The post apocalypse has always been that setting that resides right on the outskirts of the horror genre, lending itself to the kinds of action movies and games that aren’t afraid to get brutal and gritty. While I do understand the appeal of treating it as an anarchistic power fantasy, it’s still quite a horrifying idea. The thought that society could completely crumble to the point where day to day survival skyrockets to the top of your priorities list is scary. Either way, there’s a lot you can do with it, and Fallout is a series of video games that takes full advantage of that.
Making the transition from isometric tactical RPGs to a first-person shooter RPG hybrid, the one thing that has stayed consistent with the series has been a vast open wasteland to explore. Given the sheer amount of characters, quests, monsters, locations, and dialogue, it’s no surprise that they have managed to include more than a handful of both genuinely scary moments and tongue-in-cheek nods to horror fiction at large. With the recent release of Fallout 4 completely taking over the gaming world, let’s take a look at some of the best horror moments in the Fallout series.
The Pint-Sized Slasher
About halfway through Fallout 3’s main storyline the Lone Wanderer finds him or herself trapped inside of a simulation called Tranquility Lane. It’s a black and white 50’s suburb akin to Leave it to Beaver, and it’s super creepy. You are stuck as a 10 year old child, and the only apparent way to escape is to meet the demands of a small girl named Betty (who is secretly the scientist that controls everything). The demands start out simple enough, but increasingly become more and more cruel until she eventually asks you to don a clown mask and murder everyone else in the simulation. It’s a pretty weird spot in a pretty weird game, but the nod to the opening scene from Halloween is appreciated, and getting to step into the killer’s shoes is a nice change of pace. Given that everything happening is essentially a computer program you don’t get to keep the mask when you leave, but with the later DLC add-on of Point Lookout, you can find the real one in a grisly hotel room. Keep that in mind because we’ll be going back to it later.
The sidequest Those! is one of the most obvious nods in Fallout 3 if you’re familiar with the movie in question. When wandering the wasteland near the town of Grayditch, you may be approached by a small child named Bryan Wilks who asks for help finding his father. When you make your way to the town you find that not only is it overrun by giant ants (not an uncommon sight in the Capital Wasteland), but it’s overrun by fire breathing giant ants. The quest has you going into their nest, killing their queen, and wiping them out. Clearly a nod to the 1954 giant ant film, They!
This one’s more of a general theme than a specific moment or quest, but cannibalism is everywhere in Fallout. Hell, there’s even a Perk you can get that gives you the option to chow down on the bodies of enemies you’ve dispatched to regain health. One of the biggest standout moments is the town of Andale in Fallout 3, where the residents are completely oblivious to the fact that the apocalypse has come and gone. They also have something called “strange meat” in their refrigerators and Rippers (the Fallout 3 equivalent of chainsaws) in their basements in what seems like a reference to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In that same game is a group called The Family, who believe themselves to be vampires and live underground in the ruins of the Meresti trainyard. While it’s strongly implied that they are just cannibals they do give you the option to gain the Hematophage Perk, which gives you the ability to drink blood for health.
Moving over to Fallout 4 for a minute now, there’s a quest you can get fairly early on by overhearing some dialogue in Diamond City. This quest has you checking out the Museum of Witchcraft in Salem and searching for a missing person. Having been to Salem and visited the very museum that this is supposed to be, it’s pretty awesome to see it recreated so faithfully, at least from the outside. The location has been changed around a bit, but the architecture is spot on. Once inside you immediately begin a slow crawl through the basement, hearing something stomping around and roaring upstairs. This is one of the most tense moments I’ve ever experienced in one of these games and there are plenty of cool jump scares and creepy moments sprinkled throughout, including a brief nod to The Blair Witch Project. Once you finally do get upstairs I hope you’re ready for a fight.
In a game filled with creepy locations, this is the creepiest. The Dunwich building is a nondescript abandoned building just slapped right into the middle of the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3 with no explanation and no quest tied to it. If you’re an HP Lovecraft fan then you’ll immediately recognize the name as a reference to The Dunwich Horror, but other than that there is absolutely no explanation for this place. Upon entering the building you will find computer terminals telling a twisted backstory, feral ghouls, and what’s most interesting is you’ll suffer from hallucinations. Descending to the basement reveals a strange otherworldly altar with absolutely no explanation, once again. That is…before the DLC. Much like the Pint-Sized Slasher Mask, the Point Lookout DLC adds a quest which gives you a quest leading all the way from the Point Lookout Swamplands back to the Dunwich Building in the Capitol Wasteland and brings a bit of closure to this particular location.