The Worst Things The Dead Space Series Made Us Do
The iconic science fiction horror series "Dead Space" follows the story of the everyman space engineer Isaac Clarke and his repeated battles with an infectious alien species known as the Necromorphs. After a chance encounter with them aboard a stranded mining vessel, the USG Ishimura, Isaac finds himself at the center of the Necromorphs’ plan to eradicate humanity and dominate the known universe.
The horror of the Necromorph threat frequently assaults the player on both personal and existential levels. Not only must they fight to survive the monsters’ attempts to brutally kill them, but also to ensure the very continuation of humanity. With such high stakes in involved at every point of the series — and given how desperate the situation always seems — it is no surprise that players have been expected to do some truly terrible things in order to survive. And so, here are the worst things that "Dead Space" has made players do in the name of humanity (and a good scare).
Watching the consequences of the Marker’s control – Dead Space
One of the most terrifying aspects of the Necromorphs in "Dead Space" are the Markers that spread their influence. The Markers are ancient constructs that are capable of corrupting and twisting the minds of living beings near them, allowing it to manipulate them into working for the Necromorphs against their own self interest. As these poor victims work against their own species at every turn, it is no surprise that this level of mental control often drives people mad.
In the first "Dead Space," many of the people under the Marker’s influence end up taking their own life. When the game doesn’t have Isaac stumbling upon the remains of people used up by the Marker, it will sometimes make players watch helplessly as a crew member’s life ends. and the game essentially makes you watch helplessly. These scenes can be very difficult to watch, especially since players are completely unable to interfere in any way.
Stick a needle in your eye – Dead Space 2
The brain scan scene in "Dead Space 2" is one of the series’ most iconic moments, and for good reason. Between the first two games in the series, Isaac Clarke is subjected to three years of psychological torture and analysis at the hands of the human government. This is initially done to study the effects of the Marker on his psyche and his innate ability to resist its influence, but the efforts actually lead to the corruption of those same government officials. They eventually decide to scan Isaac’s memories so that they can build a Marker of their own.
This is obviously a terrible idea, setting into motion the near-cataclysmic events at the center of the story in "Dead Space 2." Isaac subsequently discovers that he needs to do the brain scan a second time, only to find out that it is performed by impaling himself through the pupil with an uncomfortably large needle. To make it even worse, the procedure is performed essentially as part of a minigame that will have the player squirming in their seat.
Players have to closely watch Isaac’s twitching eye while lowering the needle to make sure that they impale it at the right spot. One wrong step and it’s a painful Game Over for Isaac.
The daycare – Dead Space 2
Rather than take place solely on a mining vessel, "Dead Space 2" begins on a human colony. This change in scenery allows the game to feature different environments from the first game, but it also provides players with a better look at the dismal nature of the wider human experience in the future. This also means that the sequel can explore more disconcerting settings for horror, such as a daycare.
One memorable sequence sees Isaac navigating a daycare that was attacked by Necromorphs, causing its brightly colored lights and adorable decorations to clash with the ensuing disarray and chaos. The section begins with Isaac watching as a woman is blown up while trying to help an infant infected by the Necromorphs. Despite their corrupted bodies, these Necromorphs still looks highly reminiscent of babies, complete with human heads and haunting cries. As Isaac battles his way through the area, players are subsequently forced to shoot dozens of explosive creatures that look just like human babies. "Rugrats," this is not.
Returning to the Ishimura – Dead Space 2
"Dead Space 2" players who had previously endured the nightmares of the first game were likely both horrified and excited when the sequel’s story involved a return to the infamous USG Ishimura. The twist left such an impact that outlets like Eurogamer have labeled it as one of the game’s most memorable sections — which is saying something for a bombastic title like "Dead Space 2."
When Isaac boards the USG Ishimura, he is immediately plagued by memories and flashbacks to the events of the first game, which makes exploring the derelict ship even more terrifying as the lines between reality and memory become blurred. The ship’s design and layout is accurately carried over directly from the first game. This creates a fascinating connection between the player and Isaac, as gamers will have similar memories and recognition as the character while exploring the area.
It’s hard to knowingly force Isaac directly back into the source of his trauma, even without the promise of new threats looming in the shadows.
Killing Stross – Dead Space 2
During the opening of "Dead Space 2," when Isaac has to escape the hospital in which he’s been held for three years, he finds an ally in fellow patient Nolan Stross. The pair work together to escape the confines of the hospital without being dismembered or infected by the dozens of Necromorphs that try to get in their way. The camaraderie that builds between the two characters throughout this sequence makes it difficult for players to not get somewhat attached to Stross, especially as he continues to accompany and aid Isaac as the game goes on.
This friendship makes it all the more heartwrenching when players have to ultimately kill Stross. Killing Stross is done in self-defense, as Stross has been driven insane through his close proximity to the Marker. The events of the game exacerbate his already significant paranoia, driving him to finally attack Isaac. This fact doesn’t make the act of stabbing Stross with a screwdriver much easier, however. After all, Stross is just as much of a victim as the countless others that Isaac tries to save throughout the series.
Freeing the Nexus – Dead Space 3
The first "Dead Space" culminated in Isaac fighting a colossal Necromorph known as the Hive Mind, which towered above Isaac and could have destroyed an entire planet if it wasn’t stopped. Knowing this makes it all the more dread-inducing when Isaac and his allies discover another frozen Hive Mind in "Dead Space 3" known as the Nexus. To make matters worse, the characters then decide to thaw the Nexus, releasing it from its relatively safe frozen state, so that they can use its connection to the Marker to locate the alien artifact.
While this plan makes sense for the characters and their overall mission, players who have experience fighting the original Hive Mind can immediately identify just how bad of an idea it is. However, gamers have to go along with the plan to progress in the story. Unsurprisingly, the plan doesn’t go well, forcing the player to fight the Nexus.
While not as tragic or disturbing as some of the other actions players have to take to survive throughout the series, freeing the Nexus is a moment that fills the player with dread. Nothing about it seems right, even when considering how much is at stake. Then again, nothing ever seems like a good plan. This is "Dead Space," after all.
Killing Norton – Dead Space 3
Another relatively innocent victim that Isaac is forced to kill in "Dead Space 3" is Norton. In the years between the series’ second and third installments, Isaac entered a relationship with Ellie, only for it to turn sour. To make the end times even more complicated, Isaac runs into Ellie and her new boyfriend, Norton, early on in "Dead Space 3." Isaac and Norton immediately have issues getting along with one another, both due to a difference in opinion regarding the best methods of survival, but also because of their tangled relationships with Ellie.
However, Norton is far from a bad guy. In fact, he is a capable person who is pretty similar to Isaac and just wants to keep everyone safe. Most of his ideas that clash with Isaac’s aren’t inherently bad, especially when viewed from the perspective of a person who doesn’t have Isaac’s familiarity with the Necromorph threat. This makes it all the more sad that the player is forced to kill Norton when he attacks Isaac. It is very possible that Norton was influenced by a Marker, but not knowing for sure might keep Isaac (and the player) up at night.
Leaving Ellie behind – Dead Space 3
Over the course of "Dead Space 3," Isaac begins to rebuild his relationship with Ellie. After saving one another repeatedly and facing countless horrifying situations together, it seems almost impossible for the two to ever part again. And yet, players have to leave Ellie behind to her apparent death. This is even more gut-wrenching for those who have played "Dead Space 2," knowing that Ellie risked her life to save Isaac’s in that story’s final chapter.
But in "Dead Space 3," Ellie and Isaac become separated due to a massive explosion, which leaves Ellie trapped in a small room filling with toxic gas. Ellie convinces Isaac to leave her behind to save himself and ensure that someone is left to put an end to the Necromorphs’ apocalyptic Convergence event. The game later reveals that Ellie actually survived the precarious situation, but the very act of leaving her behind is a tough action for many players to take, even if it could mean saving the world.
Cutting your arm off – Dead Space: Extraction
"Dead Space: Extraction" is a first-person rail shooter spin-off of the main series that was originally released for the Nintendo Wii. The game was a prequel that followed the exploits of a handful of characters on the USG Ishimura during the events leading up to the first "Dead Space." Not only does it give fans some insight into recurring series character Nicole Brennan, but "Extraction" also fills in the gaps of what happened on the ship when the Necromorphs first appeared.
As the player fights to escape the space station, they are guided through some of the most messed-up "minigames" in video game history. This race for survival culminates in the player taking charge of detective Nathan McNiell, who gets pinned to the deck of the ship when a Necromorph known as the Spider impales his arm with a spike. To escape, the player has to saw through their own arm, freeing themselves and allowing them to run to the ship. While "Dead Space: Extraction" isn’t as fondly remembered as other entries in the series, the sequence is particularly impactful thanks to the Wii’s motion controls, which force the player to mimic the action of slicing through the meat of McNiell’s arm a little bit at a time.