NPCs, or non-playable characters, can be utilised to fill a number of roles in video games. They can be trusted companions or invaluable vendors of essential items. At their most basic, NPCs just make the world of the game seem that more real and alive. However, sometimes you encounter an individual or group of NPCs whose job appears to be ‘sow the seeds of nightmares’. I have collected four of most terrifying NPCs from my experience of gaming.
- Working Joes (Alien: Isolation)
After the calamitous Prometheus and the beyond awful Aliens: Colonial Marines, Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation was an enjoyable return to universe of the Alien franchise. Set between the events of Alien and Aliens, you play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of the franchise’s protagonist Ellen Ripley, as she searches for answers about what happened to her mother.
You find yourself on a dilapidated space station and have to battle to survive as you seek the truth. One of the things you have to battle is the scores of Working Joes, service androids that appear to have gone a little homicidal.
What makes this group of identical NPCs terrifying is their calm voice that calls out “I’m sure this is just a misunderstanding” and “Let’s talk about this” as they hunt you down and viciously beat you. They are also highly resilient, meaning that you are often being chased by a Working Joe that is leaking white fluid or on fire. Add the fact that they will never tire or stop looking for you unless you hide yourself and you have a terrifying, emotionless murderbot who will methodically follow you as you noisily flee across the space station.
- John Watson (Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis)
Sherlock Holmes inspired video games have never been the be-all and end-all of the industry but a handful do stand out as well-made and entertaining Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis is best remember for turning John Watson into the stuff of nightmares.
In the original demo, Watson didn’t appear to have pathing or a walking animation and would simply teleport to a point next to or in front of you after he left your field of vision. In the main game, Watson would ‘walk’ behind you by silently teleporting to a point behind you once weren’t looking at him…you know, like a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who rather than the companion of one of literature’s most famous detectives. While not innately terrifying, this silent movements often lead to you turning corners or looking around to find him standing right in front of you, saying nothing and looking at you with cold, dead eyes…
- The Narrator (The Stanley Parable)
Okay, this may seem like an odd addition to this listen but hear me out. In The Stanley Parable, you play Stanley, an office drone who one day realises that everyone else in the office has just disappeared. As you explored the deserted building, you are guided by a jovial and often voice, who narrates your journey and advocates the ‘right’ path you should take.
What makes the Narrator terrifying is that he knows everything. He knows which route you take; he knows what all the endings are. You, Stanley, are simply a speck of dust in an infinite universe being ruled over by an unseen, omniscient power. He can see how every choice maps out, every possibility and when Stanley resets after death, the Narrator remembers and brings this fact up.
- Feral Ghouls (Fallout)
Imagine you are the survivor of a nuclear apocalypse. You are exploring what once was the Washington DC Metro line. It is dark. Then you hear a gravelly, rattling hiss and exciting panting as something moves towards you. You whip around but you can see anything and then, you take damage as something strikes you from behind. You turn around to see something that was once human but is now hungry for your flesh!
The Feral Ghouls of the Fallout universe are one of the more common mob types. They can be found almost anywhere and will happily chase you everywhere. They are often hard to see in low light and will sneak up you on if you are not careful. They also often come in packs, meaning you can turn a corner and find four or five of them waiting to attack you. While higher level weapons could easily dispatch a ghoul in Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, they are a lot more resilient in Fallout 4, making it a lot more terrifying when you encounter them.
Which NPCs give you the chills? I’d love to hear your answers!