It's funny, how video games can unlock our deepest phobias and exploit them without a great deal of effort. Whether it's arachnophobia, claustrophobia, or even something as unusual as hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words, ironically) — nine times out of ten, there is usually a video game out there with all the right content to trigger your anxiety and send you running for the hills.
As time moves on, developers are beginning to advance on said phobias, using their gaming worlds as a virtual worst-case scenario for players to engage with their underlying fears without the added consequences. And it's actually proven to be a useful exercise in most situations — especially for gamers that are desperate to tackle certain obstacles head-on. Just take these five games, for example. Not only are they swarming with phobia-triggering obstacles — but are also pretty practical when it comes to helping overcome them. Most of the time, anyway.
5. Mirror's Edge (Acrophobia)
If you have an escalated fear of heights, then the thought of lunging over skyscraper rooftops probably doesn't do your anxiety any favours. Unfortunately, Mirror's Edge is exactly that — with the added motion sickness to accompany every duck, dip and dive as you hardcore-parkour your way across the textureless City of Glass. The consolation prize to this sky-high venture that you're hurled into? Well, if you're able to look past the pressures of throwing yourself off of rooftops and bridges, then you'll be pleased to know that the story is pretty solid. But that's about it.
Overall, Mirror's Edge is a fantastic series with some compelling character designs and narratives. The gameplay is smooth and most definitely satisfying, and its structure is essentially a parkour fanatics home away from home. But those with acrophobia, on the other hand, will probably want to take the stairs and give it a sharp miss. The ground just doesn't exist in The City of Glass, I'm afraid. You're always leaping from something, whether it be a kiosk or the apex of a government building. So yeah, heed my warning on this one. It's a long way up. A long, long way up.
4. Tomb Raider (Claustrophobia)
Being locked in tight spaces has been a major fear for centuries, with the overall phobia stacking up as one of the worst in the world. And although most of us are able to tackle a few crawl spaces without feeling the clenched grip wrap around our chests — some games have gone above and beyond to transform said spaces into compressed hellholes, where the light of day simply fails to exist.
When I think of enclosed spaces, including caves, mines, and anything involving mounds of rotting corpses and bones — I think back to my time with Tomb Raider. Something about having to wade through a tight crevice with a lit torch as something chewed at Lara's ankles just bothered me to a whole new degree. And having that fixed camera breathing down her neck didn't exactly help ease the stress, either. But, frustratingly, Tomb Raider was packed full of little moments like that. And while you'd expect to see a few situations involving forbidden tombs and what have you — I didn't nearly expect to feel as trapped as I did when sludging through Yamatai searching for ancient secrets. Claustrophobics beware. This one isn't for you.
3. Visage (Nyctophobia)
In this day and age, we're pretty much given the luxury of having our settings altered to match our play style. Gamma, brightness and balance are just a few of them, and have often assisted us during most horror titles, where the darkness basically looms around every square inch of whatever environment it is we're creeping through. Visage, on the other hand, refuses to give you such a luxury.
Although you can, in fact, tweak a few visuals during the game, Visage is still an insanely overpowering force that relies on pitch-black tones to create its twisted ambience. And the scary part is, with only a few sources of light made available throughout the game, the majority of your time will be spent wandering aimlessly through the dark, using sound as a compass and your throbbing heartbeat as a constant reminder of your paranoia. So, not great. But that's horror for you. It's no walk in the park, that's for sure.
2. Bloodborne (Arachnophobia)
Arachnophobia is probably the most common phobia on the planet — and for good reason too. Because let's face it, the media doesn't exactly balance the scales when it comes to understanding the eight-legged creatures. And if anything, media outlets, including game developers, do all in their power to fortify their reputation as being horrid, bloodsucking beasts with little compassion for the human species.
Bloodborne, being one of the many games that inject spiders into its core, is quite simply an arachnophobe's worst nightmare. Why? Well, because they fall from the sky, of course. Thanks to FromSoftware and their obsession with distorted creatures and bleak settings, Bloodborne employs eight-legged creatures like they rely on bloodshed to carry the game.
1. Subnautica (Thalassophobia)
The fear of what lurks beneath the ocean is a legitimate fear that has kept many steering clear of beaches and boat excursions for thousands of years. And for good reason too. Because let's face it — the sea is a dark and mysterious place, and we'd be lying to ourselves if we said we knew every square inch of it. And so, it's understandable as to why so many prefer not to step foot near it — let alone consider swimming in it.
On the surface, Subnautica is probably one of the most beautiful video games in existence. It's rich and vibrant, so chock-full of pastel colours and neon strokes, and every shred of its open waters is an artwork in itself. But for those with thalassophobia — it's basically a bottomless pit without a single redeeming quality. So, it's a difficult decision to weigh out, to be fair.
So, what games have triggered a phobia for you? What do you make of the above five? Let us know over on our socials here.