Halloween's coming up, so we'd expect you to be settling in with some genuinely creepy games and classic horror movies that make you want to keep all the lights in the house on. Want some suggestions? Okay, here you go: Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time...oh, wait. You mean none of those sound terrifying to you? Think again. There's a million games out there that may seem completely innocent and even childlike at first. But from the acid-trippy-grinning Moon of Majora's Mask to the final showdown of Earthbound, these seemingly benign titles are positively riddled with nightmare fuel that creeps you out when you least expect it, making these games (at times) scarier than their intentionally spine-tingling counterparts. Grab some fresh undies, because we're bringing you four unintentionally terrifying games. Be prepared for spoilers!
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
You wouldn't usually be afraid of a Zelda game, would you? The classic hero, the timeless adventures, the eerie moon that's about to crash into Termina and annihilate the entire world?! Let's start with the fact that, in three days, if Link does not play the Song of Time, everything and everyone will be wiped from existence. If you grew up with the indomitable Zelda franchise like yours truly and leapt from Ocarina of Time (which had its own share of unsettling instances) to Majora's Mask, it was quite a shock to the system. Termina, a parallel world to Hyrule, was unnerving in itself. Even the ad campaign for the game was horrifying, so at least you had a little warning before undertaking the mammoth task of, well, saving everyone and everything. Luckily you have the aid of dead characters to make things a little easier – Zoron and Deku, to name two...and you're pretty much becoming said characters through wearing their mask. The grotesque mask sequences subject Link to disturbing transformations as he screams bloody murder and doubles over in pain. You'll be aching to spend some time with the cuccos after seeing that. The Happy Mask Man who seems to be stalking you throughout the entire game even has Mario's mask (or soul), for crying out loud, and he's always smiling. The Elegy of Emptiness and Stone Tower Temple are gut-wrenchingly horrific, you can look up into the sky to see the Moon's empty, soulless smile, and be reminded of exactly what's resting on your shoulders. The list goes on and on. If you're still not completely convinced, just ask BEN.
Super Mario 64
Ah, Mario. It's all fun and games with the quintessential plumber platformer...unless you're playing Super Mario 64. I've got one word for you: Unagi. Yes, the monstrous eel of Jolly Roger Bay, where you were deep under the sea (alone), and you needed to provoke this thing to attack in order to get past. Its blank stare, razor-sharp teeth, and lightning-fast attacks combine to make it the absolute Unholy Terror of Super Mario 64, and launched a million hydrophobics from that day forward. From the opening notes of the 64-bit iteration of Nintendo's prized franchise, things are fairly sinister: the transforming portrait of Peach to Bowser, a piano with teeth, and even Bowser's castle in general. A lone, empty castle, beckoning you to enter one of the several doors within. No one but Toads around, and scarce Toads at that. The endless staircase, the flaming portrait of Lethal Lava Land, and heck, jumping into portraits, period...for some reason it's all downright creepy. And to this day even as a veritable nightmare-monger I'm still as repelled by Super Mario 64 as I am by Rene Laloux's Fantastic Planet. Yeesh.
The Mother games have always been slightly off-kilter, but usually in a pleasant, offbeat way, where you laugh at atrocities rather than cower in fear. Sure, names like Poo can be hilarious. And Pokey has some pretty giggle-inducing lines. But all the fun and games soon end with the hellish endboss/fetal nightmare Giygas, as well as the general lighthearted tone of the adventure. Some fragmented speech and a horrific vision of the tortured soul take a swift turn into something decidedly more evil, making this an encounter that's stuck with me over the years. And think back on the final turn of events in the game. What about Happy Happy Town and the crazy cult people? If you've been cruising through Earthbound all this time thinking it's purely a child's game, then you clearly haven't been stopping to smell the roses. Next time you have a spare moment, have a listen to just Giygas' battle theme, and tell me you're still happily traipsing along in a kid's game.
Ecco The Dolphin
Finally, a game about a cute little dolphin! There can't be anything wrong with Flipper, right? Allt he beautiful sea life and tranquil exploration under the sea...oh, wait. Actually, pretty much everything is wrong with Ecco The Dolphin. The extreme isolation of navigating the waters, avoiding fairly frequent potential one-hit kills, fighting off aliens, the fact that Ecco is actually a time-traveler...yeah, you might have only noticed the Nintendo-hard difficulty when you were a kid, but as an adult it's hard to miss the more disturbing overtones. Remember “Welcome to the Machine?” You're welcome.
'Fraidy-cats of the world unite! We're sure you've screamed like a little girl at several other games. You have a thing with Crash Bandicoot? Did you play The Island of Dr. Quandary when you were a kid and cry as soon as the game began? Let us know and we'll promptly make fun of you. Er, sympathize with you.
Brittany Vincent is a freelance writer who routinely eviscerates virtual opponents and tempts fate by approaching wayward Zoloms. A connoisseur of all things bloody and bizarre, she's available to chat via Twitter @MolotovCupcake, and is always ready to take on new projects. You can peruse her archived work at PfhortheWin.com