What are the scariest sound effects in gaming history? That’s hard to land on because there’s nothing that can scare you the same way a game can. You can watch the last blonde girl run from the knife-wielding guy in the movies, but in games, you are the last blonde girl. Games make your heart beat faster, your fingers more likely to slip on the trigger, your ears to be aware of every little thing around you.
And a big part of creating that horror is the sound design, especially in a POV shot where you can’t see everything, so you need to rely somewhat on your ears to help you. So, what are the noises in gaming that really make your blood turn cold? We’re ranking some of our favorites.
Demonic Laughing (Calla of Duty Nazi Zombies)
Call of Duty has had no greater masterstroke than their zombie DLC. The wartime shooter game could have easily slipped between the cracks of countless other wartime shooter games if it wasn’t for the additional last-minute idea to add zombie horror into the mix. The Nazi Zombies combine the two scariest things you can think of, although one appears to cancel out the horror of the other. At least zombies are indiscriminate about who they go for.
But the SFX at the start of every round, like the bell in a boxing ring, is the evil cackle of the zombies. That laugh is something that is designed to warn you, to brace you, but perhaps it might even make you question the “braindead” zombies and the Nazis they once were. Maybe they’re not entirely lost, maybe they know only one thing: kill, and they enjoy it.
Better shake it off, because they’re coming for you either way.
Alma Giggling (F.E.A.R.)
Is there anything creepier than a sweet little girl? The creators of F.E.A.R. sure didn’t seem to think so. The F.E.A.R. franchise has always mixed first-person shooter with horror and arguably was one of the first to do so, but nothing it has produced has really topped Alma.
A primary protagonist since the first game, released in 2005, Alma is a little girl when you first see her. She is the result of a range of inhumane experiments set upon her and she’s ready for revenge. Her psychic abilities and childish nature make you her toy to play with, and you’ll know you’re making her happy by her little giggle. The sweet voice of the little girl giggling is enough to make your back shiver.
As the game goes on, that giggle that might make a mother tear up elsewhere is now paired with the pitter-patter of running feet, as you can hear that she’s catching up with you and ready to play. And the tragedy of the story is that you’re both disgusted and empathetic towards this little girl, who has been turned this way against her will and had all innocence taken from her. At least for a moment.
Headcrab Zombie Pleases (Half-Life Series)
The Half-Life is a rollercoaster of emotions. If you want to be scared, shocked, and heartbroken, all in one game, play Half-Life. It’s a blurring of first-person shooter, aliens, and zombies. In fact, it’s a zombie game where the zombies barely come into it. Oh, but when they do…!
The zombies are the background tension but they make themselves known, no more so than the Headcrab zombies. These demonic creatures are the result of a parasitic alien called a Headcrab attaching itself to a body host and puppeteering it around.
These sickening creatures have made the Ravenhold level in Half-Life 2 iconic. That’s right, they only show up in this one level, and yet anyone can recognize the deep, agonizing moaning, that stirs up another range of emotions. Sure, you’re scared and ready to fire, but there’s also something very tragic in those moans, making you well aware there is a person in there in pain.
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Sonic Drowning Music (Sonic the Hedgehog)
Is there a more iconic sound than the horrifying sound of Sonic drowning? The lovable children’s game was so impactful no doubt it’s being discussed in therapy sessions around the world. 90’s kids everywhere would race through this famously fast-paced labyrinth, but not only was it a particularly tricky level to go underwater, but Sonic is a hedgehog. He needs to breathe and if you weren’t quick enough through the level you were going to know about it, with a blood-curdling warbling noise as he fell off the screen.
But that wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was the music, which kept upping the tempo the longer you played, sending your heart racing right alongside it. The more you panicked, the more you were going to slip up and the easier it would be to see Sonic fail and fall from the screen.