Ever look back on something and think: "I was terrified by THAT?" Well, you're not alone. It always seems that no matter what genre a game is, there can always be some nightmare fuel added in. Educational games seem to be the least-likely thing to scare children (unless that child is literally terrified of math and reading), but don't judge a game by it's cover. Here are a few examples of games which terrified many kids (including myself) growing up.
Prepare for nostalgia overload in 3...2...1...
5. Mario is Missing (1992)
What could possibly be scary about Mario? Well, when the sprites in your game are bug-eyed and creepy enough to spawn an internet meme, you know you've messed up big time. Just take a look at this in-game sprite of Luigi and tell me it isn't the least bit creepy.
Something about that cross-eyed look is really unsettling. Not to mention the fact that Luigi's blank, wide-open stare give off a "I will eat your soul" feel to it. Again, it spawned an infamous internet meme known as Weegee, in which the creepy-looking character would freak out various people.
I'm sure plenty of 90's kids still have night terrors from that face to this day...
4. Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1991)
How on Earth could a game about nursery rhymes be terrifying? On the surface, it's just an innocent game about helping nursery rhyme characters find their signature objects. You help Miss Muffet find her tuffet, you give Little Jack Horner his Christmas pie, and...
go face to face with a hyper-realistic frog? Yeah, this doesn't seem that frightening as an adult. However, let me tell you: as a three-year-old kid, that frog was absolutely horrifying. Every other sprite in the game is 16 bit, so suddenly seeing a realistic-looking frog in the game was quite jarring. The fact that it stares right at you with those big eyes makes it even worse.
All I can say is that this frog would fit right into a certain 70's B-movie.
3. Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue (1995 Re-release)
With better graphics comes more detail, but with more detail can come a creepier look. This is the case with this classic game in the Super Solvers series. This game has you searching the halls of a school for clues before the evil Master of Mischief makes the building disappear. As if the time limit to find him wasn't stressful enough, you also have to deal with his robot minions patrolling the halls to catch you. They also pop out of nowhere and startle you, giving little time to react.
While they don't look that scary in the DOS version:
Here's what they look like in the 1995 version:
I'm not sure if it was their garish color schemes, the fact that they popped out of nowhere, or the way that their faces are detailed, but these things made kids everywhere reach for the escape button. I still remember a nightmare I had of the one on the left chasing me down a dark hallway...
2. Jumpstart 1st Grade.
A game directly intended for first graders wouldn't be remotely scary, right? You just go around the school with a little wiener dog and play some games. In one mini-game, kids get to cook all sorts of recipes. If they get every ingredient exactly right, they are rewarded with a fresh-from-the-oven treat. If they get something slightly wrong...
THE GLOP MONSTER ATTACKS!!! What a lesson to teach children, eh? If you put in a teaspoon of salt instead of a half-teaspoon, this pile of fruitcake batter is going to come out of the oven and send you running from the computer like it was on fire.
Actually, I've heard a few people say that they loved the glop monster, and often got the recipe wrong to see him. For me though, this is one game I never touched again.
1. 3D Dinosaur Adventure (1993)
It's pretty much safe to say that many kids love dinosaurs as much as Jordan Belfort loves Quaaludes. Along with the Land Before Time movies and the cartoon, Denver, the Last Dinosaur, 3D Dinosaur Adventure really got kids interested in how dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.
This was an educational game that included a reference section on dinosaurs and several games to play. One of these games was arguably the most frightening and stressful game meant for children.
The Save the Dinosaurs game had you running around a maze trying to find and rescue different dinosaurs before a giant comet comes and destroys everything. Trying to navigate the maze was a nightmare as a kid, and the ticking clock and hungry raptors threatening to eat you didn't make it any better. Sure the raptors were still images, but the over-the-top voice overs were really what made them frightening:
Raaaaah! Aaaaaah! I'm dromaeosaurus; cousin of velociraptor, and just as mean! Next time you'd better watch where you go...Because I might just eat YOU! Raaaaaah!
The worst part of this game, however, is what happens if you fail:
"AAAAH! AAAAAH! OH NO! THE COMET'S HIT THE EARTH!!!"
Despite how cartoonish the narrator sounds nowadays, this was an absolutely bone-chilling thing to hear as a small child. The entire environment is engulfed in explosions, and you can hear the dinosaurs' screams of agony as they are burnt to a crisp. Dang...
There was a couple of other things in this game worth noting. The video gallery contained two clips that gave me and a lot of my friends nightmares for weeks.
For example, here's a clip where you get to see all the dinosaurs go extinct. The land is torched and the un-hatched eggs are utterly poached. A wee bit morbid don't you think?
Despite the small resolution, this next video gave kids the exact feeling of what it would be like to have a hungry dinosaur chasing you. Some saw it as cool, but I and many others saw it as truly terrifying.
Do you have any scary game memories as a kid? Let me know in the comments below.