Video games you should never play by yourself

It's late. The lights are down low. The latest horror video game is in the console. Before embarking on your next virtual nightmare, there's some hesitation to pushing the start button. Do you really want to play this alone? We've all been there. There's nothing to be ashamed about. Just like the greatest scary movies are better to witness with others in the room, so are some of the best terrifying video games. It's definitely not because we're afraid of things in the dark, but because we want others to be there to experience all the frights these games provide with us first-hand. We can't help it if that also means we have someone to hold us when things got too spooky.

PT (Silent Hills)

Released as a demo during E3 2014, PT was a mysterious new spookfest crafted exclusively for the PlayStation 4 by the pseudonymous 7780s Studios. Players were dropped into a barren room with a single door, and on the other side was a seemingly innocuous hallway that repeated on a loop until gamers met certain exploration requirements. Eventually, an apparition of a deceased woman named Lisa appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly the halls changed into something akin to the Amityville Horror. That's when things got weird.

Radio transmissions recalled murderous events. A discarded fetus talked to players in a bathroom sink. The hall turned to a hellish path of evil eyes. All while Lisa laughed and chased players through her home. Not only did players need someone nearby to keep them from losing their minds, but those extra eyes helped solve PT's obtuse riddles, even if they were peeking out from behind closed hands.

Though early players were thrilled that there was a new horror game coming to the PlayStation 4, PT earned more fans when they discovered its initials stood for "playable teaser." PT was actually hype for a new Silent Hill game from the minds of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. Unfortunately, Konami and Kojima Productions parted ways before Silent Hills could be completed. The PT demo is all that remains for those lucky enough to have downloaded it back in 2014 before Konami yanked it from the PlayStation store.

Siren: Blood Curse

Thirty years after the inhabitants of Hanuda Village disappeared without a trace, an American television crew arrived to document the remnants of the town for an anniversary special. Soon, the journalists find themselves in the middle of an ancient ritual, complete with sacrifices, the undead, and nightmare creatures straight out of a Junji Ito manga. And of course, we can't forget the ominous air raid sirens that mysteriously call through the darkness in Hanuda Village.

Siren: Blood Curse was a 2008 re-imagining of the cult favorite Siren series for the PlayStation 3. Rather than being a straightforward experience, developer Project Siren focused on an episodic narrative told through the perspectives of a half-dozen different characters, each of whom was visiting Hanuda Village for different reasons. At the center of Blood Curse's story sat an ancient god named Kaiko, who was the reason the undead rose, why the village was cut off from the outside world, and who was responsible for the grotesque menagerie of horrors hidden in every corner of Hanuda Village.

In addition to being crazy-scary every time a new shibuto–Siren's creatures–appeared out of thin air with its soulless, bloody eyes, the episodic nature of Blood Curse made it perfect for binge-playing with friends. 

Dead Space

They say that in space, no one can hear you scream. While the science behind that statement may be true, it's not something that applies to trips to space in a video game. One hour with 2008's Dead Space was enough to prove that. Developed by EA's Redwood Studios, which went on to become Visceral Games, Dead Space was a brilliant third-person, action-horror game that terrified players from the moment they stepped foot on the USG Ishimura.

As engineer Isaac Clarke, gamers went head-to-head with a new galactic menace, the necromorphs. These creatures were once human, but were infected by a massive, ancient spire that seemingly had a connection straight to your worst visions of the monster in the closet. Not only were necromorphs nasty creatures, they were also tough to beat. They had to be dismembered in order to be vanquished, and while it was a great video game mechanic, it made every encounter a white-knuckle battle.

To make things even more dramatic, the AI for the necromorphs always made them incredibly aggressive. While that might mean one necromorph would come at you head on at top speed, it also meant that groups of necromorphs would find different paths of attack so they didn't gum up a hallway. Isaac was never truly safe, which meant players were never at ease.

Layers of Fear

Polish developer Bloober Team had a handful of unremarkable games for portables and mobile devices under its belt before striking psychological horror gold with Layers of Fear. Practically coming out of nowhere, Layers of Fear was an unexpectedly chilling delight that followed a disturbed artist as he tried to complete his masterpiece. Players had to explore his home to discover how to finish this painting, and uncovered a great mystery as the story progressed.

Layers of Fear wasn't chock full of monsters or things trying to kill you, but it was an eerie experience, loaded with jump scares. Though first-person horror games have often relied on jump scares to keep players on their toes, Layers of Fear's atmosphere is what made it truly creeptastic. The painter protagonist went more than a little bit mad, and his artworks were horrific and violent affairs that would give anyone staring at them goosebumps. Exploring darkened halls of a Victorian manor never felt so tense as it did in this game.

As for that masterpiece? We won't spoil all the fun of what happens during the course of the game, but you definitely won't expect all the twists and turns Bloober Team incorporated into the narrative. Depending on each player's experience, one of three different endings is possible too, adding more depth to the decaying mental state of the main character.

Until Dawn

Supermassive Games' Until Dawn was in development for years before it finally saw the light of day on PlayStation 4 in 2015. Originally conceived as a PlayStation 3 game with a heavy focus on Move controls, Until Dawn featured Hollywood stars like Rami Malek and Hayden Panettiere in a slasher film heavily steeped in horror film tropes. What helped Until Dawn stand out and thrive in spite of years in development was the "choose your own adventure" style gameplay. Giving players even a modicum of control over each character's fate lent much more appeal than any number of similar scripted experiences.

Until Dawn is best played with others not because of its scares, but so your friends can also partake in the action. All of the gameplay is pretty simple, with quick-time events making up the bulk of interactivity, so even more casual gamers can get in on Until Dawn without feeling too pressured to perform. What's more, failure doesn't result in a game over, but instead just leads down another path towards one of Until Dawn's numerous different endings.

All those choices and possibilities also mean Until Dawn is the perfect game for replaying with different friends to learn which of your pals would have the best chances of survival if they were stranded in a cabin in the woods.

Resident Evil VII

Eschewing the familiar third-person style the Resident Evil franchise was known for, Capcom instead went with a first-person experience for Resident Evil VII. As if that wasn't tense enough, the PlayStation 4 version featured PlayStation VR support, meaning you could be fully immersed in the world of the fantastically freaky Bakers.

On the hunt for his missing wife Maria, protagonist Ethan Winters gets a clue that she might be alive in Louisiana. Once there, the trail leads him to the Baker plantation, a decrepit home far off the grid and decorated with the aesthetic of the Sawyer family's Texas home. It doesn't take long for Ethan to find his wife, but Maria isn't quite the same person she was when she went missing. Uncovering the mystery of what happened to Maria and how the Baker family fits into her disappearance is what makes Resident Evil VII so fun–and so is the fact that the homestead is filled with danger around every corner.

Couple all that ooky imagery with set pieces inspired by The Thing and the Saw movies, an everyman hero not quite equipped to tackle the monstrosities in the Baker house, and a dark mystery to uncover at the heart of it all, and you've got a game that seriously rights the course of a once wayward franchise. It also made it hard to play when the sun went down.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

The Silent Hill series is known for being a very atmospheric and downright terrifying horror franchise. Though the early PlayStation games certainly get a lot of the credit for establishing the tone, the lone Wii game in the family certainly earned its place by being just as tense and frightening as any encounter with Pyramid Head.

As a re-imagining of the original Silent Hill, Shattered Memories put players back in the role of Harry Mason as he searched for his daughter after a car crash on the outskirts of town. Armed with only a flashlight and his cellphone, Harry must solve puzzles and explore the abandoned depths of the snowy town, while also dealing with being transported to the alternate nightmare dimension. There's no combat in Shattered Memories, so you can only evade Silent Hill's monsters…or else find yourself trapped forever in the nightmare realm.

If all that wasn't creepy enough, Shattered Memories also incorporated the Wii controller to act as the cellphone, as messages and calls came through the device's speaker. Now that's creepy.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

You probably never thought you'd be truly afraid of the dark in a video game, but Amnesia: The Dark Descent's take on darkness will certainly give you reason to reconsider. Set in the 1800s, the game put players in the role of an amnesiac named Daniel who must escape from the depths of an old castle, while also trying to piece together how he even ended up there in the first place. Oh, and Daniel must also manage his sanity by not spending too much time in the shadows and dark–otherwise he hallucinates, making his escape that much more difficult.

Amnesia's sanity meter helped set it apart from a number of other first-person horror games, particularly when players weren't playing close enough attention. The auditory and visual cues that crept into Daniel's mind made discerning from real danger nearly impossible, and the more time spent in this frantic state, the more visceral the psychological terrors became.

Uncovering the truth behind Daniel's entrapment and the horrors the castle walls hold increased the tension, but it also gave players a reason to keep going even if they were absolutely out of their minds. Or were they?

Bloodborne

Okay, it's true: Bloodborne isn't traditionally scary. There aren't many frights you don't see coming, and the action-intensive focus of Bloodborne's gameplay doesn't serve as a great mold for a spookfest either. Even with that all in mind, the Gothic horror at the center of Bloodborne and its creature design is downright gnarly.

Heavily inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, the nightmare landscape of Bloodborne is what makes it such a necessary title for this list. A great deal of horror games focus on traditional mythic undead monsters, but Bloodborne's influences gave it a much more creative creepiness. Let's be real. There are very few games that feature bosses as uneasy on the eyes as the Blood-starved Beast, Ebrietas, and The One, Reborn.

At least with Lovecraft, you know you're getting a tentacle monster or two. Bloodborne's bosses scoff at such simplistic nether-gods. If you don't have 65 skulls popping out of glowing orifices, each with their own mutated baby brain, you aren't tough enough to make it in the land of Yharnam.

Lone Survivor

A 2D side-scroller set in a post-apocalyptic nightmare world, Lone Survivor is arguably the scariest pixel art game you'll ever play. After a disease has turned most of the population into bloodthirsty monsters, the nameless protagonist must search for supplies in order to stay alive on his own. After exploring the world for a bit and scavenging, the protagonist returns home to sleep with the aid of blue or green pills. The pills give him different dreams, and can help change the outcome of the game's various endings.

Though you can battle some of the monsters in the world, stealth is just as important. Players can use diversionary tactics like leaving meat behind to draw out monsters, or they can stay in the shadows to avoid contact when possible. Like the early survival horror games, weapons are in short supply and saving what you've managed to collect comes in handy against some of the larger threats in the world.

Lone Survivor is unsettling and mysterious, and definitely keeps players on their toes considering they can only see so much of the game world at a time. Don't play this one before you go to bed, unless you like having really messed up nightmares.

Alien: Isolation

There have been numerous Alien games, but it wasn't until developer Creative Assembly went back to the mold of the original 1979 movie that we got an Alien game that made players afraid of the dark once more. Alien: Isolation put players in the role of Ellen Ripley's daughter, Amanda, as she tried to uncover the fate of her mother's derelict ship. Unfortunately for her, and everyone aboard the space station where Isolation takes place, a xenomorph is on the loose.

Isolation calls back to the wonderful design and atmosphere of Ridley Scott's film, with stark corridors filled with barely-there ambient light. Most of Isolation pits Amanda against a lone xenomorph as it hunts her down through each and every section of the station. Creative Assembly created a spectacular dual-intelligence for the creature, with one brain controlling its body, and the other providing hints as to the player's whereabouts throughout the game.

The AI keeps tensions high, not only making every new hallway terrifying, but exhausting players mentally by forcing them to constantly be on the defensive. Couple that with a haunting score culled from the original film, and you've got a game that's barely safe to play in broad daylight with all the house lights on.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

The Fatal Frame series has always had a cult following among video game horror fans, but its first sequel remains one of the most celebrated and fondly remembered. And that's in spite of literally forcing players to face their fears directly with the only "weapon" they're armed with: an ancient, mystical camera.

Crimson Butterfly follows a set of twin sisters as they explore the haunted town of Minakami Village. This fictional town earned the nickname "The Lost Village" as part of an urban legend when many of the denizens disappeared under mysterious, ritualistic circumstances. The twins are trapped in the town until they can take enough pictures of the spirits trapped by malevolent forces, thus freeing the dead in the process. Taking pictures of ghosts to weaken them may sound like an absurd gameplay mechanic, but try actually playing this game and see if you feel the same way.

Slowly learning the truth about the spirits certainly makes dealing with some of the most intense boss encounters in horror games worth the cold sweats. Even years later, Fatal Frame 2's true legacy is the lingering thought of spotting something abnormal just outside of the frame in any real picture players try to take.

Deadly Premonition

Like the other entries on this list, Deadly Premonition is one that's best experienced playing with others. Unlike other games that are too spooky to encounter alone, Deadly Premonition is worth having someone to play with due to its unique approach to storytelling. Imagine if you will, Twin Peaks meets The Room. That's just about where Deadly Premonition starts, and it only gets weirder from there.

As FBI agent Francis Morgan, players arrive in Greenvale to solve the murder of a teen girl. This death bears a striking similarity to several others across the country, but it's the Greenvale case that takes things up a notch with its numerous supernatural elements. Oh, and there's the presence of a second bad guy, the Raincoat Killer, that Francis must deal with while trying to solve the case. We haven't even talked about the government conspiracies, odd psychological elements, or that Francis might not be as reliable a protagonist as expected.

Deadly Premonition doesn't have the greatest visuals, or a memorable soundtrack, and the characters are so bizarre, it's almost hard to believe this game made it out of development at all. To be fair, it almost didn't, but that lack of polish and abundance of absurdity is what makes Deadly Premonition such a fantastically good bad game. And one you definitely want to play with some friends around to witness.

SOMA

SOMA is a game so terrifying and challenging that developer Frictional Games released an update to it that removed all monster encounters to make the experience more palatable for players. That alone should give you some indication of just how frightening it is trying to survive in the undersea research station, PATHOS-II.

After a worldwide cataclysm, the only people left alive on Earth are the inhabitants of the PATHOS-II. Players take on the role of Simon Jarrett, as he must explore the station to uncover a way off Earth so humanity can survive. SOMA plays with solitude and what life for a limited group of survivors must be like after the apocalypse, as well as touching on some more metaphysical ideas of consciousness and the sense of self.

Those portions are just the brilliant foundation for the terrors of the depths, as SOMA requires players to survive against beings that don't believe in the human race. Of course, that's just the original vision, which provides a number of scares and jumps along the way. In Safe Mode, the atmosphere is still haunting enough that you may want a co-pilot nearby. Plus, you'll automatically have someone to talk about SOMA's narrative with when it's all over.

The Evil Within

After creating the Resident Evil series and ushering that franchise into legendary game status, designer Shinji Mikami turned his attentions to new horrifying game. Mikami believed the survival horror tropes had evolved to the point where players weren't so easily scared anymore. So with The Evil Within, he and his development team made sure to instill panic and tension in players by relying on some classic tricks.

Almost all of The Evil Within's battles take place in tight, confined spaces, making escape from whatever disgusting creature is chasing you nearly impossible. Ammunition and weapons are in short supply, meaning every shot and strike must count–otherwise some weird guy with a safe for a head may chop you in half. Oh, did we forget to mention the nightmarish character designs?

Yeah, The Evil Within is chock full of nasty looking folks looking to put you down for good. Some may have barbed-wire heads; some might look as if they were caught in an explosion in a glass factory. They're all creepy and violent, but what makes the world scarier is the idea that something more monstrous is the driving force. These creatures are out to get you, but like you, they're just victims of a greater evil…(wait for it)…within.

Silent Hill 2

When considering the scariest video games ever conceived, Silent Hill 2 must be part of the conversation. The franchise's earliest days are still looked upon with the fondest of memories, with the first sequel in particular standing above its brethren with its gut-wrenching story, hellish landscape, and being the first entry to introduce the brutal villain, Pyramid Head.

Lead character James returns to the town of Silent Hill after getting a letter from his dead wife. But instead of finding her, all James is able to uncover are revelations about his own guilt and remorse. While survival horror games have traditionally been rooted in escaping from literal monsters, Silent Hill 2's excellence comes from the layered approach of terrorizing its characters psychologically and figuratively.

It's eerie, and the horrors abound at every turn, so playing Silent Hill 2 alone is a true challenge for the bravest of souls. Seriously, there are fewer characters that instill fright in aging gamers than the visage of Pyramid Head. Still, even facing the series' hallmark grotesque nurses doesn't quite hold a candle to facing James's own demons–and those memories are what linger long after the last emergency siren has blown.

FEAR

Though FEAR is revered for being a first-person shooter with some of the best artificial intelligence in the genre, it's also home to more than its fair share of creepy supernatural elements. For much of FEAR's campaign, players are rewarded with sharp shooting and challenging computer opponents. Like all good games, just as players become their most powerful, they encounter new, tougher elements to put them back in their places.

Oh, you just cleared out a huge room full of bad guys? Then where did that little girl come from over in the corner? And how did she suddenly appear right in your face? If the world wasn't already terrified of pale, creepy children at the end of dark corridors, FEAR ensured we'd walk away from them forever if we ever saw them again.

Lights dim. Body parts and pools of blood appear. What was once a very good shooter immediately turns into a very good shooter that has you jumping at every moment. Whatever reflexes you had are shot, making surviving the game that much more challenging.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

The Xbox 360 had such an incredible library, it's easy to forget about the games that helped launch the console back in 2005. Condemned: Criminal Origins is one of the few original Xbox 360 games that has withstood the test of time, and it's still one of the more terror-filled titles to hit Microsoft's second console.

In the role of Ethan Thomas, players in Condemned try to solve the murders of a serial killer known as the Match Maker. The killer has a penchant for elaborately staging crime scenes with mannequins, and it's one of the reasons some gamers still get the creeps around undressed mannequins to this very day. Condemned is a thrilling experience for players, who use rudimentary CSI tools like a black light to track blood trails, battle vagrants with brutal melee combat, and creep through barely lit, ominous settings.

Even today, Condemned: Criminal Origins still holds up fairly well, especially when playing by yourself. The scares will have you jumping, the tension is palpable, and the shadows are still filled with things you don't necessarily want to shine a light on. Especially those mannequins.

Alan Wake

Few developers have a penchant for mixing storytelling and action in the way Remedy does, which is what helps make Alan Wake such a unique thriller compared to the rest of the games we've been talking about. Though Alan Wake isn't an outright frightfest, it's a well-crafted mystery in a town that recalls echoes of Twin Peaks and Stephen King's The Dark Half, where an author must confront elements of his latest suspense novel that have come to life.

The episodic structure of Alan Wake keeps pacing on point, constantly moving players towards the ultimate goal of finding out what the heck is happening, while also deepening the mystery with every chapter. While trying to get to the bottom of a bizarre occurrence, Alan must also fend off the darkness and actual shadow creatures that aren't just out to kill him, but everyone that lives in his town, too.

Alan Wake won't have you gripping your significant other's hand in fright, but it will keep you from ever taking up writing that great American novel you've been planning. Unless you're already almost finished. In that case, it's already too late.

Gone Home

Sometimes the things that haunt us most aren't actual ghosts, but the specters of a life missed. Such is the case for Gone Home, a simple adventure game where the only goal is to find out what happened to your family while you were away.

Few games could capture the essence of living in someone else's shoes quite like Gone Home did when it released in 2013, but that hasn't stopped a wealth of similar games from coming out in the years since. Good as those likewise games may have been, Gone Home is still in a class all its own for the novel way in which players uncover the truths about the Greenbriar family. From listening to music and reading notes, to finding objects and merely observing tiny details throughout this lived space, Gone Home reveals a mystery that keeps your attention from start to finish.

You may not leap from your seat due to any jump scares, and there aren't any deranged killers stalking you through the Greenbriar estate. But even without those elements, Gone Home is as haunting and memorable as any game on this list, and it's certainly one worth witnessing with someone close to you so you don't become ghosts in each other's lives.