10 Darkest Video Game In Kid-Friendly Franchises

From the glimpses Nintendo has given fans, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom seems to have a darker tone than its predecessor Breath of The Wild. While it may be a surprise to some, there is a history of seemingly lighthearted franchises like Zelda releasing games with darker tones.

While these occasionally drastic tonal shifts sometimes feel overly grimdark like Shadow The Hedgehog and Bomberman: Act Zero, there are many times that the change proves to be successful. Sometimes making the franchise darker works so well that it altered the course of the entire franchise.


Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes- The Awakened

Granted, it’s not like the adventures of Sherlock Holmes aren’t known for being cheery, but the previous Frogware games were pretty standard Holmesian adventures that were accessible for both kids and adults. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was not only the first of the franchise to receive an M-rating, but of the original trilogy, it is easily the most memorable.

Related: 10 Best Sherlock Holmes Movies (According To IMDb)

The Awakened follows Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson as they investigate a series of disappearances that tie into a cult that takes him across the world, soon being confronted by a cult that worships Cthulhu. Putting Holmes into the world H.P. Lovecraft created makes sense, and the crossover served to completely shift the course of the series.

Rayman 2: The Great Escape

Rayman Franchise

Rayman 2

While the first Rayman game was a happy-go-lucky adventure and the third felt more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a game, Rayman 2: The Great Escape feels the most out of place in terms of tone and world. With Rayman escaping from prison to battle the robot pirate Razorbeard, the game went in a darker direction and presented a world that was more dangerous than before.

Though it still adheres to platformer cliches, the world of Rayman 2 is jam-packed with ominous environments, bloodthirsty enemies, and a somewhat oppressive atmosphere. It won’t scar a hardened gamer, but levels like The Tomb of The Ancients and especially The Cave of Bad Dreams probably gave 90s kids nightmares.

Jak 2

Jak & Daxter

Jak 2

2001 was a big year for gaming, with two of the year’s biggest hits being Jak & Daxter and Grand Theft Auto III, with the former game’s developer Naughty Dog clearly taking notes from the latter’s success. In a freak accident, Jak and Daxter are sent to the dystopian Haven City and are forced to join a local resistance force, running around freely throughout the town and getting into gritty hijinx along the way.

Daxter is practically unchanged, but Jak’s torture at the hands of the dictatorial Baron Praxis not only allows him to speak his mind but amplifies his anger, causing him to turn into a feral monster. Though it is a dark adventure, Jak 2 still manages to have the original game’s quirky spirit, just with a bit more edge.


Minecraft Franchise


While it has received many spin-offs and splinter tales, the original Minecraft is still the incarnation that sent a shockwave throughout pop culture, it also has managed to be the darkest incarnation of the IP. Though the game has little to no story to speak of, the constant exploration of untamed wilderness and creepy caves can weigh heavily on a player, especially if they are playing alone.

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If played on survival and on a harder difficulty, nightfall in Minecraft becomes a dreaded inevitability. The idea that a single spider, zombie, or Creeper could end any progress made in a matter of seconds is terrifying, with the game’s primarily soothing music occasionally shifting to something far more unsettling.

Super Paper Mario

Paper Mario Series

Super Paper Mario

Unlike the typical Mario adventure, the Paper Mario games are more narrative-focused, but the developers behind the third game, Super Paper Mario, decided to have some twisted fun with its formula. In between the excellently crafted boss fight, silly jokes, and RPG gameplay, Mario and the crew’s journey to stop Count Bleck from destroying the world has some dark detours.

On this Mario adventure, he must battle his brainwashed brother, travel down The River Twygz accompanied by music that is pure nightmare fuel, and is even forced to fight a decapitated head with spindly spider legs. Super Paper Mario’s bizarrely dark moments are made all the more impactful by the mere fact that they take place in a Mario game.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy Series

Final Fantasy 7

While the Final Fantasy franchise had worked with darker topics before, with VI even dealing with the subject of genocide, the cutesy graphics of the NES and SNES kind of negated that darkness. When Final Fantasy VII brought the franchise into the third dimension, its more grim themes felt more potent.

Following a band of rogues, as they battle an evil corporation from harvesting their planet’s life essence, VII‘s world feels more brutal, with its battle to restore some form of hope to the world made more difficult in one of gaming’s most heartbreaking scenes. Though the remake is also pretty solid, the original’s dark tone felt more shocking on The Playstation.

Luigi’s Mansion

Super Mario Bros

Luigi's Mansion

A lot of eyebrows were raised when Luigi’s Mansion was announced, as instead of the GameCube kicking off with a Mario game, it debuted with a horror game starring his brother. When Mario goes missing in Luigi’s mysterious new mansion, Luigi must overcome his cowardice to battle an army of ghosts that haunt this odious abode.

Related: 10 Scariest Haunted Houses In Video Games

The franchise typically has a goofy, cartoony vibe, but the original has a creepy tone and atmosphere the likes of which The Mushroom Kingdom has never seen before or sense. While it still has the innocence of the Mario franchise, it comes equipped with a dark atmosphere, an eery soundtrack, and a morbid sense of humor.

Sly 2: Band Of Thieves

Sly Cooper

Sly 2

Of the Sly Cooper quadrilogy, Sly 2: Band of Thieves feels less like a Chuck Jones meets James Bond-style adventure and more like the beloved Cooper Gang’s luck running out. Sly 2 leans harder into the franchise’s stealth-action gameplay, with the game’s narrative having many twists and turns.

Though Sly and company’s quest to collect The Clockwork Parts from the evil Klaww Gang starts off smoothly, a shocking betrayal at the end of the first act sends the team down a spiral. A wrench is constantly thrown into the plans of the heroes resulting in a truly shocking climax.

Mother 3

Mother Series

Mother 3

Earthbound was a unique RPG on the Super Nintendo, with a wacky tone and highly bizarre boss battles that have cemented its legacy with fans. Though its sequel Mother 3 never got a proper release outside of Japan, it has been the subject of a fan campaign and has even gotten a fan translation.

Compared to the kiddy fun of the previous game, Mother 3 is a much more somber affair, dealing with topics like grief and loss. The story of the game won’t be spoiled here, as it’s best experienced blind, but those curious should be made aware that they are in for a heavy experience.

The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Legend Of Zelda Franchise

Majora's Mask

It isn’t like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the most lighthearted adventure in Link’s gaming career, but its sequel Majora’s Mask is an experience with a prevalent sense of dread and terror. After saving Hyrule, Link is catapulted to the land of Termina, a world that is threatened by both a malevolent moon that will crash into it in three days and the evil entity known as Majora’s Mask.

Majora’s Mask eschews many Zelda staples such as Princess Zelda, Ganon, and even the land of Hyrule in order to tell a smaller, much darker tale filled with scary imagery and tragedy. Link’s final N64 adventure doesn’t have a happy beginning, but depending on the player’s skill, it may have a happy ending.

Next: 10 Non-Horror Video Games That Are Genuinely Scary

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