Video Games: Characters that Don’t Look Scary but Absolutely Are

Screenshot of Tom Nook from the Nintendo Switch ‘Animal Crossing’ teaser trailer. Copyright goes to Nintendo.

Hey! Hallie here!

I always like a good surprise when I’m playing a video game. But some surprises come from really unexpected places. I really enjoy seeing cute characters turn absolutely terrifying. Whether it’s a purposeful move or not. It bridges a gap between hilarious and terrifying we rarely ever see. These types of characters are always fun to see in a video game. They make you question your views of the game and give you a different topic to talk about with other gamers who were just as shocked as you were. But this surprise isn’t always a pleasant surprise. Some of these characters live in my nightmares. Here are some of my favorite characters that you shouldn’t underestimate, despite their adorable appearances.

Tom Nook (‘Animal Crossing’):

Tom Nook seems nice when you first meet him. He’s a small racoon with droopy eyes and chubby cheeks. There aren’t many characters in ‘Animal Crossing’ who aren’t adorable, and Tom Nook is no exception to this rule. He also offers the player a place to live with a mortgage they can pay off at their leisure. Sounds like a pretty nice guy. Until he starts constantly mentioning the money you owe him. He hangs it over your head every time you walk into his shop. And then when you finally pay him off, he offers you an upgrade to your property without having to pay any money up front. Only to reveal to you later that the upgrade costs more than the actual property and will take you much longer to pay off. This starts a cycle throughout the entire game. Tom Nook will do anything he can to make sure you’re indebted to him, and the more you pay for upgrades to customize your village or island, the more unashamedly greedy he becomes. After a while of playing his cute face becomes terrifying. You dread seeing him walking anywhere near your direction. There’s a reason gamers call him the devil.

Flowey (‘Undertale’):

Here’s a more purposeful creepy/cute character. Flowey is only cute in the first few minutes of the game. But he’s REALLY cute. There really isn’t much of reason why you shouldn’t trust him. He’s a small flower with an adorable smiling face. And then he attempts to kill you and his smile takes on a much more disturbing appearance. From there, you have no choice but to be terrified of him. Even his original friendly smile will make you want to scream and run in the other direction. And that’s not even the worst part. He shifts through three different levels of terrifying smiles, each more disturbing to look at than the last. And then, in your final battle against him, he shifts into a monster absolutely unrecognizable from his small flower form. He sprouts vines, has a large bug-like head with human looking eyes and teeth, all hooked up to a large screen with a deranged smile on it. Flowey never stops trying to kill you throughout the game and he’s pretty crafty about it. He manipulates your friends into betraying you without knowing they’re doing it (Mostly Papyrus), and, in some scenes, you can even see him stalking you from the side of the screen. Flowey has only increased my lifelong fear of flowers with faces (I had a really scary sunflower toy when I was a kid, ok?). He’s definitely one of the scariest video game villains I’ve ever seen.

Merrill (‘Dragon Age 2’):

Merrill is a short elven woman. Between her fairy-like features and endearing high-pitched voice, you can’t help but feel safe whenever she’s around. Then you figure out she’s a Blood Mage. For those who don’t know what blood magic is, it’s a school of magic that focuses on the manipulation of blood to either make someone stronger or completely control them. Merrill used this on herself so that she could complete a spell she did not have the ability to complete otherwise, but there is very much a reason why blood magic is considered taboo in all of the ‘Dragon Age’ games. It completely opens the Fade, the place where spirits reside, and entices demons to come through the barrier. While it is implied that the people who use this form of magic may be harshly stereotyped, the game shows far more people who misuse blood magic as opposed to those who use it for good purposes, including rich mages who use blood magic on their slaves. Merrill isn’t exactly innocent either. Seeing Merrill drain opponents of their life is unnerving. Merrill also willingly calls demons to help her, which comes complete with a blood splash when she cuts open her own arm to do so. After seeing Merrill brutally suck someone’s life out, she doesn’t seem so cute anymore.

Tiny Tina (‘Borderlands 2’):

Tiny Tina’s rare in that, even though her introduction is her brutally killing someone, you can’t help but find her unexplainably cute. She’s a kid who loves pink and bunnies. You can even help her put together a tea party for her various stuffed animals. But that doesn’t hide the fact that she makes giant explosives and her favorite pastime is blowing people up. She has a pretty tragic backstory to explain her love of murder. Her parents were killed while Handsome Jack was using them for human experimentation. Tina was there, but her mother gave her a grenade that allowed her to escape. Unfortunately, she escaped alone. Tina is out for revenge after what happened to her parents, but that doesn’t seem to dampen her attitude. She’s energetic and fun to be around. She names her plushies and she loves playing games. One of the ‘Borderlands’ DLC’s is her own Dungeons and Dragons campaign. But you don’t want to mess with her. Tiny Tina has blood on her hands. You aren’t likely to survive making her angry.

These characters aren’t the only cute characters you can depend on to scare you. There are many more and all of them are incredibly enjoyable. I love the characters that are made to be frightening on purpose, but the ones that were made without that scary aspect in mind are especially funny to me. I enjoy when the entire gaming community collectively agrees that a character is strangely scary regardless of what the creators intended when they created the character. It’s narratively interesting, however, when writers embrace a characters duality and write it into their story. There’s always a funny aspect of each character, but there’s also some interesting depth behind why such a bright character became so dark. This is even happening in ‘Animal Crossing’, where games have started to bring up Tom Nook’s past before he became so greedy. This character type doesn’t come up nearly enough in games, but it works so well that I hope we get to see more of this craziness in the future.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!


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