The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is pretty darn scary.
I don't mean in the same sense that Majora's Mask is unsettling for its whole run-time, and there certainly isn't a moment like that cutscene in Twilight Princess. But even now with my ridiculously overpowered, full hearts Link, Tears of the Kingdom has me on the edge of my seat more than any other Zelda game.
The Hyrule of Breath of the Wild was barren and desolate. The first real danger a lot of us probably encountered was trying to get to Hyrule Castle, and being swarmed by Guardians. Now that was pretty scary — the piano music and the beeping sound of the Sheikah robots as they lock on are etched into my mind.
Tears of the Kingdom lulls you into a false sense of security. The first place on the surface you visit is Hyrule Field, and it's completely different, no longer inhabited by these extremely dangerous creations. You'll spot Bokoblins and Moblins out and about, but that's it. Except that Hyrule Castle is floating behind Lookout Landing and the huge amount of red and black goop seeping out of the earth. And all of the caves. And that immense feeling of powerlessness has been racked up to 20.
A quick note here — I'm going to dive into some gameplay spoilers here, mostly just enemies and locations that have stuck in my mind the most. I won't be touching on the story at all. However, if you don't want the overworld surprises (or the scares) ruined, then feel free to gallop away...
Not having the paraglider on the Great Sky Island exposed my overconfidence. I got reacquainted with the controls fairly quickly but every time I was faced with a gap that I thought I could paraglide across, I didn't have it. You'd think I'd have learned not to blindly leap off ledges, but I didn't, so when I got the paraglider, I was straight down every cave, chasm, and hole I could find. What a mistake.
Tears of the Kingdom allows you to discover the wonders of the world at its own pace, but that also means you can come across the horrors of Hyrule. And the game doesn't really hold your hands when you do.
Horriblins are terrifying. The way they crawl around on the ceiling, scramble around to get closer to you, and the strange noises they make are really unsettling. The first time I encountered one, I was just wandering through a cave, smashing boulders, and then this large creature scuttled towards me. They held weapons glued together, and their hideout had slabs of meat lying around. I don't want to know what they were up to, but they really freaked me out. I hate the grunts they make when you walk into a room, and I especially hate fighting five of the Black Horriblin at the same time.
Don't Like Like it
One series creature that's gotten an 'upgrade' is the Like Like. These were already weird enough in Ocarina of Time but did anyone expect them to be as big as they are in Tears of the Kingdom? The first time you can see one of these is in a cave on the Great Sky Island, and I gasped audibly as I came across these long creatures. They make a horrific noise, like they're preparing to feast, and I'm never happy when I see one.
Other terrifying creatures lurk around the Surface of Hyrule, except they're out in the open, ready and waiting for you. The first time you meet a Gleeok feels like an event — at least mine did. In the Tabantha Tundra, I was trying to sneak my way past a Frost Gleeok, which was flying proudly around some ruins in the middle of the field. I failed, and I started running as the ominous music began. Before I knew it, it fired an ice beam at me and I was dead in one shot.
Three heads, each with one eye, staring down at me from the sky, Gleeoks make me nervous in a way Guardians never did. I relish the challenge of them now, but their huge size and ferocity are still enough to make me second-guess myself, particularly if you run into the strongest variants. There's something particularly distressing about the Thunder Gleeok in the coliseum or the Flame Gleeok on the Bridge of Hylia — the restricted area of ground movement means you need to think on the fly and, when you have a three-headed, three-eyed dragon trying to kill you, that's not easy.
Gloom and doom
I mentioned gloom above, but this substance is basically the answer to all of my nightmares in Tears of the Kingdom.
The first time I went into the Depths was stifling. What an incredible area to get lost in for hours at a time. The underbelly of Hyrule is swallowed by perpetual darkness, only illuminated permanently by the Lightroots that you find as you haphazardly make your way around the emptiness and throw Lightbloom Seeds helplessly ahead of you. It's addictive, yet it made me feel incredibly claustrophobic for a long time.
With patches of gloom covering swathes of the ground and gloom-infected monsters — more powerful than those on the Surface or in the Sky — taking me out in one or two hits and taking away my maximum number of hearts temporarily, it's enough to make you panic. I certainly did, abandoning all rational thought such as being able to fast-travel away from the danger or even, you know, retreat back to the safety of the Surface. Instead, I just died and decided I wouldn't be going back there until I was a lot stronger.
I wouldn't even say that dispelling the darkness resolves a lot of the Depths' horrors. Frox, a new type of enemy, can inhale you and spit you right back out. They're like a souped-up subterranean Hinox, except they're really fast and really big. The Stalnox, Hinox, Gleeok, and Flux Construct all have gloom versions. Couple all of this with the oppressive music in the Depths, and somehow, despite the powers at (and in) your fingertips, Tears of the Kingdom manages to make Link seem smaller than ever before.
I've deliberately left the worst until last, because I don't think anyone will ever forget their first encounter with the Gloom Spawn — more popularly known as Gloom Hands.
My first time was out in the open in broad daylight as I was gathering materials off the ground in a small forest. I thought the blood moon was rising until I realised what time of day it was and this big blob of gloom was suddenly five hands scrambling about to grab hold of me. I've never run away faster.
Even when I fight these now, armed to the teeth with bomb flowers and ice fruit, the distorted vocals and the music that plays sends chills down my spine. Like the Horriblins and the Frox, it's the speed at which these things move and the fact they can just pick you up like you're nothing. That feeling of restriction and panic is unparalleled in a Zelda game to me. And as for what can happen when you defeat some Gloom Hands... well, have fun.
I've spent so much time in Hyrule, and weird, scary things still keep happening to me. The Horse God Malanya is still a little creepy, and I love Stalhourses, but seeing them in the Depths was a little uncanny. Let's not even talk about heights.
But Tears of the Kingdom combines wonder and fear to incredible effect — for every special something you spot, there's bound to be something unsettling waiting for you, somewhere. Expect the unexpected, all the time.
Do you think Tears of the Kingdom is pretty scary? What's been your scariest moment or encounter so far?Vote in our poll below and then brave the comments, but keep it spoiler-light!