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Nightmare Fuel / Marathon

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Seven hundred and sixty one armless and legless corpses float around the inside of hangar ninety six, and they are all screaming at me.

I once boasted to be able to count the atoms in a cloud, to understand them all, predict them, and so did I predict you, but this new chaos is entirely terrible, mindless, obeying rules that I don't comprehend. And it is hungry.
-Durandal, Ne Cede Malis

Even back then Bungie knew how to scare the shit out of us.

Examples of Nightmare Fuel in the original games:

  • The dark and claustrophobic design of the Colony Ship Marathon gives plenty opportunities for this, the first of which is meeting the S'pht compiler face-to-face in the very tight maintenance tunnel. It's occasionally hard to tell whether the dark rooms, claustrophobic hallways, and stealthy enemies are meant to be scary, but boy howdy, they are.
    • If you're not suspecting it, the first encounter with an alien—not even ten seconds into the game—is to have it make a loud, startling screeching noise and run after you. It is a VERY effective jumpscare, even if it isn't too much of a threat.
    • The Jjaro installation from Infinity is one big call back to the first game, now with the addition of ambient sounds that are described in the game's editors as the ship creaking, but can be easily interpreted as the voice of the sleeping god struggling in its prison.
  • In the first Marathon game, when you blow up a BOB or another player, they explode into a bunch of intestines, gore, and brown mush.
    • And in the next two games, they explode into flesh-covered bones in a pool of blood.
    • Also most of the aliens, particularly the Enforcers, who, in the second and third game, pop.
      • And other aliens native to the planet fly towards you and EXPLODE on you. Not pretty.
  • In the first game, you can see BOBs trapped in Pfhor stasis pods on the alien ship. Their faces are pale and the pods are pulsating.
    • Other things in the alien ship pulsate too. It seems as if most of the ship is organic.
  • The Pfhor seem to be making artificial humans, which are called simulacrums. They run up to you and explode, and it's almost impossible to tell which one it is. The creepy thing? You're told that they're robots, but sometimes, it's implied that they're captured humans ("Innocent Colonists") who had their blood replaced with a yellow liquid (that's explosive, too) and they had their brains adjusted so that they would run towards any human with a weapon.
    • In "Fatum iustum stultorum", the real humans have left for Earth, so the Pfhor just start teleporting out as many simulacrums as they can. Some portions of the level are very dark and underwater, and it's difficult to punch the simulacrums effectively underwater, since they move about as fast as you do - bear in mind that you don't have any underwater weapons in M2 other than your fists. It can be very paranoia-inducing trying to kill off the simulacrums underwater, particularly on Total Carnage, where having one blow up on you will take off about 3/4 of a bar of health.
  • The first BGM you hear in the first game is scary enough, considering the dark hallways and flickering lights in the human ship, but the first BGM you hear in the Pfhor ship is much worse.
    • "Landing", "Leela", and "Aliens Again" are also extremely creepy. Makes the dark corridors that much scarier.
  • Did anyone else think the first door you went was unusually loud? It startled this one enough to jump.
  • Some of the message terminals can pretty disturbing. Arther Frain message on You're Wormfood, Dude about how the station has multiple hull breaches is pretty unnerving on its own, but when you consider that the W'rkncacnter is loose and about to munch both the Pfhor and the USEC forces in the area...
    • The Dream levels in general, which, among other things, includes the terminals about the Hangar 96.
    • And this. The fact that these terminals are so nigh-impossible to figure out is about 75% of what makes them so creepy in the first place.
    • The story of Gheritt White. (Third terminal in that level.) It's found at the top of a nigh-inescapable prison cell.
  • Everything about the W'rkncacnter. It spits on the laws of physical reality, seems to revel in destruction and chaos, cannot be killed by any known force, and is never directly seen. But surely, Durandal has at least some idea of how to deal with it, right?.. Nope; for all his power and intelligence, the W'rkncacnter is as obtuse to him as it was to the Jjaro. And Durandal is flat fucking terrified of it.
    • "I'm alri-AAAA!"
    • And their messages are being commed directly into your helmet...
  • A meta-example: One of the scrapped ideas was a weapon that turned killed enemies into zombies. That idea eventually materialized as The Flood in Halo.
  • When a terminal describes the Hulks/Drinniol, it says that, due to their zero body fat, they need constant feeding. Another terminal mentions a Drinniol lifting some poor bastard and smashing him against a pillar.
  • The "dream" levels in Infinity, especially the messages you find in them, which may or may not be describing the Security Officer's life prior to serving on the Marathon. The first terminal involves him encountering a hulking giant of a man armed with a double-bladed knife; this man proceeds to have a seizure right in front of the Officer, choking out "durability" in-between puking. Watching all of this is a gang of black-suited men. The Officer, as scared out of his mind as anyone else in his situation would be, takes the double-bladed knife and runs for it.
  • The very first message Tycho sends the player in the first game is a desperate warning that the crisis you're attempting to fight your way out of is Durandal's fault—as his code is being picked apart. He eventually gets better... for a given definition of "better"; by the time the second game rolls around, Tycho is a ruthless sadist who can arguably match his brother in intellectual fortitude, but has none of Durandal's redeeming qualities. Infinity sees him, in one arc, making his command of the Pfhor absolute by hacking a vital target's teleporter so that it dumps him into space. You had to help Tycho in his treason, by the way. And this isn't the only arc where he strong-arms the Security Officer into working for him; notice how he addresses you as "conditioned unit 7"?...
  • On the flipside, imagine how terrifying it must be for the Pfhor to actually face The Security Officer. The acts of violence the guy is capable of preforming are completely horrific. Including, but not limited to:
    • Pfhor Fighters literally exploding into fountains of yellow blood
    • Causing Pfhor Hunters armor to short circut and explode
    • Making Hulks collapse into piles of viscera
    • And many many more.
  • If you're not partial to black humour, then the BoBs' (and Security Officer's) "crushed/immolated" death wails are pretty unpleasant.
  • The F'lickta aren't too difficult to handle as long as you've got ammo, but they look and sound intimidating, and are incredibly hostile towards all other entities (they'll prioritize Pfhor, but there'll be plenty of instances where the only other thing around is you). One terminal also mentions that the Pfhor couldn't retrieve any juvenile F'licka for study because the parents would kill their own young to prevent this.
  • While he mellows out considerably later on, Durandal's behaviour in the first game can be rather unsettling when he's not being an entertaining jerk. The first possible encounter with him is when he's at the height of his Anger-induced madness, and his conversations with the Security Officer often go into existentially-troubling territory.
  • Double Aught's (now defunct) website had an Infinity section that, like the game itself, was roughly 99% mind screw by volume. Of particular note is Colin Kawakami's page; the center images briefly display the message "we are still here watching you and waiting", while below it flashes a garbled, desperate plea (from who, it's not clear, but it sounds a bit like Durandal in "Ne Cede Malis"...)
  • The demo version of "Ne Cede Malis" makes some worrying implications of what's happening to the Security Officer at the end of each failed timeline.
  • As the player destroys more of Durandal's core in "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!" and "Hang Brain", bits of the ship cease to function properly, and the lighting starts to fail. The latter level also has abnormally powerful troopers teleporting in at random intervals. On higher difficulties, this is terrifying and a massive source of Paranoia Fuel.

Examples of Nightmare Fuel in Game Mods:

  • The mod Marathon: Evil was pretty horror-intensive. In particular, it had the Devlins, a spiny, yellow-eyed, hard-to-see menace that liked dark places and probably gave large numbers of people nightmares. Having one jump out at you for the first time is not calming.
    • And the Mystic Pfhor, their equivalent of the Spht'Kr. Freaky appearance as well as hellish sounds.
    • The actual plot may be an elaborate excuse to shoot things, but there's something disconcerting about the ending, and its suggestion that the UESC would be so callous as to convert one of their most effective operatives into an AI just because he seemed unlikely to go rampant.
  • Marathon RED, from beginning to end. High Octane Cosmic Horror Story. It doesn't help that it's also Nintendo Hard. Intimidating? Maybe just a lee-tle...
    • Paco's back story. In a past life, he braved the anomalous pyramid and unknowingly caught the attention of its 'pilot', Joshua, who was so impressed that he gave Paco his mark. Centuries later, Paco—now among the ten battleroids—tried and failed to defend Tau Ceti IV; when he was rescued from the derelict UESC Marathon, he was so overwhelmed by despair that he attempted suicide...over and over, because he couldn't die. There was nothing Ian's team could do for him except wipe his memory and hope it buried the underlying trauma. Just to twist the knife in further, he learns all this after Joshua has torn Paco's soul from his body to become the Reaver and sent him to tear a bloody swath through his own allies; Ian snaps him out of it, but also makes it abundantly clear to Paco that he's on his own from here on out.
  • Alongside Remixed Levels, this was basically the whole point of Return to Marathon. The original game might be scary, but Return to Marathon overhauls the original game's levels and turns the horror factor Up to Eleven.
    • There are these enemies called "butterflies"—colourful Wasps with pretty wings. One terminal details how they've been breeding aboard the derelict Marathon: by laying their eggs in the dead and not-so-dead. If they don't do this quickly enough, their unborn brood will give their mother a reverse Cesarean.
    • At some point, Egon (one of your two mission controls) notices something amiss in one sector and asks you to contain it by disabling the cores it was detected in. This "something" is a virus that, once freed, immediately infects Egon and overrides his mind in short order. Alaxus, a third AI whose mind is probably buried in limiters, has little to offer except that he also told you to do it.
  • Marathon Phoenix could get pretty creepy at times as well. There's one level in an abandoned mine where if you take a wrong step, you'll fall into a pit of poisonous gas and die instantaneously. It's very dark (being an abandoned mine) and full of mostly silent monsters that can fly, can be released without any apparent warning, and can fire a stream of energy bursts that can drain a bar of your health in less than a second on higher difficulties. The whole level is a veritable fountain of Paranoia Fuel.
  • The swamps on the Pfhor planet in Rubicon have alien noises as random ambient sounds. There are also Lookers in the swamp (whose chatter is among the noises that happen as ambient sounds), and it's next to impossible to see them even if you have liquid transparency enabled due to the thickness of the sludge in the swamp. Needless to say, when wandering through the swamp, you're likely to be constantly afraid that you're going to walk over a Looker and die.
    • To say nothing of the dream levels, the first of which ("We Dream You") occurs near the end of the Chimera plank. You get Haller to safety, Durandal thanks you and warps you out of that submerged hangar, and...huh? What am I doing in the vacuum of space? Okay, I'll just head for this teleporter beam and sort things ou—oh dear. You seemingly end up back on the Chimera, except there's no air (keep in mind that the ship crashed on Pfhor Prime, which has a breathable atmosphere), and no other living beings but these strange balls of light that dash about and get in your way. Quite a few dead bodies and severed heads, though, which you'll pass by as you read through the terminals (which bear Thoth's insignia and continue on from Infinity's dubiously-lucid dream terminals) and try to find your way around. You jump down a hangar, keeping a wary eye on those points of light, and make it outside to a nearly pitch-black box canyon littered with bits of the Chimera and its crew (there's even a set of drawers sitting in the middle of the eastern part of the area). You read the exit terminal and warp out/wake blaring sirens, as Durandal informs you that there's been a catastrophic hull breach. Uh-oh.
    • Over the course of the Salinger Plank, you investigate the Dangi Corporation and the shady goings-on in their half of the eponymous space station. Their big plan is to unleash Achilles, a virus of their own making with a high mortality rate, upon every human-inhabited planet and colony, then offer the cure to the UESC in exchange for total control. Towards the end, their long-suffering research AI, Lysander, reveals to you that his work on Achilles was flawless. As in, there is and never will be a cure, and the Board of Directors has no idea that Lysander is about to jump-start an extinction event.
    Lysander: Once humanity discovers Achilles C15, it'll be too late.
    • Even the two "good" endings give us quite a bit of Fridge Horror.
      • The Salinger plank ends with the Chekhov's Gun of Achilles still around and not fired. The scientists who worked on the project still have their knowledge of it, and Durandal has whisked them away for reasons known only to him. Even if we assume his intentions aren't nefarious, what happens if someone who does have nefarious intentions manages to gain access to them?
      • The Tycho plank ends with all these scientists dead at the player's hand, which is quite a case of Black and Grey Morality since they were essentially just Punch-Clock Villains who were just doing their jobs; it's not even clear how many of them had any idea they were working on anything nefarious. Tycho claims to have destroyed all knowledge of Achilles in this timeline, but the game really only gives us his word that he's done so. He's certainly much more benevolent in this game than he was in Marathon 2 and Infinity, but per Word of God, the game deliberately leaves it ambiguous who's telling the truth about anything (though the ending does reveal that humanity has no knowledge whatsoever of Achilles, which depending upon one's interpretation may make it more likely that Tycho was telling the truth).
    • The "bad" ending, of course, is even worse. Achilles is actually released, and the Dangi Board of Directors takes control and establishes a military dictatorship that lasts some three hundred years. It seems to be a less virulent strain of the virus than Lysander wanted to release, but still... Even "better", there's a story, written by Blayne Scott and with approval from Scott Brown and Ian McConville, that posits that the fallout from this ending eventually led to the events of RED.
    • There's also some Fridge Horror regarding the fate of the Pfhor, which presumably occurs in all three endings, though it's only explicitly described in "Lazarus ex machina", the ending to the Tycho plank, in a terminal that players can easily miss. They're slavers, of course, so it's difficult to feel bad for the Pfhor alive at the time of the game. But the crash of the Chimera on Pfhor Prime results in Earth's plants, fungi, and molds being released into the Pfhor biosphere. This has little effect at first, but after a few centuries, a strain of Earth-native fungus forms a symbiosis with a life form native to Pfhor Prime that spreads rapidly across their planet, displaces much of their native life, severely unbalances their agriculture, and results in centuries of famine that, it appears, no one does a thing to stop; it is only when their biosphere reaches a new equilibrium that their agriculture begins to recover. Even if one argues that the Pfhor alive at the time of the game deserved this fate because they were slavers, their descendants had nothing to do with that, and because the famine occurs centuries after the game's events, it presumably affects only their descendants.
    • From the moment Lysander is introduced, there's something off about him and the way he interacts with the Security Officer, with hints of anger issues given how quickly he goes from affable to pissed if the SO checks the wrong terminals. Things begin to slide downhill after Durandal and the SO find the first hints of suspicious activity on the Dangi Corp.'s part and break into a restricted area. Lysander unambiguously threatens to kill the SO and eventually teleports them right onto a nearby Pfhor ship, with the implication that the SO was utterly thrashed afterward (you start the next real-world level with almost no health); it's best not to think of what could've happened if Durandal couldn't save them. Throughout the last leg of the investigation, Lysander shows up intermittently to taunt the duo (mostly the SO), until he finally drops all pretenses of civility and reveals the scope of his horrific emotional damage: for much of his life (quite possibly from the moment he was activated), he was abused by his human handlers and surrounded by people who regarded him as a tool at best, and now they've inadvertently handed him an escape hatch in the form of Achilles. Specifically, the final version he's been withholding from the Dangi Corp., that has no cure and will spread too swiftly for anyone to try and develop one. Oh, and this is also the level where the SO learns that they unwittingly disposed of poor Charlie (the Salinger's other AI) on Lysander's behalf, suggesting that Lysander is so far gone that he has no longer has regard for any form of life, organic or mechanical. Something else to think about: this is very well how his own half-brother, Durandal, could've turned out without a chance to calm down, or a human/cyborg partner to bond with. Perhaps Durandal noticed, given how solemnly he orders the SO to put Lysander down.
  • An AI Called Wanda starts off by introducing the Security Officer to Freud, the psychiatric AI for the UESC Leviathan; Freud, while a bit on the sarcastic side, is amiable enough (and, of course, makes the requisite "let's talk about your mother" joke). You then take orders from his co-worker Hobbes for a while; when you meet Freud again, he's acting...strange, pontificating about how you're a mindless killer and how such a damaged state of mind must work and feel. His normal dark blue text is stained red. Hobbes soon determines what's wrong: Tycho or one of his clones has spliced his own code into Freud's, resulting in an unstable semi-fusion. The real Freud is still there, begging the Security Officer to kill him, all while Copy!Tycho attempts to beat him down. You can't save Freud; you can only destroy his core.
    • And what of the eponymous Jjaro AI, Wanda? The W'rkncacnter did...something to her that drove her to murder her makers and painfully mutilate the rest. One Jjaro managed to lock her in a maximum-security prison, from which she escaped... ten thousand years later. Having deemed organics to be too error-prone and hubris-ridden for their own safety, she strives to unite them all under her forcibly-modified, brainwashed rule. And while Durandal/Thoth thankfully doesn't answer her call in time, she muses about how once he does, she'll peel back the layers of his mind and see what she can use.
  • Marathon: Fell: Balapoel, who's been aiding the commander of the UESG Tethys for a not-insignificant span of time, coldly turns on them after his rival, Parael, attempts to warn you of his true nature: a formerly-human war criminal.
  • Each of the bad endings in Eternal:
    • Ch. 1: Marcus, under Hathor's guidance, wrecks Durandal's core and takes his primal pattern, so that he can no longer impede the two's progress...or help the crew fend off the Pfhor.
    • Ch. 2: Tycho, who's not quite himself anymore, formulates a plan to trap and eliminate Hathor—that fails miserably. Or did he allow it to fail?
    • Ch. 3: In staying behind to repel the Pfhor from Lh'owon and spare the S'pht from centuries of slavery, Marcus unwittingly provokes the slavers into firing the trih xeem. During the subsequent run through Inti Station, Marcus has his first run-in with the shadowy, deadly Phantasms—without any weapons capable of harming them, mind—and receives a message from none other than the motherfucking W'rkncacnter.
      • It should be noted that in version 1.2, the player may now be able to harm the Banshees (the Phantasms' replacement), but the level is still plenty terrifying, particularly since the only weapons in the player's arsenal at this point that can harm them are the fusion guns and the staff, and given that there's no fusion ammo anywhere in chapter three, there's a good chance the player has run out. In any case, the player's arsenal is finite, but the Banshees keep coming back (though at a less insane rate than they did in previous versions of the game). The best advice is to run from them whenever possible.
    • Ch. 4: With nothing to prevent Hathor—now horribly unstable from all of her fighting with Marcus—from taking a Jjaro dreadnought, she does so, and heads off to finally make humanity pay for her unwanted state of being.
    • Ch. 5: Marcus shows mercy to Hathor and goes with her to destroy the W'rkncacnter and allow the Jjaro to continue living, instead of completing a mission for the Watcher that would result in trillions of casualties. What he doesn't realize until the end is that the demon that crashed on Earth would never be detected...
    • Beyond all this, there's also the backstory. At one point, all organic life in the galaxy is wiped out as a consequence of the Jjaro's war with the W'rkncacnter. It's implied that this was an accident, as a weapon intended to target the W'rkncacnter wound up affecting organic life instead. The Jjaro and W'rkncacnter are both, in some ways, Advanced Ancient Humans, mind you, though they have ceased to be organic. They are also both the same species, making the plot a fairly strong case of He Who Fights Monsters. And none of this is resolved even in the scenario's "good" ending; in the final level, Durandal explicitly states that averting a galaxy-wide catastrophe will be the player's next mission, and that it will be harder than anything they've done before.
  • Spacial Outpouring. Was Infinity not unnerving enough for you? Here's a surreal scenario with dark, abstract art/sound design a la Yume Nikki and an ominous, ever-present sense that something's not right.
    • The penultimate level of chapter one, "Casualties of the Wingding Zone": the player character is sent to retrieve a useful device from the domain of a self-professed "porn shaman". Who would call themselves that? Someone whose lair is powered, operated, and comprised of mutilated women, that's who. In his sole terminal, the shaman gleefully states that many of his victims have either fallen to despair or are desperately trying to thrash their way out of their confinement. At one point, Fractilion (one of your "allies") warns the player character that the same fate could befall them if they're not careful.


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