The human species has a peculiar fascination with the morbid and the macabre. We watch documentaries which detail the exploits of world-famous serial killers, poke dead animals with sticks, and line up in droves to see dumb people get slaughtered in the newest torture porn flick.
Video games capture these same compulsions. How many times have you failed a quick time event to see just what would happen when your character landed in that spike pit, or deliberately left a hogtied nun across railroad tracks to be crushed by a train? It’s fine. You can admit it. We don’t judge here. Well, not too much, anyway.
Bottom line: gore is glorious. This article aims to celebrate that fact, compiling a list of cherry-picked moments sure to satisfy the twisted curiosity which lies inside us all.
Put your head on my shoulders – Dead Space
Kicking off our list is a scene guaranteed to induce a wince. After your first few hours battling through waves of Necromorph creatures aboard the USG Ishimura, you’ll eventually stumble across a creature nicknamed the Divider. Up until this point, severing the limbs of your enemies was key in defeating them, but after this encounter you may have to reconsider that strategy.
A Divider isn’t one entity but an amalgamation of several smaller entities that will become sentient once dismembered from the host’s torso. If you separate the head, it will grow tentacle-like appendages that allow it to scutter across the floor and up onto walls and ceilings. If this head manages to catch you and you’re not prepared, a horrific death will quickly follow.
After a period of asphyxiation achieved by tightly wrapping its tentacles around the victim’s neck, the Divider head will use a tremendous amount of force to tear the head off its target before burrowing its tentacles into the resulting exposed neck cavity and hijacking the entire body by attaching itself onto the spinal column.
The final moments see your character then use his own hands in an attempt to position his newly acquired head upright as he shuffles away confusedly off-screen, presumably to go looking for a new hat or something.
Gone haywire – Manhunt
Manhunt caused widespread controversy when it released in 2003. Set against the backdrop of a grimy snuff movie, it featured a level of violence that shocked even the most desensitised of players. The violence was so intense, in fact, that the game was refused a rating in several countries and subsequently banned.
Each kill, or “execution” has three stages of brutality. The longer you stalk your victim, the more brutal the execution. These range from jabbing a piece of crudely broken glass through a man’s eyes, to thrusting a sickle into the plums from behind and ripping it backwards and up the perineum, to wrapping a plastic bag around someone’s head before deftly snapping their neck.
Arguably the most grisly kill, however, is performed using the razor wire. What starts out as a simple garotting quickly turns vicious as you begin to use the wire to saw at your victim’s neck, slicing the throat open and soon cutting straight through bone, resulting in complete decapitation. This is one guy who took the director’s call of “cut!” a little too literally.
The human ashtray – Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat’s legacy of extreme violence was cemented decades ago, but after 2015’s Mortal Kombat X, the series’ signature fatalities reached a new zenith of lurid creativity.
Almost every scene is outrageously gruesome, and it’s difficult to know whether to commend or feel a deep-rooted concern for the type of minds that could come up with such sickening scenarios. But, boy, are they fun to watch.
Take one of Jax’s fatalities as an example. Using his ludicrously powerful metal arms, he lifts the arms of his opponent up into the air before pushing them back inwards with such force that they crush into the torso, leaving just the hands dangling from each socket. He then calmly lights a cigar before effortlessly ripping their head open at the mouth like a coconut. Finally, he extinguishes the cigar on his opponent’s tongue, their exposed oesophagus still bubbling with blood.
Despite the brutality on display here, the real horror for me is the rather nonchalant waste of what is probably a very expensive cigar. Shame on you, Jax.
Lost forever – Grand Theft Auto V
Biker Johnny Klebitz was no stranger to trouble. If he wasn’t out trying to prevent his ex-girlfriend from continuing down a path of self-destructive drug use, he was being betrayed by his friends and used by politicians to do their dirty work.
Tragically, though, despite his hardships, Johnny was not able to ride off into the sunset after the events of Grand Theft Auto IV’s The Lost and Damned. Winding up in a trailer park on the West Coast and hopelessly addicted to meth alongside his on/off girlfriend Ashley, his eventual undoing was confronting the psychotic Trevor Phillips after discovering he’d once again been having sex with his missus.
Following a brief altercation between the two, Trevor feigns empathy for Johnny before suddenly throwing him to the ground and smashing a beer bottle across his face. A series of savage stomps to the head later and the former Lost MC Vice President is a lifeless, mangled, claret-covered mess.
As upsetting as it was to see what ultimately became of Johnny Klebitz, sacrificing his character so that Trevor Phillips could be born was an incredible introduction to Grand Theft Auto’s most unhinged protagonist.
A bat out of hell – Dead Space 2
Dead Space claws its way back onto this list thanks to Dead Space 2, a sequel which manages to generate even more delightfully repulsive body horror than the already stomach-churning original.
Three years after the events of the first game, protagonist Isaac Clarke awakens on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to find himself institutionalised in an insane asylum (which is a reasonable outcome if you ask me. You try articulating to people that the corpses of your friends were reanimated by a giant bat formed from a human’s torso and legs without sounding like you’re a pork pie short of a picnic). Unfortunately for our hapless hero, another Necromorph infestation breaks out almost immediately and he’s once again plunged into a fight for his life.
Dead Space 2 is an unrelentingly stressful experience, and this is evidenced nowhere better than in the first few moments of gameplay. After being released from your cell by a fellow engineer and informed of the danger you’re in, an infector Necromorph inexplicably springs up behind your rescuer and slams its proboscis into his skull, which starts a rapid and horrifying transformation.
You’re then forced to watch this sequence unfold, stood helplessly with your arms locked into a straitjacket as a man’s face literally melts away inches from your own, and grotesque, knife-like appendages begin to snap and contort violently out of his back.
I consider myself a fan of slow-burning horror, with atmospheres that swell alongside an unseen and insidious presence, but Dead Space 2’s harrowing introduction capably demonstrates that the complete opposite of this can still produce effective scares. Having to change my underwear 3 minutes into the game is always a tad inconvenient, mind.