A Very Biased Ranking of the Silent Hill Games

by thethreepennyguignol

It was slightly foggy in my neighbourhood last week for a single afternoon, so, naturally, I decided to fling myself down the Silent Hill rabbithole for three straight days just for the Valtiel of it. I’ve played all the games in the main Silent Hill series, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how they stack up against each other. Behold: this article! A ranking of the main series of Silent Hill games, because if I have an obsession, you better believe I’m going to make it your problem. To the list!

8. Silent Hill: Homecoming

The reason this game is at the bottom of my list, even though I do think there’s a lot to like about it (those monster designs are exquisite and I will hear no different), is because of the wasted potential and general sense of laziness that saturates this entry for me. Alex as our lead really just feels like a twist delivery device to me, and it’s not even a particularly interesting or well-explored twist at that – it’s unfairly seeded in the story and makes minus sense once it’s all revealed (why the hell does he have a combat knife and combat training at the start of the game if his time in the military was a complete invention?). Some of the plot branches feel really hastily thrown-together, and ultimately, Homecoming has just too much going on without the fullness and richness I expect and need from an entry into this franchise. And they cheat by bringing in Pyramid Heads when they’ve got nothing to do with the character or plot. Next!

7. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Oh no! I’m coming in with the unpopular opinions here and I know it. I don’t think Shattered Memories is a godawful game or anything like that; in fact, there’s some really cool stuff in it, not least the Pysch Profile aspect influencing gameplay and the eventual outcome of the story. But it does feel more like a retread of a character we’ve already spent a lot of time with in Harry Mason, without really expanding on him in a way I personally find interesting. Kauffman, the psychiatrist, never really works for me, and as a whole it feels like the series retreating to something safe and familiar to ensure fans had some emotional attachment to the existing story instead of striking out into something new. The game was initially meant to be a brand-new entry into the Silent Hill main series, Cold Heart, following the franchise’s second ever female lead and I wish with all my heart we’d gotten that instead.

6. Silent Hill: Downpour

While it’s low on this list, Downpour is actually a game I have a lot of affection for – it was the first Silent Hill game I played when it came out, and I think that’s earned it a soft spot in my heart it might not otherwise have had (and that I know plenty of other people sure as hell don’t share for it). I think Murphy is a really great, interesting protagonist that the game invites moral speculation over, and Anne as the potential source of the monsters and nightmares present in this game adds a compelling wrinkle to the storytelling. That all-enveloping water and liquid imagery gives the game a sense of creeping, consuming hunger, and, if nothing else, it’s great to have a protagonist who actually reacts like I do to all the shit we see in Silent Hill (read: by yelping). If you’ve played this game, I would so recommend checking out Anne’s Story, the comic book supplement from Anne’s POV that adds so much to this particular game. It might even make you forget how bad the gameplay is in this one.

5. Silent Hill 4: The Room

Talk about a game of two halves. If The Room could sustain the quality it sets up in the first chunk through the entire game – the rotting apartment, the mysterious murders, the monstrous spirits reaching into the real world – it would probably be one of the greatest horror games ever made. But, as it stands, it just…doesn’t quite pull it off. Some clunky mechanics, a thin leading man in Henry, and repetitive levels slow this down to a crawl, which is a real shame, as it features Silent Hill’s best antagonist in Walter, and his backstory is one of those most haunting, compelling, and utterly twisted of the whole franchise. Plus, the groaning noise those ghosts make is perma-burned into my brain, so thanks for that, The Room.

4. Silent Hill: Origins

You better believe that this is a Travis stan account from this moment out. We’re into Silent Hill games that I pretty much love without reservation, even if I can acknowledge they do have flaws, by now, and Origin is exactly that: it’s not perfect, but it feels like both an interesting delve into the history of the game while also being a compelling story in it’s own right (unlike Shattered Memories, which doesn’t quite feel like either to me). Travis is an instantly loveable lead (in most of the endings, anyway), and what we discover about Silent Hill and the cult that drives much of the main story of the first run of games really adds to the world at large. Travis’ kindness being the kick-start to this game, as he rescues Alessa from a burning building, lends the story a deep compassion that really helps enhance the horror when it actually turns up.

3. Silent Hill

The original and, some would argue, best – Silent Hill is still a genuine masterpiece of horror video games, the mark up against which I’ve judged almost every single other one I’ve played. It’s still an absolute banger to this day, from the monster design to the atmosphere to our first introduction to the strange, twisted world of Silent Hill. A richly-developed story with interesting characters and this ancient sense of history that really drew me in, I was obsessed with this franchise from the first moment I picked up this game and I still think it’s utterly fantastic.

2. Silent Hill 3

Silent Hill 3 took a while to grow on me, if I’m being honest – it took me longer to warm to Heather than a lot of the other protagonists in the franchise, but when U played it again last year, it launched itself to the top of my rankings. A yonic family drama daddy-issues nightmare, it’s a game that rewards replays and investment. From the stalking backdrop of Valtiel to Heather’s questionable interpretation of the world around her (that “They look like monsters to you?” moment had me flat on my back screaming, crying, and throwing up the first time I heard it and only gets better every time), it’s a true powerhouse of storytelling, symbolism, character, and history coming together into one nightmarish, fucked-up masterpiece, and I love it.

  1. Silent Hill 2

Look, I’ve got some unpopular opinions, but I’m not fully insane, okay? Silent Hill 2 is the objective ideal of a Silent Hill game – using the town as a conduit through which to interrogate the trauma, guilt, and grief of various characters, it’s packed with some of the franchise’s most iconic villains (not least Pyramid Head, actually used properly here as opposed to the later cash-ins that would attempt to trade on their popularity) and a killer twist (literally) that stands up incredibly well even today. It’s also the home of my favourite Silent Hill character ever, Angela Orosco, who’s a perfect encapsulation of the true psychological horror at the heart of this game, from the Abstract Daddy to her iconic and unforgettable exit. I’m still not convinced of the remake, but I will always love the original Silent Hill 2 with every bit of my foggy little heart.

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(header image via Polygon)