Nothing is as it seems in Doki Doki Literature Club. While this game pretends to be a stereotypical anime dating sim on the surface, it wouldn’t have wormed its way into the zeitgeist if that were all it had to offer. Once you play through it for a little while, you’ll soon realize that it’s a horrific deconstruction of everything you thought you knew about visual novels, right down to the game’s controls and internal files.
Since the cutesy anime style never goes away even in the game’s most terrifying moments, don't worry – nothing on this list should scar you for life. Even so, these moments provide a shock to your system that you wouldn’t expect from such an innocent-looking title. So let’s take a look at the top 10 scares in Doki Doki Literature Club!
Note: Spoilers for the entire game will follow, so please play the game first (it’s free!) or watch any of the great Doki Doki Literature Club Let’s Plays on YouTube/Twitch.
10. The glitched poster
One of the best features of this game is the multitude of “glitches” that start appearing after the first act. They vary over each playthrough, so you’ll never know what to expect. Our favorite glitch is so subtle that you many not even notice it at first, but it’s quite the gut punch once you realize that it’s there.
After Sayori’s suicide, there’s a chance that one of the posters in the background will change into the CG artwork of Sayori hanging from the neck in her bedroom. While you’re preoccupied with the other girls’ shenanigans, a grim reminder of the friend you left behind stares at you from behind their backs... and there’s nothing you could’ve done to save her.
9. The special poems
Occasionally, after a scene, a “special poem” will be unlocked. Unlike the normal poems, these are much creepier and reveal the inner thoughts and struggles of the girls you’ve gotten to know. Most of them seem to be from the perspective of either Monika or Sayori, detailing their battles with identity and depression, but a few can be attributed to Yuri’s obsessive cutting or Natsuki’s fear of her father.
Since these poems can appear after any scene in the second act, even those that are otherwise normal, they feel jarring and out of place. They serve as a constant reminder that, no matter how cute and upbeat the club members may seem, they’re hurting on the inside every single day.
8. “You’re recording this, aren’t you?”
In the last section of the game where Monika finally has you cornered, she reveals that she knows who you really are. You’re a flesh-and-blood person playing the dating sim, and that “you in the game” is just some faceless avatar. This is unsettling enough by itself, especially since she also knows your real name, but it gets worse if she realizes that you’re recording the game for YouTube or Twitch.
Monika gets annoyed that you’re pointing a camera at her without her permission, and decides to do a “trick” for you and your viewers. There’s a slow zoom in on her face... but nothing happens. You breathe a sigh of relief as she admits that she was bluffing, but then in the middle of her next sentence she jumpscares you with a nightmare face! It’s a cheap tactic, but since you’re already so on edge at this point, it works beautifully.
7. The fourth wall corrupts Sayori
At the very very end, Monika is gone and Sayori is now the president of the literature club. Everything seems to be going great, but something isn’t quite right with Sayori. She knows everything that Monika did... and the knowledge that her world is a lie has corrupted your poor childhood friend as well! But before she can trap you in the same infinite void that her predecessor had created, Monika deletes her. “There’s no happiness to be found here, after all.”
There is a way to avoid this, however. Replaying the first section of the game over and over until you get all of the CG artwork for each girl will instead cause Sayori to thank you for making everyone so happy. You’ll also get a special note from the game’s developer. If you put in the effort, you really can give these girls a happy ending!
6. Monika is “always watching”
Partway through Yuri’s route, when she’s starting to lose her sanity, she confronts you outside of the clubroom and admits that she’s terrified of Monika because “she’s always watching”. Yuri just wants to stay with you forever and avoid Monika’s slimy tongue, but as she’s pouring out her feelings, a faint image starts to appear over her sprite. Eventually, you realize that it’s Monika, who really was watching the whole time!
5. “I changed my mind. Ignore everything you just read.”
Natsuki is stubborn to a fault, so there’s no way she’d reach out to you if she were struggling. That is, until Yuri’s bizarre behavior goes completely out of control. She gruffly hands you a “poem” to critique, but it’s really a note crying out to you for help with Yuri’s condition and Monika’s odd dismissal of the whole situation. She asks you to just act like it was a really good poem so Monika doesn’t notice, but it’s already too late.
As soon as you finish the note, Natsuki’s face disappears and her skin turns pale. “Ignore everything you just read ... Yuri and I are too messed up for someone as wonderful as you.” Not even Natsuki can escape the all seeing eye of Monika...
4. “Let me just look... at you...”
As we mentioned earlier, the cutesy moe anime art style of this game helps to tone down the more graphic scenes so that they aren’t traumatizing. But one of the most unsettling scares in Doki Doki Literature Club comes when the art style itself glitches out. Yuri, crazed out of her mind, leans in close to the screen and stares at the player... with her normal anime eyes replaced with photorealistic eyes that dart around as she breathes heavily into your ear for just a little bit too long. There’s nothing to do but hold your breath until it goes away.
3. Sayori’s suicide and erasure from the game
This is the most iconic moment of Doki Doki Literature Club, and the one that signals what the rest of the game has in store for you. After discovering that your childhood friend Sayori has been struggling with depression for years, you find her the next day hung from a noose in her bedroom. It’s such a shock that the game itself glitches, with music distorting and warnings popping up in the corner of the screen. An ending screen plays, but this is really just a taste of the horrors to come.
The story starts over, this time with Sayori forcibly removed from the narrative. Nobody in the game, not even the protagonist, seems to remember that she ever existed. But you, the player, know that something is deeply wrong. From there, the descent into madness continues...
2. Monika is the only choice
When the girls are arguing over who should have you as an assistant to help with festival preparations, Monika gets fed up and tells you to just pick one of them already. You see three choices, but your cursor moves itself to Monika’s name no matter what you actually wanted to choose. She’s taken control of the game before, but never in such a direct way!
If you try to click on Natsuki or Yuri, the screen fills up with Monika’s name and creepy disembodied eyes stare at you until you give in and choose her. You always knew she was scary and manipulative, but it’s only now that you realize how powerful she really is.
1. Yuri stabs herself
The number 1 scariest moment in Doki Doki Literature Club is, without a doubt, Yuri’s death. You knew it was coming, since you’ve already been through Sayori’s suicide at this point, but the abrupt timing and gruesome execution is designed to catch you by surprise. Yuri has gone full yandere mode and confessed her violent, sexual feelings to you. Whether or not you accept her confession, she pulls out a knife and stabs herself to death.
The jerky sprite movement out of nowhere is jarring enough, but what’s worse is the wait afterwards. You do nothing but stare at her slowly decomposing body for the in-game equivalent of two days while broken text scrolls across the screen. Just when you think you might be trapped here forever, Monika casually strolls in, looks at Yuri, and says, “Well, that’s a shame.” And it only gets worse from there.
Doki Doki Literature Club isn’t the first game to combine anime dating sims and horror, but its subtlety, randomized glitches, and layers of complexity make it well worth recommending. Check it out and tell us about your favorite scares! Did we miss any that you loved? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading!