News Article

Feature: Spooky Levels For Surprising Frights

Posted by Nintendo Life Staff

Sneaking up behind you

The night is finally here, when legend tells of witches, ghosts and ghouls terrorising the people of the world for, well, some reason. It seems a little pointless to learn about the origins of Halloween as it's basically a cheap costume candy-fest, and that's just fine. Grown ups often spend the night watching grisly horror movies or, if they're gamers, playing grisly horror games. We've already outlined some options for you, including downloadable horrors terrifying because of their awfulness, and some more conventional scares on Wii.

This feature on the darkest night of the year isn't focused on gaming moments that will make you jump out of your skin, but perhaps those that will make your skin crawl, or possibly creep you out and get you on the edge of your seat. They're also unexpected moments of spookiness; the best Halloween tricks, after all, are those you don't see coming.

Three of your fearless — well, not quite — Nintendo Life writers have decided to share a few of these moments with you.

In a game that is so otherwise full of life, Pokemon Red and Blue's Pokémon Tower is a spooky shock to the system. The tone as you enter Lavender Town is distinctly creepier, its sombre music filling it with a sense of sadness. While everybody else is out trying to become a better trainer, the inhabitants of Lavender Town lament the deaths of their beloved companions – it's home to Pokémon Tower, a graveyard for the monsters that have fallen.

Pokémon Tower is filled with ghosts, shrouded entities with wicked faces that are only revealed to be Ghost-type Pokémon once a certain item has been recovered – without it, your loyal team freezes with fear whenever a spirit appears. There are also remnants of a tragic event to be resolved: when Team Rocket try to steal the Cubones that dwell in the Tower to sell their skulls, one mother Marowak guards her child to the death. Her vengeful spirit then takes up residence in the building, only able to move on once you release her from her anguish through battle.

It jars with the light-hearted approach found elsewhere: Pokémon faint after fighting, they eat innocent Pokémon food. It's not really explicitly highlighted until this point that, like other sentient beings, Pokémon are prisoners to a mortal lifespan, even if the player never experiences it directly with their own creatures. It's a side to the world that is often hinted at in subsequent generations, but it's most affecting in Red / Blue.

Sin and Punishment: Star Successor is exactly what you'd expect from a Treasure-developed on-rails shooter. It's insane, high-octane action at 60fps, with literally thousands of strange creatures out to kill you: your response, naturally, is to blast them until they explode.

Its settings include a floating sky fortress, a destroyed city and an enemy base surrounded by lava, all epic and exciting in their way. Yet roughly half way through the game you take on the Ethereal Forest stage, an illusionary environment that represents lead character Isa's fears and memories of the past. As this is a Treasure game this dream world naturally includes unspeakable killer-horrors, all within an overbearing forest area, with swamps and a stunning lake shrine thrown in.

Rather standard monsters, by Treasure standards, include poison-spewing giant frogs, Medusa heads that scream in fury as they swoop towards you, a giant killer flying jelly fish, and a skeleton that bounces clumps of the aforementioned Medusa heads like a basketball before hurling them at you. There are also haunted wooden shrines that fire spirits at you, as well as man-sized grasshoppers that hide in long grass, forcing you to do some landscaping with your gun. Who knows if these creatures are actually supposed to represent these animals, all that matters is that they're dangerous and need to be shot.

So, what's spooky about that? It's all about the setting and presentation. This is one level shrouded in a worrying shade, with your pointer acting as a torch to light up the enemies intent on your downfall in various areas dominated by tall, menacing trees or deep canyons filled with flying creatures. The music also plays its part, maintaining an up-tempo beat while portraying the fact that this is not a normal place, even by Sin and Punishment standards. Then there's the final scene and boss fight: a peculiar creature provides a particularly tough challenge, with a backdrop of a perfect mini-lake, ancient shrine and a full moon filling the sky.

If you want a bit of intense action with a creepy atmosphere, this may be the stage for you.

There are numerous dark moments sprinkled throughout Cave Story, but they're usually small enough that they're easy to overlook, especially in light of the upbeat soundtrack and colourful visuals. However there's one particular moment — which we won't spoil for the few of you out there who haven't played this yet — that hits both the main character and the gamer so hard that you know you've reached an atmospheric turning point. It comes right after your fight with the Core, in a room full of the corpses of your robotic peers, and I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about.

But it doesn't end there. Once you escape the Labyrinth and work your way back to Mimiga Village, something hits you immediately: things have changed. The bright, bouncy Village theme has been replaced with an ominous, echoing soundscape, and the community of frightened but friendly Mimigas are all gone. You go from building to building, but you're alone. While you were off fighting, civilization crumbled beneath you, and ironically the area most teeming with life is the graveyard.

By this point in the game, you've paid witness to several of these gentle Mimigas losing their lives, but the scope and scale of this unseen disaster catches you instantly off guard, and only enhances the sadness of that recent, tragic boss fight. All of your friends are gone.

Afterwards you must revisit another early area of the game, The Egg Corridor, and you'll find the destruction there far more clear, with creatures hatched too early, either staggering around confused and half-blind or already dead. It's a tonal sleight-of-hand that maintains the narrative flow of the game, and yet makes you realize that the stakes have been raised substantially. And what's more, you're all alone from this point on. What could be scarier than that?

We'd love to hear about your unexpected spooky moments in gaming. Tell all in the comments below.

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User Comments (44)



Auracle said:

I totally agree with the creepiness of both Lavender Town and Cave Story after the Core. I also found many parts of Majora's Mask to be just plain creepy as well. The Old Chateau from Pokemon D/P was also very chilling to me. I love that creepy/ominous feeling.
P.S. Also, Other M also had several moments that gave me goosebumps.



Wonder_Ideal said:

The post-Core portion of Cave Story is rather chilling.
@The_Other_M I agree that the Old Chateau is a creepy place. Especially that painting with glowing red eyes that blink. I also found that part of the Glitz Pit chapter in PMTYD had an ominous and creepy feel to it.
@undead_terror Those would have made nice additions.



TruenoGT said:

The abandoned town in Zelda II (with the eye monsters floating around) really creeped me out as a kid. Metroid Prime 2 also has a lot of creepy areas!



Wonder_Ideal said:

@TruenoGT Metroid Prime 2 would have been great for this list! Not to mention the wrecked ship or pirate research facility on Ellysea in MP3 Corruption. Those mutants behind the glass in the elevator are freaky.



Whopper744 said:

Twilight Town in Paper Mario : Thousand Year Door was pretty creepy when I first found it.



Linkuini said:

@Joshers744 Even when people started turning into pigs? To me, that's the opposite of the sort of things that are in this article: it starts out unsettling, then becomes abruptly hilarious.



turtlelink said:

The Bottom of the Well and the Old Chateau were pretty scary too. Though I never found Lavender Town's music scary as a kid... Thought it was pretty cool actually.



nf_2 said:

Majora's Mask as a whole is pretty creepy. The entirety of Ikana Canyon is pretty much the peak of creepiness in the game.



Linkuini said:

Mickeyjunk Mountain in Epic Mickey is a pretty unpleasant place when you think about it. Nothing lifts your spirits like an hour of seeing your own likeness in a state of decay, right, Mickey?



Robin_Aisaga said:

Zelda has some creepy places to like the royal tombe, shadow temple, bottem of the well and not to forget ikana canynon.
I think all metroid games are pretty scary to



ogo79 said:

happy all hallows eve, tonight im going to hopefully beat dracula in castlevania for nes



DreamyViridi said:

That's the first place in years that kinda creeped me out. It's map description doesn't help...
"A house known for a sad incident that is said to keep people away", yet you're never told what the 'incident' is.

Also, who can forget Super Mario 64 piano!?
Crazy thing scared the hell out of me the first time on the DS!



TysonOfTime said:

Other M's atmosphere creeped me out at times. I agree with Twillight Town being creepy too.

Oh, and spot-on with the S&P one.



theblackdragon said:

@LuigiMan300: holy crap, those stupid pianos had me nearly wet myself the first time i played that level when i was younger. i still don't like those pianos even now, haha :3



Geonjaha said:

I recently bought Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D, and tonight I had to face The Sorrow. I think that was fitting enough for halloween.



Neram said:

The secret level in Star Fox where you get stuck in for eternity, and the music is unsettlingly twisted.



kyuubikid213 said:

The Old Chateau in Pokemon Diamond. The little girl popped up one day and I followed her. I could barely sleep when she wasn't in the next room. Also the rotom's eyes creeped me out.

And more recently, the Prankster's Paradise in Kingdom Hearts 3D. The clown's eyes following you was quite unsettling.



Radixxs said:

I learned about the origins of the religious melting pot that is Halloween today, and it was far from pointless. Actually quite interesting. What is now a "cheap costume candy-fest" started as 3-4 different traditional festivities in different cultures that were fused together eventually. I could go on, but it seems rather "pointless" here.



Picola said:

The silent realm in skyward sword - the perfect example of a creepy, nerve-wracking level in a game! Jeez when those reaper things came after you, the desperate rush to find another spirit drop - very fitting for Halloween!



Tricoloryoshi said:

The old chateau, the eyes watch you, and there are ghosts of humans that you find in there, I used to go there just to scare myself, I don't understand my younger self.



Plusle said:

I never go into Lavendertown after I completed the town I fly over it with Charizard and Sonic Cd gameover music scared me as a child. ;-;



Zombie_Barioth said:

Twilight Princess was pretty good at being creepy, especially the dilapidated mansion.

Non of the stuff from pokemon ever scared me, but I like these more subtle creepy moments stuck in seemingly cheerful, innocent games.



TheAmazingRaccoon said:

Changed my halloween avatar to reflect the whole Nintendodeath thing.

What about the old section of Oublie cathedral. Bonethiefs are so creepy, made worse by the fact that you take a huge sanity hit when they burst out.

Totally agree with the zelda ones; Anywhere where ReDead are is all the more creepy; that scream sends shivers down my spine.



Bassman_Q said:

You guys know that the Lavender Town music actually creates a warning message when you put the audio into a certain program to view all the tracks?

When I learned about that... Holy shiz I'm getting massive shivers right now. Just look up the facts with the Lavender Town music. It's friggin creepy. O:

So yes, Pokemon takes the crown of having the most creepy thing to be included in a game.



seronja said:

the piano from super mario 64 scared the living soul out of me xD as a kid i wasn't scared of anything it was just last year when i played for the first time super mario 64 on the DS that i jumped because of the damn piano -.-'



ThomasBW84 said:

@Radixxs I actually know the origins of Halloween, from a Scottish pagan tradition perspective anyway. I guess my point in the intro was that, really it's just become a costume candy-fest, so while the origins are interesting the majority of people, unfortunately, won't give two hoots.

Besides, this in Nintendo Life, not Ethnology Life!



Superconsole said:

Ooh! Also, in OoT when you encounter Dead Hand and the Wallmaster and in TP snowy region, with that horrible mirror bit urkk.



LolWut said:

That "Unidentified Ghost" from Pokemon red/blue would scare the sh*t out of me every time when I was 7. Srsly.

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