The Mega 5: Silent Hill

Silent Hill is a series rich with history. Back in 1999 Konami released Silent Hill to a market that was already quite taken with Capcom’s blockbuster Resident Evil franchise. A story about a sleepy sea-side town that holds many secrets and horrors for the tortured souls that find themselves walking its streets, Silent Hill was a much more cerebral approach to horror in gaming and it provided and unsuspecting contrast to Capcom’s zombie-fest. Rather than arming yourself with bazookas and flamethrowers to battle mutated menaces, Silent Hill wanted player to be unnerved and unequipped for the mind-twisting stories they wanted to tell. The game quickly drew comparisons to psychological horror like Jacob’s Ladder and The Shining. The kind of stories that get under your skin and burrow deep into your brain.

Silent Hill quickly became a cult classic, not quite achieving the critical or sales successes as the Resident Evil franchise, but providing a different approach to scares that players like me quickly were drawn to. A steady stream of sequels followed and again provided a unique approach that was quite different from Resident Evil’s. Rather than providing a continuing story centered on familiar heroes and villains, each installment of Silent Hill brought new characters and stories all centered around the haunted town, keeping players on their toes and never quite knowing what to expect. This allowed the developers to truly stretch their creative muscles and provide different approaches to each game. It’s one of the reasons this series is so highly regarded among players.

While there hasn’t been a new installment of the series in quite a while, these games hold up remarkably well. So we here at Mega Dads decided to break down the very best that Silent Hill has to offer for our Scare-A-Thon month. We hope you enjoy this list and decide to take your own journey to the depths of Silent Hill.

While not a fully-fledged installment of the Silent Hill series, PT deserves a spot on this list for not only being the most unique Silent Hill experience, but also possibly the most terrifying. In 2014 PT was released as a free download for PlayStation 4 players, it was a Playable Teaser for a game that would never come to be called Silent Hills. Hideo Kojima was heading up the project for Konami and it would ultimately be the last thing he did for the company.

PT has you as the player navigating a never-ending hallway loop as a vengeful spirit named Lisa stalks your every move. Almost like a fever dream, the game taunts you as well as haunts you in the way you continuously walk the same stretch of hallway over and over. The game makes changes to your surroundings to clue you in on what to do next in order to escape. The seeming randomness of it all can be frustrating and the game was actually designed as a communal puzzle, giving you hints on the screen in multiple languages which encouraged players to play this game with frequent trips online as the global community worked together to solve the seemingly impossible puzzles. It was quite an experience at the time to see how people worked together to solve PT.

Ultimately it’s not the greatest game, and can be frustrating to complete. But PT is such a unique experience, and one that is challenging to find as Konami pulled it from the PlayStation store during the Kojima fallout. But if you can get your hands on it, PT is a frightening good time.

While not a great critical success, I find myself quite drawn to Silent Hill Downpour. This is the story of a convict named Murphy who finds himself in Silent Hill after his prison transfer bus crashes just outside the town. Downpour has a lot of fantastic ideas at play here which I found to elevate this game above some of it’s more technical shortcomings. Murphy, like any good Silent Hill character has a lot of demons and secrets that unravel throughout the course of his journey which I found very compelling. The developers at Vatra games also took great care to present a more open city for the player to explore. Most Silent Hill games put players on a track and don’t allow them much wiggle room to veer off the path, but Downpour presented a much larger and almost open world feel which allowed players to explore buildings and alleyways to find secret side quests.

But perhaps my favorite part of this game was the Postman, a cryptic character who seemed all too calm and all too collected in the horrific town of Silent Hill. Showing up when you least expect him and offering words of wisdom… perhaps too much wisdom, the Postman was a perfect physical embodiment of the mystery of Silent Hill. He was a character that seemed perfectly suited to be a staple in further chapters of the game. A lost soul who walks the streets, knows them by heart, delivering letters to the ghosts of Silent Hill. If you ask me the Postman is one of the most intriguing characters in the entire franchise.

Silent Hill 3 is one of the few examples of a direct story continuation from a previous game. The story finds a young girl named Heather who is living on the run with her father for (of course) reasons unknown. Heather has a dark past that she has been running from for her entire life and in Silent Hill 3, that past catches up with her in gruesome and viscous fashion. The dark cult of Silent Hill hunts Heather down and pulls her back into the grip of the town where she must confront who she is and reckon with what that means.

Silent Hill 3 probably has the most direct narrative of all the games. Konami lays its cards down relatively early revealing just how Heather is connected to the town. This game is unique in that way where the mystery isn’t the most compelling element at play here, it’s all the threads that tie Heather to the original game in the franchise. It’s a very satisfying bookend to the original Silent Hill trilogy and one that many fans of the lore of this series consider to be the best installment of the franchise. Silent Hill 3 also is considered one of the more traditional installments in regards to gameplay, there is much more action and combat than in other games and the whole experience feels just a little tighter than most.

Perhaps the most under-the-radar- game on this list, Silent Hill Shattered Memories is an interesting offshoot of the series. Originally released exclusively for the Nintendo Wii, Shattered Memories was marketed as a remake of the original Silent Hill. But boy was that a simple means to explain exactly what this game was. The original Silent Hill released in 1999 and followed a man named Harry Mason who was involved in a car wreck on the outskirts of Silent Hill, his daughter who was in the car with him goes missing and Harry must run headfirst into unspeakable horror in order to find his daughter. Shattered Memories starts in this same way but immediately flips everything you think you know on its head. It’s difficult to speak too much on the plot of Shattered Memories without spoiling anything so I’ll touch on the interesting gameplay mechanics.

This game utilizes a psychological profile of sorts with the player. The game often pauses from the story its telling to flash to a session with a psychologist where you have to answer all manner of questions so that the game can analyze you and adapt the story to your particular psyche. Events will change depending on how you answer, characters will react and even look completely different depending on your profile and ultimately the outcome of the story is weighed not only by your actions in the game, but by how the game views your state of mind. It’s really a perfect system for a series that prides itself on messing with your head.

Silent Hill Shattered Memories does so much right that it’s a shame its limited by the hardware it can be played on. If any of these games cried out for a remake it’s most definitely this one. It’s not quite the best Silent Hill has to offer, but it’s damn close.

The dark tale of James Sunderland is not only the best Silent Hill game in the series, it’s one of the best games ever made. Released originally on the PlayStation 2 in 2001, this is the game that set the tone for the series. Side stepping players expectations of a continuation of the original game, Silent Hill 2 features an all-new cast and an all-new story that is only connected to the original game by the setting of the town itself. The game begins as James receives a letter from his wife Mary beckoning him to come and find her by returning to their “special place” of Silent Hill, the only problem is Mary has been dead for several years and James seems to be completely psychologically broken as a result of it. Because of this neither him nor the player can trust what is happening is even real.

The idea that Silent Hill as a haunted town can manipulate itself and project visions and alternate realities on the damaged people who find themselves within its limits is really brought to the forefront in this game. Everything around James seems to be either beckoning him to proceed or punishing him for the life he has lead. From scribblings of graffiti on the desolate buildings speaking directly to him, to enemies portraying the very guilt that suffocates his every breath, there is subtle messaging around every corner of this game that absolutely catapults the storytelling to another level rarely achieved in gaming even today.

As the story unfolded in my first play-through I have never felt more compelled to not put a controller down and see it through to the end. James’ experience unwinds like a wicked web and the game plunges your further into the darkness in unbelievably satisfying ways. To this day I am still in awe of the storytelling at work in Silent Hill 2. It’s a game I think of often, it has characters that bewilder me, an ending that took my breath away, and is the best presentation of psychological horror in any video game I have ever played.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: