Let's face it: There aren't that many really creepy video games -- "horror" in the world of gaming is all about stupid jump scares and shooting huge monsters with a flamethrower. No, the best creepy moments always happen by accident, when you least expect them.
We're talking about the random glitches that make you shit your pants. We've told you twice now about how video games can, essentially, go rogue at a moment's notice, so let's again take time to gaze into the horrors that can lurk beneath innocent layers of code ...
Here's one underrated aspect of old-school video games: Every game cartridge was one nudge away from unrelenting horror. In the last iteration of this article we talked about cartridge tilting, in which slightly misaligning the cartridge in the slot messes with the game code in a way that makes demons come alive. But if you thought cartridges becoming obsolete would spare you the horror, you were wrong:
Uh ... Ernie?
YouTuber Vinesauce has an entire channel dedicated to playing "corruptions" -- game code that is run through emulator software that randomly alters the code, turning colorful characters into twisted deformities from a realm where terrified screams are the native language. The above is from a kids' game called Elmo's Letter Adventure for the Nintendo 64. Here's a clip, and you need to turn up your sound:
Yes, applying the corrupter opens the Pandora's box of misshapen nightmares hidden deep below Sesame Street. Muppets warp and jitter, their speech turns into demon hate language, and your childhood dies a violent death.
"Hi, Grover! What letter does 'dog' start w-"
"EMBRACE THE DARKNESS, MY CHILD."
As the first round of tears begins to exit your face, the Dark Muppets spew poetry of the damned in a sound not unlike Slayer lyrics sung underwater, while Elmo appears to understand every word. All the Muppets your childhood mind remembers from the PBS show are replaced by entities so evil that Death himself rejected them.
Actually, this is precisely how we remember Big Bird.
And Elmo just strolls happily through it all, having long ago lost his sanity.
Far Cry 3 is an open-world game about survival in the wilderness in which you fight off tigers and mercenaries in increasingly elaborate ways. But one thing they never prepare you for is how to fight off the most bloodthirsty menace of them all: an angry jeep.
This is just step one of its mating ritual.
Yep, that's a bad guy with his head stuck in the vehicle's undercarriage. The game apparently just can't cope with that, and so he thrashes around, screaming, with more blood than Quentin Tarantino's entire filmography fountaining out of his head. The player even tries to put the poor bastard out of his misery, with no luck, until he finally pops free on his own. The jeep has had its fill of blood ... for now.
This freak occurrence that looks like something out of Event Horizon actually happens in all sorts of games, because the whole point of open-world games is to create moments of spontaneous horror you can tell your therapist about later. Here's an equally horrifying one from Saints Row III:
"Wave your hands in the air like you just broke physics!"
That's an NPC with her head stuck in the side of a bus stop, a pool of blood slowly forming as she flails her arms in futility. Yes, even in a game in which the player is encouraged to wreak havoc among the innocent population, the very universe itself finds creative ways to endlessly mutilate and torture them, until they only find peace in death itself. Or maybe not ...
The whole appeal of a game like Skyrim is how alive the world feels, mostly due to the fact that the non-player characters seem to have lives of their own -- they go to bed and work and occasionally just sit around and watch Netflix, just like you! It's like they think they're people! So it wasn't that weird when a YouTube user called aaronrogers1975 went to talk to an NPC named Vilkas and found that he had been killed at some point off screen.
What was weird was that a few in-game days later, he found the man again:
Lose the eyeliner, dude; you look like The Crow.
Yes, Vilkas' body was now jutting out of a random field, looking like a freshly-dug-up Khal Drogo (sorry, but if you haven't seen Season 1 of Game of Thrones by now, we can't help you). Oh, and he talks. It's the same dialogue you'd get from the guy if he was alive, only everything Vilkas says is approximately 100 times more horrifying coming out of a fish-belly-white torso who can only stare at the sky.
"By home, I mean under your bed."
Now, for reference, this is what Vilkas looks like when he's alive:
Frankly, all Nords look the same to us.
It is worth mentioning that he's a werewolf, but that does not appear to be related to his condition in this particular instance. We hope. No, this seems to be an ordinary case of "Jesus Christ, what the fuck?"
"Yeah, a constant string of murders that won't end, even with my death. That sounds good."