No matter if they’re scaly, slimy, hairy, or a combination, video game enemies that are ‘not of this Earth’ have made one heck of a habit out of terrifying players. They don’t all have to be as deadly or cunning as the titular monster in Alien: Isolation, but game designers have shown that they don’t cut corners when it comes to designing enemies that are disturbing – not just in appearance, but the kind of impact they can have on a player’s sensitive spirits.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that they’re less ‘scary’ so much as they are ‘annoying’ in terms of gameplay. For instance: the Halo series has built its franchise on a human space marine doing battle with a number of alien species. But while Brutes, Hunters, and even Elites can pose a challenge, they don’t torment the player’s mind like the medium’s most memorable otherworldly monsters.
Here is our list of the 10 Scariest Video Game Aliens.
Bloodmount (Gears of War)
Typically, gamers expect that when a soldier rides into combat, it’s the enemy and their weaponry, not the creature carrying them into battle that should be a concern. But in the case of Bloodmounts from the Gears of War series, the opposite is true. Sure, the bulky Locust riding them need to be dealt with first, but once their riders are dispatched, these feral creatures of the planet Sera become even more terrifying. The fact that they run using their arms to keep the razor-sharp claws on their feet in convenient ‘slashing’ position is enough trouble; but damage their facial armor, and the creatures become enraged, attacking the remaining forces with truly savage ferocity – and a face even its mother could have done without.
They may owe their overall design to that of the Predator movies, but the Skaarj warriors of Unreal don’t require stealth or invisibility to send a chill down players’ spines. It’s not so much their teeth, tusks, or reptilian skin that makes them something to be feared by players, but their overwhelming hatred of humanity. A hulking, scaly alien warrior trying to kill you is bad enough. But when their hatred is strong enough to bring them charging at you despite the heavy weapon in your hand, they deserve special credit for intimidation.
As its storied past and place within gaming’s Hall of Fame will continue to bring PC gamers and curious shooter fans to see where the genre was shaped, Half-Life players will be in for a truly scarring surprise in the form of Headcrabs. Sharing the same terror and skin-crawling tension of their ‘Facehugger’ brethren from the Alien films, the (technically extra-dimensional) Headcrabs are actually some of the easiest Half-Life enemies to dispatch. But that will be little comfort when your first encounter (and second, and third…) send its chomping beak directly at the player’s screen.
X Parasites/SA-X (Metroid Fusion)
What’s sure to make even the most season space pirate bounty hunter run for their life? How about an alien parasite managing to mimic said bounty hunter from within a damaged suit of Power Armor? That’s exactly what happened to Samus Aran in Metroid Fusion, thanks to the X Parasites that copied Aran’s form and took her used armor for itself. An alien parasite may not sound as intimidating a force as others on our list, but players who didn’t simply evade the SA-X soon received a rude awakening.
And since the X Parasites of the planet SR388 are claimed to be the very threat that the titular Metroids were engineered to stop, we would say they’ve proven their staying power.
Giygas (Mother, Earthbound)
Sure, the exact appearance/body/form/boundaries of the entity known as Giygas – the central antagonist of both Mother and Earthbound – is something of a mystery. But frankly, that’s what makes him so terrifying. Players are told that he began his life as an alien taken in by loving parents, before ultimately becoming an enemy so evil, his presence is felt throughout each game without needed to ever be seen? Not to mention that one lasting image of the villain (above) manages to put us on edge even years later…
It would be bad enough if the alien creatures known as Chryssalids from XCOM: Enemy Unknown were simply out to kill. They’re fast, spring up out of nowhere, and usually kill with a single strike (or two). Their potency in combat means a sudden appearance is a fright in itself, but instead of killing one of the player’s troops, they turn them into zombi-fied egg carriers. That means a friend becomes a foe for a handful of turns, only released from their zombie corpse when a new Chryssalid emerges from within. Twice the problem, and fewer soldier to solve it. Now that’s frightening.
The Flood (Halo)
At this point, anyone who has played even a brief amount of Halo knows that for all the dangerous and lethal aliens contained within, they all pale in comparison to The Flood. Their name is a hint, as the parasitic organism doesn’t confine itself only to the sentient creatures it takes over. Acting like a magnified virus, The Flood’s only desire is to attack, kill, and consume any and all life capable of supporting it. And in a rather cruel twist, they also happen to be fairly hard to kill. Assuming a player can muster the courage in the face of a galaxy-ending super virus.
Berserker (Gears of War)
To look at them, it’s hard to see many real distinctions between the various ranks of the Locust Drones. But after Gears of War players had learned that even the best-armored Drones could be beaten with bullets, they met the Berserker. The female side of the Locust Drone ranks, the Berserker is bigger, stronger, faster, and more durable. They also happen to be blind, meaning their ears and nose lead them to savagely charge and attack anything perceived as an enemy. There isn’t much that could get the COGs of the series running scared, but a Berserker was one of them.
Banshee (Mass Effect 3)
What makes the presence of the Banshee in the Mass Effect series so terrifying was the fact that until its arrival, BioWare’s sci-fi RPG wasn’t known for being a ‘scary’ experience. That obviously changed in Mass Effect 3, when the oncoming sentient robotic race known as Reapers began corrupting other sentient species into their grotesque minions. And for the unlucky – but formerly beautiful – Asari, that meant being transformed into a Banshee.
Is it their biotic attacks, their corrupted naked bodies, or their piercing scream that most terrified players? It’s hard to say. But the combination of those features, and the Banshee’s ability to teleport-hop across a battlefield towards the player made it the stuff of nightmares, let alone a science fiction shooter.
Slasher (Dead Space)
It’s nearly impossible to pick just one entry from the Dead Space series, since it’s a franchise based on including only those enemies sure to terrify players. But while other games may rely on generic footsoldiers to make up most of the opposition, and save their scariest creations for later stages or battles, Dead Space instead developed the twisted, violent, and downright distrubing Slasher as its cannon fodder.
As one of the most common enemies found in the series, the Slasher – at one time a human, now corrupted, exploded open, extra limbs grown, and blades of bone grown from its arms – isn’t particularly challenging to kill on its own. But the developers designed an enemy that was so instinctively repulsive, it never ceased to shock and horrify. And that’s saying something.
Those are just a sample of the alien menaces that have plagued gamers’ eyes, ears, and hearts for years. Whether it’s the sheer terror they induce, or the horrible fuel they provide for our own imagination, we would count ourselves lucky to never encounter them any time soon.
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