Welcome to the SFX from hell.
Dr. Salvador’s Chainsaw (Resident Evil 4, 2004)
If the monstrous Dr. Salvador gets close to you with his chainsaw it’s an instant, gory game over. Which makes the sound of him furiously revving it absolutely nerve-shattering.
Drowning (Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 1992)
Anyone who grew up with Sonic will remember this, the sound of the hedgehog’s oxygen frantically running out. All these years later it still makes me think about asphyxiation, and panic.
Alert (Metal Gear Solid, 1998)
The famous sound of an enemy soldier spotting Snake. This usually punctuates a moment of silent, careful sneaking, which makes the sudden shriek even more startling.
Motion Tracker (Alien: Isolation, 2014)
When this starts beeping, something’s moving nearby. And the faster it beeps, the more likely it is that thing is going to violently murder you from the shadows.
Running Out Of Time (Super Mario Bros., 1985)
The sound usually heard when you’ve spent far too long looking for secret areas. If the time runs out you’ll lose a life, so you better get Mario to the finish line ASAP.
Radio Static (Silent Hill 2, 2001)
The sound of your radio crackling and groaning in a Silent Hill game is never a good sign. It means a monster is nearby, and you better hope you’ve saved some ammunition.
Poison Headcrabs (Half-Life 2, 2004)
The whipping, shrieking sound of black headcrabs is especially unnerving because they can temporarily reduce your health to 1, leaving you open to attack from other enemies.
Creepers (Minecraft, 2011)
The bizarre hiss of a Creeper is always worrying, especially when you hear it in the castle you’ve just spent hours lovingly building from scratch. Boom goes all your hard work.
Weeping Witch (Left 4 Dead, 2008)
Unless you’re feeling particularly brave, it’s rarely a good idea to disturb Left 4 Dead’s sobbing Witch. Which makes the sound of her distant crying a tense, knife-edge moment.
Alarm (Bioshock, 2007)
The nerve-shredding sound of Rapture’s automated security systems coming to life. A cacophonous racket that seems designed to disorient as you deal with the security bots.
Blue Shell (Mario Kart 64, 1996)
You’re in first place, it’s the last lap — and glorious victory is in sight. Hahaha, says Nintendo, you sweet summer child. And cue the telltale sound of an incoming blue shell. There’s no escaping that repetitive beeping. Accept your fate.
Clickers (The Last of Us, 2013)
The mushroom-faced Clickers are among The Last of Us’s toughest enemies, and the sound of their guttural clicking and chittering massively ratchets up the tension.
Scream Of The ReDead (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, 1998)
Get too close to these terrifying zombie bastards and they’ll unleash a chilling scream that freezes Link in place. One of the Zelda series’ most disturbing recurring enemies.
Radiation (Fallout 3, 2008)
The sound of your health being slowly sapped as radiation poisoning takes hold. When your Pip-Boy’s Geiger counter starts clicking, you know you need to get the hell away.
Zombie Moans (Resident Evil, 1996)
The dusty halls of the Spencer mansion groan with the sound of shambling zombies. Resi was for many players the first experience of video game horror and these sounds, whenever heard, instantly change the atmosphere.
Nuclear Launch Detected (StarCraft, 1998)
If you hear this, another player is about to launch a nuke: and it might be aimed at you. The only way to tell where it’s going to land is to find a tiny red dot, and I mean tiny, somewhere in your acres of base. The calm, robotic voice of the adjutant announcing it only adds to the horror.
Spotted (Amnesia: The Dark Descent, 2010)
You spend most of The Dark Descent trying to avoid the horrors lurking in the shadows. But when you inevitably get caught, this is the shrill, distressing sound of your failure.
Invasion (Dark Souls, 2011)
A reassuring sound when you’re calling in help to fight a boss. A terrifying one when a red phantom is invading your game and trying their damnedest to end your life.
Regenerators (Resident Evil 4, 2004)
Resident Evil 4’s sound design is unbeatable, so it gets two entries. The ragged breathing of the fearsome Regenerators is just as scary as actually running into one.
Roman Calling (GTA IV, 2008)
You’re driving around Liberty City, enjoying some carefree criminal fun, when your phone starts ringing. And, yes, it’s Roman asking if you want to go bowling. Again.
Baby Mario Crying (Yoshi’s Island, 1995)
When Yoshi takes damage, Mario drifts away in a bubble, shrieking and wailing. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, his caterwauling is accompanied by a repetitive beeping.
Wrong Answer (L.A. Noire, 2011)
You’ve spent ages reviewing the evidence, looking at your clues, and you’re convinced you know the guy is lying. But then you hear this grim tinkle, indicating you were wrong.
Hammer Haunts (Thief: The Dark Project, 1998)
These undead fiends are scary enough to fight, but it’s the demonic, breathy whispering when they’re idle that really shits you up. Thief gets a lot of credit in other respects, but it’s an underrated horror game.
What are the scariest sounds in video games to you?