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Terrifying Moments In Non-Horror Games

The immersive nature of video games can make them incredibly terrifying, which can lead to horror games feeling scarier than any movie. Rather than just watching a horrifying scene play out on the screen, players are involved and have to actively progress through those scary moments. Hearing a bump in the dark of a space station is scary enough in "Alien," but it is even worse when players have to actively walk towards that bump in a game like "Dead Space." 

While there are many great horror video games that take advantage of this interactivity, there are also plenty of non-horror games that follow the same concept to create memorable and downright nightmarish scenes. 

When that happens, these moments are particularly impactful, since they stand out from the rest of their respective games, allowing them to give players a tonal whiplash that leads to some of the most striking sequences in gaming. Here are some of the most unsettling, terrifying, creepy, or just downright disturbing moments in non-horror games.

Control - Fridge Duty

"Control" has some very unsettling moments and concepts, but one of its scariest moments comes via the side quest "Fridge Duty." Found in the Panopticon section of the Foundation, the quest sees Jesse Faden attempting to help an agent who is assigned to stare at a refrigerator. The concept is reminiscent of the fictional artifact SCP-173 (via SCP Foundation), which requires at least two people to stare at it at a time to prevent it from moving. When the player finds the agent staring at the fridge, he tells Jesse that he doesn't know what will happen if he looks away from the fridge, but that his eyes are burning and that he can't hold on for much longer.

Jesse then goes to find a way to relieve him from duty, but when she returns, the agent cries out before going silent. When Jesse enters the room, the chair where the agent was sitting is tipped over and empty — only a splatter of blood nearby indicates that somebody had been there at all. Perhaps most chilling of all is the fact that the fridge doesn't look any different than it did before.

The fridge then teleports Jesse to the Astral Plane, where she has to fight a colossal slug-like being with a massive eye of unknown origin and power. While the fight is not the creepiest part of the side quest, it is chilling to think of something as simple and innocent as a fridge — something pretty much everyone owns — possessing the influence and powers of something so ancient and massive. Why a fridge?

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - The Moon

"Majora's Mask" is a disturbing E-rated game, as well a massive tonal shift from what most fans expect from "The Legend of Zelda." The extremely dark tone of "Majora's Mask" comes mostly from its time-loop structure, which sees Link trying to stop a moon from crashing into the world and destroying it. To make it even worse, the moon has a horrifying face with peeled-back lips and burning red eyes that bore into the player whenever they look at it.

As players adventure, they also have to watch the moon get bigger and bigger in the sky as a foreboding reminder of their limited window of time. Unless the player has memorized the game, it is also inevitable that they will fail at least once, meaning they have to watch the moon crash with a massive explosion.

As noted by Syfy, other games in the series definitely have dark moments or lore, but "Majora's Mask" players have the constant pressure of knowing the world could end any moment. No wonder plenty of "Majora's Mask" fans can't help but get a shiver down their spine whenever they see that sneering moon.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Vampire Hunting

"Red Dead Redemption 2" changed gaming with its painstaking realism. Arthur Morgan's hair and beard grow realistically and have to be cut or styled to keep them under control. Meanwhile, a hunting session is completed with lengthy skinning animations.

This realism is not only extremely impressive, but it also makes the rare supernatural occurrences in the game all the more striking by contrast. This is particularly true when the player begins tracking down curious graffiti in the city of Saint Denis. After tracking down all five instances, Arthur finds a vampire in an alley. That's right; you can hunt a vampire in "Red Dead Redemption 2," but he can only be encountered in the middle of the night while he is feasting on the neck of his sixth victim.

The scene is particularly grisly, and the vampire quickly notices Arthur and becomes threatening if he isn't left alone. If the vampire ends up attacking Arthur, it takes only a single hit with his knife to give players a game over — and he is very effective at doing so.

Batman: Arkham Asylum - The Morgue

"Batman: Arkham Asylum" has plenty of nightmarish imagery, particularly thanks to the toxic gases of the villainous Scarecrow. None of the scenes are quite as terrifying, however, as when Batman takes a detour to Arkham Asylum's morgue. After being dosed by Scarecrow, Batman witnesses commissioner Gordon being dragged away from a vent by some unseen entity. Shortly after, Batman finds him apparently dead. That is only the beginning, though, as Batman then walks through crooked hallways covered in roaches to reach the morgue.

Once he's there, Batman is greeted by slamming doors and ominous whispers telling him to leave. Leaving and re-entering the room will reveal three covered bodies at the center of the room. The first two bodies are revealed to be the corpses of Batman's parents, each of which animated and chastise him for allowing them to die.

The third corpse is Scarecrow, who then takes Batman to a nightmarish realm made up of broken pieces of the Morgue suspended in a terrible circling storm. The sequence is all set-up for a fight with the Scarecrow, but fans have pointed out that its biggest strength is in unsettling the player out of nowhere.

Halo: Combat Evolved - Introducing the Flood

The first "Halo" game is most often remembered for its great set pieces and its addictively fun multiplayer. One of the standout moments in the game's campaign, however, comes from the tonal whiplash that occurs when Master Chief quickly goes from fending off an alien coalition to trying to stop the spread of a parasitic species known as the Flood.

The Flood is a hivemind that inhabits the bodies of their victims and takes control of them like a biological puppeteer, and their introduction is appropriately terrifying. It all starts with Master Chief slowly making his way through abandoned paths that are littered with corpses of Covenant aliens.

Eventually, Master Chief finds some dead human soldiers. He then takes one of their helmets to watch a recording of what happened. This gives players their first look at the swarming power of the Flood. Through the fallen soldier's POV, players watch in horror as the humans are quickly overwhelmed — just before the player has to fend off an attack from the Flood themselves.

Fable 2 - The Winter Lodge

"Fable 2" has a number of Demon Doors spread across the land of Albion, each of which can be opened by solving a riddle. Once they are opened, they reward players with powerful items for their trouble. The Demon Door outside the town of Bloodstone, however, delivers its reward along with a shocking scene.

When players first enter the door, they are transported to a tranquil realm known as the Winter Lodge, complete with a quaint cabin. At first, the realm is an idyllic rendition of a peaceful winter day, but when players walk through the front door, the cabin's real form is revealed.

The change in scenery is accompanied by a shrill noise as it transforms into a dilapidated torture chamber. An iron maiden appears in the corner of the room, stocks are placed in another corner, and what was once a dining table gets is replaced with a torture rack. The horrible scene is furnished further with the skeletons of former victims that are spread throughout the house. And now, dead bodies line the path outside, making fans point to it as one of the creepiest moments in "Fable 2."

Morrowind - Mission to Morvayn Manor

The "Mission to Morvayn Manor" side quest in "Morrowind" stands out amongst the massive library of quests in the game thanks to how surprisingly chilling it is. The quest sends players to a manor to retrieve a statuette that attracted a number of deadly creatures to the manor, which led to the deaths of the former master of the house.

Arriving at the manor reveals that the creatures are actually individuals afflicted with the Corprus plague sweeping across Morrowind. The quest gives players an up-close look at the plague's effects, as they have to slay tumor-covered people who have been driven to violent insanity.

To make matters worse, the manor is also incredibly dark inside, which allows the creatures to sneak up on the player and hit them with high damage attacks before they can react. Players also have the worry of trying to avoid catching diseases from the attacks of the creatures, making this side quest arguably the most stressful and eerie in the game.

The Witcher 3 - Von Everec Estate

The first expansion released for "The Witcher 3," titled "Hearts of Stone," follows the story of the immortal bandit Olgierd von Everec. Eventually, in the expansion's main questline, Geralt of Rivia has to deal with a golem-like creature summoned by Olgierd, known only as The Caretaker. There are many creepy monsters that call "The Witcher" universe home, but some fans on Reddit think The Caretaker may be one of the scariest, tipping the fantasy game into full-on horror territory.

The scene starts with Geralt arriving at the von Everic estate, the wind whipping past him under an overcast sky. The manor is deathly quiet at first, then the sounds of grave-digging draw him to a row of headstones. The sound comes from a hooded figure that is digging next to the mutilated corpse of a thief. The figure does not respond to Geralt's calls at first, but eventually pulls down its hood as he approaches.

The Caretaker is then revealed to have a horrific face comprised of only a mouth and a ring of stitches around the outer edge. It makes only bestial groans as it tries to strike Geralt with powerful swings of its mangled shovel, and it only gets stronger as it takes damage. The Caretaker is also capable of summoning spirits to aid it in the fight, seemingly indicating that it is capable of controlling the souls of those it buries – which would mean the horror doesn't end if the Caretaker kills you.

Fallout: New Vegas - Vault 22

The vaults in the "Fallout" series are iconic dungeon-like labyrinths containing unique stories for players to explore. The stories of the vaults range from comedic to dramatic — and sometimes, even scary. One of the most frightening of the vaults is Vault 22 in "Fallout: New Vegas."

The story of Vault 22 starts with a dedicated team of scientists who wanted to improve the Mojave Desert by creating new technology to help crops grow in the climate. After the apocalypse, the research continued to grow enough crops to sustain life within the vault and later the refounding of civilization. However, the research eventually let an experimental pest control fungus loose, leading to it infecting all of the vault's residents.

This led to the vault falling to disrepair and becoming overrun by plants and wildlife. When the player arrives at the vault it has been uninhabited for approximately 150 years, leaving the player to contend with whatever frightening creatures the fungus has left behind. These include hunched-over plant-man abominations and a variety of giant mantises that freely roam about the vault.

Max Payne - Max's Nightmares

The first two "Max Payne" games have a recurring element of the title character enduring terrible nightmares as reflections of his previous traumas, such as the murder of his family. In the first game, these frightening nightmares can be shocking for new players, especially considering how they pop up in what is otherwise an action-focused third-person shooter. The first (and possibly scariest) of these occurs after Max is drugged and falls unconscious.

The sequence starts with Max navigating a seemingly endless procession of long hallways accompanied by the sounds of a woman crying and repeatedly apologizing to him. She begins to scream as Max treks through the maze of identical hallways. Eventually, Max arrives at a ransacked living room with turned-over furniture and broken pictures. The player then goes up a staircase — only to find themselves in another long hallway lined with children's wallpaper. Somewhere, the jingle of a baby's mobile ominously plays.

Eventually, a dark abyss lined with chalk leads Max to the bedroom of his child, complete with a blood-splattered crib. The next room brings him to his wife's body, showing that his guilt may never go away. It's incredibly dark and horrifying, especially for game full of over the top bullet time action scenes.

Thief: Deadly Shadows - Shalebridge Cradle

"Thief: Deadly Shadows" is the third entry in a series about, well, being a thief. Throughout the games, players pilfer from a procession of aristocrats and nobles to amass a small fortune of stolen goods. It's mostly a fun time, which makes the "Robbing the Cradle" mission from the last quarter of the game all the more jarring for how frightening it is to play through. See, Shadlebridge Cradle was once an orphanage before half of the building was converted into an insane asylum. As Polygon's Russ Frushtick points out, that's already a terrifying concept on its own, even before you get to the supernatural stuff.

Yes, that means that the building was home to both an abusive orphanage and an asylum simultaneously, so nobody has a right to be surprised that it ended up haunted. As players explore the building, they find a number of accounts that detail what exactly happened there, including the torturous treatment of asylum patients and terrible murders of some of the orphans.

To make things worse, the building is also inhabited by haunted puppets that contain the souls of previous patients. But wait, there's more! The building is also a conscious entity, complete with its own memory, desires, and mind. The building is so powerful that it can even trap people inside for eternity, or until their inevitable death.

Subnautica - The First Reaper Leviathan Attack

The first hours playing "Subnautica" are a relatively peaceful time, during which players explore their interesting new surroundings, gather resources, and craft useful upgrades and pieces of equipment. This all quickly changes, however, once players have their first encounter with the game's massive Reaper Leviathan, a carnivorous species that is even larger than the biggest submarine available in the game. A zillion terrified player reactions can't all be wrong.

Players first come across the Reaper Leviathan when they go to explore the wreckage of their spaceship that crash-landed on the alien planet. After getting close to the ship, players can notice the lumbering silhouette of the monstrous creature in the distance as it snakes its way through the water. The sheer size of the creature makes it stand out from everything else players have seen in the game up to that point, made all the worse by the massive mandibles jutting from its face.

The Reaper Leviathan can also use those mandibles to grab the player and eat them in one large bite if the player's below 80% health, and it can even hold the player's submarine in its jaws. When it has the submarine in its grip, the Leviathan can shake it until it is destroyed before eating the player as well. As noted by Mike M at LNGFRM, this sequence stands out for being as "cool" as it is terrifying.

Dragon Age: Origins - Something Wicked

If trying to save the world from the impending invasion of a subterranean race of monsters isn't scary enough for some players, "Dragon Age: Origins" has a side quest that should help make up for it. The infamous "Something Wicked" quest sees players heading to an orphanage to investigate an evil presence that was sensed by the templar named Ser Otto. Once at the orphanage, players can find a number of ominous clues pointing towards what is going on there, including a dead dog, a pool of blood, and a deranged beggar.

The quest charges the player with trying to free the haunted orphanage from the grip of an evil demon. However, after the demon's defeat, an even stronger demon appears, revealing that it's the one truly begin all of the horrible goings-on. The demon punctuates its point by immediately killing Ser Otto in front of the party. The quest is a highlight of "Dragon Age: Origins," thanks to its spooky atmosphere and interesting plotline, which offers a scarier tone than players can find elsewhere in the game. It's no wonder the quest has become a fan favorite.

Spec Ops: The Line - White Phosphorus Incident

"Spec Ops: The Line" is all about the horrors of war and the massive impacts it can have on the lives of those who survive it. Players follow an elite squad of United States soldiers named Walker, Adams, and Lugo as they travel to Dubai after a devastating sandstorm to help quell an insurrection. The game is filled with many heart-wrenching and memorable moments, but there's one horrific sequence that's sure to stick with players.

The moment comes just after the player is pushed to use a devastating white phosphorus weapon on a group of advancing enemy soldiers. The choice to use the weapon is presented as the only way to survive the coming attack, and players aren't given a chance to refuse. After doing this, it is revealed that the "soldiers" were actually just civilians, many of them being women and children.

Once the phosphorus has cleared out, the player then has to walk through the crowd of scorched civilians, some of whom are still in their final agonizing seconds of life. It's an incredibly gruesome and somber scene, one that fills the player with the guilt of having accidentally becoming the bad guy of the story. As PC Gamer noted, it's a "troubling scene" that puts the ugly side of modern warfare at the forefront.