A horror themed Final Fantasy?

Thule Esperada

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By horror themes I of course mean tropes typically associated with horror, not that the game is trying to scare players. So scare factor is irrelevant here, only the themes matter. Let's get started.

So looking back on Final Fantasy VII, you can notice it uses a bunch of horror tropes. The cave of the Gi had ghosts/undead, Whenever Sephiroth showed up the mood went into psychological/slasher horror and Jenova is straight out of a Lovecraftian cosmic-horror story: arriving from space, spawning monsters and turning people into copies of it's self by "infecting" other lifeforms.

And I guess that Parasite Eve could be considered a horror-Final Fantasy game in alot of ways. An early draft of FFVII even had similar story- and plot-elements.

So horror themes are pretty rare in rpgs it would seem.
What do you think about horror themes in rpgs in? Do you think it's interesting, would you like to see it used more often or would you want a fullblown horror-rpg?
 

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Yes!
I'm not a jumpy-boo horror fan, or an over-the-top gore-guzzler, but I do like some dark themes and horror elements.

I apologise for the following long post. I have a terrible habit of diving too much into this stuff lately.

I like your comments on the horror tropes in FFVII. Amongst all FFs I feel that FFVII is the most horror-based. It draws on all sorts of horror.
There is supernatural horror with ghosts, etc, and Vincent acts as the game’s vampire following the trend set by Polidori and Stoker (but although wearing supernatural aesthetics, Vincent’s origin has a scientific explanation and so it also follows the same lines of Matheson’s I Am Legend).

Shinra Mansion generally is horror themed too. There are ghosts and ghouls knocking about the place, and there are deranged, acrobatic murderers swinging on giant pendulum-axes! Precisely how long ago did the Lord of the Manor leave that place?! Nibelheim has a serious ghost problem (and let us not even get started on the basement!), and to my knowledge we don’t get to see much of how the town’s real inhabitants reacted to it (the Shinra employees / brainwashed Stepford act does not count).

There is cosmic and science-fiction horror too. I definitely get a Lovecraftian vibe from Jenova as well. Jenova’s corpse being excavated in the Northern Crater is directly reminiscent of the Antarctic exploration team uncovering the Old Ones in At the Mountains of Madness, and it is also reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Jenova’s various forms even look like monsters from Lovecraft’s mythos. Mankind’s attempts to meddle with this extra-terrestrial horror for scientific purposes is also straight from horror. It’s also a little bit Alien’ish.

Following the theme of creepy science, there is also the underlooked sunken Gelnika airship. That ship had been carrying creepy, genetically engineered monsters with the hope that they could be used as weapons. After the Gelnika sunk and when the Turks and the player’s party visit it they find that these monstrous scientific experiments are loose in the ship. The monsters are all indescribable horrors (and all called Unknown). There is horror enough there, but it is underplayed! It’s like a mini monster/disaster story within the game. Yet it is all too easy to not think anything of it.

Even small things like the design choices for monsters in FFVII are sometimes drawing from popular horror stories, or even black comedy horror movies. FFVII’s gremlin doesn’t follow the traditional image of a gremlin from folklore, but instead it appears to take its inspiration from the 1984 movie Gremlins! That’s probably because the movie popularised gremlins again, so the inspiration is natural enough.

Gremlin_FF7.png


There are many more examples in FFVII of horror themes. The game is filled with them. I’ve avoided discussing things like science-fiction, etc, on its own without horror elements (because there is much more of this too… Bladerunner tropes, etc!).

As for other FF games, we don’t get as many horror themes because the games’ often Medieval-fantasy settings don’t easily allow for current popular horror tropes. There are some good examples though still.

In FFVIII when Squall and Rinoa visit the abandoned Ragnarok airship/spaceship for the first time, they quickly find that it isn’t quite deserted. The craft’s corridors are haunted by a freaky alien species called the ‘Propagators’ (which appear to have killed the original crew)… The alien species' name is creepy enough as it implies what it soon proves in that they keep propagating and respawning unless you kill off both members of a colour coordinated pair. The appearance of this alien is quite reminiscient of a H.R. Giger creation, such as the Xenomorph of Alien. The same sort of suspense and dread is supposed to stalk the player during this scene that Ripley felt on the Nostromo.

Propagator_FFVIII_Color_Art.jpg


There are also some horror-styled locations and themes in FFVI.

The Phantom Train acting as a steam-powered psychopomp is a brilliant idea. The souls of the dead are transported away on a ghostly train. Wandering about that (with the perfect music accompanying it) was quite creepy, although at times it was more cute than horrific.

Also in FFVI The Dreamscape world of Cyan is quite horror-themed. Players get to explore the nightmares of the despairing Cyan, and have to defeat three little nightmare imps (the Dream Stooges) who are trying to consume his soul from within his dreams. After that there is also Wrexsoul who is feeding off of Cyan’s despair. These are all classically-styled nightmare creatures. Being trapped within a nightmare (or finding yourself in real mortal peril within a dream world which you cannot wake up from) is also a kind of horror fiction trope.


Let us not forget the curious incident of the haunted painting in FFVI as well. When the wealthy man Owzer bought a magicite of Starlet he decided that he needed a painting to capture her beauty. He hired Relm for the job, and she produced a masterpiece. However when a monster appeared in the painting it became clear that the painting had become possessed by an evil spirit! The party then have to fight the painting to exorcise the evil spirit from it. Relm’s painting isn’t the only haunted painting in Owzer’s House, as there are several paintings which strike out at the player, and some that even suck the player into them. The trope of the painting possessed by a malicious spirit is repeated in horror fiction, and this draws on it quite nicely.

For FFV many horrific things could be said of ExDeath’s castle made from the flesh of his enemies (implied?). I guess the main horror trope with ExDeath would be the fact that he is a tree holding myriads of evil souls, and has become sentient. Sentient trees that kill people are a repeated horror element, and also play with medieval and ancient myths of tree-like beings. I’d say that on its own it is more of a fantasy element than a horror one, but it can easily be part of a horror theme.

There must be others… Ghosts are common enough in the medieval-fantasy themed FF games too, but not as much is made of them as far as I can remember. They tend to act as generic enemies instead.


So yes, on the whole, there are some decent explorations of horror themes in the FF series, and some interesting subtle references as well. So far FFVII is the most horror-themed game (as far as I can recall), and even then it isn’t always noticed by the player as being a major part of it (although it is).

I would like to have more horror themes in future FF games. It does add another element to the games. Sometimes it is good to think of dark and disturbing things, and confront them and learn from the experience.

As for RPGs in general, there was Koudelka for the PS1 which was a strictly horror-themed RPG game. It essentially felt like Resident Evil with the gameplay mechanics of Final Fantasy, or something like that.

I’m not sure if I’m so keen on a Final Fantasy game being set entirely in a haunted house or anything like that though. I prefer the themes to be there and the references to be made, but I like other elements being present as well. FFVII worked so well in this regard because it combined many themes, including horror.
 

Thule Esperada

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Wow I had almost forgotten about Sunken Gelnika, even though it's one of the more interesting optional areas in my opinion. And you are absolutely right about Ragnarok in VIII, which was a pretty interesting moment despite it's gimmicky nature. The Lunar Cry sequence in VIII could also be considered horror in alot of ways, with Rinoa getting possessed, releasing an "ancient evil" in the form of Adel and the countless monsters raining down on the planet from the moon. It has alot of cosmic-horror vibes to it.

LunarCry01.jpg
200px-Lunar_Cry_FFVIII_Art.jpg



Anyway it's great to meet other fans of horror arround here, and thanks for the posts.
Also I never knew a game called Koudelka existed, but it does sound interesting so i think I'll be checking it out.
 

Prince Oberyn Martel

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Many of the earlier FF games have enemies and environments that have a horror/halloween kinda feel to them. Mummies, vampires, zombies, ghosts, ghouls, bats, big scary spiders... VI had mutated creatures (like that fetus-like blob with a claw coming out of its head) especially in the WoR... abandoned castles, dungeons, as well as the places mentioned by others above...
 

Choas kills yuna

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Wow I had almost forgotten about Sunken Gelnika, even though it's one of the more interesting optional areas in my opinion. And you are absolutely right about Ragnarok in VIII, which was a pretty interesting moment despite it's gimmicky nature. The Lunar Cry sequence in VIII could also be considered horror in alot of ways, with Rinoa getting possessed, releasing an "ancient evil" in the form of Adel and the countless monsters raining down on the planet from the moon. It has alot of cosmic-horror vibes to it.

LunarCry01.jpg
200px-Lunar_Cry_FFVIII_Art.jpg



Anyway it's great to meet other fans of horror arround here, and thanks for the posts.
Also I never knew a game called Koudelka existed, but it does sound interesting so i think I'll be checking it out.
Hmmm.. I forgot about Tje evil adell getting released by Rinoa getting posesed. YES Thats my favorite scene of ff8. Thanks.
 

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Wow I had almost forgotten about Sunken Gelnika, even though it's one of the more interesting optional areas in my opinion. And you are absolutely right about Ragnarok in VIII, which was a pretty interesting moment despite it's gimmicky nature. The Lunar Cry sequence in VIII could also be considered horror in alot of ways, with Rinoa getting possessed, releasing an "ancient evil" in the form of Adel and the countless monsters raining down on the planet from the moon. It has alot of cosmic-horror vibes to it.

LunarCry01.jpg
200px-Lunar_Cry_FFVIII_Art.jpg



Anyway it's great to meet other fans of horror arround here, and thanks for the posts.
Also I never knew a game called Koudelka existed, but it does sound interesting so i think I'll be checking it out.

Yeah. The whole monsters from the moon thing is certainly very horror based.

That section of the story is a good mixture of different horror themes (and superstitions, etc, which circulated from antiquity onwards), but told in a science-fiction way.

The Lunatic Pandora is aptly named… ‘Lunatic’ relating to the madness stimulated by the moon itself (the same logic which was to apply to werewolves, vampires, etc, in supernatural horror, but also in medical beliefs too). Pandora relating to the Greek myth of Pandora’s box (or pithos jar, originally) where all of mankind’s ills were let out when Pandora opened it, and now the earth is plagued forever.

In FFVIII’s case the Lunatic Pandora is a huge cosmic box. Let’s not get distracted by the 2001: Space Odyssey monolithic appearance of it though, as the Lunatic Pandora does exactly as it says on the tin… It releases all manner of bulging and writhing horrors, flowing out from the mad, dark, deep craters of the moon and propelling them towards the earth in what resembles some sort of hellish geyser of blood.

So yes… These are further decent horror themes. They are underplayed again though. The moon thing happens, and it is dramatic when it does, but then it seems to be brushed away quite quickly (if I recall correctly), and it is completely overshadowed by time compression afterwards.
 

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How about the summoning Diablos, anima, and the minotaur brothers from ff 8 and 10?

In design and concept, sure. To an extent.

Diablos is taken from the Greek word for the Devil, diabolos. Etymologically speaking it originally meant slanderer (or more literally it meant to throw something across at someone). Our Diablos does this with his gravity based attacks. His design is very much devil-based, but he also carries with him a particularly Transylvanian appearance. He is a sort of Devil and Dracula combined. A hell-bat with the power to mess with gravity.

Anima seems to be more complicated. The concept may be drawing from Jungian philosophy. She might be referring to inner self, or the subconscious feminine side in men. I’m less convinced by that.

If not the psychological concept, Anima might be drawing from a Roman Catholic concept of Anima Sola. This being a soul burning in purgatory, but depicted sometimes in chains. This is very much like our Anima, although our Anima looks more like a hell-beast herself, and not a human soul. She’s very doglike about the face.

Or, failing that, and perhaps more likely, she might simply relate to a Latin word for ‘soul’. A troubled soul.

So in terms of appearance, Anima is quite horrific, but I’m not sure about horror themed, as plot-wise I’m not sure what can be taken from it.

The Minotaur Brothers are peculiar… It is rather sweet that they decided to give the Minotaur a younger brother. The FFVIII summons are a reference to FFV where the player fight near identical brothers called Minotaur and Sekhmet (in Egyptian mythology this was actually a lion goddess, but let’s not get picky!). These bosses are very similar in appearance to the GF in FFVIII, and are a direct reference, but they decided to call the younger brother ‘Sacred’ instead, which is quite a peculiar name. I would say that they made this partnership too sweet and too comical for it to really be considered as horror. They act like an over-the-top Japanese superhero double act.
 

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I'm not into the horror scene at all, I don't even like Halloween. Gore & gross mutilated monstery things just are off-putting to me, and I find jump-scares a cheap form of horror. That said I wouldn't mind some things I suppose - Something dark and Sci-fi-y would be interesting like I believe a few of the posts above me have mentioned.

It would be cool though, if done right, if they made a dark 'scary' Final Fantasy, just as long as it's not visually grotesque or involve some kind of psychological (or really any) torture. Something dark and dealing with the depths of the ocean would be really, really cool, where characters have to visit different caves & dungeons in a sub of some kind, dealing with dark marine creatures. :lew: I'll have to think about that some more, I think it'd be really cool!!
 

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Even small things like the design choices for monsters in FFVII are sometimes drawing from popular horror stories, or even black comedy horror movies. FFVII’s gremlin doesn’t follow the traditional image of a gremlin from folklore, but instead it appears to take its inspiration from the 1984 movie Gremlins! That’s probably because the movie popularised gremlins again, so the inspiration is natural enough.
I saw Gremlins 2 again recently and couldn't help but see a parallel between Dr. Catheter's genetic experiments and those of Hojo (clip). Especially since the laboratory is located at the top of a crazy office tower. I had been scared (also fascinated) by the original Gremlins movie as a child. My mission was to pick up the dog in his park in the evening and I was running in the dark breathlessly imagining myself surrounded by Gremlins. I experienced a similar episode a few years later after seeing Alien...
I never realized there were Gremlins in Final fantasy! Aaaaaaah 😰
 

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The worst horror for me was Rinoa being captured by Sorceress Adel. That's my waifu being taken! I want her back, dammit!

Another horrifying thing for me was when I was simping on Quistis while Quistis was simping on Squall. That was a legitimate nightmare.

I'm not into the horror scene at all, I don't even like Halloween. Gore & gross mutilated monstery things just are off-putting to me, and I find jump-scares a cheap form of horror. That said I wouldn't mind some things I suppose - Something dark and Sci-fi-y would be interesting like I believe a few of the posts above me have mentioned.

It would be cool though, if done right, if they made a dark 'scary' Final Fantasy, just as long as it's not visually grotesque or involve some kind of psychological (or really any) torture. Something dark and dealing with the depths of the ocean would be really, really cool, where characters have to visit different caves & dungeons in a sub of some kind, dealing with dark marine creatures. :lew: I'll have to think about that some more, I think it'd be really cool!!

They have that in FF14's Shadowbringers.
 

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They have that in FF14's Shadowbringers.

I love how The Tempest region (which I am assuming you are referring to, generally speaking) has horrific creatures called Dagon on the seabed. Based on their appearance, I would presume this more likely recalls the Lovecraftian monster than it does the Mesopotamian god. Also the local Ondo (which totally look like Deep Ones) are obsessed with the ancient ruins they are inhabiting and await the return of the Old Ones, and so on. Plenty of Lovecraftian parallels, mixed in with Shakespearean and mythological ones.

And Amaurot within that region more specifically (both the imagined form and the real, ruined form) draws from horror tropes a lot. There's a reason it closely resembles Bioshock's Rapture in aesthetics.

Definitely one of my favourite places in the franchise. I certainly felt a deep sense of awe exploring that place.
 

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Most of the PSX/PS2-era games have scary and ambient themed bosses that basically make you feel like you're going to war against evil incarnate. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's a horror buff and I do agree that Jenova is Lovecraftian. So are the Weapons in FFVII, they look Cthulhu-mythos inspired, especially Emerald, Emerald is horrifying. And Diamond getting shot in the face and still surviving by a a mako cannon (and mako is basically nuclear energy) REALLY reminds me of At The Mountains Of Madness/The Thing. If you really pay attention to what happens in FFVII it's pretty horrifying all the way around. There's definitely light-heartedness which helps to take the edge off and adds flavor to the character development, but Final Fantasy VII is dark, really dark. The first time I saw the Midgar Zolom impaled on the other side of the swamp, my eyes got wide. I did not want to have to fight who did that.
 

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i think a horror-themed FF game would be good as a stand alone spin off rather than a full open-world experience. its hard for me to envision a horror theme RPG with full towns and exploration. but who knows, it can be possible.
 

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i think a horror-themed FF game would be good as a stand alone spin off rather than a full open-world experience. its hard for me to envision a horror theme RPG with full towns and exploration. but who knows, it can be possible.
Koudelka managed it and is a cult classic. But I don't think Final Fantasy ever needs to have a game set in a 19th C haunted house or during a zombie apocalypse in order to be classed as horror. It doesn't need to have the Resident Evil or Silent Hill vibes. It simply needs to scare us, build up suspense, have us question things, fear for our precarious position in the cosmos, and so on. Psychological horror can be most effective, and it does not need to be within a Victorian mansion or an abandoned modern shopping mall or hospital.

The alien-zombie pandemic thing has sort of already been done in the FFVII Compilation (Jenova and Geostigma) and FFXV (Starscourge). Overlapping this is the alien invasion trope (the above examples, but also Spirits Within and FFIX - the Mist in FFIX spawning monsters is almost like Stephen King's The Mist). We've also had a few side episodes featuring ghosts (we can add FFVII Remake's train graveyard sequence to this now: a sequence which I think is a good precursor for how they could tackle the Gi Tribe scenes in part 2). Besides this we have seen mad science based horror, and then more simple 'here is a scary thing jumping at you!' horror.

I wonder, are there many horror tropes left untouched within the franchise?

I suppose one Lovecraftian trope is the trope of dodgy ancestors and inherited traits. I don't mean Tidus having an asshole father in Jecht, but the discovery that somewhere an ancestor bred with an actual monster and that the inhabitants of a town, maybe you yourself, are watered down reminders of this unnatural union, and there becomes a risk that you might abandon sense and reason and join your brethren in celebrating an ancient, slimy, evil god. However, this angle is somewhat less popular these days due to potential race analogies etc. Also I guess that is still present in FF anyway if you consider Jenova's cells and the effects they have on their hosts.

I guess I don't know much else about horror to think of many untouched areas.

If a game was to bring some of them to the fore, like FFVII does, then that could be cool. I wouldn't say that the horror genre or tropes really needs to determine the game's aesthetics though. Horror can exist in any era and setting.
 

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Koudelka managed it and is a cult classic. But I don't think Final Fantasy ever needs to have a game set in a 19th C haunted house or during a zombie apocalypse in order to be classed as horror. It doesn't need to have the Resident Evil or Silent Hill vibes. It simply needs to scare us, build up suspense, have us question things, fear for our precarious position in the cosmos, and so on. Psychological horror can be most effective, and it does not need to be within a Victorian mansion or an abandoned modern shopping mall or hospital.

The alien-zombie pandemic thing has sort of already been done in the FFVII Compilation (Jenova and Geostigma) and FFXV (Starscourge). Overlapping this is the alien invasion trope (the above examples, but also Spirits Within and FFIX - the Mist in FFIX spawning monsters is almost like Stephen King's The Mist). We've also had a few side episodes featuring ghosts (we can add FFVII Remake's train graveyard sequence to this now: a sequence which I think is a good precursor for how they could tackle the Gi Tribe scenes in part 2). Besides this we have seen mad science based horror, and then more simple 'here is a scary thing jumping at you!' horror.

I wonder, are there many horror tropes left untouched within the franchise?

I suppose one Lovecraftian trope is the trope of dodgy ancestors and inherited traits. I don't mean Tidus having an asshole father in Jecht, but the discovery that somewhere an ancestor bred with an actual monster and that the inhabitants of a town, maybe you yourself, are watered down reminders of this unnatural union, and there becomes a risk that you might abandon sense and reason and join your brethren in celebrating an ancient, slimy, evil god. However, this angle is somewhat less popular these days due to potential race analogies etc. Also I guess that is still present in FF anyway if you consider Jenova's cells and the effects they have on their hosts.

I guess I don't know much else about horror to think of many untouched areas.

If a game was to bring some of them to the fore, like FFVII does, then that could be cool. I wouldn't say that the horror genre or tropes really needs to determine the game's aesthetics though. Horror can exist in any era and setting.
Well i can imagine a horror-themed game based on Vagrant Story. But other than that, not much else.
 
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