Tales of the supernatural can be a fantastic addition to a game's main storyline. Hauntings are very personal, so there's bound to be an interesting narrative to uncover, and everybody loves a good, blood-chilling ghost story regardless of whether players came to a game looking for cowboy antics or the chance to collect a bevy of battle-ready pocket monsters.
While plenty of great horror games bring non-stop jump scares and genuinely terrifying moments, the smaller, self-contained ghost stories tend to stick with players longer, as they often stand out against commonplace settings and narratives. While much of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is about slaying dragons, exploring dungeons, and hoping you don't run into a game-breaking glitch, the mission where you're asked to investigate a haunted house in a bustling city stands out for its off-kilter pacing and departure from the typical high fantasy mood.
The best video game ghost stories give players a more nuanced look at the characters they're interacting with and manage to reach a satisfying resolution within a couple play sessions. While many such tales are just well-designed sidequests, a few have ties to real-life occult incidents, making them all the more unsettling.
"In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill." So reads the letter James receives from someone claiming to be his late wife Mary, urging him to go to their "special place" in the town of Silent Hill. While James is reluctant to believe a ghost wrote him a letter, the chance to see his beloved again is too great to pass up so he returns to the now-decrepid town.
From the moment James gets out of his car everything he encounters is a physical manifestation of his troubled headspace. The game's monsters are equal parts hypersexual and body horror (symbolic of the sexual frustration James felt while he watched his wife waste away) and the main demon seems hell-bent on punishing James for the way he handled Mary's sickness. While this is all pretty unsettling, the most disturbing vision is arguably Maria, who resembles a loose, club-ready version of James's late wife.
Over and over again, James fails to save Maria from meeting a grim end. However, after each tragic demise she returns to James with little explanation, only to be taken once again in an equally disturbing manner. The game's ending changes based on how the player receives Maria.
If James chooses to get closer to Maria, he can move past the loss of Mary and leave town with his new flame (though in the game's final moments, she appears to be falling ill.) On the other hand, if James stays loyal to Mary, a distorted version of Maria can become the game's final boss.
The fate of Agnes Dowd is one of the many mysteries that haunt the vast frontier of Red Dead Redemption 2. If Arthur chooses to sit around the main camp's fire at the right moment, Reverend Swanson tells a chilling tale of Dowd's spirit drifting across the marshes of Lemoyne swamp, but even the good Father doesn't seem to know exactly how her immortal essence got there.
Reverend Swanson's tale is enough to scare away the average ranch hand (though the characters manage to laugh it off), but devout ghost hunters can head towards the Bluewater Marsh section of the map to put the story to the test. Set up camp near Lemoy swamp and Dowd's ghost should appear between 9:00 pm and 3:00 am. At first, Dowd makes her prescence known by howling hysterically, and if you follow her ravings you'll catch sight of her ghostly form hovering about the marshes.
According to some sources, you can only encounter Dowd's ghost 16 times - and she babbles about something different each time - though this may be nothing more than a 21st century video game urban legend.
In the world of Pokémon, the line between the living and the dead is continually blurred. While most of the ghosts in Pokémon are either collectible creatures or easy-to-miss Easter eggs, Pokémon Red & Blue throws an unskippable nightmare at the player: the traversal of Lavender Town.
From the moment the hero arrives in this accursed village, it's clear something is amiss. The music is incredibly eerie - an urban legend even claims hearing the original Japanese music makes you want to harm yourself - and a menacing cave in a nearby rockface leads to the basement of the looming Pokémon Tower. A nearby NPC asks if you believe in ghosts; it doesn't matter what you respond, disbelief cannot shield you from what you're about to experience.
Upon entering Pokémon Tower, the structure's true purpose is readily apparent: you're walking through a massive Pokémon graveyard. Each floor of the labyrinthian building is broken up by countless Poké graves, and derranged trainer cultists skulk amongst the shadows. If that's not bad enough, malignant spirits rise up to block your path at various points; while these unnamable wretches were once normal Pokémon, spite has reduced them to amorphous blobs of hate, and while you can still do battle with them there's no option to catch them or have them join your party.
This cyclopean nightmare would be unsettling to encounter anywhere, but in a game that's normally aobut catching cute creatures throughout smiley forests and well-lit byways it's particualry hard to ignore.
At several points throughout Batman: Arkham Asylum, the villainous Scarecrow uses neurotoxins to make Batman hallucinate his worst fears. After this happens a couple times, it gets easier to pick up on the signs things are taking a turn for the surreal, but the first time Scarecrow strikes it's totally unexpected.
While venturing through Arkham Asylum's morgue, it quickly becomes clear something is amiss. Officers and villains alike appear to be losing it, and the astute player will notice Batman's eyes are glowing eerily. This is easy enough to shrug off - the entire asylum is running amok so of course some people are acting unhinged - but when Batman discovers the lifeless corpse of Comissioner Gordon, the game's main objective pivots to have the caped crusader investigate the scene.
Batman calls Oracle to break the bad news about her father, but he's met with a generic "the number you dialed isn't available" message. The camera starts to rock, and suddenly the walls are swarming with beetles. When Batman enters the room where bodies are kept, he finds two sealed bodybags prominently placed in the center of the room. Upon opening these bags, Batman discovers the reanimated corpses of his late parents, both of whom have come back to tell him how he failed to protect them.
Thankfully, Batman is soon able to stop Scarcrow's madness, but the ghosts seem all too real and have a noticable effect on the Dark Knight's psyche.