It seemed impossible, trying to evoke nightmares from what could only be described as a cluster of pixelated poppycock. And yet, way back when the PlayStation One reigned supreme — that’s exactly what happened on a regular basis. On one hand, we had the likes of Dino Crisis and other segments of genuinely terrifying horror. But on the other, we had family-friendly titles like Monsters Inc. and Theme Park, which were unintentionally creepy for all the wrong reasons. The problem was, we just couldn’t decide which of the two divisions was more disturbing at the time.
We’ve come a long way since blocky heads and bulging eyes, which means horror, as a genre, has evolved into something much greater. Only, the PlayStation One and its barrel of oddities still stand somewhere beneath the shadow realm, urging to be remembered. And the games, as old as they may be, are still wierdly capable of summoning such terror even today. Although the blow might’ve softened over the years, there’s still plenty to keep the faded memories tweaking a few nerves for creep factor alone.
5. 40 Winks
We’ll start off on the less-threatening end of the scale and put one of PlayStation’s greatest hits under the spotlight; 40 Winks, with all its ominosity and unorthodox storytelling. Sure enough, everyone that owned a PlayStation One had a copy of Eurocom’s earliest achievements back in 1999, and have even gone on to pursue the now-defunct developer for a reboot of the childhood classic. But having said all that — why was 40 Winks so popular for its time? And, more to the point — why was it surprisingly creepy?
Setting aside the fact that 40 Winks shares a similar style of gameplay to most sibling releases under the puzzle platformer belt, the outline itself is far more sinister, with nooks and crannies filled with creepy plugholes. Although the game targets a younger audience and doesn’t tend to onboard horror as its primary genre, the actual setting the story envelopes does give off some rather bleak vibes, with an eerie soundtrack to boost its ambience.
4. Disney’s Tarzan
Admittedly, we don’t tend to piece Disney and disturbing together in the same puzzle, especially with Disney’s gaming portfolio being
loaded with happy-go-lucky little platformers. But with that said, there has been a few minor details that have been anything but family-friendly over the years, with Tarzan holding a few of them within its game over screens. Okay, so compared to most modern-day titles, these are far from creepy, though, truth be told — they are a little far-fetched for a Disney game.
Should your health bar diminish and your credits run dry, what you’re left with is a spool of game over screens, each offering a unique conclusion depending on the level or boss. However, rather than witnessing a simple block of text, players are left to watch a motionless Tarzan, bedded with debris and left for nature to reclaim. Throw in some taunts from your oppressor and a few knife-wielding crooks standing over your corpse — and you’ve got yourself a collection of creepy, albeit unnecessary moments.
While you could argue that MediEvil is a horror game, many will likely brand the PlayStation classic as a child-friendly title with a PG-13 script and nothing more. Until, of course, you run into one of the many bosses that the game keeps tucked away. That’s when things take a turn for the worse, and that pleasant family experience spirals into something of another nature entirely. Up until those moments arrive, however, MediEvil does follow a pretty mild structure, with moments one could easily roll over without much cause for concern.
We won’t pretend that MediEvil isn’t the slightest bit creepy when it comes to the setting and overall plotline. Because it is. It’s dark, it’s unnatural — and it is, without a doubt, incredibly morbid. But with that said, nothing quite ramped up the fear factor as much as the bosses nested within the story. And the first proper example of that was the stained glass demon, which featured only partway through the opening chapters. In reality, it was a moving piece of art. In video game form, however — it was nightmarish, with all the bells and whistles needed to induce waves of unhinged fear.
Let’s be honest here — the PlayStation One had some friggin’ weird games. And if you thought Abe’s Odyssey was a weird one, then wait ’til you get a load of Skullmonkeys. And the reason I’m banding the two together in the same pool is because of the connections the two titles share. Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what to market either as, though the popularity based around both definitely speaks volumes for the genre as a whole. Whatever that genre is.
Skullmonkeys, besides being riddled with comical cutscenes and catchy components, actually simulates quite a disturbing setting, with muddy textures and twisted landscapes to tweak its conception. And while the gameplay itself does cater to a younger audience, the design and structure do tend to lean in another direction, with some of the features being far from focused on the target demographic. But even still, Skullmonkeys was a fantastic game that paved the way to plenty of other unique platformers. I mean, it was totally bonkers — but it definitely left a mark. A rather creepy mark at that.
Ah yes — I remember it well; the bone-shattering fear rolling over me as I poured sweat over the joysticks, kicking and screaming for the horror to just be over. It’s something I’m pretty sure we all felt — regardless of age or skill level. Spider-Man, despite being a superhero with a knack for one-liners and family-friendly beat ’em up action, truly did own up to having one of the most terrifying chase sequences to ever touch the gaming industry. And even today, it still stands as one of the most anxiety-inducing portions in video game history.
It was one thing having to fight the creature — but also having to actually outrun it with a series of obstacles blocking our escape? Now that’s where things started to take the cake. And it’s because of these spine-tingling moments Spider-Man delivered that we’re happy to put Monster Ock at the pinnacle of our list. It’s something we won’t be shaking anytime soon, no matter how many supervillains we put behind bars. So, to that, we say — well played, Activision. You officially creeped us out.