Top 10 Jump Scares in Video Games
Just when we thought it was safe...
We, as a species, are pretty strange. We're strange because we like being scared for the sake of being scared when experiencing a thriller flick or survival horror story. Being scared gives us that strange burning sensation in our chests, and adrenaline rush that we can't acquire from an extreme sport or cheap drug. Whether it's from watching a horror movie alone at night or playing through a survival campaign on the most intense difficulty available; fear always manages to channel its way in through the media cord and rattle our bodies to the very core.
So why is it that we always choose to come clawing back for more? Just what is it that keeps inviting us back and persuading us to pick up the controller for one more session of nail-biting madness?
What defines a horror experience? What makes a regular jump scare in a video game any different to one we'd see in a film? Why do we compare the two and syphon out the pros and cons of either when really it's all in the same ballpark?
Video games have always offered new and exciting ways of scaring the absolute life out of us. With a whole historical catalogue crammed with blockbuster titles and smaller indie platformers, it's no doubt there's not enough adventures and scares to be had on an epic journey of finding that familiar feeling of dread and seclusion deep within a bleak storybook.
It's the thrill of the chase, perhaps. As we suddenly find ourselves on a sprinting flee from an insidious monster spooling its chains at us as we slam several doors in its face in hope of not getting caught. It's the darkness and grim feeling of paranoia, as if we're alone but never quite safe enough to breathe freely.
It's times like these that make us vulnerable and force us to believe that we are truly amidst the guts and gore of the situation, and when we finally feel the grip of the demon loosen and the noose around our heads slip free, we stop and relax. We unclench our chests for a second and take comfort in the thought of knowing that the safe house is right around the corner and the worst has already faded far into the distance.
And then, BAM—in comes the jump scare, right into our stupid little whiny faces. Striking us at our lowest point, they reach in and pull us right back into the action; giving us little time to so much as take a firm hold of the controller once more. That's when they hit us, and that's when we get that ghostly feeling of unearthly paranoia as if anything can happen moving forward.
Jump scares are a beautiful thing, if executed in the correct way. Sometimes they're incredibly well-paced and schemed, and other times they're just downright predictable and shockingly shit. It's finding the right moment and creating an atmosphere unlike any other that makes them pay off. So developers, listen up. When the opportunity strikes and the gamer least expects it, the world of terror should come reigning down upon us all and soil every pair of briefs from England to Thailand. So off you go and plot some game-changing jump scares. I've got plenty of briefs to spare and precious little time to waste whilst you make them.
In the mean time, I present to you; TOP 10 JUMP SCARES IN VIDEO GAMES.
Grab your blanket, my friend. Things are about to get real.
#10 - 'UNTIL DAWN - THE GHOST'
Until Dawn was a breath of fresh air when it was first released into the market. It was a gripping tale nobody asked for, but never actually knew was needed until playing through it for the very first time.
It was one of those adventures you weren't sure you wanted to have a crack at or just felt safer watching another person slump through instead. But that's the beauty of it, because no matter how many times you play through the story, each time is different. With countless dialogue options and routes to take from beginning to end; anything is possible.
Characters come, characters go, and it's entirely on you as to who makes it out alive and survives until dawn. Heh, get it?
Ploughing your way through Until Dawn is like watching your favourite horror film, only you have the ability to actually revise the decisions a character makes. So for when that time comes where your hero is facing the unearthly abyss laid out before them, YOU have the choice as to whether or not they follow the path or turn back and follow the rainbow river. So say goodbye to screaming at your TV, because now it is YOU who pulls the strings and rocks the boat.
Until Dawn features a nice bundle of jump scares I'll admit, but nothing even comes close to being as hauntingly alarming as this one I'm showing above. So unless you've played through the story yourself, you'll have a whale of a time encountering this bitch for the very first time. I know I did.
No, you can't avoid her. And yes, you will shit yourself.
She'll be waiting for you, buddy! *pats back and exits stage left*
#9 - 'OUTLAST: WHISTLEBLOWER - THE GROOM'
I'll admit it, when Outlast was first released way back when, I had no intention of playing it. It was one of those games that slipped the net for many console gamers and faded off into the distance without so much as crawling back for more. But once the PS4 release was announced and a rather enthusiastic colleague of mine brought it up, I was suddenly brought to life and on the edge of my seat; hungry for more juicy details.
Playing through Outlast for the first time was a revolutionary experience, and one I'll never quite forget. It was a whole new feeling of fear that I had never felt before when emerging myself in a bleak new universe. With a light dim enough to barely illuminate the beacon of hope you crave so desperately, you are pretty much left to fend for yourself. With nothing more than a poor excuse for a camera with a night vision lens and a satchel full of draining batteries, you are tasked with escaping from an asylum riddled with psychopaths.
You cannot fight. You cannot win. You cannot escape the madness that lurks within Mount Massive Asylum.
Outlast: Whistleblower was a DLC released shortly after the base game hit the shelves in 2014, and although I could quite easily reference half of this list for the top ten jump scares, there is still only one that acts as a cornerstone for my Outlast experience as a whole.
In the midst of finding an escape from the attic space of the asylum you come across the strapping young gentleman known as 'The Groom.' The Groom is in essence a psychotic humanoid with a split-personality that quite literally stalks his prey whilst reciting all kinds of lovers drivel at the same time. It's as if he's firmly between the line of being a best friend and a wife beater, but still opting for the middle point. With a cutthroat blade in one hand and a neatly pressed bowtie in the other, there's just no telling what's going through his mind as he flips tables on a wild hunt for your breathless body.
You'll duck and you'll hide, but he'll always find a way back to you. So make use of those little legs, because they can only get you so far before he catches up and injects a blade firmly between your ribcage. Then he'll say he's sorry, and that he wishes you'd forgive him for his awful behaviour. Then he'll repeatedly stab you again, until you're nothing more than a limp corpse.
That's a marriage I'd probably avoid entirely.
#8 - 'RESIDENT EVIL 3: NEMESIS - NEMESIS'
I don't remember much about horror games in the late nineties; probably because I was about six or seven years old and didn't care for much about anything that wanted to scare the shit out of me. For me it was all about the pretty little platformers that drizzled in innocence and leprechaun-riddled rainbows. So the likes of Resident Evil finding its way into my disc drive were slim to almost impossible. Why? Because in my eyes these were the 'grown up games' that kids shouldn't dare touch, should they wish to sleep an easy night without zombie-induced sleep paralysis weeding its way in.
Looking back at my early gaming years as a kid I can only recall the sounds of Resident Evil as they played grimly through the cracks of my older brothers bedroom door. Blood splatters, squelching muddy boot thuds hitting concrete and wooden floors, eerie creaks from iron doors, and of course, that iconic groan from the undead monsters roaming the streets of Raccoon City.
These were all sounds that completely stunned me back then, and to think people actually found a level of entertainment from them was honestly beyond me. For what joy could be had by being afraid, right? Seemed batshit mental to me and my flurry of Action Men figures.
Yet, the day finally came where curiosity got the better of me, and listening in at the bedroom door just wasn't cutting it anymore. So I HAD to venture deeper into the crows nest and uncover the truth behind the horror that was known to me now as Resident Evil.
Resident Evil: Nemesis is a clunky piece of shit, I won't lie. What with its horrendous blotchy controls and voice acting taken straight from a badly dubbed Japanese film. In my eyes it was destined to fail right from the word go. But then, I played it; a little piece at a time when my older brother wasn't around. I worked and I worked; chiseling through this blood-fueled opera, with only a blanket over my head and a controller resting between two sweaty and wobbly palms.
Cutting through the first chunk of the game seemed almost too easy (after getting past the gameplay control dilemma, of course). It's what came tumbling on down once you finally started to feel safe that made this a moment worthy of mentioning on this list.
Our villainous rival, Nemesis, and his overpowered posture and RPG larger than your entire heroic body; storming about and crashing through walls when you least expected him to. That's what caused me to freak out and quit most days; not knowing when he'd suddenly fire through a decaying building and start hunting me like a mad man on a killing spree. With a large bulky slump across the floor aiming right for you, there's nowhere to run, and there's sure as shit nowhere to hide when you realise you've reached a dead-end and the controls are too fucking clunky to operate or decipher.
Luckily, you're given the option to either flee or fight this monster.
I ask you. What fucking idiot would choose to fight this creature?ME. I'm that fucking idiot. And that's why I never completed it.
I just went back to playing Croc. At least that little green bastard didn't give me nightmares or mental scars.
#7 - 'P.T. - THE LADY OF THE HOUSE'
It takes a lot for a horror game to actually be classed as 'scary' and not just 'meh, whatever' when being released to the gaming public. Unfortunately we've seen games come and go over the years that have tried so vigorously to claw for a spot up there in the high ranks. We've seen gameplay copied and pasted like it's going out of fashion; with the same old jump scares and cliché monsters stalking our every move, it's almost no wonder we're not massively afraid anymore. Because I don't know about you, but as I'm often enticed in a serious playthrough on any box-standard horror title, deep down I know already where the traps will lie. Call it intuition, call it coincidence; whatever it is it's more than likely right nine out of ten times.
'I bet they'll be a dead body in that bathroom cubicle. Oh, yep, there they are...'
'Ah, this must be where a body suddenly appears in the mirror of this room? Ah, yep...there it is...'
We've seen it all before, haven't we? Like the thrill of the journey is slowly being torn away from us as each new developer struggles just to make something worth playing. It's as if everybody has reached a mental block mid-production and thought, 'gee, what jump scares do other people use?' and then continued to jam-pack the bastard with the same template styled bullshit everybody else uses.
It takes a lot in order to execute a well-written game. It takes an individual with a one-track mind that knows horror as if it were their middle friggin' name. A certain someone with a flutter of fresh ideas and mechanics that nobody else has used before in the same way. It takes someone like Hideo Kojima in order to make a memorable game. That's putting it bluntly, of course. But everybody in the gaming world knows of this man and what he is capable of, and so when Silent Hills dropped, everybody knew what was on the cards.
It didn't matter how much creativity poured out of this mans mind, because every player had the optimism in their hearts and an ocean amount of confidence that this man would deliver a fantastic experience regardless. Even if that experience was just a playable teaser (...get it?).
P.T. offered something no other house walking simulator gave. It gave us the chance to live out our wildest nightmares without having to sludge through eight hours of backstory and mundane dialogue options.It gave us a crisp experience that diverted away from the stereotypical tracks known to most as modern horror, and delivered a heart-pounding thriller journey in one solid sucker punch to the temple.
P.T. injected an emotion into us that can't totally be described in mere words. It was a feeling of happiness, as we had this wonderful opportunity to be deeply involved in this grotesque masterpiece portrayed to perfection. But on the other hand there was this dark sinister sensation like you were always paranoid and afraid to so much as press pause, should you hear something lurking deep inside your own home.
P.T. delivered a truly magnificent story; each time being a whole new adventure where anything was possible under the roof of this bleak suburban home. And with the lady that stalked the corridors and watched our every gesture, there's no doubt we'd be bumping into her at some point whether we liked it or not.
That's where the fun began.
#6 - 'AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT - WATER MONSTER'
Even if you haven't heard of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you've still probably heard of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We have the world of YouTube to thank for that. With a billion walkthroughs and reaction videos plastered over every corner of the internet you shouldn't be surprised if your mum has played it. Because she probably has.
Amnesia broke the record when it came to gameplay videos and jump scare reaction series. With every big name in YouTube covering it, it has gone on to become a staple on the survival horror genre in the gaming industry.
With an experience unlike any other, you are thrown directly into the cesspit of darkness, as you shovel your way through countless lurkers and creatures in a castle enormous enough to contain hell itself. With only a lantern and a depleting stock of oil in your inventory, you are undoubtedly destined for a death more gruesome than the one you'd probably expect.
Working your way through the castle as Daniel, you'll quickly discover he's nothing more than a pessimistic sponge that doesn't like the darkness, or monsters, or unsettling things... or even defending himself for that matter. He's basically a basket-case humanoid that you're tasked with escorting through a castle riddled to the teeth with death-defying demons, murderous traps, and blackened smog-like conditions.An easy ride, no doubt. That's if you don't mind shoving your way through the story without letting the cons of Daniel's worthlessness bog you down, of course.
I could quite easily reference several segments of the Amnesia universe in this article, what with Machine For Pigs and Justine both being fantastic worlds in the horror category. But for the sake of this segment, I will reference only one. And that is of course, the water level featured in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
There's a reason we don't like water levels in video games, and Amnesia doesn't exactly fight for its sake and make us think otherwise either. We were never going to enjoy being slumped with the task of working our way through a sewer with a water level so high that the only way we can manouever is by launching ourselves from one floating crate to another. That's a crazy idea, huh? But a compulsory one, no doubt. Because what slushes beneath the water isn't exactly looking to give you swimming lessons, that's for sure.
Over the course of an hour or so you'll have to push through the sewers of the castle; throwing body ligaments in the water as distractions and guiding boxes across narrow hallways in almost pitch-black conditions. And should you fall, well, you might want to start pushing your encumbered frail body towards the nearest ledge, because once you hear that first splash only twenty yards away, you'll come to learn that there's precious little time before it's game over and you're just another body ligament in the sewage water.
So with a lump in your throat and a pounding heart throbbing out of your arse, you can fully expect to shit yourself like never before.
Enjoy that thought.
#5 - 'SLENDER - SLENDER MAN'
Sometimes swirling up the perfect horror concoction doesn't mean adding shots of perfect 4K graphics and multi-million pound production teams. Sometimes a watered down glass of fear with a simple nail-biting narrative is enough to make us run for the hills.
We overcomplicate things and assume big numbers mean big scares, and that to even make a relatively decent horror game we have to have it all. But sometimes, if done the right way, all it really takes is a simple premise, a pound of a drum and an excuse to be afraid.
When Slender hit the online market the whole world lost their shit. With a new and exciting experience on the cards, it was sure to gather the attention from all the big names in the industry. Like an overnight sensation, Slender became the face of horror for a long period of time, and no matter where you looked, that iconic canvas white face of Slender Man seemed to appear on every media source on the net.
Finding those infamous nine pages, whilst looping your way through a forbidden cluster of insidiously haunted buildings, interlaced deep within the woods; that was a journey I was afraid to make, and even more afraid to make a second time, surprisingly.
With Slender Man stalking your every step from a distance you are left with that familiar feeling of utter anxiety and paranoia. With his loose arms and ghostly face moving it's way closer and closer for every new page you acquire, it's only a short amount of time before he reaches within a spitting distance of your character and static-riddled monitor.
You have that spine-tingling dread tiptoeing up your back, and the thought of looking over your shoulder is only too concerning. Yet we can't help but look, and the not knowing whether he'll be thirty yards away or barely three feet is what causes our hearts to skip beats for every time we dare consider it.
From beginning to finish, Slender gives us a run for our money and scares us until our lungs collapse through our chest, and our web browser comes slamming shut with one swift strike of the mouse.
Actually, Slender is free to play. So technically the man himself doesn't give us a run for our money. He just scares us for shits and gigs.
Give it a go. You might just beat my score of six whole pages.
#4 - 'F.E.A.R. - ALMA'
There's something awfully creepy about little girls, isn't there? So much that there has been an entire category of horror movies and video games based off of them. With their cute yet slightly morbid faces and grubby white dresses, it's all enough to make us jump out of our skin and nobody is remotely sure as to how they really pull it off. After all, they ARE just little girls with devilish white faces and grubby locked hair. What's there to be afraid of, really?
Innocence is a beautiful thing when you put into the right context, but dropkick it directly into the centrepiece of a survival horror game and you suddenly think, 'hang on, what the feck is this? This isn't right! Why is this little girl in the middle of that hellish inferno?'Then it suddenly belts you in the face as you stare into those sweet little tarred eyes as she approaches you with a Stanley knife and a giggle so sourly unpleasant that it makes your ankles buckle swiftly. You stop right there and you think to yourself, 'oh, shit. She's going to kill me, isn't she?'
Truth be told I have a pretty serious fear over little girls and this exact innocence I refer too. So much that when my daughter was born the only thing I could think of as I looked into her gleaming eyes for the first time was, 'I wonder how long it'll be until she's stood over my bed at four in the morning whispering 'Daddy' in my ear...'
F.E.A.R. took the world by storm when it hit the consoles back in 2006. It was a game that everybody took to their mates house just so they wouldn't have to endure the torturous battle alone. I know this because I was in the same boat, and like every other lost soul I took comfort in the fact I had somebody beside me shitting themselves just as much as I was.
The iconic little girl known as Alma; dressed to the nine in her blood-red dress and dirty charcoal hair, made an impact on us from the very beginning. We knew what to expect when routing through the story. The only question was, when was she going to sprout up and pounce right into our petrified little eyes as we bit our lips in anticipation of her arrival?
A soft giggle through the crawl space, a petite whisper echoing from the chambers of the spiraled hallways; both things that could very well catch you off guard at any given moment. Battling through this campaign as an elite soldier armed to the teeth with manly weapons and all the bells and whistles combined should've been a piece of cake, right? Especially when your target is this sweet little child that simply roams the halls whilst simply scratching away at your brainstem.Oh, how wrong we were. How we underestimated that little bitch like she was nothing more than a thorn in our side. Like we were able to simply roundhouse kick her in the ribcage without so much as breaking a sweat.How those thoughts suddenly turned into a nightmare from the seventh circle of hell is beyond me, and I honestly do NOT wish to face that little demon again so long as I live another day.The fear of my daughter scaring the crap out of me one day is one thing. The last thing I need is your shit, Alma.
#3 - 'SIREN BLOOD CURSE - THE CULTISTS'
If there's one country that know how to make a horror title—it's Japan.That's right, I'm giving full marks to those beautiful bastards and a straight A++ for their continued devotion and respect to the genre, because let me tell you, they have NEVER failed to amaze us when it comes to thrilling storytelling.
I'll admit, they're pretty fucked up—that's a given. But it's what they DO with the content that makes it worth talking about. It's the way they don't play by the rules and couldn't care less about personal boundaries or playing it safe. Japan has always played by the guideline of 'go big or go home' when crafting its works, and it goes to show that going out of your comfort zone isn't always technically a bad thing.
When Siren Blood Curse came out quite some time back I was just a kid. And, from what I remember, it was just a demo disc in a standard PlayStation magazine that I picked up after school one afternoon.It was the one game that stood out to me, and the one I never actually chose to play. Why? Because honestly, it scared the life out of me. And that was purely because of the screenshots alone.
When I was a little older I found it in myself to dive right back in and uncover the mysteries encased within that once loved demo disc. So I dug it up, and I smashed that start button like there was no tomorrow.
Playing through Siren Blood Curse was exactly what I expected, fucking horrible. Not because the gameplay was bad, or the English dubbed vocals were appalling, but because I knew that once I switched it off after my first playthrough, I was sure as shit NOT going to sleep that night.
It was everything I ever feared it would be and more, if I'm being honest with you. With the eerie static sizzle of the world and monochrome palettes of murky leather brown and chalky concrete grey. The awkward silence that made you feel as if you're never quite alone, but unsure as to how long for. The disturbing creatures known as the cultists, sliding their ways through the world as if being strung about by puppeteers. It all resembled a strong concoction of fear in one sturdy skull-shaped glass that I was never prepared to sink.
Yet, whilst the monsters lurk and the goal is clearly set ahead of you, who else should you be tasked with controlling than a LITTLE GIRL who can't so much as cover her eyes or so much as swing for an attack?With a series of levels scattered throughout the game, which are tediously unavoidable, you'll quickly come to find that these sections are the worst in the story, and without a doubt, the most unsettling.It's a simple task of moving from point 'A' to point 'B.' However, it's the sudden need to hide in every locker or cupboard that makes it more tense than we'd like it to be. With a vast army of night-crawlers and murderous nurses with machetes, it's no wonder we feel the odds against our favour when playing as a defenseless little specimen.So what more can you do other than hide and simply locker-hop like it's a Crash bloody Bandicoot level? That's really all there is to it. And with a knife-wielding psychopath only four feet away at all times, could you really blame someone for burying themselves in a locker and throwing away the key for longer than the developers anticipated?I know I wouldn't.
#2 - 'THE EVIL WITHIN - THE SPIDER GRUDGE'
Okay, I'll just come right out and say this without so much as feeling a single regret. I hate this fucking thing. That's it. I hate it. I hate her. Just everything about this chapter and boss fight is a page torn directly out of Satan's bedtime stories. I mean, who the fuck decided to clash a spider with the bloody Grudge girl in order to create a monster worthy of giving us sleep paralysis? That's something that could easily eliminate those with a weak heart in a matter of seconds.
It screams like a banshee. It crawls like a camel spider. And it sure as hell swipes at you like Stretch-fucking-Armstrong on an acid trip. The Evil Within was many things, but one thing it was not was predictable. What, with its ever-changing scenery and ever-expanding series of monsters that literally made no friggin' sense. That along with a story that left us scratching our heads and perplexing over whether or not we were going in the right direction or just aimlessly batting for a SwingBall with no actual ball attached.
Then of course, you reach a certain milestone in the game where things settle down. You've scorched your way through some pretty gnarly baddies and are finally feeling invincible. You're stocked up on ammo and the rest of the world is looking pretty optimistic in your eyes. So what more can happen? Surely you're in the clear, right?Oh, that's right. The spider mistress comes swimming up from the ground below you at a moments notice and quickly engages you in the most terrifying chase sequence of your life. That's what.In an intense battle between you and this bitch, you are tasked with essentially trapping her in a furnace and igniting the flame. The only issue is, she's fast, stupidly, annoyingly fast. So catching her isn't easy, and it's made harder by the fact that you yourself are already bricking it from the other side of the TV screen. So you have a challenge on your hands. And what a challenge that is.
But let me tell you this. Torching that dickhead was the proudest moment of my gaming career, and a smile that can NEVER be replaced so long as I continue to play through these horror tales laid out before me.
A spider AND Alma, perished in one fire? Two birds with one stone, my friend.
#1 - 'OUTLAST - THE HANGING MAN'
Okay, so I think it's fair to say that Outlast is probably one of the greatest horror games out there. In fact, I'm surprised the majority of this list isn't purely Outlast related. It's in a league of its own, and quite frankly having to pick out only one moment of the game is harder than I thought.
Outlast is so jam-packed full of jump scares that there's never really a quiet moment where you can just stop and rest for a while.
There is ALWAYS something on your tail or a voice inside your head no matter where you are or what you're doing. So for the course of six or seven hours you feel about as depleted as your battery stock for your cheap in-game camera.
The world is dark and dismal, and the only thing stopping you from rage quitting from the story is the desperation in your heart to just see it through to the bitter end. Like a challenge that offers no form or reward other than a strong feeling of accomplishment and a smirk you can proudly smear across your face as you witness those credits roll. That's what keeps us going back and replaying the story each time, and no matter how many times it scares us shitless, we still feel as if it's a whole new adventure every time and one worth replaying over and over again.
Outlast is the one game my wife can happily sit and watch me play through, and that in itself is something so rare that it is undoubtedly cherished in my eyes. So for when she sits on the edge of her seat, I know for a fact the game has done well in order to entice a non-gamer into drooling for more action.
But like I said, there are many jump scares throughout the Outlast universe, but none quite compare to the very first one you experience in the first chapter of the game. That's right, the beloved hanging man in the store room.
When you first play Outlast you don't quite know what to expect. You're given this little camera with a swampy green night vision filter, and that's all. After that you are on your own. So with no real guidance or means to defend yourself, you are tasked with venturing into this lunatic asylum on your own with nothing but the clothes on your back and a satchel full of Tesco's own branded batteries.
Once you enter the building, you'll come to learn that finding an exit might not be as easy as you originally planned, and so you are forced to pursue this endgame like it's the only thing that matters to you from that moment forth.
All well and good until you hit that store room, of course. Then it hits you so hard that you suddenly start whimpering to yourself and questioning what kind of game you've just burdened yourself with.
There's no turning back after that. It's just a case of surviving, and sitting in on one of the most horrifying experiences of your life.
So keep those batteries stocked and your sanity in check, because without either, you might just find yourself a patient in the dark padded cells of Mount Massive Asylum after all.
SLEEP TIGHT, MY FRIEND.
Well, that's all for now. So what more can I do other than apologise in advance for any future heart-attacks or nightmares that may fall upon you? That's all I can really say, to be honest.
The current generation of horror is booming and thriving like never before, and with a massive amount of hype to compete with, it's no doubt we'll be seeing some pretty strong contenders crawling our way over the next couple of years or so. So sit tight and keep that blanket on hand and a fresh drawer of briefs handy, because the world of terror is far from throwing in the towel.
In fact, I think the horror is only just beginning.
- J Tury