7 Creepy WTF Video Game Moments You Forgot Existed
Modern video games have a reputation for being more mature than those of the past -- overflowing with gritty violence, brooding antiheroes, and gritty brooding nudity. But most of us still remember a more innocent time in gamedom, when plumbers rescued princesses, yellow blobs ate yellow dots, and paddles ponged. But the reason we think about classic games as being nothing but good, clean fun is that, like all childhood trauma, we've pushed out the truly dark, shocking shit that went on in them. Real disturbing stuff like ...
In Majora's Mask, You Can Get A Child Drunk (And/Or Lobotomized By Aliens)
Boy, Link sure has it rough in The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. After being kept in stasis for seven years, the savior of Hyrule awakens to find himself in an adult body in a world as messed up as his sudden hormone surges. Eventually, he defeats a pig Godzilla and saves the sexy princess (and a sexy rancher's daughter, and a sexy fish-woman, and a bunch of sexy sand pirates). But though he crossed time and space to rescue her, Zelda resets the clock and sends Link home without so much as a farewell kiss or a "Thanks for being a pal" handjob.
"I need some space -- preferably several loading screens away."
If any hero deserves a holiday, it's surely Link. That's where Majora's Mask comes in. After being rejected so hard that his testicles un-drop, kid Link decides to go on a road trip to reconnect with his literal wingwoman, the fairy Navi. Instead, he quickly finds himself trapped in a weird apocalyptic realm in which the same three days keep repeating until he can save the world from doomsday. But time isn't the only thing that's flexible in Majora's Mask -- it seems that child protective services have called it a day as well.
These look like scenes from Mr. Polanski's Neighborhood.
At some point(s) in time(s), you become friends with a young woman, Cremia, and her younger sister Romani, both of whom look suspiciously like the rancher's daughter you saved back in Hyrule. So much so, in fact, that you really have to ask yourself if Link isn't working through some issues deep inside a medieval sanitarium.
Playing any Legend Of Zelda game counts as a college credit in Freudian psychology.
If you spend some time alone with Romani, she'll happily confide to you that her big sister is letting her drink a whole bottle of Chateau Romani, a potent beverage usually reserved for the rite of passage into adulthood. You have to get into a members-only club in a basement and wear a cow mask to drink it, so you know Chateau Romani's the stuff they usually reserve for adults and their naked painting parties. But Romani is Link's age, so it's a mystery as to why she's being given free rein to knock back the good stuff ...
... until you realize that her sister is intentionally getting her hammered so she won't feel any pain when the apocalypse hits.
Cremia knows that the world is probably going to end -- the Moon's death mask of a face keeps getting closer and closer to the ground with every passing minute, so it's a reasonable assumption to make -- but little Romani is blissfully ignorant of this, something that can only be explained by how goddamned smashed she is all of the time.
"No no, that's the looming specter of alcoholism. Nothing to worry about!"
After a while, Romani will ask Link to help her deal with the little problem of aliens abducting their cows. If, like her sister, you decide not to believe this tiny drunkard's ramblings, the next day you find Cremia sobbing helplessly, as her sister has been abducted herself. Romani does reappear later, but forevermore, she has a thousand-yard stare, speaks in a flat, zombified tone, and twitches uncontrollably every so often in a violent full-body spasm. All you can do is leave her be and hope she can find some peace at the bottom of a milk jug.
"Drink more Chateau Romani! It help you forget the probing!"
In Knights Of The Old Republic, You Can Force Your Friend To Murder Another Friend
In Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, you play Revan, a Jedi knight hunting for a Sith superweapon known as the "Star Forge," because it wouldn't be Star Wars unless there was a superweapon with fucking "star" in its name. Eventually, you are given a chance to turn to the dark side. Of course, if you do, you have to reckon with the small posse of goody-goody characters whom you've been collecting over the course of the game -- in particular a Wookiee named Zaalbar and his super best friend Mission Vao, who grew up with him on the mean streets of [Gibberish Space City]. After you turn to the dark side, Mission not only refuses to believe you're evil, but states outright that you're going to have to kill her to prove it. And you could kill her yourself, but where's the fun in that? Why not ask Zaalbar to do it for you? And by "ask," we mean "use the Force to manipulate a teary-eyed Wookiee into slaughtering the only friend he's ever had." It's like Old Yeller, but with bowcasters. And in space.
And the dog's doing the shooting.
That's not the end of it, however. You Force-forced a Wookiee to kill his best friend, so it's only a matter of time before he comes for revenge. If you keep him around after this point, he eventually tries to ice you during the final mission of the game ...
... which, of course, you thwart by killing him easily, bringing this sorry saga of magically betrayed friendship to an end. At least you get a giant, smelly carpet out of it.
In Tomb Raider, You Lure A Harmless Clone To Her Death
Every Tomb Raider game broadly follows the same plot: You, as Lara Croft, explore ancient ruins, dodge deadly traps, and suffer chronic back pain, all in the name of discovering history's greatest treasures. Oh, and you're also going to kill the absolute fuck out of anyone or anything that gets in your way, regardless of its scientific value. We don't know what the going rate is for a mystical talisman or dragon-spewing dagger, but we're sure as shit that it pales in comparison to what science would pay for a living, breathing Tyrannosaurus Rex.
It belonged in a museum. Or perhaps a theme park.
Lara Croft is an equal scourge upon the non-antique -- throughout the series, she wastes countless wolves, tigers, bears, and skeleton monsters. All of this, however, is a kindergartner's exercise in cruelty compared to that time she tricked a friendly primeval shapeshifter into dropping itself into a pit of lava.
This technically counts as ET Rule 34.
In the penultimate level of Tomb Raider, you stumble upon a chamber containing a mutant doppelganger of Lara. The creature is totally harmless, it's only defense being to mimic everything you do in order to guilt you into not murdering it. If you leave it alone, it'll stand there mirroring your movements in horrible winsomeness until the end of days. If you pull out your guns and open fire, however, it'll imitate your movements and fire at you -- not out of malice, but because it's now copying a psychopath.
Once you've finishing having fun with your new self-pal, you'll probably try to leave that chamber -- those endangered species aren't going to shoot themselves, after all. The only problem is that the game won't let you leave until, for reasons that are unexplained, you have dispatched your doppelganger. You can't shoot it (it's impervious to bullets) and there are no bears to maul it (you would've shot them all anyway), but you can trick it into committing suicide like a low-rate supervillain. Through a series of acrobatic maneuvers, you open a shaft leading to a lava pit, and your inside-out doppelganger, enthusiastically reproducing your movements, plummets into the molten rock below, to be unmade by the unholy fire that presumably birthed it.
We take it back, this is Gollum Rule 34.
You're then free to continue onward, safe in the knowledge that it'll be at least another 11 Tomb Raider games, two movies, and a reboot before Lara develops the emotional depth needed to think about the consequences of her actions.
No one enjoys remembering their Evanescence period.
In Missile Command, Everyone Dies And You Can't Prevent It
Missile Command was released in 1980, when the Cold War and video game technology were occupying opposite extremes of the "American thought devotion" line graph. You are tasked with protecting the West Coast from being blown to bits by ballistic missiles. Mistakes will be made and casualties are unavoidable, but all the game asks is that you do the best that you can to defend freedom from being incinerated by white-hot nuclear fire. Of course, your "best" winds up not really mattering, because the game ends the same way regardless of how well you do.
The only difference is how many quarters you're willing to spend before you accept it.
You see, like most arcade games of the time, Missile Command didn't really "do" endings. We'll never know if Pac-Man got help for his pill addiction, or if Frogger ever found love on the other side of that road. Developers didn't give a shit about rewarding players with anything other than a high score, so the point was to keep putting coins into the arcade machine until the game became impossible and you had to start over. It was the same deal with Missile Command, but with six cities and millions of lives on the line, reaching that "unbeatable" point seemed somewhat more harsh.
The world is bathed in ash, but at least the game doesn't throw it in your face.
And Missile Command was never intended to be anything other than utterly disheartening. The game was originally titled Armageddon, but that was scrapped by executives because they didn't think gamers could spell such a difficult word (and you thought constant health regeneration was condescending). Spelling tests aside, the game was always meant to put players in a situation in which they were totally helpless and unable to prevent themselves from being overwhelmed. You have to sit there and deal with every single warhead fired at you, knowing full well that you don't have enough ammunition to stop all of them. Do you try to save all of the cities? Do you prioritize a few and leave the rest to burn? There's no ending, because the game was already over the moment the nukes were launched. It's no wonder that Dave Theurer, the game's programmer, had nightmares throughout development. We wonder if the guy who invented Tetris tosses and turns in bed, forever dreaming of a game in which the long piece never comes.
In Bionic Commando, You Explode Hitler's Head With A Rocket Launcher
Bionic Commando casts you in the role of Ladd Spencer, a man sent to infiltrate the villainous Empire and uncover their top-secret Albatross Project with nothing but a pair of sunglasses and a glorified harpoon arm. You eventually learn that the Albatross Project is the resurrection of history's most rancid dickhead, Adolf Hitler ... at least, in the original Japanese version. See, in Japan, Bionic Commando is called Hitler's Revival: Top Secret, and the Empire is explicitly a bunch of Neo-Nazis. When it came to the game's localization, however, Nintendo of America wanted to appeal to more demographics by taking a less politicized approach. (As if killing Hitler can't be a family activity.) So they stuck a beard and a pair of glasses on the world's most iconic evil and expected no one to notice.
"Me? I'm Hidolf Atler. Totally different guy."
However, Nintendo of America only changed the promo images and sleeve, being either too lazy or patriotic to actually take Hitler out of the game. So at the end, you do come face-to-face with a surprisingly Hitler-ish Hitler. The novice of disguise is trying to escape in a helicopter, and you have only one way to take him down: by firing a rocket launcher into the cockpit, turning everything into glorious pixelated debris.
It's always OK to punch this Nazi.
There's something about this weird, fragmented flip book of gore that takes all the fun out of firing a rocket directly into the face of humanity's reddest asshole. It's almost as if he still wins, throwing one more disgusting "Fuck you" in our faces while he dies instantly.
3D Monster Maze -- Rex Has Seen You
The '80s ZX81 game 3D Monster Maze was intended as an adventure game, but is probably the closest thing to survival horror those old-timey days had. The premise of the game is a little odd: A carny tells you to step right up and test your mettle against a Tyrannosaurus Rex "perfectly preserved in silicon since prehistoric times." It has been thawed from its giant tit prison and thrown into a maze just for you. The objective is simple: You're trapped in a maze with a ravenous T-Rex, and you need to find the exit. (There's a catch, but we'll get to that.) However, the game didn't have sound, so you couldn't rely on swelling music or thunderous footsteps to warn you of impending danger. You only got onscreen messages which, in hindsight, are exactly as calming as seeing the date of your own death scrawl itself out on your bathroom mirror. Here's how the game looks normally:
And here's what happens when Rex finds you:
Again, there's no sound. You're in a completely silent maze, with no way of knowing where he is until you see him barreling down on you:
Apparently, T-Rex will also fall asleep if you manage to get far enough away from his relentless ass, and as long as you don't run into a dead end, you can in fact outrun him. But don't get too comfortable -- this game is almost unwinnable. If you do manage to outrun Big n' Rich and escape the carny maze, you are "sentenced to roam the maze forever," which sets up a new maze for you to run through.
The worst punishment of all: having to continue playing this game.
You can appeal this harsh sentence with what basically amounts to a coin toss, though, if you really want out of this horrible nightmare world. 50 percent of the time, you'll be sent back into the maze to play again. But if your appeal is accepted, the game shuts down and your whole device (in this case, the ZX81) is reset. So yeah, successfully winning this surprisingly terrifying cat-and-mouse game rewards you by turning off your computer. That's like winning the Grand Prix and immediately getting ejected from your vehicle.
Old-School Drowning Animations Were The Stuff Of Nightmares
There are a million ways to die in video games. You can get crushed, stabbed, shot, or even sexed to death by an alien. But the worst death of all didn't use to come at the hands of the enemy, but from our own, as we fumbled with the controller trying to get our heroes out of the goddamn water. There was something about the old days that made developers go a little overboard with drowning animations. The most iconic underwater death struggle is probably the one in Sonic The Hedgehog. For a game that lets you cling on to dear life as long as you have a single ring tucked into your hedgehog pockets, drowning was swift and brutal. With terrifying countdown music that might as well be Death's ringtone, a sluggish Sonic will end up spread-eagled and screaming as the precious air flees his lungs and leaves him to sink to the forgotten depths below:
"Why did I never learn to breathe gold rings?!"
Not to be outdone by Sega, Nintendo's Super Mario 64 showed that Mario can drown with the best of them. Leave him alone in the water, and before long, you'll witness him clutching at his throat before doing a perfect dead man's float while impassive cartoon fish circle his body like it's the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday's:
His butt alone will keep them alive for months.
But it's one thing to see a blue hedgehog or cartoon plumber sink into their watery grave. It's something else entirely to witness the agonizing death of a (mostly recognizable) human being. Despite her massive D-cubes, Lara Croft was the closest thing '90s video games got to showing a real woman, so there's a haunting realism to her twisting and flailing as her brain slowly dies from oxygen deprivation before she goes limp, curls up, and folds into a fetal position.
Meanwhile, in a lava pit, a burned corpse cracks a smile.
And in case you thought you'd go your entire life without watching a child drown, Ocarina Of Time gives us a valiant display of a preteen Link's desperate determination to not become another homeowner's insurance statistic. He violently kicks his little feet and chokes before ultimately vomiting his last red potion back into the water -- which is such an accurate showing of underwater asphyxiation that someone at Nintendo must have a secret basement pool full of skeletons.
Then there's the always-melodramatic Metal Gear Solid, in which super spy Solid Snake doesn't merely flail and die; he has a freakin' seizure as electric impulses shoot through his body in a doomed panic:
They buried him in his cardboard box, as per his will.
In fact, the academic field of watching video game heroes die a sailor's death is so vast that there are people who have dedicated entire video channels cataloging them. YouTuber Dextorin has around 80 videos of animated protagonists screaming mutely as they are dragged down into the abyss, while the aptly named HURGHT has assembled 155 selections in a playlist titled "Let's Drown: An ongoing series about depictions of drowning, asphyxiation and general death by water in video games." Watching the whole thing in its entirety doesn't necessarily make you a serial killer, but you're definitely filling out the application.
Think Nana and Pop-Pop's loving 60-year monogamous relationship is quaint and old-fashioned? First off, sorry for that disturbing image, but we've got some news for you: The monogamous sexual relationship is brand-new, relative to how long humans have been around. Secondly, it's about to get worse from here: monkey sex.
On this month's live podcast, Jack O'Brien and the Cracked staff welcome Dr. Christopher Ryan, podcaster and author of Sex At Dawn, onto the show for a lively Valentine's Day discussion about love, sex, why our genitals are where they are, and why we're more like chimps and bonobos than you think.
Get your tickets here:
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out How Video Games Create Realism By Boring You To Death, and other videos you won't see on the site!
Follow us on Facebook, and let's never speak of Majora's Mask again.