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Best Jump Scares in Games Ranked by the Sounds That Came Out of My Mouth

In most storytelling mediums, fear is considered to be one of the trickiest emotions to instill in an audience. Books have to spend whole pages and chapters of text building dread for even the slightest payoff. Good horror TV shows are few and far between. Even movies, which maintain a very profitable relationship with the horror genre, need at minimum excellent use of sound and at least a spark of ingenuity to make you jump.

Then, there’s video games, which have it so easy you can basically make the scariest experience someone will ever play by leaving your dog alone with your computer for the weekend and spilling treats across the keyboard with the Unity Asset Store open. That is to say, video games and jump scares go together like Teslas and heinous acts of Looney Tunes carnage. Today I’ll be ranking the best jump scares I remember from video games, based on the uncontrollable sounds my mouth made the moment they registered with my brain.

#31: Wolverine in the Cupboard: Until Dawn


No was the sound this jump scare made come out of my mouth. In one of the opening sections of the game, you’re searching a dark house when your current character Chris, cosplaying as Mark from RENT, kneels down to open a cupboard, and… a wolverine jumps out at the camera. I guess it was… nesting in the cupboard? And chose this moment to realize cupboards are no place for a wild animal? Guys, this is what you came up with? You spent millions on Hayden Panettiere (valid) but you couldn’t find a single brain cell to come up with a more plausible jump scare? No.

#30: First Encounter with Bloody Hairy Spider Girl: The Evil Within


…is what I might’ve said upon seeing the bloody hairy spider girl screech and explode from the floor for the first time, if this wasn’t possibly the most publicized moment of The Evil Within’s entire announcement and launch campaign. This very moment. The success of an original IP $60 horror game hinged on one crazy leggy chick exploding from the ground in a mist of blood. And you know what? It worked. You can be damn sure I bought The Evil Within on release for jump scares like these, and I’d do it again.

#29: Scarecrow in the Body Bag: Batman: Arkham Asylum

“What the devil!”

True story: despite growing up in a decidedly not-Christian household, cursing was very much off-limits, even during moments of intense fright. Such as when Batman, under the influence of fear gas, slowly unzips three body bags in a morgue in the Arkham basement, only to get jump-scared on the last one by the king of scares himself, Scarecrow, who grabs you and injects you with his nasty used-needle glove. For several strange years during my adolescence, the archaic, borderline Shakespearean curse “What the devil?” was very much part of my vocabulary, and very much came out of my mouth during this jump scare.

#28: Nun: Nun Massacre 


This is approximately the series of syllables released by my lips any time the titular Nun appeared onscreen in this Puppet Combo snack of a game: a hard J sound that may have been the start of the word “Jesus”, followed by a sort of breathy fluttering of F and V sounds. JFFVRRGRREEVJFF. Kind of rolls off the tongue, no? A natural, human sound, quite unlike the sound the game makes whenever the Nun comes barreling toward you at sub-walking speed, because that sound, like the names of some Gods, has no written equivalent.

#27: A Necromorph Bursts Through the Vent: Dead Space 1-3

“Oh, hey.”

This is scary maybe the first ten times, max.

#26: Anglerfish in Your Face: Outer Wilds

“Jesus Christ NO NO—!”

Outer Wilds is excellent and by no means a scary game, but that doesn’t mean it won’t randomly decide to throw a bonafide horror level into the last hour or two of the game and make traversing it repeatedly at the speed of nothing a requirement for getting the ending. Apparently, the developers thought this part was so fun they started doing straight-up horror in the game’s DLC, Echoes of the Eye, which would be cruel if it wasn’t so funny.

#25: Realizing Monika is Not Romanceable: Doki Doki Literature Club!


Just kidding. It’s the other moment you’re all thinking of.

#24: Wooooo Guy: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

“What’s that sound— OH LAWD HE COMIN’.”

FromSoftware, the developers behind Dark Souls and Elden Ring, aren’t exactly known for their jump scares, and Woo Guy—as he’s affectionately known—technically announces his presence beforehand. So, is this actually a jump scare? Well, read those words again, slowly. Jump scare.

And my god, what a jump. Encountered while traversing the roof of Ashina Castle, Woo Guy dive-bombs the player from a kite flying in the stratosphere while shouting his infamous “WOOOOOOOOO!” The attack comes out of nowhere, is hard to dodge, and half the time will straight-up one-shot you. All of these things make Woo Guy a Nightjar Ninja to be respected and, most importantly for this list, feared.

#23: Bear Trap: LIMBO


Sometimes simple acceptance is best.

#22: Dan is Screaming Over the Mic and There’s Nothing I Can Do: Lethal Company

“Dan? Dan, buddy, listen to me, I– no, listen. I can’t come get you. Dan. Dan. I’m at the ship with all our scrap. I’m sorry, I want to… I want to help… but… you know I can’t do that. It would be wrong to do that, after what we sacrificed to get here. Yes, Kyle and Soph are here. Their bodies, yes. We’re all here, Dan, waiting for you to come home. I’m sorry, Dan. I’m so, so sorry. Dan, please don’t, if you cry… if you cry, I’m gonna… I love you, buddy. This isn’t goodbye. This is… this is ‘See you later’, okay? I’ll see you later, Dan. Dan please stop screaming, I can’t listen, it’s too much. I’m turning the radio off now, okay? God. Dan, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

#21: Six Takes a Bite: Little Nightmares


Little Nightmares is a game chock-full of scary moments, from long-armed janitors to hungry guests to seriously dubious platforming sections, but the scene that made me jump and had my mouth producing the titular sounds didn’t involve any monsters— that is, unless you count the player character, Six. Which I do. A little girl in a waking nightmare, Six suffers from debilitating hunger pains periodically throughout the game, and you’re forced to Very Hungry Caterpillar your way through moldy bread, meat, a live rat, and finally, in a climactic scene, one of the game’s innocent Nomes. The moment Six takes a long, lethal bite of the little guy’s neck instead of the sausage he kindly offers is the moment you come to realize simping for her might be harder than previously thought. If you’ve played Little Nightmares II, you know it gets even harder.

#20: Myers Grabs You Off the Gen: Dead by Daylight

“Put me down, rogue! Unhand me this instant!”

I’ve tried issuing the above command to any and all Shape players who manage to land a gen grab in Dead by Daylight. Lucky for me, I’m a Mikaela main, so killers usually recognize my inherent superiority and release me instantly— but you, a filthy Feng Min player, may not be so lucky.

#19: Is That a Penis?: Amnesia: The Dark Descent

“Is that a penis?”

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is not only one of the greatest horror games of all time and not only one of the most influential indies to hit Steam ever: it’s also among the top five games on the market today that will make you squint and say, “Is… is that a penis?” Forget the horrible servants with flapping, bloody jaws. Forget the genre-defining helplessness and perfectly crafted haunted house levels. Forget the funny British man. If you look closely at a few character models (and one very obvious character model), you’ll find something no 13 year-old ever expected to see in a video game. It haunts me to this day.

#18: Creeper: Minecraft

“STAY AW—” *silence*

While no one knows who created Minecraft, we are able to infer some things about its designer by looking at the game itself. For example, the blocky, retro aesthetic and wide-open sandbox world tells us the creator probably had a playful, childlike spirit. Meanwhile, the Creeper, a now-iconic enemy in the game with an appearance unlike anything of this earth who sneaks up behind players and explodes, tells us Minecraft’s creator was a sick, sadistic Willy Wonka-type who enjoyed the anguish of children. The design of these insane suicide bombers becomes especially bizarre in retrospect, now that it’s been decades since I first touched the game. Just what was going on here? Why were these guys created? They’re walking jump scares. Their only purpose is to rob you in an instant of everything you know, leaving only a hole in its place and the seeds of your adult atheism.

#17: Grandma Around Every Corner: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

“Christ on a stick!”

There are a lot of scary games that don’t make this list simply because I couldn’t remember any definitive jump scares from them. Sure, they may have a lot of dread and atmosphere, but do they have moments that startle you, moments you might see in a compilation video of annoying Let’s Players on YouTube? Do they have a teleporting grandma who appears in a rocking chair around the corner when you least expect her? Grandma is in my opinion the best and most understated “jump scare” in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, a game not exactly short on scares. Or shovels to the face, for that matter.

#16: The Residents of New Londo Ruins: Dark Souls

Jeepers! Is that a g-g-g-g-ghost?”

Damn you, FromSoftware. You could’ve just phoned it in when designing a ghost enemy for your video game, but you went and made it sad and otherworldly and terrifying like always. New Londo Ruins is a scary, half-submerged city made all the scarier for its twisting layout, narrow walkways, and late-game toughness. And, of course, the ghosts: bony white shrouds drifting through the air and through the walls like silk in water, wielding long knives in arms that grow long and extend toward you for a lethal embrace. You can’t hurt them without a special consumable, but they can sure hurt you. And yet, you have to pity them. The denizens of New Londo all drowned when the city was flooded to contain the spread of the Abyss. Some of the ghosts even clutch babies to their chests as they shriek in despair.

One of the first ghosts you encounter reaches its long arms through the wall to stab you, an ambush that briefly unleashed an inner Scooby-Doo I didn’t know I had.

#15: All of It: Subnautica

“I want to go home. I WANT TO GO HOME.”

Subnautica is an amazing game, one of my favorites of all time. If I had to choose between swimming in the Crash Zone again and hammering rusty nails into my eyes until the light faded, I would take the nails.

#14: The First Manpig Sighting: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

“Haha no nah I’m good, thanks though!”

The second game in the Amnesia series, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs has such good writing (courtesy of game devs The Chinese Room, and Dan Pinchbeck in particular, I love you Dan) you might forget it’s also incredibly scary. I’m talking hypothetically, of course. I never forgot. A Machine for Pigs does not let you forget. Even if you aren’t in as much danger as the game would have you think, the first Manpig you see darting across the darkness at the bottom of a set of stairs should serve as a stark reminder. Pro tip: I’ve found voicing your concerns about the direction things are taking and politely asking the game to please stop is a great way to set boundaries for future scares.

#13: That CAKE: Outlast

“Oh, oh jeez, wow, WOW.”

Damn, is it getting hot in here? Rick Trager may not be a real doctor, but he can strap me to a chair and give me a physical any time.

#12: You Finally Understand Why Mom Warned You About the Internet: The Maze

“My 12 year-old brain will never recover from this.”

Some call it Scary Maze Game, others just call it The Maze. I call it the best case against the theory of Intelligent Design, because why would God let this creation exist in His Kingdom? We all know the basics: You have to move your mouse cursor through a maze without touching the walls. There are three levels. If you touch a wall before the third level, the game just restarts. If you touch a wall on level 3, your prepubescent brain gets obliterated. Your life changes. You start seeing evil in the eyes of priests, something darker than dark in unlit hallways. You keep your computer’s volume on mute, and you don’t watch YouTube videos without scrubbing through first. Because you, the King of Fools, made the ultimate mistake: for one defining moment when you thought you were playing a fun computer game, you stared straight into the abyss… and Regan MacNeil stared back.

#11: Dear God, That Wasn’t the End?: The Last of Us Part II


Okay, this one genuinely startled me, to the extent that I announced to no one in particular that Hell was empty and all the devils were, in fact, here. One such devil is Neil Druckmann.

After hour upon grueling hour of playing The Last of Us Part II, the game finally comes to an end with Ellie and Dina living together on a farm, where Ellie wrestles with the weight of her actions and, in the final moments, is tempted by Tommy to resume her hopeless revenge quest against Abby, while Dina begs her to stay. Has she learned her lesson, or will she walk the path of two graves? By every sane measure, the game is set to end here. Which is why I all but literally jumped out of my damn seat when the screen faded to black and instead of credits, we switch back to Abby. There’s a whole two hours of game left, people! Full of torture, slavers, a comically overwrought Porco Rosso-esque fight in the water, and Ellie learning the world’s most obvious lesson for the second time over. Then it all ends, for real, back at the farm again. It’s the longest ending I’ve experienced since Lord of the Rings.

#10: Accidentally Ending Your Turn: Slay the Spire

“This is fine.”

This is not fine. This is the worst moment of your life, and you would be wise to end it all. You’re never beating Heart now.

#9: The Dentist: Bioshock


The old “spawn an enemy behind the player after they pick up an item needed to progress” trick will never really die as long as it remains so effective. The dentist from the first Bioshock is one of the earliest examples in memory, and boy, when he gets you, he gets you good. Your mouth opens and the syllables just come toppling out like dominoes. Apparently Irrational Games liked this jump scare so much they repeated it exactly in Bioshock Infinite with a Boy of Silence, which might be considered lazy until you remember game development is hard, especially when your boss is Ken Levine.

#8: Alien in the Vent OH GOD Alien in the Vent: Alien: Isolation


My game is still paused to this day.

#7: Trapped in the Maze with Leon: Amnesia: Rebirth

“My 23 year-old brain will never recover from this.”

Just when you think you’ll never play the Scary Maze Game again, Amnesia: Rebirth hits you with a scary maze. I love every Amnesia for different reasons, and Rebirth’s strengths lie in its worldbuilding, creative and unexpected enemy variety, and compelling protagonist, Tasi Trianon. The maze sequence combines all of these elements. My favorite moment of dread comes before you even enter the maze, when Tasi comes across a chess board-size scale model of the entire alien labyrinth along with notes describing its purpose, which is to provoke a sustained fear response in subjects. In that moment, you know you’re going in that maze.

Inside there are dead ends, a puzzle or two, spindly gates that spring up when you step on pressure plates to block your path, and a raving, transformed former colleague, Leon. On my first playthrough, I was so paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t solve the first “puzzle” needed to get through one of the corridors. The solution was jumping. Just jump over the pressure plate.

Reader, I was hard stuck.

#6: General Grievous Appears: Grievous Onslaught


I can’t tell you how old I was because I don’t remember, but one of the first video games I ever owned was a game called Plug it in and Play: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It came with a Star Wars-themed controller and a collection of five arcade-style games. One of these was Grievous Onslaught, which tasks you with clearing rooms of droids as Anakin Skywalker in order to rescue Chancellor Palpatine. There’s no horror at all, save for the sting of defeat when you lose all three lives.

Oh, but if you wait too long in a cleared room (“too long” being maybe ten seconds), the man, the myth, the Jedi-killing legend General Grievous himself LEAPS INTO THE ROOM from above with all four lightsabers swinging and starts jumping around like a rabid kangaroo until you leave or die. He is INVINCIBLE and he smells your fear. The gif doesn’t do it justice; the sound of those metal feet hitting the floor amid total silence was scary. This isn’t the coughing, cowardly Episode III Grievous. This is Jason Vorhees, 2002 Clone Wars cartoon Grievous. He scared me and my brother so many times, I can only imagine how Jedi icon Sha’a Gi felt in the moment he was crushed into nothingness on Hypori.

#5: The Beast Drags You into a Hole: Amnesia: The Bunker


I had never said the word hrup before being dragged into one of the Beast’s holes in Amnesia: The Bunker, and, God willing, I don’t expect to ever say it again. Evading the snarling creature is a tricky business, since it’s always prowling, but at least it doesn’t try to hide its presence. That is, except for the moments when you can spot its soft breath misting from one of the large holes that open at waist height along every other wall. If you don’t spot it and you walk by said hole, the Beast grabs you and drags you in for an instant game over, but not before you can get out a single, muted hrup!

#4: The Animatronics Get You: Five Night at Freddy’s

“Crikey, she’s a big one!”

At long last, we get to the jump scare simulator that spawned a franchise and a mediocre blockbuster. These animatronics aren’t shy about letting you know the moment they’ve bypassed your weirdly futuristic double door setup (a setup the movie was cowardly not to portray). When I played Five Nights and got jump-scared for the first time, the experience was so intense I momentarily transformed into a caricature of an Australian man gazing in wonder at a large croc. It was the only way my brain could handle what it was seeing.

#3: Mr. X Appears: Resident Evil 2 Remake

“Here comes the *boy*! Hello, boy. Welcome. There he is. He is here.”

The sound of those footsteps could kill a man. Capcom must have realized the classic roaming enemy Mr. X was too scary for modern gamers, which is why in the remake they gave him a funny little hat. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to science, the hat somehow makes him scarier.

#2: Anglerfish (Again): SOMA


I would like to take this moment to address SOMA’s creative director, Thomas Grip, a man I deeply admire and respect, directly.

Thomas. You mad dog. You brilliant, evil man. I respect you. I’ve read every Tweet, every blog post in Frictional’s now-defunct In the Games of Madness blog. You went too far with this jump scare, Thomas. You were too concerned with whether you could trick the player into walking into the gaping maw of a mutated anglerfish by making them rely on a series of light posts to mark the correct path at the bottom of the ocean and then positioning the anglerfish’s lure as the last light you go toward, you didn’t stop to think whether you should trick the player into walking into the gaping maw of a mutated anglerfish. This is one of the cruelest, most well-planned jump scares I’ve ever seen, and I’d respect it if it didn’t make me pronounce the above string of syllables exactly, letter for letter, every time I think about it, which is often.

#1: Lisa Tries to Kiss You and Fails So Bad You Die: P.T.

“Ha ha babe, not now, stop… babe stop, haha… babe stop… BABE STOP… BABE STOP, BABE—!”

A masterpiece lost to Konami’s greatest fumble of all time, P.T. is terrifying and claustrophobic in a way few AAA titles will ever achieve. It has spawned countless clones and inspired hundreds of horror games big and small, but all of these games fail to capture what made P.T. so special: the promise of a spectacularly bad kiss from the world’s horniest ghost. All Lisa wants to do is give you, the player, a smooch, but for some reason, either due to her unresolved hatred and the lingering torment from her murder or the fact that she frew up, she is simply unable to do it without failing so badly it kills you. With any luck, Hideo Kojima will one day get the greenlight to make Silent Hills, and the ghosts of P.T. on so many PS4s will finally be able to pass on into the afterlife, where I will be waiting for my love to return to me for one final, perfect jump scare.

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