One of my favorite times of the year has arrived and I’m ready to celebrate it! I love the month of October. It being the month of Halloween, horror, and the evil that exists in this world October is likely the only time of the year where looking at the darker side of humanity is considered normal. And that is exactly what I’m doing today by looking at a type of video game enemy I think gets ignored and is too often underused, the enemy that cannot die. If a game is ever looking to crank up the scare factor for me the best way to do that is to throw me into a bunch of hallways with a demented killer and no way for me to defend myself.
I love combat heavy action games that feature meek, squishy, pathetic enemies as much as the next guy, but I prefer my horror when there is no way for me to fend off the horrific enemies that stalk me. The idea of having no options, except RUN and HIDE gives a very primal feel for survival that is missing from almost all mainstream horror games of this generation. To celebrate this October I’m counting down the monsters and killers that deliver this tension the best and show me that for all the action games that exist today disguising themselves as horror titles *cough-Resident-Evil-6-cough*, fear and despair still exist in the gaming world and will continue to exist.
Before taking refuge from the many monsters and psychopaths in this list I suggest reading through my list criteria.
1. The enemy doesn’t need to be invincible throughout the entire game, but there needs to be segments where the player must run or hide from the enemy.
2. I might as well get any potential hate out of the way right now and say Pyramid head is not on this list *Flame-Shields Up*. While an interesting Survival Horror monster who would probably make it into the top 5 if it met the qualifications, all encounters with Pyramid Head are through either cut-scenes and in boss fights where he is very killable.
3. I spoil a lot of the origin stories to several enemies, so consider this a Spoiler Warning!
4. Most importantly, they need to be the enemies that epitomize the phrase, “OH SHIT RUN!”
10. Evil Otto (Berzerk)
While not from a horror game Evil Otto definitely fits the criteria for this list. Compared to games of today Berzerk might not seem like much, but it can no doubt be creepy at points, sometimes unintentionally. It’s a game in which players must navigate a whopping 64,000 randomly generated mazes while evading robots and a certain evil smile.
All other enemies in Berzerk are so incompetent they often shoot each other or run into insta-kill walls on their own, but the #9 entrant on this list, Evil Otto, is much more capable than that. Not only can he not be killed, he can move through the walls that would mean instant death for the player AND becomes much faster than the player once all other enemies are dead. Did I mention all of this is done, while the evil smiley face is ushering lines like, “The humanoid must not escape” and, “INTRUDER ALTER!” in a robotic, speech synthesized, Atari 2600 voice that sounds creepy even today?
Naturally the tension of the robot evading/shooting is toned down a bit by the Atari 2600’s limitations, but this is still one of the few Atari 2600 titles that I think is fun to play to this day. What is probably the creepiest part about Berzerk is that it is the first known game to have been involved in the death of someone who played it. It would appear not all smiles are welcoming.
9. Bear (Condemned 2)
Whenever I bring up Condemned 2, there will be at least one person telling me it took away all the subtlety the first Condemned had. I always respond to these people the same way, “Shut the fuck up because I say Condemned 2 brought back the subtlety the original Condemned lost after its TERRIBLE ending!” …Granted, that subtlety was sort of lost once again after I saw Condemned 2’s also terrible ending, but that hardly makes it any less great of a Survival Horror game than the original Condemned. I do a lot of complaining about how mainstream horror games aren’t scary anymore, but I’d consider the 2 Condemned games exceptions to this rule, at least until their later segments. And the monster bear for as over-the-top as it is, did a fine job at delivering a pulse pounding chase. This part of the game is so well known it is THE SECOND THING brought up whenever someone searches, “Condemned 2” on YouTube (search it up if you don't believe me).
I don’t care what anyone thinks of Condemned 2, you CANNOT convince me this wasn’t a great segment! It starts with an enraged bear viciously slaughtering a random thug only a few rooms away, shortly after this most people playing get the message that, “shit I’m going to want to avoid that thing” and so they do…Until they see it charging head first at them. Then it becomes a run through claustrophobic, dusky hallways. The player might not know where he/she is going, but they know anywhere is better than what awaits them in the opposite direction.
By the end of the level though the bear is defeated in a pretty conventional manner a shot gun and a lot of gas tanks. It is climactic, but didn’t leave me the most frightened after the scenario had played out, which is the one big flaw with this entrant. I did like being able to say, “Smile you son of a bitch” when firing the shotgun though.
8. SA-X (Metroid Fusion)
Metroid has always been an atmospheric series, but for as atmospheric as the other titles can be Fusion is the only one that straight up scared me for one reason and one reason only. The SA-X is fucking terrifying! It’s pretty common for the player to lose all their power ups at the beginning of a Metroid game *Cough-Other-M’s-authorization-system-sucks-Cough*, but the stakes to it are pushed much further in Fusion when this time there is a parasite walking around the place with all those fancy little toys you lost. And it’s hunting you…
The first few encounters are simple enough to avoid. Every time you enter a new room and the music stops playing simply hit the deck until you don’t hear anymore footsteps and pray you’re not seen, but no matter what the player will eventually be forced to come into contact and in turn run frantically from Samus’s new mimic. Only once all of Samus’s core power-ups are re-obtained does the player stand a chance against SA-X and even then it puts up a good fight. The artificial intelligence for SA-X has become infamous for being terrible in certain situations, but whenever I had to evade it I was too busy running to pay attention to how coordinated it was. I remember when I first played through Fusion I shouted out loud, “Oh shit” when I ‘Morph Balled’ into a new room and heard foot-steps beneath me. I knew no matter what move I made, I’d have to make my presence known and I above all else didn’t want my presence to be known to that…Thing.
7. Blue Demon (Ao Oni)
I’ve discussed Ao Oni on last week’s Indie Shack, so for the sake of keeping this list somewhat surprising he is the only enemy from that series of reviews on this list. And boy is it one hell of an enemy. When a bunch of douche bag middle school students enter an abandoned mansion on a dare, this giant eyed monster is what greets them at the front of the now locked door. As more and more of these tasty students get devoured and murdered by the Oni they also become ‘demon-fied’ into Onis themselves and will attempt to stalk the player, until the entire game becomes one big blue-man cesspool.
While these creatures are a little un-persistent and will stop chasing the player after about 10 seconds since they can run just as or slightly slower than the player, the slightest screw-up in that 10 second time will mean the player’s end! They also have many different ways of sneaking up on the player. Disguising themselves as normal human survivors, popping out of hiding spots, they are never without a way to mess with the player. It’s funny, on paper a blue humanoid with eyes that make it look like it has down syndrome isn’t what I’d use to describe a scary horror villain, but the Oni’s slightly human-like form, animal behavior, and ability to turn anyone it touches into one of its own makes it work very effectively as a villain. It’s a prime example of a horror villain who looks ridiculous when you think about it, but it’s threatening enough that it doesn’t matter you’ll still run from it as fast as you can.
6. Nemesis (Resident Evil)
This is probably the most well-known entrant in this list and with good reason because Nemesis is AWESOME! After seeing Jill demolish the Tyrant in the original Resident Evil, Umbrella Corporation used some common sense for a change and said, “Hey, maybe leaving a blatantly exposed weak-spot on our monstrous creations isn’t the best idea” and ended up
creating one of the most recognized horror monsters in gaming, to the point that the 3rd Resident Evil game named after the character (Resident Evil: Nemesis). Nemesis isn’t the smartest or most subtle enemy on this list, but the point of it being in Resident Evil 3 was to give players a reason to not dawdle in levels, to make sure there was always a sense of urgency to get through the game and Nemesis filled that purpose with flying colors. In the case of many Survival Horror games it can be easy to slowly advance your way through levels, make sure nothing takes you by surprise, and that you’re always prepared, but pull that kind of crap in Resident Evil 3 and you’ll find a science creation gone array with a rocket launcher not far behind you.
For the most part Nemesis is completely unstoppable. He absorbs gun fire like it is silly putty, kills off a fair share of Jill’s allies, can easily tank large explosions, has a rocket launcher that means instant death for the player, and even after getting demolished by a rail gun still has some fight left in him. I would hate to be a S.T.A.R.S agent knowing that thing was coming to hunt me down. There are a lot of instances where it seems he has finally died, but just like a great Slasher villain it keeps coming back right when you least expect it. I’ve never found the Resident Evil series very ‘scary’, but Nemesis is an exception to that rule and one of the series’ enemies that got the tension just right.
5. Kusabi (Fatal Frame)
Of the many hostile ghosts in the Fatal Frame series none pack the same punch the Kusabi have. This enemy has most of the perks found in enemies that can’t be killed (until the end of the game at least): Invulnerable to all attacks, kills in one hit, and stalks the player throughout later segments of the game with its slow movement being the only thing between the player and an untimely death. There have been several different incarnations of this enemy, but all keep the same basic look and in my honest opinion the actual designs for these enemies aren’t all that scary.
Maybe I don’t ‘get’ Japanese horror and part of my opinion can be credited to the fact that I’ve only had the chance to see this enemy in action on a few occasions (I need to play more Fatal Frame), but the look to the ghost is too ‘clean’. Any gore or unsettling disfiguration it might have is blocked out by how seamlessly the black and gray coloring blends together. It’s still a terrifying enemy to run from, but what hooks me and gave it this high of a spot was the suitably creepy origin story for the Kusabi and not its design.
The first Kusabi was a ceremony master who willingly sacrificed himself to prevent a hellish abyss from rising in his village, but the rest of the people who became a Kusabi didn’t do it so willingly. All others were outsiders sacrificed in the village’s new cultish ritual. The process goes that an outsider is kidnapped and ritualistically tortured before being lowered into the abyss, preferably while still alive because that’s the only way the ritual would work. Unfortunately only a select few are capable of surviving the ritual while still containing enough life in them to be brought down to the abyss. The failed sacrifices are quickly buried, leaving an even larger body count to what was already generations of brutal, ritual murders. The ones that do make however end up becoming one of the scariest enemies in Fatal Frame history; A hate-filled, vengeful spirit ready to hunt down anything regardless of whether or not it was involved in its death.
4. The Shadow (Amnesia: The Dark Descent)
Since virtually all enemies in Amnesia cannot be killed this entrant might as well be dedicated to all of the game’s many grotesque creatures, but the ring leader of them all is the Shadow that stalks the game’s protagonist from the beginning to the end of the game is the leader of the bunch. Horror enemies often work well due to their grotesque forms, but this one succeeds because it is practically invisible and vaguely defined at best. There isn’t another enemy on this list with the level of speculation and theories surrounding them than The Shadow.
This specter guards the mysterious artifacts Amnesia’s plot revolves around, relentlessly stalks the player, and murdered anyone who the protagonist had come into contact prior to his memory loss. It can access any environment, follow you anywhere you go, but what really makes it a threat is its actually smart. He doesn’t have a bag of bolts in his head like Nemesis and does anything he can to make sure the protagonist is as mentally unstable as possible. He’ll put out lights guiding Daniel’s way, make distressing noises, or flood rooms with water anything as long as it gives Daniel a tough time.
And when it does catch up to the protagonist it doesn’t give its prey a quick and painless death, far from it. It savors every waking moment it has as it corners its fear stricken, defenseless prey. If that doesn’t define a good horror enemy I don’t know what does.
3. Daddy and Mother (Lone Survivor)
I don’t know anyone who WASN’T afraid of their house’s basement as a kid and the monsters that may lurk within that basement. It’s that dinky, run down place where people store their objects of relic, the place that could easily harbor unpleasant creatures, and despite being part of everyone’s home is a place that rings with the mysterious and unknown. I currently dwell in that basement I just described and have gotten over that fear, but it will be a long time before I get over my fear of the basement in Lone Survivor.
Early on in the game there is a large creature (confirmed to be named ‘Daddy’) lurking around the mid-floor impeding the player’s way to several important areas until later on when the protagonist is tasked with trying to trap the creature in an elevator. After venturing through the game’s basement which is scary in and of itself the player finally reactivates the power, and successfully traps the monstrosity in the elevator…Or so they think. The protagonist is then shown to be a fool for thinking a flimsy elevator door could hold the thing and the creature breaks free!
It’s pretty simple to see why this sort of situation is now scarier, since the player is now running through a dark, bleak basement with a horrific and hungry monster on their ass. Thankfully it is perfectly possible to escape, leave the nightmare behind, and hopefully NEVER EVER enter the damn place again. But that doesn’t prepare the player for the next unkillable monster, the Mother. Not only is the encounter with this thing completely unexpected, you spend all of it trapped in a cage with the thing desperately trying to dodge it anyway you can despite being completely cornered. And even when the player does escape from both of these creatures, they are never defeated the player only traps and distances themselves from them. That’s what makes these two monsters work so well, the fact that even if you only encounter them once in the game, they’re still out there and they’re still waiting for you.
2. Raincoat Killer (Deadly Premonition)
People can say whatever they want about Deadly Premonition it still does a far better job scaring me than Dead Space, the new Silent Hills, or any other console horror game released this generation that isn't an Indie game and doesn’t have Condemned in the title. And the big highlights of these scares and Deadly Premonition as a horror experience are the chase scenes with the Raincoat Killer.
The mythic and mysterious Raincoat Killer is the antagonist in Deadly Premonition and got its start as a folk monster in Greenvale, believed to only come out when it is raining. Then an experimental gas was unleashed on Greenvale and drove all its citizens mad including one particular individual who would later become the first Raincoat Killer and commit a series of grisly murders. This elevated the being from a myth to something that struck the town with such fear that nobody went outdoors when it rained and a certain someone began wearing a gas mask at all times. Come decades later, F.B.I Investigator Mr Francis York Morgan came to Greenvale and reappeared this once thought to be dead killer.
The Rain Coat Killer is as mysterious as he looks. Most of the game renders him in complete complete shadown never showing his face and any time the game’s heroes York and Zach reach an investigation segment they’re immediately thrust into a monster world with this red-dressed killer not far behind them. Most of the alternate worlds contain at least one scenario where the player needs to run, evade, and hide from the Rain Coat Killer and regardless of what people think of Deadly Premonition overall, these segments are VERY fun. This foe’s genocidal past, inhumane ferocity, and mysteriousness easily gains him this spot.
And as most would suspect, wearing what is essentially a trench coat nets him bonus points for me.
1. Scissorman (Clock Tower)
Our number one entrant isn’t from the first game with an enemy that couldn’t be killed and is far from the first Survival Horror game made, but it’s the first, in my opinion, to hit the nail on the head and merge both ideas brilliantly. Clock Tower is an interactive Slasher flick in every sense of the word and Scissorman is one memorable Slasher villain. This toddler version of Michael Meyers is the result of a horrific Satanic ritual that spawned him and his brother with deformed bodies and the deep desire for the flesh of orphans. And with the main character to Clock Tower being the epitome of a helpless orphan girl she becomes the prime target for this serial killer infant when she gets trapped inside a huge mansion with him let loose.
What keep Clock Tower's scares fresh are the somewhat randomized scenarios of where/when Scissor-man will jump out and attack you. They’re a much more effective use of jump scares than something like Dead Space, since you do not know where the next one is coming. It gives a sense of imminent doom, like you're progress will be hindered at any moment and Scissor-man who is by all means impossible to kill, will find you. You can fend him off somewhat and hide from him, but he is never truly dead, he's an invincible monster constantly stalking you throughout the entire game.
The fright that comes with knowing there is a creature in a game you can't do anything about is what embodies this list and no other creatures embody it better than Scissorman, especially considering the game he was in came out years before many of the iconic, invincible monsters featured on this list made use of the concept and had a bigger presence in his game than any others. Clock Tower didn’t need the many different enemy types many other games above used to get a scare, it only needed one sadistic toddler with garden sheers. And when we get down to it, isn’t that what all of humanity fears most? Speaking of which the fact that these horrific deaths/killings in the game were done by a 9-year old child (albeit a demonic, deformed 9-year old child) who laughs and revels in the fear of his victims made him all the more unsettling. This guy is the reason I attempt to play Clock Tower at least once every October. He’s a truly hideous, blight-filled creature if I’ve ever seen one and I really, REALLY hope the news about a Clock Tower remake coming to the Wii-U are true.
That ends this list of mass murdering monsters. Thank you all for reading and stay tuned, I have more Halloween goodness coming up!
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