Since it's Halloween, we thought that this week we'd ask a topical question. And that is - which game gave you the biggest jump-scare? Perhaps no video game has ever scared you. Either way, we want to hear from you.
As always, here's the USgamer team with their tales of terrification.
I'm going to have to pass on this one! I can't honestly think of a single game that's engaged my startle reflex. I'm sure it's happened from time to time, but I don't play games to be scared or creeped out, and that sort of thing doesn't stick with me. To each their own, eh?
In terms of pants-crapping "What have I gotten myself into" terror, though, I'd have to give the nod to Galamoth, the bonus superboss in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I was cruising along through the inverted castle wrecking everything in sight when I suddenly found myself locked into a room filled by a two-screen high Egyptian god who didn't appear to take more than a point or two of damage from my attacks. I slugged it out with him over the course of 15 minutes or so and eventually won, but it ruined my nerves. (Later I played the game in English and discovered there's an item that renders you effectively immune to his attacks and make the fight a breeze, which is probably as good a reason to learn Japanese as any.)
My most memorable jump-scare is the first one a video game ever gave me - and that's Rescue on Fractalus, an old Lucasfilm Games title from the mid-80's. It's not even a horror game - it's a sci-fi adventure in which you fly down to a planet in a spaceship to rescue a crashed pilot. The game uses fractal graphics to generate the landscape, and you basically fly around until you've located the pilot, and then land.
At that point you hear the pilot's footsteps walking up to your spaceship, and him entering the airlock, and then you take off and fly back to your mothership to drop him off. However, sometimes - and I didn't know this when I first played the game - you'd hear the footsteps, but instead of it being a pilot, it'd be a bug-eyed alien who'd suddenly appear right in front of your cockpit and start beating on the window. The first time that happened to me, I nearly jumped out of my skin. It's laughable these days, and the alien looks comedically badly drawn - as you can see from the screenshot - but back in the day it gave me a real scare because I just wasn't expecting it.
The last modern game to give me a good fright - and it indeed gave me a bunch of them - was Outlast. That's a really fun horror game that has a great atmosphere that just makes you completely paranoid. It packs some seriously good jump-scares and totally gave me the willies when I played it. I made the mistake of turning all the lights off and playing it late at night just to see how scary it was, and it absolutely terrified the crap out of me!
I've messed with a number of horror games in my time. I love the genre. Though I prefer to lean on the "strong offense is a good defense" side of horror games, I've played the many Silent Hills, Amnesias, and Fatal Frames that have released over the years. A lot of them have hit me hard, notably the first Amensia, because you have no weapons whatsoever. There's a lot of vulnerability in that.
P.T. one-ups it by add this sense of randomness to the entire proceedings. You have no clue what that hallway will look like the next time you loop around. Will it be red or green? Will the pictures be intact? Perhaps the radio will be on or you'll catch a glimpse Lisa roaming around. The latter is always the worst case scenario, because you never know when she'll turn murderous.
That was probably the biggest jump scare I've ever had. I'd been wandering the hallways for for a while, being slowly creeped out by the general vibe. I'd caught a few glimpses of Lisa before, but nothing serious. Then… BAM…. she was right there in front of me. All 100+ lbs of undead fury, snapping my neck like it was kindling. Freaked me right the hell out. Nothing before or since has jump-scared me that hard, but it was the perfect build-up of tension before that.
Unfortunately, due to Konami's choices, if you haven't experienced P.T. already then your chances of doing so are slim. Hopefully, it's spiritual successor, Allison Road, hits the same high notes (in my voice).
I wish I had a more original answer for this question, but on the other hand, maybe this jump-scare moment is famous because it works so well. (Even if it is a little cheap.) That said, if I were to just utter the phrase "Resident Evil 2 interrogation room," I'm guessing a lot of you out there would immediately know what I'm talking about. Even at this early stage in the series, Resident Evil had a reputation for sending things blasting through ordinarily safe panes of glass, so, back in 1998, most of us went through this first sequel with our eyes trained on whatever could possibly generate a jump-scare. And if you're playing a Resident Evil game and run into a room that features an entire wall made of breakable glass of course something is going to jump through it.
The designers a bit sly about what amounts to a pretty obvious jump-scare setup, though. You first encounter the other side of the room, so by the time you make it to the side with a prominent mirror wall, you know nothing could possibly be lurking where you just explored. But when you pick up a key item and head back to the door—CRASH!!!—that's when a licker comes sailing into the room in the most inconvenient way possible. For me, the build-up is what makes this particular jump-scare so effective: Even though you think you're safe, deep down, you know you really aren't—and at some point you just want RE2 to scare you already and get it over with.
Even though I'm much older now, whenever I return to this room I feel the same sense of dread, which feels kind of odd since I definitely know what the game's about to throw at me. I think I just want that loud punctuation to finally break the agonizing tension.
Since I don’t play a lot of scary games, I’m left with very few options here, and Until Dawn is the only game that I’ve played recently that had any jump-scares at all. It definitely isn’t the scariest game I’ve played, but it did depend heavily on cheap horror. That’s not a bad thing. I thought Until Dawn was really well done. In fact, it’s one of my favorite games this year, even if some people don’t want to classify it as a game.
If I feel like rewinding 17 or so years, Resident Evil 2 gave me the most memorable jump-scares of any game that I’ve ever played. I was still in high school, and my friends and I stayed awake for more than 30 hours to play it from beginning to end. That’s how I know that the jump-scares really did get to me - even though there was a group of us, we were all terrified of what was going to jump out at us next.
I've told this story a few times over the years, but I'll share it again here. Aliens versus Predator was getting a loud of positive word-of-mouth in 1999, so I downloaded the demo to see what it was all about. To my surprised and embarrassment, I found myself too afraid to even set foot outside of the APC. Finally, one of the xenomorphs came in after me, and I went all Hudson freaking out and shooting everywhere until the thing was dead. That might have been the first time I realized that video games can have real power to activate the fight or flight instincts.
Anyway, I wound up pressing on. Every time I made it a little further, and I eventually started to figure out where the Xenomorphs would pop up. What was really scary about them was the way they would skitter around the wall up to the ceiling, which just felt unnatural. And they had that acid blood that would kill you if you shot them at close range. Combined with the motion tracker, it really did a fantastic job of capturing the tension and excitement of the Aliens film.
As much as I admired it, though, I eventually hit my breaking point. The whole time I had been sweating over the presence of facehuggers, which I find intensely frightening. They were nowhere to be found, though, until I accidentally fell down a staircase and into a dark pit. When I got my bearings, I saw one running toward me and actually leapt up from my seat yelling. My marine was facially hugged, and I was left to look at it wriggling all over the screen. I could barely get close enough to my computer to turn it off, as if the facehugger would leap through the screen and get me.
In retrospect, it was kind of embarrassing to be freaked out by a video game monster, but I have a vivid imagination, and games are better than any medium at putting you in the moment. Alas, my experience was Aliens versus Predator put me off the video game versions of the series from that point on. That facehugger managed to scare me off the series for good.
(But hey, I still love the movies).