Gaming’s Most Stress-Inducing Sound Effects

Gaming’s Most Stress-Inducing Sound Effects

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?


  • The endless stream of yapping from your friends Corgie’s because he refuses to close the door to his office while playing.

  • Most of these entries seem to come from horror games. I think the key to making a good horror game, is by having excellent sound design to essentially ignite fear and intimidation into the player.

    Regarding the sounds of Resident Evil 4, it makes sense as to why those two particular sounds, the chain saw and the regenerator are featured.

    The chain saw guy is always a near death experience. Not only is he physically tougher than the other enemies in general, but he is capable of killing you in one strike. He wouldn’t be nearly as scary if he just hurt you like regular enemies, no, because he cuts your bloody head off.

    As for the regenerator, they’re scary because… they don’t kill you in one hit (they do a hell tonne of damage though) but when you first encounter them, they are extremely difficult to kill. They also seem to come at you one by one, so if you manage to kill, or at least run away from the first one you ever encounter… whoop, ‘dere it is (another).

    • The regenerator is probably one of the scarier enemies I’ve ever encountered in a game.

      The chainsaw guy isn’t too bad. I worked out a hail of pistol shots to the chest will put him down. Just put in a little distance then turn around and unleash.

    • Also the Regenerators are just animated so perfectly; they just keep walking and walking and even when you think you bested one by getting behind a waist-high barrier – they just droop over it like a worm!!!

  • For Resident Evil I found the sound of a dog growling or the distinct slapping sound of a hunter’s footsteps to be far more stress-inducing than a zombie moaning.

  • For me its from a mod. I can’t remember the name now but it was for Call of Prypyat. Every time a psychic storm was about to happen a siren would ring out across the zone and you had roughly 30 second to find very extensive cover as a house with a roof wasn’t enough, so heavy industrial building or cave.

    If you were caught out in the open for most of the game you were dead..

    Ever time I heard a siren for the next week I would panic

    • There were a lot of great sound effects and visuals in the Stalker series. Creeping through concrete-cancer walled tunnels in underground laboratories, hearing the sound of controllers somewhere in the distance, oh man.

      I don’t generally enjoy horror games, too many rely on cheap jump scares and the most predictable storylines. They never make me afraid, just tense and annoyed. But the first Stalker game will always stick in my mind as a game that instilled a persistent, long term oppressive fear from start to finish – not sharp fear like getting chased by an axe murderer, but a dull fear that sinks deep and never goes away. And the closer you got to the reactor, the more oppressive that sensation was.

      Awesome game.

    • Stalker was fantastic in the sound department. I remember jumping at the ambient sounds in the wilderness as they were all 3D location based.

  • You missed a few important ones from XCOM, the distant sound of a Chryssalids and Ethereals in particular. Those 2 noises are how you know a terror mission is truly lost (especially in Long War). Bonus points for the late game sound of heavy mechanised footsteps because those could be a pod of Mechtoids with Sectoid Commanders or a Sectopod…

  • AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRGGHHHHHHHH – the bomber guys from Serious Sam

    As you know it’s incoming, but given the number of enemies on screen at any given time (esp. true for the original games), you probably won’t spot them until they are right on you

  • Oh man…that shrill scream of being spotted in Amenesia:TDD. That game still ranks as most scary of all time for me.

  • Not strictly a sound per say, but the Tank theme from Left 4 Dead deserves an honorable mention IMO. A ‘games most stress-inducing music’ list would be interesting…

    Also some personal sounds:
    *The alarm in Return to Castle Wolfenstein (technically also Mauser Rifle firing sounds which often accompanies it) in stealth missions are also worth a mention IMO.
    *The Kamikaze yell in Serious Sam.
    *The ghost sounds in the original Shadow Warrior

    The last 2 especially as a child anyway.

  • The sound of a mine triggering in Fallout 3/NV/4 always unnerved me, especially when playing hard mode/ironman. Beep…beep…beepbeepbeep boom.

  • Oh man, that Hammer Haunt sound. There is something deeply, viscerally terrifying about it. The only rival comes from another game Looking Glass had a hand in – the Cyborg Midwife in System Shock 2.

  • Great list! I’d add the sound of the baby crying when you fall off the blood mazes in the Max Payne dream sequences (which I did a lot of because the controls sucked!)

  • Its kinda basically Resident evils less popular cousin, so understand the no mention.
    But i wanna mention it myself. Dino crisis, when you hear a velociraptor noise in a room, but cant see it due to camera angle.

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