Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Nightmare Fuel / Portal

Go To
Before you start believing every insane mantra you see scribbled on the wall, I should mention that a few of my former test-subjects went a little...crazy. In non-test related circumstances.

Despite the witty, sarcastic humor of the writing, digging beneath the surface of Portal will reveal a world of deranged insanity. Trust us, Aperture Laboratories isn't all sunshine and daisies.

NOTICE: This is a Moments subpage for the Portal series. There are major spoilers beyond this point, all of which are unmarked as per policy. Venture further only if you dare! You Have Been Warned.


  • The early parts of the game are just meant to be more straightforward with occasional bits of comedy, but when you look back, those parts can seem really eerie. You're trapped inside an empty building, moving from one room to another, without any clue as to why you're taking these tests and no sign of anyone being there. You are guided by a voice that seems friendly enough, but becomes more and more sociopathic the farther you go, and is probably not even human. Even the reward you're promised for completing testing is suspicious. Which of course builds up to the true nature of Aperture and your mysterious guide...
  • Speaking of, you reach the (supposed) end of testing, only for you to be greeted by a burning pit of fire, and the guide above you telling you it's time to die. If you aren't quick enough to figure out how to escape, then you'd be burned alive.
  • The turrets are about as Faux Affably Evil as a non-sentient machine can get, and it's incredibly unsettling. Their chirpy voices and superficially polite-sounding dialogue was (in-universe) probably meant to make them less intimidating, but that doesn't change the fact that they can, and will, riddle any living being they see with bullets. If anything, the dialogue makes them even creepier, with some lines that wouldn't be out of place coming from a serial killer.
    Turret: (while searching) Could you come over here?
    (upon finding target) I see you.
    (deploying) There you are.
  • The areas behind the platforms when you go off the rails and see the scribblings of former employee Doug Rattmann become unnerving. This guy has clearly slipped into insanity, and he even knows that at the end, you'll just be met with an agonizing death by burning, and to top it all off, you can see exits just out of reach, and nightmarish music plays in the background.
  • The last three levels of the game have you going inside Aperture. The dim, occasionally flashy lighting, the occasional turrets, the writing on the walls... and of course, listening to GLaDOS' voice echoing through the whole industrial maze.
GLaDOS: This is your fault. It didn't have to be like this. I'm not kidding now. Turn back or I will kill you.
  • Even just the design of these levels. Gone are the clean, spartan test environments, now everything is rusty, breaking apart and dingy, with harsh orange and red lighting everywhere. A lot of players have even likened this section to being in Hell, with a line from GLaDOS only reinforcing this fact
GLaDOS: You're not a good person. You know that, right? Good people don't end up here.
  • Confronting GLaDOS. She's not only a humongous machine hanging above you, she becomes more and more deranged the longer you fight her. And when her Morality Core comes off, she suddenly drops her Monotone voice and becomes creepily seductive, making her ten times more terrifying than before.
  • The ending, at least for poor Chell. She fought her way through Aperture, and got so close to freedom, only to be dragged back in just before losing consciousness.
  • As chipper as Still Alive sounds, the lyrics have a lot of dark suggestions despite the upbeat tune. There's a lot to go into, but the most obvious is the name itself: still alive. As in... GLaDOS is still alive. Even after everything you did, she's still alive.

Portal 2

  • The first teaser trailer begins with a long, eerie shot over the dilapidated Aperture facility, long overgrown by foliage...before GLaDOS' eye starts to glow.
    It's been a long time. How have you been?
  • The first Portal didn't necessarily have a time frame, but it was assumed that it was taking place probably around the time the 'Half-Life' games were being developed. Well, throw THAT out the window - you start in statis for 50 days, then after a malfunction, it turns out you've been asleep for centuries. How many centuries? We have no idea. As if you weren't disoriented enough in the first game with not knowing where you are, good luck figuring out WHEN you are.
  • The very first main menu background screen, along with the bgm that greets you upon starting up Portal 2 for the first time is met with the deactivated, yet not-so-dead GLaDOS. For first timers it can be quite chilling, and at the same time excites one to what will/may occur during the story after the first Portal chapter. Regardless, just seeing GLaDOS like that is enough to put anyone on edge once they boot up Portal 2 for the first time.
  • When GLaDOS first wakes up and the first thing she says is "Oh, it's you," in the coldest, most hate-filled tone she ever speaks throughout the two games.
    • And she has good reason to. As Chell climbs out of the incinerator room, GLaDOS explains that, after Chell killed her, she discovered she has a black box feature, one that preserves the last two minutes of her life for analysis. She spent centuries of real time reliving Chell killing her, over and over again. And when she finally wakes up again, Chell is the first thing she sees. No wonder she's pissed.
GLaDOS: I've been really busy being dead. You know, after you murdered me.
  • In Chapter 3, Test Chamber 17 you can discover a hidden chamber, with some choice graffiti: "Fear the turret for it is knell, that summons to heaven or to hell." There's a picture of Chell unconscious, suggesting that she's dead.
    • Once you leave the hidden chamber, the opening closes, and so does the door to the office looking over your test chamber. It's almost like someone watching you. With some careful shooting, when you get the Hard Light Bridge to lead you to the observation room, you can get a portal into the hallway; go in and there is no one there.
      • There's also a door that leads to the Rattman den, and you can't get it to open from either side. And when you're in the den, you can still hear his voice. The soundtrack calls the audio "Ghost of Rattman", giving the whole area a bit of a haunted vibe. Possibly literally, given that Rattman should be long dead by this point...
  • At one point, Wheatley tells you a ghost story about a manager who lost his mind and chopped up his entire staff (of robots, of course), and that you can still hear the screams... of their replicas. At first, it's funny — until he notes that they have no memory of the incident, and thus there should be no feasible reason for them to be screaming.
  • Most of the songs in Portal 2 Soundtrack [Songs to Test By] are fairly great, both in action and ambiance but "Overgrowth" in particular stands out for being very low and eerie and just produces a sense of dark dread. The rest of the early chamber tracks sound relatively upbeat in comparison.
  • The core transfer scene. Hearing GLaDOS scream in pain as her face gets ripped off is horrifying. The imagery of the transfer device pit as a portal into Hell with fifty little claws and devices reaching up at her doesn't help, especially as the sound file for GLaDOS' scream is called "sp_a2_core_drag_to_hell01.wav."
  • Wheatley succumbing to GLaDOS's mainframe programming. At first, you may believe his Faceā€“Heel Turn is just his true nature coming out, or the nature of power corrupting him. But as GLaDOS explains, her body is literally corrupting Wheatley, turning him into an egotistical, vengeful bastard driven to test or else experience withdrawal symptoms. He has no real choice in the matter, and his idiotic nature makes it difficult for him to overcome the programming. When he is floating in space, he is genuinely remorseful and upset over his behavior, but were his terrible actions really all him, or was it the programming making him do so? If it's the latter, then it's horrifying to imagine friendly, sweet Wheatley forced to become a monster by a system designed to oversee Aperture itself...
  • Speaking of space, Wheatley must now spend the rest of his lifespan (depending on how long he can last without a power source) floating through outer space, never being able to make up for his mistakes, never being able to escape what he did to Chell and the rest of Aperture. Oh, and stuck with the Space Core orbiting him, ranting about being in space. Forever living in an existential hell, indeed.
  • Although some interpreted it as a Mercy Kill, some players found it creepy when GLaDOS coldly deletes Caroline right after admitting that she's the voice of her conscience. Not helped by the fact that a flatline can almost be heard after the deed is done.
  • The Rattmann Dens in the second game are just as creepy, if not moreso, than their first iteration. The broken lighting, the discomforting music, the pictures, all of it. But the scariest has to be in the den where you complete the Final Transmission achievement...
  • The menu music in chapter 6. So you spend several hours in Aperture's massive creepy parts, then you decide to take a break and quit the game and you're hit with that eerie, creepy magnificence. There's a reason why that piece of music is called "PotatOS Lament" on the soundtrack.
  • One of Rattman's murals (pictured above) shows a woman, screaming with the most horrifically drawn face, as several scientists die around her. The woman is implied to be Caroline. To make it worse, you can also see in the lower right corner of the mural what seems to be Rattmann begging for mercy or hiding behind a companion cube.
  • Cave Johnson's death by lunar dust poisoning. Not only is it a very real health hazard, but it's a very painful one. Studies on the long-term effects of exposure to moon dust suggest it can cause respiratory conditions similar to silicosis or asbestos, with possible damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems as well. Studies done after the game's release suggest lunar dust can cause DNA damage and potentially lead to cancer as well, so the man's final days must've been full of unbearable pain.
  • There's something extremely unnerving about the Easter Egg of finding the dry dock where the Borealis vanished. You stumble across a partially-concealed door in an old cubicle, walk through it, and discover a series of vaults...and then a MASSIVE space that's just empty enough to be terrifying. The lights are still on, there's still equipment overhead, and you can tell that something enormous was built there...but now it's just gone, with nothing but a life preserver to mark what it was. And unless you've played Half-Life 2 and know what happened, you'll have absolutely no clue why something like this was built hundreds of miles underground, or how anything like a full-sized ship could simply disappear without a trace.
    • Knowing the backstory of the Borealis arguably makes it worse. It turns out that Aperture was constructing something on that ship—the best guess is a way to replicate its portal technology on a massive scale—but at that point, their rivarly with Black Mesa was well established. In a desperate attempt to secure government funding, Aperture abandoned all safety protocols and activated the portal system early, which caused the entire ship, part of the dry dock, and everyone on board to vanish. Imagine how terrified those scientists and volunteers must have been...

Alternative Title(s): Portal 2, Portal 1