Don’t Go In There! – Six Of The Scariest Doors In Gaming
You sit in the dark, hands stained with a combination of sweat, Cheeto dust, and condensation from a half-empty Mountain Dew. Your face, barely lit by the flickering light of the television, is twisted into a visage of contemplation, your mouth slightly askew. You’ve been leaning closer and closer for the last hour, now almost touching the screen despite starting the night casually sacked out on the couch. You set down the controller and absent mindedly rub your chin as you ponder what to do.
Do you open that door, knowing full well that beyond it lie something terrible?
If this were a movie, all you could do is scream at the hapless protagonist: “DON’T GO IN THERE YOU IDIOT!” “DIDN’T YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED TO STEFF WHEN SHE WENT IN THERE?!” “WHY ARE YOU GOING TO THE BATHROOM ALONE IN AN ABANDONED MENTAL HOSPITAL!?” Then, in the way they all do, the stupid teenage girl in cut-off jean shorts gets eviscerated by whatever abomination lie in wait, unaware that they had committed one of the cardinal sins of horror movies. They opened a scary looking door.
But this isn’t a movie. It’s a videogame, and you’re the one in control. It’s up to you to make the choice to see what’s behind that door, or in the basement, or making that weird noise in the attic. Whatever it is, you’re the one who decided to see it. I mean, you want to beat the game, right?
Sometimes though, our well-honed self-preservation instinct kicks in. Sometimes, it’s better to just put down the controller, turn on the lights, and watch an episode of The Simpsons before trying to (unsuccessfully) go to bed. Sometimes you just don’t need to know what terrible thing the developers are going to throw at you.
As a fan of horror games who’s knee deep in the reanimated corpses of Dead Space 3, I’m going to take a little bit of a break to revisit six of those very doors that shook my resolve.
Return to the Ishimura (Dead Space 2) – While Dead Space 3 is barely a horror game, the series has, at times, been downright terrifying (alarm clock!) Nowhere is this more the case than when you’re forced to head back to the Ishimura in Dead Space 2. If you’re anything like me, you spent at least a few minutes standing in front of it muttering “man, fuck you guys” to the developers before steeling your reserves and heading inside.
Having spent almost the entirety of the first game beating feet around the ship’s many decks, the fact that the sequel sends you back is just fucking cruel. The level maintains much of the same floor plan as it did before being repaired, so it’s more like a walk down blood soaked memory lane, except now covered in white plastic reminiscent of the equally terrifying scientist scene in E.T. It doesn’t help that the last person on board left all the TVs on the “all static and satanic murmuring” channel either.
It doesn’t take long for Isaac to lose his shit all over the place too, hallucinations and all. After the opening events of the game, you’d think he’d know better, but what this man does in the name of the ladies transcends rational and reasonable. Just for once I’d like to see a main character in a video game turn towards the camera, give the player the finger, and walk off, never to be seen again.
The Locker Room (Silent Hill) – In the normal world, it’s just a cat banging around in that locker. In the ooey-gooey Dark World though, who the fuck knows what’s in there. This game isn’t above sending fetus monsters and ghostly children with scalpels at you, so there’s some potential for terrible when confronted with a blood soaked PE locker.
The first time I played this game, way back when I was a bright eyed little 15 year old, this part literally froze me in my tracks. I had been playing the game until this point with such fervor that I had been remiss in turning on lights to combat the setting sun, so it was here that I finally noticed that I was sitting in pitch black darkness. I sat in front of that thumping locker for what seemed like hours before saying “Nope, fuck this. Sorry Silent Hill, I’m done” and turning every single light in the house on.
The Silent Hill series is full of moments like this, ranging from Silent Hill 2’s obsession with holes (yonic imagery!) to Silent Hill Origins’ Room 500. None of them can compare to this first moment of doubt though, asking players “Do you really need to know what’s in there?” NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.
Enter the Cradle (Thief: Deadly Shadows) – Garrett pulls no punches on this one. It’s an old insane asylum that was turned into an orphanage and then burned down. Holy shit, can you get any more disturbing? (Yes, add clowns.) The Shalebridge Cradle is special in that it takes a game where darkness is your friend and makes you terrified of it, which totally throws you out of your element. Thanks to Garrett’s lovely introductory speech, players are completely horrified of this place long before the shit really hits the fan once you get inside. Some buildings are better left filled with precious valuables, a lesson that this level is quick to teach prospective thieves.
If you didn’t pause for at least a moment before opening that banging door, you’re a better (read: stupider) man than I.
This one totally sneaks up on you (pun intended) because Thief: Deadly Shadows is totally not a horror game. It would be like watching a Pee-Wee Herman movie and then suddenly HORRIFYING CLAYMATION GHOST. Wait, shit, disregard that. NOTHING IS SAFE.
The Basement (Scratches) – The first time you wake up to the terrible noises emanating from the walls of Blackwood Manor you’re unsettled, but once you realize the noises are coming from the basement, it’s hard not to let our human fear of dank subterranean monster filled cellars kick in and send you into full on fits. Having already thoroughly explored the house at this point, you already know that the basement is supposedly empty, but oh no those noises most certainly are coming from behind that door.
Then there’s the music that plays when you’re down there. This is the kind of music that plays when something is supposed to jump out at you, plain and simple. The fact that nothing does makes it all the worse, especially when you know something is, in fact, in the basement.
The Morgue (Amnesia) – There are plenty of terrible moments in Amnesia, but this is the only door that gave me genuine pause. It’s one of the biggest turns in the game, where the true horror of what’s actually going on starts to set in and the unsettling gore and upset of the final half of the game settles into place. Before you go through this door, you’re just a guy trying to escape from a terrible castle.
After you go into the Morgue though, you become something else, something darker. Things start to get…complicated.
In many ways, I can honestly say I wish I had never gone through that door. Morgue levels are pretty common in horror games, and they’re often just piles of dead bodies arranged in interesting ways, which isn’t really all that scary after the tenth one you’ve seen. What sets Amnesia’s morgue apart is that the real horror is discovered inside Daniel, the protagonist, which is far messier than any bucket of guts can ever be. After your visit to the Morgue, the game stops being scary and takes a turn down upsetting alley on its way to psychologically scarring avenue.
The Bathroom Stall (Corpse Party) – The subtitle for this game really should have been “Watch Us Murder All Your Friends: The Game” because that’s pretty much all you seem to do during your stay at the Heavenly Host Elementary School in Corpse Party. The first major death, a lovely suicide via possession, occurs in a bathroom stall while you’re not looking, leaving you to investigate the horrible gurgling noises coming from within. Did I already mention that the sound design in this game is so good that it makes me wonder if murder is tax deductible in Japan, because holy shit I’m pretty sure Xseed did have to choke a bitch to get this scene done.
Bathroom stalls are bad enough in most horror games, but the fact that Corpse Party regularly sends you back to that very same bathroom, cryptically alluding to that fateful toilet, makes this one of the few doors I simply couldn’t open after a while. Corpse Party also has the wonderful habit of killing you off for curiosity, with certain tasty looking clues leading to one of the game’s many grotesque death sequences. Want to look in that harmless notebook on the desk? DEATH BY PAPERCUT, SHOULD’VE SEEN THAT COMING. So while you might be missing some vital plot detail or necessary progression checkpoint, you’re probably just going to see yourself hanging from the rafters if you open that blood-stained wooden door for the fifth time.
It’s not like I wasn’t already scared enough of public toilets Corpse Party, thanks a lot.
Have you ever found yourself frozen with fear, your finger hovering over the ‘open’ button with a combination of trepidation and mortal curiosity? Leave a comment with your experience!