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October 21, 2016

Top 12 Creepy Nintendo Locations

Alright, so, quite some time ago, I discussed the 12 moments in Nintendo series that scared me the most, I’ll be honest, most of those moments actually touched on primal fears, ones that I have, but ones that anybody can relate to; and that was the strength of many of these scenes. It's agreat thing about many Nintendo titles that. either in the story in the ambiance they try to convey, they attempt to scare, or feature scenarios that call to one’s fears.

Although, most examples I gave back then were actually about the story in the games discussed. Some of those points were about ambiance, but not many. And yet, ambiance is one of the most important elements in the production of any work of fiction. The looks of a place and the music that can be heard in it. The events that happen in it are amplified by these elements. That’s why it’s so important to not only feature a good story, but to also have the accompanying ambiance. You can’t just slap a scary place somewhere and expect it to do the job! It’s an exercise in subtlety where a game’s developers have to build up the suspense, the dread, sometimes with implications that the player may not pick on. And that’s before anything plot-relevant happens!

As an homage to the art of ambiance, today I am listing 12 of the creepiest Nintendo locations – and why they deserve this spot on the list.

12. Ripple Star (Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards)
RememberÉ: You're pretty much inside the swarm of
Dark Matters.
Starting with a Kirby location! While researching for this list, I noticed Kirby had a lot of scary final bosses, but very few locations that were outright scary. Ripple Star is another story. Imagine the easy first level of the game, except instead of taking place in a grassland with a nice sand walkway, it’s… well, basically Hell. The floor is red, made of these weird unnatural hexagons. The sky is completely black. In fact, is that even a sky, we can’t really tell; if anything, all this blackness is actually Dark Matter blocking the entire sky. The music in Ripple Star 6-2 is horrible, closer to noise than an actual melody, and you will rush through just to make the maddening composition end. The place is so barren, too; say what you want about World 8 in Super Mario Bros 3, but it was full of enemies and interesting traps. The lack of danger between Kirby and the final boss is probably the scariest; it’s like the boss wants Kirby to easily get to him…

11. Subspace and the Great Maze (Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
Oh, this place also has characters who love
The Subspace Emissary has no shortage of scary places and situations, between Samus being grabbed by Ridley and literally dragged over the walls, to the Ruined Zoo and its multiple references to the horrifying MOTHER series. The worst part, in my opinion, has to be Subspace itself. It’s basically an empty world; it has a trippy background and some platforms, but that’s it. Gee, no wonder Tabuu felt like redecorating! You wished he didn’t choose to do that with pieces of the Smash World though. Talking about the Great Maze, there is something unsettling about it; you can’t see it as anything else but a patchwork of places from the Smash World, awkwardly connected to each other with doors but no rhyme or logic. Each zone is surrounded by darkness, as a reminder that you’re still trapped in Subspace, no matter where you’re currently standing. The place is riddled with strong enemies – fair enough, it is a 2-hour final dungeon after all; but then you discover that most bosses you’ve killed in this adventure are still alive, they're back, and as if that wasn’t enough, you must kill them all to proceed. And then, there's the fact that you can actually forget fighter trophies behind in the Subspace levels…

10. Second Tourian (Super Metroid)
Whatever has come by, it has even destroyed a Chozo.
Ah, Metroid hatchlings. First they imprint, and before
you know it, they're devouring all life around them.
Samus must be a proud parent.
Hey, I recognize this place! Yeah, I saw it not even a week ago! The Metroid series turns out to be downright terrifying at times. Although, you could justify that by saying it’s set on alien worlds, so horror is pretty much a given. It’s while visiting the final zone of Planet Zebes that Samus makes the scariest discoveries; this place looks like a lab, but it doesn’t look abandoned. And indeed it isn’t – that is, if you count the defective Metroid clones (AKA Mochtroids) floating around, as well as the various enemies. The bottom of this place is made of lava – the kind at the very bottom of the map, the one that hurts Samus even in her strongest suit. The lack of music doesn’t help, the ambiance instead consisting of bubble sounds. As we get closer to the end, we see a room with invincible enemies... which are stuck in place and disintegrate when Samus shoots or touches them. The thing that did this had enough power to destroy what Samus herself was unable to. Sure, later we find ot it's her grown-up Metroid hatchling, but still - for a moment, you become really afraid that whatever did this will soon do it as well to Samus. Then we get to the fight against Mother Brain, and after a deceptively simple first phase, things go to shit. A very effective place to give you the creeps. Even better so than the wretched ship, and that one has actual alien ghosts, for God’s sake!

9. The Palace of Twilight (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Hoo boy, am I excited to go into ths giant dark tower!
Can't wait to be ripped to shreds by darkness!
Talking about dungeons in empty, dark alternate dimensions, we have this little land in Twilight Princess. Granted, that game is already plenty horrifying already, and almost every location has its own lore with heaps of dark implications. The Twilight Realm, ruled by Zant by the time we get there, would normally be the home of the Twili, but the place has been twisted and corrupted. The dungeon found in there takes the cake, though; the black and blue color scheme makes it feel like it’s the final challenge. Zant’s Hand is chasing after the player in many rooms. Two Phantom Zants have to be defeated. And of course, there’s also the Dark Fog, a mass of darkness that will force Link into his wolf form and prevent him from reverting to human until he leaves it. And this is topped by a crazy fight against a freaking insane Twili who is teleporting himself and Link left and right around various boss arenas of previous dungeons. Have fun!

8. Bonefin Galaxy
Too bad nobody's fishing for fish skeletons, or else I
would have had the catch of the millenium.
Like a lot of Nintendo franchises, the Mario series has had its fair share of creepy locations. Most of them are the ever-popular ghost houses, but other things often show up to give young players a sudden scare. Among these is the Bonefin Galaxy, a place in Super Mario Galaxy, which already contains plenty of freaky moments. Imagine this for a moment: A planet that is pretty much water all over. It’s dark. Mario reaches it from a seemingly-empty mushroom starship (Or, well, Starshroom, if we’re to use the right name). Now, anyone who played 3D Mario games knows how troublesome underwater controls are in these games. Well, here you have to fight Kingfin, a gigantic Fishbones that freely roams these waters and will gladly summon normal-sized Fishbones to help. It’s like Jaws 7: Undead Jaws, and you can’t get a bigger boat! That thing ranks among the creepiest bosses I have ever fought, and I’ve fought a lot of bosses in my gaming life. You wouldn’t expect this from a Mario game!

7. The Dark World (The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past)
It's grey, and brown, and grim, and unpleasant.
And that's not even one tenth of the truth.
Back to Zelda! That series excels when it comes to featuring creepy places. The Dark World of ALttP is a terrifying place in itself, but it becomes a lot scarier when you compare it to its counterpart, the Light World. Much like how Link would be a bunny in the Dark World without the Magic Mirror, all inhabitants of the Light World are transformed here. And no, not always as animals; some people become trees, unable to move at all in this grim land. That’s already pretty bad. Then, you can explore all you want, but this world wants you dead. The forest at the top left is replaced by a maze, with the bones of giant creatures as décor. The desert turns into a creepy marsh. The village becomes empty, with nothing much left aside from a bandit hideout. There’s just an air of dread coming from this world, and the first time you visit it, you’re bound to get scared by many things… and we’re not even discussing Lorule, the Dark World's spiritual successor, yet!

6. Orre (Pokémon Colosseum/XD: Gale of Darkness)
Same image, too! Either I'm lazy or I procrastinatedé
Yes, this was a point in my “Scariest moments” list, but I believe it bears repeating. Orre is basically what happens when one of those criminal Teams wins. You can feel the desolation in this faraway part of the Pokémon world. The land is a wreck, you can hardly trust anyone, there are little to no Pokémon that you can catch in the wild (and those that you can catch are kept in very particular places, in XD: Gale of Darkness at least). Team Cipher has a strong grip on just about every single part of this place. Doesn’t help that they even infiltrated the major positions of power. In a way, Orre is a cruel nightmare, in that it represents a world overtaken by crime, and no matter how many people are willing to help the player character, the reality stays the same; even with Cipher out of the picture by the end, nothing says that this place will ever come back to normal.

5. Castle Bleck (Super Paper Mario)
There is no dark side of the void. As a matter of fact,
it's all dark. Especially this castle that looks oddly
white at the moment.
Had to get in my Super Paper Mario thing in there. Of course I had to. Many final dungeons have just that particular feel that darkness is close, that we’re nearing the end of the adventure just as the world outside is in more danger than ever before. In this particular case, the entire multiverse is about to be consumed by a void summoned by a heartbroken guy. As in, nowhere is safe, not even Heaven. Props to Bleck, though; his castle is located in a realm of darkness, implied to be within the void itself. The castle is completely black with white outlines; good luck finding any color in this place. Well, alright, there’s the purple flames on the torches on the walls, and the enemies are still colored, but that’s not much. This place breathes despair. Obviously, a guy who wants to destroy the multiverse isn’t going to pay attention to interior decoration. Even by the end, the castle is still standing, which may imply that the Void still exists… Dammit, I killed a sociopathic jester to make it vanish, I went through a Mario re-telling of a chapter of the Bible, and the Void still freaking exists!

4. The Distortion World (Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum)
I don't know what happened. I was taking a
stroll in the mountain, and now, I can walk
on walls.
By this point, you probably guessed that alternate universes are a perfect way to insert a lot of creepy into a story. They can be anything from an empty world to a land where the rules of reality no longer apply. …Granted, these rules are already quite elastic in most games anyway, but it gets worse in such alternate worlds. Generation 4 of the Pokémon series delved into this type of horror, which was easy considering the staggering number of Legendary Pokémon it had. Among them is Giratina, lord of antimatter, best described as a Cthulhu-esque creature living in its own universe, the Distortion World. Up is down, right is left, you use Surf on land, and you can probably pull your head off your body and snap it back on without a problem. When the laws of physics (well, the “laws” as they exist in the Pokémon universe, anyway) don’t exist in a place, we get some truly weird stuff. The Distortion World is also creepy through its greater use of 3D, which is without a doubt a shock to the then-2D protagonist! Imagine: You end up in an alternate universe with incomprehensible geometries… and there’s some kind of GOD there waiting for you!

Hey, I'm on the ceiling! I can see my universe from here!

3. Moonside (EarthBound) / Tanetane Island (MOTHER 3)
Ah yes, can’t make a list about scary stuff without going back to the MOTHER series. For such a deconstruction of RPGs, these three games sure have a lot of horrifying moments. I set Moonside and Tanetane Island together because they’re a similar concept: Ending up in an illusory world. In the case of Moonside, it’s Fourside turned into a bizarre dark world by the Mani Mani Statue, which also has the power to call forth the evil in people. Moonside is mostly black with strange neon-colored buildings and its inhabitants are incoherent at best, insane at worst. They might mistake “Yes” for “No” and vice-versa, or they might make bizarre references to Life Points and other RPG elements that the heroes can’t understand.

Imagine that every person here is someone
you know, they all want to kill you, and none
of them are the real deal - but you don't
know that, and you think they are.
Tanetane Island is a different situation, but it’s even worse; the current party in MOTHER 3 washes up on a shore with 1 HP for each, they eat hallucinogenic mushrooms to regain health… and things go to shit. What follows is a walk into an acid trip gone wrong; some party members hallucinate people they love saying they’ll pelt the heroes with rocks,
I'm gonna beat you. Daddy's gonna beat you, boy.”
the hot spring they bathe in turns out to be a pool of toxic waste, with a mirror nearby being the entrance to the actual hot spring. Monsters they meet on the way are twisted even further. It’s a terrifying place. And just another good reason never to do drugs. (Then again, since the party winds up with no items when they crash on the island, it’s practically impossible to move forward without eating the damn mushrooms… That’s devilish.)

2. Jabu Jabu’s Belly (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
This is NOT what I think of when I hear the words
"Fantastic Voyage".
Here’s another mandatory creepy location to visit in video games: The interior of some giant beast. Or, at least, a dungeon of pulsing walls, beating hearts, flesh as barriers and blood flowing all around. Pools of stomach acid optional but encouraged. In The Legend of Zelda, the creepiest example is Jabu Jabu’s belly. First off, you can attack the walls, which results in a shudder of the giant beast and blue blood spilling. That’s already bad. Second, to get further at some point, you have to attack some creepy tentacles. There is indeed a pool of stomach acid and bile. You can see the monster’s closed mouth by turning around when you become stuck in Jabu Jabu. And just in case this didn’t already freak you out enough, there are live cows in that thing. And no, not free cows. Those are indented in the freaking fleshy walls. Oh, yes, also there’s one at the bottom of the pool of stomach acid. Claustrophobia + the general disgustingness of the insides of a creature + additional horror elements = OH GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE, FAST. I swear, compared to this, Bowser’s insides were a fucking Ritz-Carlton.

Before we get to #1, here are other locations that were considered for this list:
The Ruined Zoo (Earthbound and Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
Planet Phaaze (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption)
Creepy Castle (Donkey Kong 64)
Kremkroc Industries (Donkey Kong Country)
Koholint Island (The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening)
Shadow Temple (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Desert Resort (Pokémon Black/White)
Old Chateau (Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum)
Out Of This Dimension (StarFox)
World 8 (Super Mario Bros. 3)
Sammer Kingdom, once it's been engulfed by the Void (Super Paper Mario)
Treacherous Mansion (Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon)

And now…

1. Ravaged Skyworld (Kid Icarus: Uprising)
If it looks like one of the tamer places on this list...
well, remember that this used to be Pit's homeworld.
The implications are what makes this place.
Closing this list is probably the least expected entry on this list. Kid Icarus: Uprising plays with the common sights of Greek mythology and will frequently put particularly horrible spins on the original myths. As if they weren’t already scary enough sometimes… Anyway, the game starts off in a very powerful way, with even the Medusa arc containing many moments of scary (Pandora’s Labyrinth of Deceit, anyone?). The worst part, however, might be during the Chaos Arc, much further into the game, when Skyworld gets twisted beyond recognition. We’re talking about the realm of the Gods here - Pit's home. Can you imagine coming home someday, and it's become some sort of twisted, horrifying place that barely resembles what you used to call home? Even Palutena turns against Pit. (We later learn that she was brainwashed, but sheesh, the most reasonable authority figure becomes suddenly an opponent!) This is also a case where we discover the reason for the location’s current state before we visit it; before that part of the Chapter, we learn that while Pit's soul was trapped in a ring, his body went on a freaking rampage in the mortal world, killing mortals left and right for three years. Combine this with the fact that Pit was gone for just as long, and the implications just keep on piling up. Most of the world is a wreck, really, after all these horrifying events - and that's when the horror of this place is made clear: It's all technically your character's fault. And of course, things get worse from there.

Alright then, I think this covers it all. If there are other locations in Nintendo series that really scared you, feel free to share them! As for me, I see we’re coming closer to Halloween, and even if I can’t write a story this year, I still want to do something. Probably a Halloween-themed review… Hm… That wasn’t part of the plans, but I think I will be reviewing another Steam title.

And not any title, either: Dead By Daylight. Time for some good old slasher action. See ya then!