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1. Monster Party: Mutilated Child
Most kid-friendly games end like fairytales. You vanquish the monster, save the kingdom, and get the girl. Pretty simple stuff, but the makers of Monster Party did not get this memo.
After you defeat the monster king, your character (a child named Mark) receives a box with the princess inside. She seems unharmed...until her face melts off. And then your character begins screaming as the flesh melts from his body.
It’s a gory moment by any measure, and the fact that this is your reward for beating the game takes this to the next level.
2. Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask: That Freaking Moon
The whole premise of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is pretty creepy. After all, it’s an adventure game designed to make children think about the end of the world and the death of everyone and everything they love.
But it doesn’t get more memorably weird than the horrific face of the moon as it gets closer and closer to the planet. This is just the lesson children need: there is a man on the moon waiting to kill us all, and death could come for us all at any moment.
3. Pokémon: Lavender Town and Mortality
At this point, almost everyone knows that Lavender Town in the first Pokémon games is pretty weird. It’s pretty much the place that launched a thousand creepypastas. But visiting that town is still jarring to new players to this day.
That’s because Lavender Town serves as a reminder that your creatures can die as you visit what is basically a giant animal graveyard. It is sad and sobering in its own right, and it also puts the fact that your character is canonically an animal abuser into sharp relief.
Cue the shocked Pikachu face. But you know he’s only making that face on command because he doesn’t want to get into another dog fi--er, Pokémon battle!
4. Donkey Kong Country 2: Dying in a Cage
Sometimes, “continue” or “game over” screens can be insane in their own right. For example, the original Ninja Gaiden arcade game shows Ryu about to be murdered by a saw, and only another quarter will spare his life.
We generally expect milder stuff from kids’ titles. But in Donkey Kong Country 2, you see Diddy and Dixie Kong locked up in a cage and looking miserable. This is sad enough on its own, but the screen eventually takes on a blood-red shade that highly implies they simply died in prison.
Trust us: no amount of chill underwater music will erase this trauma!
5. Maniac Mansion: Cooking the Hamster
Maniac Mansion was a standout game at the time because it gave the player so much freedom. You could do almost anything, including murder a beloved family pet!
At one point, your character may get a chance to steal Wierd Ed’s hamster. Depending on who you are playing as, you can then put that hamster in the kitchen microwave and turn it on. It explodes, causing the words “totally awesome” to float above the screen.
If that’s not bad enough, you can actually give the murdered pet back to Ed. Of course, this causes Ed to immediately murder your character.
6. Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time: Dead Hand
Part of what made Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time so special is that it captured what it felt like to be young and confused but on the verge of growing up. This is dramatized fairly literally through the character of Link who can eventually jump back and forth from his child self to his adult self.
But it also included enemies and encounters sure to freak kids out. The best example is Dead Hand, a zombie monster who appears as gnarly hands before manifesting as a bloody mummy with stumps for arms. It’s like someone dropped a Hammer Horror reject right into the world of Hyrule!
7. Kingdom Hearts: The Destruction of Everything
Kingdom Hearts was designed as catnip for children. After all, it blends their favorite Disney characters with kid-friendly versions of some of the most iconic Final Fantasy characters.
However, the call to adventure in the first game is pretty grim. After spending a day exploring the island and playing with his buddies, Sora has to watch his childhood home and everyone he cares about being sucked into a vortex of darkness. It’s pretty horrific for children, but still not as bad as sitting through that live-action Lion King.
8. Chrono Trigger: So. Much. Death.
Chrono Trigger remains beloved by fans, and for good reason. It is arguably the finest game ever made for the SNES, and most retro lovers first played this title when they were very young.
And for the most part, the character designs and gameplay elements are very kid-friendly. But the notable exception to this is the game’s focus on the death of characters. One subplot has you accidentally wiping out a character from the timeline. And the driving plot is your attempt to prevent the death of almost every human on the planet.
Even your main character gets killed as part of the story. And while you can bring him back, it’s also possible to beat the game without it. How’s that as a moral for children? “Everyone dies, and no one’s really that important.”
9. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure: Crying Blood
Did you ever play Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure? This is one of the more obscure games on our list, but most of this Wii game’s design aped the classic point-and-click adventures of yesteryear.
The characters and designs are mostly adorable and look like your old-school Saturday morning cartoons. But at one point, you encounter a fountain that looks like a girl. Pull the chain and the girl opens her eyes and begins bleeding from them. And she opens up her mouth and begins screaming.
Perhaps the designers felt that this kiddie game wouldn’t be complete without a “Large Marge” style scare?
10. Kirby's Dreamland 3: Bloody Eyeball Fight
The Kirby games are a great example of kid-friendly designs covering a horrific central idea. After all, Kirby eats everything and then takes on the qualities of his victims. That sounds more like a villain on Hannibal than the protagonist of cutesy Nintendo games.
Sometimes, though, the bizarre nature of Kirby bleeds into some Lovecraftian character designs. For example, Kirby’s Dreamland 3 has a final boss fight involving a giant bleeding eye. It will keep hurting itself to bleed all over you, and you don’t triumph until you rip out the pupil and leave behind a bloody mass of goopy eye tissue.
11. Mega Man X5: Brutal Violence
The Mega Man games helped to really define what “kid-friendly” gaming could look like. Sure, they had intense difficulty, but fights and violence were always portrayed in the most cartoony way.
However, the Mega Man X games were an attempt to be a bit more adult. And in Mega Man X5, you get different ending cutscenes based on how you played. But here’s the catch: every single ending features things like characters getting shot through the chest, cut in half, and just generally mutilated.
Good job beating the game, kids. Time to watch your heroes get torn to pieces!
12. Lemmings: A Trip Through Hell
The Lemmings games are typically great fun for children. The characters are cute mascots and the game is simple. And even darker things like the ability to self-destruct all your Lemmings is played for silly fun instead of scares.
In fact, only one part of the game is designed to be frightening. In level Tricky 14: MENACING, you must navigate a landscape of blood, tentacles, gore, and skeletons. You may not think it looks that scary, but it’s jarring as hell when your little Lemmings suddenly look like they’re on the last level of the original Contra!
13. Psychonauts: Burning Orphanage
For the most part, Psychonauts is remembered as a light, fun romp. And much of the humor comes from your character’s ability to enter into the heads of the different counselors helping him to develop his psychic abilities.
But when you enter into Milla’s head, you discover that she once ran an orphanage. Why doesn’t she still run one? Because it burned down with all the children inside, of course.
With any luck, the horror of this helped some kid somewhere develop his own psychic abilities.
14. The Secret of Monkey Island: The Head
The Secret of Monkey Island is an acquired taste. Some players love the exploration and quirky sense of humor, while others find the game a little too weird for its own good.
That extends to one of your weirder inventory items: a severed head of a navigator. But the head is still alive, and you need to use it to get directions. But this means constantly looking at a decayed face that is inexplicably covered in extra eyeballs.
Maybe they were just trying to pioneer the world’s first “point and sick” game?
15. Paper Mario: the Thousand Year Door: Possessed Peach
The Mario characters are familiar faces. Slap them in almost any environment (from tennis to go-karts), and kids know exactly what to expect from them. Right up until Nintendo yanks the rug out from under us.
In Paper Mario: the Thousand-Year Door, Peach actually gets possessed by the Shadow Queen and becomes evil. It looks like she just has a cute new goth aesthetic...right until she blows a bad guy’s head off. Just like that, Peach is a murderer, and you go into combat with the distinct impression you’ll have to kill her in order to survive.
Sorry, Mario...your kid-friendly princess is in another game!
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