The Most Stressful Video Games Ever Made

Games can help us unwind after a long day. They help us get lost in worlds temporarily more interesting than our own. In most cases, we play games because they are fun, and because we enjoy them. Sometimes, however, a game's version of "fun" involves pushing us to our breaking points and making us question our sanity.

*May contain spoilers.*


Originally designed by Russian computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris is one of the most famous, most played, and most recognizable puzzle games in history. It's also one of the most stressful.

Of course, the game always starts out easy. The blocks just lazily float their way down, as if gravity is but a minor inconvenience. Players can easily stack the blocks as they see fit, with barely a care in the world. Then the blocks pile a bit, but still, it's not much to worry about. Nothing we can't handle, right?

But then the blocks start falling faster. And faster. All of a sudden, we start dropping expletives when we accidentally place a block where we didn't mean to put it—ruining our whole plan! Now the wheels are really starting to come off, as we're forced to scramble for a new solution. But the blocks! They just ... keep ... coming! There's no end in sight. There's NEVER any end in sight. Tetris is little more than an endless stress test of skill, logic and planning.

Interestingly enough, the mental stress of playing Tetris has shown to help combat actual stress-related issues, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because video games are awesome—even ones that make us want to throw our GameBoy against a wall. (Not like that'd break it.)


It's hard to tell which aspect of FromSoftware's Bloodborne is more stressful—the horrific atmosphere, the terrifying beasts, or the infamous, tough-as-nails difficulty associated with the developer's Souls series. And while Demon Souls, or any of the Dark Souls games which followed, can easily be considered extremely stressful, Bloodborne's terrifying environments might just push your blood pressure up to a whole different level.

In Bloodborne, all the familiar stresses are there. Tempting fate by pushing yourself to the limits, only to lose the tens of thousands of blood echos you've collected over the past hour. Gigantic bosses that make your character look like little more than an action figure. Never knowing what's around the next corner of a hallway you've never been down. All of this is fairly standard going in Souls games. In Bloodborne, however, there's always an extra bit of menace. The world is too maniacal and far gone, and the beasts are too bloodthirsty. The interior rooms are too dark and the outside areas are too decrepit. Everything about the game is overwhelmingly visceral, dark, and disturbed. An easter egg breather level set in a puppy spa would have greatly appreciated.

Resident Evil

Capcom set the gold standard for disturbing video games when the famous developer released Resident Evil for the original PlayStation in 1996.

What made the original Resident Evil wasn't just the zombies, or the zombie dogs, or the ticking clocks and sounds of closing doors against the mansion's silence, or the ultra-creepy mansion itself. Rather, it was the mechanics of the game that really kept players on the edge of their seats and ready to scream for their lives at any given moment.

Whether playing as Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, the player was constrained to the game's tank-control system. For those unfamiliar with the control scheme, the character is controlled—as the name implies—like a tank, meaning pressing right turns the character right, as opposed to moving the character right. By today's standards, this control scheme is antiquated and ... well ... not fun. In the days of the original PlayStation, however, this control scheme was ... well ... still not fun, but it definitely served its purpose: to make the player feel helpless when being chased down by a lumbering zombie or, worse, a fast-moving zombie dog. By being bound to this limited mode of movement, the pressure was always on the player, requiring quick thinking and even quicker reflexes.

Like a fielder in baseball repeatedly reminds himself where the ball is going, should it be hit his way, the player in Resident Evil was forced to plan ahead and think fast, should an infected dog burst through that window. (Spoiler alert for a 20-year-old game.)


Known to most players in North America as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, Nintendo's first-party classic Punch-Out!! is great fun—at least when you're fighting weaklings like Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and Piston Honda. Once you make it up to the World Circuit, however, things become a little less fun.

As anyone who's experienced this classic boxing title knows, mastery of the game requires memorization of each opponent's patterns and knowing exactly when to strike. It's simple in principle but difficult to execute, making even a prepubescent child sweat more than a 12th-grade gym-class hero. And if you're good enough to make it to Mike Tyson—and let's go with Tyson, because he's way cooler an opponent than Mr. Dream—you'd better really keep Mac light on his toes by being quick with your thumbs, because one punch is all it takes to turn Little Mac into ground beef.

The only thing that could make us sweat more than fighting an 8-bit Mike Tyson is fighting real-life Mike Tyson.

Alien: Isolation

Hide and seek isn't, generally speaking, very painful. In fact, it's usually just good, clean fun. But, then again, it ultimately depends on where you're hiding—and what you're hiding from.

Hiding from your friends in a junior-high, block-wide game of hide and seek? Not so scary. Hiding from a serial killer in your countryside cabin? Well ... that's plenty scary. Hiding from an alien hell-bent on ripping your body to shreds, in a derelict space ship in outer space? Yep, that would be about the most terrifying game of hide and seek possible. Lucky for us, that's exactly what we are treated to with Creative Assembly's first-person horror game Alien: Isolation, based on the classic Alien science-fiction franchise. And even luckier for us, we only have to hide from the alien for roughly, say, 15+ hours! Our hiding places are really comfortable, too, featuring dark rooms, flickering lights, and about a million places for the alien to pop out of!

But seriously, though, we've only pee'd our pants from stress a few times while playing Alien: Isolation. Are we ashamed? Hell no! You ain't cool, unless you pee your pants.


It is safe to say that few games have ruined more friendships and caused more broken controllers than Rare's classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wannabe Battletoads. Indeed, it is undoubtedly the game's brutal difficulty that is responsible for its occupying a special place in many gamers' broken hearts.

The entire game is tough—and we mean real tough—but there's one level, in particular, which is responsible for the formation of early onset male-pattern baldness in children everywhere, and anyone who's played Battletoads knows exactly which level we're talking about: The Turbo Tunnel. In this level from the darkest depths of gaming horror, the player has to maneuver a constantly accelerating hoverbike around walls, over hurdles, under hurdles, over jumps, and around some moving bad guys. Easily the worst thing about it is that it requires both near-pixel-perfect inputs and a memory akin to a steel trap, so good luck playing it on a device with even a shred of input lag. The Turbo Tunnel is virtually guaranteed to decimate all but the most skillful of players' remaining lives, even with the option to continue from the game over screen. Assuming you somehow can pass this nearly impossible trial—you gaming god, you—you probably don't have any lives left to beat the rest of the game. So ... yeah, you're just screwed.

Battletoads may be a cult classic, and may have a special place in some gamer's hearts—but it also occupies a very special place in hell.

Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 is a well-documented masterpiece of a video game, still occupying a permanent place as one of the most influential horror games of all time. Aside from all the other things it does well—including a plot twist that'll make you feel mentally unstable for more than a few days—Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo's unsettling survival horror title excels at just plain traumatizing you.

While a lot of horror games rely on jump scares, gratuitous violence, and other cheap scare tactics, Silent Hill 2 pulls you along a meandering and disturbing story through a bleak town, building suspense the whole time. Andy Kelly describes the game, in VICE, as "a personalized nightmare created just for you," claiming one's journey through the game "is shaped by your own anxiety, fear, and guilt." Additionally, in place of stereotypical, B-movie zombies, the game's designers created truly horrific monsters, such as "faceless people wearing straitjackets made of their own flesh" or the torsos of female mannequins, representing the protagonist's sexual frustration. And, of course, there's Pyramid Head, who is easily one of the freakiest creations in any horror game, ever.

Hotline: Miami

If the idea of committing visceral massacres against Russian mobsters while wearing a pig mask to a heady soundtrack of heavy beats in a supersaturated '80s color-palette of flashing, seizure-inducing lights doesn't sound bad enough for you—how about if we throw in the fact that you'll definitely die hundreds of times?

Developed by Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital, Hotline Miami is one maddening affair. Sure, the game is difficult, and death becomes all too familiar as you progress through the trippy, mental story. (There's even a trophy for dying 1,000 times.) But it's not the dying that really makes this game so intense. Unlike some other difficult games, Hotline Miami can be beat by any competent gamer. Instead, it's the sheer brutality of it all that makes this game so hard-core. You kick down doors, paint walls red with the shotgunned guts of enemies, implode heads with baseball bats, mow down enemies with machine gun fire—all while trying to prevent the same from happening to you. The game is graphic, ultraviolent ... but it's also just oh, so cool. Few games make you feel like a drug-fueled manslaughterer better than Hotline Miami.

Trials: Fusion

The premise of Trials: Fusion is simple. Your goal is to drive a motocross bike from point A to point B, in a linear fashion, skillfully traversing various inclines, declines, jumps, and obstacles. Sounds easy, right? Well ... the first levels are pretty easy. The game lulls you into a false sense of hope, provoking one to think, optimistically: "This game's not that hard!" Then comes the rear wheel-only bunny hops on platforms barely wide enough for a single tire. And the precision accelerating up 90-degree vertical inclines. And the need to master the very laws of physics governing time and space, simply to arrive at the next checkpoint. This game is so insane that players will often find themselves hitting "restart from checkpoint," even when they don't mean to—just purely out of habit.

Only 127 registered accounts on stat-tracking third-party website PSNprofiles have achieved 100 percent completion in Trials: Fusion's base game, with an average completion percentage of 5 percent, over 88,860 game owners. That's a lot of tortured trophy-hunters!

Super Meat Boy

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals aren't the only ones apparently enraged by Team Meat's tough-as-nails platformer Super Meat Boy. Going down as one of the hardest games of all time, Super Meat Boy's difficulty is enough to give even a vegan yoga instructor a heart attack.

The game is nearly impossible for casual gamers to simply get through, start to finish. For trophy hunters, however, the game then becomes a brutal test of patience and desire. According to, a mere 139 accounts have popped the platinum trophy, requiring beating every world without dying. That's 0.11 percent of all registered accounts. It's worth noting that does not track all registered users on PlayStation Network—only those elite players who choose to use the stat-tracking site. Therefore, the real numbers surely make the trophy even more rare.

The PlayStation user greenzsaber holds the title for the second person to pop the miraculously difficult trophy, telling Patrick Klepek, then with Kotaku, "I believe willpower and determination are one of the key aspects that separates the great gamers from the good, and that game [Super Meat Boy] really tests those two qualities unlike no other game I've done before." That statement is true, without question, as just watching flawless runs of Super Meat Boy's hardest worlds is enough to cause a panic attack. You should probably consult a doctor before adding Super Meat Boy to your gaming diet.

Outlast won't let you fight for your life

As the entire goal is to scare you senseless, horror video games are naturally going to bump up your blood pressure. But Outlast takes that heart-pounding fear to a whole new level by removing the one way you can protect yourself in most other horror games: fighting back. Yep — in a game with huge, scary, ferocious monsters, you aren't able to battle a single one. As Philippe Morin, the co-founder of Red Barrels studio, told Polygon, "[The game's] about having the player suffer."

Storyline-wise, this suffering makes sense. Your character is a journalist trapped in a creepy, dark asylum of mutated monsters who have no reason to keep you alive. You have no fighting ability — your only goals are to gather clues about what happened and who's behind the mutations, and to escape. You do so by running, climbing, peeking, and hiding anywhere you think monsters aren't. Along the way, you have to keep gathering batteries to charge the night-vision camcorder that's often your only light, just to give you something else to fret over.

If a monster sees you, all you can do is run and hide. Even that's no guarantee of survival because if you get trapped in a dead-end room, that monster's going to know you're there. Soon enough, it will find you, drag you away, and maul you as you scream. Outlast: for when real life doesn't punish you enough.