10 Most Effective Jump Scares In Sci-Fi Video Games

In space, no-one can hear you scream. But everyone will here on Earth when you play these games!

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David Szymanski

When you think about it, sci-fi and horror are a perfect fit.

People tend to be afraid of the unknown, and the tropes that govern science-fiction stories - alien environments, unfathomable technology, extraterrestrial threats - make them a fertile breeding ground for generating this specific brand of fear.

And in the past few years, video games - from the industrial techno-hell of SOMA to the disquieting unease of Signalis - have become arguably the premier medium for science-fiction-flavoured horror - which makes sense, as games have always excelled at delivering sci-fi horrors designed to make you jump out of your seat.

If there's one thing this list should teach you, it's that monsters aren't the sole suppliers of fear. As it turns out, a talented developer can make the player jump through less orthodox means than having a monster leap out of nowhere (although there are some great examples of that coming up as well). Suns, star-ships and holograms have all made their way onto this list, showing that video game developers have become devilishly inventive at terrifying their audience over the years.

With that being said, it's time to take a look back over the past two decades (plus change) of gaming to celebrate the science-fiction games that effectively crept up behind players and said "BOO!"

10. Dead Space - One Last Scare

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Starting off with one of gaming's most famous scares, the final scene of Dead Space still shocks even when you know it's coming.

One of the great joys in the remake of EA's seminal space game was seeing what had changed and what had been kept the same. While the core limb-lopping gameplay was kept gratifyingly untouched - bar some reworked weapons and shinier zombie viscera - the story received some welcome updates.

Side characters Elizabeth Cross and Jacob Temple were given more agency, the villainous Dr. Mercer was given even more time to twirl his moustache in the player's face, and a late-game bad guy was given a much-needed personality rewrite from "cartoonishly evil" to "remorsefully pragmatic".

Having said all that, one of the biggest story beats was kept mercifully unaltered - the final jump scare. Much like Carrie's hand rising from the grave, protagonist Isaac Clarke being ambushed by his dead lover seconds before the credits roll is an iconic image in horror media. Developers Motive Studios were clearly aware of this fact, and kept the scene pretty much as-is from the original.

Nicole's last-second lunge at Isaac is one of horror gaming's most celebrated moments, and it gladdens our wizened heart to know the Dead Space remake introduced it to a whole new generation of gamers.

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Hello! My name's Iain Tayor. I write about video games, wrestling and comic books, and I apparently can't figure out how to set my profile picture correctly.