Few games achieve a level of storytelling that both draws in and holds gamers’ attention. Usually, you’ll have a straightforward monsters vs. humans ordeal, or the classic evil corporation trying to take over the world scenario. Silent Hill not only gets away from this, but takes storytelling in gaming to places some thought it could never go.
Silent Hill, for those who aren’t sure, is a series that was created by Konami and has been at the peak of the survival horror genre for many years. However, Silent Hill’s stance on survival horror is not so much that of Resident Evil’s stance. Zombies, mutants and evil shade wearing baddies are all well and good, but Silent Hill has much more of a mental, engulfing horror to it. They’re games that make you question the line between reality and fiction, all while involving you in the game just as much as your avatar.
So, without further ado, here is my ranking of the Silent Hill series:
(Note: Shattered Memories and Book of Memories will not be featured, as they are technically not part of the main series and regarded as spin-offs or reimaginings.)
#7 - Silent Hill: Origins.
Starting off with the prequel, Silent Hill: Origins, in my humble opinion, is the least enjoyable of this storied franchise. The biggest reason being that hero Travis Grady has no reason to be in Silent Hill. He saved someone from a burning house and the town just decided he had a dark secret worth exploiting. I kid you not, every protagonist in the series has some kind of situation that draws them to Silent Hill, but Travis Grady is more or less a stand-in for the background while Harry Mason does his thing in the first game.
It also doesn’t help that you had full control of the iconic nightmare world change that made the games so intense. You never knew when you were going back into the hell that was Silent Hill in the older titles, but in Origins, you knew full well when because you were the one doing it.
Although Silent Hill: Origins does boast respectable gameplay aspects, I feel it is by far the weakest entry due to bad design choices and clunky mechanics that, with a bit of polish, could have made a decent prequel to the series.
#6 - Silent Hill: Homecoming.
Coming in at number 6 is the most action-oriented Silent Hill game, Homecoming. The story follows protagonist Alex Shepherd as he tries to find out what happened to his family and brother while braving the infamous town and its horrors.
Homecoming would go on to provided a much more “action packed” feel that resulted in such a dramatic leap from the rest of the franchise. Adding things like a combat camera and dodge rolls, it moved further towards the direction of fighting enemies than any other Silent Hill before it. This makes sense due to the fact that Alex Shepherd is a soldier in-game, but considering how the series had been presented at this point, the change from psychological horror to B-movie horror was not a successful one.
One of the biggest nails in the coffin was probably the fact that Silent Hill: Homecoming would incorporate a lot of the 2006 Silent Hill movie into the game. A movie that, although enjoyed by the series creator and fans, would ended up getting panned by critics. So what we have in the end is an action styled Silent Hill game that features movie elements spread throughout. Recipe for success? Not so much.
5. Silent Hill 4: The Room.
What do you get when you combine a great story with less-than-stellar gameplay? In Silent Hill, you get ‘The Room’. The fourth game in the series has you take the role of Henry Townsend, an individual who is trapped within his own apartment by the mystical town before eventually venturing towards it through his bathroom.
I’ll say this much about The Room, it probably has the most intense story of the series. The gripping narrative has you bewildered and wondering a mile a minute about what is going to happen to Henry and how his struggle will be resolved. And as far as the resolution goes, it certainly doesn’t disappoint (depending on your ending of course.)
The biggest negative is as mentioned above, the gameplay unfortunately drags down what could have been a solid top three contender into an average fifth spot, which just goes to show how far a good story can take a game. Perhaps something that may be re-visited later on this list...
4. Silent Hill: Downpour
Silent Hill games can probably be summed up with the phrase ‘great story, shit gameplay’. Downpour more so fits into the comfortable position of ‘great story, decent gameplay, shit game’.
Downpour, in what is probably an unpopular opinion, has my second favourite Silent Hill plot of all time. For some reason or another, Murphy Pendleton's battle for redemption because of what happened to his son really stuck with me throughout the game. It gave me a real drive to finish and learn how things turned out in the end, just like Silent Hill: The Room.
Unfortunately, the ‘crap game’ portion of what I mentioned above stands out like a sore thumb. Downpour isn’t without its issues, the major one being the problems with running the game. The amount of freezing, glitches and screen-tearing was downright ridiculous, alongside the scare factor, which was incredibly lacking for a Silent Hill title. If these had been prevented, it could have been a great experience instead of just falling under passable
3. Silent Hill
Even with its limitations and hindered graphical capabilities, I still rank the original Silent Hill in the top 3. The game that kickstarted the series, Silent Hill follows the journey of every-man Harry Mason as he goes through the town to find his daughter and stop the cult from using her to summon their God.
When talking about Silent Hill 1, the topic of nostalgia versus playability always seems to come up. That whole “is the game still good or do fans just like it because of the memories” debate is one that follows a lot of titles, but in the case of Silent Hill, I’d have to chalk it up to fan memories keeping the title as relevant as is. Not that isn’t a good game, but you’d have to be wearing some pretty thick glasses to not notice that it hasn’t aged well.
Regardless, Silent Hill 1 will forever be the launch pad for some of the best videogame storytelling out there now.
2. Silent Hill 3
Blood soaked rabbits, check. A theme park of rust, check. horrific monstrosities that make me stop playing 20 minutes in, bingo! Silent Hill 3 is, arguably, the scariest game in the franchise.
Following Heather Mason (Harry’s daughter) and her fight against the cult that continues to plague the wonderful mid-western town of Silent Hill, Silent Hill 3’s storytelling really runs with the theme of loneliness. Heather is always on her own, she’s fighting her own battles, fighting through her losses and fighting her concept of reality as things start to make less and less sense.
Silent Hill 3 is truly one of the best games in this franchise and is still a title I’d recommend even today, despite how old it is now. Speaking of which, this brings us to number 1...
1. Silent Hill 2
Was there ever any doubt? Well you can argue the positioning of many titles on this list, you can not, CAN NOT, disagree that Silent Hill 2 is the best in this series of dark emotion and overhanging dread.
In-game, you play as average joe James Sunderland as you attempt to figure what happened to your beloved wife who sent you a letter despite the fact that she died some time ago. From the starting restroom to the final area, you are taken on a twisted and disturbing journey that makes you question your sanity and your sense of being.
Silent Hill 2 is, quite simply, amazing. While the gameplay may not be top of its class and the graphics are fairly bland, it uses what it has incredibly. Never making you lose interest in James and his story, all while showing you the monstrosities that harbour the town, Silent Hill 2 will keep on the edge of your seat until the very end.