The power of video games to immerse us in their respective stories and universes is well understood. The test of whether you’re gripped by a video game is pretty easy – the longer it takes you to remember to do the test, the more engaged you are.
But there are times where video games get a little too real, when you suddenly realise that you’re at the top of a really big drop on a roller coaster and you can’t get off. And though we laugh about it now, we remember those times where we were huddled in our chairs and genuinely hoping that someone would give us a hug before things got worse. Assembled here for your pleasure (and trauma), these are our top 10 disturbing moments in gaming that got a little too real for our liking.
Grand Theft Auto 5: “The Torture Scene”
Hope you brought your big-boy-pants to come and help the F.I.B. spies today, because it’s all about to get very “24.” Strapped for time and looking to assassinate a particular target they have no details on, the government enlists our wacky cast of misfits to extract the necessary information from some poor sod by any means necessary. And by that they mean several psychotic mini-games, involving a car battery, a dirty rag, a set of pliers, a tank of water, and a large, heavy wrench. All the dark comedy of the GTA series is suddenly dropped, and everything gets very disturbing, very fast, not least because your poor victim can actually die if you go too far.
Rockstar, this better not be in here just to drive up the sales through controversy. I don’t want a case of PTSD so you can all get new pool tables.
Wolfenstein: The New Order: “Deathshead’s Brain Extraction Device”
I like science as much as the next nerd, but this feels a little too far. Near the end of the excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order, we finally get a horrific glimpse of what B.J. Blazkowicz saw at the beginning of the story. Namely, one of his friends getting loaded into a large machine and (whilst perfectly conscious) having his brain removed from the back of his head with gut-wrenching detail and precision. But it’s not the robotic knives carving a hole in his skull that sticks with you, and it’s not the screaming pain of the victim either.
No, it’s that awful pressurised, sucking sound of Deathshead’s device vacuuming the amputated brain out through the open head wound, a very disturbing audio experience that would then go on to make me distrust airplane toilets every since.
Undertale: “Genocide Run”
Sometimes a video game being realistic doesn’t come from graphics or physics engines. Sometimes it just comes from that perfectly realised humanity, where you can feel the pain of the characters oozing from the pores of the story. Slaughtering everyone in Undertale’s “genocide run” will shock you more deeply than you’d probably like.
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part 2: “The Trans-Orbital Lobotomy”
This won’t be the last entry on this list to feature stuff related to the eyes, but it’s just as disturbing either way. Creep through the underwater labyrinth of Rapture as the enigmatic Elizabeth, and before too long you’ll find yourself strapped to a chair and in the merciless hands of Atlas and his scavenged doctor’s equipment. You then have the pleasure of watching this psychopath torture you, in first-person, as he squeezes a sharpsteel pick between Elizabeth’s eye and the socket, and begins to strike it with a hammer, cracking the front of her skull and getting closer to her brain’s pre-frontal lobe. All the way through he’s describing the process in lavish detail, leaving most Bioshock players curling their toes in sheer, agonising horror. Atlas, would you kindly stop torturing the audience, please?