Nightmare Fuel: Video Games

There are reasons to be afraid of the dark...
Movies aren't the only thing scaring the daylights out of people in media. The pits of virtual reality are stock full of things that will traumatize gamers for years.

Notice that some games in the list are not entirely targeted to grown-ups, but the fear factor is bad enough to scare adults.

Note: Spoilers can be quite abundant in this section, so reader beware!

Subtropes include:

Games with their own sub-pages:

Miscellaneous Games

This section is in alphabetical order by game/game series. Before you add examples here, check the index above and make sure the series doesn't already have its own page.

  • 3D Monster Maze. The first 3-D game ever made, involves you trying to navigate a maze while avoiding a T. rex. For a game with retro graphics, it is pure Nightmare Fuel and has been described as the "1982 Slender" and "the original Survival Horror game" (predating Resident Evil by 13 years and the original 1992 Alone in the Dark by 10 years!).
    • Good God, it's creepy smile as it chases you is guaranteed to send chills down your spine.
  • The 4th Wall. No, we're not talking about this puzzle-platformer, oh no; we're talking about the "empty, surreal, mind-screwing first-person horror game based on Azurite Reaction's personal fears" The 4th Wall. If you think kenophobia and all forms of logic and reason being thrown out the window won't phase you, the things that this game puts you through will make you kenophobic and terrified out of your mind.
  • Afflicted. You're a health inspector checking out a seedy bar in a horrible neighborhood. Just the health violations you find are seriously squicky, but then you start finding body parts. Worst of all is where you find the second hand.
  • A lot of the Erebus levels in Age of Mythology were pretty cheesy, or else standard Fire and Brimstone Hell, but some parts are genuinely scary. For example, if you look at the ground, you can see that it's actually made of thousands of skeletons...
    • You're used to attacking targets with massive, well-supplied and tactically balanced armies that have siege weapons and heavy myth units to blow the crap out of anything that bothers you is not helpful. In this level, you get your four heroes, a few one-use myth units, and a couple human soldiers. Yeah, they're enough, but that doesn't shake a sort of extreme nervousness and vulnerability that will keep you up at night.
  • The homebrew Nintendo DS game, AlienDS. The game has no music other than a Heartbeat Soundtrack. Then you consider the fact that behind every door/corner, there could be an alien waiting to ambush you...
  • The fourth stage of Amagon, especially the mind-raping high-pitched music. And unlike other stages, it doesn't change when you power up or fight the boss. The bosses are really creepy too, especially the two-faced Lion Head, the Devil Tree, the Hippo Demon, and the Alien, along with the music that accompanies them.
  • Anarchy Reigns has a cutscene featuring Jack Cayman that calls back to the game's Spiritual Predecessor Madworld: when Jack is moments away from killing Max, the background fades to black as Jack and Max lose their color and go monochrome, all except for Jack's glowing red eyes, as he screams his classic Catch Phrase: "We don't help people, we kill them!" Anarchy Reigns takes the charm of Madworld and turns it into undiluted Nightmare Fuel.
  • The Lovecraftian Interactive Fiction Anchorhead starts out with a yuppie and her new husband moving to a beautiful rambling mansion in a sleepy New England town. The first day of the story plays like a simple mystery story, only mildly creepy, about the origins of the house. Things go downhill, especially after you reach the basement.
  • Antichamber:
    • The ending may qualify. As soon as you capture the black block, the game loses all color and the ambient soundtrack becomes dark and ominous, with the constant rumble of thunder being heard in the background. And if that wasn't enough, once you shoot the black block into a wreckage inside a dome, it rises up and forms the Antichamber logo, which starts sucking everything in like a black hole, including itself. After that, the credits roll... and then the game closes itself.
    • The DON'T LOOK DOWN room. Take the Schmuck Bait, and you see a giant eye appears on the floor. It blinks, the floor disappears, and the player is forced to plummet down a lengthy shaft while the usual ambient sound changes to a thunderstorm.
    • The ambient sounds in the dark areas.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Arronax spends nigh-on two thousand years in a magical cage in the bloody VOID. Completely alone, barring the rare occasions when the psycho who put him there comes to gloat about how he's going to use his identity to carry out a massive Xanatos Gambit that will let him literally wipe out the entire planet. There's four walls to look at, a door which he can't even get near, and just enough room in the magical shell to stand up if he's feeling punchy, he won't age there and he won't ever die unless someone breaks into the shell and kills him. And you can choose to leave him there for all eternity.
  • Armored Core V has a few pretty scary moments, despite being a game about controlling a giant mecha. During the first Story mission, it's pretty much made clear that if you don't do your job well enough, Father can and will have you destroyed. That is, provided the enemy doesn't beat him to it. Later, it is revealed that the bad guys are willing to kill anyone or even start a war inside a highly populated city... FOR ENTERTAINMENT!
  • Artificial Academy and its sequel are 3D H-games that allow players to craft their own characters. One personality trait that can be given is "evil", which gives the character a mean Yandere streak. Should you ever try to break off a relationship with them or get between them and their lover, they'll straight-up murder you, complete with stabbing sound effects, a fade to red, and an ambulance siren in the background. Some of the Pre-Mortem One Liners they give when killing you can be terrifying, as well.
    Otaku: "Th-this is the fault of those who would obstruct the path of our love...I...I dID NoTHinG wRonG~...Hehee, heehehehehee!"
  • Ar Tonelico 3: "XaaaCi" is probably one of the most terrifying themes of the game, as well as saddening once you learn what it's about.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: Most of "The Truth" puzzles fall into this category, but the most chilling is one of the phone recordings from Abstergo. It's of a man calling customer service for a problem with his television. After talking nervously to the overly-nice phone operator for awhile, he reveals that while flipping through the channels, his television randomly froze on a menu that lists information about himself and his son, including their interests and personal information. The call suddenly gets redirected to an executive who apologizes for any inconvienience and says that a technician is on his way, just as it starts to dawn on the father that his television company has been watching him through his TV. Then his 10-year-old son reports that there's someone knocking very hard on the door.
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations:
    • We finally get to see what did the First Civilization in. And while its visually awesome, seeing the explosion slowly engulfing a terrified mother and her baby alive will haunt you for weeks.
    • Also, the game introduces Templar stalkers who will mug and try to backstab you when you least expect it.
  • In Atelier Meruru, Rorona was reduced to age 8 by Astrid. The reason for this is because Astrid simply didn't want to see Rorona grow older, so she decided to knock her back to age 14. Astrid doesn't seem terribly bothered that the youth potion worked too well, or that it had an actual effect on Rorona's mind and sapped some of her intelligence and memory. So what we have is that Astrid just didn't want Rorona to reach age 30, so she took matters into her own hands and tried to send her back to 14, causing mind damage in the process. Just how long does Astrid plan to keep doing this in the future?
  • The arcade version of Battletoads is Darker and Edgier than its previous installments. One of the major contributions is the second boss Karnath, a giant snake whose only attack is to lunge himself on your playable character like he is coming at the screen to chomp on him. When said attack is successful, not only will a chunk of the PC's (playable character) health be depleted, but they will also be screaming in a agonizing way with blood squirting out of him (unless the player wriggles free). When the PC's health is gone, he will finish eating him. When the serpent/snake is defeated, though, his head will be ripped out with blood gushing out while his body wriggles uncontrollably in the background.
  • Some of the captures in Battle Chess. Rooks eat Queens, Queens incinerate most pieces, Pawns send Bishops down deep holes in the ground that close up right away, etc.
  • Bayonetta:
    • Upon getting a Game Over, press "No" when asked to continue, and you get to see Bayonetta being abruptly pulled into Hell, and screaming. It only lasts about two seconds, but damn.
    • If you let Cereza die in any of the parts where you are supposed to protect her, the Game Over screen shows only her doll laying on the ground underneath the light, rather than Bayonetta's corpse.
  • One game for the Sega Genesis was Beast Wrestler, which involved genetically engineered monsters slaughtering each other for the sake of entertainment. Even then, the game's cover art was pretty gruesome.
  • In Black Shades, it's possible to blow yourself up (usually accidentally) with a grenade in level 5. Sometimes, your head survives after being separated from your body by the blast. Some players have flown through the air, looking at scattered body parts in a pool of blood, before the screen goes black.
  • A sequence a little under halfway into the otherwise-amusing BloodRayne, when the zombie body-possessing monsters are about to be introduced. You've spent all this time fighting through a Nazi stronghold, and suddenly there is nobody. Anywhere. Nobody shooting. All there is is a freakish, disembodied voice mocking you. Even Rayne gets a little creeped out. And then you find corpses that start rising, and then their heads pop off. It didn't help that the enemies were pains in the backside to actually kill.
  • Bakuryu's ending in the first 'Bloody Roar was horrific. For clarification, it's revealed that his molecules are unstable, and he melts onscreen. Adding to the horror, the scientists watching don't give a crap, merely acknowledging his death.
    • Fox's ending was just as bad, as he became a Self-Made Orphan after killing his mother and then apparently goes insane.
  • You wouldn't think a fishing game like The Blue Marlin would have something terrifying in it. Yet the most freaky part about the game is the random events involving the shark. Whenever this happens, it can either bite off your fishing line or eat the fish you're trying to catch. The latter event makes the shark approach from the right of the screen with the dooming music. See it for yourself.
  • The Bright in the Screen is a 2D flash game composed entirely of crudely drawn stick figures. It is also quite possibly one of the scariest games ever coded, mostly because of the mysterious entity communicating with you through the screens. You can trust me. I'm a good person.
    • THESE ARE RED FREAKS. THEY CAN HARM YOU. You have to click to turn the red background white, in order to see the warning and the freak, which is shaking like a crack-addict and bashing its little stick-figure head against the wall.
  • Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome features a madman who likes to kill people and then arrange their bodies as "artwork" in these big glass tubes at strategic points in his mansion. Two of the more "interesting" pieces are his girlfriend, who he stuffed into a giant orchid up to about mid-torso and an anonymous young man who he dressed up like Icarus and hung on the ceiling.
  • Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway for the Xbox 360 has an example of this, in the middle of the game, your character, Matt Baker will start to break down from the stress of war and begin to see things, this makes for very tense, atmospheric moments when you are searching the adandoned hospital for Franky.
  • Brütal Legend is not the type of game where nightmare fuel would be apparent... unless you count the horribly dark Scenery Gorn in some parts of the game, especially near the Sea of Black Tears, the latex-wearing demons you fight and the sometimes jarring music, which are real songs from real bands/artists. Face it, if you don't know anything about Heavy Metal before playing this game, you are undoubtably gonna freak out at multiple things in this game.
    • The cutscene where Ophelia drowns herself in the Sea of Black Tears while Mr. Crowley plays in the background definitely deserves mention. Both chilling and depressing at the same time.
  • Puzzle Bobble / Bust-A-Move's American boxarts, SBAM1 for the PS2 and BAM2 for the Sega Saturn replaces Bub and other characters with a screaming man with matchsticks keeping his eyes open and a baby from the pits of the Uncanny Valley blowing blood-red bubbles. What does that have to do anything with cutesy dragons solving puzzles?
  • Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. For the first four hours of play, you're trying to sneak through Innsmouth, with hybrid fish-men tracking you. They have guns and axes - and you're totally unarmed. You don't even get the knife/gun that other FPS games give you. And then there's the navy battleship that gets attacked by Deep Ones, and the Marsh Refinery, and the insane asylum flashbacks.
  • The arcade Shoot 'em Up Chiller was released by Exidy in 1986, but it's still hellishly disturbing even by contemporary standards. Most of your "enemies" consist of helpless people chained to walls and various torture devices, and you're expected to messily shoot the flesh off their bones and activate the devices they're trapped in before you can proceed. What's more, there's no established plot, and the few enemies who actually are appropriately ghoulish don't do anything to hurt you; you're just there to massacre stuff. The most disturbing part of all is that a quick overview of Exidy's other titles shows them to be fairly innocuous and bloodless light gun shooters following different themes such as medieval, western, military and police (a Klansman does show up in the game Crackshot, but it's not all that objectionable since he's a target). Evidently, a boss at Exidy asked his staff to make a Horror-themed game to add to the lineup, and THIS is what they came back with.
    • They actually ported that to NES of all places. The only other game that might scare someone would be Dr. Chaos, which is a heck of a Mind Screw, gameplay wise. Friday the 13th is mostly startle-scare, but Chaos has the atmosphere of a mad scientist film going for it too!
  • Even Civilization IV can be made scary, or at least really freaking ominous, as shown in the intro to the Beyond the Sword Expansion Pack. It's pretty much a history of warfare and communications, and the last part concerns recent times. JFK looks at a photo of a Russian plant stolen by a spy, sighs heavily, and picks up the red phone. Fade to an alarm going off at a nuclear missile silo, where the missile is lifted up and the silo doors slide open...
  • In almost every single Contra game. Cities being blown up, Womb Levels, and more.
  • Cooking Breakfast 2, a Game Maker "game", which claims to be an "all time family classic" which is supposed to "learn [you] in seven steps to create your very own breakfast". The true nature of the "game" is something a bit different; to quote two reviewers, "Once you start the game this freaky-looking spinning evil face appears in front of a annoying black-white flashing background," "making a sound that sounds like a a chalkboard being scrapped by a grinder". And it has no exit feature; you have to turn it off via the task manager. If we are to believe the reviews, some people got seizures from this. It is suspected that this game is actually the author's revenge against people who gave his previous games bad reviews.
  • Covetous flash game, which can be found at Newgrounds. Basically, you can understand that is about a stillborn who resides inside his twin brother's body. The game is about you making your twin get more and more sick, as the stillborn sucks his life and eat up his life force, growing like a parasite inside his body. Each level of the game is more deranged, the twin alive getting visibly affected by the stillborn, who gets more and more aggressive, and speaks more and more disturbing things. It does not help the fact that the graphics are pretty precarious. Oh, and since you play as the parasite stillborn, you get a good and a bad ending. Guess what happens in the good ending.
  • Creature Shock wasn't able to make up its mind whether it was going to be a fairly straightforward Rail Shooter or a Boss Game. But it did have the spider...worm...things in the latter segment. If you hadn't figured out how to use your shields by the time you first encountered them, they would reduce you to a single hit point, and then scuttle up to the impossibly high ceiling. Once you tried to leave the room, they would descend, grab you, lift you UP to said ceiling, and you got a nice first person view of the dozens of them, just before the one that got you reared up and swallowed you whole. And the entire time you're fighting these things, they make a chittering sound that sounds like nothing so much as a demented giggle.
  • Dantes Inferno has plenty of this, and really, it'd be disappointing otherwise, since, you's in Hell.
  • Dark Cloud: The Dark Genie's stated goal before the boss fight, especially given its As Long As There is Hate speech. A being that exists outside of time will spread its influence across all ages, a "utopia of evil". Now if you've ever thought about eternity as being infinite linear time, it works even if eternity is the complete absence of time. To make matters even worse, It will have always been going to have succeeded.
  • Dark Fall: The Journal is pretty much Nightmare Fuel in its entirety. The game is set in an abandoned hotel in Campbell Country, and tasks the player with discovering the fate of his brother - one of a team of paranormal investigators who disappeared while investigating the disappearance of the hotel's denizens 60 years prior. Little "screamer" bits are thrown in here and there, including whispers, ball lightning flicking across the screen, and visions of apparitions, but one experience in particular stands out. Suffice to say, one hopes that after the player climbs to the third floor of the hotel the first time, he'd better hope he brought a change of pants along.
  • The first two levels of darkSector made it out to be a third person shooter with some interesting weaponry. Cue much shouting of "fuck! fuck! shit! arrrgh!" when you first meet the Infected. In a sewer. Where the lights go out. And you are in complete darkness. And all you see is faces and hands reaching out to you with each muzzle flash from your pistol. And the horrifying click when you run out of ammo.
    • More subtly disturbing is the quality of the voice acting for the Lasrian troopers. If they see the Glaive coming towards them, their final words will be a desperate, pitiful scream along the lines of 'Someone help me!'
  • Dark Seed. You have an alien embryo implanted in your head and three days to stop the aliens from taking over the world, plus backgrounds inspired by H. R. Giger.
  • Anyone who is afraid of spiders should definitely stay away from Deadly Creatures.
  • Dirt. You are a skeleton kitty named Dirt who finds itself underground with no explanation. You tunnel down, finding jewels to collect and odd remnants of life, such as your water and food bowls, tents, camp fires, odd towers and missiles buried away, bottles, eyeballs, doors, drawings and messages to you. There're also the eyeballs with tentacles that do nothing, and the large centipede/worm creatures that don't attack you, but always watch you and talk about how much pain they're in, or ask you what eases your pain, or other such pleasant topics.
  • The worst ending of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. The fact that you don't see what is going on arguably makes it all that much worse.
    • The English version somehow makes it even more disturbing by removing the sound effects, so that what happens to your siblings becomes full-fledged Noodle Incident.
  • The escape-the-room (or, in this case, escape-the-house) game Diversity lets you be "good" or "bad". If you follow the "good" route, the rooms remain perfectly bright and cheerful and you'll completely avoid this trope. If you follow the "bad" route, however, you're in for a steadily worsening nightmare as the rooms become darker, furniture becomes tipped over and trashed, plants die, etc. The nursery in particular becomes a dark, trashed room with "Quarantine" written on the blackboard. And the bathroom...well, if you've just been kind of bad, it'll be dark and dirty, and you'll find the corpse of a cat in the washing machine (which, incidentally, is the same cat that you find alive and well if you take the "good" route instead). If you've been completely rotten to the core, you don't just get dirty water in the toilet and bathtub; you get blood. And a man's head in the washing machine. The comedic-ish ending picture alleviates the horror somewhat, but the sights plus the music (which can become downright sinister in the nursery and cut off entirely in the bathroom) can fit this trope. Heck, just the implication that you are entirely responsible for turning what would otherwise have been a normal house into a desolate ruin (or maybe that the house is reflective of your mind/mood, and if you spiral down into insanity/sociopathy, everything in the house soon follows) is pretty scary in itself.
  • DoDonPachi, one of the craziest scrolling shooters known to exist in the video game history, has its trademark True Final Boss, Hibachi, who will always give you nightmares and endless frustration, especially in DaiOuJou and DaiFukkatsu! Just listening to the music is enough to creep you out, too!!
  • Double Dragon II: The "Double Illusion" Final Boss music in the arcade version.
  • Don't Starve, a kind of Tim Burtonesque Minecraft, except you're always alone, and there's even an in-game item called Nightmare Fuel.
  • In Dragonball Xenoverse, when a character falls under the control of the Time Breakers, they become enveloped in a dark purple aura accompanied by glowing red eyes, in addition to getting a power boost. It's already unsettling to see it happen to villains like Frieza and Cell, but it's all the worse when it happens to good guys like Piccolo. When Hercule gets possessed, he actually becomes legitimately frightening as he gains the ability to fly under his own power, fire ki blasts, and fight Cell and the Z-Warriors on equal footing!
  • In the video game version of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, simply losing all of your lives is not enough: once your last life is lost, you have to fight against a grim naginata-wielding specter of death. The background turns dark when he appears in a flash of lightning, the music becomes deathly ominous, he teleports about the arena, and you have to fight him with only a small amount of health. The upside to this is that defeating him will get you all of your lives back. The downside is...well, good freakin' luck pulling that off!
    • Simply surviving long enough will end that encounter in your favor, but given the kind of opponent he is and the general atmosphere of the fight...
  • In the Drakan series, the Giant Spiders apparently take lessons in unnvering people from the Skulltullas in Oo T. Especially the part about the game being over-the-shoulder 3D so it being a good idea to blot out the screen with their ass with a sudden drop.
  • Drakan: The Ancient Gates gives us Yutaji the Flesh Mage, whose idea of a fun afternoon is to brainwash innocent women into marrying him, and then spend the first night of their "honeymoon" skinning them alive. The fact that he's already a Body Horror on his own is made even worse when you first realize that he's already wearing their skins like a robe by the time you meet him. When you realize his favourite method of welcoming his wives (see quote below), as well as the actual boss fight, you can never quite shake off the feeling that he could jump at you at any given point throughout the nightmarish place he calls his home.
    Yutaji: Come, my sweet wife. Come and embrace your loving husband.
  • Drakensang II: The River of Time has the level in the Bosparanian ruins: Let's see, you must search an antidote for a friend of yours, and you have to look in this creepy dungeon full of skeletons, Big Creepy-Crawlies and mad amazons. Oh, and this mad druid informs you that a fierce demon dwells this ruins. It can be really frustrating the first time..
    • Also the Anphibian Kraken, the Water Dragon and Torlosh. Also The Temple of Efferd is quite scary...
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey: The soundtrack is alright on the whole, but "Faith", the final track, is pretty damn creepy. The song itself is bad enough, but when it ends (2:40 into the track) there are six minutes of silence. Then, static plays for a short while and a little girl's voice calls out "Find April Ryan, save her...". When you aren't expecting it, that makes for one weird and paranoia inducing end to a soundtrack.
  • Dwarf Fortress. In Adventure Mode, you will often get told not to stray too far from a village if you're alone.If you're foolish enough to, you start hearing incessant cackling. A few turns later, a gang of Bogeymen gangs up on you, most likely beating you to death.
  • Eternal Champions and its set of scenery kills reached a level of violence and gratuituous cruelty that you rarely see even in more modern games. Pick your "favorite": getting torn apart/eaten by wildlife/supernatural beings, messily squashed by boulders, thrown into giant fanblades, burned or boiled alive, split in half by lightning, painfully dissolving into acid goop, falling into a trapdoor filled with multiple sets of giant buzzsaws, letting mysterious machines mess with your body...
  • Ever17 gives us this wonderful description of what happens when your character tries to Set Right What Once Went Wrong only to run into a Temporal Paradox in a bad way
  • The Exmortis series. Imagine the worst haunted house story you can, and being trapped in it. Now make it worse with particularly nasty graphics. Now include demons. Now toss on the cultist and apocalyptic end of all life as we know it by the hands of these unstoppable demons, to the point where nuclear warheads don't even work.
  • On the surface, the freeware Android game Eyes seems to be a clone of Slender. It is on the inside, too, but the ghost that pursues you throughout the abandoned house is far more frightening in appearance than Slenderman; it's a ghastly, floating severed head with bloody, eyeless sockets and a horrific, wide open Glasgow Grin. When the game tells you to "RUN!!", it's not kidding; just pick a direction and GO.
  • The Game Over screen for F-22 Interceptor. A large part of it had to do with the fact that it took forever-and-a-half to get the actual Game Over screen to appear: usually, when you fail a mission and crash, the screen just prompts you to push a button to restart the mission. Screw up enough times, though, and you're greeted to a screen that shows a monitor with a giant skull on it, your EKG flatlining, the screen reading "All Vital Signs Flat. Patient Deceased", and right below that in red, bold letters, "You're Dead". See for yourself.
  • There exists a Felix the Cat bootleg game on the Sega Genesis. Why is this on the list? If you get to the continue screen, don't click no...OR ELSE.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's, a horror-themed based resource management game, where you are a night time security guard at a Suck E. Cheese's who's job is to look after the animatronics throughout the night. These animatronics also animate during the night where they mistake humans for skeletons to forcefully stuff them inside animatronic suits. Oh yeah, and you only have a limited amount of power per night that runs down whenever you use the lights, look through the security cameras, or even keep the door that separates you from the abominations closed.
  • The Macintosh shareware game ''Fred Rogers, Terrorist'. When you are playing in the Neighborhood of Make Believe, where you must kill most if not all the puppet characters, and knock on X the Owl's door, you are met with a horrid squawking vulture creature (aka "Mutated X").
  • The Final Boss of Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes is Onslaught, one of the most dangerous villains in Marvel's pantheon. After defeating his first form, all goes quiet for a moment before the ground starts to quake, and you're greeted with this! "NO ONE IS SAFE!", indeed!
  • Depth; you're swimming along, collecting treasure, when you hear a low heartbeat that gets louder and faster with every passing second. You have a few seconds before the sharks eat you.
  • In Hacknet, Project Junebug is this. The mission involves hacking into a man's pacemaker and using a test firmware to cause said man's death. To be fair, it is said that the man lives in considerable chronic pain and has been denied the option of death.
  • The game over sequences from the first Totally Spies! game for the Game Boy Advance. The visuals are humorous enough, but the music that accompanies them is a completely different story.