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Nightmare Fuel / Hollow Knight

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Hollow Knight is a game that thrives on creating an atmosphere. Heaven help you when the atmosphere it wants to create is scary.

  • The scary, tense chord that plays when you fight an elite enemy, such as a Husk Guard, might startle and scare you the first time you hear it, especially in combination with the relentless assaults of the enemy in question.
  • Pretty much everything related to the Infection is terrifying. A terrifying combination of Body Horror and Mind Rape, which drives bugs insane in their dreams and turns them into bloated, sickly aberrations dripping with pestilence, which often explode upon death.
    • About halfway through the gamenote  the plague will have spread to the Forgotten Crossroads entirely, infecting or outright killing almost every NPC found in it. The soundtrack is replaced with an eerie and foreboding ambience and the name of the area now reads "Infected Crossroads". There are sickly orange sacks and strands everywhere and an orange miasma wafts through the area. It happens with little warning and is sure to unnerve you the first time you witness it, and what was once one of the safest areas in the game becomes one of the most dangerous.
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    • What really stands out about the Infection is the sheer contrast it has compared to the rest of the setting. For the most part, Hollow Knight has a medieval Dark Fantasy tone, not unlike Dark Souls or Castlevania. What areas don't 100% match up to this still follow the same general aesthetic, so they blend in nicely. The Infection is none of this. It's a visceral, brightly-colored plague that came straight out of a sci-fi setting. It's not only disgusting to look at, it just feels downright wrong.
  • No Eyes, a Warrior Dream in the Stone Sanctum. As if her appearance and her unsettling dialogue were not enough, instead of the normal Dream Battle soundtrack, the "music" during her battle consists of nothing but the wind-like noise of her summoned wraiths gliding through the air, and a really creepy lullaby that she sings.
    • The Stone Sanctum itself is a creepy place. Aside from being devoid of background music, it is also filled with spikes and is completely dark and impossible to traverse without the Lumafly Lantern.
    • Her Hunter's Journal entry is also rather unsettling, merely stating that she just...disappeared around the time of the plague. And then there's the quote from No Eyes herself...
      What's inside of you...
      - No Eyes
  • If you visit the entrance to the Crystal Peak early on, you can hear Myla humming and singing as she digs endlessly in a nearby crystal. But savor that moment as she will be infected half-way into the game, and the earliest sign that tells you she's fully succumbed to the infection is a complete, utter silence when you visit that area again. Yup, nobody's singing nor digging anymore. To make this encounter worse, her death scream is also unique when you slay her compared to the other Crystal Miners.
    • At one point in the game, if you're already obtained the Dream Nail, you can get to look into her mind as she slowly succumbs to the infection. What you find inside is not pretty: "KILL THE EMPTY ONE!"
  • The Royal Waterways are dark and a bit unsettling. Worst of all are the Flukemons, giant worm-like enemies that make a really creepy and disgusting sound when they are in the vicinity, and you have to kill them no less than three times to finish the job because their separated body parts keep coming back to life to have another go at you.
    • The Flukemarm, an optional boss in the Waterways, also makes some disturbing sounds and is generally Nausea Fuel. Even worse than the Flukemarm herself is the corridor that leads to her, which is full of twitching maggoty things sticking out of the ground (at least you can destroy them for Soul).
  • Embalmed Husks below the Resting Grounds constantly make a hoarse breathing noise that sounds like they are choking to death. Fortunately they only appear on one screen.
  • Easily the most Nightmare Fuel in the game comes from the Deepnest. Even darker and more claustrophobic than the Waterways, the Deepnest is also more labyrinthine, with massive areas full of winding and twisting paths which are hard to make sense of, even with a map - not helped by the fact that even with a lantern you barely can see anything around you. The Deepnest is full of unsettling noises (the soundtrack is nothing but scare chords and insect-crawling noises), creepy shapes skittering away into the darkness, and swarms of spiders that flee when disturbed. And you can accidentally fall into it way before you're prepared to deal with it, and have a rather hard time getting out of it. The Deepnest also presents such lovely surprises as:
    • Massive centipedes moving through the narrow tunnels, with their loud burrowing constantly heard in the background.
    • The ground giving way beneath you, with deadly spikes below - not exclusive to the Deepnest, but by far the most common there.
    • Small spider enemies that can unexpectedly appear when you break an egg.
    • Massive spiders that spawn out of thin air.
    • Enemies that burrow out of the ground unexpectedly, and either come in massive numbers or may occasionally respawn.
    • Giant, seemingly stationary enemies wearing a large mask that splits open to reveal a creature that madly slashes at you when you get too close.
    • Very repugnant-looking enemies that disguise themselves as Grubs - not exclusive to the Deepnest either, but there's the most of them there.
    • Normal-looking and behaving Husk enemies, but when you kill them, the corpse twitches and a creepy spider parasite takes over it.
      • Making the "Corpse Creepers" even worse is that many a first-time player will simply kill the husks and move on. Because of the darkness, they won't see what's making that horrible clicking noise until a massive spider-creature lunges at them from the shadows. It may take a while to work out where these things are even coming from.
    • A group of "villagers" that trap you in webbing on a bench.
    • The four other NPCs that know you Dream Nail them either gently chide you, or in the Queen's case, are surpised. Midwife's response? "Gah! Get out! Get out! Get out!"
    • Something that really drives the point home about how alien and horrific the Deepnest is: you know Cornifer, the Bold Explorer who sells maps? In every zone where he's found, no matter how dangerous, he is always found happily humming and clearly enjoying his work. In Deepnest? He's found hiding, visibly afraid, and not singing at all. This place broke even his spirit.
    • And then there's the optional boss Nosk, an arachnid shapeshifter that's already killed dozens of bugs (which you can find and Dream Nail in the corridor leading up to him) by impersonating their family, loved ones, or even - in the case of The Knight - themselves. And he has already killed many Vessels before you. Interestingly, you can encounter Nosk - disguised as you - outside of the area where he is found. And since he is optional and not that easy to find (even reaching him requires either the double jump or the super dash), you may never even find out what the hell was up with that "second Knight" you've seen in the depths of the Nest.
    • Large dark spider shapes that run across the foreground, seemingly across your monitor.
  • The Ancient Basin is one of the prime examples of a Bleak Level in the game, feeling completely and utterly dead even in spite of the occasional enemy. Like Deepnest, there's no music, just ambient noise, but unlike Deepnest there's even less of it, with only the wind blowing, and once you collect the Monarch Wings even that stops, leaving you in almost complete silence as long as you're still there.
    • The primary enemy for most of the Ancient Basin, the Shadow Crawlers, are disturbing for their mere presence. There isn't supposed to be anything down here. Even the Hunter in his notes says that he finds the sound and movement of the Shadow Crawlers unnerving for reasons that he cannot quite place. And while other animals will have one or two words to say if you use the Dream Nail on them, all you get from Shadow Crawlers is "..."
    • The encounter with the Broken Vessel and the buildup to it. You travel down a long, winding hall, all the while little orange plague creatures skitter around and away from you, until you finally arrive in a room with what seems to be a corpse eerily familiar in appearance. And then the plague critters all converge on it, turning it into a plague zombie that promptly attacks you.
    • The Abyss below the Ancient Basin is somehow WORSE than the one from Dark Souls. It's a massive and deep pit filled with the bodies of the Pale King's failed attempts to make a vessel, living shadows that rise out of pitch black water and phantom knights. But the worse part of it is the ambience, which seems to scream "You should not have come here!"
    • During the "Dream No More" ending, there's a scene where the Siblings are all gathered in one place, looking up with only their eyes being the only sources of light, sinking down and finally put to rest. You don't get to see that many of them at once in the actual gameplay.
  • The Soul Sanctum. Firstly there's the ominous pipe organ constantly playing in the background, then there's the results of the Soul Master's experiments with SOUL: Bugs that have become mutated into blobs called "Mistake" & "Folly". Then there are the rooms below the boss arena, which are filled with hundreds and hundreds of bodies.
  • The Grub Mimics. Imagine this: you've stumbled into the Deepnest, braving the terrors that lie within. Near the top of the labyrinth of web-choked tunnels, however, you discover an entire room filled with Grubs. Believing this to be your lucky day, you break the first jar. As you move towards the second jar, however, the Grub abruptly undergoes a a horrific transformation, its entire face erupting into a wicked set of three-pronged mandibles and eight spindly legs bursting from the stubs of its limbs. The thing then proceeds to charge at you in a frenzy, shrieking madly all the while. It isn't any less freaky when it's dead, either— upon death, it reverts back to its Grub disguise. Needless to say, you'll be suspicious of every Grub you find from here on out.
  • Grimm from the titular Grimm Troupe is... odd. He looks like the bug version of Dracula, talks oddly about his and Knight's child, a ritual it involves, and in the end, his Troupe vanishes without a trace.
    • During the start of Grimm's fight, he'll bow politely to you. If you hit him, he'll screech and begin with an attack he'd only normally start using in his second phase. It can be surprising to the unassuming player.
    • On the correct path, Dream Nailing Grimm. You run down a hallway to get your next batch of essence, when the sound of a heartbeat begins to play, the room gets more foggy, and you walk through the entrance to the arena. The beat picks up, and in a wave of flames the boss tears itself out from the supposed "heart" with the screen going black, showing only red text: NIGHTMARE KING GRIMM
  • Another member of the Grimm Troupe (while fairly friendly) is the vendor known as Divine, who will upgrade certain charms for you. If her prices don't scare you, the method she uses to upgrade will: as you watch her devour your charms. It only gets worse by the next time you talk to her, when she gives you back the charm by bearing down and pushing it through her digestive system until she excretes it with such force that it launches into the air before landing at your feet. The sounds of her guts churning as she does this and her whine as she pushes out the charm are uncomfortable enough, but the sigh of relief afterwards and the fact that another bug comments on the smell of you and your charm after this upgrade makes it worse. It's also scary to think that, if you want to completely beat the game you have to do this three times, resulting in your Knight eventually carrying around three such poop charms.
    • And once you upgrade all of the Fragile Charms, it's all but stated that she eats Leg Eater!
  • In the earliest part of Kingdom's Edge, corpses fall from the ceiling. You later find that they are corpses dumped from the Colosseum of Fools.
    • Colosseum of Fools itself is this. A gladiator arena with a corpse in a throne. And it being a place for brutal blood sports with willing fighters itself is disturbing.
    • Previously in the game, Tiso's motivation for traversing Hallownest is to find this arena. When you enter the Colosseum yourself, you can find him waiting on the bench below, sure about his victory. Next time you see him, he's just another corpse thrown into the pit below. Hitting him with the Dream Nail grants you this dialogue: "...Why?..."
    • The Pale Lurker. To get to Godhome you need one more simple key. The game being what it is they couldn't just leave one laying around. To find it you have to go to a secret area next to the Colosseum where you meet the Pale Lurker, a creepy, Gollumlike miniboss that runs away while throwing shuriken behind her. Her journal entry says that she used to be a Colosseum Champion before going too crazy for the folks at the Colosseum of Fools to stand, and even worse, it outright states that this madness wasn't a result of The Infection, or anything else that has happened in Hallownest; "Its madness is its own".
  • The ending of the Godmaster content pack if you didn't give the flower to the Godseeker; The Knight reaches such god-like power, that upon slaying The Radiance, it transforms into a titanic Void monster, implied to be called "Void, Given Focus". They kill the weakened Radiance singlehandedly after pulling apart her face with two fingers alone; a task that took both The Knight and the Hollow Knight as shades with the Hollow Knight's full strength as a Shade to pull her face open, whereas The Void seems to do it with very little effort at all. Instead of ending her by pulling her into the Abyss with tendrils, it crushes her in its grasp. It then proceeds to fill Godhome and goes through Godseeker as a catalyst for the physical world.
  • The Land of Storms: Find a hidden crack in one of the walls of Godhome and you land in a weird barren wasteland with thunder and torrential rain, keep going and you find something lying on the ground while what look like huge insect corpses loom over you in the background when lightning strikes, then when you pick up the weathered mask Hollow Knight wakes up and finds the crack isn't there anymore. The only explanation is the mask's description and it doesn't sound pleasant:
    Weathered Mask: Strange mask from a godless land, passed down over time, the design suggests the wearers thoughts were focused through the crest.
    Gods of Thunder, Gods of Rain! Why forsake thy servants? Will Our minds be left suffering, to ache alone? What God remains to deliver Us from woeful silence? - Lament of the Godseekers
  • And the worst of them all? The Knight itself! The more a player advances the plot, the more they'll find out that not even the Player Character is all that it seems. For example, its Heroic Mime status, common to most games? It's a plot point in here, as one of the many measures to Un-person a Vessel, in order to (ideally) completely immunize them to The Corruption. All its magic spells being upgraded to Void variants? Death having no permanent grasp? Power of the Void, plain and simple. Not as a being attuned to it, mind, but as part of it.

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