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Video Games That Are Too Disturbing To Finish

Horror is big business, and fans of both horror movies and games are asking for more and more from their scares. As horror begins to reach bigger audiences and garner more mainstream attention, creators continue to challenge audiences with new, even more disturbing content.


Granted, disturbing and scary are two very different things: many people are drawn to outright scares due to the adrenaline rush they provide. "Disturbing," on the other hand, deliberately tries to repulse and unsettle its audience. The Observer writes that two of the most profitable movies of 2017 were Get Out and Split, both of which dealt in horror and some seriously disturbing content. And don't forget the remake of IT, which took in over $700 million during its box office run.

Video games also deal in quite a bit of disturbing imagery and, because the player takes an active role in the proceedings, can often push the envelope even more on disturbing content. Today, we're taking a look at some of those games that push the player right up to the cliff, point out over the horizon, and give that last little push over the edge.


The Binding of Isaac tasks you with killing your own mother

On its surface, Binding of Isaac looks more weird than disturbing. You play as a small boy, moving through Legend of Zelda-esque procedurally generated levels and fighting weird enemies like sentient poops and lumps of flesh. If you start delving into the backstory of the game, however, things get really disturbing really fast.


The opening narration informs you that Isaac's mother spends her day watching religious television, and that God spoke to her and informed her that her son Isaac (that's you!) needs to be killed. And it only gets worse from there. As you get further through the game, levels start to get names like "Scarred Womb," and you battle with more and more enemies that resemble malformed versions of Isaac.

You battle your mother as a boss, throwing bombs at her eyes until she explodes in a shower of blood. If you kill enough angels, you can grab a key and battle Satan himself as the final boss.

There are plenty of disturbing bits of lore in Binding of Isaac, and plenty of places where people pitch their pick for the most disturbing bit in the game. This Reddit post has the best one we've seen: Isaac loves his dead cat Guppy so much that he associates the flies swarming his body as friends. Dark.


Doki Doki Literature Club only looks like a cute dating sim

At first, Doki Doki Literature Club looks like a pretty standard anime visual novel: cute animated girls in dangerously tight clothing flirting with the player character as you choose who you would most like to romance. Things occasionally get odd, like the fact that the girls' poetry is far less cutesy than you would expect.


It seems like it's just a moderately strange little free game. Then, suddenly, it isn't.

Doki Doki Literature Club has some absolutely bonkers twists in it, and it eventually gets to the point where the game is openly hostile towards you. Not your character, but you, the player. It obscures conversation options, keeping you from choosing them. It mocks your decisions and your helplessness. And, if you somehow manage to make it through all the bizarre and disturbing material, you're rewarded with a terribly bleak ending.

GQ called it "the most messed up horror game you'll play this year." Kotaku's Gita Jackson said the game "scared me s***less." Polygon said it was "uncontrollably horrific." Best of all, it's totally free. Stop reading about it and play through if you haven't already.


Eternal Darkness is all of Lovecraft's best packed together

If you were playing a word association game, it seems unlikely that you would link "disturbing" with "Nintendo." Games in the house that Mario built are usually wholesome, colorful, and easy to pick up and play. Now, Nintendo did not create the GameCube masterpiece Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, but the game was only ever released for that one system, and to this day it feels out of place there due to its Lovecraftian cosmic horror and disturbing sanity effects.


Eternal Darkness looks a bit like a Resident Evil knockoff to the uninitiated, but it utilizes a particularly impressive technique to disorient the player: a sanity meter. As your character encounters all the Cthuluhu-esque terrors of the game's narrative, they gradually lose their mind. These can have small effects, like seeing enemies that aren't there — typical video game stuff. But it gets really nasty when the game decides to mess with you. You'll go up to the screen to kill a fly that is walking across television, and it isn't really there. Your save files will look like they are being erased when you try to reload your game. Entire scenes will play out that are not actually happening. It's a master class in disorienting and disturbing content.


Don't worry, it's got some good old fashioned jump scares as well.

Heavy Rain puts you through a gut-wrenching dismemberment scene

You want to talk disturbing? I have four words for you: "Press X to Jason."

Joking aside, Heavy Rain has some seriously disturbing moments. The central story — searching for a serial killer and a missing son — is in itself disturbing enough. There are a few things that stand out, however, as a bit tough to stomach. Those who have played through the entirety of Heavy Rain all probably recall scenes that stand out as difficult to handle, and most lists would probably contain the "finger removal" scene.


Heavy Rain's central question is this: "How far would you go to save someone you care about?" This particular scene pushes that question to the ultimate limit, setting a time limit and forcing you to decide if you can trust the word of the serial killer to provide the information you need.

All you have to do is cut off one of your fingers.

There are multiple ways to "succeed" in this scene, but you are not given a lot of time to decide if it is something you actually want to go through with. Can you trust that the Origami Killer will keep his word if you engage in a bit of dismemberment? There's only one way to find out ...

Little Nightmares preys on all your childhood fears

Unlike some of the games on this list, you can tell just from looking at screenshots of Little Nightmares how disturbing it is. You take control of a small child in a raincoat who must work her way through a terrifying maze filled with grotesque enemies. A look at the monstrosities you need to overcome is pretty telling about what type of horror this game unleashes.


The first enemy you meet is the Janitor, whose squat appearance, blindfolded face (don't worry, he can hear and smell really well), and arms that are far too long is pure nightmare fuel. The twin chefs, who hack into questionable cuts of meat, would love nothing more than to slap you onto their cutting boards. And the ravenous guests of the Maw, the prison that holds you hostage, will literally claw over each other in an attempt to get to you.

In their write-up of Little Nightmares, Forbes sums the game up nicely: "Ever have one of those terrible something-isn't-quite-right dreams? You know, where everyone you meet has physical features that are just ever-so-slightly ... off?" That "uncanny valley" fear runs throughout Little Nightmares, and makes it tough to sit through all the way to the end.


Sanitarium will test of your sanity

Sanitarium, not surprisingly, deals with a lot of elements of insanity. It is one of those somewhat legendary PC titles; it was a overly serious and gloomy slice of adventure game at a time when the genre was dominated by comedy titles. A point and click adventure game that tests your grip on reality while demanding you explore every unsettling nook and cranny in order to reveal the full plot? Sign us up.


Destructoid's retrospective on Sanitarium calls it "disturbing but not scary," and talks about how the game's "disfigured children, lonely freaks, grotesque aliens, and mourning ghosts are far more unnerving" than the typical horrors you find in video games.

The story demands a lot of the player, uncovering hints hidden in the background of the differing areas you visit and connecting the dots of symbolism throughout Sanitarium's seemingly random level and character design. That said, there are plenty of moments that might make you just turn the game off — how about that guy pounding his head against a bloody spot on the wall?

Dead Space 2 has an absolutely awful scene with a needle

You know what you're getting into with the Dead Space series: it's essentially a video game version of Event Horizon. Yes, the enemies are horrifying, and the fact that you need to dismember them in order to keep them from coming back to kill you is rather unsettling. However, creepy violence is pretty old hat in the world of video games. Dead Space 2 does it extremely well, capitalizing on the strengths of the first game and helping to tighten up its weaknesses.


That said, slicing up some alien monsters isn't enough to land Dead Space 2 on the "Time to turn this game off right now" list. Dead Space 2 has one specific scene, however, that might just scar you for life. If you've played the game, you know what we're talking about: the NoonTech Diagnostic Machine. Also known as "That awful scene where you jab yourself in the eye with a needle."

This isn't just a disturbing cutscene, either: you are actually in control, attempting to plunge a needle directly into protagonist Isaac Clarke's pupil. Miss and the machine malfunctions, creating a bloody mess as the needle plunges past Isaac's eye. The success is almost worse; Isaac isn't killed, but watching the blood leak from the corner of his eye is cringeworthy enough to keep you from wanting to continue.


Danganronpa features an animatronic bear executing children

We all know that children are disturbing. The unsettling horror trope of "creepy kid who knows way too much about the monster" is wildly popular for a reason. Here's the set up for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: a group of children are, essentially, imprisoned together and put through a series of demanding tasks. One by one, the children are executed in elaborate ways by an animatronic, psychotic bear named Monokuma.


Yeah, it's a weird one.

That said, the Danganronpa series works because it plays on one of our most primal fears: children. Eurogamer compares its central conceit to other massive influencers in pop culture: The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and Lord of the Flies. The bizarre, somber mood the game sets after forcing the player to essentially mark a student for death is extremely unsettling, and will make you second guess many of your decisions. It's a tough game to get through, despite its chilling but captivating story.

Pony Island is a little piece of hell, just for you

Who are we kidding — there's no way Pony Island is disturbing, right? Just a nice relaxing game about ponies chilling on an island, eating ... oats? Is that what ponies eat?

Of course this game isn't what it seems. Pony Island is about a demonic arcade game, possessed by Satan, that is designed to steal your soul. The fact that it looks like a simple little pony game makes it even tougher to deal with.


Kotaku called the game "seriously twisted," and they talked about the way Pony Island is able to subvert your expectations and mess with your mind: "At one point I was tricked into thinking I had accidentally sent a horrible message to someone outside the game. The tricks Pony Island played on me were so clever and effective that when I finally finished playing and closed the application, I wasn't sure if I actually closed it."

It's short, but there's a level of scary here that's well beyond traditional horror games. It messes with your mind, and Vice called it "a daring, demonic, and demented video game masterpiece."