Halloween just passed, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop losing some sleep by terrorizing yourself with various forms of scary media just yet. What better way is there to scare yourself than playing a video game with terrifying enemies? These are some of the most terrifying enemies from gaming’s past and present.



Ghosts – Pac Man

The Pac-Man ghosts are far from imposing; even their names make them sound like pushovers. Who’s going to be afraid of some colorful ghosts named Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde? Well don’t be fooled by appearances, the Pac-Man ghosts are a constant source of tension and stress for the player. Their sole motive is chasing down Pac-Man and eliminating him. They spend eternity wandering through various neon mazes, unwavering in their hunt for Pac-Man. Having a ghost right on your tail is akin to feeling like someone is right behind you trying to grab your neck, the only thing you want at that moment is to put some distance between you and your pursuer. Turning the tables on the ghosts is possible for a short time, but it doesn’t take long before they are scouring the maze once again.



Phanto – Super Mario Bros. 2

Playing Super Mario Bros. 2 was one of my earliest gaming experiences, and Phanto was one of the first enemies to legitimately freak me out. Phanto looks evil, but remains harmless… until you touch the key that is. Once players pick up the key, Phanto’s mission is to get that key back. I thought that if I just got to the next screen I would be fine, but I was wrong. Phanto’s pursuit is relentless no matter where the player goes. Only dropping the key ends Phanto’s pursuit, but it comes back the second that key is picked up again.



Banshees – Mass Effect 3

There aren’t many frightening enemies in the Mass Effect universe, but Banshees make up for it. Not only do the Banshees look terrifying, but these mutated Asari cause some serious problems for Commander Shepard, using powerful biotics to dismantle their targets while soaking up bullets with their strong armor and barriers. Banshees can even surprise players with a startling one-hit death. If that wasn’t enough, the Banshee’s blood-curdling scream alone is enough to fill players with dread.



The Berserker – Gears of War

Who doesn’t remember their first encounter with a Berserker? Standard Locusts could take a beating before they finally went down, but the Berserker was a whole different story. It didn’t take long to reach the awful realization that bullets weren’t even making her flinch.  A horrible feeling overcomes you when your back is turned to a Berserker and you hear her scream, knowing that she is just about to charge. The only thing you can do at that point is dash like a madman in any direction but forward and hope that she doesn’t catch you. The experience of taking down a Berserker is scary even when you know exactly how to dispatch them.



Arch-vile – DOOM II: Hell on Earth

Any enemy in DOOM II can ruin your day, but the Arch-vile is the worst of the bunch. Did you just get done killing a room full of enemies? No problem, the Arch-vile can revive them to fight once again. Think you can just circle strafe and avoid the Arch-vile’s attacks? Nope, if you can see the Arch-vile then he can hit you no matter what. If you’re using God Mode, Infinite Ammo, and No Clipping, then the Arch-vile probably isn’t very scary, but anyone who has played through DOOM II without using cheat codes knows that he is a terrifying creature to come into contact with. Hearing the Arch-vile’s laugh on the other side of a door is enough to cause hesitation no matter how badass you think you are.



Witches – Left 4 Dead

The first time you encounter a Witch in Left 4 Dead it’s easy to feel sympathy for her. Here is a woman with a meek frame and tattered clothes, on her knees and weeping into her palms, surrounded by hordes of zombies. Then someone in your party gets a little too close, startles her, and every sympathetic feeling is instantaneously replaced with fear and disdain. The Witch can turn the survivors’ fortunes from good to awful with just a few swipes from her claws. The crying of a Witch is more than just a creepy sound effect; it’s a warning to stay as far away from an area as humanly possible. Until Left 4 Dead 2 that is, when the Witches all agreed that wandering around was preferable to sulking in a corner.



Leapers – Dead Space

Dead Space has no shortage of disturbing and creepy enemies, but the Leapers are the ones that always scare me the most. Their appearance is par for the course relative to other necromorphs, a human head split in half horizontally to reveal large fangs, a spine protruding from its back, and a deadly spiked tail where the lower half of a human being should be. What separates Leapers from the rest is their ability to jump around the environment. Most necromorphs walk around on the ground, so they’re relatively easy to keep track of, but Leapers can jump long distances and climb walls, allowing them to attack from almost any direction. Having a Leaper jump at you from off-screen while you’re trying to fight off other necromorphs is an unforgettable fright.



Nemesis – Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Nemesis is a monster so terrifying that Capcom put his name right in the title. He is a constant source of terror even when he isn’t around. After the first encounter in which he mercilessly kills your comrade, it’s easy to imagine him around every corner. Nemesis makes the player feel like they are constantly in danger. When he does strike it’s almost a relief - at least then you know where he is. That sense of relief vanishes once Nemesis charges toward the player. Even his ridiculous outfit and the gritty way he says S.T.A.R.S can’t dilute the fear players feel in his presence.



The Gatherers – Amnesia: The Dark Descent

The Gatherers from Amnesia are disturbing.  Their soulless eyes peer in opposite directions, the mouth is torn open and hanging agape against the creature’s chest, and the large, bloody claws protruding from its hands all combine to create a terrifying creature. The Gatherers’ appearance is not what makes them truly terrifying; however, it’s the way it wanders around in the dark waiting for something to hunt. Even worse is the way it pursues the player once they have been detected. The Gathers are one of the few enemies in gaming that are even scarier when they can’t be seen. Players encounter Gatherers early on in the game so they seem to stick with people, especially those who weren’t able to finish Amnesia.



Pyramid Head – Silent Hill 2

Pyramid head is not only a terrifying specimen, but one of the most iconic enemies to come out of the horror genre, and with good reason. His appearance is menacing, like some demonic executioner wielding a large blade. He symbolizes the protagonist’s deepest, darkest emotions, which gives his existence a dark purpose. The unspeakable things he does to other characters are more than enough to rattle most players. Perhaps he is remembered so vividly because of the mysteries surrounding him; people fear the unknown.  Unsurprisingly, even 11 years after his first appearance, many people uphold Pyramid Head as one of the most terrifying monsters to ever appear in a video game.