Gaming's Most Stress-Inducing Sound Effects

By Andy Kelly on at

Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw

Game: Resident Evil 4
Developer: Capcom
Year: 2004

If the monstrous Dr. Salvador gets close to you with his chainsaw it’s an instant, gory game over. Which makes the sound of him furiously revving it absolutely nerve-shattering.

Drowning

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Developer: Sonic Team
Year: 1992

Anyone who grew up with Sonic will remember this, the sound of the hedgehog’s oxygen frantically running out. All these years later it still makes me think about asphyxiation, and panic.

Alert

Game: Metal Gear Solid
Developer: Konami
Year: 1998

The famous sound of an enemy soldier spotting Snake. This usually punctuates a moment of silent, careful sneaking, which makes the sudden shriek even more startling.

Motion tracker

Game: Alien: Isolation
Developer: Creative Assembly
Year: 2014

When this starts beeping, something’s moving nearby. And the faster it beeps, the more likely it is that thing is going to violently murder you from the shadows.

Running out of time

Game: Super Mario Bros.
Developer: Nintendo
Year: 1985

The sound usually heard when you’ve spent far too long looking for secret areas. If the time runs out you’ll lose a life, so you better get Mario to the finish line ASAP.

Radio static

Game: Silent Hill 2
Developer: Konami
Year: 2001

The sound of your radio crackling and groaning in a Silent Hill game is never a good sign. It means a monster is nearby, and you better hope you’ve saved some ammunition.

Poison headcrabs

Game: Half-Life 2
Developer: Valve
Year: 2004

The whipping, shrieking sound of black headcrabs is especially unnerving because they can temporarily reduce your health to 1, leaving you open to attack from other enemies.

Creepers

Game: Minecraft
Developer: Mojang
Year: 2011

The bizarre hiss of a Creeper is always worrying, especially when you hear it in the castle you’ve just spent hours lovingly building from scratch. Boom goes all your hard work.

Weeping Witch

Game: Left 4 Dead
Developer: Valve
Year: 2008

Unless you’re feeling particularly brave, it’s rarely a good idea to disturb Left 4 Dead’s sobbing Witch. Which makes the sound of her distant crying a tense, knife-edge moment.

Alarm

Game: BioShock
Developer: 2K Boston
Year: 2007

The nerve-shredding sound of Rapture’s automated security systems coming to life. A cacophonous racket that seems designed to disorient as you deal with the security bots.

Blue shell

Game: Mario Kart 64
Developer: Nintendo
Year: 1996

You’re in first place, it's the last lap — and glorious victory is in sight. Hahaha, says Nintendo, you sweet summer child. And cue the telltale sound of an incoming blue shell. There’s no escaping that repetitive beeping. Accept your fate.

Clickers

Game: The Last of Us
Developer: Naughty Dog
Year: 2013

The mushroom-faced Clickers are among The Last of Us’s toughest enemies, and the sound of their guttural clicking and chittering massively ratchets up the tension.

Scream of the ReDead

Game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Developer: Nintendo
Year: 1998

Get too close to these terrifying zombie bastards and they’ll unleash a chilling scream that freezes Link in place. One of the Zelda series’ most disturbing recurring enemies.

Radiation

Game: Fallout 3
Developer: Bethesda
Year: 2008

The sound of your health being slowly sapped as radiation poisoning takes hold. When your Pip-Boy’s Geiger counter starts clicking, you know you need to get the hell away.

Zombie moans

Game: Resident Evil
Developer: Capcom
Year: 1996

The dusty halls of the Spencer mansion groan with the sound of shambling zombies. Resi was for many players the first experience of video game horror and these sounds, whenever heard, instantly change the atmosphere.

Nuclear launch detected

Game: StarCraft
Developer: Blizzard
Year: 1998

If you hear this, another player is about to launch a nuke: and it might be aimed at you. The only way to tell where it's going to land is to find a tiny red dot, and I mean tiny, somewhere in your acres of base. The calm, robotic voice of the adjutant announcing it only adds to the horror.

Spotted

Game: Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Developer: Frictional Games
Year: 2010

You spend most of The Dark Descent trying to avoid the horrors lurking in the shadows. But when you inevitably get caught, this is the shrill, distressing sound of your failure.

Invasion

Game: Dark Souls
Developer: FromSoftware
Year: 2011

A reassuring sound when you’re calling in help to fight a boss. A terrifying one when a red phantom is invading your game and trying their damnedest to end your life.

Regenerators

Game: Resident Evil 4
Developer: Capcom
Year: 2004

Resident Evil 4’s sound design is unbeatable, so it gets two entries. The ragged breathing of the fearsome Regenerators is just as scary as actually running into one.

Roman Calling

Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Developer: Rockstar North
Year: 2008

You’re driving around Liberty City, enjoying some carefree criminal fun, when your phone starts ringing. And, yes, it’s Roman asking if you want to go bowling. Again.

Baby Mario crying

Game: Yoshi’s Island
Developer: Nintendo
Year: 1995

When Yoshi takes damage, Mario drifts away in a bubble, shrieking and wailing. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, his caterwauling is accompanied by a repetitive beeping.

Wrong answer

Game: L.A. Noire
Developer: Team Bondi
Year: 2011

You’ve spent ages reviewing the evidence, looking at your clues, and you’re convinced you know the guy is lying. But then you hear this grim tinkle, indicating you were wrong.

Hammer Haunts

Game: Thief: The Dark Project
Developer: Looking Glass
Year: 1998

These undead fiends are scary enough to fight, but it’s the demonic, breathy whispering when they’re idle that really shits you up. Thief gets a lot of credit in other respects, but it's an underrated horror game.