Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
It’s my favorite time of the year. When Christmas gets too Sesame Street and Thanksgiving gets too dry (as in the turkey), Halloween has always been a steady month of kick-ass, from costumes to movies.
And let’s not forget the survival horror games; regardless of the season, I love playing survival horror, and my all-time favorite element that almost every game shares is the Chaser type of enemy.
For those unaware, Chasers refer to recurring enemies that appear at different, often random points of the game to stalk your controllable character, with the sole purpose of dismembering him or her should it manage to get close enough. Chasers are kind of like a boss that follows you throughout the game, except the majority of them can’t be killed, but merely stalled while you make your quick getaway.
Monstrous, unstoppable, and always one step behind you, Chasers have always left lasting impressions on gamers including myself, and in the spirit of Halloween, I’m sharing my 10 choices for the essential Chasers.
Get your supplies ready, and read on.
1. Nemesis (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis)
Starting things with my all-time favorite Chaser (in fact, that’s his official Japanese name), the Nemesis exemplifies everything that makes these gaming enemies so terrifying. A superhuman zombie that doesn’t follow any of the zombie rules, Nemesis runs like a marathon jogger (years before the 28 movies made the concept popular), isn’t bound by locked doors, takes nearly a quarter of ammunition to bring down (and he doesn’t stay down long), and even comes equipped with his own freaking rocket launcher.
No seriously, a zombie with a rocket launcher.
But what makes Nemesis really stand out to this day is the fact that his appearances are half-scripted, half-random. You could pass by an area where he’s prone to attack you, only to not have him show up at all. A few minutes later, relieved, you may get surprised as he drops down a five story roof as you make your way past the seemingly deserted city block. A truly frightening enemy no matter how good a player you think you are, Nemesis will always be the ultimate Chaser.
2. Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2…and its sequels)
Of course you knew I’d add in this guy, right? More popular than Nemesis, but not as manic a Chaser, it’s impossible to forget Pyramid Head once you lay eyes on him for the first time. As if the mysterious, but ultimately frightening appearance wasn’t enough, your first ever encounter with the silent executioner has him doing….well, this.
Years later, there are people who still can’t believe what they just saw. I’ll certainly never forget my expletive reaction to first witnessing it.
Yet despite his shocking introduction, Pyramid Head is a much quieter Chaser than most, becoming more of a psychological monster, like a visual representation of madness and torment that stalks James as he grows closer and closer to the horrible truth about his wife, and himself. When PH does decide to compliment your inner pain with a healthy dose of outer pain, he’s relatively easy to evade, but during those scripted moments where he requires your undivided attention, you can be certain that there’s no escape.
3. Mr X (Resident Evil 2)
Resident Evil 2 was the first game I ever played that featured the “survival horror” moniker, a phrase invented by the series, even though the genre existed beforehand. Regardless, RE2 was my first “official” entry into the genre, and what a great introduction it was. As if playing through one zombie-ridden campaign wasn’t enough, the game had a second scenario to look forward to upon completion, adding new areas, encounters, and most importantly: Mr X.
The precursor to Nemesis, and in many ways his complete opposite, this trench-coat wearing Tyrant played it oldschool, silently waiting in the shadows, his massive steps being the only indicator that he was waiting for you. Considering his slow movements, Mr X should be theoretically easy to avoid; too bad he has a habit of facing you in tight hallways, using his massive size to keep you boxed in.
Mr X is also responsible for what is probably my biggest jump moment in gaming, shown here at 3:20.
You simply can’t top that. Glass windows were always prime indicators that monsters may be afoot, but solid walls? All bets were off by then.
4. Lisa Trevor (Resident Evil GC Remake)
Yet another creature from Resident Evil. Shouldn’t be surprising, since it was the series that popularized both the horror and Chaser genre.
But by all accounts, Lisa is the most terrifying and tragic of all the game monsters. Separated from her family at a young age, Lisa was subjected to horrific experiments for decades, producing no results due to a bizarre immune system, but also gradually growing more insane in the process. Eventually, all those dormant viruses took hold of her, mutating her into an undead creature so horrific, she hides her deformed face with the skin flap of her mother’s.
Even by Silent Hill standards, that is seriously messed up. Quite a surprise that it was a Resident Evil game that was responsible for this tragic terror, and it’s a bit tragic how the series degenerated (somewhat) into parody afterward. Personally, I hope for the day that Capcom returns the series to its grim (re)beginnings set forth by the Gamecube remakes.
5. Jason (Friday the 13th)
For this choice, I’m going oldschool (in more ways than one). Okay, so the Friday game on the NES hasn’t exactly aged well….actually, it wasn’t that good to begin with.
But what it did do well was the jump scares, possibly the first console game to incorporate them. Jason’s sudden appearances were completely random, and would almost always elicit a jump from players regardless of age. The most tense moments took place inside cabins, where players had to save a fellow camp counselor from Jason, who was confirmed to be lying in wait somewhere. You could spend half an hour searching all the corners of each wall until Jason’s hulking figure (and that dreadfully tense music) greeted you in the shadows. And all you’ve got is a rock.
6. Debilitas (Haunting Ground)
An under-appreciated PS2 game, Haunting Ground did a lot of things right, and also exclusively featured numerous Chasers who seek out the bouncy bouncy Fiona as she bounces her way around a massive mansion. The most recognizable Chaser in that game, though, was the first one; Looking like a cross between Quasimodo and that dude from The Goonies, Debilitas was an absent-minded, but also psychotic hulk of a hunchback who really wants Fiona for….well, let’s just say the Game Over screen opens up a lot of disturbing thoughts.
But what makes Debilitas unique is that he’s actually a sympathetic Chaser; his obsession with Fiona seems stemmed from loneliness along with dementia; during one cutscene, we briefly observe Fiona through his point of view.
What we originally saw as a frightened young girl is suddenly depicted as a smiling goddess in his eyes. It’s an unsettling look into a demented mind, but it’s also rather pitiable.
7. Dr Salvador (Resident Evil 4)
Yep, it’s another nomination from Resident Evil. And yep, the “chainsaw guy” does have a name. What exactly he is a doctor of is never explained, but that all becomes irrelevant once you hear the chainsaw motor and that horrible wail that soon follows. While it may be debatable to classify Salvador as a Chaser, since he can be permanently put down, and the subsequent appearances afterward could just be other loonies with potato sacks and chainsaws, but considering the fear this guy or guys cause from that creepy howl and instant decapitation (at least in the NA version) assures a spot in this list.
8. SA-X (Metroid Fusion)
Okay, so technically Metroid isn’t a horror series. I could fight with you over that, but I won’t. However, the general concept and ferocity of SA-X makes her(?) deserve a spot on my list.
Remember how badass you felt in Super Metroid once you received all weapons and upgrades, completely destroying every monster that blocked your path? You can bet it wasn’t as fun being on the receiving end of that arsenal, as the SA-X proved. Completely possessing Samus’ post-game powers, SA-X was a silent killing machine that stalked the corridors searching for its original owner, immediately dispatching charged beams and super bombs once it sets its sights on Samus. Sadly, SA-X’s appearances are rather brief in the game, but they’re still memorable encounters. Dark Samus has got nothing on the SA-X.
9. Berserker (Gears of War)
So most of the Locust enemies from Gears of War look like knockoffs of Frisky Dingo’s Kill Face.
Not the most intimidating threat, to be honest. But the Berserker is a giant, hulking exception, a rampaging female (typical…just kidding) that tears down everything in its path, relying on her keen hearing to make up for her blindness in order to take down Marcus and his steroid-heavy crew. For a loud action game that requires you to shoot everything in front of you, the stealth-like aspects of the Berserker encounters coupled with the gorgeous graphics make these tense escapes one for the history books.
Not having Berserkers in Gears of War 2 probably added to its list of problems.
10. Silent Hill (Silent Hill Series….except the fourth one)
Confused? Don’t be. While the Silent Hill series is notorious for its laundry list of hideous monsters, many people overlook the fact that the town of Silent Hill is, in itself, a living entity. Whenever the town seeks a new prey to envelop, it always manages to lead them to the cursed town no matter where they may be. Once the characters are trapped in the belly of the beast, they are driven mad by their inner demons, which transform into physical ones seeking to devour them. With an out-of-season weather system, an instant shift from day to night, and nonstop terror on every street corner, Silent Hill is the ultimate Chaser….because it has already taken a hold of you.
Honorable Mention: Scissorman
Before you Clock Tower fans begin to flood my comments box asking why I didn’t include Scissorman, the truth of it is that I’ve never actually played any games starring the manic killer. I just recently gave the SNES original a spin, but the incredibly slow pacing may be within my tolerated limits. Still, a midget with gigantic head-chopping sheers? Sure, I’ll acknowledge him. I’d like to see him in a better game, though.