In the past, people spread scary video game urban legends by word of mouth. Today, however, the internet has increased this ten-fold. With just a few clicks, we can spread information all across the world, making the internet a virtual campfire for all kinds of spooky stories.
If you grew up in a time before the net, or at least in a time where we only had dial up, you may remember swapping stories of game exploits or secrets no one could prove existed. Some were pretty innocent. I still want to believe there’s a way to play as the Master Hand in the original “Super Smash Bros.” However, some legends had a dark undertone. The internet propelled, expanded, and created these myths like the world’s most terrifying game of telephone. It’s never smart to believe everything you read, but with this many myths, a few are bound to be true. So if you like gaming, and don’t want to sleep tonight, enjoy these 25 scary video game urban legends.
Death be Berzerk
Berzerk is an arcade game that had players navigate a near endless amount of mazes shooting yellow alien antagonists. Legends claim a number of healthy players who achieved a high score dropped dead directly after walking away from the machine. Although it can be hard to validate urban legends, at least one of these deaths is confirmed to be true. According to the Chicago Tribune, a teenager named Peter Bukowski died of a heart attack inside his local arcade.
Ben's Majora's Mask
A 4chan user claimed to have purchased what he thought was a brand new copy of the N64 classic “Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.” Upon playing the game, he discovered it already had a save file called “Ben.”
The user continued to upload videos of other strange things happening in the game. Distorted music, creepy new dialogue, and empty towns all eventually led to the conclusion that the game was once owned by a boy named Ben who had drowned in a local lake. The person who started posting the story eventually stopped, but presumably the haunted cartridge still exists somewhere.
Spoiler alert for anyone still working through the 1999 classic “Final Fantasy 8.” The original game was broken up over two disks. The cut scene at the end of the first disk showed the main character, Squall, being impaled with icicles. However, once players put the second disk in Squall remarks, “no wounds” and the game continues, although the surreal aspects are considerably ramped up. Players concluded that the second half of the game takes place in the afterlife. The developers haven’t confirmed anything, but the final shot of the game shown above, certainly supports the conclusion that something freaky is happening.
The Madden Curse
One of the most well known gaming urban legends claims that the NFL player who appears on the cover of the annual entry in the Madden franchise will get injured or under perform in their next season of play. EA, the developers, even felt the need to publicly refute the curse, although it’s hard to deny the startling amount of players who have had problems. Plus, we could always use more reasons to hate EA.
Lavender Town Music
The late ’90s were dominated by Pokémon. At least they were for me. According to this myth, there was something sinister behind the otherwise light hearted Red and Blue entries in the franchise. The music that played in Lavender Town, the in game location that housed ghost Pokémon, apparently caused Japanese kids to commit suicide. Although none of the stories have been validated, Nintendo did alter the music for the American release of the games.
One popular internet story featured a glitched copy of the original “Sonic the Hedgehog” game, where the titular character had blood pouring from his eyes. The story started to get a bit ridiculous when the writer claimed the fastest mammal in gaming was dragging people into his demonic domain. Independent developers eventually released a real game called “Sonic.exe” based on the story filled with unsettling levels and great jump scares.
Luigi is Dead
Somehow gamers discovered that if you stand in a specific spot in the game “Luigi’s Mansion,” when lighting strikes, a shadow of the titular character appears floating in the air. This has been interpreted as a hint to the true story behind the classic game. Luigi, fed up with being overshadowed by his red capped brother, hung himself and is now in the Mario universes’ version of the afterlife.
Creepy Morrowind Mod
Like many of the spooky legends on this list, this begins with anonymous message board claims. A user claimed to experience strange in game happenings after modifying the code of “The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind.” The mod turned out to be real. Anyone brave enough can experience the altered game, which causes most of the characters to appear dead while the rest stare blankly in to the sky. Even creepier than that, the player’s character is followed by tall shadowy figure called “Assassin.” Some players even report seeing this figure in real life after the game was shut off.
While playing “Halo 2,” “Halo 3,” and “Halo: Reach,” a number of gamers reported random players showing up midway through their online matches. The new players had no gammertag, couldn’t be killed, and seemed to teleport around the map. Whenever these “ghosts” scored a kill, it was credited to “The guardians.” Developers claim these figures were bugs caused by stress on the game engine, but offer few other details.
Fallout 3 Predictions
The open world game “Fallout 3” contains a number of radio stations players can listen to as they travel through the bombed out game locations. Supposedly, if you murder one of the radio DJs, his channel is taken over by a monotone voice that lists numbers, then switches to morse code. The cycle repeats at random until people with a lot of time on their hands started looking closer. The numbers turned out to be dates and the morse code were phrases to go with them. When translated, the station gave out the correct dates of the BP oil spill and Gary Coleman’s death months before they happened. It also predicted an Oscar for Brittany Spears in 2023, so look out for that.
The Shadow People of Mario Galaxy
In the Shiverburn Galaxy section of “Super Mario Galaxy 2,” players noticed three wide eyed silhouettes observing them from the cliffs around the stage. The game’s files list them as “Hell Valley Sky Trees,” despite the fact that they’re clearly not trees. The name is not found anywhere in the games dialogue and Nintendo has refused to comment on the figures when questioned.
The now famous legend of Herobrine began when a Minecraft player claimed to see a figure who looked like the default player skin, but without pupils. The figure would build sand pyramids and cut the leaves off trees. More and more players started to come forward saying they had experienced similar things. The figure always had the name “Herobrine” above his character model. The creator of the game, Notch, did not address the in-game occurrences, but did say he had a brother named Herobrine who had passed away. This inevitably led to the theory that Herobrine’s ghost inhabited the code of his brother’s game.
The Demon Children of Goldshire
The town of Goldshire in “World of Warcraft” is a pretty traditional fantasy town for most of the day, but at 7 a.m. server time everyday, a lake house plays host to six creepy children. They stand in a pentagram formation in an upstairs room while the game plays ominous music found no where else in the game. Some players even report hearing screams and a disembodied voice saying, “You will die.”
GLaDOS in Captivity
The Portal game’s guide is supposedly just an AI system, but some players noted that the machine looks like a person hanging upside down with their hands tied behind their thighs. To add to the creepiness, hidden audio files in the game point to GLaDOS’ being based on a former secretary of the game’s evil CEO. How much, if any of her, is inside the robot has not been confirmed so players are left to wonder.
Earthbound's Final Boss
Most people know “Earthbound” from Ness and Lucas in the Super Smash Bros game. They originally came from this 16-bit RPG which contains some disturbing visuals in its final boss. For instance, the boss, Giygas, looks somewhat similar to a cervix, and in the final phase he bears a stringing resemblance to a fetus. Gamers believe this means the game’s child protagonists are performing an abortion.
Here’s another spoiler alert in case you don’t want to know the ending of indie platformer “Braid.” You play as a scientist, Tim, searching for a “kidnapped” princess. Once Tim reaches her though, she’s not exactly happy to see him, and implies he’s a monster. If players collect seven incredibly difficult to find stars, they change the ending.
Unlike the usual ending, Tim can actually touch the princess in the final level, causing flashing and the sound of a bomb going off in the background. This, combined with other clues suggest that Tim was one of the scientists behind the atomic bomb. He’s racked with guilt after it’s been dropped, but he can never really change the past.
The Hall of Tortured Souls
Microsoft Excel 95 is not that spooky at face value, but through certain actions in the program, users could access a first person game titled “The Hall of Tortured Souls.” The players could only walk around a few rooms, one of which contained a weird recreation of “The Last Supper” with guys in modern clothes. People who stumbled upon the game were pretty creeped out, but it turned out to be just a weird joke created by the original programmers.
Ambient X-Box Whispers
The original X-box was a pretty marvelous piece of technology for its time. Owners experienced some strange things with the console, though. If they left the system on the main menu for a while, distorted beeps and whispers emanated from the console. This was especially jarring to users who fell asleep with the system on. Microsoft claims they’re public sounds from the Apollo missions, but if you listen to them, it’s pretty hard to tell.
Killswitch is allegedly one of the first horror games. In the 8-bit platformer, you play as a woman who wakes up in an abandoned mine. You travel through fighting zombies and demons, desperately trying not to meet the same fate as the former miners. Once players completed the game, the file deleted itself. Since only 5,000 copies were said to be made, the game is now completely gone. Only recreations based on memories and rumors remain.
The NES was known for a number of amazing games. “Taboo: The Sixth Sense” was not one of them. It was basically just an expensive, digital magic 8-ball based on tarot card readings and occult imagery.
Unlike a traditional Nintendo product, the game’s manual contained warnings like “use at your own risk” and “not for children under 14.” Eventually the game was pulled off the market and rumors started circulating that kids who played the game died in the exact way the game predicted. Most likely though, the game wasn’t selling very well.
There is a lot to do in the online classic “RuneScape.” In the mid-2000’s it was one of the best ways to socialize on the internet. Often times, in the densely populated capital cities, players would openly proclaim things like “Free armor trimming. Follow me!” Things got scary when unsuspecting players took them up on the offer. The con-men would lead their prey into Player vs Player areas, kill them, and take all their good items. The urban legend of free armor trimming is unfortunately very personal to the writer of this article.
Before streaming was possible, independent game developers used to meet in person and swap games on floppy disks. One such game, that circulated around the Bay Area was “Pale Luna.” Players were told at the start of the game that they were in a room with rope and a shovel. They could then input text describing what they wanted to do to progress the story. Most players found that it was nearly impossible to make anything happen, considered the game to be bugged, and threw it away. One player however was determined. After spending days on the game, he found the right words to finish it, and was rewarded with coordinates. The legend says that when he traveled to the location, he found the severed, decomposing head of Karen Paulsen, an 11-year-old who had been missing for over a year.
The Ghosts of Harbor City
The “Twisted Metal” franchise was a hit for Sony after the first game. The sixth game in the series, “Twisted Metal: Harbor City,” was being worked on in 2005, when a plane crash caused the death of six developers. They scrapped the game, as only four levels had been completed. Sony felt comfortable with their decision for two years, until they reported that they received a letter urging them to release the four levels. The letter was signed by the six dead game makers. It’s entirely possible that it was a sick joke played by a devoted fan, but we can’t be sure.
A report came out in 2000 that claimed Saddam Hussain had purchased roughly 4,000 PlayStation 2 systems. Rumors quickly started flying, claiming he was harvesting the CPU’s for advanced missile systems. The 32-bit CPUs were cheaper when pulled from the systems rather than buying them outright. We never found any weapons in Iraq though, PlayStation based or otherwise.
According to this urban myth, an arcade game named “Polybius” was set up in a Portland arcade in 1981. The game was, by all accounts, pretty standard, yet the local kids were completely addicted. There were long lines whenever the arcade was open. When kids finally stopped playing, they reported feeling anxious and nauseous. Some even reported having nightmares or feeling suicidal. The game was also regularly worked on by men in black suits. The legend states these men performed maintenance on the game much more often than an arcade cabinet traditionally needs. Eventually, the men in black suits removed the game, and the populace became convinced it was a government test of a mind control device.