Jurassic Park for the SNES. Not the whole game by any means, as most of it just involves walking around in a top-down view and blasting any dinosaur that gets in the way, but the indoor segments were a different story. Especially if you walked into one of those dark rooms without night vision equipped...
Even further, there's a glitch in a specific room in one indoor area that allows you to walk through a wall and into a room where there is absolutely nothing to be seen. The walls, even the ones you should be able to see from that position, appear completely absent. There's only the floor and ceiling gradient on the screen beyond your goggles and weapon, and it's impossible to tell if you're coming or going, or if you're even moving at all. If you don't turn back immediately after entry, you could get lost forever... and you can still hear the dinosaurs...
If you think that's bad, try noclipping outside a level in Doom. The game doesn't even draw floors or ceilings where you can't see any, nor even BLACKNESS.
Black Snow takes this to extremes. A good deal of the game is spent trying to fight off the cold and scrounging for a way to get off the station. And your enemy? It might as well be the literal darkness, as it's a very aggressive form of fungus that looks like a malevolent shadow.
The whole Silent Hill series uses this. All the time. Never before has radio static made your heart leap out of your mouth and go running for cover.
Even better is the fact that the monsters are attracted to light and sound, so you can either check out what's going on and at least have an advance warning, or avoid bringing attention to yourself as much as possible and risk an ambush. The Doom games invoke a similar compromise.
One of the most terrifying scenes in Silent Hill 1 is when you walk toward a door in the alternate hospital, on a narrow bridge of floor a few feet wide that is surrounded by a "moat" of endless void... and it's just another door leading to another hallway. One of the most effective uses of environment and camera in video game history.
Less powerful but still spook-worthy: empty rooms that dead-ended at a boarded-up window. Not joking. You turn to leave, and then comes a sudden crash of breaking glass, a couple of seconds after the third-person view shifts back towards the door. And if you were brave enough to go back into the rooms... they were still empty.
One instance where its the music is when you come out in the courtyard of the other world school, you come out side, and the music that starts up practically screams "SOMETHINGS COMING!" while the area is totally dark, it turns out to be completely empty.
In Silent Hill 2 at one point you were forced to stick your arm into a hole in the wall of a decrepit room, and the whole atmosphere of the place makes you watch in real dread... until nothing happens. This reaching into darkness is repeated a few other times in the game, but seldom more effectively than here.
There are also many strange rooms (such as the one with the butterflies) with nothing in them at all despite them appearing clearly distinct from others, where the soundtrack just repeats ominous clanks and gutteral buzzes that create far more unease than any of the monster-infested rooms.
Hell, the first twenty minutes or so of Silent Hill 2 is this trope. There are absolutely no monsters at all, but the entire atmosphere makes you feel like something is going to jump you at any second.
Just the first twenty minutes? Silent Hill 2 by far has the most examples of this trope! How about the glass shattering in one room of the Brookhaven Hospital, or the loud crash you hear in one of the Toluca Prison's restrooms after knocking on a locked bathroom stall?
If you go back, it's still locked and still no answer from the other side. Even if a Nurse popped out, the likes of which has only been seen also in the Silent Hill franchise, it wouldn't be as horrifying. I applaud you, Konami. I applaud you.
Silent Hill 3 has a similar example. You start in the toilets of a shopping mall. If you knock on one of the stall doors, there'll be a knock in reply, prompting Heather to remark that it must be occupied. Shortly afterwards, you revisit the same stall in the Otherworld - if you knock again there will once again be a knock in reply, which freaks Heather out somewhat. When you go to leave, the stall door swings open revealing a bloodstained, but unoccupied, stall.
In Toluca Prison, there is a narrow hall of cells where some unseen monster stomps around and a courtyard where you're surrounded by the sound of furiously galloping hooves. You will never see the source of either of these noises, and whatever's making them won't hurt you, but try not to spend three minutes standing on the gallows, psyching yourself up to sprint across the courtyard in the direction that you think the door is in.
There a hallway in the labyrinth that takes a noticeably long time to reach the end of. It starts out normal at first, and the further you move through it, the more the lighting turns red and creepy. At the end is a door, simply.
Shattered Memories has absolutely no monsters outside the nightmare world (except for a random shadow figure which doesn't harm you and really doesn't interact with you that much), but you still feel like you could be attacked at any moment. Everything is creepy, even though it seemingly does nothing to try to be creepy.
The mannequin room. You enter the room, and the only real object of interest seems to be the completed mannequin by the door. The room isn't that big, so the only thing to do before leaving is explore the other side, but all you can see is shelf upon shelf of mannequin parts — until you hear a brief scream accompanied by a vague chopping sound come from the side of the room you just got done poking around in. Returning to that side of the room reveals the mannequin you just saw not even five minutes ago, decapitated and stained with blood.
The use of mannequins as creepy factors in Silent Hill have been done later on (say, the second boss of Silent Hill: Homecoming, in which it says nothing- which is much creepier than the growls of the other enemies and sort of brings along this trope), but nothing compared to the Mannequin Room from SH 3.
In the same game, you enter the hospital basement, hear a creaking noise, and round a corner to find an overturned wheelchair with its wheel still spinning, and the walls bloodstained and riddled with bullet holes, but no signs of life.
Approaching the apartments' third floor door in SH2, you hear a Sinister Scraping Sound that happens to be the same sound as Pyramid Head dragging his knife, although this is well before he is introduced.
Players of Mass Effect 1 will quickly learn to cower at the sight of a stretch of empty terrain while exploring a planet in the Mako, as flat terrain surrounded by hills is a sign of a thresher maw nest. Only not every flat area is a nest. Which means that every time you are forced to drive over flat terrain, you will be on edge, waiting for the thresher to pop out.... This example actually fits into both the first and second categories, as sometimes the thresher will pop out and scare your pants off, and other times there really will be nothing there.
Five Nights at Freddy's is odd in that it uses all three versions of this trope, all to the scariest possible effect.
It uses the "Wait for it" version, in that using the cameras littered around the facility, you can always tell where the enemies are, either through simple deduction or being able to see them. There are blind spots around your room, and since you can usually tell when an enemy is there.. then you press the light, you're treated to an Uncanny Valley, still picture of the animatronic abomination, and then you slam that "shut door" button like there's no tomorrow. Then there's Foxy, who rushes down your position◊, but it can be hard to tell when.
It uses the "Nothing at all" version, in which you are peacefully sitting in your room, flicking through all the cameras, and you see all the animatronics are scattered around, and nowhere near you. You put the camera tablet away, and... nothing but the fan. No sound, no monstrosities to defend yourself against. Nothing.
Alien: Isolation uses a good amount of this. The Xenomorph spends most of its time in the vents. You can't see it, but you can hear it creaking around up there, never knowing when its going to emerge. It gets even worse when the alien is out and about stalking you. Not knowing where the death monster is a often a more frightening prospect than seeing it across the room. To make matters worse, when you can't see or hear the alien and its disappeared from your motion tracker, it doesn't mean you're safe. It means the the Xenomorph is up to something, which will likely result in your demise.
Eternal Darkness is organized in chapters, during each of which the player controls a different character. Most of the characters go mad or die horribly at the end of their chapter. The story is tied together by the main character, who is reading their stories. Between each chapter she wanders around the Lovecraft Country house looking for the pages of the next chapter. Nothing happens to her until after the much later chapters, even after finding a weapon right at the beginning of the game, as well as several better weapons, and even playing a level in the same house she's wandering around. It doesn't help that there's a good chance that her Sanity Meter might be low just from reading a chapter, leading to Sanity Effects. It's almost a relief when she starts meeting things that can actually be killed...
The developers knew what they were about. The first screen of the game, even before the Nintendo and Sillicon Knights Vanity Plates, consists of an Edgar Allan Poe from The Ravennote (Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,\\ Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before\\ But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token\\ And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'\\ This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'\\ Merely this and nothing more.), from its beginning through "doubting..." It even trails off into an ellipsis.
This trope is everywhere in the The 7th Guest, and all three seem to be in play. Any node you're in has a limited view of visibility, and areas only get brighter when you move to them. Navigating the second floor hallway can make you think something's going to happen...but most times it doesn't. You do catch glimpses of some of the other guests from time to time, but most of them actually seem friendly.
But what really runs this trope into the ground is the Basement Maze. There's never any way to tell which passage you've been down because every single one looks the same, and there's always the chance that you'll run straight into a dead end. And if you do, a Scare Chord hits you in the face, and Stauf utters, "Feeling...lonely?"
Ego even lampshades this trope just before entering.
"I have a bad feeling about this..."
Subverted in the sequel, though, since Carl Denning happens to have a flashlight handy, so you'll always see whatever's in front of you.
No One Lives Forever: A Spy in Harm's Way contains a brilliant example in a level set in at an Antarctic base. The protagonist infiltrates a secret base with the sole occupant being one scientist in the beginning that promptly dies. The rest of the level has the player explore the base without running into anyone, gathering loose pieces of information and finding ways to advance, all the time while the game's signature swinging 60s is absent and the only background sound in the wind blowing outside. It all comes to an end when the player finds schematics to a new super-soldier, and just then, the silence is interrupted by the blood curdling, anguished screams of one prototype super-soldier, who promptly goes on to obliterate everything in its path trying to get to you.
Ravenholm in Half-Life 2 is like this at times. Made especially scary by the fact that fast zombies may not attack for several minutes after they scream...
Made even more so by the fact that the standard zombies will often times lie dormant, sometimes hidden among the actual corpses, and only rise to attack after you have passed by them.
City 17 Underground. The battles with zombies are far more preferable to walking through almost complete darkness with the only sounds made by the player and Alyx.
One of those sounds, it should be pointed out, is Alyx making scary zombie growls. Alyx is lucky the player can't shoot her.
Episode Two has some of this. First, the beginning, where the player and Alyx find an old trainyard. You can hear the lurking Hunter moving around, but you don't see any more than an easily-missed glimpse of it, and one of its unfortunate victims until it impales Alyx and pins you under a pile of rubble. Also, the farmhouse after the radio tower battle.
The third-party modification Dear Esther features no action, no enemies, and no weapons. The only sounds are haunting music and narrated snippets of a letter written to some woman named "Esther" that are played out as your character walks a path around a deserted island. It gets very unnerving in places.
The Dark Eye, which is based on several Edgar Allan Poe, has some of the scariest moments just in roaming about the bare house where the framing story takes place. Nothing happens until you touch a single specific object to move the plot along, but it's disturbing as hell to be there alone.
In Eversion, World X-7 replaces the stage music with a heartbeat.
One of the randomly-selected "READY!" screens in World X-6 to X-8 is a completely blank screen.
In World X-8, all foreground objects (except you, the enemies, and the red liquid) are black and textureless.
Doom 3 had a level like this about halfway through the game. You finally get to the place in the complex where the monster attacks are coming from, and for the first 10 minutes of the level...nothing. You see various monsters lurking in inaccessible areas, but nothing attacks you. It ends up being one of the scariest levels of the game.
Aliens TC, an early and elaborate fan-made total conversion of the original Doom, also used this trope. The first level had no enemies at all, although there were several indications that something was amiss; acid holes in the floor, broken machinery, and the ticking sound of a motion tracker. For 1994 it was extremely effective and the author was apparently courted by several games development houses immediately thereafter.
This trope is one of the reasons why Thief: Deadly Shadows' "Shalebridge Cradle" is one of the scariest video game levels of all time. The first part of the level has nothing in it whatsoever. It's just dark, and has freaky ambient noises. To get to the second half, you have to go down to the basement and and turn the generator on, which causes enough noise that you just KNOW will have alerted anything within a mile radius. It also turns most of the lights on, leaving little shadow to hide in.
This is used twice in the same level. At some point in the first empty part of the Cradle you hear the sound of something beating on a door, trying to get out. The ONLY way to proceed further in the level is to walk up several flights of stairs all the way to a single solitary door leading into the attic. Right outside the door the beating sounds are loud and frantic. Once you muster the courage to open the door you find... an empty room. For starters, at least.
Zork: Some of the most chilling words ever to appear in any video game: "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."
Nicely one-upped by Zork The Grand Inquisitor: early in the game, you can only escape getting arrested by climbing down into a deep, dark well. Then you have a few minutes to catch your breath, look around the inside of the well, see nothing but blackness, try to take a step forward ... and then you hear a roar, and a chomping noise. Game over.
Though the grue disguise in Zork: The Undiscovered Underground, the Grue Repellent and Grue Convention of Zork III, and the Snavig spell (turns you into the target creature, i.e. "snavig grue") kind of ruin their scariness.
The first level of F.E.A.R. has exactly zero enemies, just try not firing your weapon in it. There are also lots of dark, creepy hallways in the rest of the game that would make great ambush points for enemy soldiers and psychic little girls... and most of them are completely empty and no less terrifying for it.
Later on in the game, while moving through the ATC headquarters' research division, there's a laboratory off to the side with a scientist who has been dragged halfway up into a vent, with his legs hanging out, and his body is still twitching violently as something is tearing at his upper body. Then, the corpse goes limp, and it stays up there, stuck in place, and you have no idea what it was that killed him - which is a hell of a lot creepier than knowing what killed him.
Your first entrance to the ATC headquarters is like this; you get ambushed while your helicopter is dropping you off, you fight off a few Replica near the helipad, and then for the next ten minutes, they pull back and have invisible Assassins watching you. One of them tosses a body through a glass wall right in front of you. You'll be glad when they show themselves again.
And then, a few levels further in, you fall down into the infrastructure of the building. Seemingly endless maintenance corridores, air ducts and pipes. For quite some time, you just creep around the empty, silent halls; I never jumped because of a ventilation fan going on before. The Replica soldiers coming down in a lift at the end of the level are really a relief.
Before this, there's the sewage underground cooridor. Sudden scary "feeling", then all the rats haul ass from the opposite direction you HAVE to go, and the main character's breath suddenly increases as you proceed forward (along with your own).
The first level of Interval 7 is also devoid of enemies for the most part, with poltergeist activity being your only company, including the elevator inexplicably malfunctioning. One out-of-the-way office has blood dripping down the wall but otherwise nothing of interest.
The Ocean House Hotel in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a haunted hotel, naturally. While there are a smattering of scripted events, a great deal of it involves you just stumbling around in the dark, and only a complete nit of a gamer could ever seriously run the risk of dying within. It's still a terrifying experience.
To some, no other example shows the singular power of this trope. Your character is an immortal vampire and even though you've just been turned you can still take several shots to the face from a pistol and regenerate from it in a pretty short time. You might be able to turn invisible or run faster than a car or any other weird supernatural powers. But whatever you're facing is an unknown - and that's always more powerful than anything you know.
There is also the scene in the abandoned hospital, you see scripted events of people being dragged around corners to their death, then the friendly quest-giver NPC at the bottom mentions this trope: "Real terror is not the sight of death. It is the fear of death. What is the fear of death? Terror of the unknown."
The Nosferatu Warrens: no enemies to speak of, but still astoundingly creepy because of the fact that the place is almost deserted, and there's a mysterious whispering that follows you from the moment you enter the area. It turns out that most of the local Nosferatu have become invisible and are now stalking you, occasionally hissing in your ears, waiting patiently for you to make the wrong move. And then Gary leaps out of the darkness, yelling "BOOO!" and it's almost a relief to have a jagged-toothed sewer-dwelling monstrosity laughing at you.
The game also pulls this in the museum in an awesome manner. At the start of the museum, you're in a storage area, moving to the main building. The section consists of empty hallways and rooms filled with crates. Somewhat unnverving but at least it's well-lit. Then you open the door and come nose-to-nose with a velociraptor! Numerous players reported literally shrieking when that happened. And it gets worse: The velociraptor in question was a model. Yes. Big scary vampire almost had a heart attack (figuratively speaking, of course) from a model dinosaur.
You even find an angry note from a security guard who fell for the same thing.
This trope is one of the reasons why System Shock 2 is consistently voted one of the scariest games of all time, even today. it's true that the monsters, unexpected computer voices, and explosions are frightening, but the true horror comes in once you've cleared an area out. You've been shattering hybrid skulls with precious ammunition and fighting tooth-and-nail for survival for 5 adrenaline pumping minutes, and suddenly, silence. They're gone. You'll be wired and jumpy and you'll be seeing unmistakable twitches out of the corner of the screen, but it's nothing. It's always nothing. Just your own footsteps and the sounds of the ship's autonomic systems, and that's when you realize there's nothing on this god-damn ship but you, a malevolently insane AI, and hordes of despairing abominations who could be RIGHT AROUND THAT CORNER.
And will be. You can clear out an area and make it safe to inhabit, but only for a while; the game is diabolically clever in this regard, and will spawn new enemies far away from your current location just so you get to hear them hunting you down. There's times in that game where it's awfully damn hard not to just cower in a dark corner and wait to be slaughtered.
The original has its moments too. Players who think they'd cleared out the maintenance level of Citadel Station are completely surprised when one of those invisible blobs wandered up and smack them. A full clip of ammo was spent on it, just to make sure.
Deadnaut manages to keep this going throughout its tense running time. While your crew is not under attack, the only sounds you hear are occasional pieces of electronic ambience, and very muffled screams from somewhere off in the distance. Even while being attacked, the gunfire seems too muffled to break this tension.
In Gungrave, which is a game that is all about being the Badass—just mowing through hordes and hordes of enemies easily through every level, the last level can be very unsettling because there are very little enemies and the music isn't the standard tune, it's quiet, with a few random screeches on a violin every once in a while.
In the sequel, there's a stretch of hallway just before your chosen character tackles the final boss. There's no music or hostile enemies, only the sound of machinery humming and your character's footsteps. You can shoot the test tubes full of those little seed parasite creatures to build up your Beat Meter/Demolition Gauge, which results in them letting out an ear-raping shriek.
In Left 4 Dead, hearing a sobbing Witch and knowing she's close and you have to be careful or you'll startle her and she'll screech and try to rip you apart - and sometimes you just don't find her...
This is even more scary in Left 4 Dead 2's infamous Hard Rain campaign. It isn't bad enough to have 20 Witches, it isn't bad enough to have them walk around, it isn't bad enough that all but three of the Special Infected can push you into one (and will appear absolutely out of nowhere), and it also isn't bad enough to have to fight Tanks during this, but they also had to throw in the sugar cane fields (where your vision is reduced to about 2 feet in front of you).
And then it gets even worse on the way back through! Whenever the storming starts up, all the Witches in the area will HOWL IN RAGE yet the odds of you actually running into one are pretty low. This continues right up until the finale, and you can never tell if that howl is on the other end of the level or just around that corner...
It doesn't help that the sounds made by the storm can resemble startled Witches.
Forget Witches, sometimes you hear a Special Infected or its musical cue long before you see it or you know it's around the corner but don't want to be the guinea pig. The worse still, is when the Tank music starts playing but takes its time finding you so players are left frantically trying to spot it whilst trying to stick together or rethink their plans.
The worst scares you can get in Left 4 Dead 2 is in the mutation The Last Man On Earth, where it's single-player with no bots, and no Common Infected. It can get very eerie walking through the level alone while hearing the growls of Special Infected sneaking up on you, and since you're alone they are far deadlier.
What's even worse than that is the fact that the single character's vocal script is unchanged, meaning that they talk to thin air - even taking to specific survivors who aren't there anymore. Not to mention the occasional "Hello?" or "Where you all at?".
In the Quake III: Arena Mod "Dark Conjunction" almost every single part of the game that isn't a battle is like this. In one scene: You walk into a room with strange pillars, each pillar has a glass ball with a human head floating in it. After a while of complete silence, the eyes open up with a chilling sound and you are briefly teleported into a strange room with a great big Eldritch Abomination staring down at you. You can't move, so you just stare at this big horrible alien demon thing for ages... But nothing happens, and eventually you are transported back as if nothing happened, and the locked door you needed to open to get through opens by itself.
Similarly the whole series of They Hunger mods for Half-Life used this well, along with every zombie trope in the Wiki.
Siren is pretty bad for this. Often you'll be walking in a nearly pitch black house, village, whatever with no weapon and sight jack. You'll be able to see through the Shibito's eyes but you won't actually KNOW where they are visually until you hear them. This is bad because generally you're too afraid to go forward even though the Shibito are dumb as a pile of hammers and aren't likely to do much.
Also, there'll be no music or any indication anything's wrong when suddenly the screen will flash red and you'll hear a Shibito yell from near you providing a wonderful "omg wtf what that?!?!?!" moment complete with running in random directions and possibly pissing yourself.
In Diablo, the dungeon levels are large and there can be quite a distance between the monsters, which only adds to the suspense and scariness of the game. Even more so because there are monsters that can turn invisible and sneak up on you, and others that charge you from far off-screen with a blood-curdling roar.
Portal: After discovering the truth behind the cake, GLaDOS continues to talk at you as you make your way through the back end of the facility. Because many of her lines are threats against the player's life, going through the facility is hell - nothing ever happens, but you're constantly fearing that something might...
The effect of this level on players who rely heavily on hearing as a habit. In the final level, much like the rest of the game, there is total silence, punctuated very occasional by mechanical creaks and thumps. When you're going through the level searching for ANY sign of life, alive or otherwise, and you expect every door to try to kill you anyway, these little sounds can be terrifying.
And after walking along for ages you get to a place where you walk down a short hallway that is immediately, and silently, blocked off by some sort of pillar. You step into the next room and the floor slides out from under you, dropping you into a room full of turrets. It's scarier after the long silences.
From the very start of the game, the windows to the offices above you give you the eerie sensation that you are being watched. But when you see these windows from the other side, you realize there was no-one watching you, which in turn, raises a question: Where is everybody?
Really, the whole game is this. From the beginning, GLaDOS's vaguely sinister remarks, the occasional death-trap, and the fact that nothing has happened yet lead the player to think that surely something will in the next chamber... or the next... or the next...
GLaDOS herself is a tremendous case of this. You don't ever see her until the absolute final room of the game. You just hear her. And at first, you don't realize there's a "her" at all. The messages sound generic, automated, predetermined. But then they start glitching out. And, suddenly, something completely innocuous sounds like a death threat thanks to a missing word here or there. But slowly, surely, throughout the game, you start to realize that somewhere, someone or something is talking to you. Uniquely, specifically, to you. And those glitches were no glitches at all. But even after the revelation, you still never see her. The game doesn't even give you the tiniest, tiniest indication of who she is, where she is, what she is, what she looks like... All you know is that she can see everything you do, and she wants you dead. The moment before you finally lay eyes on her are far and away the most tense, terrifying, and utterly electric few seconds in the game.
Portal 2 ups the paranoia with old Aperture. There are signs plastered everywhere telling you to stay out under all circumstances, and massive chambers that have been locked, locked again, then relocked for good measure that you obviously have to trek through to progress. You keep going through the place expecting something to happen but it never does.
There are signs that say that parts were vitrified. That means that they were cooled until their atoms formed a glass like grid, and it is done to nuclear waste to make it "less" deadly. And they did this to "miles" of underground test chambers. That means that Aperture Science was so afraid of whatever was in there they felt the need to TURN IT INTO GLASS! And you never find out what was in there! You get hints of course, with mentions of time travel, gamma radiation, and an army of Mantis Men but you never find out what it was exactly that was in there.
It should also be mentioned that one of GLaDOS' earlier lines involves an entire wing of the facility that was completely made of glass. Due to the accident, she had to pick up 15 acres of broken glass. This line can be either funny if thought of as one of her lies, or else terrifying if you think it's real.
Dead Space is a fan of this, especially in the space walk segments, where you can'thear any noises except sounds from inside your suit and coming up from the ship, meaning you'll never know the necromorph is right behind you until you see him slashing you across the back.
Unfortunately, when inside the ship, unless you are in an area with lots of large machinery running, the Necromorphs often loudly announce their presence, which kinda kills the tension.
And of course, if you think that's bad, try turning off the music and wandering the Ishimura in silence. No stings, no problem, right? Wrong. Without the stings to warn you when something is just out of view, you get real paranoid real quick.
Perhaps best illustrated by the Hunter, an enemy that regenerates severed limbs and can shrug off any damage you throw at it. Actual combat with the Hunter isn't too scary, especially once you realize you can control it by cutting off its legs and/or freezing it, but the real terror comes from hearing the damn thing howl as it stalks you through the ventilation system, ready to strike the moment you let your guard down...
Brutes share a similar schtick; fights with them are more thrilling than scary. In cases where they don't suddenly jump out at you, on the other hand, the buildup to having to fight one can be terrifying, especially when that involves just hearing their roars coming out of the darkness (as is the case in Chapter 1, a full three chapters before you get to find out where those noises are coming from).
The mission on the habitation deck has this too. The first room in that area has plenty of dead bodies lying around, having been prepared for assimilation by the mad doctor. And yet, nothing happens. You keep expecting them to wake up and attack you, but they don't. For the whole level, which forces you to pass through that area a few times, that particular area remains completely dead, with nothing other than someone, somewhere, singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in an immensely creepy way. In the end, when infectors do show up and start infecting the bodies, it's a very liberating experience to finally blow them away.
Done to great effect in Chapter 10 of the sequel, upon Isaac's return to the Ishimura. After slaughtering your way through nine chapters of Necromorph-stuffed corridors and hallways, you've started to get used to encountering them everywhere you go. So you would think that dozens of empty rooms and walkways would be a welcome change of pace, but if anything the quiet, empty corridors and constant expectation of attack that never come makes it one of the scariest portions of an already terrifying game
When you acess the shops, music stops playing. But some disturbing whispering can be heard if the volume is loud enough.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features a showdown in Killer Croc's lair; an abandoned sewer beneath Arkham. Croc's just a stupid brute, right? You'll just have to trick him into running headlong into something or exploit his weak point, right? Nope, he spends most of the scene underwater, listening for you. If you move too fast, he'll figure out where you are and drag you down to your doom. So you have to move through the level gathering plot coupons at a glacial pace, with only the sound of Croc's breathing keeping you company. Unless he decides to come up and attack (and if he catches you, you're not getting away), which gets nerve wracking, really quick.
Unfortunately, you can destroy that by just crouch-walking, which is fairly quick, and using a quick batarang throw to knock him back into the water.
In other words, just crouch walk and keep your finger on the quick batarang. That can really kill the mood.
There's also an area that is used to house the criminally insane in group cells. If you're unfortunate enough to be using Detective Vision (which you will use all the damn time), all you see are hordes of red skeleton enemies before you even go through the door to the room. Then the door opens and reveals all the enemies are still securely locked up, and they are never freed the entire time you walk through the room. That happens later.
During the first Scarecrow nightmare, you end up entering a morgue that has nothing dangerous at all in it except for some body freezer doors opening and closing on their own and some creepy whispering. Then you turn to leave through the same door and end up going into another room of the morgue, where you find three body bags containing Thomas Wayne, Martha Wayne, and Scarecrow respectively.
On the flipside, some of the most fun parts of the game are the Predator sections where you get to be the cause of this for a group of mooks. As you pick them off one-by-one, the remaining mooks become increasingly more terrified as they have no clue where you are, which one of them will be the next one you get, or what direction you'll come from when you do get them.
In Chrono Cross, the final battle against the game's Eldritch Abomination is the only battle in the game without any background music. All the soundtrack offers are distorted sounds like distant crashing waves, or a mournful wind. It does a good job of heightening the tension.
Chrono Trigger did this too in Magus's Castle - there's no background music when you first enter, which makes the hypnotized-seeming dialogue of the human servants who are actually demons and zombies in disguise all the more unnerving.
There's also a miniboss who takes the form of a bat and quietly flutters around you while you explore, making you increasingly frustrated, wondering when he will attack. But he won't do so until you've defeated his partner. So if you happen to choose the fork that leads to his boss room, you'll find it empty. Then you have to go all the way back.
There's no background music, but there is an unusally high-fidelity recording of children laughing in the distance. It's not quite silent, but definitely makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
And how about your wingman yelling "The 8492nd squadron does not exist!" then the music stops and tons of enemies appears from nowhere.
Also in the mission right after that one, where you're flying around a volcanic 6island trying to ditch your pursuers. You can hear their radio chatter, and your wingmen sometimes talk to them and you, but your radar is on the fritz and you never get a good glimpse at the enemy. Unnerving at times.
In the first Halo game, the first part of the level "343 Guilty Spark" was like this. After an initial bout of Covenant enemies, you spent the rest of the first half of the level wandering around in COMPLETE SILENCE.
Worse is the implications of things happening everywhere. You find barricades, shattered glass, bullet casings, hallways and floors absolutely covered in various kinds of alien blood. Sometimes you even find piles of corpses behind locked doors. And there is absolutely no evidence of what the hell caused all of this.
Especially when you realize that all the barricades and defenses that have been set up and positioned in such a way as to counter something trying to get out of the facility, rather than something trying to force its way in. And you are headed into the direction those defenses are set to defend from...
The most unsettling part? For the entire game you've been accompanied by a wise-cracking AI who tells you where to go and helps get you out of tough situations. This is the first of two levels where she isn't there, and without here there to explain it to you, the Flood is a much scarier foe.
Ditto for the first few minutes of Halo: Reach, which features an in-game homage to Aliens's famously tense motion sensor sequences.
A less telegraphed reference to the motion sensors in Aliens occurs in, once again, "343 Guilty Spark." Before the first of the Flood finally attack you, they have to spend a few moments breaking through the doors. Any player not already scared will almost certainly have a change of heart when they see that their motion tracker is suddenly swarming with red dots.
The Godfather game is grounded in semi-reality and completely devoid of traditional supernatural horror elements. However, it does have the annoying tendency to have the music cut out completely at times. It's therefore much more startling if a hostile mobster starts shooting abruptly.
In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus there is an area with a massive gate outside it, allegedly to keep some horrible monster inside. The player wanders through the quiet, empty level for several minutes, constantly expecting the monster to appear and being severely creeped out when the reeds in the water beneath them move as if an animal is swimming right past you. After all of this excellently terrifying nothingness, the monster turns out to be a flamboyently-colored and cartoonish cobra thingy that moved so slowly you'd have to try to get caught by it.
In Operation Flashpoint, you might be on patrol in a forest for ten minutes, encountering no enemies whatsoever and hearing nothing but the birds singing, when you walk right into an ambush and the scene explodes into a loud firefight. This being in stark contrast to a game like Call of Duty, where you're rarely not being shot at, the sudden transition is quite harrowing.
The level Second Sun in Call of DutyModern Warfare 2 is like this. One minute, you and your squad are making a heroic last stand in and around a downed helicopter. The next, a nuke goes off over DC, and everything electronic shorts out. It's one minute of madness as planes and helicopters fall from the sky and come crashing down all around you, and the squad is running for cover in panic. And then, just silence. Then it starts to rain heavily as the last light of the day fades. Suddenly, in a flash of lighting, three enemies are spotted in front of you.
And then there's another encounter later in the level when the squad is sneaking through the ruins and the lighting reveals another squad crossing the street 20m ahead of you, completely oblivious to your team. Unsure of whether they're friend or foe, Sergeant Foley shouts the challenge "Star". They don't respond.
In The Suffering, much of the navigational and informal help can be seen through watching the prison surveillance cameras. You click on the control panel to watch them, and the window then takes up the entire screen, they are also in real-time, so you'll be watching a security guard being torn to bits by shank-monsters while it happens. You can also gather that there's going to be monsters in that room when you come to it. This is more of a "warning" than it is a shock strategy. That is, until you watch a surveillance camera showing a guy watching a surveillance camera, and see a creature slowly walking towards him. You try and exit the screen as soon as possible, then turn around to see nothing at all.:
Irisu Syndrome!'s game folder, as you play the game, gets populated with text files containing character profiles. Irisu's profile, conspicuously, is just Visible Silence. There is a very good reason for this.
Any moment of Minecraft that is spent in a dark place when you are not fighting monsters. Reason? In the dark, monsters spawn. Monsters spawn anywhere. Everywhere. If you've just opened up a hole into a cave system and hear growling, hissing, or clacking coming from it, you may be scared to venture into it, knowing a zombie, spider, or skeleton could be lurking around any corner. If you hear nothing, that's worse, because nothing is the sound that creepers make...
Endermen may creep some people out, but on the whole they aren't too scary in and of themselves. Once you set one off, however, and it teleports out of sight, the suspense of waiting for it to just go ahead and attack already is what makes fighting them such a trying experience.
There comes a moment while running around you hear one of the background sounds like lovely (terrifying) music but one of those sounds is very sinister. It's the same sound of an airplane flying over head, you look up to see it as a instinctual move and see... nothing. You are all alone. The sound can be heard here.
That is called an ambience, and it happens when you are near a dark area that's large enough, as a sort of indication or warning, even if that area is underound or behind a cliff face nearby and you actually can't see it. Nothing indeed.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. plays with that too. Every dungeon could easily "accommodate" for several dozen monsters, yet they usually hold only 2 or 3 monsters (which, to add insult to injury, are almost invisible). Most of the time is spent exploring dark, creepy old laboratories with plenty of pitch black rooms and scary noises, waiting for the moment "they" will appear.
There are 3 main examples of this. Your first encounter with a bloodsucker in the first underground lab, you hear it screech, and since it's invisible, you only see its bright glowing eyes. When you go through the only way past the room it's in, it suddenly appears behind you and at close range.
To add to that, there are a few human enemies in the room directly behind it, so you may be lucky enough to hear the bloodsucker find them first.
The second, is the first encounter with the Mind Rape monster The Controller. It's right at the end of an underground area, after you fight through human enemies and a few less lethal mutants, you think you're safe, and heading to the exit. You turn a corner and bam you get a Mind Rape, which in this game consists of the screen POV being pulled towards the monster, being twisted and manipulated and loud screeching.
The last, is a Pseudo Giant, in another of the underground labs. You have to enter a locked door, all the while hearing something banging on the other side. You ready yourself for a fight, but nothing happens when you open the door. You spend most of the time in the lab in fear because you know this monster, that sounds like nothing you've encounterd before, is going to come at you eventually.
The fight against two Burer mutants in Call of Prypiat. You won't see those scary little suckers for more than a few seconds during the whole fight, instead you will be sneaking through the surrounding rooms trying to figure out where they are while trying to avoid the objects they throw at you via telekinesis. Of course, it doesn't help that it all takes place in another dark underground structure.
Don't wander the Zone at night with just your head lamp. Just don't. See main entry for details.
In general, the Zone is mostly empty. Mostly. You can wander all the way from Agroprom to Dark Valley, seeing nor other stalkers, nor any monsters. Try to relax, though, ang get torn to shreds by pseudodogs or a rifle round through the head from a bandit looking for some loot.
Mother 3: Inside the mailbox was absolutely nothing.
Nothing after nothing came bursting out.
Yume Nikki is very good at this, but oddly enough, the best example wouldn't even be an example were it not for the fact that one of the game's secrets got out. See this◊? A little creepy, but not worth being the picture for the game's Nightmare Fuel page when there's entire worlds full of severed body parts, right? Thing is, if you want to see Uboa (which may well be why you're playing the game at all), you have to deal with a Randomly Drops mechanic: he only has a 1/64 chance of showing up, and then only under very specific circumstances. By the time you've spent ten minutes walking in and out of Poniko's house and flipping her lights off, Uboa's actual appearance and accompanying sound effects will make you jump about a foot.
And on a broader scale, the dream worlds are so big and have so much empty space that you never know when you're going to stumble onto something, and after you've found a few of the... weirder parts of Madotsuki's dreams, you realize that whatever it is, it's going to be deeply disturbing. But then, this is basically EarthBound meets Silent Hill...
Actually, for some, just the drastic change of the lights in Poniko's room turning on and off, without Uboa, is horror.
Myst? Where could nothingness ever be scary in that series? Try in Myst III: Exile, after you've seen the evidence of Saavedro's insanity and realize that you yourself are essentially trapped on those same worlds, with no humans and very little life save plants and a few animals, retracing Saavedro's footsteps as he desperately tried to find a way back home... And once you get to Narayan and meet Saavedro face to face and he locks himself in the bunker, you realize that he can get out to attack you at any time if he so feels like it, even though you can't get in. Saavedro never actually leaves the bunker until you solve a certain puzzle, and you're never actually in any danger (unless you don't solve the final puzzle correctly), but the loneliness of the ages and the sheer effect of nothing really going wrong up to that point is really creepy. Actually, the Myst series likes to use this trope quite a lot, come to think of it...
Riven also uses this very effectively by leaving little hints around the game that Gehn is moving around the islands and aware of your presence. Knowing that he never catches you until fixed points in the game doesn't help much. Similarly, in the original Myst, three of the four ages you visit were once inhabited, but are now empty, implying that the people who lived there have all been murdered; but somehow this doesn't match up to the creepiness of the fourth age, which has always been empty.
Likewise, if you don't know that you can't die (like I didn't), much of the Myst series is filled with the suspense of "Where did these skulls come from? What was that noise around the corner? Who closed that door; I know I left it open..." Nothing happens, but, like the trope suggests, nothing can be scarier than something.
What about Myst IV, where you know that there's someone sneaking around the place, but you never see more than a few seconds of him/her/it and you have even less idea what you're doing (in the other games at least you sort of knew where you were going) and around any corner this other person could be waiting for you. It doesn't help that early on a bridge collapses under you and you get knocked out. When you wake up, your best friend's daughter who you were looking after is gone. Creepy.
Enemy Zero, an old first-person adventure game for the Sega Saturn. Picture this: you're on a spaceship out in the middle of nowhere, and a bunch of nasty aliens have come aboard and murdered everyone save you and a few others. Problem is, the aliens are completely invisible, and you get to roam the corridors of the ship, completely unable to see them. Your only way of knowing they're around is a sonar-ish device that starts pulsing louder and faster depending on how close the aliens are, all of which is absolutely nerve-wracking. The slightest peep will have you spooked, to say nothing when the aliens can be heard growling closeby. Bring My Brown Pants, please.
The Resident Evil Gamecube remake has one hallway lined with windows. When you walk through it, you hear a clink, as though one of the windows just cracked (if you're next to the window, you can actually see the glass cracking). Nothing else happens in that hallway, but it makes your blood freeze. The second time you pass through it though...
This was made specially for everyone who played the original. The dogs jumping through the windows scared most of us. Then we all played the remake, and were expecting the dogs again, but nothing happened.
In fact, the vast majority of the Resident Evil franchise has this effect. Better rendered environments help with the atmosphere, of course, so the newer installments (REmake and Resident Evil 0 in particular) have more of this, but almost every game has several rooms where, even with all the enemies dead, the room itself will make your skin crawl. Notable examples are basement and parts of the lab from REmake, the dimly lit operating room and the winding Training Facility corridors from 0, and the Infirmary from Code: Veronica.
Aside from the sewers (which also uses this trope to great effect: setting up the Novistadors through terrifying ambient noises, their use of ambush tactics, and the fact that they're mostly invisible even as you fight them), one of the only really scary places in Resident Evil 4 is the operation room. You see the gray guy. You know he's going to attack you. And then he doesn't. And he keeps not doing it. He's just lying there, waiting for you to finish reading the text log describing how hard to kill he is. Then, when you finally get the card key and start to make your way back out, you hear him break out and, in all likelihood, try in vain to beat him before abandoning the fight and running away because he's almost invincible. But it doesn't end there. You escape him, and then get out into the hallway. Basically, your next experience should be "whew I escaped let's keep goiHOLYSHITANOTHERONE!"
Speaking of the Novistadors, there's the fight with the Colmillos in the hedge maze, which works very similarly. The maze keeps you from seeing very far ahead of you, and you know that one could suddenly come running around a corner or jump through a hedge wall at any moment. The near-constant, vicious growls keep you on your toes the entire time, and the only thing worse is when those growls shift into the sound of panting, because that means one of them is chasing you and you have only seconds to figure out where it is.
The buildup to the boss fight with Verdugo is one of the other examples. We've encountered it several times already in cutscenes, starting a chapter ago, but all we know about it is that it's far from human since we only glimpse its mandibles and glowing eyes peeking from within the hood of its cloak. Then it's built up through a cutscene from its point of view, stalking you as you make your way to the boss room, followed by a second one shortly after you enter the boss room in which it demonstrates its speed and power as it locks you in the room and you still can't see it. Once it finally does start attacking you, you only see its tail or, more rarely, a brief flash of its upper torso as it attacks from the ceiling and beneath the floor, growling and snarling from its unseen hiding spots at all other times. Following a long, very tense period after you call for the elevator in which nothing happens, he finally properly reveals himself and this trope lets up... though of course, the player quickly comes to fear him for an entirely different reason.
The first segment of the U-3 boss battle pulled a similar trick. The boss himself is more disgusting than scary, apart from moments where he can be hard to fight and the fact that he can't be killed until the second part of the fight. The part that grates on your nerves is whenever you damage him enough to make him hide, and no matter where you run you can still hear the sound of his guttural breathing as though he's right next to you, about to lunge... and then he does. (Also, its appearance is foreshadowed only by a single cutscene awhile before, in which Saddler merely refers to the creature as "it," keeping its identity a total mystery until the fight begins.)
The first encounter with a Licker in Resident Evil 2. You enter a room where there's no music playing, then you see something run across the window. Enter the next hallway, still no music, then the Licker drops down from the ceiling.
The interrogation room in Resident Evil 2, with the one-way window between the entrance and a file cabinet with an important object in it. You fully expect something to smash through the window as soon as you grab said object. Nothing does - they wait until after you've passed by the window a second time.
Lampshaded and subverted in Resident Evil: Code: Veronica Flash Edition by Legendary Frog based on the part where Claire walks down the area where dogs are hiding but let her past the first time and 3/4ths of the way back. "Something's going to jump out at me... something's going to jump out at me... phewwww". When she's gone, some zombies jump out and complain about being late and missing the chance to scare Claire because of decomposing bladder issues.
Resident Evil 6 has some of this in the first level of Leon's campaign. You enter an eerily silent college campus, with signs of disaster everywhere. No power, debris on the floor, broken glass. Completely deserted and not a soul to be seen. Then you enter a large banquet hall, meals set up on the tables and everything. Completely silent and rather creepy. Then you catch a glimpse of a dark figure darting around the toward the exit. The silence is pretty scary on your first playthrough. Even your own characters will occasionally jump at lightning crashing outside or a ceiling tile falling to the floor for no apparent reason. Keep in mind throughout this entire scenario, there are no enemies whatsoever and nothing can hurt you.
And then Leon says, "They're scared..." It's never explained what he's referring to.
Alan Wake gets scary as hell thanks to this. It doesn't take much playtime for you to start whirling around at every little noise, and scanning around yourself constantly with the flashlight. You'll be sprinting for the Safe Havens in no time.
In the final stage of Mega Man 2, there are no enemies or music until you enter the boss room.
In Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, you return to the Fountain of Prayer to find that the music has stopped, then the first boss smashes through the wall.
Any time in the Metroid Prime series where you're going through either a large empty area, or a hallway surrounded by things that look like they ought to be gargantuan enemies (or Metroids) ready to come out and decimate you, only for absolutely nothing to happen. Yet.
Echoes has several points, usually in Dark Aether where the landscape itself is so damn sinister and treantening to expect Ing to come at you all the time (making it all the worse when they eventually do) but the prime example is the Alpha Blog, the biggest aquatic monster you see in the game, who you've seen in the tank above where you get the mobility upgrade. Unlike every other boss fight though you get the upgrade before the boss fight, making the trek across the arena really jarring and unsettling.
There are a few instances where Dark Samus shows up but does nothing to you (at one point destroying a bridge after you receive an alternate way to cross the chasm). By the time you see her murdering space pirates in Sanctuary your guard is down making the ensuing fight with her a sudden jolt
Several times in Corruption, you walk through various Metroid research facilities. Everything's okay, though you keep expecting something to come out and attack you. Those who are Genre Savvy enough, though, will know what you'll have to eventually do...
Metroid II: Return of Samus was, by far, the king of this trope for the series, especially considering how many of the Metroid attacks would come out of freaking nowhere, and just about everything else was 99% empty.
The opening of Super Metroid, where the player investigates a distress signal from space station, only to find the facility eerily silent and empty... up until the ambush byRidley. Later, it pulls off a nice example in Tourian, where several rooms occupied by Metroids and a pair of very large enemies aren't particularly scary. The next couple of rooms, however, contain no enemies at all - just the brittle, dessicated husks of enemies that became Metroid food (one of which is a Torizo, fought on two previous occasions as a boss).
The latter example is homaged in Corruption, to perhaps even greater effect, both because it takes place on a creepy, abandoned Galactic Federation starship and because the crumbling corpses are those of Federation Marines just like the ones you've previously fought alongside.
Metroid Prime also opens with Samus exploring an abandoned Space Pirate Frigate. The place is dead quiet, and the only sign of anything living are a few small creatures, until you open a door to a room full of escape pods, and notice a GIGANTIC Parasite Queen...corpse, lying on the ground. As you explore more and more of the facility, you find the bodies of Space Pirates who have died in horrible ways, along with more parasites, and that's when you realize that if the Parasite Queen in the escape pod room is dead, where are these babies coming from? You find out at the end of the level, although having an actual boss to fight is a relief compared to the silent exploration of the rest of the frigate.
Metroid Fusion has your first visit to Sector 6 (NOC). You're told ahead of time that there are Blue X in the sector, which are sub-zero cold and will do heavy damage if they touch you. There's no enemies except the Blue X and very dark backgrounds and scenery, as well as Blue X hiding in the various bits of destructible scenery. Couple the fear of the Blue X with the sector's eerie music, and you'll soon be jumping out of your skin every time you enter a new room.
Your next visit isn't much better, because A) you're searching for a boss you fought once before, who never attacks you until you alert it to your presence by trying to enter a restricted area, and B) you're also told to leave the sector as soon as said boss is dead, because the Nigh Invulnerable SA-X is also tracking you.
For that matter, any scene involving the SA-X at least brushes this trope. Musical change, sometimes lighting shifts with a spotlight on the SA-X, all as a reminder that this thing can and WILL eat you alive. The scene where you KNOW it is waiting and you MUST fight past and escape to continue, that anticipation and knowing it is going to hurt...
Amnesia: The Dark Descent will invoke this trope to the point when you WANT monsters to show up, to relieve some of the tension.
The first trailer for Amnesia's Spiritual SuccessorSOMA contains minutes 5 long minutes of a woman in a clean metal room trying to get a machine composed of many wires and a screen to work. She spends most of her time tinkering, moving the machine, exiting the room, and talking to someone offscreen. It's almost boring, until she finally gets the screen to work, and it shows, her, in that room, collapsing off her chair most likely dead. No explanation for why this is shown is given, but the woman panics and swears as she sees this, yelling at someone to "shut it down!" as the trailer cuts to Static.
Let's not forget that Daniel forgot everything on purpose, leaving you, present-time-Daniel, in the dark. In his letter to himself, past-Daniel says that he can't tell you why he chose to forget. This leaves the player wondering what the hell is so wrong with this place that the main character would willingly forget everything.
7 Days a Skeptic. At the end of the game, you are chased by John DeFoe. Sort of. In the original game, there was no way of telling when DeFoe would enter a room, or from where, which meant that in some cases, you could enter a room, wait a moment to regroup, and be instantly gored to death when DeFoe appears inside of you.
Harbor missions at night in Terror From The Deep, as well as alien base assaults when Tentaculats are involved. Dark spaces, never knowing where the aliens might hide, outmatches troops is one half, the music does the rest.
The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money evokes this. When you're getting swarmed by Ghosts, it's scary. When you've killed them all, the Villa gets really unnerving, really quickly. The dim lighting and constant haze limiting visibility doesn't help.
The Dunwich building in Fallout 3. The Ghouls patter of footsteps and shrieking in the dark is bad enough, then there's the audio logs of an unfortunate wanderer who was unlucky enough to be entrapped there. But possibly the most unsettling part are the hints of the supernatural. Most of the game is an outlandish but clearly defined sci fi universe where even the most nightmarish enemies have some explanation. The Ghostly whispering, slamming doors and mysterious flashback however all leave the player in a constant state of terror that some sort of demon, ghost or vampire will lunge at them from the shadows at any moment. Added to that is that the building is a maze of corridors with blocked doors, cave-ins and missing floors, and objects that JUMP at you from nowhere.
Most locations contain enemies, but occasionally you'll run into an empty one, which can really get on your nerves. And sometimes there will be ambient sounds suggesting something is there, even though nothing is. Add to that a mazelike environment, and it soon becomes terrifying.
Vault 106, which is a Vault much like home in 101, but disordered and dirty, leaving you wonder what happened and if it's about to jump on you. And when you start to find out... "Breathe in the blue." Yes indeed, you suddenly can't trust your very own senses.
Lampshaded in the Dragon Age: Origins expansion Awakening, where one of your resident snarker companions comments on a particularly long and ominous hallway (leading to a major boss battle): "Ooh, the suspense is killing me!"
In the basic game, there's much darkness and horror, but only two scary segments: Haven (before the cult attacks you) and the buildupto the Broodmother. Both of these sections make very effective use of atmosphere.
There is also the Orphanage in the Elven Alienage in Denerim. There's a lot of blood on the floor, and a whole bunch of demons. Creepy enough, but not enough to get on this trope. But the creepiest part is the fact that you never meet who summoned the demons, and you have no idea why they were summoned. There literally is no cause for the slaughter, as far as you know. And you don't even know what happened to the person. They could still be out there...
In fact, the build-up in the orphanage is so creepy—tiny dimly-lit corridors with blood everywhere, screaming and crying voices, deranged spirits and weird chanting and that Photoshop filter of evil—that when the actual boss demon appears, it's almost a letdown: it looks exactly like the standard-issue rage demon the PC has faced countless times before in the Circle Tower. Nothing is scarier.
When exploring Tartarus in Persona 3 every so often you will enter a floor where there are no enemies at all. Fuuka(Or Mitsuru, most likely Fuuka though) will comment that "something doesn't feel right". She's right, because this is one of the special floors of the game, the "Reaper Floor", where one of the Secret Bosses of the game (Aptly named "The Reaper") spawns after a fixed 2 minutes, must we remind you that these floors tend to be excruciatingly long and be filled with items? And that, unless you're max level or is using the cheap Satan & Lucifer trick, he's most likely going to slaughter you? And the fact the there is a chain rustling sound in the background that only gets louder the closer he is? And that your analyzer (Be it Mitsuru or Fuuka) tells you that he's spawned, but in a very indirect manner? (Saying something along the lines of "I've got a bad feeling...")
Both Condemned and its sequel make use of this trope quite frequently. The example that comes to mind is the cabin level in Bloodshot, where you spend a good half of the stage waiting for something to jump out at you. It never does, which makes the moment you finally come face to face with the thing that left the bodies, completely unexpected.
The Descent series likes to play with this trope, all three variants of it. All three games have at least one melee bot that make little to no noise and prefers to hide in dark areas. There are several levels in each game where these robots are a common enemy. Those levels are usually very dark, and will often have areas where there is no noise whatsoever. Using the headlight may not be an option; it runs on energy, and a lot of dark levels have a rather precious supply. Sometimes said enemies are stealth-camouflaged, others randomly stalk you. The soundtrack is also sprinkled with sections where the music drops to near silence without warning. That's if you have the music turned on at all...
Baten Kaitos Origins has the dungeon inside Seginus, an ancient magical puppet. The creepy music and surroundings only serve to remind you that you're walking inside its mind. At the end of the dungeon, when Seginus starts talking, there's a very good chance you'll jump out of your seat, just because it's such a nervewracking dungeon.
Operation Flashpoint and Arm A. They're generally not scripted examples, but you're going to be extremely tense running across the open field, hoping that a sniper doesn't put a bullet in your brain before you even realize what just happened. Given that it's firmly on the realistic end of the Fackler Scale of FPS Realism, complete with most hits being One Hit Kills, and The All-Seeing A.I. doesn't have the visibility problems you do, you have every right to be paranoid until the mission's over.
Scratches has nothing but the titular scratching noises, a flash of movement from a hidden room, and that creepy tribal mask. When the game cuts to a CGI cutscene of the actual creature plodding toward you, it just comes off as silly. This problem was somewhat fixed in "The Last Visit", where the same creature had different facial features.
In Conkers Bad Fur Day, the mansion level has plenty of zombies in most areas, zombies which, incidentally, instakill you and run fast when they see you. Some big areas are just outright empty dead ends, which is way more scarier, especially because then the background music is very clear... With children chuckling, and a brilliant minimalistic style that just makes you expect something awful is going to happen.
Slender. It's pitch dark, you're wandering around with just a tiny flashlight, your player character is slower than molasses flowing uphill in January, and you keep finding creepy sketches and notes taped up around the place. By the time Slender Man himself makes an appearance with accompanying static and Scare Chord, you'll probably be so worked up you scream and jump about a foot. Then for the rest of the game, you're wandering around knowing that thing is probably right behind you.
"YOU F***ER YOU KNOW HE'S NOT THERE!"
A large part of what makes this so scary in Slender, in particular, is that this trope actually comprises the central gameplay mechanic. The Slender Man's scariness would quickly drop off as the game goes on if you were just allowed to take a good look at him - but your looking at him is how he kills you.
Devil May Cry: After the lights go out in Mallet Castle, its entire geography changes. You can't see more than a few feet in front of you, and the ambience doesn't help either. Of course, this is a Hack and Slash game starring a BadassHalf-Human Hybrid packing more than enough to take on anything thrown at him, so the effect isn't that powerful.
Dark Souls (in contrast to its predecessor ''Demon's Souls") utilizes atmosphere through this way throughout most of the game. For example: Anor Londo is one of the most beautiful areas in the game, but it's lack of enemies keeps you on edge; this is reinforced by the silence, because among the enemies present only the Batwing Demons make any noise when they are in combat.
The "Gamer" minigame from Game and Wario plays this trope well. The objective of the minigame is to hide from 9-Volt's mom, 5-Volt, while trying to complete a certain number of WarioWare microgames. 5-Volt can bust 9-Volt by opening the door, opening the bedroom window, or coming through the TV. 5-Volt's entrance is usually foreshadowed by Psycho Strings, although they can just as easily be building up to a Cat Scare (9-Volt's cat coming through the door, a balding man opening the window and flashing a peace sign, a silhouette of a hand making shadow puppets appearing on the TV, etc.) What's worse, sometimes 5-Volt will appear with little to no build-up, doing things like sprinting to 9-Volt's door or shattering his window. The third mission culminates in 5-Volt diving headfirst out of the TV, pacing around the room, running up to 9-Volt's bed and standing mere inches from him, all accompanied by Ominous Latin Chanting and Psycho Strings.
The Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. features a stage based on this minigame, featuring almost all of 5-Volt's entrances and fake-outs, along with a few new ones. If you start a match on the stage and notice a strange-looking platform or background prop (an easel with pictures of WarioWare characters on it, the handheld game 9-Volt was playing in the original minigame, etc), there's a large chance 5-Volt will somehow appear from it. One of the music tracks for this stage is complete silence, heightening the tension even more.
Some might say that the online point-and-click game Daymare Town is this. The lack of audio and stationary, colorless, environment.
Lampshaded when you're forced to go into the pitch black cellar of the lowest floor of the library to obtain an item; the game refers to the cellar as "scary," and labels the exit as "get out!"
Really, this is very common with most of the games made by Mateusz Skutnik. Submachine features very creepy sound effects and soundtracks, with only vague hints about where you are and what has happened. Covert Front features dark stone areas that look like agents from the Empire could pop out of at any second. And in The Fog Fall, the aftermath of the nuclear holocaust is made deathly apparent by the lack of people and stark environments.
Speaking of Submachine: When you first start Submachine 2, there is a record player providing background noise of chirping crickets and other peaceful woodsy sounds. When you turn it off, the actual soundtrack kicks in, which begins with a near-Scare Chord and is full of creaking and electronic distortion sounds. Nothing horrific happens, but you might spend a good few minutes waiting for it anyway.
The Last of Us has one great point early on in the game. The protagonists decide to cut through a half fallen skyscraper in the midst of a torrential downpour. After finding a few corpses of some unlucky soldiers. You open a door and suddenly there's a Clicker on top of you.
Subverted in Vietcong. Granted, this is Vietnam, where the NVA/VCs could be hiding everywhere in the jungles, ready to ambush any unwitting patrols. Fortunately, the pointman can give away their positions, slightly nullifying this trope.
One of the most stressful levels in Mass Effect 2 is the seemingly deserted Collector ship. Previously, waist-high walls in the middle of a roomhave been the number one indicator that you are going to have a firefight, but on this mission, whenever you find them, nothing happens - until you reach your objective and spring the trap, anyway.
Dormant F.O.E.s in the Etrian Odyssey series, especially those that turn into mundane obstacles when not awake. Probably the worst are Cruel Slayers in Etrian Odyssey IV, which first appear as panther-like statues. You just know when you spot the first one that it's going to attack you, but you have to walk past it anyway. And it... does nothing. They don't activate until you're spotted by an entirely different FOE, at which point every Cruel Slayer in the area will wake up at once and chase you down at double speed. Boulder Boars and Medusa Trees in Etrian Odyssey Untold are also major offenders, forcing you to look funny at all the rocks in the first stratum and dead trees in the fourth. (And there are a lot of dead trees in the Fourth Stratum.)
In Banjo-Tooie, you explore Terrydactyland, a dinosaur-themed world. Like most of the game, it's bright and cheerful, with cartoony characters. But then you climb to the highest point of the level, and find a place called the Stomping Grounds. When you first enter, the background music stops as you look around—it's a wide open space hemmed in by walls. Sure, the colors are a little drabber, and that silence is getting deafening, but how bad could it be? Then you take a few steps forward...and a GIANT DINOSAUR FOOT EMERGES FROM THE SKY, TRYING TO CRUSH YOU, as the game's ominous boss music abruptly starts up, punctuated by a horrific-sounding roar. Banjo and Kazooie are about as big as one of the claws on the dinosaur's toes, and to make matters worse, you never see the entire thing—just its foot. Somehow, imagining the rest of the Stompadon is a thousand times scarier than any depiction could be.
The Deep Sleep Trilogy has a very oppressive atmosphere as you wander around abandoned dark buildings with a flashlight. Then you pick up that one final key item, a menacing tune starts playing and a monster starts making it's slow way towards you. The second and third games upped the ante by adding long corridors with key items at the end, where this does not happen.
Shin Megami Tensei IV has several areas where there is minimal or no music and no NPCs, but enemy encounters. Examples include the Shinjuku Staton west passage, the Counter-Demon Force base in Kasumigaseki, and Camp Ichigaya in Blasted Tokyo.
Nothing At All
The level from Tomb Raider Legend which has Lara exploring King Arthur's tomb features a section where Lara must swim across a vast body of water. As she swims, the camera pulls out showing just how vast the water is and how little Lara is...and you wonder if something is going to come up from underneath...
Another particular example is in Temple of Xian in Tomb Raider 2 when you enter a cave full of small and Giant Spiders you find a massive chamber with a huge egg cocoon; the level design makes you platform almost right next to it, but it never opens...
This trope is also used throughout the series with Lara exploring places no-one has entered for thousands of years, and you're never sure what might be waiting around the next corner...
The Temple of Doom in the second level of TR 3 has a room with a pair of corpses suspended in mid-air, with no indication of what killed them. Also, the hangar in Area 51.
The first level of the original Alien TC for Doom. No enemies. None. Just fifteen minutes of slowly freaking out, searching every corner twice, thrice, four times, because for God's sakes, this is Doom!Where are they?
Same thing in the Marine's first level of AvP. The first time your motion sensor goes beep it's just an automatic elevator activating, but after several long minutes of increasing tension in deserted corridors, dark corners, hissing steam vents, and flickering lights you will empty the magazine in its general direction. The game's designers know full well that the motion sensor is more effective as a tension builder than a tracking device.
The tradition continues in the game's sequel. The first Marine mission takes you across a barren planet and deserted installation, where nothing more than a string of Cat Scares occur (such as a hissing pipe shaped like a xenomorph's head bursting from the ceiling). You're constantly in anticipation of of an all-out attack, so you are completely alert. But it doesn't come until about half an hour into the game, by which time you've probably decided nothing is coming and are skipping through the empty halls, at which point the aliens appear and rip your face off.
beep beep beep
In either version of Dead Rising after special forces have apparently taken out the zombies, those zombies all just lie on the ground. It is quite disturbing in the first play through.
Played with in DR 2: OTR where "jumpers" (just zombies that decide they need to lie down on the ground for a nap or wait around a corner, or worse inside a toilet stall and eat you if you pass by) who, first time around, scare the shi'ite out of you, but the thing that makes it scary is, that you never know where they will hide, until you go there. They spawn randomly too.
Rayman 2/Revolution/DS has the Cave of Bad Dreams, which is too over-the-top to scare anyone... except for the threat of a cyclopean demon attacking you if you take too long to complete the level.
An after-case, if possible: if you arrive at the Romani Ranch on the third day in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, you'll notice that the entire field, inhabitants included, are severely quiet. Not that there's that many people living on the ranch, mind you, but the effects are still felt. The problem is that alien-ghost creatures invaded the ranch just last night, and abducted the livestock and the owner's little sister. And when you talk to the younger girl on the farm, you'll notice what looks suspiciously like a lobotomy. For experienced players who knew about this, it's just a tiny bit creepy. But for those new to the area/game, it's very, ''very'' unsettling.
The Path has no enemies, no jump scares, nothing. It's just you, walking almost alone in the forest, listening to the calming songs and sounds of the forest, and yet you feel worked up, knowing that, since the game is a remake of the story of Little Red, there is a wolf out there, watching you...
The Penumbra series makes really good use of this trope as well. The tech demo (that started it all) has only 2 encounters throughout the entire thing, yet throughout the game you're terrified in case you find something around the next corner. The trope is also present in the series proper (Overture, Black Plague and Requiem), owing to their focus on Psychological Horror - and when we say they offer this in spades, we really mean it. The whole damn series is a rich source of pure Paranoia Fuel in video game form...
Speaking of Frictional Games, their next offering, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is replete with this. The monsters are scarce enough to keep them from being a source of frustration, but frequent enough to ramp up the fear. Add to that ambient sounds that, at times, sound like footsteps and groaning, and you'll be cowering in a corner for fear of a monster you haven't even seen yet.
One of the key elements of keeping the monsters enduringly frightening throughout the game is that you can't even look at them without taking a severe hit to your Sanity Meter. If you do attempt to just look square-on at them there's an Interface Screw that blurs your vision: you never really get a good look at them unless you go on a panic-induced suicide spree, never mind that their models on their own are grotesque enough. The most one can catch safely during gameplay is perhaps their toes.
The game's sequel, A Machine For Pigs, manages to do this in its teaser trailer. We hear a high-pitched, unearthly squeal as a monster bursts down a door, out of view of the camera. Just as it's about the round the corner and come into view, the screen fades to black. This being a horror game, you expect some kind of Jump Scare in the final few seconds of the trailer. Nothing happens.
Deus Ex uses this with a little of the classic version in the underwater laboratory. Eerie music, no apparent enemies, ominous logs and corpses spread around, flat out informing you of every enemy you will face. The music and locations all build up towards something but that something never occurs.
And Invisible War does this with the abandoned Antarctic base. Parts of the level have only a few guards and penguins, the music is just this ambient wind, and inside is dead silent. Scattered throughout the level are datapads that serve as the diary of a researcher long dead, adding to the creepiness. Lastly you have to fight mutagenic creatures that have escaped into the base, and it is nearly a relief towards the end when you finally run into a few humans.
Near the end of the FEMA camp, you have to go through one otherwise empty warehouse room with shelves stocked with hundreds of huge boxes. After a couple seconds you recognize them as something you first saw earlier in the level: each and every one is the compact form of a car-sized killer robot that can be activated at any time, and the emptiness continuing for the next couple rooms highlights how completely screwed you'd be if they were.
During your initial wanderings through the Picus building it starts out completely empty, with little to no background music, but on it's very clear something bad has happened by all the locked fire-escapes and signs of a hasty evacuation. You'll be overjoyed when the bad guys come out of the woodwork - at least then you'll have something to hit.
Panchaea starts of with you walking around a deserted, ruined ocean facility in the middle of the Arctic. The only hazards are electrified water on the floor, the occasional loose wire, and a few mines. It's made scarier by the fact that you know that there are augmented people driven homicidally insane hanging around somewhere but you're not sure where.
Resident Evil 2, safe rooms. Keep in mind that these are places explicitly named such that nothing will jump out at you, so you can save your game and stuff. Then the rooms themselves are creepy as hell and they play this. * shudder*
Then, in the A side story, there's a door in one of these safe rooms. Normal enough, and maybe something interesting behind it. But then there are zombies in the loading screen. Suddenly the safe room is not so safe anymore. And it leaves the creeping worry... will it happen again?
The first part of Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares. The first time you go through it (and subsequent times on Amateur), there are absolutely no enemies to be found, but the ambiance is downright terrifying. The later parts of the chapter follow the classic version of the trope.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has had plenty of classic examples. However, a full-blown example can be found in the Skyline Apartment building: given the keening whine of the music and the subdued lighting, you'd expect that something threatening would be waiting for you. Instead, after poking around in the shadows of almost every single room in the building, you find a frightened TV host, a vaguely ominous message on an answering machine, a fresh corpse, and a dying prostitute. The place brightens up when Prince Lacroix gives you an apartment there, but considering that almost every single resident has died for one reason or another, the eeriness never quite dies away.
Check the basement. The guards were spying on the tenants. "Were". As in, they're gone. What happened to them? Never explained.
They were most likely fired by the owner due to the Prince's influence. Living in a building with overly curious Creepy Janitor is actually not very Masquerade-conscious.
Scratches also relies heavily on this for 90% of the game, noteworthy examples are the effect the first time you enter the basement of the mansion, the music makes you thing something is gonna jump at you from the shadows at any moment, also near the end, when you finish crafting the sacred totem and you are on your way to confront the cursed mask, creepy laughs and whispers haunt you all the time on your way to it.
Haunting Ground, as a survival horror, makes full use of this. Creepy music is played as you walk round a castle that is yours In Name Only, where you know you are being hunted by an enemy you cannot kill, having no weapons or defense of any kind apart from that afforded by your large White German Shepherd (the dog). When your pursuer draws near (not that you can tell) the creepy music... stops. But then this trope is subverted - there is something scarier than no music: your dog growling at something he can smell and you can't see. Start running, and hope you pick the right direction.
Clock Tower, the series that Haunting Ground is based on, does the opposite in the first. While Jennifer roams around the huge mansion, there is absolutely no music playing. For the most part, the only sounds you'll hear will be your own footsteps and the occasional interaction with some background objects... until Scissorman pops out, that is.
Similarly, in the first arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, there's a scene in which a character responds to the perspective character's inquiry about murders by saying that she hasn't heard anything about something like that. Her facial expression doesn't change and she doesn't appear alarming or show any signs of lying, but holycrapthemusicjuststopped! It's almost an inverted Scare Chord. In fact, the fact that your first clue that something strange is going on is something that doesn't happen in-universe is the first hint that this arc is Through the Eyes of Madness.
Metro 2033. Iradiated areas when your mask is running low. The deep breathing, and just nothing else.
One of the creepiest levels is Ghosts. There is not a single enemy.
Fallout likes this as well. There are several locations, mostly abandoned military research installations or something like that where you're all alone. Which makes it really unsettling.
The loneliness is also brought out into Fallout 3 if you use the Animal Friend perk level 2. If you experience nothing, see a green blip indicating an ally, and find out it isn't human, but just another Mole Rat, then you know what it is like to be truly alone.
This in turn can be completely removed by gaining an ally.
Fujiwara no Mokou from Touhou mentions this after the heroines note a distinct lack of opponents at the end of the extra stage. Very much subverted, in that while it is almost outright mentioned in one stage, that happens to be the one in which you play the ghosts.
Mentioned again in Undefined Fantastic Object in one of Reimu's routes right before the final boss (although said final boss turns out to be not very horrifying at all).
Reimu: I can't sense anything at all, but... Anyways, what's with this world? All that ominous atmosphere from before is completely gone... ...It's just creepy in the opposite way.
This is probably the only "good" part of The Crystal Key, although it only kicks in during the second half of the game. In the beginning, you're in a Beautiful Void, and while the lighting and music are pretty dang creepy, it's not so bad because you have no reason to believe there's anything out to get you. When a soldier appears out of nowhere, shoots you, and dumps you in a prison cell, it's a bit jarring, but still not that bad. When you break out, however, you get to watch a Darth Vader ripoff force-choking a guard. And then he rushes out of the room and heads straight your way, and you have only a few seconds to get into a side corridor. After that, even the rest of the Beautiful Void segments become horror as you wait to see what will come for you next.
Speaking of Beautiful Voids, Schizm takes this and runs with it. You were sent on a starship to provide supplies to scientists studying a Ghost Planet where all the inhabitants mysteriously vanished—meals left uneaten, work begun but unfinished, that sort of thing. All the scientists are gone, too, and their audio logs speak of them vanishing one by one. They speculate at some length as to what's happening, but none of them can figure it out—so you have no idea where not to go or what buttons not to push. I never even got a Game Over before I quit playing because I was just too nervous.
Three points in Mass Effect 2. The first is when you board a Collector Ship and for the first half, you find absolutely nothing. It's pretty damn unsettling as you—and your characters—wonder where the Collectors are. Another is when you board the Derelict Reaper, and go through the first few minutes with no enemies while watching creepy vids which reveal that "even dead gods can still dream." A third takes place on a side mission, a derelict ship that has lots of puzzles but absolutely no enemies — and not many more lights.
In another optional mission, you're on a crashed ship hanging off of a cliff. There are no enemies and you can't bring any party members. There's also no music and the only sounds you'll hear are the creaking of the ship as it starts to slip off the edge (Which gets worse the farther you get into it) and the occasional crash of a piece of metal falling.
It becomes less scary once you've played it a few times and realized that all the creaking, crashing, and falling objects are scripted and no matter how fast you move the ship will never fall over the cliff until you reach the end.
It's actually quite soothing after you've played it a time or two. Nice change of pace from the rest of the game, much like exploring the Normandy crash site, another mission with no enemies.
The first mentioned example is particularly unsettling because of all the chest-high walls. Players have generally come to assume that chest-high walls equals imminent fight. So they're REALLY expecting something to come out.
And on the second, that one gets creepy before you ever get there. You're going into a millions of years old corpse of a super-advanced species whose only goal, as far as you know, is to kill every single sentient creature in the galaxy, previously studied by a group of scientists that Cerberus has lost all communication with. Then once you get there, you find nothing but empty rooms, leftover supplies, and creepy recordings of the scientists slowly going crazy. And if you've paid any attention at all in the games up to that point, you know exactly what is doing it to them. The husks attacking are practically a relief!
The fact that your soon-to-be party member isn't making a scene at all doesn't help. At one point you hear husks roaring, then a couple of shots shoot past you along with several dead husks, then one of your current party members says "Wait, what was that?"
In the third game, the Ardat-Yakshi monastery. Right after you drop, you find a shuttle with its engines still warm, with one of your squadmates noting that there may be a visitor. Then you enter the damn place, and the elevator isn't working. So you go down by ladder, and the large hall you enter is huge and completely dark. The only thing lighting it is your flashlight, while you hear ear-piercing screeches in the background - as James notes, "Like nails on a chalkboard... and it's calling its friends." As you explore the room, you hear several noises of something moving, and when you get close to the exit, you find a few dead Cannibals on the ground. The large room is, in fact, completely empty, and the Banshees don't attack until you're in a well-lit area, which is why this is an example of the second kind of this trope, not the first.
In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Drake gets stuck in the Rub'Al Khali desert and has to wander through dunes upon dunes of sand for a long time with only an empty well to encounter. The player controls Drake as he goes through all this, so the horror Drake gets from seeing nothing but sand for a while is a shared experience.
While the Shadow Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is sometimes nicknamed "the Silent Hill level", this trope is the reason so many people find the Forest Temple utterly terrifying. Rather than a dark crypt like the Shadow Temple or an extension of the Lost Woods like one might imagine a scary temple being, the Forest Temple largely resembles a large mansion that hasn't been lived in for centuries. The rooms are humongous, dimly lit, and often...completely devoid of life. The temple has incredibly creepy background music that plays as you slowly make your way through one dim, empty space after another, almost wishing for an enemy to come out and break up the silence and stillness. There are places it plays much like a normal temple, but when you first begin to explore, it is one of the most unnerving experiences the game has thrown your way thus far. And then you get introduced to the Wallmasters.
Oh, and did we mention the Forest Temple's haunted? Yup, the miniboss is four ghosts that vanish from portraits and cackle at you.
Also, the first time you encounter the Redeads. They're underneath a tomb, way in the back of Kakariko Village Graveyard, in a big, open room full of thin walkways and channels of water. And they're just... standing there. Every other monster in the game moves at least a little bit, even the ones that are fixed in one place, but the Redeads are absolutely still. So you carefully start sneaking across the room, heart in your mouth because of these freaky things and music that sounds straight out of Silent Hill, and then you get halfway across the room and SCREEECH! You turn around, and... none of them have moved.
The Room of Clocks in Castlevania 64 and its remake Legacy of Darkness combines this with Suspicious Videogame Generosity. It's got a save point, food, and your pick of subweapons. The only background music is the ticking of the clocks. The Room of Clocks is still one of the most unsettling and nightmarish places in the game.
The chair room in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. It serves for nothing, other than just, well, sitting in everything you see. From a rocking chair, to the electric chair (that does nothing), and even the cannon, all settled in a simple and placid background of a sunny meadow. It becames at first interesting, then later rather boring... but stay just a few minutes more, and you'll start thinking what the hell is that room doing there, what purpose does it have, and why anything is happening there.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance does this at the VERY BEGINNING and through the game. A colossal armor comes to life BEFORE you enter the castle and you can't kill it, an indestructible great armor that you destroy by sending it to be crushed by gears, a mysterious creature you must sacrifice in order for its blood to fill the room and elevate the platfomr you're on... Oh, and Legion (Corpse) room.
There's a vacant room that you fill with furnitures you find through the castle. Curse of Darkness above borrowed this and made the Chair Room.
The Endless Staircase in Super Mario 64 is downright creepy, especially if you don't have the perquisite 70 Power Stars to reach the top (if you don't, it's impossible, unless you can use a glitch only found in the N64 and Virtual Console version). While there's nothing that can hurt Mario, he eerie music combined with a staircase that seems to go on forever can be unnerving.
The Orz of Star Control, a strangely cute alien race from an alien dimension, don't really fit this trope, as the whole game is set into a non horrific, rather comedic atmosphere. However in a different setting, their uncanny, overly energetic friendliness, combined with their almost incomprehensible way to talk in strange pictures, which however allows many fearsome interpretations about their true, hidden nature and desires, as well as the fact that they seemingly just eradicated a whole human subspecies from existence, without leaving any witnesses of what exactly happened and them becoming instantly hostile to anyone asking to many questions about that, the diplomatic intercourse with them would fall into this trope, as dealing with them is dealing with an unratable danger of unfathomable nature.
The beautiful thing is that there is nothing in the game that will corroborate anything about the Orz. There's no proof, just conjecture. The Arilou are no help, because they're even more evasive about this than normal (amplifying the effect tremendously), and the Androsynth computers never give any specifics either. Also, the creators were very careful not to say anything else about the Orz in conversations with the fans.
Unfortunately, the third game reneged on this. Which is one of many reasons fans do not acknowledge the third game.
Used occasionally in Dragon Age: Origins. During the Dalish Elf origin, a companion notes that there are no sounds of wildlife, no wind in the trees... And of course, there's what happens if you decide to abandon Redcliffe to its fate and come back later...
Dark Fall: The Journal uses this method of horror almost exclusively. It's not possible to actually die at any point in those games, but they do their damnedest to help you forget that.
Dark Fall: Lost Souls makes similar use of this trope, although it has a lot more in-your-face horror than the original too.
In Huntsman: The Orphanage, your only source of light is a small phone that occasionally comes to life whenever a ghost feels like communicating with you, you have no idea what your ultimate goal is for the first hour or so of the game, and the only thing that is certain is that a big creepy Slender Man with spider legs is stalking you while you explore. Yeah, the same one that killed all those poor orphan children.
Also, the phone light only shines a few feet in front of you, so you usually find yourself looking straight into complete and utter darkness. The Huntsman could be right in front of you, and you wouldn't have a clue until you were too close for comfort.
Example: The seemingly utopian town of Roppongi. Everyone seems to be at peace, and there are no demons around. Then you find out they're all zombies, reanimated by Belial and Nebiros in order to keep Alice company. Then there's the dungeon you navigate to get to the three of them—no encounters again, but instead, poison floors and exploding chests everywhere.
Shivers has you walking around a haunted museum of weirdness. Alone. With evil spirits hiding in inconspicuous objects, just waiting to suck out your soul.
In Stalker, there's the Wild Territory, a location usually bustling with mutants, anomalies and NPCs. Then there's a house which contains a stash that is completely empty, except for a few bushes which add to the "there's gotta be something hiding here"-feeling.
An unexpected (and possibly unintended) example shows up in Grand Theft Auto IV. There's an apartment across the street from one of your safehouses with an openable door. Usually building with a door you can push open serve some purpose or another (be it part of a mission, the location of a collectible item, or even the site of an Easter Egg), this place serves no purpose. Even weirder, every other apartment building in the game contains people hanging around the halls. This one is completely empty, although there is a photo of a police officer in there, which implies that the house was owned by a police officer or his family, who had to leave their apartment (or were killed). It is very creepy.
The Hellion-based instances in City of Heroes are creepiest when the map is largely cleared, and all you can hear are the eerie sound and music effects around the glowing mystic artifacts, bloody symbols, and candlelight. For those that are brand new to the game and unaware which game objects react to you and which don't, it's especially bad, as you keep expecting the symbols to do something.
BioShock uses this trope like it's going out of style. And it's really good at it. Especially Fort Frolic. It gets worse once you're able to access the basement of it.
Batman: Arkham Asylum uses this well after you left some areas. The Medical Facility and The Visitors Center are good (and terrifying) examples of this. The former, after you defeat Bane, you can enter and explore it on full... except that it has no enemies, and everything its just empty, except for a few doctors, that are of course just waiting for everything to chill out, and you can still go further and further on the medical levels, down and down below the elevator, and explore the chilling interiors of the facility. If it builts a lot of agoraphobia inside you, congratulations, it's working. For the Visitors Center... it's even worse, as its the only building that forces you into a first person view, and it's just a corridor with a lot of windows and chairs, and the only thing beside you in the building its a mannequin of The Joker, with a tv set on his head, that talks to you like a doctor to a patient, and nothing else.
In Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake and Otacon return to a now deserted Shadow Moses Island. Despite knowing that all the soldiers are gone, and that nothing lurks around the corner, you still feel a sense of discomfort as you traverse the empty halls. This is especially prominent during the flashback at slaughter hallway, where you hear the agonizing screams of soldiers being sliced apart. There's no one there, and the screams eventually fade away, but you're left with a lingering feeling of unease.
While Eternal Darkness is better known for the classic example above, there is one Sanity effect that deserves mention here: Sometimes, when you enter a small room with no other exit than the door you came in through, you might go back through the door only to find that it is locked. Usually this happens when something really weird is about to happen, like your character sinking into the floor... but sometimes nothing happens, not even a flash of light or a cry of "This isn't really happening!"
An interesting example in World of Warcraft. In the Southern Barrens, a dwarf tells Alliance players that they Dug Too Deep and found... something. She doesn't say what they found, but they found something. She then mentions that the Cataclysm caused the cave where whatever it was is to cave in and tells you to pray that it was enough to keep it down.
Whereas the Dream Land of Yume Nikki falls under the Classic Variation (as noted above), the door in Madotsuki's (normal) room qualifies as this. Every time the player tries to enter the door, Madotsuki would nod her head and refuse to leave her room. What could be on the other side of the door that has her too afraid to leave, especially since she enters the door to her nightmarishDream Land throughout the game? Whatever it is, she would literally rather die than confront it.
The Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder has a good deal of exploration of an abandoned mansion. It's dark and not entirely finished, and creepy music plays through the entire thing, but it takes ages for anything to happen. At least until you rappel down that pit in the basement...
Fragile Dreams, taking place after a series of natural catastrophes and an experiment gone wrong that leaves humans on the brink of extinction, is made of this. The player explores the crumbling ruins of subways, an underground shopping mall, a theme park, a hotel, and a laboratory, and it's usually pitch dark outside of the area your flashlight illuminates. There isn't something trying to kill you in every room or corridor, but when you're approaching an enemy, you hear the ominous music before you see it and have to move forward.
The unknown sectors in the X-Universe series straddle the line between this and type three. Head into one, get a fair distance from the gate, and just look at how empty it is in there. Think about all the things in the universe, mundane things like Space Pirates, or insane terraforming robots or a Horde of Alien Locusts with point to point jumpdrives that could be jumping in right out of scanner range ... hey, why are you running for the gate?
In the game The Outsider, it's extremely silent and dark throughout the entire game. In several rooms, it's so dark that you expect something to jump out at you. It never happens.
In Might and Magic VIII, the Plane of Air is just an empty blue-white void during the day, and a pitch-black void at night.
I Can't Escape is taking place in constantly changing dungeon with many underground levels (each one is darker than the other), creepy environments, eerie sounds... and absolutely no enemies.
Kairo in general takes this route as a MinimalistPuzzle Platformer. The most noise you can expect to hear while playing is the whirring of mechanisms operating, the footsteps of the player character, the static of the occasional monitor/screen you come across, and the sudden and rather loud gong noise that sounds when you solve a puzzle.
The save room in The Evil Within is completely devoid of enemies and the only people in it are you, the creepy nurse and the guy in the cell next to yours. That doesn't stop it from being the scariest place in the game, especially when the painting shows up or the nurse disappears.
Most character profiles in Skullgirls give thorough and comprehensive lists of things each character loves and hates, and helps build characterisation and establish an image of them. When it comes to emotionless, shapeshifting Eldritch Abomination Double, though, the profile simply reads "Likes: Nothing. Dislikes: Nothing".
Not fully accurate, though, since Double very clearly does not like the sight of Eliza.
Towards the end of Persona in the SEBEC quest, the school in alternate world is suddenly devoid of life. There's nobody around at all and there's absolutely no traces of them anywhere. Even your friends aren't sure what happened to everybody. In actuality, Aki being absorbed by Pandora caused all the people in Aki's side of town to disappear since they were a part of her creation.
There all along!
In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the implication at the end that the Joker was with you all the time in front of you, when you visited the Visitor Center. It gets worse when you realise that the mannequin is posed differently everytime you go into that room, and that after you "speak" with the Joker & walk a certain distance away before quickly turning around, the damn thing's posed differently.
Also, although you were attacked several times earlier in the game by Scarecrow, if you find his secret lair, it is almost completely covered in pictures of you. Since they're polaroids, and due to the nature of Scarecrow's attacks, it's safe to assume that he has been stalking you since you arrived at the Asylum, and probably followed you around every other time you went there. *Brr...*
In The World Ends with You, Mitsuki Konishi, the game master, was there the whole time in your shadow during the third game.
Devil May Cry: There's a giant statue of a male, three-eyed angel facing the entrance of Mallet Island castle. Examining it prompts Dante to speculate that it depicts the God that the Castellans worship. Later, after the castle becomes the Dark World, it disappears. Guess what Mundus looks like once we finally see him?
In the Game Boy Advance version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, There's this secret in White Mountains's Edge where you find some loot, but the soldier next to where you find the secret warns you that the goblins doesn't leave their treasure unguarded for too long...
I See You: Its implied that you're being watched the entire time you're playing although nothing happens until later on in the game.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim likes to do this now and again with Giant Frostbite Spidershiding in the ceiling, and despite how unimpressive they are in combat, being ambushed by one from above will still make you crap yourself every time. Ironically, it's scarier when you're also sneaking, because if you're just running around openly, it will probably notice you and drop in front of you as soon as you enter the room. If you're sneaking, it probably won't notice you until you're directly underneath it — and neither will you notice it.