There Will Never Be Anything In A Game Scarier Than the Sonic Drowning Music

Hey, it’s almost Halloween! It’s that special day when we celebrate the ghosts of the fallen returning to seek revenge on the living by eating candy and doing cosplay, but worse. Comic-Con? One hundred percent solid costume that took months of careful preparation. Halloween? Some bag of shit you found in a box in your garage. What a world.

As with any holiday, you’re going to see a lot of list articles. Top 10 Scariest Movies. Top 10 Scariest Novels. Top 10 Scariest Games. Top 10 Scariest Moments Your Dad Lost Control. What’s great about that last one is it actually applies to any holiday. Point being, you’re going to hear about what’s scary and what’s spooky. You’re going to see a lot of recommendations.

And none of them will ever be as scary as the drowning music in Sonic the Hedgehog.

Five Nights at Freddy’s? Great tension. Great jump scares. Resident Evil Village? Some real messy horror action in there. Silent Hill? Amazing use of fear to drive home tragic stories. Clock Tower? Now you’re just naming random horror games. Mighty Gunvolt? Not even a horror game, so why mention it?

Yet none of these compare to the intense, panic-inducing fear that hits the moment the Sonic drowning music plays. Within a matter of seconds, a fun Sonic the Hedgehog level turns into a horrifying scramble out of water – or, fuck – at least finding an air bubble. And the thing is – you’re probably not going to make it. You’re not going to find your way out of the water before the music speeds up to its crescendo and Sonic drowns with his mouth open in horror.

A couple of things. One, you don’t just fear the Sonic the Hedgehog drowning music. You fear the possibility of the Sonic the Hedgehog drowning music. While you’re underwater in Sonic, you know you’ve only got so much time. You desperately want to pop your head above water so you don’t need to hear that fucking music. I can’t emphasize enough how much you don’t want to. Every second not spent in God's fresh air adds to the anxiety. You know that music is coming and that only makes it worse. It only makes it hurt more when it does.

Two, drowning is a real way to die. It’s not rare. When I was growing up in Florida, drowning was the leading cause of death for children. Parents and teachers rightfully put a deep fear of drowning in kids because, you know, eventually they will go into the water. Swimming was important. But you always knew, ultimately, that you were powerless. As someone who’s almost drowned more than once, I can assure you it’s fucking horrible.

Most horror games lean on a fear of things that aren’t going to happen. You’re not going to get infected by a zombie that bites your neck. There’s no disfigured half-dead man chasing you through an ancient dungeon. And you’ll probably never get murdered by evil animatronics. These are all scary scenarios – nobody’s saying they’re not! – but they’re still in the realm of fantasy. I’m more scared of being hit by a car at night than I am being chased by a monster in Dead by Daylight.

Drowning, however, is real as hell, and we all have a visceral response to it. We like breathing. It’s something most of us do fairly often. And, like food or an iPhone charger, we notice pretty fast when we don’t have it.

The Sonic the Hedgehog drowning music just throws this in your face. It wants you to know that it knows you’re going to die. It makes you make dumb decisions. Rather than following a path out of the water, you begin jumping and struggling, just trying to find any air. You could’ve easily gotten out of the water, but the music freaked you out. It made you feel lost. And then Sonic drowned and Tails never found out what happened.

So as you load up spooky classics we all know and love like Echo Night and Echo Night 2, remember that true fear isn’t in an abandoned hospital. It’s not in the forest at night. It’s not even in the mansion your artist dad owns. It’s in any classic Sonic the Hedgehog level with water. Ugh. Happy Halloween.

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