Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The 31 Best Shadow Hearts Monsters!Images from Kethryveris' LP!
Released in 2001 for the Playstation 2, Shadow Hearts was a sequel to 1999's Koudelka, a game I'd also cover if anyone ever bothered to take clear, quality screenshots of its monsters.
As a Japanese RPG title, Shadow Hearts has a plot I can't easily summarize and won't attempt to. Good thing that's not what you're here for anyway, and it's not even what Shadow Hearts is most famous for, either. Anyone who knows this RPG series know it as one with really screwed up monsters, and we're gonna look at 31 one of them. Oh boy.
Tell me that first sentence didn't suck you in and leave you 100% invested in the rest of this article. An entire dog hopping around on a grisly arm that is also its face is a visual that could only possibly have been topped by that exact introduction. It used to be a mailman. Then the mailman ate everybody's dogs. Now the mailman is an upside-down arm-faced dog ghost. It's bloody ridiculous, but if you really saw this thing bouncing around, without even necessarily threatening you, I'm pretty sure you would still void more bowels than you even actually have. Do we even really need to continue? Can anything we just read ever possibly be topped? Honestly, probably not. I probably just ruined our entire list by showing you this first, but it needed to be done.
Next, we have a monster that's still zany as hell when you break it down, but leans a lot more towards pure creep factor. There's a lot going on with brainsucker here. It's a giant frog with no forelegs, its tongue is a hand, it eats only brains, it sweats poison, and its eyes are buddha faces. Apparently that wasn't important to explain. Apparently we're expected to look at this thing with buddha head eyes and just accept that's what happens when a frog just "turns evil," which apparently means it goes out of its way just to attack monks. Not even experienced monks, either, just the plucky younger newbie monks with everything to prove. Do you think the senior monks tease the trainees about brainsuckers? Do they ever burst in on them in bed and scream "BRAINSUCKERS! BRAINSUCKERS JUST EVERYWHERE!!!" for a good laugh?
Of course it's not gonna be so funny when it happens for real and little pairs of pale, serene buddha faces are peering in through foggy windows, hand-shaped tongues tapping the glass for a weak point.
Wait...do monk temples even have glass windows? Shit.
Not all of these monsters are going to be confusing or hilarious, of course. A lot of them are just plain cool, like this woman with an earwig's ass and little flappy fins instead of arms. I love when monsters are the result of a deity screwing things up. It used to be such a common concept in mythology, and people even used to think a lot of real animals were basically the result of a god or gods having an off day. I feel like it's still critically unexplored fantasy territory. What happens when you live in the universe of a creator who mucks up like this, like, all the time? And everybody hates them? And they just keep trying to do their job and tune out everybody who "prays" just to tell them they suck and should leave. Every day, people step outside their houses, see an earwig woman poking holes in their tires for no particular reason and thrust their middle fingers skyward. It's just a morning ritual at this point.
Asp here looks like your run-of-the-mill lizard man, but that's apparently what the ghost of a snake can look like, and he turns his victims heads "inside out." Isn't that kind of overkill, Asp? The whole heads? What about the skulls? How does this work, exactly? Whatever an inside-out head looks like, I enjoy the extra detail that he hangs them up in front of their own homes. What a spiteful little bastard.
Shadow Hearts' interpretation of a "banshee" might be one of the most disturbing I've ever seen. Even without the lore, that's one hell of a ghastly model. She's flayed, withered, rotten, and the playstation 2's limited, icky texturing only makes it all the worse. There's an uncanny quality to older video game textures seldom matched by more life-like modern graphics. That the banshee was an unwilling scientific experiment is even worse still, and the shivering is a wonderfully sad, horrible touch.
"Gremlin" usually calls to mind a diminutive, impish little troublemaker, but this thing is huge, with three fat legs - at least, I hope all three are legs - a tubular head and lovely, stretched-out looking arms and hands. Its primary claim to fame is its slippery oiliness, which is an interesting ability you don't see as often as you'd think in monsters. What's really fun is its origin story, being the ghost of somebody who drowned on land. What the hell happened?! I don't think a tub or a swimming pool really counts as "on land," does it? Perhaps he suffered some bizarre, extranatural watery death on an otherwise uneventful day.
Or maybe he passed out with his head in a toilet.
"Doom" is a pretty terrifying specter. Any off-color, naked humanoid that locomotes in an unnatural position is a surefire recipe for horror, and then there's that stick. Doom carries her stick between her feet, and manages pretty well with it, almost like a scorpion's tail.
Also, that is a brain. A brain is skewered on Doom's foot-stick.
Okay. A poisonous spirit called "hate," that hates. I get that. What I don't get is what I'm actually looking at. I guess it has a spider-like abdomen, or maybe that's a featureless, bloated head? It has a pair of...mummy legs? Which kind of just float near it? And what are those other things? Nuts? Eggs? They have a seam. Do they open up and spray hate-venom? None of it makes sense, which, actually, makes a lot of sense for an embodiment of hatred. A+
Oh yeah, there's another face-eyed frog monster, but this one eats only the butts of ladies. The game also wanted us to know that it defends itself like a sea cucumber, which is mighty interesting. It also lives in water, but it's a "graveyard frog." I can't say I've been to a whole lot of graveyards with a water feature. Maybe this is why. We learned that a nice pond in a graveyard is just a flashing "lurk here to eat butts" sign.
"Oingo" here is a fairly typical muck monster, with a heap-like upper body and a gooey puddle where it should have legs, but its design has a lot of personality. Those eyes look almost like it really doesn't want any trouble, but it's made of rotten sludge and it's living in an RPG, so it knows it only exists to give somebody experience points. Rotten sludge heaps never get to be PC's outside Pokemon or Digimon. Who will tell Oingo's story?
Even worse than Doom, "Guinea Pig" is a distorted, naked, headless woman that runs around on all fours and has an unsettling seam down its body. Yes, that seam opens up when it attacks. It tries to bite you with its torso. Boy, does this game have a lot of naked lady monsters.
Hangman is such a simple design. He's got a series of extra faces growing out of his skull, and he's upside-down. On their own, neither of these things would make for an especially disturbing ghost, but together, they really give you the willies to think about, especially since his primary goal is just to leer at you. He also has a gun, but that's probably the last thing you're going to worry about when a multi-faced blue guy strolls down the hall on your ceiling, looking for nudity to ogle.
You may or may not notice that "happy creeper's" head is on backwards. That's a butt. Happy Creeper is a giant, elongated skeleton gimp whose head can spin completely around, and on the opposite side, there's this:
image from judgement-ring.com
It's positioned like an umbilical cord, but we all know what it's really supposed to invoke. The best part is that there's several more monsters modified from this model, and all of them keep the "member."
This is apparently some sort of parasitic "insect" that lives in your head and gives you anxiety, but they sure are using "insect" loosely here. I'm seeing neither six legs nor three major body segments. In fact, I'm not seeing any legs or any body segments. What is this? Some hands and a pair of tentacles? Weird!
An interesting definition of "insane bird." No part of this monster actually comes from a bird. Its wings are bat-like, its body is more like a crusty, half-skinned human and its head is some sort of claw-tipped worm. Or maybe that is a beak? Its description alludes to "five claws," but which five claws? It has three-toed feet and four-fingered hands.
This is sort of a recycling of Oingo, but rather than just swap the texture, they were also nice enough to mess with the model's shape and make a somewhat thinner, spindlier slime creature. Sweeper has a fish-like mouth where Oingo just had eyes, while its description claims it possesses eyes on its back. That's a pretty cool idea, but in-game, you can't actually see anything explicitly eye-like on Sweeper's back at all. Maybe they're very, very tiny eyes, like a leech. Did you KNOW leeches had tiny speck-like eyes? You would if you read more of my website.
A nicely disturbing boss monster, Mammon is almost like an arthropod in the shape of a cephalopod, a maggot-like body with a circle of spidery limbs giving a sort of squid or octopus impression. Where its mouth ought to be, though, is a topless female torso with her head twisted around, apparently a character's mom. Shadow Hearts really is like the Silent Hill of RPG's. It's even abbreviated the same way! I already used "sh" to denote my Silent Hill image files, though, and "shadowhearts" felt slightly too long, so all the pictures on this page had to be prefixed "shearts."
My favorite of the three body-dwelling "insects," Baigu is such a wonderful combination of features. It's overall sort of ray-shaped with a globular abdomen, but it has a human hand for a head, and both ends are clustered with two different flavors of haunting eyes. You've got the human-shaped eyes embedded in the anterior and bulging, lidless eyeballs in the posterior, and both in such lovely trypophilic clusters, too. They really textured those upper eyes to look embedded in that supple hand flesh. I'm almost feeling itchy just thinking about it.
Yamaraja: Wind is a boss monster modified from the "Soul Block" model, and just as unsettling. The head at the end of its long neck is almost a featureless knob, except for the long tongue always dangling out of its mouth. Its body also looks especially decrepit, but once again, it's in that ambiguously intentional Playstation 2 texturing sense. Maybe it was just meant to be covered in short, filthy, disgusting down feathers. This is another one that makes me think of the Silent Hill series. Actually, I guess most of these monsters do. They do a better job of looking like they stepped out of Silent Hill than any actual Silent Hill monster past "The Room."
Mournful Demon is considerably more frightening than its cousin, the Happy Creeper. Skull faces can make anything endearing - even a latex-clad dong monster - but this thing's expressionless human face makes its "nether protrusion" that much more unwholesome, not to mention the way its body just sort of ends in a fleshy pedestal. The whole thing is actually pretty phallic. How the hell does that meaty cylinder actually move around? Does it just shuffle? Does it bounce?
A snarling, bipedal cat monster wouldn't be much to write home about, but this one is apparently also filled with maggots, which doesn't factor into its design or abilities in any way but we needed to know it was filled with maggots because this is Shadow Hearts. It also eats human mothers by making sounds like a crying infant, which is revenge for the murdered kitten ghosts it represents. This is particularly funny now that we know perfectly normal, domestic felines adapt to human parental instincts by crying at the same pitch as a human infant.
Yet another creepy, creepy bird monster, Straithe has the head of a crow unsettlingly gazing skyward, a human torso with elongated, two-taloned hands, and a cluster of roots instead of legs. Roots! It's apparently part plant! The bird-headed torso man would have been enough, but they really threw a nice little curveball into the equation.
It really is amazing what a little flavor text can do. "Ogre Flame" is just some floating, burning skulls, which is a monster design I've seen about a million and two places, and doesn't impress me that much on its own. When you tell me that these flaming skulls are somehow "jellyfish," however, you have my FULL attention. Somehow this is what happens when jellyish in the shearts world are filled with the juices of drowned corpses, and for good measure, they emit a horrible, grating screech. Icing on the cake.
Xieshi is by far the very least insect-like of all three body bugs, and actually doesn't even look organic, but more like some bizarre, wooden musical instrument. Like its brothers, its head is a human hand. Unlike its brothers, it straight-up mangles you from the inside instead of just making you really sad. I can't say this particular triad feels very balanced.
Anyway, I get the feeling that in the original Japanese, these were more likely referred to as "mushi" rather than specifically "insects," which would make a lot more sense. "Mushi" basically translates as "bug," but it's used even more loosely for just about any weird little organism, and even things that aren't organisms at all. If it's small and crawly, it can be some sort of "mushi."
This is the last of the navel weiner gang we'll be looking at, and probably the most disturbing of them all. It has Happy Creeper's backwards ass and Mournful Demon's monk face, but it also has grisly red wounds all over its body, and its "protrusion" somehow "commits hideous acts." Just the protrusion? Independently of the rage demon? How does that even work? Is the rest of the rage demon just not even paying attention while its "protrusion" pirates movies and sends obscene letters to internet personalities? Actually, now that I think about it, maybe rage demon is the one who wrote this description. Nice try, buddy. "It wasn't me, it was my nether protrusion" is the oldest one in the book.
This guy is one of the normal, human villains in the game until he transforms into a monster, which for some unknown reason manifests in the form of a floating, pregnant old woman with a second head poking out of her dress, like she's basically in the middle of giving birth to herself. Maybe there's an explanation in-game, but I'm not sure I need or want to know.
You can't tell at this angle, but Green Flyer actually has the coiled shell and slimy foot of a snail. What I'm sure you could see quite plainly are her two other noteworthy quirks, namely that, for one, she is not green, and for another, she is not flying. At least this "little girl" ghost isn't another shearts monster with tits. Thank god.
The same god that made all those arcmines, of course. He deserves a break for once.
I've seen a lot of RPG enemies that were supposed to be "deranged gods," but I think this might have one of the finest designs of the whole trope. The proportions on this weirdo are so beautifully distorted, and that head, like three giant grubworms on one stalk. Magnificent! It's all topped off by the fact that this thing stands on its own giant hand in mid-air. I like to think that really is completely necessary, that parts of messiah work the way things are supposed to and other parts don't, so he really, actually has to lift himself up with his giant arm to "fly."
This monster was actually featured in Koudelka, too, and made a return for Shadow Hearts II and III. The series apparently just really loves this pale, ghoulish baby sticking out of a big, gross flesh-ball. In III, the flesh-ball even becomes a grotesque face with the baby jutting out of its exposed brain, but we're probably gonna be stopping at the next game for now.
DEAR LORD that is creepy as SHIT. I've seen a lot of hovering, disembodied faces, even other hovering, disembodied faces with multiple eyes and misplaced mouths, but they really got Atman's finer details just right here. Every one of this thing's eyes are uniquely horrific, the set of lips positioned like it's just another of the eyes is incredibly disorienting and it feels like it expresses a dozen moods at once, all of them quite clearly malevolent in some way. Atman is, by far, the creepiest multi-eyed face monster of all the multi-eyed face monsters.
Our last monster is the only one I feel really comes close to the outrageousness of Mailman. Mailman was a man who ate all the dogs. Mansnake was a snake that ate more than 1000 sick-ass baby corpses. Those are fairly different things to be eating, but they make perfect bookends to our journey through the Shadow Hearts bestiary. Besides the baby buffet, mansnake has paralyzing eyes and piggie noises that control the weather. You probably think those things have nothing to do with one another, but I think they make sense and therefore they do. I am an expert on sense making.
I think what really sells man snake is that face. Those lovely, penetrating owl-eyes are perfect with that shit-eating grin, or I guess I should say 1000-dead-baby-eating grin. Can that just replace "shit eating grin?" We all know that person who shows up with that 1000-dead-baby-eating grin, right?
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