The Scariest Characters That Aren’t From Horror Games

Video games perfectly lend themselves to horror. While movies and books give you an opportunity to look away or take a break, games require you to participate in order to get to the scares. It’s the reason why the Resident Evil, Five Nights At Freddy’s, and Silent Hill series are so successful.

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But the best frights come from where you least expect it. You expect a game like Outlast to scare the living daylights out of you, but from Mario? Never! So let’s honor those unnerving and horrifying characters that sneak up on us in titles where we’d least expect them.

Updated on October 4, 2023, by Grant Burton: There are a lot of scary characters in video games. So many that the original version of this article missed a few, so this update adds some notable omissions to the list of scary characters in non-horror games.

15 Winston The Butler – Tomb Raider 2

Winston the butler from Tomb Raider 2

Unlike many on this list, Winston the Butler is not deliberately scary. He’s actually a very nice, elderly man, trying to do his job. He’s more helpful than anything else. However, in Tomb Raider 2, he follows you around the mansion like a ninja, appearing when you least expect him to.

Winston is scary purely because of the shock and surprise he incites when you suddenly turn around to find he’s right behind you. Luckily, you can rid yourself of that fear by locking him inside the freezer.

The Sorrow in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Across the Metal Gear series, Naked Snake, Solid Snake, and Raiden do battle with a range of villains. There are expert marksmen, snipers, tanks, vampires, androids, and more. But Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater presents an enemy unlike any other. One that is long dead.

The Sorrow is a ghost, one that is following the adventure of Naked Snake and his one-time lover, The Boss. Late in the game, The Sorrow and Naked Snake finally do battle. And the only way for Snake to win is to confront the souls of all he’s beaten up to that point, and then die. It’s not a typical boss fight, or a typical enemy, but his presence is creepy, and his intent scary.

13 The Collectors – Mass Effect 2

The Collectors as seen in Mass Effect 2

Space and aliens can be quite scary. In Mass Effect 2, the prime antagonists are a race known as The Collectors. They are insectoid, with fly-like wings, beady eyes, and powerful weaponry. They’re a force to be reckoned with.

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What makes them even scarier is what they’re doing and why. They are kidnapping people from across the galaxy, turning them into a horrific, gloopy substance to fuel their machinations, and they’re championing the arrival of the Reapers – a race intent on destroying all life. Harbinger, the Reaper manipulating them has an imposing, deep voice too, adding some gravitas and intimidation to them.

12 Scarecrow – Batman: Arkham Asylum

Scarecrow as seen in Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman contends with a lot of villains. Some of which are human, disfigured, chaotic, psychotic, or a little of everything. Scarecrow is one of the more unique ones in that he is a master of fear and manipulation. A one-time psychologist, Jonathan Crane now haunts Batman and others using a toxin to incite fear and hallucinations.

In Batman: Arkham Asylum, he subjects Batman to said toxin. Batman then traverses the already claustrophobic, uncomfortable Asylum, seeing his deceased parents, fallen friends, and other oddities. He then does battle with a giant depiction of Scarecrow, where light is his only resource against the master of fear.

Metal Gear Solid Psycho Mantis

There’s a plethora of unique, unusual villains in the Metal Gear series, but none are quite as scary as Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid. He’s psychic, able to read the memory card of your system and make your controller vibrate. His power is so immense it extends beyond the game itself.

Topping that is the way he looks and sounds. The gas mask and the tight, black outfit make for an uncomfortable, intimidating appearance. His voice is raspy, his breathing is heavy. He can levitate, manipulate objects, manipulate your vision, and more. Psycho Mantis is scary in pretty much every way possible.

10 The Lumiose City Ghost Girl – Pokemon X And Y

Players standing in front of an elevator as a girl floats away

Even though the entire Pokemon franchise is aimed at children, there are plenty of creepy things throughout it. While most of these are seen in the various Pokedex entries, there are also a series of appearances by different ghost girls, and the spookiest is in X and Y.

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In Lumiose City, there is a building on North Avenue. If you go to the second floor, the screen will fade to black, and a Hex Maniac girl will appear behind you. She will then glide to the bottom of the screen and say, “No, you’re not the one,” and leave. There is no one else on that floor and to this day, nobody has figured out exactly what it was for.

9 Clanker – Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo and Kazooie swimming down a pipe with Clanker at the end of it

Banjo-Kazooie is a happy game where there are a bunch of bright colors and everything bounces around happily. That is, until you enter Clanker’s Cavern through a rusty pipe and are greeted by a mechanical shark/whale with big eyes and a toothy grin. This is Clanker.

Clanker is Gruntilda’s garbage disposal, and even though he’s terrifying with his rusted hull and fleshy bits, he’s actually very friendly to our heroes, it’s just the introduction to him that is horrifying. To make matters worse, he reappears in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts, except he’s separated into multiple sections to ride your car off of.

8 Clock Tower – Epic Mickey

Mickey preparing to fight the It's A Small World Clock Tower

Epic Mickey is a game that tried to put a dark spin on the world of Disney. The game takes place in Wasteland, where forgotten Disney characters are supposed to live in harmony. However, Mickey spilt a bottle of paint thinner into the world causing the denizens and locations to warp or become evil. The first boss you face affected by this is the It’s A Small World Clock Tower.

The Clock Tower’s face is changed from a cute smile to a horrifying grimace, and it will constantly try to smash you with its arms. As you battle, you have two options to win: save the Clock Tower with paint, or destroy it with thinner. While paint will restore it to its former glory, the thinner will make the tower fall apart, leaving its face floating in the waters below. All of this horror is amplified by a score resembling a distorted version of the It’s A Small World theme song.

7 The Fabulously Rich Family – Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

A mutated Skultulla in an old empty home with cobwebs

Ocarina Of Time brought some pretty scary enemies to the N64 with the likes of the ReDead and the Dead Hand boss, but there’s one group of creepy crawlies that everyone seems to forget: The Fabulously Rich Family.

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In Kakariko Village, there is an empty house filled with six human/Skulltula hybrids that were cursed into that form due to their greedy nature. And these things are monstrous with human limbs replacing spider legs and a human face partially replacing the Skulltula’s skull body. Curses are a classic horror trope, and this is one of the most visibly disturbing in video games.

6 Trevor Phillips – Grand Theft Auto V

Trevor calming Johnny right before he kills him

In all of Grand Theft Auto, there is no one as unhinged as Trevor. He is chaos in human form, acting purely on his own anger and what he wants to do. While this is mostly played for laughs, because it’s GTA, there are some terrifying moments.

When you first meet Trevor, he sleeps with Johnny Klebitz’ girlfriend before stomping him to death and wiping his brains off of his shoe. He convinces Wade to follow him after murdering all of his friends, including Wade’s brother and sister-in-law. He tortured a man for information and continued afterwards because it was fun. Trevor is supposed to be a reflection of the chaotic players who destroy everything, and, frankly, Rockstar nailed it.

5 Unagi – Super Mario 64

Mario swimming as Unagi comes out from the wall

Sometimes, you don’t need to have a terrifying backstory or grotesque design to be scary. Sometimes you just need a moment. Jolly Roger Bay is a beautiful water level with a great ambient soundtrack, but as you’re swimming around in the water, a giant red eel with a mouth full of fangs comes out of the wall.

This is Unagi, and it is absolutely terrifying. And really, that’s all there is to it. A lot of the scariest things in the world are giant underwater creatures, just look at Jaws. Unagi captures this perfectly, and is somehow scarier than an entire level dedicated to being scary.

4 Marx Soul – Kirby Super Star Ultra

Marx in its adorable appearance, then transformed

Kirby has always been the sweetest and cutest Nintendo protagonist. There’s just a huge sense of innocence that comes with him, which is why it’s so surprising that he has to battle so many terrifying bosses. The most memorable of these is Marx Soul.

Marx first appeared in Kirby Super Star and was already kind of creepy. But he went from creepy to horrifying in the DS remake, getting bony wings, a creepy laugh, and eyes that seem to look directly at the player. This got even worse when he appeared in Smash Ultimate. Really, there are a bunch of Kirby bosses that could go here, but Marx Soul is the most recognized.

3 The Abominable Snowman – SkiFree

Yeti chasing after a skier

Back in the early ’90s, the only computer games kids had access to were the games that came with their home computer. Amongst the likes of Minesweeper and Solitaire was the most terrifying game of all: SkiFree.

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In SkiFree, you freely ski down a mountain going off of jumps and avoiding obstacles, but there was one creature that was nearly impossible to avoid: the abominable snowman. This gray mass with a menacing face would run in from off-screen, grab your skier, and eat them in a single bite. The graphics may have been basic, but the fear was real.

2 Mimi – Super Paper Mario

Mimi as she is normally seen, Mimi in her true spider-like form, giggling in a bathroom

Super Paper Mario is considered by many to be the black sheep of the Paper Mario series, since it’s a platformer and filled with a plethora of poop jokes. However, those people are missing out on an incredible story and some of the most memorable characters in all of Mario, and one of those highlights is Mimi.

Mimi works for Count Bleck, and looks like a cute girl in a yellow dress. While her ability to mimic any character makes her creepy enough, what sets Mimi apart is her transformation into her true self. She snaps her own neck, flips her head upside down and grows spider legs out of it. This is terrifying, and is one of the many more mature moments that make Super Paper Mario a memorable game.

1 Vortex Queen – Ecco The Dolphin

Ecco battling The Vortex Queen and some jellyfish

Everything about Ecco The Dolphin suggested that it was harmless. The ads sold it as an undersea adventure through the eyes of a dolphin. The cover looked like a Lisa Frank poster before the neon colors were applied. Even reviews called this one of the most soothing puzzle games of all time. None of these mention the aliens that harvest food from the ocean or the eldritch horror you have to fight at the end.

The Vortex Queen looks like H.R. Giger’s Xenomorph and is taller than a skyscraper. It constantly sends drones after you and tries to eat you. As you battle it, the Vortex Queen will lose parts of its body, just adding more to how disturbing this creature is. Parents bought Ecco The Dolphin for their kids because of the cute dolphin, but it stays in their nightmares because of the Vortex Queen.

NEXT: The Scariest Monsters In Horror Games

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