You just can’t beat a good monster.
Well, sometimes you can. A silver bullet, stake through the heart, or quick decapitation will usually do the trick. But in terms of good, fun, solid entertainment? A monster is the ultimate narrative pick-me-up.
Some of the scariest, most unforgettable moments in entertainment feature monsters of one kind or another, across all media. Whether that monster’s something entirely fictional (such as the shape-shifting alien in The Thing) or something based on a real-world creature (such as Bruce the Shark in Jaws), a well-executed monster can make you smile and give you the heebie jeebies at the same time. Not an easy feat.
Of all media, monsters work particularly well in video games. After all, you’re not just watching a lumbering thing chasing a stock character on screen – you’re actually facing it yourself, with only your wits (and maybe a rocket launcher or two) to hand. There’s a real thrill to sitting in a dark room with your headphones on and your volume cranked up, waiting for a zombie or tentacled alien to bust through that door at the end of the corridor.
Some of the best horror-themed games have provided plenty of white-knuckle moments courtesy of their monsters – moments we come back to again and again.
So, to celebrate the wonder that is a great, scary, nasty-looking villain, we’re looking at the 10 scariest video game monsters of all time …
- 1 Reborn Laura (The Evil Within)
- 2 The Xenomorph (Alien: Isolation)
- 3 Crawlers (Dead Space 2)
- 4 Regenerators (Resident Evil 4)
- 5 Twin Victim / Doublehead (Silent Hill 4: The Room)
- 6 The Witch (Left 4 Dead)
- 7 The Hybrids (System Shock 2)
- 8 Deathclaw (Fallout 3 and 4)
- 9 Giant Spiders (Resident Evil Series)
- 10 The Hunter (Dead Space)
Reborn Laura (The Evil Within)
The Evil Within has more than its fair share of teeth-chattering moments, not least any that involve Reborn Laura.
Also known as Rebirth Laura to some, this grotesque lady has a penchant for smashing people’s heads in and screeching at a pitch almost high enough to shatter glass. If you’ve ever played this game alone, with your lights off, you’ll know just how terrifying Reborn Laura’s scenes can be.
First of all, like any good monster, she fools you into thinking you’ve won: set fire to her, and she’ll cook pretty quickly. However, unless you’ve already torched any nearby corpses, Reborn Laura has a nasty habit of regenerating from their dead flesh. She’s immune to bullets, and trying to fend her off with your bare fists is suicide. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned her four arms, claws, powers of teleportation, and her horrific spider-like scuttling.
Reborn Laura is apparently modelled on the Jorōgumo, a figure from Japanese folklore: a spider entity which takes the form of a beautiful woman. If you haven’t had any really disturbing nightmares in a while, look it up!
The Xenomorph (Alien: Isolation)
Known as the Xenomorph, the Starbeast, or just the Alien, this iconic creature is definitely one of the scariest video-game monsters of all time.
Disagree? Then you’ve probably never played Alien: Isolation.
Sure, there have been plenty of games based around the Alien before, but most of them involve wasting hordes of the blighters with a pulse rifle. As atmospheric and scary as these games may be, nothing can compare to the terror Alien: Isolation creates.
For the first half of the game or so, heroine Amanda Ripley is woefully under-equipped to fend off an acid-blooded beast; you basically have to run, hide, or accept your grim fate as the Alien executes you in a variety of ways. To start with, you can easily lose hours hiding inside a locker, waiting for the Alien to leave: even when it’s nowhere to be seen, either through the grate or on your motion tracker, the sound of its movements in nearby ventilation shafts is enough to leave you rooted to the spot.
Even later on, when Amanda gets her grubby mitts on a flamethrower, revolver, and shotgun, the fear of running into the Alien is enough to leave you creeping through levels, too scared to put your motion tracker away.
Crawlers (Dead Space 2)
The Dead Space series has some great monsters, but the Crawlers are some of the most messed-up.
These nasty little guys are reanimated infants, reformed by Necromorphs in a truly horrific way. While the Crawlers still possess their baby-faces, their heads are actually twisted upside down and their bloated torsos are filled with explosive material. If Isaac lets them crawl too close, they’ll explode – and, if you’ve let his health drop low enough, sever a few of his limbs for good measure.
The first appearance of the Crawlers is pretty chilling, to say the least: As Isaac explores a blood-spattered school, he finds a woman hugging what appears to be some kind of decomposing infant. Said corpse then explodes, coating the walls with fresh blood and guts. It’s powerful stuff, and shows how far Visceral Games are willing to go to generate a scare (and how apt their name is).
Regenerators (Resident Evil 4)
Ah, Resident Evil 4. While this helped to steer the franchise towards the more action-oriented beast it became, it still has a hefty dollop of scares.
Many of these come courtesy of the Regenerators. These clumsy, shuffling, respiratory-challenged monsters are truly the stuff of nightmares. The worst thing about them? The wheezing.
These goons stumble through levels, breathing in such a loud, erratic, creepy way they can only be doing it deliberately to freak you out. As you wander through corridors, under-armed and trying to reach the next save point, the sound of that wheezing is enough to put you on edge.
To make things even tougher, the Regenerators are tough to kill: blow a hole in their gut or pop their heads, they just regenerate and keep coming at you. A shot to the heart will do the trick, though.
Twin Victim / Doublehead (Silent Hill 4: The Room)
All right, now this is just weird.
Twin Victim/Doublehead is a pair of conjoined twins in a smock, walking on adult hands. We’d like to know what their creator had for breakfast that day.
While the Twin Victim is scary enough to look at, their behaviour is equally chilling. Upon first seeing you, they don’t come flying or running at you – instead, they simply stand still, stare, and point.
Luckily, they’re a tad clumsy in close encounters.
The Witch (Left 4 Dead)
The Witch is the kind of monster you’ve seen in movies before, but when you have to face her in Left 4 Dead, she’s all kinds of scary.
The Witch is prone to sitting on the ground like a sulking child, and sobbing. Until, that is, you get close enough for her to turn those creepy eyes on you.
And how about when she runs?! Anyone who played the second game will know just how terrifying it is to see the words ‘you startled the Witch’.
The Hybrids (System Shock 2)
While System Shock 2’s graphics are starting to look a little raw now, nobody can argue with the sheer pants-wetting awesomeness of its Hybrids.
These monsters are the reanimated corpses of ordinary men and women, but don’t be fooled by that fairly generic video-game-zombie designs: these things pack an extra punch. How? Their ability to speak.
Rather than simply groaning or grunting at you, the Hybrids will utter such lines as ‘you do not hide forever’ and ‘we hear flesh’. Not bad enough? Okay, how about if they sound like their throats are hanging out of their necks and every word is a struggle?
Deathclaw (Fallout 3 and 4)
Fallout 3 and 4 have an unsettling atmosphere most of the time. Wandering the ruined remains of the world, never quite sure who or what you’re likely to meet over the next mound of rubble. It’s an immersive experience in which you can get completely lost.
So, whenever you see a Deathclaw heading your way, only the bravest or high-levelled player does anything but run. These big ol’ beasts are just as fearsome as they sound, powerful enough to take you down with just a couple of hits.
Even with Power Armour and a big, fat gatling gun, Deathclaws take some beating. There are multiple different types of Deathclaw too, so learning the differences between them is key to surviving any encounters you might have.
Still, you never know – if you end up with a Deathclaw companion, what’s left to be afraid of?
Giant Spiders (Resident Evil Series)
Spiders are wonderful, fascinating things … but that doesn’t make them any less scary.
In its early years, the Resident Evil series managed to incorporate giant spiders multiple times. In the first game, players were faced with a monstrous spider almost as big as the room it was in. In the sequel, several of the super-sized creepy-crawlies lurked in the sewers – even if you just run past them, their presence alone is enough to give arachnophobes nightmares.
Let’s not forget their ability to spit poison at you, either. This means that even if you avoid fighting them, your hero can end up in pretty bad shape.
In the remaster of Resident Evil, the spiders’ movements and fuzzy designs are uncomfortably realistic. Even with a flamethrower, it’s hard to feel brave taking them down.
The Hunter (Dead Space)
Not only did the Dead Space series bring us reanimated infants packing explosive tummies, but it also delivered the Hunter.
As one of the primary threats in the first game, this monster is a big, strong, ugly beast able to regenerate itself. While Isaac’s weapons are powerful enough to dismember Necromorphs right, left, and centre, the Hunter just won’t stay down – even if you remove every part of it, this thing will get up, chase you, and kill you. Unless you can escape, which is easier said than done.
The Hunter becomes even scarier when you find yourself low on ammo and medicine. Still, its extreme hardness only leads to a real feeling of achievement when you actually manage to beat it.
What do you think is the scariest video game monster of all time? Let us know!