The Games That Scared The Hell Out Of Us As Kids

A screenshot shows a 2D monster attacking a player in a brick hallway.

Screenshot: MicroProse / Kotaku

The Legacy: Realm of Terror was this box that sat on the shelves in my dad’s tiny boxroom he used for a study. Those shelves were a cluttered mess of PC game boxes (including the actual box Doom came in, my dad being one of seven people on Earth who didn’t pirate it), notebooks, squared paper for RPG map-drawing, pipe tobacco, and pots filled with pens, straws, screwdrivers, and anything else pencil-shaped.

I would pull the box out and look at its front cover, that awful looming mansion, dark but for two lit windows at the very top, with lightning crackling down from the sky to its rooftops. It made me shiver. I doubt I even noticed the two demonic-looking stone creatures that sat on either side of the front gate—just the building alone was enough to give me the jibblies.

One evening, when both my parents were out, I decided it was the time to finally play it. It installed the thing, from all six floppy discs, with a tremendous sense of trepidation. Some hard drive crunching later, I was confronted with a far more complex introduction than expected, the game much more RPG than first-person horror. I created a character, read through her story, and entered the mansion.

You might expect this story to now pivot to the enormous anticlimax awaiting me, given all that anticipation, but eeeeeeeeeeek: The game scared the ever-loving shit out of me. Its grimly bland wood-paneled walls and red carpets don’t make for a visual feast, but what I remember scaring me so early was the sense of being pursued. You know that feeling in a great horror game, when you’re leaning hard in your chair to try to encourage your character to just move faster, to just get the hell down that corridor and away from the creature that’s following, panic and a frenzied sense of otherworldly danger tensing your muscles? It was that, except I was a kid, in the house on my own, and I noped out so damn hard.

I’ve never played it since. I remember my dad trying it later, and telling me he’d found it far too nerve-wracking as well. I imagine, in the cold light of exactly 30 years later, this 1992 Microprose creation probably doesn’t possess the same ability to scare. But then, just looking at its cover still gives me that 14-year-old heebie-jeebies, and I don’t want to find out. —John Walker


Now that we’ve laid bare our childhood traumas, please share your stories of when a video game scared you silly as a child. Your therapist would probably approve.

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