10 Most Disturbing NPC Encounters In Video Games
Stepping into a video game means not only putting ourselves into the shoes of the protagonist, but surrounding ourselves with their reality. While atmosphere and environment play a huge role in the overall feel of a game, one of the most key aspects of true immersion is the characters that make up the world in question. These non-player characters – or NPCs – lend a sense of added depth to the experience. Every now and then though, they also add something… more.
Sometimes, you’ll find yourself going about your adventure, exploring a new location or browsing through an in-game store, and an NPC will suddenly do something incredibly unnerving. Encountering one of these particular NPCs is an experience like no other, because these characters are each guilty of saying, doing, or being something incredibly creepy.
For today’s list, we’re taking a look at the most disconcerting boys, girls, and others that we’ve ever had the misfortunate to come across whilst playing our favourite titles, with entries ranging from slightly sinister to disturbingly nonsensical. I’m Peter from TripleJump, and these are the 10 Most Disturbing NPC Encounters in Video Games.
10. Pickman – Fallout 4
The irradiated ruins of the Commonwealth certainly seem like the perfect setting for an unexpectedly disturbing encounter, and Fallout 4 doesn’t disappoint. From the game’s nightmarish discarded synths to its hulking super-mutants, there’s plenty in the post-apocalyptic landscape to spook the uninitiated. However, there is one particularly unassuming location that stands out as perhaps the most disturbing of all: Pickman Gallery.
It may not sound any different from the countless other seemingly abandoned buildings in the ruins of Boston, but Pickman Gallery is home to Pickman himself; an artist who proudly displays his work for all who enter. The twist? Pickman is a sadistic murderer, and his “art” consists of the mutilated bodies of his victims.
After navigating the blood-soaked hallways and wading through a veritable ocean of severed limbs, the player finally meets Pickman, and finds him to be… surprisingly normal actually. Calmly explaining his rationale, Pickman claims that he’s just doing what he loves; killing raiders and displaying their mangled corpses.
It’s Pickman’s reasonable self-assuredness that actually makes him all the more disturbing, especially as the player has only just experienced the horrors on display in his gallery. He genuinely considers his serial killing both an art and a public service, which makes meeting him unexpectedly chilling for those who happen to wander into the gallery.
9. Mother’s Children – Sanitarium
A point-and-click adventure game released for PC in 1998, Sanitarium may not be the most memorable game on this list, but it features more than a few disturbing moments. To establish some perspective, the game begins with protagonist, Max, waking up in a creepy old-fashioned asylum, his face covered with bandages and his memory all but gone. Upon exploring, Max finds himself transported to several otherworldly locations, and it’s in one of these that the game’s most disquieting encounter takes place.
Arriving in an abandoned small town, Max begins to search for signs of life. He soon learns that the town is sparsely populated by disfigured children, all of which repeatedly refer to their “Mother”. Further investigation reveals Mother to be an extra-terrestrial plant-creature who has killed the town’s adults and is slowly turning the children into plant-creatures in her own image.
There’s not a single aspect of Max’s encounter with Mother and her children that isn’t deeply unsettling . The dilapidated buildings, the horribly malformed children, their creepy worship of an alien plant – any one of them alone would be alarming, but the combination of all three is as memorable as it is distressing. That said, in a game called Sanitarium, what else did you expect?
8. Chesty – Fable II
The Fable franchise paints the picture of a fantasy world that’s like no other. It’s a place where flatulence is enough to win you a spouse and talking doors give away treasure for the most innocuous of reasons. In other words, it’s generally a pretty sweet and wholesome world, albeit one that’s filled with bandits and likely smells awful.
After a long day of adventuring, Fable II players who settled down for the night at Brightwall Tower weren’t quite treated to the rest they needed. Instead, their dreams saw them transported to the ominously-named Nightmare Hollow, where they’re greeted by Chesty, a sentient chest. Chesty wants the player to be his “Super Best Friend”, a title they must earn by fighting wave upon wave of bloodthirsty monsters.
Chesty’s homicidal tendencies and child-like personality make him one of Fable II’s most disturbing inclusions, and he’s made all the more unsettling by the fact that he communicates entirely in sweetly-worded notes that identify murder as his only hobby. The entire sequence is one of Fable II’s creepiest, with Chesty’s disturbed game being a completely unexpected diversion. It’s practically enough to make us want to sell Brightwall Tower and head home to our spouses (who are less likely to kill us and far more appreciative of our ability to break wind).
7. Chauncey – Luigi’s Mansion
In Luigi’s Mansion, the second-most famous Italian plumber in the world is tasked with tackling the restless spirits of a haunted house. The game is essentially a parody of the survival horror genre, offering a family-friendly take on the format, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t contain anything too terrifying. You may be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong.
In fact, it’s the very first boss that Luigi encounters that is perhaps the game’s most disturbing NPC. Chauncey is both a baby and a ghost – a baby ghost, if you will – who, like Fable II’s Chesty, is desperate to find a playmate. Upset by Luigi’s attempts to capture him with the Poltergust 3000, Chauncey attacks the plumber, shrinking him down and engaging him in a toy-themed battle.
Of course, being attacked by a giant baby is pretty disturbing on its own merit, but it’s really the implications of Chauncey’s existence that make him all the more haunting. The fact that he’s the ghost of a baby clearly implies horrific tragedy, and his intense desire for a friend offers up a sad subtext to the entire encounter.
It’s okay Chauncey, hop in the Poltergust. You don’t have to be alone any more…
6. Hespith – Dragon Age: Origins
BioWare’s sprawling fantasy RPG, Dragon Age: Origins, offered up a hugely immersive experience, giving players the chance to choose their character’s own backstory before letting them loose in an expansive world populated with numerous memorable NPCs. However, there is one in particular that stands out, and though her role is small, she’s entirely unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
When exploring the Deep Roads – huge underground tunnels populated by monstrous Darkspawn – players are tasked with finding missing Dwarf, Branka . While tracking her, the player meets a member of her party, Hespith, who seems to be acting a little… odd. Holding her head at what looks to be a pretty painful angle, Hespith leads the player on a chase through the site of a recent slaughter, complete with walls and caverns littered with unidentifiable gore.
Amping up the disturbing nature of the encounter, Hespith slowly recites a sort of nursery rhyme – except it’s all about how the Darkspawn captured, tortured, and tainted the Dwarves. Finishing her poem, Hespith delivers the player to the Broodmother, a huge, bald, tentacled monstrosity, and then promptly disappears, never to be seen again. Her sudden appearance, creepy poem, and subsequent vanishing act combine to make one of Dragon Age: Origin’s most terrifying moments.
5. Granny Rags – Dishonored
One of the first things that becomes clear when playing Dishonored is just how bleak things are in the city of Dunwall; plague runs rampant and its Empress is dead, so the situation is pretty dire. Military checkpoints at every corner stand guard over dilapidated dwellings that house all manner of desperate and distinctly colourful characters.
It’s in one of these houses that the player first encounters a seemingly harmless old woman known as Granny Rags. After saving her from thugs, the player earns her favour and learns that she’s in league with the magical godlike being known as The Outsider. While this puts a slightly sinister spin on the doddering grandmother, it isn’t immediately disturbing, even though her incessant mumbling is a little off-putting.
Later, however, the player learns that Granny Rags is in fact a powerful and partly immortal witch who is preparing to cook and eat another human being. This of course paints the initial encounter in a far more unsettling light, especially if the player refuses to help her. Doing so causes her to transform into a mass of angry rats that attack the player. Though her name implies that she might be found serving up biscuits in a Dunwall hovel, the truth about Granny Rags turns out to be far more disturbing.
4. Eddie Low – Grand Theft Auto IV
The Grand Theft Auto franchise is practically overflowing with strange and disturbing characters, but Grand Theft Auto IV contains a series of random encounters with one man in particular that really take the creepy cake. Eddie Low can be found standing alone in an alleyway in the middle of the night, which should perhaps have been the first clue that something wasn’t quite right about him. Ignoring this huge red flag and approaching triggers an encounter that sees protagonist, Niko, become properly acquainted with Eddie, and it’s through these interactions that his true nature is revealed.
Eddie offers up some startling insight into his deeply damaged psyche, hinting heavily that he’s responsible for some of Liberty City’s most heinous crimes. In fact, even the hardened criminal that is Niko Bellic seems fairly horrified by Eddie Low, and although their first meeting ends peacefully, their second is a little more violent.
Eddie attempts to become forcibly intimate with Niko, prompting the player to kill him in self defence. Radio reports later link Eddie Low to a number of disappearances and violent attacks, confirming that he was indeed Liberty City’s most violent killer.
Even in a franchise built unapologetically around criminal activity, Eddie Low stands out as one of the most unsettlingly deranged and deeply disturbing characters.
3. Bray & Tammy Aberdeen – Red Dead Redemption 2
In all honesty, the frontier of Red Dead Redemption 2 is so filled with disturbing NPC encounters that it could probably populate a list all on its own, but there is one chance meeting that stands out above the rest as the strangest and most unpleasant. After being enticed in for a meal by the seemingly friendly couple living on the Aberdeen pig farm, the player is quickly knocked out, robbed, and dumped in a mass grave with a few other festering corpses. Upon waking up, the player must return to the farm to regain their possessions, and it’s there that they learn the sickening truth of Bray and Tammy Aberdeen.
Though they live as a married couple and seem to do all of the things that married couples tend to do, Bray and Tammy are actually brother and sister. Their incestuous union is as dark as it is stomach-turning, as the player discovers that they also killed their own mother before starting their criminal careers as serial robbers and murderers.
Every aspect of the encounter is thoroughly vile – from the unwanted glimpse into the Aberdeen siblings’ extracurricular activities to the slow realisation of their malicious intentions, it is, on the whole, an unforgettably horrific experience.
2. Sludge Eater – Pokémon Ruby & Emerald
As beloved as they may be, there’s no denying that the Pokémon games are pretty strange. From the basic premise of children training animals to fight down to the quirks of certain characters, it’s a franchise that’s as odd as it is iconic. Pokémon NPCs aren’t generally too horrifying, but occasionally, translation issues make for some unnerving dialogue.
Such is the case in Pokémon Ruby & Emerald, when – in the English language version of the game, at least – the player finds themselves up against a trainer in the Battle Frontier area. Entirely unprompted, this particular NPC shouts: “I SWALLOW SLUDGE TO TRANSFORM MYSELF”. It’s hard to know how to react to this particular information, as it implies that he’s been engaging in some incredibly questionable practices.
For added context, “sludge” refers to a poison-based move used by the likes of Grimer and Muk, so it appears that the trainer is admitting to ingesting the toxic excretions of his Pokémon. The fact that he offers this information so freely is concerning, but perhaps the most disturbing of all is his belief that it will somehow “transform” him. It’s not clear what he thinks he’s going to transform into, but it’s doubtful that regular consumption of poison sludge is approved by the Pokémon league.
1. Falanu Hlaalu – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The NPCs that populate The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion are perhaps the most infamous in all of video gaming, with a reputation for being repetitive and lifeless. This reputation isn’t entirely unearned, either, because the vast majority of Oblivion’s non-player characters are infinitely forgettable. However, there is one NPC that stands out above the others for all the wrong reasons.
If players were to travel to the city of Skingrad and peruse the wares of local alchemist, Falanu Hlaalu, they would undoubtedly want to make polite conversation with her before buying any potions. Doing so prompts a brief exchange in which Falanu explains her emigration to Tamriel’s central province, and then casually asks the player if they know what the local punishment for necrophilia is.
The encounter is disturbing because of Falanu’s off-the-cuff mention of her apparent proclivities. Taking… – comfort from the dead is disturbing enough, but the fact that it’s so casually mentioned by the shopkeeper during peak trading hours makes it all the more bizarre and unnerving. It certainly adds a richly creepy backstory for the Skingrad alchemist, and though it dispels the myth that all Oblivion NPCs are dull and poorly-written, it’s definitely one encounter that we’d rather NOT have seared into our memories.