Screenshot via Steel Wool Studios YouTube

The top 10 best jumpscares in videogames

Scares that make you jump out of your chair.

The jumpscare. Cheap tactic or an effective dose of fright at the right time? Ever since horror made its way to film, tension building up to a sudden scare has always been an incredibly useful tool to play with the audience. Now with horror (and some non-horror) videogames, a good jumpscare is an incredible way to play with your expectations or as a way to release tension during a scene. Here are 10 of the best jumpscares from worst to best in video games and why they worked so well.

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10) The Dentist from Bioshock

While Bioshock was not strictly a horror title, many of its dimly lit corridors offered a tense atmosphere in the underwater city of Rapture. This moment in particular is an incredibly jarring moment as you have been spending the past several minutes roaming a mostly empty wing of Rapture looking for something inside the Painless Dental clinic. Upon entering the abandoned clinic, you see an empty operating table and your objective on a shelf nearby. When you pick up the bottle, the room fills with smoke and there is a dead Splicer on the operating table. Upon turning around, another Splicer who is most definitely not dead attacks you out of the blue. Suddenly snapping all of the tension with this particular tactic was very effective in Bioshock’s setting.

9) Man-Bat from Batman: Arkham Knight

Nothing can scare the world’s greatest detective, right? Well, maybe except for a mutant bat roaming the rooftops of Gotham City. First meeting the Man-Bat was quite a shocker for a mostly straight-up action title. After lowering the bridge to Maigani Island, the Man-Bat can be encountered after climbing up to the top of a building via a grappling hook. Suddenly after reaching the top of the building, the Man-Bat screeches very loudly and takes off into the night sky. Quite a jarring encounter and not the last time Bruce Wayne sees this hideous monster, should players choose to pursue the side quests involving the Man-Bat.

8) The bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Image via Silicon Knights / Nintendo

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is always brought up in discussions for horror games for good reason. It’s a game that plays with your expectations and was an inventive ride from start to finish that has never quite been replicated to this day. The unique “sanity effects” played with you as different, bizarre things happened throughout the game. These included everything from warped camera angles to fooling you into the TV changed the channel to a straight-up Blue Screen of Death. As for the best scare in the game? Most will cite the infamous “bathtub scare.” This is one where it completely catches you off-guard, not expecting anything, and then you’re hit with this intense scare out of nowhere. It fits well in the realm of Eternal Darkness, but in most other settings, this would be seen as a cheap scare.

7) Golden Freddy from Five Nights at Freddy’s

Screenshot by Gamepur

Five Nights at Freddy’s may be a somewhat divisive series in that it relies purely on the jumpscare to frighten players. That said, it does still pack many surprises besides you forgetting to check a camera or not closing a door in time. In the very first game in the series, players can randomly encounter a unique version of Freddy Fazbear known as “Golden Freddy” in the later half of the game. How this event is triggered is largely not known, but it’s a very brief scare that throws players off because it’s not a jumpscare that immediately ends in death. Instead, you see a series of flashing images and a quick blink of the words “IT’S ME” on screen combined with some garbled voices and a ghostly image of a Freddy Fazbear animatronic sitting in the room. If the player does not break eye contact with Golden Freddy by turning on the camera, Freddy will jump out, but most players have hilariously reacted in time to save themselves from a swift end to their night.

6) The broken-neck lady from Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

The Fatal Frame series is always lauded as one of horror gaming’s greats, and the second game does not disappoint. One ghost, usually called the “broken-neck lady,” is always mentioned as one of the most frightening encounters. Her ghostly appearance, with her neck snapped at a horrific 90-degree angle, is absolutely chilling along with her moaning voice and ethereal white dress. Let alone the fact you have to directly lock onto this character and stare her down for several seconds to defeat her makes the whole endeavor hard to endure. It’s a harsh encounter in the tight corridors of the old house you find the ghost, but this one is one of the best scares in the series.

5) The ladder scene from F.E.A.R.

Monolith’s F.E.A.R. was a genre-bending first-person shooter that combined the action of the best John Woo action flicks with scares that would make John Carpenter blush. Taking inspiration from Asian horror movies, in particular, F.E.A.R. was aptly named. The best scare in the game comes early while you’re hunting down the source of a disturbance. While climbing down a ladder, a ghostly figure of a girl in a red dress appears immediately in front of you and disappears with a shrill sound that reverberates in your ears for a few seconds. Then, immediately after dismounting the ladder, you’re met with a second figure that steps right at you and disappears but leaves with an ominous message saying “They deserve to die. They all deserve to die.” This effective double-stinger was quite the potent scare back in 2005, but many still cite it as one of the best jumpscares in gaming.

4) The Guardian from The Evil Within 2

Most games with a persistent boss don’t always keep that intimidation factor going, but The Evil Within 2’s “Guardian” is definitely one that’s hard to forget. Particularly, the first appearance of this fearsome boss is an effective jumpscare. After a few brief moments of some rather creepy rooms with hanging corpses and a room that seems inescapable, the tension is immediately snapped by the Guardian appearing behind a mirror. The scene setup is classic horror material when Sebastian looks away to see a shadowy figure appear behind him, but then when he turns back is immediately met with the gruesome multi-headed smile of the Guardian and its oversized buzzsaw on its arm.

3) The birthday cake scene from Devotion

Devotion is a masterpiece of Asian-style horror and an exercise in restraint over sheer terror. When most horror games go full throttle, Devotion is a rare example of knowing when to amp up the scares. The best in the game comes during a section inside an apartment when you have to solve a puzzle involving a ballerina figurine and a scene with a birthday cake. After placing the figure on the cake, it twists around and contorts before striking its final pose. The scene immediately then cuts to black when a girl suddenly appears in front of you and blows out the candles, which is the first time a person appears in Devotion. Up until this point, you’ve seen only porcelain dolls, and this quick and quiet jumpscare is a unique way to quietly scare the player without the use of a loud scream or an incredibly gruesome creature.

2) Lisa from P.T.

P.T. was merely a taste of what could have been, but it still goes down in history as one of the downright scariest interactive experiences ever made. The dark, dimly lit environments, an overwhelming sense that something is very wrong with where you are, and being haunted by the ghost of a dead woman is enough to scare even the most headstrong player. Encountering the ghost of Lisa is probably the most harrowing experience in P.T. Her appearance builds up as you loop through the house over and over, from brief glimpses around the corner, to running toward you, and finally a sudden attack from her where you see every gruesome detail. The use of blurry vision and a very loud stinger of music in an otherwise mostly quiet game definitely make this a hard one to forget.

1) The baby from Resident Evil: Village

While not a traditional jumpscare in the sense of it being an immediate stinger of noise and visuals, the shock of laying eyes on the monstrosity inside the Beneviento house comes as an absolute shock compared to what Ethan Winters has come across thus far in Resident Evil: Village. The buildup to the reveal is reminiscent of P.T. with the looping environments and confusion-inducing scenery where you feel like you’ve been trapped in the same sequence over and over was an exercise in paying homage to the greats and also being an almost unforgettable sequence in this entry in the long-running series. The whole sequence is a harrowing few minutes of escaping an unstoppable moment, but first seeing the twisted lump of flesh that rounds the corner is easily one of the best scares in modern horror games.


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