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So many of the horrors of your childhood were only horrors in retrospect. You didn't know the magician was supposed to be wearing pants -- you'd never seen a magician before -- and didn't get why you had to talk to the cops later. This is why we're always amused to look back and see how some of the most memorably terrifying moments in video game history were in games played by children. We wonder if they even knew they were playing nightmare fuel, or if they just rolled with it.

But looking back? Yeah, it seems like kids should have been traumatized by ...

6
The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess -- Link's David Lynchian Nightmare

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess isn't the creepiest game in that series; it's not even in the top three (that honor goes to Majora's Mask, Wand Of Gamelon, and Majora's Mask again). It's a game about a guy in a Peter Pan outfit turning into a wolf and hanging out with a floating elf. How dark could that possibly get?

The answer is: all of the dark. In one scene, our hero is sent on a mystical acid trip straight to the 10th circle of hell. Things start out pretty tame, with Link floating calmly through an endless black void.

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The riff from "Sunshine Of Your Love" in now playing in your head.

Next, we see Link hanging out with his childhood friend, Ilia. Both of them are happy and laughing ... until she turns around and waves a blade at Link like she gonna cut him up real bad. Also, she seems to have misplaced her pupils.

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"YOUR MOTHER SUCKS LON LON MILK BOTTLES IN HELL!"

Ilia screams and drops the knife, and next thing you know Link is alone and he's the one with all-white eyes. What in David Lynch's therapist's name happened there? We don't have time to consider the disturbing implications, because this is when three dark-skinned, red-eyed Link doppelgangers show up and turn you into dust.

Nintendo
After giving you the most half-assed Heil Hitlers ever.

But wait, now Link is one of the doppelgangers, and he's laughing again (albeit slightly more evil-y this time). His good spirits don't last long, though, as the scene progresses and he ends up screaming at the camera.

Nintendo
That, or he's at the dentist.

But, really, it's when countless upside-down, maniacally giggling Ilias begin raining from a darkened sky that we truly begin to suspect we're not getting any sleep tonight.

Nintendo
It's like we're looking directly at Satan's desktop screensaver.

And, again, it's not like this game is devoid of lighthearted moments, like when a kindly Yeti lady takes Link in as he travels to a snowy mountain mansion, and- OH FUUUUCK

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You know this game was made in 2006 because the U.N. hadn't outlawed screamers yet.

5
Banjo-Kazooie -- A Rusty Mecha Whale Full Of Blood And Guts

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Banjo-Kazooie is a Nintendo 64 game in which a bear and a bird go around collecting jigsaw puzzle pieces, as bears and birds often do in nature. The game is full of colorful locations and whimsical characters ... which is why it can be a bit of a shock when you're exploring a dark sewer-like stage and come across this jolly face:


"Don't make fun of my speech impediment, Wanjo, you wastard."

Clanker is an enormous mechanical whale monster that finds himself eternally stranded in the middle of the murk, for the sole purpose of serving as a garbage grinder for the game's antagonist. Despite the "mechanical" part of the previous sentence, Clanker is absolutely covered in massive, bloody, fleshy scars. This suggests that 1) he might be a cyborg and 2) he's into some kinky Fifty Shades shit.


Further evidence of the cyborg theory: Robots don't pee in the pool.

Eventually, you end up traveling inside Clanker by shooting out one of his rotting old teeth with your projectile eggs, which is just the saddest video game puzzle we've ever heard. That's when you see his gross insides -- and, surprise, surprise, his belly is covered in red, gooey guts.


And some hula hoops that Pinocchio or someone forgot.

So, either Clanker is the product of some horrible experiment, or he's murdered so many people that his mechanical stomach is literally lined with their flesh. Come to think of it, the discarded hoops might confirm it's the latter. Yeeesh, just when you thought it was safe to go into the horribly polluted water with the giant, bloodied, metal dino-whale thing ...

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4
Kirby's Dream Land 3 -- A Giant, Hemorrhaging Eyeball Monster

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In the Kirby games you play as the titular pink puffball and run around colorful stages, sucking up enemies and absorbing their powers like the love child of a vacuum cleaner and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It's easily one of Nintendo's cutest franchises (which is saying a lot) and probably ranks right up there among the least-threatening-looking video game series of all time.

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Kirby: For those who think Solitaire is too intense.

Kirby's Dream Land 3 for the Super Nintendo upped the cuteness-factor even further by adding a bunch of cuddly-wuddly animal friend companions and a soft, pastel-colored art style that sorta makes the whole game look like a third-grader's art project. That is, until you reach the last level, which is when everything we just said is inexplicably replaced by a 16-bit re-creation of the eyeball-cutting scene from Un Chien Andalou.

The final boss is a giant floating eyeball called Zero who fires red beams from his cornea. Huh, it almost looks like those are blood droplets ...

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Is this Nintendo's subtle way of warning kids of what happens when you play too many video games?

And then you find out that, yep, that's totally his blood he's showering you with -- the more you smack him around, the more gushes out.

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Now we know where all the blood Nintendo took out of Mortal Kombat went.

It gets worse. Most final bosses simply fade away when you defeat them or go down in a series of unjustified micro-explosions ... but that wasn't childhood-killing enough for this game. Instead, the red-pupil violently rips forth from a rapidly bleeding gash and begins attacking Kirby one last time, while the rest of the eye falls off-screen.

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Presumably to land on a kid's birthday party.

3
Super Mario Sunshine -- A Giant Squid You Tear Apart, One Limb At A Time

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Squids in Mario games are usually erratically moving, profanity-inducing, hyperactive creatures shaped like Mickey Mouse gloves. Super Mario Sunshine, from 2002, however, injected a dose of grittiness to the Mario universe by introducing Gooper Blooper, a squid boss with more realistic proportions who wriggles in impotent agony as he bakes in the hot summer sun. As always, Mario's gotta clean shit up.

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We think. We don't even know what plumbers do anymore.

To beat Gooper Blooper, you need to pull out the cork that's stuck in his mouth and send him jetting away on a plume of ink, because science. The problem is, when you try to get close to his face, he whips at you with his tentacles. What's a frustrated plumber to do?

The answer, of course, is dismember the squid, slowly and with a disturbing and unnecessary amount of realism. It's the only way.

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The fact that squid tentacles go well in Italian lasagna is coincidental.

You have to jump on his tentacles one by one to stun them, then tug at each one for a couple of seconds until it finally snaps and flails around noisily in Mario's hands, as if the poor creature's severed nerve endings were misfiring. Once all of his tentacles are torn off, you're free to approach his face and struggle to pull out the cork, which takes another few seconds of tugging and yanking while the now-defenseless animal visibly suffers. Cartoon teardrops gush from its tightly shut eyes as Nintendo's beloved kid-friendly mascot basically tries to pull its face off.

Nintendo
Perhaps a Mario/Splatoon crossover wouldn't be such a good idea.

To make matters worse, this boss reappears two more times in the game, and the only way to dispose of him is exactly the same each time, lending further credence to the well-supported theory that anyone who enjoys Super Mario Sunshine is an awful, awful person.

And speaking of Mario ...

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2
Super Paper Mario -- A Little Girl Who Turns Into A Stygian Horror

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If you looked at the cover for the Nintendo Wii game Super Paper Mario, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's Baby's First Mario Game.

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Or just a straight-up coloring book.

In reality, it's part of the Paper Mario RPG series, which means it's full of RPG staples, like HP points, stats, and unbridled insanity. The plot revolves around an evil magical being named Count Bleck forcing Bowser and Princess Peach to get married, which somehow summons a powerful artifact called the Chaos Heart. He uses the Heart to open up a big, black void in the sky that's gonna ruthlessly suck up everything and everyone in its path, bringing about the destruction of the entire (Super Mario) world.

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"Supercalifragilisticexpialidohhhh Shit!"

But that's not the creepy part yet. Bleck, being the wonderfully stock video game villain that he is, has a trio of sinister minions at his disposal: a Scottish warrior called O'Chunks, a dimension-traveling being called Dimentio ... and Mimi, a little girl with two ponytails.

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Or two head tumors. It's hard to tell with these graphics.

Awww, ain't she cute? Yep, until Mario finally confronts her, at which point she gets super pissed off and announces that she's revealing her true form. First, she very audibly snaps her neck, then spins her head around Exorcist-style.

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Mario's like, "... What the hell was in those mushrooms I took earlier?"

If you haven't already dropped the Wiimote and ran screaming from the room, you get to witness as long, spindly legs sprout out of her neck cavity and she assumes the shape of a huge-ass spider. What was once her little girl flesh is now deformed beyond recognition.

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"Hi, Mr. Roberts? It's-a me, Mario. Listen, is it too late to get my plumbing job back?

While in monster form, the bulk of her dialogue is just "mimimimimimimimimimi," which is further evidence that Nintendo writers secretly want to write H.P. Lovecraft fan fiction. Eventually, Mario and friends deal with Spider-Mimi the same way they deal with all of life's problems: by jumping on them until they fucking die.

1
Mother 3 -- A Kid Doomed To Spend Eternity In A Tiny Cell

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The Mother (or EarthBound) games are best known in America for 1) putting a kid with a baseball cap and a yo-yo in Super Smash Bros. and 2) being written about a lot on Cracked.com. For a series with the simple, straightforward premise of "psychic children fighting inanimate objects and hippies," these games seem to be packed with creepiness. However, nothing in the franchise is creepier than this:

Nintendo
Those suspenders?

Pokey/Porky Minch is a chubby, obnoxious, cowardly kid who at first appears to be nothing more than comic relief. By the end of the second game, though, the little shit ends up joining forces with the greatest evil in the known universe and fighting the heroes from a spider-mech suit thing. He's like the Nintendo version of Eric Cartman, if Cartman wanted to destroy all of existence instead of just the Jews.

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What is it with Nintendo and turning little kids into spiders?

Once you defeat the last boss, Pokey uses time travel to escape to another era ... but we find out in Mother 3 that he's still alive after 10,000 years. Turns out the effects of time travel have made him immortal and unkillable, but not any less of a genocidal jerk -- he wants to murder everyone who dislikes him, which is to say everyone.

But then, when Pokey sees he is to be defeated, he calls upon something called the "Absolutely Safe Capsule" and climbs into it for protection. The capsule seals Pokey inside, and its inventor reveals that it can never be opened by anyone ... including the person inside of it. So while Pokey is indeed "absolutely safe," he's trapped in a Transformer's gonad forever. And we mean forever.

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Within 10 years, he'll be continually drowning in his own tears (or other fluids).

Shigesato Itoi, Mother 3's creator, has confirmed that when the world ends in 5.5 billion years, Pokey will still be in there, suffering from the worst case of butt cramps known to man. Itoi also says he won't do more Mother games, probably because they'd just be Pokey sitting perfectly still for 10 hours.

Mike is obsessed with scary stuff in video games. If you'd like to read more spooky stories, why not check out his personal creepy gamer stuff blog.

We're pretty sure people who made things for kids secretly hate their audience. How else do explain the stuff in 9 Traumatizing Moments From Classic Kids Movies and The 7 Most Unintentionally Nightmarish Children's Characters.

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