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Surprise Creepy

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Oh, this looks like fun! Wait... 
Dwight: What is this thing you just sent me?
Jim: Oh, it's so cool. It's a picture of the most relaxing meadow you've ever seen.
Dwight: I know what this is. It's supposed to lure me into a sense of calmness, then a ghoul pops up and scares me.
Jim: Now why would I do that? Dwight, of all people I know you're unscarable.

A work has a scary or disturbing image, scene, portion, etc. that clashes with the prior tone of the work. Usually this thing happens before the story starts to get dark and edgy as it progresses.

This is a form of Getting Crap Past the Radar where the crap in question is not only just downright bizarre, creepy, or carries Unfortunate Implications, but is also made even worse by how you would never expect to see something like that in a work like this — especially if said work hails from the Animation Age Ghetto. It's one thing to watch a show that advertises itself as outright horror, since it at least prepares the viewer for what is yet to come. But it's another to watch one that features cute little bunnies and elves on the cover, only for the setting to suddenly become a war-torn wasteland straight out of World War I, complete with characters having Cruel and Unusual Deaths left and right.


Don't expect the publicity for the work to give away these moments, either.

Other works — as mentioned in the above quote — may deliberately invoke it by setting up a bright, colorful, or serene tone and atmosphere to lure in viewers, then abruptly dropping the facade for maximum impact. One such type of work is the Subverted Kids Show, which often employs a stereotypical, Sugar Bowl-like aesthetic in order to make the subsequent twist even more jarring.

A Sub-Trope of Mood Whiplash and Nightmare Fuel.

Compare What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? (works that are disturbing but family friendly), What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids? (mistaking a work for being family friendly), Crapsaccharine World (when the contrast is intentional, usually the whole world setting or certain places), Bleak Level (when the Surprise Creepy is in the form of a stage), Art-Style Dissonance, Backstory Horror and Gut Punch (although this can be overlapped with this trope).


By the nature of this trope, entries below will be SPOILERS. Even just seeing a work listed is a spoiler in and of itself.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Princess Tutu starts off looking like a sugary-sweet, very cute ballet-themed Magical Girl show in a very picturesque town that has Cat instructors, and a Penguin that plays piano - then the crows come, then let's not get into the Finale of Season One or all of Season Two
  • If all you know about Higurashi is the cover, you will be very surprised by the beginning of the first episode, and troubled by the vaguely sinister opening credits, but the bulk of the episode will seem like a typical Slice of Life comedy featuring a boy who has recently moved to a cheerful small town and befriended four female classmates... but before the first episode is over, the boy has realized he's living in a Town with a Dark Secret, and everything starts spinning out of control, and by the end of the fourth episode, half of the main characters have died gruesomely, including the Decoy Protagonist, and you realize the beginning of the first episode showed you that this was going to happen. And then the fifth episode begins with one of the younger main characters stabbing herself to death with a huge knife for no apparent reason, and after the opening credits, it's back to light-hearted comedy.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena, which poses so convincingly as a bog-standard Magical Girl series that the first company to try translating it marketed it as such ... then changed their mind hurriedly at the start of the second season.
  • This seems to be typical of Mohiro Kitoh's work:
    • Wings of Vendemiaire is about charming little living puppets going through horrible, horrible things.
    • Shadow Star seems at first like a cute little story about a girl and her pet dragon-thingy. Then it starts going horribly wrong...
    • Bokurano is an initially charming Humongous Mecha show with child protagonists. All of those kids are going down, and you'd need to use factorials to calculate how many universes get completely destroyed over the course of the series.
  • Pokémon:
  • I'm Gonna Be an Angel!: Painfully sweet, cutesy, silly and looks like it was made for some toy store line. By the end of the series, the darkness, creepiness, and mindfuckiness will make many cringe. And there's a pretty explicit yaoi innuendo going on there too.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: A Ridiculously Cute Weasel Mascot or whatever offers to make a deal to grant a young girl's wish and give her powers beyond imagination. Every episode after the third is a Wham Episode. Even before then, it's still quite creepy, as the protagonists are fighting Witches that look like Eldritch Abominations and can Mind Rape innocent people until they're Driven to Suicide.
  • Magical Witch Punie-chan features a magical princess sent to a high school in the human world as part of her princess training. She has a cute talking animal side-kick, a magic wand, and the ability to animate vegetables into evil minions (or to jump into whatever she's cooking). This adorable little girl wrestles opponents with the intention of breaking bones, says "submission is a princess's way!", and her animal sidekick, who was forced to be her pet after she kicked the tar out of him, constantly wants to kill her. Within the magical kingdom, not everything is so magical; for instance, an army of slaves is used to move trains. None of this is ever shocking to Puni, but her normal human companions are often either stunned or frightened.
  • School Days starts out as a cute teenage love story about a guy trying to get a girl with help from his female friend. When he does finally get her, he does a bad thing, and things spiral out of control as the series gets much darker and depressing and loses all traces of its cheerfulness. This all culminates in the final episode with his girlfriend, having just murdered his female friend, snuggling his disembodied head.
  • School-Live! is an excessively saccharine Slice of Life high school anime for almost all of the first episode. There are hints here and there that it won't stay that way, but everything still seems relatively normal... until the very end of the episode, where it's revealed that there's a Zombie Apocalypse afoot. Only then does the true nature of the series become apparent, and it doesn't get any better from there. It's disturbing not just because of what's going on, but also because of why it was so sweet and cutesy until then: one of the central protagonists lost her grip on reality and is imagining everything as it was, rather than as it is.
  • Made in Abyss appears, on the surface, to be a cute manga with adorable protagonists exploring a giant cave. Then we start learning more about the Curse of the Abyss... and then the cute little protagonist gets her arm poisoned and the resulting amputation horribly botched. Once Bondrewd appears, all bets are off and the story takes a nosedive into some of the most horrifying instances of Body Horror and And I Must Scream ever illustrated.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha series certainly looks like your average innocuous Magical Girl series at first, but quickly turns into an illustration of the darker sides of real life and what having superpowers can actually mean, as well as how the innocence of youth can be easily torn away. The scene with Precia Testarossa mercilessly whipping Fate for failing her was one hell of a wakeup call.
  • Hunterx Hunter starts off seeming like your typical Shonen adventure series...until people start dying horribly. The series in general has a dark and gritty tone, macabre imagery, mentally disturbed characters (some good, some bad, some all over the place), and violence that's graphic, even by Shonen standards. The creepiness even extends to the main protagonist, an adorable young boy with a dark side of his own.
  • Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, being a Shounen manga about dogs and with an anime adaptation made by Toei Animation (Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, etc), it can be easily mistaken for your typical kid-friendly adventure involving cute talking dogs. Then you meet the bears, and that misconception gets cleared up very, very fast...
  • Goodnight Punpun has a cartoony bird-looking protagonist who starts off as an optimistic little boy. But, as the chapters go on, the more mature elements of the Coming-of-Age Story come to light. It also has creepy visuals, especially when Punpun feels dark.
  • Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai starts off with a thirteen year old girl who befriends her cloudcuckoolander new classmate. It ends with the classmate being killed and dismembered by her abusive dad.
  • One morning, NHK aired an anime with a scene of a cute adorable angel, which suddenly transforms into a creepy demonic form. And yes, it was part of a kids' show. Must be seen to be believed.
  • The Unico manga series by Osamu Tezuka is a children's fantasy series about a baby unicorn who wants to be friends and has the Power of Love and able to spread happiness to others. While the setting and locations is beautifully designed, the villains are terrifying and do some messed up stuff to Unico his friends. The two animated Unico movies by Sanrio Animation dials up the manga's creepy imagery with the second film (Unico in the Island of Magic) containing a much darker storyline compared to the previous film.
  • Master of Martial Hearts seems to just be a typical Panty Fighter tournament series for the first four episodes, but there are hints that the Platonic Heart tournament is Not Just a Tournament. The final episode comes with the grisly reveal that all the losers are kidnapped and drugged to become Sex Slaves, and the losers of this tournament are shown in full detail having been drugged so thoroughly that they are laughing like crazy, completely brain dead as their handers treat them like pets, and Aya is aghast at what has been done to them (especially since one of them is her chemistry teacher), all while creepy music plays in the background.

    Comic Books 
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Hey look, a comic with Donald Duck as a superhero. Man, this is gonna be so funny... Wait, did those alien vampires just conquer an alien world and transform everybody into zombies? And now they are heading toward Earth?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW). The cartoon has its Darker and Edgier moments, but they're few and far between. The first story arc has Ponyville being invaded by Changelings, the Cutie Mark Crusaders being imprisoned (although this is somewhat Played for Laughs), and genocide of some Ridiculously Cute Critters (yes, really). The second arc features the ponies being Forced to Watch their worst nightmares whenever they fall asleep and Rarity being corrupted by an Eldritch Abomination. If you want cute and funny stories about ponies, you're better off getting the My Little Pony Micro Series.
  • Ghost Rider is creepier than expected from the Marvel Universe. With a gallery of mostly upbeat superheroes like Iron Man and Captain America, you suddenly come across a leather-wearing, flaming, living skeleton.
  • If you go by (especially early) advertisements and fan descriptions of Loki: Agent of Asgard it's a light-hearted, colorful, fanservicey comic where Loki turns into a unicorn (issue #8) or goes speed dating (issue #2) while trying to earn their redemption. Besides what can possibly be creepy in a comic that opens with a shower scene and a filked song from Wicked? Well, let's take a look at the cover of issue #12. The first surprise creepiness actually comes at the end of issue #1 where the villain is revealed and then the series systematically trolls the readership and slowly but surely spirals downward into the darkness that reaches its "peak" in issues #10-#12 subsequent issues being a rebound but still rife with creepy *cough*legions-of-Hel*cough*.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fangame Story of the Blanks starts out as a nice, interesting little game starring cute little Apple Bloom finding a town full of blank flank ponies in the Everfree Forest. Then you find a skeleton in the fireplace. And that's just how the scary part STARTS.
  • Super Filly Adventure is a fun little My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fangame that has you attend one of Pinkie Pie's parties and save Ponyville with your flank-kicking combat abilities. Even the "bad" ending where you become so obsessed with baking muffins that Ponyville burns down is far more silly than disturbing. Then you discover the secret "Blank Flank" ending, which is accessible only if you play the game at a very late hour...
  • Cupcakes is going for this, but nearly everybody in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom already knows about the twist. It starts out innocently, with Pinkie Pie inviting Rainbow Dash over to bake cupcakes, but then Pinkie takes her to the basement to graphically slaughter her.
  • The Pony POV Series chapter "Playtime" is mostly lighthearted, focusing on the Mane Cast talking with Princess Gaia as if she were simply Fluttershy and the foals that Ponyville has been turned into just playing around. Then Princess Gaia's facade shatters, revealing her true form, Nightmare Whisper.
  • Marie D. Suesse and the Mystery New Pirate Age! starts off like a "Girl falls into One Piece" adventure, until the main character finds themselves alone on the Thousand Sunny with the crew mysteriously gone missing. Then weird things start happening, a disembodied voice starts singing, and the hostile Klabauterman shows up... Things only get darker and creepier from that point on. It's all the more unexpected because based on the first chapter and summary you would have thought the story was just a Mary Sue parody.
  • Moonstuck, aside from the occasional appearance of Dark Woona, is a silly and fun romp across the moon with Woona making lots of friends and things that don't make sense. The final boss fight — and the lead up to it — is shockingly dark and depressing even without comparing it to the rest of the story, with one of the most terrifying portrayals of Discord that the fandom has ever produced.
  • The prologue of Pokemon Rejuvenation starts off quite innocently, with you playing as a little girl in an adorable Slice of Life. Then the cultists appear.
    • The actual game qualifies, too: it starts off with you and your mother on a cruise ship travelling to the Aevium Region (where the game takes place), which is filled with humorous little moments and easter eggs. Then the villainous team, Team Xen, shows up and detonates a bomb on the ship, which causes the boat to sink and most of the people to get captured.
  • While a few things about Tokimeki PokéLive! and TwinBee qualify, the most shocking moment for that universe by far is when Sally Acorn reveals that Mobius was destroyed by an invasion of Ultra Beasts! Quite possibly the most Nintendo-ish piece of Mood Whiplash to come from what is otherwise a fun, humorous adaptation of a mobile game based on an anime about idols who promote their school from a company that doesn't have much in the way of dark/edgy franchises!

    Films — Animation 
  • The film version of Watership Down starts out with a fun and interesting myth about the creation of the world by Frith and how the rabbits and other animals came to be. Then we flash to the main plot and get a group of animated rabbits, and it all looks like an enjoyable kid's movie about cute little bunnies until suddenly Fiver mentions something about the field being covered with blood. It quickly goes downhill from there.
  • Felidae starts cheerfully with the main feline protagonist, Francis, and his owner moving into a new neighborhood. Then Francis encounters one of the many feline victims of a killing spree occurring throughout the film, has a nightmare involving marionettes made of cat corpses, and the Big Bad gets his stomach cut open with his entrails falling out.
  • The Brave Little Toaster. Right off the bat we have Air Conditioner raging himself to death, there's the Nightmare Sequence involving a Monster Clown, then they get trapped in a repair shop where the owner dismantles one of them in a scene framed like a horrific murder complete with a "Gore" Discretion Shot and a "corpse" dripping "blood", and then near the end of the film there's a musical number in which anthropomorphic cars are singing about how worthless they are as they are being crushed to death, complete with one committing suicide.
  • Don Bluth films:
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Meet the Robinsons. The first 3/4s of the movie is full of colors, gleeful wackiness and literal bubbles. Then, just after what appears to be a daring rescue, the robot friend gets speared through the chest and dies, the main character's best friend/future son disintegrates into nothingness, the world has plummeted into despotic despair and slavery, and the main character's family, being controlled via electronic hats that cover their faces, starts trying to kill him by beating him off a very high fall. All in the space of about two minutes.
    • Pinocchio is the story of a cute little puppet boy and his journey to become human... which leads to the Pleasure Island subplot, which involves other boys getting lured into a seeming happy-looking place where they can misbehave and do what they want, but then get turned into donkeys and shipped off to work themselves to death. We see a nightmare-inducing sequence where one boy screams and begs for help as he slowly and painfully transforms.
      • Even worse, unlike most Disney villains, the guy who runs Pleasure Island gets off scot-free.
    • Dumbo is a somewhat depressing story of a young elephant who is mocked for the size of his ears, but it's still presented in a cute and lighthearted fashion. Then Dumbo gets drunk and starts to hallucinate, resulting in twisted, bizarre visions of ghost-like apparitions straight from Hell.
    Chase 'em away, chase 'em away! I'm afraid, need your aid, Pink Elephants on Parade...
  • ParaNorman is mostly a Fantastic Comedy about hilariously ineffectual zombies and living characters who aren't any more competent, though the very realistic bullying Norman suffers stops it from being fully a comedy. Then the true nature of the "witch" is revealed, and suddenly everything in the film becomes a lot more horrifying.
  • The dead from Corpse Bride are anything but scary or even creepy. They're lively, upbeat, and a hell of a lot more fun to be around than the so-called living. Then they find out it was Lord Barkus who murdered Emily and suddenly careen rapidly into horror town, ending with Miss Plumm ominously saying "new arrival" as they literally drag him to hell.
  • Rango starts out as a fairly light-hearted Western for kids, with only a few sinister villains to occasionally darken the skies. Then Rattlesnake Jake shows up, a surprisingly intense and threatening villain for this kind of movie.
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain is a funny Claymation movie with lots of bright colors (although even the animation can be fairly creepy), but it takes a very dark turn after the kids encounter The Mysterious Stranger. That segment is so terrifying that it frequently gets cut from TV showings (but on the other hand, it went viral on YouTube, precisely because it's so disturbing).
  • Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors starts out as a cutesy film with adorable animals, but once the title character shows up it turns into disturbing war propaganda.
  • The first Unico movie starts off with a bunch of cute baby unicorns, but ends with Unico impaling a demon and sending him straight to Hell.
  • Ringing Bell, a movie (and children's book) aimed at children about a cheerful, adorable lamb with a bell around his neck frolicking in the meadows and having a very warm relationship with his mother. That is, until around the halfway point, where the Wolf mentioned earlier bursts into the barn while his flock sleeps and kills some of the sheep, one of which is his mom, resulting in a heart-wrenching scene of him sobbing hysterically over her corpse. The lamb swears revenge and eventually gets groomed into a horrifying horned beast with a thirst for blood and a strong sense of nihilism. At the end, Chirin is driven away from his farm after killing the wolf. Not helping is that the story is based on Takashi Yanase's experiences in World War II.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The fantasy novel series Fablehaven. Despite its bright and cheerful kid-aimed covers, it gets smacked upside the head by our friend Cerebus remarkably quickly. Each book is darker than the last, but the covers remain cute and inviting. A recent reprint has rectified this with darker, more action-oriented covers that better fit the contents.
    • The Candy Shop War by the same author has an arguably more kid-friendly cover but is just as dark.
  • Olivia Kidney has a title protagonist who appears on the cover as an adorable, cartoony little girl. She talks to ghosts all the time, including her beloved dead brother. There's the ever-present implication that everything that's happening might just be a product of an extremely overactive imagination. Or maybe it's all real. They never really let you know for sure, and it's not clear which would actually be worse.
  • Redwall starts out seeming like a sweet little Low Fantasy series about cute fuzzy animals in a pretty woodland setting. Then some pretty damn horrifying things happen to them. It says quite a bit about this children's series that it was the first work of literature to get its own Complete Monster page.
  • Roald Dahl was one of the great masters at this in his stories/novels for both adults and kids — but especially the kids' stuff. Consider Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The first third of the book is a light story about a mysterious candy factory and the mostly wacky, grotesquely bratty kids who get the chance to visit it...and the remaining two-thirds reveal it to be a setup for a morality play in which said brats meet a variety of dreadful fates — getting sucked into pipes, thrown down rubbish chutes, etc. And it's Played for Laughs, with the Wonka Factory effectively a positive portrayal of a Crapsaccharine World. A Black Comedy for kids was virtually unheard of in 1964, and the book was controversial for years afterward, with Moral Guardians appalled by its cavalier attitude towards children getting imperiled.
  • When unhappy or unpleasant truths intrude on the relatively peaceful lives of characters in the Aunt Dimity Cozy Mystery series, they often do so in this way. Open a box expecting to see maybe an heirloom—find fully dressed human remains. Heave a sigh of relief that the "murder" turns out to have been an accident—well, that's jolly nice, but your hero has just had a flashback to a real murder he witnessed and is near catatonic. Similar mood dynamics occur when solutions are given and the culprit turns out to be obsessed and/or insane.
  • There is an old nonfiction children's book called Model a Monster. The first three-quarters or so teach children how to create adorable balsa-wood and papier-mache models of prehistoric animals. Things very suddenly take a turn for the deeply strange in the last quarter...
  • The Harry Potter books most definitely qualify, particularly before J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and abandoned all pretense of Harry Potter being a whimsical children's series. The first book had a huge three-headed Hell Hound and a man with a second face on the back of his head (and, as the author herself noted, opened with a double murder but is still considered a kids' book). The second book introduced giant spiders, blood graffiti, a possessed diary, and a fifty-foot death snake that can kill you with a glance. The third book had Harry being hunted by an escaped convict believed to be a deranged mass murderer, who is, in turn, being pursued by even worse soul-sucking Eldritch Abominations.
  • Dr. Seuss peppered his children's books with surprisingly dark imagery from time to time. For example, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, which ends in Thidwick's unwanted guests being killed and taxidermized.
  • Henrik Drescher's book Pat the Beastie ended with Paul and Judy being eaten by the titular Beastie.
  • Cracked did an article about 6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series, including:
  • Cracked has also discussed other unexpectedly dark children's books. For example, The Lonely Doll is about a doll who gets adopted by two teddy bears who spank her and treat her like a prisoner. (The fact that the book is illustrated entirely with creepy black-and-white photographs doesn't help at all.) The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings is also shockingly bleak, as the rabbit gets his wish but is then ostracized by his mother and neighbors who don't recognize him.
  • Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak could go from lighthearted whimsy to Grimm's Fairy Tales-esque creepiness surprisingly quickly. The often dark and grotesque illustrations don't help either.
  • The Land of Oz books can have this effect on people only familiar with the Lighter and Softer adaptations. This is a big part of why Return to Oz (see the Film section above) was so freaky — it was more in tune with the original Oz books than the 1939 adaptation was. For example, Glinda of Oz discusses how people can't die in Oz, but only after mentioning various terrible things that can occur to Dorothy (for example, she can be beheaded or chopped up and scattered, but it won't hurt and she won't die).
  • Tailchaser's Song starts off as a fantasy story about a kitten who must go on an adventure to find his missing love and find out why cats are disappearing. The first several chapters are normal fantasy fare but then Roofshadow mentions something sinister about the disappearances: many cats do disappear, but others are found torn apart instead. Roofshadow lost her entire clan this way (with Roofshadow only surviving because she went for a walk). The main antagonists, the Clawguard, aren't introduced until halfway through. Prior to that, all we know is that the mysterious killers lurk in the shadows and attack at random. When the Clawguard do capture Tailchaser and his friends, they beat them up, drag them underground to their master Hearteater, and force Tailchaser into slavery.
  • Varjak Paw is about a kitten named Varjak who must venture outside his house to find a dog and save his family. While out, he learns that there are a string of disappearances involving stray cats around the city. The creepy part comes in when it's revealed that someone is killing cats, turning them into taxidermy, and selling them to unwitting people as "realistic toys".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sesame Street is often notorious for featuring segments that would creep out younger viewers, especially during the classic era. One minute, the show would be teaching children the alphabet and numbers and the next minute, you have some disturbing imagery and moments throughout some segments such as the infamous roaring dandelion from the Daddy Dear segment and the Deranged Animation in the animated Bird segment.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was whimsical for the most part but could turn really creepy at times, in no small part due to the Deranged Animation and occasional Surreal Horror.
  • Doctor Who is a wacky Science Fiction show that largely runs on camp and Narm Charm (particularly in respect to the often laughable special effects).
    • A lot of the episodes are pretty lighthearted to boot. That said, the show has been known to take abrupt turns for the extremely dark and disturbing. Remember, the Daleks were envisioned as Nazi analogues, and several stories have a body count ranging from most to the entire cast. The new series also gives us the Doctor dealing with destroying his own people (which does get reversed later but he didn't know that at the time), monsters based on childhood fears and the Series 9 three-part finale where the Doctor is put through a Trauma Conga Line.
    • After watching the episode Blink, you'll have PTSD attacks around statues and won't be sleeping with the lights out anytime soon. It may also result in stained pants. It's no wonder that the episode was originally broadcast with a warning stating that it is far scarier than other episodes in the season and parent supervision is advised if children are watching.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures is the Lighter and Softer spin-off of Doctor Who. That does not stop it from practically running on Adult Fear with teenage anxieties and the possibility of losing your child coming up a lot. And then there is any story featuring The Trickster which would not look out of place on the parent show.
  • Kamen Rider Wizard is fairly average in terms of seriousness as far as the Kamen Rider franchise is concerned, still dealing with monsters that want to kill innocent civilians but featuring plenty of light-hearted comedy to keep it from getting too dark. And then late in the series, we're told that Sora/Gremlin, the Phantom who had spent most of his screentime being goofy, quirky and mysterious, was a Serial Killer who murdered countless young women before he ever became a Phantom. Is it any wonder he ends up becoming the Final Boss?
  • Wandavision starts off as a simple sitcom made in the style of The Dick Van Dyke Show. However, during a dinner with Vision's boss and wife, the boss asks where the Wanda and Vision came from, beginning the unsettling, true nature of the show as Wanda hesitates to answer, the boss chokes on his food, and his wife repeats "stop it" to both her husband and soon Wanda. While the tonal shift was brief, it wouldn't last for long.

  • Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" features upbeat music and some neat dancing in a strangely bleak room with a moving floor. Near the end of the song, the camera suddenly pans down to blood gushing in from an unseen portion of the room, and pans up to show even more blood covering the floor which the singer himself pays absolutely no attention to while he keeps dancing.
  • Mystery Skull's "Ghost" starts off as a cute and colorful homage to Scooby-Doo accompanied by an upbeat dance number with some unexpectedly gloomy lyrics. By the end of the video, viewers have been treated to Demonic Possession, Mind Screw, a brutal murder, and a shockingly sad backstory to the "villain" of the video, though the upbeat music stays consistent throughout.
  • Part 1 of the Putin-P series using Vocaloid appears to introduce the story as light, slightly odd pop songs about Rin and Len's romance and her jealousy of Miku's prominence. The ending of track 1, a song about her wanting to be with Len, features her babbling dementedly over and over again, "Don't leave me alone", and track 2 features, at the end of her song where she sings with children, Red Rin repeatedly saying "I hate children". Things only get darker from there.
  • The Beatles are mostly known for silly love songs in the early pop days and for cerebral experimental music after Going Cosmic. But then you have Surreal Horror in tracks like "Revolution 9," and a disturbing portrayal of a Crazy Jealous Guy in "Run For Your Life."
  • The music of "Weird Al" Yankovic can go from lighthearted lyrics to morbid Black Comedy and back faster than you can say Lyrical Dissonance. One of the best examples is "Good Old Days," a gentle James Taylor-esque guitar song where the narrator reminisces about his childhood... which happens to include torturing animals, burning down a corner store and beating up its owner, and (possibly) murdering his prom date.
    • The music video for “Don’t Download This Song” features the main character being sent to the electric chair. While “The Night Santa Went Crazy” and “Nature Trail To Hell” are played straight with more cartoony violence, this comes unexpectedly. Seriously, who gets put on death row for song piracy?!
    • “I’m Fat”’s music video might come across as Body Horror for some.
    • “Headline News” features a line about a man’s penis being cut off.
    • "That's Your Horoscope For Today" has this couplet:
    All your friends are laughing at you behind your back.
    music stops
    Kill them!
  • "MopeMope" by LeaF and Optie, starts off sounding like a cute children's jingle, before occasionally "glitching out" and turning into a hellish droaning sound, before dropping the saccharine facade entirely and turning into a hardcore arrangement of itself. All while the music video features cute dancing flowers and spherical hopping creatures...that turn into horrible Eldritch Abominations.

  • Even when the show did horror back in the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town, it was mostly played for laughs. In the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney, Alan spares no detail when describing the half-eaten corpse of Keri's mother, and Mooney happily jumping over to eat more of her.
  • When Myths and Legends covered The Boy Who Drew Cats, it starts off as a silly story that's Exactly What It Says on the Tin, but then the protagonist is almost killed by a rat demon and only saved by his cat drawings coming to life and eating said demon. Jason doesn't hesitate to lampshade this.

  • Pippin: The songs, the poster, even the characters will try and convince you this is a musical comedy "coming of age" tale. It's not.
  • The Broadway version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is possibly an even stronger example of this trope than the original novel, simply because the first half of the first act (dealing with Charlie and his family) is so sweet and everything that comes next, involving the wicked kids, is taken Up to Eleven. The children and their parents are quite unsettling in how extreme their personality defects are, and their punishments in the factory have much less ambiguity than in other depictions. For instance, Violet simply keeps inflating until she violently explodes into mush, while Veruca is literally torn to pieces. By comparison, the original West End version of the show had a much more consistent, blackly comic tone.

    Theme Parks 
  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disney Theme Parks (now only in California) is made of this. What's billed as a simple fairground-like kids ride ends with Mr. Toad being sentenced for his recklessness by a mean-looking judge, having an implied fateful run-in with a train, and taking riders with him to his fate in the depths of Hell. Fire and brimstone are all around, cartoon demons jeer at the riders, and the room gets a little bit hotter. All while jaunty music plays! Not to mention the fact that hell is the last room. Mr. Toad drags his audience to hell with him and that's the ending!
  • The Disneyland Railroad is just a slow-moving transportation ride around the circumference of Disneyland Park with a few stations along the way—not something that would seem too dramatic. However, at least one part near New Orleans Square involves travelling through a dark tunnel with mysterious eyes poking out, and the stretch between Tomorrowland and Main Street features a Prehistoric world diorama (actually from the 1964-65 World's Fair) inspired by a scene of Fantasia. In it, a T. rex and Stegosaurus stand locked in vicious battle while other dinosaurs face imminent death at the hands of drought and disaster. Really, Disney parks can do this trope in their sleep.
  • Tokyo Disneyland had the innocently named Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, seems to be an easygoing tour of the iconic Cinderella Castle. Instead, guests dive through the castle's dark dungeons where Disney villains reign, filled with skeletons, dragons, swinging axes, and the Magic Mirror taunting you along the way. It leads to a climactic encounter with the skeletal Horned King, who proclaims he'll sacrifice the guests to Satan's cauldron to add to his army of the dead. Oh, and the whole thing was advertised as a rank D ride, note  leading unwitting guests to believe it's as thrilling as the Country Bear Theater.
  • The Noah's Ark at Kennywood looks like a friendly ride on the outside but on the inside, it has things like a loud elevator, flashing monkey faces, and it makes you think you're going to drown at the end.

  • Feisty Pets are plush animals that look cute and sorrow at first, but when you squeeze them, their faces become angry and reveal Evil Fangs.
  • Before the Feisty Pets, there was the Were Bears, adorable, colorful Care Bear-esque teddy bears that if you flipped their faces and paws inside out would become werewolves. Even the introductory story tape is like this, starting with the bears' In-Universe creator making the bears only to turn into a werewolf (somehow passing the curse to the bears, which is why they transform in the first place). However, the story mellows down the creepiness as the creator still retains his sentience as a wolf.
  • The Evil Stick. It looks like a typical pink plastic children's wand, but it emits an evil, cackling laugh when waved. As if that wasn't enough, when the silver reflective card is removed, it reveals a hidden image of a demonic child slashing her wrists.

    Video Games 
Nintendo and their development teams may well be the reigning champions of this trope. They have a family-friendly image, but quite a few of their games are clearly intended for brave kids.

  • The Legend of Zelda - Primarily E-rated games. E-rated games that include, among other things, a temple dedicated to death, zombies that are trying to kill the protagonist, and the apocalypse. Probably the two most blatant examples are Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. The ESRB seems to have caught on by the time of Twilight Princess, but even so its T rating was probably just because of the darker graphical style, since Skyward Sword has an E10+ rating despite not being too much more lighthearted.
    • Just when we thought Nintendo made The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker to look absolutely and completely harmless, along comes Link stabbing Ganondorf in the brain. And when you consider how incredibly dark the backstory of this game is, it suddenly seems like the game's happy atmosphere was taunting the past and the people of ancient Hyrule, much like how the happy music in Clock Town seemed to taunt the people who stayed oblivious to their impending doom, only more subtle. This is all after the Earth Temple, which is full of Redeads, Floor- and Wallmasters, spooky fog, and a weird-looking sun/moon face statue.
    • Skyward Sword has its moments too, most notably in the Ancient Cistern. At first, it seems a bright and pleasant place with lots of clear water and green and gold scenery. And then you descend into the lower parts... Which culminates in Link climbing a rope to escape only to find that a horde of zombies is also climbing that same rope... and then you learn that to continue, you have to go back down that same rope.
    • Breath of the Wild features a nice, happy looking world but it is actually a post apocalyptic world resulting from Link and his allies failing to stop Ganon 100 years earlier. Ganon - called Calamity Ganon here - is also an Eldritch Abomination and this Zelda is one of the most tragic incarnations.
  • Pikmin - More E-rated goodness that involves sending adorable little carrot-creatures to near-certain doom against beasts many times their size on a planet that — Word of God states — is Earth 250 million years in the future. In the first game, Olimar does this to survive. In the second, it's all about getting treasure. And in the third, it's to prevent an Apocalypse How. Some of the more bizarre enemies in the game include a frog-shaped embodiment of poison, the moaning intangible Eldritch Abomination known as the Waterwraith, and the immortal shape-shifting monstrosity that is the third game's final boss. Olimar actually does wonder:
    Would this have been a peaceful planet had I never come? No... Surely the Pikmin lived like this before my arrival. They MUST have.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon:
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers starts out with cute little monsters, in particular, the nervous partner character, learning how to be good explorers. Starts getting a little uncomfortable when a child is abducted by a criminal, gets out and out distressing when you get dragged into the future, and the game really doesn't let up on the creepy for the rest of the story. You and your partner are encouraged to commit suicide at one point! Yep, E-rated.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team was already pretty creepy, like when all your friends suddenly turn on you and chase you for what seems to be days, clearly intent on killing you. And then there's the tale of Gardevoir's past...
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity certainly seems cheery at first, starring two Pokémon adventuring together and trying to make a home for themselves while exploring an uncaring world, and the whole thing is drenched in The Power of Friendship. Eventually, one of your allies is brutally murdered and you are beaten nearly to death, the Quirky Miniboss Squad is revealed to be a suicide cult, and the world is threatened by an Eldritch Abomination made of despair, hopelessness, and bitterness.
    • Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon starts off with the hero and partner going to school together, and setting out to become members of the Expedition Society, but takes a slight turn for the dark when it's revealed Pokemon have been mysteriously turning to stone. You eventually learn the truth behind the petrified Pokemon; that their life force was sucked out by the thralls of an Eldritch Abomination, and to make things worse, that while in this state, their consciousness ends up in a twisted, hellish realm known as the Voidlands, where they're tormented by the otherworldly Void Shadows and shades of Pokemon manifested from dark emotions. The hero, their friends, and much of the world's populace fall victim before all is said and done, with the implication that they could've been trapped there forever had the aforementioned Eldritch Abomination succeeded in destroying the world.
  • The mainline Pokémon games themselves have started to get in on the fun, especially with the creepier Pokedex entries - see entries like Yamask and Shedinja's just for starters. Then there's Pokémon Black and White... would you like a nice cup of horrific psychological abuse of a child with your cute monster battling?
    • Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum has pretty creepy moments as well. In all three games, there are fun adventures, cute friendly monsters, and an evil cult that wants to destroy all of existence so their leader can reshape the world in his image and become God. Oh, and did we mention that Platinum contains an extra segment in the main storyline where you end up in a parallel universe and face off against a massive Eldritch Abomination of a dragon?
    • In Pokémon Colosseum, the main villainous team plans to turn Pokémon into fighting machines via Mind Rape and has essentially taken over two of the region's towns, coming surprisingly close to achieving their goals.
    • In comparison to Pokémon Colosseum, Pokemon XD starts off much Lighter and Softer. Then we find out that Cipher abducted a ship and we still don't know where the crew went...
    • Also from Pokemon XD is your first trip to Phenac City, which was a location in Colosseum. Already strange is the fact that an NPC refuses to let you enter until you go waste some time at Realgam Tower, but once you come back it initially looks like the exact same city as the first game. Then NPCs start saying very strange things to you, the shop is randomly closed for a "holiday", and when you try to warn Justy of the upcoming Cipher attack like you were sent to do, he laughs and asks if you haven't just dreamed this up. All the while, the background music starts getting more and more distorted...
    • Pokémon Red and Blue's Lavender Town. Between the background music being more unnerving than it should be possible for any 8-bit song to be and the sudden revelation that Pokemon can actually die, there's the entire origin story of Cubone/Marowak and its/their skull-helmet thing. Not to mention the Cinnabar lab and the vague bits of Mewtwo's backstory we learn there.
    • Pokémon X and Y brings us to the Kalos region, a lovely region where great emphasis is placed on beauty and harmony. Then we find out about the various wars that took place there and one of those wars was ended with a giant superweapon because its creator went mad with grief. Oh, and the evil team wants to use that ancient superweapon to effectively nuke the entire country.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon takes things even further. Not even counting how downright gruesome and unnerving Pokedex entries have becomenote , the game's plot brings up a number of Reality Ensues moments that reveal just how harsh the Pokemon world can be and the main story ends with the player character and Lillie entering another dimension in order to coax Lillie's mother, Lusamine, back home, only for the woman to completely merge with one of the Ultra Beasts that inhabit that universe. The postgame features you helping the International Police to stop the Ultra Beasts. It is explicitly stated at one point that the police are using you as bait and one of the Ultra Beasts is mentioned to have actually killed someone.
  • The mobile spinoff Pokémon: Magikarp Jump appears to be a simple, lighthearted virtual pet thing where you train a Magikarp's jumping ability until it can perform in the local Olympics. Once it reaches the level cap it'll retire peacefully whether or not it managed to win its last tournament run. The problem, though, is there are events that cause the permanent loss of your current fish. The first one you're likely to see already involves a Pidgeotto swooping in from out of nowhere and taking it as prey. Even if it is Played for Laughs due to the character's Butt-Monkey nature, it's hard to see the game the same way after it happens once.
  • EarthBound. 99% Cartoon-y goofiness, 1% incomprehensible cosmic horror. And it's the last 1%, too, especially because of the final boss. You spend most of the game guiding a few adorable kids around a pastiche Eagleland fighting cartoonish monsters with bats, frying pans and rolling pins. At the end of the game, the kids' souls are transplanted into the bodies of robots and they're fighting for their lives against a near incomprehensible creature made of pure hate and insanity who takes the form of a spectral hurricane with a demented screaming face in the center. This abomination, called Giygas, babbles incoherently while whacking them with incredibly powerful psychic attacks that are impossible to grasp the true form of. Worth pointing out the developer of the game, Shigesato Itoi, based Giygas' terrifying visage on an experience he had as a child - he unknowingly walked in on an adult film at the cinema and misinterpreted a sex scene turned murder as a rape scene.
    • While not as egregious, Earthbound Beginnings has some disturbing areas, such as the graveyard visited early in the game and the bleak and extremely difficult Mt.Itoi. The final boss sequence is also fairly disturbing, featuring the sudden appearance of a massive alien starship and the jarring ambient noise (rather than proper music) of Giegue's boss battle.
    • Mother 3 starts lightly, much like the other two, but the horror kicks in much earlier and persists throughout the game. New Pork City and anything to do with Porky/Pokey is especially disturbing.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Most of Super Mario 64 is a cheerful game set in brightly colored fields and mountains filled with goofy creatures and upbeat music. Then you get to Big Boo's Haunt—a drab, gloomy mansion in the middle of a dark forest, soundtracked by a Drone of Dread, where disembodied voices taunt you as you explore, trap doors dunk you into a mazelike basement with a haunted carousel providing Creepy Circus Music, a fanged piano can try to bite you in half, and secret rooms contain giant staring eyeballs. Only the silly-looking Boo enemies and limited graphics really keep it out of outright horror territory.
    • Mario gives Link a run for his money throughout the Paper Mario games, which end up a lot like Earthbound with the subject of murder (though he was actually just unconscious) dealt with in the first game; an Eldritch Abomination appearing as the final boss of the second; and the third's plot being explicitly that reality itself was being destroyed, later revealed that this includes The Afterlife. Also notable is Super Mario Galaxy which is hours of compressed sheer joy — and then the universe is annihilated in a supermassive black hole.
    • The Mario & Luigi series takes an abrupt dark turn in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. The whole plot is about a near genocidal Alien Invasion of the kingdom, with the captured Toads subjected to a fate worse than death and some of the most spectacular examples of Scenery Gorn in an E rated game. In fact, Mario screams very often during the cutscenes, and you can't really blame him.
    • Super Mario Odyssey is a light-hearted romp through the world that includes dinosaurs, a giant garden, and a super jazzy New York stand-in. Then you end up on a ruined medieval fantasy world and fight a hyper-realistic dragon, all looking like they wandered in from Dark Souls. This is despite the fact that the first area is a literal ghost town where you meet your spectral side-kick, which actually is rather pleasant and inviting if monochrome.
  • Star Fox has, if one wasn't spoiled yet, nothing to foreshadow that the evil emperor slash mad scientist that you fight will be taking the form of an Eldritch Abomination, either a giant mask that turns into a cube filled with his visage, or a giant head that eventually turns into a spaceship-sized brain with two eyes. And those things were fought in what appears to be an Eldritch Location or vortex.
  • Kirby:
    • The games feature cute characters, a cheerful eponymous protagonist, colorful and fanciful levels, and lots of frightening final bosses. One of them is actually named Nightmare, and he's not even the scariest by a long shot! Perhaps most infamous among them are Marx Soul, especially his death sequence, and 0, mostly for his Clipped-Wing Angel transformation. Kirby 64 continues the tradition; while Dark Matter and especially the possession scenes are at least unsettling, they still don't provide any good warning for the jarring final boss. Then there's Necrodeus, whose name literally means death god. It took Kirby's Return to Dream Land to finally jack up the age rating to E10+, and the games mentioned earlier only got an E10+ rating when Kirby's Dream Collection was announced. For reference, that's over a decade since their original releases.
    • The pause screens during the boss battles against the main villains and final bosses of Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, especially in the New Game+. There you learn the story of Queen Sectonia going from a fair ruler to a tyrant because of her quest for beauty and eventually losing herself to the point killing her is a Mercy Kill. Then there's President Haltmann, who lost his daughter, wants nothing more than to see her again and ends up getting his soul destroyed when his super computer gains sentience and decides to take over.
    • Kirby Star Allies ups the ante even further. At first glance, a colorful and absolutely gorgeous game about Kirby running around making friends by throwing pink hearts at them would seem to conflict with the game's E10+ rating whose only justification is "Cartoon Violence." And then you reach the end of the game and the actual probable reason for that rating: first, a completely insane cult leader who uses his female generals as bludgeons during his boss fight, then sacrifices them and himself to revive a god of destruction to wipe out the universe. Said god resembles Sachiel and has a phase which involves tearing open its heart, complete with blood dripping from the ceiling, culminating into a fight against its essence: a Kirby-like soul. The worst part is that the game implies that this thing and Kirby himself are connected somehow, which is only further compounded in The Ultimate Choice, where defeating an even harder version of it unlocks Kirby's original design from the first game.
  • Magical Starsign is saccharine and kid-friendly through-and-through until Semolina commits suicide through a carnivorous flower before you get a chance to protest, and becomes one of your Cosmic Keystones. And then Sorbet, one of your own party members, admits that if Semolna hadn't done it first, she would have done so herself. Later, you get to learn the fate of Applepie, and/or every human in the universe once the robots start to run out of fuel: robots turn humans into "gummies", their battery cores. And that's ignoring the star-devouring abomination that is the Final Boss...
  • The Wii U-exclusive Game And Wario is a collection of fun, lighthearted minigames based around characters from the WarioWare series. One of the minigames, "Gamer", involves 9-Volt secretly playing WarioWare microgames whilst in bed. 9-Volt's mother 5-Volt occasionally checks in on him, and he must hide from the mother while simultaneously playing the game. At first glance, the game is not all that creepy, especially during the tutorial, and the mom is kinda cute looking. But the actual game has the mother check in on 9-Volt in several very creepy ways, including popping out of the television (with ominous static immediately beforehand) and sneaking past the bedroom window with a creepy, dissonant rising strings theme playing as she walks past. The mother may or may not open the window, adding to the tension. She also takes on an eerie shadowy look with glowing eyes, and will change into a demented-looking demon if she catches you. This all happens while the WarioWare microgames are playing on the Gamepad, adding dissonance to the situation.
  • Endless Ocean starts off as a fun little semi-educational game where you swim around the ocean and look at and pet all kinds of fish. Then you start swimming in the deep parts of the ocean and encountering all the types of realistically detailed creatures that live down there. It's a bit surprising to go from swimming around a coral reef petting clownfish to swimming around a dark trench and running into a giant squid. In the sequel the last part of the story involves your fellow divers disappearing and when you find them being attacked by a giant deformed shark.
  • Hresvelgr from Boktai 3: Sabata's Counterattack basically looks like a Pac-Man ghost in a top hat. Then he unfurls his wings and shows what he looks like underneath: a maw filled with teeth and a single eagle's talon.
  • Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U decides to go this route with its True Final Boss, having the shapeshifting Eldritch Abomination known as Master Core burst out from within the regular boss Master Hand. Made even creepier with the addition of its Master Fortress form in the Wii U version, which is a disturbingly organic platforming level that must be entered and destroyed by eliminating a series of pulsating red growths within.
  • The world of Splatoon is revealed via the final Sunken Scrolls to be distantly post-apocalyptic, set long after global warming and the rising sea levels ended the human race.
  • Splatoon 2:
    • The main story follows suit, particularly where the game's new Salmon Run mode is concerned, as they're essentially barbarian hordes trying to overrun (and possibly eat) the Inklings. And that's not even getting into the fact that according to Inkling religion the salmon swarms are harbingers of the apocalypse. Granted, dealing with them is viewed by the Inklings as a part-time job for teenagers, but still.
    • The Octo Expansion DLC is a bit Darker and Edgier to begin with, but still quite silly. Until the player character almost gets pureed in a blender and narrowly saves all life on earth from being wiped out. Oh, and it's heavily implied that the player character is the first one to avoid getting blended. The player character is also the 10,008th individual to get to that point. It's also revealed that the Octo Expansion enemies, called "sanitized" octarians, have been "disinfected" of free will and independent thought. They have no pulse or higher brain functions, being controlled like robots. However, it's hinted that something of their old mind is still present and may eventually reawaken; the expansions music is in-universe written by dedf1sh, a sanitized Octoling who nonetheless continues producing music despite being brainwashed.
  • Wario Land 4 features a shockingly large number of these types of moments, especially during its boss fights. Also, don't even get us started on some of its songs, such as Hurry Up and Yesterday's Words.
  • Yoshi's Island:
    • In Yoshi's Woolly World, the whole plot of the game is that after Kamek forcibly transforms all Yoshis on Yoshi's Island into living wool, basically kidnapping and disassembling them, forcing the survivors to rescue them. And why did he do this? So he can weave their still-living "flesh" together to form a super-comfy kid-friendly castle for Baby Bowser. Yes, the plot of a Nintendo game involves magically mutating an entire race to build a new house from their bodies for the Big Bad.
    • Yoshi's Crafted World meets the quota of the dino's series being cheerful, colorful, all-around happy games. Then, after the Cheery Valley world, you head over to Shadowville, play the first level, and proceed to be chased by several slasher-like Creepy Dolls brandishing huge axes that emit hellish screams whenever they see Yoshi. Even the hint-giving Message Boxes have been given a foreboding upgrade:
    If he
    sees you,
  • In Donkey Kong Country, the infamous Game Over screen can come across as this. You're enjoying an upbeat, lighthearted game, only to lose your last life and get a depressing image of Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong beat up over a black background. The music sounds depressing, too.


  • Terraria: The player's first night, most likely. Sure, it's a cheerful sandbox game that takes place in a cutesy Sugar Bowl world, but then night falls and the zombies and flying disembodied eyeballs show up...
    • It can happen even before then if the player stumbles upon the Corruption or the Crimson, going from a cheerful, friendly forest environment to either a diseased land covered in thorns and inhabited by a host of flying nasties or an organic, fleshy-looking wasteland.
  • A lot of Myst has this. Special mention goes to the brothers' rooms in the first game, and Myst IV's Serenia - a lovely world of glowing butterflies, literal stone forests, and magic memory-storing lotuses. And then comes the Spirit Ceremony and the Big Bad's plan for Yeesha.
  • In Psychonauts, Milla's brain seems to contain nothing but fun and parties. However, if you manage to find a slightly out-of-the-way area, you discover that she used to work at an Orphanage of Love... which was destroyed and all the orphans killed in a house fire and continue to haunt her nightmares, crying out things like, "Save us, Milla," and "Milla, why won't you help us?" Reportedly, the original plan was to have Milla's nightmares attack Raz, from time to time— this is where the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere mini-bosses in the Milkman Conspiracy stemmed from.
  • Ecco the Dolphin - A game starring a cute dolphin who has lost his family to extremely hungry aliens. He must go back and forth through time, battling past sharks, jellyfish, enormous spiders, and trilobites, braving eerie music and disturbingly solemn, frightened fellow dolphins, to rescue them and the Earth. Later locales include a meat grinder scrolling level where you're continually molested by terrifying masses of chitin and blobs of acidic green goo and slime tubes in the sky that cause you to plummet five miles into roadpizza if you mess up and fall out. The final game in the series has you swim inside the body of a giant alien and attack its beating heart.
  • NiGHTS into Dreams... is a pretty, if slightly surreal game which involves prancing around dream worlds and battling weird monsters. Then you get to Wizeman. A colossal, looming shadow with no distinct face, a thundering voice, and six eyes, each one set into a separate, floating hand. His first direct interaction with the protagonists in the sequel is to suddenly appear in the hub world, tear apart the ground, and take out Invincible Hero NiGHTS by electrocuting them into unconsciousness and then dragging them with him into the Dark Sea.
  • Aquaria follows a similar premise as Ecco, only this time the protagonist is a fish girl. She finds herself utterly alone and starts to explore the ruined civilizations, and eventually meets their crazy gods and the Big Bad who made them. And yes, just like in Ecco, there are Womb Levels in Aquaria.
  • Eversion starts out as a brightly-colored relentlessly cheerful platformer and ends as a Cosmic Horror Story, with the player character either being or being eaten by an Eldritch Abomination. Although if you know who H. P. Lovecraft is, the opening screen serves as a warning about that, as the game starts off by quoting him.
  • Irisu Syndrome!. On the surface: a cutesy, if Nintendo Hard, Falling Blocks game, starring bunny girl Irisu. Who is a mentally unstable bunny girl who has to fight off her urge to kill her friends (which the block game symbolizes), an urge that her crush/boyfriend Uujima Satoshi tries to encourage, and in the bad endings, she gives in to her urges.
  • Ai To Yuuki To Kashiwamochi, from the same creator as Irisu, is another puzzle game with a dark, dark secret. Ai-chan loves sweets and her boyfriend Yuki, and the game revolves around eating sweets. Then the sweets turn into pills, Ai turns out to be a seriously-ill patient, and Yuki is a shinigami Yandere who is trying to kill Ai.
  • Kingdom Hearts. Having the Disney Label on it and trailers featuring tons and tons of our beloved characters from Disney Animated Canon made it seem like this game was intended for children ages 6 and up. Then the Final Fantasy elements show up and the OTHER feeling Disney is famous for.
    • The game added its own Nightmare Fuel in form of the Heartless, creatures who, contrary to what their names imply, don't lack hearts; they ARE hearts corrupted by the darkness. These little monsters have one goal in mind: To corrupt all hearts that there are, and the hearts of the worlds they haunt are especially sought after. You know that the cheerful game those trailers announced isn't that cheerful when you see an innocent NPC being turned into one of those monsters as his face freezes in a fearful expression, and that's toward the beginning of the game.
    • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days starts as a melancholic but often heartwarming story of three friends who just happen to work for the bad guys. By the end, one of those friends has been revealed as a monstrous replica of Sora that is slowly eating the protagonist's essence just by existing. S/he attacks then you to force you to kill him/her. And the protagonist is Doomed by Canon to lose his identity.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep follows a similar story to Days about a group of friends who have their friendship get destroyed by the Big Bad's machinations and ends with one in a coma, one trapped in the world of the Heartless and be forced to fight non stop for over a decade and eventually gets possessed by the Big Bad and the third gets possessed by the Big Bad who then proceeds to cause all the devastation in the other games.
    • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has the protagonists go through Mind Rape, question themselves and who they are, calls attention to the fates of the protagonists of Days and Birth By Sleep and just barely manages to avert a Downer Ending and even then it is quite bittersweet.
    • Kingdom Hearts χ focuses on the lead up to the Keyblade War. You can see where this is going.
  • Miss World '96 Nude is infamous as a horror game posing as a porn game. The gameplay consists of removing the obstructions that block your view of pictures of scantily-clad women. Take too long, and the image "turns" - the woman turns into a hideous monster as the gameplay gets harder. It's the ultimate in Fan Disservice, and freaky.
  • 40 Winks was intended to be a pseudo-nightmare played in a way that was positively adorable. Even though the "scary" aspects of the game were mild, the completely innocuous music and eerie simlish were complete Nightmare Fuel.
  • Ōkami: Most locations are vibrant with colorful characters, bright music, and thick-line artwork reminiscent of a Japanese scroll painting. The surprise comes mostly from two locations: the Sunken Ship and Yoshpet forest. They are creepy and quite jarring in contrast to the rest of the world. And there's also the Body Horror parts where you go inside someone's body, which is as nasty-looking as you'd expect (particularly the stomach acid dripping from the water dragon).
  • Free Realms: Merry Vale, the 24-hour party place where everyone has fun! ... too much fun to notice that their kids are getting abducted.
  • Quest Fantasy is So Bad, It's Good, and involves characters who go "oh es so kawaii" and reference the zelda cd-i games. The second half of the game has characters dying and bleeding from their eyes and a boss that is a Shout-Out to Giygas. The next games feature the characters going about their business until the Eldritch Abomination shows up and everything goes to hell, and the final game has the protagonist attempt to save the world from the entity. Then two more malicious otherworldly creatures show up, one wanting to Take Over the World and the other wanting to eat it.
  • Can Your Pet? is a cute online Tamagotchi-style game in which you dress up, feed, bathe, and play with a baby chicken. Then you unlock the bicycle. It's not a bicycle, but saw blades that will kill the chicken you so lovingly raised.
  • Cave Story has a Badass Adorable player character and his Action Girl partner, Ridiculously Cute Critter NPCs, and a Recurring Boss made of ham and soap, with a few sinister implications as to the plans of the Doctor. Then said Doctor reveals himself to be irredeemably evil in the worst way possible, the whole supporting cast is dead, captured or incapacitated, and in order to prevent a repeat of the war ten years ago the characters either have to destroy the whole island (Normal ending) or go to Hell and kill the island's prisoner (Best ending).
  • The webgame Cookie Clicker starts off mundane, then moves to ridiculous, then suddenly turns creepy when you unlock the "grandmapocalyse", with progressively warped images of grandmas appearing on the page background, creepy status/news updates that keep getting worse and worse from "unnerving" to "apocalyptic", and some disgusting worm-like things raiding your cookie stash, which you have to fend off.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 got the Surprise Creepy ball running for the series in general. Players expect the same old song-and-dance of Sonic stopping Eggman from taking over the world, but the former throws a curveball with the reveal that Eggman's new pet, Chaos, wiped out an ancient civilization (the circumstances leading up to it being pretty frightening in their own right) and almost does the same thing in the present day. The sequel sends things even further Off the Rails when it turns out someone was straight-up KILLED in the backstory, fueling a drive for revenge on the part of Eggman's grandfather that nearly destroys the world!
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) does have a surprisingly creepy villain in Mephiles, a manipulative character vaguely resembling Shadow who has no mouth, yet speaks. Not helping matters is the fact that, in the endgame, he straight-up murders Sonic in the blink of an eye.
    • Sonic Unleashed has bright, vibrant, beautiful landscapes and a world full of unique and oftentimes humorous characters. Even the fact that the world is broken apart isn't as bad as it would seem. Then you run into the final boss, Dark Gaia, a colossal Eldritch Abomination that's more intimidating and monstrous than the likes of Perfect Chaos and Solaris. Then it becomes Perfect Dark Gaia, in a supremely gruesome transformation sequence that involves sprouting extra arms from its sides in a shower of blood and splitting its head open to reveal eyes and masses of tongues!
  • Indie developer CC & SH loves this trope. It normally appears as an Easter Egg that you have to go and go very much out of your way to hunt down. For example, in their first ever game, Ping!, clicking specific spots on the screen during the end credits will cause the game to suddenly go full-screen, showing a black background with pulsating Chinese text and a very disturbing noise. You can't even exit the game at this point without bringing up task manager, either.
  • Calm Time starts relatively normal, with a party being held at a house in the countryside and the guests enjoying it and socializing. Then a girl in the kitchen asks you if you can hand her over the knife so she can cut the bread. Already from the way the main character holds the knife can you deduce that something is amiss, and shortly after that, shit gets real.
  • The freeware game Dreaming Mary starts out, on the surface, in an adorable pastel-colored dream world where you play with a bunny, a penguin, a fox, and a boar, fulfilling certain tasks from the first three animals and eventually getting all four seeds necessary to join the boar behind the last door. You're told through the radio that there are only three doors in the hallway, and you shouldn't look for a fourth one. Obviously, there IS a hidden fourth door, and entering it will unlock an alternate version of the dream world that can be entered through the painting in your bedroom... It's a shadowy, Real Is Brown, blood-stained living room with the plushies that three of the dream animals represent (each getting torn up after receiving a seed) and the stuffed head of a boar, and it's all pivotal to unlocking the Golden Ending. Then you have to complete tasks to gain seeds; failing prompts the bunny and fox to make a horrifying Nightmare Face. The boar, Boaris, is extremely creepy throughout, making disturbing innuendos towards Mary, and in the fourth room, Mari gets chased by a giant, crude, shadowy figure who calls her a "sweet girl" in his deep, uncanny voice. Worst of all, Boris and the Yeti shadow represent Mari’s father, and the whole thing is heavily implied to be a metaphor for Parental Incest.
  • The game Fantasy Maiden's Odd Hideout starts out cute and lighthearted, with young friends playing together in a house made of desserts, and fairies who live inside the house. Then the doorknob on the house's only exit is removed, and it and all the windows are boarded up, trapping them inside, and it all goes downhill from there. Subverted with Bernd’s story, which is more sad and depressing than scary.
  • Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion presents itself as a Defanged Horrors parody of horror games, where you navigate the house of the titular Cute Ghost Girl, and at most you get startled by cute cardboard cutouts. That is until you progress further into the game, where you encounter the actual monsters and come across various notes left by previous travelers. Spooky herself is also heavily implied to be not what she seems.
  • A Hat in Time is a gleefully adorable Genre Throwback 3D platformer. Bright, colorful, cel-shaded, and generally the most cheerful thing you'll find. Except for Queen Vanessa's Manor, where the gameplay and tone start to look more like Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Outlast. Here, you're scurrying from hiding spot to hiding spot as you try to make your way through the house, hiding from the Queen's tormented spirit lest she make you an ice sculpture, not to mention the notes describing her twisted life.
  • In the first episode of Life Is Strange, there are definitely hints of some dark subjects - a missing girl, an innocent girl being bullied, a girl who tells a story about how she was drugged but got away in time - but for the most part, the game had an optimistic, teen indie air so a lot of people assumed it would have a pretty light air and only briefly touch on the darker stuff. Episode 2, in which a girl describes how she was drugged and possibly raped and then attempts (or commits) suicide definitely brings the creepiness up. Then Episode 4 happens, in which the player has to look around an underground bunker where girls were drugged and dragged to so they could be manipulated into sexual positions for photos, with those photos being shown to the player, before the episode ends with the protagonist being stabbed with a needle and drugged while her friend is shot in the head, and the ending teaser showing said protagonist tearfully trapped in that bunker again while the villain preps more needles.
    • Episode 5 picks up from there, with the kindly Cool Teacher Mark Jefferson explaining that he was the true Big Bad and going into detail about his sickening obsession, taunting Max in a disturbingly calm voice that fluctuates into Suddenly SHOUTING!. After Max is rescued, she and Chloe have to navigate through an incoming tornado and the carnage it has caused, with the whole city ruined and everyone screaming and running for their lives, and the whole thing ends with a Surreal Horror Nightmare Sequence and a final Sadistic Choice.
  • Sonic Dreams Collection starts as a rather tame riff on the Sonic fandom, but as the levels and sequences progress, the scenarios become increasingly morbid, disturbing, and bizarre.
  • The indie PC game Braid: A quirky puzzler with cute, bumbling enemies and brightly colored scenery. And then you get to the end and discover that the character you are playing is not the hero out to rescue the Damsel in Distress, but rather a crazy Stalker with a Crush. Also, there might be An Aesop about the atom bomb, depending on how you interpret it.
  • Champions Online is a mostly lighthearted Affectionate Parody of The Silver Age of Comic Books. That is until you encounter the "Aftershock" missions in which you're dragged into a hell dimension and have to save UNTIL agents stranded there along with you. Even so, none of this is particularly bad, up until the part where you are tasked with entering the tortured psyche of Elspeth Macalister and rescuing her from the malevolent memory of her mentally ill mother, who having killed Ellie's father is now dead set on doing the same to her own daughter. As if this weren't nightmarish enough, the mental projection of Ellie's childhood home is covered in throbbing organic-looking red veins and there is an ever-present Heartbeat Soundtrack thrumming in the background, punctuated by Ellie's heart-wrenching pleas for help and her mother's shrill calls for her daughter to show herself. In amongst this madness, you must stealthily lead Ellie to safety without her mother spotting her. If you fail, Elspeth will become Brainwashed and Crazy in the real world and you'll be forced to kill her alongside the Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl responsible for her mind rape.
  • Undertale is a game where you meet a number of delightfully quirky characters who crack countless jokes and puns, including dog knights who just want to be petted and a Large Ham fish knight who believes that everything shown in anime is real. It's also a game where a cute little flower turns out to be a nightmarish and sadistic villain who believes that it's "kill or be killed"—and you see this at the very beginning of the game. If you decide to go out of your way to slaughter every monster in your path, you can expect one hell of a bad time, and if you actually do a complete pacifist run you get to end on one hell of a happy ending, but not before you have to go through the True Lab which is like one of Resident Evil's facilities if it popped up in Silent Hill.
    • If you meet up with Sans the Skeleton in the MTT Resort restaurant, you're treated to a soothing, relaxing atmosphere while bluesy jazz music plays and Sans chats with you. He's telling you the story of how he met this old lady in the woods through a massive door, and now they tell each other dumb knock-knock jokes (of course, Sans had to get back home in time to read Papyrus his bedtime story). Then Sans starts talking about how one day, she made him promise to protect any humans that came through, which can tug at the old heartstrings. And then:
    Sans: do you get what i'm saying? that promise i made to her... you know what would have happened if she hadn't said anything?
    Sans: ...buddy.
    • Depending on your Fun Value for a playthrough, there's a chance of an NPC appearing in Waterfall, who tells you that you should be friends with her neighbour's daughter, who you never get to meet in the game. She seems quite cheerful aside from her comments about fate. But then in the Nintendo Switch version, again determined by Fun Value, there's a chance that in the Playable Epilogue, she'll tell you that "the time that you will meet her... is fast approaching." As she says this, she turns grey, her arms become more tentacle-like, and her face becomes just an eye. And then she disappears.
  • Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter (DS Version) is, like its predecessor, a relatively lighthearted game. And then the credits roll, and you see oil paintings of the fatal car accident that caused their world to come into existence.
  • The Gradius series features this. Most of the games are standard Shoot 'Em Ups with little in the way of Nightmare Fuel, but the final bosses tend to be very disturbing, including things such as a disembodied, skinless head, a large brain with a face surrounded by several eerie, moaning faces, and a giant eye.
  • Crimzon Clover seems like your typical Bullet Hell shooter, with massive tanks, bombers, and mechs to destroy, nothing that would really scare the average player (except in a "this game is too hard" way)...for the first two stages. Then comes stage 3 which features the only "organic" enemies in the game: deadly giant flowers and insects.
  • The Unfinished Swan is a little adventure game about a boy chasing an Unfinished Swan through a world of white that you color by throwing balls of paint so you can see your way through. It's all well and good and positive... until you get to the Forest. Suddenly, Darkness Equals Death and darkness is EVERYWHERE, there are evil eyes glaring at you from everywhere, and only certain plants will light up the surroundings (and even then, not that much).
  • Carrots and Cream is about digging up carrots, and grating them to make carrots and cream. Then you play as a worm avoiding the gardener's spade, before hiding in a carrot bigger than the others. And then you grate more carrots...
  • Iconoclasts starts off somewhat cheery, looking like a classic SNES adventure game with wrenches and pirates and an evil government being the Big Bad. Then you find out your character does her charitable job illegally, you get to watch The Dragon rip off your older brother's arm in rage, and watch an Eldritch Abomination completely shatter the mind of one of your friends, leaving him nearly comatose and eventually left for dead on a collapsing moon base.
  • Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass seems like a typical light-hearted RPG adventure through a dream-esque landscape. Then you return to the Buddy Beehive and find it's suddenly turned into a nightmarish labyrinth of undead mutated bees, and it doesn't get any better from there, as the entire game turns out to be a Dying Dream of a boy with terminal cancer.
  • Content warning at the beginning of the game notwithstanding, Prom Dreams begins as a fairly typical harem dating sim, complete with upbeat music, comedic scenes, and many of the genre's standard tropes. In fact, the player can win their chosen love interest's heart and make it to prom night without experiencing a single horrific element, only for said love interest to be killed suddenly and brutally, without any way for the player to avoid it. From there, the game "resets" itself several times, sans the girl killed in each previous loop, with the atmosphere becoming more horrific as the dating sim plot gives way to a supernatural murder mystery.
  • The Yo! Noid Fan Sequel, Yo! Noid 2: Enter the Void starts off as a lighthearted spoof of the original game, with a cheesy live-action opening cutscene, lots of puns, and a button dedicated to dabbing. Even after you enter the titular Noid Void, there are still plenty of fun anthropomorphic food characters and bright, cheery moments. Then, during the second level, you find a rapidly glitching character who tells you that the whole world is just an illusion, and that "he" monitors everything, although he can be stopped. Then, at the climax of the game, you find out who "he" is: Mike Hatsune, a disturbing Humanoid Abomination who seeks to replace the Noid with "a new Noid for a new age", speaks in text-to-speech (unlike every other character, mind you) and lives in a creepy television world without any of the charm or humor of the other levels. The worst part? He actually succeeds, replacing the Noid with Hatsune Miku... just like in real life.
  • Cuphead has this in spades. Being a Boss Rush game based on cartoons from the 1930s, everything is trying to kill you, has crazy physics and once they reach their One-Winged Angel phase, the Nightmare Fuel starts pumping. Special mention to Hilda Berg for her clockwork crescent moon phase and The Devil.
  • Fable II has the infamous Winter Lodge. Behind one of the many Demon Doors, the Winter Lodge seems like a rather cozy place at first. It is a house in the middle of a beautiful snowy field with a nice glow over everything. However, as soon as you open the door there is a Scare Chord and everything suddenly changes. Inside the house, everything is decrepit and dirty and there are torture implements everywhere. And outside, everything is dark and there are multiple dead bodies. It isn't the only creepy moment in the game, but it definitely stands out.
  • SUPERHOT starts off as a fun, addicting game with the humorous song "SUPER. HOT." congratulating your successes. Then The Ending Changes Everything, when it's revealed that this is intentional, as it's a brainwashing simulator convincing you to pull a Brain Uploading procedure, then convince your real life friends to play the game. The track above? HAND. OVER. CONTROL.
  • Confess My Love: The game is pretty innocent for a while, until the player finds a knife, and ”Liza” tries to murder them in the "Mutated Room".
  • Payday 2 never pretended to be innocent, but other than nods to its inspiration and the odd Halloween Episode, it was never anything other than a heist simulator with a standard crime movie plot. And then the Kataru showed up... and things started getting complicated.
  • Hypnospace Outlaw is a wacky, pastel-hued Simulation Game taking place in a pastiche of late-90s internet, and full of the sort of quirky but believably human characters you'd find wandering around the weird corners of something like GeoCities. Oh, and it's accessed by a Brain–Computer Interface designed by Incompetence, Inc.. Things get rather dark as the game goes on.
  • The Senran Kagura series features pretty ninja girls beating the crap out of each other, with most of the fight scenes often seeing their clothing getting sliced up all for Fanservice moments. Then it starts dipping into the drama dealing with heavy themes like overcoming grief, survivors' guilt, and isolation. And then it cranks into horror with the heroines often having to fight terrifying Eldritch Abominations filled with Body Horror.
  • The classic 1988 Ninja Gaiden is largely tongue-in-cheek and has you fighting human enemies as a ninja in the employ of the CIA. However the Game Over screen is total Nightmare Fuel: Ryu is tied down and surrounded by leering demons, pleading as a circular sawblade sinks down towards his chest. Presumably, Jaquio was successful in opening the realm of chaos and demonkind have taken over the world, leaving the surviving humans as their playthings.
  • Titan Souls is, for the most part, a colorful fantasy game where you fight standard monsters. Then you fight the True Final Boss. After defeating The Soul and entering the gate it was guarding, you wind up in an empty white void. Truth, a giant unblinking eye inside of two eye-covered wheels, then appears. When you damage it, the wheels move to the edges of the screen and become gates that fire black orbs with eyes and biting mouths at you, occasionally firing Truth at you. Once you hit Truth again, it briefly recoils before sprouting tentacles and beginning to chase you. While all of this is happening, the adventurous music of the rest of the game is replaced with atonal noise that wouldn't be out of place in a horror game.
  • Subverted with Tyke & Sons Lumber Co.. The game does have cutesy segments that segue into horror segments, but instead of just using the cute segments to disguise a horror game, this game incorporates these segments to tell the majority of the story.
  • Survival Crisis Z starts out as a cookie cutter Zombie Apocalypse scenario. The disturbing imagery during the intro to the story mode turns out to be a Foreshadowing for something worse to come.
    • Episode 2 is when the game starts being off. First there is a story quest involving checking out somebody who was ill. Rather than just turning into a zombie, the ill person grows large spider legs in a sudden boss fight. Then Episode 3 has a woman warn you about "the children". There will be a segment where you'll be attacked by hordes of Creepy Child zombies brandishing bloody knife. That's not to mention how starting from the end of Episode 2, the town you're in undergoing a Silent Hill esque otherworld transition...
  • One game in the Nickelodeon Clickamajigs catalogue is an infamous Halloween themed game known as Black Licorice. Like most clickamajigs, it involves a simple premise: giving adorable trick-or-treating kids candy. But, whatever you do, DO NOT give the kids the black licorice. If you do, which is bound to happen eventually since the good candies will start to dwindle after a little while, you will be in for a shock when you see how they react. Just always keep in mind:
    Oh yeah! I almost forgot... HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!
  • Duck Season initially presents itself as a lovely VR-based homage to the old 80s games, especially Duck Hunt. Antagonize the dog, however, and the weird stuff begins to happen. Namely, the game starts glitching out, the dog will manifest itself in the real world, threatening you, and after the Stage 8, your character's mother will be killed (outside the Game Within a Game), as the dog taunts you to "come face me", and depending on the ending, it either traps you inside the game forever or attempts to kill you, succeeding in one of the bad endings.
  • MGCM seems like a vivid, Pretty Cure-like Magical Girl Warrior game. However, there are two reasons why this game is rated 17+: Heavy Fanservice and huge amount of nightmare fuel, especially in the main story.
  • For the most part, You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream is the same irreverent game of trivia as ever, with a bit more Black Comedy than usual now that fictional data-mining streaming service Binjpipe has acquired the show. However, one potential "episode" reveals that Cookie Masterson has been trapped Inside a Computer System and Binjpipe is actually a front for an Assimilation Plot wherein all human life will be "turned into content". To twist the knife, Cookie is reset just as he figures out what's going and pledges to stop it.
  • ULTRAKILL is normally a fast-paced Stylish Action game. The exception to this is one of the secret levels, Something Wicked, a pitch-black labyrinth devoid of any music and full of terrifying, spindly, One-Hit Kill monsters.
  • Camping starts off with a fun premise of camping, staying at a hotel, or being invited to a dinner party at the mansion, but then the Monster or Murderer attacks. Things get worse from there.
  • Geometry Dash has the level Peaceful, which is the page image above. At first, there are cute little monsters featured in the background, following your character as it moves along. However, the music will eventually corrupt, and the background will slowly transform into a fleshy landscape full of trypophobia-introducing holes. A little while latter, the background becomes cute again, and the level ends. However, one final scare appears out of nowhere. Unsurprisingly, this level was never verified.
    • Appropriately enough, the song used is Mope Mope, mentioned above.
  • In Super Surprise Party, the colors and visuals are all cute and sweet, from the smiling party-guests to the gumdrop rain. But the actual game is a Psychological Horror, with a creepy, short-tempered narrator and a location-tracking gimmick.
  • Boxxy Quest:
    • BoxxyQuest: The Shifted Spires is a pretty lighthearted meme game overall, but one secret area in Skype is noticeably creepier than the rest of the game. In Skype, you can come across an abandoned house in bad shape, and entering it and going down into the basement leads to a creepy hallway with ominous music leading to a red door that asks you in a chilling voice "what is the color of light?", all in a big Shout-Out to the Dark Brotherhood of The Elder Scrolls.
    • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm initially looks to be another innocuous meme game like its predecessor; though not without drama and intrigue, it is mainly a satire of Internet culture. But the game is significantly Darker and Edgier, and has a habit of setting up areas to be innocuous only to reveal the terror within, with plenty of Surreal Horror, multiple cases of Fate Worse than Death, Ominous Visual Glitches, a secret character named Amelie and her creepy hidden churchyard, and other things. These are just a few of the most prominent areas:
      • The first time the darker nature of the game becomes apparent is in the end of Chapter 3, where Wikipedia is destroyed and a bizarre colorful void is left in its place, while it's citizens are turned into the Overtaken, big zombie-like monsters that are tough to fight at the level you are.
      • /x/ is an area visited after the funny 4chan, so it looks like it will be a parody of Creepypasta (which originated there), but nope, it is a straightforward tribute with scary monsters, a dark atmosphere of dread throughout, Surreal Horror, and quite a bit of gore.
      • The Tower of Plot is in the middle of the humerous GameFAQs area and starts with a peaceful village, so it looks to be nothing bad. But even before you enter, a kid is crying because his father went in and disappeared. The Tower has a secret area home to Lady Ny'agai, who turns innocent children into Ny'agai, villagers that decide to Burn the Witch! and then turn into skeletons who case you, and a "silly" war plotline that ends with bloodshed no matter what you do.
      • The Deep Web, after the catacombs, opens to what looks like a generic lava dungeon, but soon becomes the most unsettling place in the game, with terrifying enemies and bosses, a dreary town filled with people cursed to stand still like statues, and references to dark legends of the Deep Web like the Lolita Slave Doll story (with you even being attacked by living Murderous Mannequins) and child trafficking.
  • Corruption of Laetitia is mostly a fantasy Yuri Genre RPG starring cute girls out to defeat an Evil Overlord and his Corrupt Church. But in one segment, Malayna's home becomes taken over by embodiments of sin, and Celeste has to save Malayna by navigating it. The entire place is overrun by shadows, some of which will pop out and kill you instantly. And strange versions of Malayna come out to taunt Celeste. The entire segment resembles games like Ib and Mad Father.
  • Soma Spirits: This game starts off cute, with both worlds featuring chibified pixel art characters, but the second half of the game has creepy elements.
    • If the party obtains four of the same orb but none of the opposing orb, one of the main characters will transform into a darker version of themselves with a spiral in place of their face, all while going through Sanity Slippage. If the party gets more of the same orb, the corrupted party member manifests Absolution as a monstrous battle aura, and then destroys one of the worlds.
    • In the true ending, the Final Boss, Absolution, starts as a set of monstrous eyes and a mouth, with the rest of their face covered in darkness. Once the darkness lifts, they're shown to have multiple eyes and tentacles, making them more grotesque than Heart and Soul's versions of Absolution from the worst endings.
  • Friday Night Funkin':
    • Week 5, "Red Snow", has you fight against your girlfriend's parents in a mall, with plenty of cameos from various Newgrounds media. At least, the first two songs do. The final one, "Winter Horrorland", starts out with the Christmas Tree decked out with intestines and a severed head in Girlfriend's likeness as a startopper. The mall is abandoned, and the Girlfriend's parents have been replaced with a monster with a lemon for a head, singing about eating the Boyfriend and the Girlfriend.
    • Week 6, "Hating Simulator", is about the Boyfriend and the Girlfriend being getting trapped in a dating sim, the protagonist of said sim cheerfully challenging Boyfriend to a sing off for Girlfriend's hand. By the second song, the "Senpai"'s polite personality is revealed to be a facade, and by the third, his body bursts open to reveal a murky pink spirit, the colorful schoolyard becoming a dark, wavy location. The spirit reveals that Girlfriend's Father put him into the game, implied to be because he wanted to date the Girlfriend, and that he actually wants to steal Boyfriend's body so he can escape the game and get revenge for himself and all the other unfortunate suitors.
  • Bugsnax at first appears to be a cartoonish game about catching bug-food hybrids, giving them to the locals to eat, and transforming various parts of their body into food. And it is, make no mistake. Then Filbo and the player finally find Lizbert, who tells them the truth: the Bugsnax are a parasitic species that cause everyone who eats them to become addicted and keep eating them until eventually they just turn into inanimate snak matter altogether. Oh, and the island you're on? It's made entirely of Bugsnax and the remains of everybody who came before you.
  • The Pancakes Official Game Show, created by Dema Studios, is an innocent-looking first-person walkthrough experience that is initially absolutely hilarious to the player, involving pushing people off cliffs and solving math problems (the answer, of course, is 'Fish', as referenced in the previous game Bill's Hotel). It seems like you'll only get to keep having more fun killing people, until the third game starts and you realize this isn't a comedy, but a horror game. You're greeted with a warped, distorted version of the cheery opening theme as you walk through an incredibly dark house, only ending when you're chased through the basement by a deranged stick figure ringing a cowbell. This subversion of the killer becoming the victim will definitely catch you off guard.
  • Yummy Breakfast starts out cute and simple, with a girl just trying to make herself a "yummy breakfast". It takes a turn for the creepy as she gets more and more desperate for food, resorting to eating live animals and a girl.

    Visual Novels 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!, ostensibly a cutesy Romance Game, starts with requiring you to accept a warning for disturbing content, but the game remains light-hearted and cheerful for long enough that it still comes as a massive shock when the player character finds Sayori's hanging corpse, and the game restarts. From that point onwards, the game starts getting very glitchy and bloody as the girls reveal their Dark And Troubled Pasts and deteriorate into Yanderes. Becomes blackly Hilarious in Hindsight once you find out that all the creepy glitching in Act 2 comes from the fact that Monika is trying to reprogram the game but is Hopeless with Tech.
  • Root Letter has a pretty comfortable premise: The main character travels to his childhood penpal's hometown to meet her or find out why she stopped writing to him. The story combines elements of comedy, mystery and romance stories in an enjoyable manner, and one of the routes outright ends with the main character and his childhood penpal getting married. However, choosing the first answer on every letter gives the player the "Cursed Letter" route, which, as the name indicates, is not a happy ending, with the penpal's classmates being brutally killed off one after another with the main character being killed off last. After the credits, another person receives a letter from the penpal, indicating that the entire cycle is starting over.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend is typically very light-hearted, but there are two instances of this. First is the ending of Shuu's route, where he kills you and has carried your disembodied head around with him for a while, and ends with him asking if you love him with the only answer being yes. Second is the entirety of the Bad Boy's Love route, which takes a bit to unlock. By the time you get to it, the difference between it and just about everything else you've experienced will make it hit even harder. Then there's the backstory...
  • How To Date A Magical Girl!, A cute game about going to a school for magical girls and looking for love until it suddenly becomes a murder mystery game.
  • Shall We Date?: Wizardess Heart: Azusa's route. It starts out very sweet and romantic, with a little underlying mystery later...and then you get to the part where you can choose whether or not to tell him about the magic earrings. If you tell him, Azusa summons a Nue that acutally kills the protagonist. She immediately time-travels back so she'll survive this time, but daaaang. This actually can happen more than once, and then, later, Azusa shows his true colors and basically becomes an abusive boyfriend.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry has an ominous intro but otherwise starts off as a brightly colored visual novel about a teenage boy and his friends in their early '80s rural village. But Higurashi is not a Coming-of-Age Story and is especially not a romance visual novel. It's a mystery-murdery franchise, which becomes more obvious when Keiichi finds a newspaper talking about a murder that happened a few years ago.

  • Homestuck: So, it's about a bunch of kids trying to play a videogame? Cool! And then the deaths start happening... and then the blood... and then THIS and THIS happens and you're having nightmares from this RELENTLESSLY LIGHTHEARTED webcomic.
    • The Squiddles practically have this as their mission statement. The theme is exemplified in this tune.
  • Bogleech: The gwound is made of tasty!
    • Although this was intended to be an inversion.
  • Brawl in the Family: It starts off with a lighthearted and goofy atmosphere that it never sheds, but has a lot of Black Humor, even to Death as Comedy levels. The dramatic story arcs are also often quite dark. In this sense, it mimics the storytelling style of Kirby.
  • M9 Girls!: For a comic with pretty Magical Girl designs and Shojo influences, the Big Bad and his cronies are pretty freaky-looking and disturbing.
  • Monster Pulse: It's all fun and games until someone gets their head bashed in with a rock. Although the entire premise of "organs being ripped from the body and turning into giant monsters" might also fit the bill.
  • Issues 8 and 10 of Sonichu. The former explores the titular species' sexuality in disturbing detail, and the latter has Author Avatar Chris-Chan eliminating everything she hates, from homosexuality to Encyclopedia Dramatica and 4chan (represented by Chris-Chan destroying an entire building full of people), and finally brutally murdering the four people behind Asperchu just for making fun of her. All in a webcomic supposedly meant for children.
  • Dot X is a lighthearted webcomic about children playing together. Up until Night Terror, that is: a millennia-old demon is trying to take control of the main character's body. And it succeeds. And tries to kill a child.
  • My Deepest Secret has an adorable art style and seems like it's setting up to tell the story of a cute, wholesome romance between Emma and her boyfriend, Elios. And then it's revealed at the end of the first episode that Elios is a violently protective yandere, and likely a sociopath.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Legend of the Three Caballeros is a light-hearted, brightly-coloured Disney show, yet many of its antagonists are extremely creepy undead or demonic entities and the main characters actually die at one point.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog, taking cartoony premises and villains and making them genuinely horrifying. Katz is probably the most frequent source, as when his latest overly elaborate Death Trap fails he usually just resorts to strangling Courage.
  • The original My Little Pony pilot, "Rescue at Midnight Castle". Starts off with rainbow ponies playing around and a cute song, and then suddenly switches to ponies being kidnapped by the dragon-like minions of a demonic centaur. It only gets worse after that with the ponies being turned into monsters, and the villain threatening to decapitate a baby dragon.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic continues the series' fine tradition of cute cartoon ponies facing dangerous situations and sinister evil-doers.
  • "A Canterlot Wedding:" Twilight Sparkle has apparently messed up big time, and she's sad, but it looks like Cadance and she will make up. Then we see that "Cadence" is evil. Part 2 ratchets up the horror even further, with a full scale invasion of Canterlot by bug-like shape-shifting monsters.
  • The Chimera from the episode "Somepony To Watch Over Me" in season 4 was definitely a big surprise. She is arguably the creepiest villain in the whole show and is especially surprising because it is the first time a truly scary villain has ever shown up in any episode that wasn't either a season opener or a season finale, and that episode seemed like a typical comedic Slice of Life episode at first.
  • Sweetie Belle's nightmare in "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" is surprisingly disturbing for an otherwise mundane Slice of Life episode.
  • The Season 5 premiere "The Cutie Map" makes it seem like the original target audience was an afterthought. It features a Well-Intentioned Extremist Knight Templar as the villain, who literally tears the cutie marks right off the flanks of ponies and completely breaks them with imprisonment and psychological abuse until they comply and are willing to live in her town that looks troublingly like a concentration camp. She tops it off with a Villain Song based on World War II propaganda music and some incredibly dark lyrics:
  • While not as messed up as Sweetie Belle's, Apple Bloom's nightmare in "Bloom and Gloom" is quite dark as well.
  • "The Cutie Re-Mark" has Starlight Glimmer traveling into the past to make sure the Mane Six never united and throws Twilight into a series of Bad Futures where one of the previous villains had won. Each is darker and more messed up than the last, beginning with King Sombra putting mind-control helmets onto every last citizen of the Crystal Empire and the lands he's conquered to make them fight to the death for him. Even the Bad Future pertaining to Flim and Flam turns out to be quite unsettling, as the brothers have turned Equestria into an industrial wasteland with the sky a dark orange from the pollution.
  • The Season 9 premiere starts out with the return of Grogar and a Villain Teamup between all the surviving Big Bads (and Sombra, who was resurrected), with Sombra striking out on his own to take down Equestria. Though if you were expecting him to get sealed away or turned to stone or sent flying, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, get a load of Twilight Sparkle and her friends graphically killing King Sombra on screen, complete with his skin being torn off his body as he screams in agony. It is very evident the show's crew knew this was their final season and that they didn't have to hold back.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has the infamous episode "Speed Demon." The Powerpuffs decide to race home from school... and go so fast that they warp into a strange, warped and destroyed version of Townsville. There, they see that the townspeople have gone insane. The Mayor is dead and Miss Bellum blames herself. The Professor (their father figure) is obsessed with futilely recreating his girls (and attacks the real things when he thinks they're hallucinations). And their kind-hearted schoolteacher just stands in place, right where she was waving goodbye to the Powerpuff Girls before they vanished for over 50 years. It's at this point that the already-creepy villain known only as Him shows up and reveals his true form, informing the girls that because they weren't around to save the day, this nightmare world is all their fault. They manage to go back in time so they can stop the Bad Future by being there to save the day, but the Fridge Horror of the episode is palpable.
  • Adventure Time looks like such a fun and childish show, and most of the time it genuinely is. Then comes the mountains of Nightmare Fuel, loads of Backstory Horror, and numerous Vile Villains.
    • "Holly Jolly Secrets" is by far the most infamous example. A two-part episode composed mostly of Christmas-like hijinks and watching Ice King's embarrassing video diaries, it ends with the most shocking and depressing reveal in the entire series, forever changing the nature of a main character. "My name is Simon Petrikov."
    • "Beautopia" is nowhere near as bad, but when those inflatable pool floaties turn out to be anything but, even the characters are terrified.
    • "Finn the Human"/"Jake the Dog" begins in an Alternate Universe where Finn is a normal kid with a normal dog and deals with normal family problems, trying to help his parents with a gang of thugs. Cue the Destiny Gang burning down Finn's house with his family still inside, Finn becoming the Ice King and losing it in a horrifying way, and the origin of the Lich.
  • Gravity Falls easily fits under this category, with a thorough mix of sweetness and horrifying creatures.
    • "The Inconveniencing" is rather light-hearted until a horrifying creature resembling the nervous system shows up. Dipper slams the door shut on it, an appropriate reaction.
    • "Sock Opera” contains this as well, with Bipper jabbing forks into his arms, pouring soda into his eyes, and throwing himself down the stairs.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is also like this. One episode showed what appeared to be a cute child turn out to be a creepy looking older guy.
    • Another episode repeatedly cuts away to a terrifying picture of a live-action cat's face with large black pits for eyes and a round mouth with needle-like teeth.
  • There was a short called "The Snow Man", which was the former page image. Starts off really cutesy, with a human and his animal friends building a snowman and dancing around, but all hell breaks loose when the snowman comes to life and goes on a rampage. The snowman eats a fish whole along the way, but it's set free when the snowman melts at the end. All's well that ends well... until the fish lets out a sinister laugh that sounds exactly like the snowman.
    • There are a couple of other strange things in the short, like the fact that the animal skin the boy has on his bed for warmth comes to life and licks the boy's face, being just portrayed as an animal giving its owner a sweet good-night kiss. Later the boy is riding a polar bear and makes the animal come to a complete stop. As he does so, he grabs the polar bear's tail and pulls, which makes the skin and fur slide off the bear's body before snapping back, as if the fur and skin were just clothes. It's an old cartoon and was meant to be silly, but old cartoons did some creepy things back in the day, all without meaning to, thanks to the old cartoon rule of everything being sentient, goofy, happy and cute.
  • By Van Beuren Studios, "Circus Capers", a cartoon that blatantly plagiarizes the designs of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, starts off pretty generic and happy... then Minnie is revealed to be cheating on Mickey with the obvious villain of the cartoon. Mickey discovers this and almost instantly becomes fat and depressed. He begins to sing "Laugh Clown, Laugh" with a horribly wrinkled and disfigured face. In response, Minnie realizes her horrid mistake, attempting to return to Mickey. He rejects her, and, out of nowhere, his face detaches from his body, enlarges, winks at the screen and inflates, covering the entire screen. What follows in several prints of the cartoon is a quick cut to a bunch of happy dancing ducks from the unrelated short The Booze Hangs High. A couple of prints give a "The End" screen instead of said ducks, but one wonders if that wasn't the actual ending.
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted!" starts as a typical episode, but it all changed when their mother actually finds out about the boys' shenanigans. From then on, it becomes way darker and morbid than a typical episode. It turned out to be All Just a Dream at the end, but still.
  • Steven Universe. On the surface, it looks like a fantasy series about a group of warriors and the boy trying to understand his powers, while they fight monsters of the week. It's mostly very heartwarming and lighthearted, but Steven nearly gets himself turned into a grotesque cat monster (confirmed to be a reference to, of all things, AKIRA) by being unable to control his shapeshifting powers once, the aforementioned monsters are really Gems like the heroes that have been corrupted in some way, there was an episode that ended with Steven watching several copies of him turn to dust and die for real, a colossal monster inhabiting the inside of Earth threatening to destroy it and all living things, and the rotten cherry on top is in the episode "Chille Tid" where Steven has a dream (an obvious reference to old sitcoms). Everything goes pretty normal for the most part. Steven is waiting for Connie for his first dance. He opens the door and...a two-eyed Garnet wearing sunglasses comes in and gives him advice for it. The second time he opens the door, instead of Connie we get this terrifying picture. It's agreed through the fandom that it was one of the most unsettling moments of the entire series. Luckily, the series manages to still be strong Sweet Dreams Fuel on countless levels.
    • And let's not forget the one time Steven and Garnet go off alone and uncover a homeworld lab where gem shards have been forcibly fused together for millennia. Once you realize the underlying symbolism of this, it becomes genuinely disturbing on all levels. Even Garnet almost comes undone over this one.
  • Over the Garden Wall is a charming story of two brothers trying to get home, meeting a bunch of colorful characters while being periodically menaced by whatever creatures The Lost Woods can throw at them, but ends up being a Double Subversion. For the first half all the supposedly creepy things and people turn out to be either harmless or outright helpful, and most of the conflict comes from Wirt unintentionally making things harder for himself. Then a witch that tries to brainwash them is melted and an evil possessing spirit tries to eat them. Then the Beast takes center stage, and everything goes to hell very quickly.
  • The Cracked article mentioned in the Literature section above (6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series) also discusses Arthur (because of its penchant for nightmare sequences and the Uncanny Valley) and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (because of its freaky stories that often pertain to loss of identity and existential dread).
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show and SpongeBob SquarePants jump from Surreal Humor to Surreal Horror with jarring speed and are both very fond of the Gross-Up Close-Up and other terrifying imagery.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Night" has two examples: the first is in what looks like Anais having a nightmare that she's swapped roles with her Daisy the Donkey doll, who is alive and abuses an Anais doll while refusing to end its suffering. Then it turns out that it wasn't Anais' nightmare, but her Daisy doll really is alive and it was her dream of revenge. The second is in Alan's nightmare, which is full of disturbing imagery that he doesn't seem to be bothered by.
  • Kaeloo: The episode "Let's Play Trap-Trap". It starts off with a seemingly normal plot where Kaeloo, Stumpy, Quack Quack, and Mr. Cat play a nice game of Trap-Trap, with the beginning being so sweet that Kaeloo even gives Mr. Cat a hug. Then, halfway through the episode, Quack Quack goes insane and tries to cannibalize Kaeloo and Stumpy, and successfully eats half of Kaeloo's brain, leaving her unintelligible, and Mr. Cat has to step in and save the day.
  • Bottersnikes And Gumbles is a lighthearted, unashamedly silly cartoon show adapted from a children's book of the same name that revolves around the cute and friendly Gumbles and the filth-loving Bottersnikes with Black-and-White Morality. It's all fun and games until you learn one of the Gumbles has a questionably jarring backstory in which he was just as outgoing as the other Gumbles before getting into an incident so horrific that he went from bold to withdrawn and fearful and permanently lost his ability to speak, with strong implications that only one other Gumble knows about it who keeps it a secret from others. Said character also gets an episode that looks into his thoughts consisting of Inner Monologue, which barely express any emotions at all (except for fear and disgust) and include speech that sounds like something coming from a person with PTSD.


Video Example(s):


"Oh Arthur, Stop It!"

WandaVision starts off as a genre throwback to old school sitcoms, however, during dinner with Vision's boss, Wanda and Vision draw complete blanks as to the questions they're asked. Not only that, but with the boss choking on his food and his wife repeating "Stop it" with the same comedic tone long after it stopped being funny goes to show that this is anything but a classic sitcom

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / SurpriseCreepy

Media sources:

Main / SurpriseCreepy