Serial Experiments Lain is a game for the PlayStation released in November of 1998. It was originally supposed to release before the anime series of the same name, but released 4 months later. The game is set in an alternate reality and, while it shares common themes, does not relate to the anime.
This game is not really a game at all; there is no actual gameplay. Instead you watch video clips and listen to audio snippets to piece together the story. You can observe Diary enteries, meetings and watch varied clips. There are multiple layers of the story which are all given a code name (council meetings being called CouXXX, where X is the number of the part). It would seem like the most logical way to play would be to pick one layer and watch/listen to them in chronological order. This is very much the case, but you may get muddled up as you fail to find the next snippet. You may search through all the levels to find the next one but fail to locate it. It should be noted that they will appear in chronological order, you must apply all nT applications and mT up-dates. I would recommend you to do this when you first start the game so you won't get confussed later down the line. Also, the game takes up 2 disks, so if you reach level 11 and cannot find the next part of the layer, try the next disk. Applications and up-dates look a little like this:
So now you've finished your first layer of the story, congrats! You will now move on to another layer, keeping in mind that they go in chronological order, so begin at the bottom and work your way up again. You will soon realise that these are not seperate stories but different perspectives in one story. This is where it gets complicated - you must now keep all the information of the previous layers in the back of your mind and fit the new perspective in to it accordingly.
After reading this, you may want to play the game for yourself. There are many ways you can go about doing so: The first way you can play the game is the most obvious one - buy the game. For this you will need a PlayStation or any newer PS console with backwards compatibility for original PlayStation games. You should also keep in mind that this is an incredibly rare game, and so it goes on sale for hundreds. If you are a collector I would recommend you to add this to your collection, but if you cannot affort to pay hundred for a videogame, read on.
The next way to play is through emulation; you can pick up a version of disk 1 here and disk 2 here. You will also need a PlayStation emulator to play but fortunatly this means you can play on-the-go and on most modern devices. Personally I like to play on my PS2 with PSXPS2 emulator, but if you are going to be using a PS2 to emulate, you may want to opt for using POPStarted instead. While I have had an overall pleasant experience with PSXPS2, the background audio is too fast and the audio recordings cut off a few seconds too early.
A more practical way to play the game is on a web-browser. You can access the full game with all the audio and video unlocked here. This is a very minimal way to play the game so I would recommend it for anyone who just wants to casually check it out.
The final way to play the game is to not play it at all; it's to just read all the dialoge off of a PDF. This PDF can be accessed here, and is fully translated into English.
It should be noted that this game was never released outside of Japan, therefore has no English release. For this reason, if you cannot speak Japanese, you will need to use the PDF to read the translations along-side the audio and video.