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Nightmare Fuel / The Binding of Isaac

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This is The Husk, one of the many nightmares you'll see in this game. Believe it or not, he's one of the less dangerous ones.
We don't have high octane nightmare fuel on this one.
Simply saying "ALL OF IT" will suffice.
-A troper on the discussion page.

Indeed, for a game whose basic premise is a mother trying to kill her son, The Binding of Isaac is pretty unsettling.

However, a lot of the game's horror can also count as Tear Jerker. Isaac is abused and destitute, always unloved, always hated, in a house with an overly religious — and also homicidally, sociopathically insane — mother who hears voices. Oh, and the gateway to the Underworld is underneath his house filled with undead or otherwise demonic abominations of all kinds, that also adds a little bit to it.

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    Original and Wrath of the Lamb 
  • The designs for bosses in Wrath of the Lamb are horrifying, such as The Husk (pictured above). The new bosses seem to be the old ones... after you killed them. Most of them look absolutely horrible, but Peep's (now known as The Bloat) looks the worst by far. He seems to have collapsed on the inside and is bleeding from his eyesockets. Here's the poster.
    • That said, while the nightmares of his appearance will probably diminish sooner or later, The Bloat will likely continue to give you nightmares of a different kind...
  • The freakin' trailer. If the enemies looked creepy in 2D, imagine how horrifying they are in 3D! Or, don't imagine anything and just see it for yourself... If you dare.
    • The teaser for the remake is even worse - now everything is not only 3D, but creepy, rubbery puppets: Link Here. Their use of a photorealistic cat's head for Guppy's severed head is jarring and somehow adds a surreal edge to the horror.
    • And now we have the very NSFW release date trailer for Rebirth, which features live-action shots of naked people dancing stiffly in burlap sack masks while creepy music plays. Sweet dreams...
  • The tune that plays on the credits after defeating the true form of Womb's / Utero's boss. It comes as a great surprise because it replaces the BGM that usually plays on that sequence... And it's creepy as hell! Made worse by the fact that it's called "Jesus Loves Me." And some speculate that it's Isaac who sings it before suffocating in the Chest!
  • The Halloween update included a new level, Sheol. Which, to quote The Other Wiki, is: "The earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish scriptures. A place of darkness to which all dead go, regardless of the moral choices made in life, and where they are 'removed from the light of God'". You know, just in case this game wasn't dark enough!
  • The secret boss of the Halloween update. What appears to be the Headless Horseman, represented as a jawless rotted head charging about the screen while its body acts like the second phase of Pestilence.
  • Satan, the True Final Boss of Sheol simply smiles before fighting you. It's unnerving.
  • The fight against Mom, in particular her repeated calls of "Iiii-saac..."
  • ??? / Bluebaby is implied to be Isaac after having locked himself in a treasure chest during a psychotic episode.
  • Similarly: ??? / Bluebaby is speculated by fans to be Isaac or one of his siblings that died before birth and as a result is stillborn, hence the X'd out eyes and the blue appearance. "Blue baby" refers to the fact that it never took its first breath and is just a lifeless corpse roaming around, which is why he has soul hearts instead of regular health. He was never alive to have a beating heart in the first place...
  • The "shopkeeper", a dried-out, eyeless corpse hanging by his neck from a rope, which would imply he committed suicide.
    • That sure still doesn't stop him from taking the pennies off you whenever you buy something. Maybe he is unable to die altogether...
      • If that's true, then what about the times where he lacks a head?
      • Additional Paranoia Fuel — note the fact that when you fight Greed, he has a noose around his neck — one of these cadaverous shopkeepers got so mad or bored that he cut himself down and now wants to kill his customers. Now think that any single one of those shopkeepers could be him before you enter...
      • Take note of where you fight him. In secret rooms... and in shops.
  • Imagine your head being slowly transformed into a tumorous mass filled with flies, all while still conscious. You'll want to put those poor Mulligans and Hives out of their misery as quickly as possible.
    • And The Wrath of the Lamb? Has an upgrade that turns you into one.
    • Also from Wrath of the Lamb — the ones that have bombs painfully wedged into their skull and forced to charge at the player. Just imagine it for a second — imagine you got possessed and used as a completely unwilling Action Bomb.
  • It is implied that a lot of the monsters are Isaac's lost siblings. How the hell did they end up so horribly disfigured and WHY are they there?
    • Well, considering the things that appear IN HIS MOTHER'S WOMB and in the general areas of the basement: maggots, mutated flies, what is most likely a nest of aggressive parasites, the devil, evil arcana, blood all over the place, Isaac's mother, the karaken, a daedric prince, and randomly appearing flames, it seems likely that Isaac was either the firstborn and other kids came after the problems, or Isaac is just as tough as the person who defeated a knife-wielding maniac with no weapons.
    • Word of God is that the monsters aren't Isaac's siblings, but Isaac himself. Somehow this is worse.
  • Not even the game's soundtrack is immune to Nightmare Fuel, even if it does often cross into Awesome Music. But probably the biggest offender so far would have to be Apostate. If anything, this track just goes to show you how really alone you are. It also doesn't help that this is the theme to Mom's womb.
  • Many of the items Isaac can collect are extremely useful, but many carry a high cost in Body Horror or life energy/soul. Some of the worst are actually the most useful:
  • Most of the bugs of the game just fiddle with mook and boss behaviour, or lock you out of certain things. Some other bugs, however, are genuinely terrifying. One of the most persistent bugs happens after clearing a level, when, after the game apparently freezing, replaces the bad dream intermission scene with a version completely in black and white, a la Sin City. Guaranteed to make you defecate bricks the first time you see it. Even more disturbingly still, no one really knows if it is a bug, an intentional feature, or both.
    • Glitched Isaac. Before it was fixed, it could pop up after blowing up a blue rock. It's a copy of Isaac, riding a pony, inside of a Book of Shadows's shield. It floated around the room, and its body contorted and spun at lighting speeds while its head stared constantly at the camera. And besides that, it did absolutely nothing.
  • In many of the secret rooms that you either find randomly from an explosive enemy or through a power-up, you'll find a single, desiccating corpse with a fly or two. In front of the corpse is sometimes a pile of coins, sometimes another power-up, but all the corpse does is sit there, rotting. Did he die from being walled up in Mom's basement? Is he the remains of one of Isaac's attempts at escape? What's worse, sometimes the corpse has no face.
    • Since he looks similar to the shopkeeper (sans noose) and since you fight greed in the shops and in the secret rooms, the person sitting in the secret rooms is speculated to be the shopkeeper/greed, if not yet another version of Isaac himself.
    • From Afterbirth, the dead shopkeeper/secret room body is confirmed to be Isaac, who hung himself in a secret room after being trapped in there.
  • There's a new boss in The Womb/Utero called Teratoma. Wait, what does Teratoma me- OH, SOMEONE TAKE IT AWAY!
    • For those who don't want to follow the link, a teratoma is a tumor with teeth, eyes, arms, legs, and maybe even internal organs. Oh, and they're generally there from birth. And the Teratoma is in the Womb...
      • Also? The Teratoma in Isaac is FILLED WITH SPIDERS. Think about that.
    • Teratoma might be horrifying, but it's not even close to being the worst bit of Body Horror that lends its name to something in the game. If you come across an unfamiliar term related to enemies or items, it's probably something you do not want to look up - especially if it's an item that does something horrible to Isaac when picked up.

  • The advert for the "Rebirth" expansion serves up Nightmare fuel hand over fist, what with the distorted music, flashing staticky backgrounds, masked nude figures and reverb-y, demonic-sounding singing.
  • The new song for Sheol... is this. It is fucking DEMONIC.
  • You thought Duress was bad enough? Well, try listening to it on SLOW FUCKING MOTION.
  • Rebirth brings us this beautiful thing, The Lamb. Just look at it!
  • From The Depths onward, occasionally you may hear Mom laughing from somewhere within the area. You'll then be assaulted by a pair of disembodied hands, presumably belonging to her, Wallmaster style.
  • The spinning disembodied heads in the Womb. They're a crying face orbiting around a lump of meat that slowly edges towards you.
  • Isaac transforming into a demon in the final ending sounds awesome, right? It's not. And that breathing will haunt you for life...
  • End 2 in Rebirth shows Isaac finding the Rubber Cement... and then he turns to the camera, with his eyes a horrifying milky white, as a Scare Chord plays.
    • Many of the endings in Rebirth are noticeably Darker and Edgier than they were in the first game: endings 3 and 5, like the ones in the first game, have Isaac hanging himself and his mom's arm dragging him into the chest, respectively, but we also have beauties like ending four where Isaac obtains the Wire Coat Hanger, soon finding it lodged in his head, ending 6 which has the poor boy getting sick due to the Ipecac and blowing himself up when he barfs in the chest, and ending 7 in which he finds the "Experimental" Treatment, which leaves him horrifically disfigured and mutated.
  • In Rebirth, the beginning of the fights with Satan and Mega Satan are silent except for the blowing wind. For the former, you wait a couple of seconds before fighting the Fallen. for the latter, you walk to a star in the center of the room. At that point, it starts spinning into a pentagram, Satan's battle theme starts playing, and Mega Satan materializes out of nowhere.
  • This track for the Dark Room.
  • Also the nauseating Womb track.

    Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ 
  • From Afterbirth, Hush, the bonus boss found after beating Mom's Heart/It Lives in less than thirty minutes. Its first form looks like a decomposing Blue Baby/???. Defeating this form reveals the real Hush, a gigantic mass of blue flesh. It has bullet patterns unlike any other boss, able to wrap bullets around the edges of the screen. And when you deplete its massive health pool and finally kill the damned thing, its face scorches into the ground.
  • If you thought The Womb was gross and creepy, wait until you see the new alternate version in Afterbirth, the Scarred Womb. It looks like someone took a chainsaw to the inside. The stage theme, while significantly less fleshy-sounding, is still oppressively dark. And then there's the fourth variation, ??? (referred to by players as the Blue Womb) where the aforementioned Hush is fought. While the Scarred Womb was pretty gross, the Blue Womb is just...dead.
  • Ending 17. Isaac's mother enters his room and finds his skeletal remains in the chest. Adult Fear in its purest form. Then there's Isaac's shadow turning into a demonic creature with red eyes and a Slasher Smile...
  • The trailer for Afterbirth+. Jesus CHRIST. It shows a far more polished 3d animation of Isaac in his decrepit room drawing a picture of Guppy. All is well...until he starts bleeding from his nose. As that happens, all hell breaks loose, quite literally: the walls crack and insects appear, dead souls come from below his bed and demons start taunting him. Desperate, he flees to his chest to hide inside...but the monsters open the chest and enter it to attack poor Isaac. All of it in first person.
  • The ultimate boss from Afterbirth+, Delirium. It's almost certainly the hardest boss in the game, acting as a Final-Exam Boss by mimicking all the other bosses' forms and attacks. But it's made all the more unsettling because it constantly jutters around as though it were undercranked, and will teleport and switch forms without warning. Add on an incredibly creepy theme, and the fact that it's a manifestation of Isaac's own deteriorating mental state, and you have the makings of a truly disturbing boss.
  • While also housing the aformentioned boss, the final level, The Void is truly, deeply unsettling thematically. While initially it might be an interesting effect seeing all of the rooms keep spontaneously changing their appearances from floor to floor and occasionally even glitching to a different appearance mid-room, think about what it means from Isaac's perspective. This is his psyche breaking down into nothing as he dies. Where there was some coherence to his delusional journey before, it's all falling away, the rules of the world loosening as his sense of logic decays. It's hammered home especially hard if you happen to die anywhere in this zone, as his will reads "I was killed by this thing in some dying memory...". Another part that makes this troubling is that, once the level is unlocked, you can gain access to it at total random when defeating any boss after Mom. While this can be seen as a nice (if completely suicidal) bonus, this gets even more horrifying connotations when you think on it. Isaac has prematurely snapped and has began his rapid downward spiral. Incidentally, said entrance can open with absolutely no warning, which can throw you straight into the jaws of this level without meaning to if you're not careful. Finally, consider what the entrance to that level is — instead of the Trapdoors, holes, or beams of light from other floors... It's a portal. The same kinds of portals that have been spewing out enemies earlier in the game. The whole time you've been playing and coming into contact with those portals, that's been Isaac teetering on the edges of his breakdown, fighting back and destroying this encroaching force of madness...which he will eventually succumb to.
  • The (presumably) final ending of the series is both this and a massive Tear Jerker. Isaac's breath speeding up and slowing down and slowly turning blue as he suffocates in the chest is already bad enough, it has a huge dose of Adult Fear in that Isaac believes himself to be a demon and committed suicide after his family broke up. A young boy committing suicide, no less. Perhaps the most haunting aspect is when the camera pans through a wall of photographs and drawings, which starts normal, until Isaac begins to draw himself as a demon with his parents arguing in the background.
    • In fact, all of the game turns into a massive example of Fridge Horror because of this ending. Every single thing in Isaac's horrifying journey, the sicknesses, the tumors, the bullying from his peers, the injuries from items like the nine inch nails, the malformed "twins", the brothers and sisters, the demons, places like the womb or its twisted versions, his very mother being a lovecraftian monster...all of it were part of Isaac's lunacy and self-hatred. Talk about Kids Are Cruel.
  • In the Shop floor of Greed Mode (not to be confused with the regular shops seen throughout), some of the waves include harmless shopkeepers/secret room corpses that spawn alongside enemies. This would be par for the course of the game's creepiness, but it gets worse when one considers what it might represent: As the gameplay is all-but confirmed to be a metaphor for Isaac's imagination as he gets closer and closer to death, and the Keeper (a playable shopkeeper) is the version of a deceased Isaac we see after Greed Mode, it could represent Isaac's mind throwing more and more corpses to remind him what is going to happen since he remains suffocating in his chest. In other words, as the Shop is pretty far in to a Greed Mode run, he's getting close to death by that point — something that the shopkeepers growing in number around him could represent. Then there's the more obvious Paranoia Fuel: Imagine turning around in the middle of a room swarming with enemies, finding dead bodies of you that don't move or do anything, but definitely weren't there before and are slowly growing in number.
  • The trailer for "The Forgotten" update. It shows Isaac's mother burying his skeleton after finding him dead in the chest. While this isn't too creepy on its own (it's more Tearjerker territory), the background music, "Hush (Jesus Loves Uke)", makes it at least a little creepy... And then in The Stinger, Isaac's/The Forgotten's skeletal hand bursts from his grave, without any warning.
  • As of Booster Pack 5, you can hear Isaac's mother yell her son's name whenever you clear Basement 1 in under a minute. It's a sign that you've started the path to unlocking The Forgotten.


Example of: