that it houses the Pokémon Tower, which is the final resting place for Pokemon. Of course, there are also many sightings of the ghosts of Pokémon that have died. However, the population of the town seems to be decreasing. The bizarre occurrence is never explained in the game, and that feeds into the "something darker underneath" trope.
Lavender Town's most recent claim to fame surfaced on the internet in 2014. The story goes that following the release of Pokémon Red and Green a number of child suicides began cropping up. The song that plays in the town supposedly contained "harmful frequencies" that would force children to commit suicide. Not to mention that when kids go to Lavender Town, they learn for the first time that Pokémon can actually die, which by itself is fairly terrifying for a kid.
14 Pianos Want Your Flesh And Blood (Super Mario 64)
Super Mario 64 debuted in 1996 to rave reviews. It has sold over 11 million copies worldwide and holds the title of the best-selling Nintendo 64 game of all time. It was all the first 3D Mario game, and is also widely acclaimed as one of the "greatest and most important games of all time." However, beneath the colorful levels, there's a spooky undercurrent lurking.
Probably the most notable is the "Killer Piano" (also known as the "Mad Piano") that appears in Super Mario 64 in Big Boo's Haunt. All the player needs to do is approach the piano, and immediately it will begin to open and close its lid, which houses some very sharp teeth. The Mad Piano then begins to pursue the player and attack them. Even more terrifying? This enemy is undefeatable, which strikes a very sour note!
13 What Does It Mean? (Kirby's Dreamland 3)
Kirby's Dreamland 3 has several uncomfortable facets, including the fact that his friends are technically trying to kill him because they have been possessed by Dark Matter. One of the creepiest factors of this game is at the very end when you fight the final boss, Zero. Who is, not surprisingly, a giant bloodshot eyeball that stares into your soul.
What's also interesting about Zero is he doesn't have any clear motivations. He's just...there to fight Kirby. It is able to produce smaller Dark Matter beings, indicating it is a source of Dark Matter. Other than that, not much is known. I guess that's also what makes a terrifying enemy, one with no clear goal other than to exterminate you.
12 You're Almost Out Of Breath Music (Sonic The Hedgehog)
Sonic the Hedgehog's soundtrack is a pretty great, right? It's easy to see why it makes us so nostalgic about our youth. However, these chiptune tracks aren't always happy. One music track in particular can still send shivers down your spine years later. In fact, this track has appeared in almost every Sonic game with unique variations. But we're here to take you back to where it all began.
Even though it's only seconds long... it's pretty terrifying all the same. The drowning music in Sonic the Hedgehog creates a sense of panic and urgency. "Get to the surface or else you're DEAD!" Even years later it still gives me heart palpitations when I listen to it. It's a very uneasy sound to hear, one that lingers long after you've turned off the game.
11 The Surprising Humanity Of ReDeads (LOZ: Ocarina Of Time)
ReDeads are without a doubt one of the creepiest villains in the Legend of Zelda franchise. Sure, they emit bone-chilling screams and paralyze Link on sight, but that's not what bothers me the most about these monsters. They exhibit one strangely human characteristic...mourning their dead. Or, what appears to be mourning. When a ReDead is slain, any of the other ReDeads in the area will walk towards and crouch beside their fallen comrade.
This is excellent for Link, of course, because it makes it much easier to dispatch the rest of the group. Another explanation is that they are consuming its corpses, or (even more disturbingly) they might be morning their dead. Which means you've been slaughtering creatures with humanity.
10 The Screams Of The Squid Kids (Splatoon)
Splatoon is a great game. You're a kid, but also a squid. What could possibly be wrong with that? A lot, actually. If you listen closely, certain Splatoon bosses make some pretty disturbing sounds. Eurogamer questioned Splatoon's director, Tsubasa Sakaguchi, on the origin of these terrifying sounds in an otherwise cute and plucky little game. “It’s the first time I’ve heard this!” Sakaguchi claimed. “I was the one who was in charge of the mechanics and the effects for the final boss. Towards the end, though, I was running out of time so I was asking the staff around me to do things for me—like the staff credits and many other things." Perhaps someone on the sound team had a little fun, or maybe there's more to it.
9 Gigyas' Terrifying Reality (Earthbound)
Just staring at that photo gives me shivers. I'm pretty sure if you remember any of these from your childhood, it's definitely going to be Gigyas. The final battle of Earthbound tasks the player with eliminating Gigyas. The battle has five stages, each of which wounds Gigyas further. With every stage, he becomes more distorted and more terrifying. Gigyas is truly an incomprehensible evil that is almost impossible to defeat.
Gigyas' appearance is terrifying, but the lore around him is as well. Paula must pray nine times to kill Gigyas, which frames him as a sort of demonic and satanic figure that is eliminated through light. Gigyas wields a vast and uncontrollable cosmic power, but once defeated is reduced to absolute nothingness. Nothing is more chilling than a giant, seemingly unstoppable force with such a macabre appearance.
8 Why Does Link Scream? (Majora's Mask)
There are an impressive 24 total masks that Link can acquire throughout the course of Majora's Mask. Every time he puts on a mask in the game, he makes a screaming sound, which is pretty terrifying honestly. Fortunately, one of the Nintendo employees posted an answer that can explain what's happening when link dons one of these masks.
According to a Nintendo rep/developer who poses as the Happy Mask Shop guy from the game, "It's very simple! The boundless sorrow surrounding each mask comes rushing inside the wearer when they put it on, so the urge to scream is quite understandable, really." Wow. That's... a lot to process. So in reality, Link is actually experiencing the sadness and sorrows of the masks when he puts them on, so, that's why he screams. Pleasant!
7 Don't Die Alone (Minecraft)
On the surface, Minecraft is a happy little game about "placing blocks and going on adventures!" according to the official site. It is a game marketed for kids, sure, but plenty of adults, myself included, enjoy the game just as much if not more. When you look deeper into the plot of Minecraft, especially survivor mode, you see how lonely the game can get. Not to mention that you're constantly defending yourself from the fearsome foes at night falls.
You can die in Minecraft. It will be a sad and lonely death (unless, of course, you're playing with other people. Some people would find peace in the solitary nature of this game, yet...there is an element of unease to it all. Maybe it's the ferocious monsters that are constantly hunting you — yeah, that'll do it.
6 Haven City Is The Worst Place EVER (Jak II)
Haven City has ironically devolved into a very unsafe dystopian hell in Jak II. It's set 500 years after the events of the first game, and apparently, a lot has happened since then. The city is ruled by a tyrannical Baron Praxis who maintains control through the use of a paramilitary force, the Krimzon Guard (which alludes to the Communist Party's KGB security agency). The fact that the plot revolves around a dystopia. Not to mention the dark-themed experiments that were done on Jak, which infused him with Dark Eco, is unusually sinister for a kid's game. If you played this game when you were younger, it's one you won't forget.
5 Aliens Are Coming (Ecco The Dolphin)
Ecco the Dolphin starts off innocently enough, with Ecco and the rest of his dolphin pals swimming in their home waters. However, when a jumping contest goes awry, a waterspout forms, sucking up everything except for Ecco. This throws the entire sea into chaos, and it just gets worse from there! Ecco then travels to Atlantis, where he learns that every 500 years the Earth's waters get harvested by an alien species, the Vortex.
Things really kick into gear when Ecco faces off against the Vortex Queen, the leader of this diabolical race. Nothing about the game's box art suggests aliens will have anything to do with the plot, which makes it a really fantastic twist — cute little Ecco juxtaposed against the gruesome Vortex's Queen's face is absolutely the stuff of nightmares.
4 Don't Be a Lemming... Or Maybe You Are Already? (Lemmings)
Lemmings is a fascinating game. The old societal adage, "Don't be a lemming" has a lot of connections to this puzzle-platformer. The game's central mechanic involves guiding a specific amount of lemmings through obstacles to an exit.
The "lemmings" can represent humanity, you can assign skills to them, make them useful, and perhaps that puts you in the role of a deity. Are you "playing God" if they die? Or if they survive? These lemmings are also anthropomorphic, fairly human-like. Are we all just lemmings in a cave being guided by some unseen hand that gives us unique gifts and skills to utilize to further this journey? Maybe so.
3 What Does Darkness Represents? (Pajama Sam)
The first Pajama Sam is the tale of a young boy terrified of darkness. But, armed with his trusty lunchbox, mask, and flashlight, he becomes the true hero of all of our childhoods. In addition, Sam befriends "Darkness," who is actually just lonely and wants a companion. Looking at that as an adult is truly upsetting. It makes you wonder what does "Darkness" represent for Sam? Perhaps it's a fear of the unknown, or a fear of even...growing up. It goes to show if you face your fears, perhaps you really had nothing to be afraid of, to begin with. Sam was able to best Darkness with only his own kindness. Dang, that's deep.
2 What Does It Mean To Be Heartless? (Kingdom Hearts)
The Heartless are actually quite cute-looking creatures despite the fact that they are actually made from pure darkness. The Heartless are completely devoid of emotion, and they have a compulsive need to steal more hearts to make more Heartless. They behave much like a zombie horde in this way. An offshoot of the Heartless, that is also pretty terrifying, are the Nobodies. Nobodies are created when a strong-willed individual loses their heart, resulting in an empty shell of a body. Nobodies also retain human memories, making their state even more horrifying, while they find activities to occupy themselves. Considering Kingdom Heart's source material is Walt Disney, the concept of heartless is pretty gut-wrenching.
1 The Darker Side Of Disney (Epic Mickey)
Epic Mickey was meant to showcase Mickey Mouse's darker, more mischievous side. The world itself is called the Cartoon Wasteland, which already doesn't seem too hopeful. Mickey creates the Shadow Blot by accident while trying to create a self-portrait. Interesting how a "good" Disney character like Mickey can create the main antagonist of the game by accident. Of course, Disney has had its foibles, but Mickey traditionally hasn't done anything maniacal. So, the Mad Doctor and the Blot actually set out to kill Mickey and steal his heart. For an E rated game, this is one of the darkest plots I can remember. It's unreal that Disney let their beloved mascot be wrapped like this for Epic Mickey.