It’s that time of year again. The leaves turn brown and fall from the trees, the days grow shorter and parents believe that it’s somehow acceptable to allow their offspring to roam the streets begging while they set off explosions in the sky at night. It’s the most wonderful time.
But it got me thinking about what actually used to scare me as a kid. I was never exposed to 18 rated horror films because my parents actually gave a shit. As a kid I was scared by the kind of stuff that was meant to send a chill down a kids’ spine. Not graphic images of a knife wielding madman stabbing some horny teenagers by a lake, but stuff that sent my imagination into overdrive and allowed my brain to do most of the scaring.
Nothing did this job better than The Legend of Zelda series. While usually charming and swashbuckling, every Zelda game is peppered with darker, chilling moments that can still to this day freak me out. Here are five moments that made me want to put my controller down and sit in a corner, and no, Tingle will not be in this list. Because that’s such an obvious choice.
Dead Hand (Ocarina of Time)
You only need to look at this ungodly bastard to see why it might terrify a ten year old encountering it for the first time. It’s not as if exploring under the well in Kakariko village was a traumatizing enough experience, with INVISIBLE SPIDERS, random patches of floor you could fall through into a pit of zombies and INVISIBLE SPIDERS.
No, they had to top the whole experience off with a boss fight with fucking satan himself, scabby hands shoot from the ground, holding you still while a hell beast with a giant, rictus grin that would make The Joker shudder edges over to you to eat your brains. Ten years on and I still dread meeting Dead Hand. The Lens of Truth wasn’t even that good.
Wall Masters (Zelda I, Oracle Series)
You might find it strange that I find these scarier than Ocarina’s ceiling dropping breed or the Wind Waker variety that basically pull you into hell, but Oracle of Seasons Wall Masters are the first I encountered and where I expected to simply take damage from them, they took me back to the start of the bloody dungeon.
I was scared, confused, and it took me more tries than I can remember to get past them. For that reason, and the fact they came out of the shitting walls made me terrified of them.
It’s at its worst when you aren’t aware of their presence. You’re edging your way through a dungeon. You hear that hellish shrill scream and your heart leaps into your throat as the camera swings around to reveal a zombie plodding towards you. You mash the controller, screaming, doing anything you can to just move but it’s all to no avail. The ReDead is upon your paralyzed form. It closes on you and… dry humps you.
The ex Hyrulean sex offenders are a scary bunch, if only because they literally stop you in your tracks and sexually assault you. Of course, as with all things scary, they’re at their worst when you don’t expect them. For example, in Ocarina when you’re in a hurry to get out of Ganon’s crumbling castle and you’re accosted by one right next to the bloody exit. Dick move, Nintendo.
Ikana Tower (Majora’s Mask)
It’s not that the final dungeon in Majora’s mask is even trying to be overtly scary, it’s just that everything about it is deeply, deeply unsettling.
The subtly creepy music, the strange statues of demons holding upside down triforces, that fucking freaky statue that’s meant to look like Link when you play that song… The entire place feels wrong, and more than a little off. I suppose that sums up Majora’s Mask as a whole really.
Dodongo (Ocarina of Time)
This one is based purely on personal experience as Dodongo is not in the least bit scary as the second boss of the game. These days I off the guy with barely a second thought. Muscle memory kicks in and it’s bomb, sword, boom. But it wasn’t always like that.
I must have been about eight when I first played Ocarina (it came with the Wind Waker special edition if you must know). All was well as I breezed through the second dungeon and I plunged down the hole and into Dodongo’s pit. There I was faced with this giant, fire breathing lizard and I just froze up.
It’s not that I was ever even scared of dinosaurs or anything (I loved them) it was the combination of the fact there was literally no way out, and I can only run in a small circle because of the lava pit at the center. I just freaked out and could never do it. Of course, the day I finally did, I felt like I could overcome anything…
Then I got to the shadow temple. Thank you Zelda, for absolutely destroying my childhood. Good job.