Gaming is one of the best mediums of storytelling, it’s immersive, interactive and it stimulates your audio-visual senses. You literally walk in your character’s shoes, sometimes spending hundreds of hours with them. As such the decisions and actions that happen can hit you on a whole new visceral level. I’m talking about performing surgery on yourself, becoming a weird human blob and even just witnessing some truly horrific creatures. So here’s a list of emotionally scarring cringe-worthy moments of games that got us good. But first warnings for major spoilers and some extremely messed up content.
The Lizard – Heavy Rain (2010)
Heavy Rain is a dark game. It’s a story about a serial killer drowning capturing children and proceeding to drown them with rainwater. The father of each child is given five fucked up tests to complete to get their child back. It’s one messed up situation after another and there are quite a few moments to pick from this game. But the one that caused me the most heart palpitations was from The Lizard Trial. “Are you prepared to make a sacrifice to save your son?” In this trial, you have five minutes to cut off the last section of your fingers on camera.
It’s all sorts of messed up and the game doesn’t even tell you how to do it. It’s up to you on how to cut your own finger. An axe? Scissors? A Saw. All horrific. Then you have to actually manoeuvre your controller into pushing down the implement to cut off your finger as Ethan screams in pain. It’s an unforgettable moment. Then, of course, there’s disinfecting and cauterising the wound, which I have to say I did not think about my first time around. Sorry, man.
White Phosphorus – Spec Ops: The Line (2012)
Spec Ops: The Line far from being just another military-based shooter has a well-written story backing it up. Unlike its brother games like Call of Duty that seem to glamourise warfare with explosions and theatrics. Spec Ops: The Line is ambitious in the way it portrays US military intervention in the midst of escalating chaos. Its narrative will permanently open your eyes to the horrors of war. In one of the missions, you come across a white phosphorus mortar that you are prompted to use in order to clear out hostiles and progress. There’s no real choice here and you’re forced to use it.
What follows is a cutscene that showcases the full extent of the carnage. Charred corpses, people half alive with their bodies blown up and then the shocking realisation. That instead of an enemy troop you unwittingly just torched hundreds of human refugees. The defenceless civilians frozen forever in death is haunting and what that remains one of gaming’s most wtf moments.
Unplanned Parenthood – South Park: The Stick Of Truth (2014)
We all know that a South Park game is going to have the cartoon’s signature mix of crude and inappropriate humour. Whether it’s about Cartman’s Mum smoking crack, dildos or just plain racism. It’s the expected narrative. But there’s this particular scene that takes it to another level – having to perform a pretty disturbing albeit fake abortion on Randy. You’ve both dressed up and snuck into the Unplanned Parenthood. And in order to convince the government agents that you’re a real doctor, you have to perform an abortion. The thing is, is that the mini-game is, kind of accurate because there’s scraping and vacuums involved. Oh, and if you fail, it gets really nasty.
Polarized – Life Is Strange (2015)
All of Episode 5 is emotionally traumatic in Life Is Strange. I don’t even want to get into the heartbreak that is sacrificing Chloe and having to listen to her die. But what ended up being another pretty fucked up storyline was Mr Jefferson. Mark Jefferson is Blackwell Academy’s resident psychopath and photography teacher. He has a secret obsession to capture the “moment innocence evolves into corruption”.
There’s this scene after Mr Jefferson has shot Chloe and drugged Max, where you wake up in the Dark Room. You’re bound, gagged and drugged while he attempts to take more photos of you. You escape after some timey-wimey efforts on your part. But the scene comes back to haunt you in Max’s nightmare. You’re forced to happily agree with him and responses are hair raising. Ewww. To top it off he’s the first to chase you in the dream and it’s frankly pretty chilling.
Family Matters – The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is full of scary messed up creatures and spells. But one of the most disturbingly haunting ones that’s stayed with me until today is the Botchling. At some point in The Witcher 3, Baron Phillip Strenger will ask you to help him find his missing wife and daughter. Like most of Geralt’s quests what starts off as fairly simple becomes a long and complicated adventure. You find out that his wife was pregnant and had miscarried the child owing to the abuse she’d suffered at the hands of the Baron. The ‘dead’ baby was then buried and became a Botchling.
Urgh, the Botchling is one of the most creepy creatures you can find in The Witcher and that’s saying something. Resembling a kind of deformed fetus it is created from the improper burial of unwanted, stillborn infants and it preys on pregnant women. While hiding beneath beds, Botchlings sap the expectant mother of strength and once she is completely defenceless it will latch on and directly feed off the blood, killing both her and the unborn child. Disturbing. So disturbing.
Endgame – Inside (2016)
Inside is a surreal, atmospheric puzzle adventure that looks and plays great. You play as a young boy that’s broken into a heavily fortified research facility. There’s ominous scientists around, creepy subterranean children and seemingly deactivated mindless men. The game goes from fun puzzle platformer to human centipede levels at the end really quickly. When you find out that there’s a horrifying biological experiment made out of many humans called the Huddle. It looks like a pretty scary blob of arms and legs which your character gets sucked up into. And for the last horrifying 20 minutes of the game, you move around as this blob of suffering humans. Smashing everything in your way to escape and die right outside. It’s horrifying.
Protect The Children – NieR: Automata (2017)
NieR: Automata is a heavily underrated game with some deep storytelling. Watching these androids and robots act with human emotion is terrible to see. We’re introduced to Pascal one of the more important NPCs in the game. Although she is a machine, Pascal is a pacifist. One day her village gets attacked when some of its residents begin to start eating each other. Taking the young child machines she escapes to the Abandoned Factory. Also the scene of the cult ‘Become As Gods’ machines. Another equally disturbing tale.
After A2 and Pascal destroy the other attacking machines they make their way back to the factory to tell the children that the danger has passed. It’s here to our horror that we find that all the children machines have committed suicide. Pascal realizes that she made a grave mistake by educating the children about the concept of fear. She believed that if they learned fear, it would prevent them from seeking trouble and help them stay safe in the village. But the children became so overwhelmed with fear of the hostile Machines that they killed themselves to escape it.
It’s heartbreaking and Pascal unable to live with what he has done asks that A2 delete all of his memories. If you choose to delete Pascal’s memories, she will return to her now abandoned village. When you next return she offers to sell various Machine parts, including the cores of the child Machines. Unaware that she’s selling the scrap that once comprised his fellow villagers.
Donkey Lady – Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)
I could pretty much fill this list with all the wtf moments from Red Dead Redemption. But I only have space for one right now. One of the most popular glitches that OG Red Dead Redemption took a lot of flack for was the Donkey Lady. The game would spawn an NPC with the AI and face of a donkey. It’s all fun and games riding on this half donkey/half lady. That is until the creators put a nod to the Donkey Lady in Red Dead Redemption 2. Standing beside a mill appears to be the remains of a woman with her head supplanted by that of a donkey. The sets of remains appear equally decayed, suggesting that the figure has been in her mannequin-like position for some time. Urgh yuck, what. Sorry for laughing Rockstar I take it back.