Urban legends and video games have gone hand in hand for a long time. The creepy shadow people of Mario Galaxy; Bigfoot prowling the state of San Andreas; The death-worshipping cult of children that inhabit Azeroth... there are many stories of inexplicable in-game events creeping out players.
While unsettling in their own way, these are not the type of stories this list will be focusing on.
In this piece, we'll be discussing popular urban legends about video games that escaped their digital confines to spread terror in the real world. While the march of history has led to many of these stories being (thankfully) refuted, each tale here has managed to spread its macabre legend far and wide through newsprint, the internet and simple word of mouth.
From heart-attack inducing arcade machines to dead developers sending a letter to their publisher, and even that time Nintendo published a game that predicted the deaths of its players, let's gather round the campfire and whisper about when video games supposedly slipped through the cracks of the virtual world and began affecting ours instead.
10. Homicidal Arcade Machine Berzerk
"Homicidal Arcade Machine Berzerk" may sound like a cheesy anime series, but it's actually an early example of video games reaching the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. '80s arcade game Berzerk was blamed for not one, not two, but three deaths, all of which supposedly occurred at the same arcade centre.
As reported by Retrovolve, two gamers (Peter Burkowski and Jeff Dailey) were reported to have had fatal heart attacks shortly after playing Berzerk at Friar Tuck's Game Room in Illinois. While Jeff Dailey's death was never confirmed, the unfortunate Peter Burkowski definitely did die after playing the game. Burkowski was found to have a weakened heart in his autopsy, and the excitement induced by the game became seen as a possible cause of death.
Berzerk's legacy didn't end there, however. Years later, a fatal stabbing during a brawl occurred just outside the doors of Friar Tuck's. The rumoured cause of the fight? A quarter that had been placed inside the Berzerk machine.
While the truths behind the deaths may owe more to coincidence and hearsay than fact, Berzerk's connection to the trio of fatalities at that ill-fated arcade centre have ensured its place in videogame folklore forever.