Crossfader’s Super Spooky Listicles: Spookiest Levels of My Childhood
Alright, nostalgia lovers — here we go. I’m about to indulge in a way I haven’t since I listened to Blink 182’s CALIFORNIA. I’m reminiscing about all the video games I played before I discovered spin the bottle. And like my memories of spin the bottle, I’m only focusing on the scary parts. As of writing this, I’ve hardly played a videogame since middle school; I have no knowledge of current video game culture or whether any of my old favorites are considered classics or regrets. All I know is that I loved the shit out of my Nintendo 64. Now that we’re less than a week out from Halloween, let’s take a sp00ky walk down memory lane and revisit the old levels that had me begging to sleep in my parent’s bed.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME: Bottom of the Well
I often find that in Nintendo’s Dungeon-Transition-Dungeon formula, the transitional periods are far more rewarding than the centerpieces themselves. In OCARINA OF TIME, however, there was a section that was particularly terrifying. Preceding the fan-favorite Shadow Temple, you enter The Bottom of the Well. Though it’s deep into the game, you must brave this area in child form. Four feet tall and armed with only your Kokiri sword and shield, you’ve gotta endure some fucked up shit. There’s blood stains, zombies, and crosses with chains hanging from them. Nintendo’s making an adolescent Link navigate sewers where people were crucified? Jesus Christ. And that’s on top of stumbling through a maze of illusory walls, dodging flying skulls, and listening to some bonafide sp00ky Zelda music on loop.
(For a different type of terrifying Zelda experience, see The Water Temple)
LUIGI’S MANSION: Baby Ghost Boss
As a very young child, the move from my house’s “baby room” to my own personal bedroom was a very traumatic experience. I had a recurring nightmare of entering the baby room and all the plush dolls coming to life with glowing red eyes. They’d climb out of the crib and chase me all the way down the hall to my parent’s bedroom. Consequently, anything crib/baby/doll/binkie/diaper related became an immediate red flag for my fragile childhood psyche. Objectively, this early boss from the great LUIGI’S MANSION was not close to the scariest thing in the game. But the fact that you had to fight a giant baby in its own crib? No, no. Please no.
STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: Peragus Mining Facility
Both KOTOR games had their share of weird, off-putting, and straight up scary moments. But the giant spiders and sewer ghouls never gave me the same heebie jeebie that the overlong opening to the second game did. Waking from cryogenic sleep with a classic case of Force-induced amnesia, your only guides are the voice in your head and a trail of dead miners. Your mission is simply to escape the derelict, abandoned mining facility on which you find yourself. The vastness of the facility, its lack of (living) human occupants, and that persistent cerebral commentary add up to one eerie opening. So much so that, despite this being one of my all time favorite games, I’ve refused to replay it because I’m so damn scared of this mining station.
ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS: The Son of Dr. Tongue
My brother allowing me to play his Super Nintendo was an essential rite of passage of my youth (I had previously accidentally deleted his SUPER MARIO file with substantial progress), and this was the first title I gravitated towards. Admittedly not a perfect game, ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS got by on quirk and charm. The game makers must have thought it especially quirky to feature a giant, rampaging zombie baby, as it was delegated its very own bonus level. I didn’t concur — zombie babies are beyond disturbing, doubly so when they’re two stories tall.
PAPER MARIO AND THE THOUSAND YEAR DOOR: The Boggly Woods
THE THOUSAND YEAR DOOR was the last full-fledged RPG of the PAPER MARIO series, which means they finally started getting fun after I stopped playing them. Mario games (and Nintendo for that matter) have a knack for copying and pasting worlds from one game to the next, but THOUSAND YEAR DOOR saw some more… creative ideas. The game’s second area was the Boggly Woods, and despite the silly name, it freaked me the fuck out. This probably wasn’t intentional, seeing as there was an eponymously creepy level, but something about the bizarre juxtaposition of neon and monochromatic color schemes and wispy wind effects got under my skin. Combined with the fact that Mario is helping save a colony of Pikmin-esque insects from a tyrannical group called X-Nauts, you’ve got a 1984 vibe in the sp00kiest way possible. And speaking of Pikmin…
PIKMIN: The Whole Damn Game
What the shit Nintendo? Seriously. PIKMIN was marketed as an engaging puzzle game for children that would teach them pragmatic, day-to-day responsibilities, such as caring for animals and managing schedules. That’s funny, because all it taught me was how to deal with anxiety attacks. The bright colors, cartoonish animation, and adorable Pikmin voices masked the true terror behind this hellhole of a game. Don’t get me wrong, PIKMIN is genius. But no other video game experience has shook me to the core like seeing a huge swath of Pikmin being decimated by a giant monster, or worse, drowning due to my negligence. The chorus of dozens of Pikmin moaning in agony due to my mistakes still haunts my childhood. Even more terrifying was the timer announcing that nighttime, and death, was fast approaching — my heart would race, my stomach would knot, and my palms would sweat as I raced back to my ship. The thought of irreversibly losing a level in this impossible game as a kid is not one I’ll soon forget.