Best Silent Hill games

There was a HOLE here. It’s gone now.

Silent Hill. The name alone can send chills up your spine, calling up images of that empty, foggy town where untold evil lurks, waiting just for you. Since its first release back in 1999, the series has birthed some of the most affecting and iconic horror stories in gaming history, and has been the originator of many unpleasant nightmares. It’s a series that horror fans must experience at least once, and the perfect game when you’re aching for something creepy.

But as much as we love Silent Hill, it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially for newcomers. It’s high points are high, but it’s low points can make you question whether it was ever good, or if it was all just some bizarre and grizzly fever dream. But fear not: those amazing games do indeed exist and are just waiting for you to play them. And because it’s dangerous to go alone into the mire, we fought our way through the darkness to rank all of them from worst to best, just for you.

Honorable Mention: PT

The Silent Hills dream died with Hideo Kojima’s departure from Konami, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relive the good times. Short, ill-fated, and confusing as it may get toward the end, PT is a brilliant little pocket of terror that surpasses the quality of horror games twice its length, doing the Silent Hill series proud even in its abbreviated state.

On the surface, its concept is simple: you’re stuck in the hallway of a small house, looping back whenever you reach the end, and you have to find a way out with something sinister breathing down your neck. But that simple concept conceals a genius understanding of horror, where an environment full of flickering lights and unfortunate sounds peels back all your defenses and uses your imagination against you. Only when you’re at your most vulnerable does the game start to get weird, throwing out ghostly happenings, frightening creatures, and hints about who you are and why you’re here (none of them good), turning you into a shivering puddle of fear. And if all that doesn’t do it for you, well, meet Lisa.

9. Silent Hill: Book of Memories

Book of Memories took the Silent Hill series in a wholly unexpected direction by turning it into an isometric dungeon crawler – a semi-blasphemous notion that nonetheless had loads of potential. The atmosphere is genuinely creepy and the combat/puzzle-solving combination suits the style perfectly.

The problem is that nothing you pick up actually matters – it doesnt make any difference what gear you collect, because none of it has any stats associated with it. With no driving reason to go searching for newer, better loot there is little point in scouring the levels to completion. Not quite a Silent Hill game, not quite a dungeon crawl, Book of Memories ends up being one big shrug of a game.

8. Silent Hill: Origins

Most of the Silent Hill games can be characterized in a handful of words – Silent Hill 2 is the one with Pyramid Head, Shattered Memories is the one with motion controls, and The Room is that weird one, you know, with the ghosts? Silent Hill: Origins however, can’t be described as much more than the one that’s there. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with it and it’s perfectly workmanlike, it doesn’t offer much that the rest of the series hasn’t already done better and with more soul.

If you’re just looking for the Silent Hill basics converted to mobile format, Origins neatly fits the bill: exclusive to the PSP, it stars a troubled middle-age trucker named Travis Grady, who is drawn to Silent Hill by a mysterious entity and must battle his way through both a quiet fog world and a grizzly Otherworld. As the name implies, Travis experiences the events that precede the original Silent Hill, so you get the thrill of seeing those familiar characters again and then the dull realization that they don’t do anything new. Basically, Origins is a fine game if you’re absolutely craving some Silent Hill action – but fine is the best that can be said about it.

7. Silent Hill: Homecoming

Far from the return to form that its title implied, Silent Hill: Homecoming brushed aside many of the franchises conventions, even if it didnt wave away that dreadful fog. At its outset, everything about Homecoming seemed to trigger the skeptics alarm: it was developed by a western studio, the now Amazon-owned Double Helix Games. It would be published on multiple platforms – no longer just PlayStation – and to top it all off, it would have a new combat system. Combat system? In Silent Hill? HOW DARE YOU.

Ignoring the fact that Homecoming was oddly the one Silent Hill game where everyone suddenly cared about the combat (as if we hadnt tolerated a sloppy pipe-swinging sim all this time), it stands out for actually having the first protagonist whod really be able to fight. A former soldier, Alex Shepherd is uniquely equipped to go toe-to-something-that-looks-toe-ish with Silent Hills twisted menagerie. And spoiler: not only does getting closer make the monsters creepier, but the game uses Alexs background to unfurl the difficulty one might have in returning to mundane suburbia after a traumatic military service. Homecoming drags the fighting out too much to be a great example of the series, but its still better than playing a trucker with a pocket full of TVs.

6. Silent Hill 4: The Room

While rumor had it that The Room was originally a standalone title that got the Silent Hill name slapped on at the last second, Konami has assured everyone that isn’t true: The Room was always meant to be part of the franchise, but just very different in terms of tone. And it is certainly is different. Following Henry Townsend as he attempts to escape his gradually more haunted apartment, its an instantly uncomfortable experience. Holes in the walls, terrifying subways and a horrendous area known as the water prison are exercises in genuinely uncomfortable horror.

Lurking enemies such as the Twin Victims – yes, thats two groaning baby heads stuck together and walking around on two legs – make for horribly toe curling exploration and theres a true sense of madness to proceedings. In one unforgettable scene, Henry enters one room only to find an enormous model head of his neighbor Eileen with rolling eyes that follow you around. The Room is best in its little moments. Gazing through a hole in the wall to next door to see a Robbie the Rabbit hunched on a bed, only to check again and see the terrifying rabbit turned around to look at you. Overall its an unsettling and yes somewhat miserable experience that encompasses the true horror of the series but perhaps doesnt always know what to do with it.

5. Silent Hill: Downpour

Silent Hill: Downpour (opens in new tab) is a brilliantly flawed, wonderfully troubled game. It tried to mend the rift between the unorthodox Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and the rote Silent Hill: Homecoming by making the spookiest town in gaming a pseudo-open-world. And to its credit, developer Vatra Games succeeded in making the town of Silent Hill feel genuinely different. The ever-present fog, for example, is downplayed in favor of frequent, violent rainstorms that whip nearby enemies into a frenzy. The constant threat of rain makes exploring Silent Hill feel all the more threatening.

Other moments of genius include the game’s opening combat tutorial. Here the player learns how to fight by brutally stabbing a man to death in a prison shower. In addition to being a gripping scene, our protagonist’s motivations are left completely open-ended. We’re invited to form our own opinions about the protagonist’s personality, which can later be reinforced through various moral choices. However, for all the good Vatra accomplished, there’s enough bad (combat, technical issues) to balance it out. But what ultimately held Downpour back was that it’s too familiar to be terrifying. Silent Hill needs a push in a radically new direction (opens in new tab).

4. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

A lot of things could have gone wrong with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and, in fact, we expected them to. A motion-controlled, Wii-favoring Silent Hill that reimagines the story of the original game but different? The groans of despair were loud and mighty. So imagine the surprise when Shattered Memories turned out to be genuinely interesting, creative, and fresh. And its use of the Wiimote didn’t make you want to accidentally throw it across the room.

Perhaps what stands out most about Shattered Memories is the use of the psychologist, who pushes you out of your comfort zone by psychoanalyzing you in conjunction with events that happen in the main story. And I don’t mean he analyzes main Character Harry Mason, but you the player, and then uses your answers to change the game. Ultimately the changes are just cosmetic, but they leave you more vulnerable to the rest of the game’s scares.

3. Silent Hill 3

Silent Hill 3 truly shines when it comes to creating a truly disturbing atmosphere, putting its own stamp on the distressing creations that fill Silent Hill’s streets, and introducing a fascinating new look at horror from the perspective of its unique protagonist. The eerily empty environments of the first two games are well-executed here, but the game’s at its best when the gore comes out, creating a version of Silent Hill’s Otherworld that feels more morbid and suffocating than ever before.

The monsters within are brilliantly grotesque, from the feminine and club-armed Closer to the disgusting Glutton, to the point that the series’ iconic nurses as easily the most boring enemies. They only get more disturbing when you consider the game’s themes of fertility and childbirth (I’m just saying), especially given that the protagonist is a teenage girl. Not many games touch on the fear of pregnancy so directly and unwaveringly, and that’s where SH3 truly innovates. Plus, it introduces the technically harmless but completely terrifying Robbie the Rabbit, who still gives Pyramid Head a run for money. Those eyes stare right into your soul.

2. Silent Hill

When life gives you lemons, make one of the most highly-regarded horror games of all time. That’s what Team Silent did when they created the original Silent Hill and had to work with the PS1’s limited hardware, which could only render nearby chunks of the environment before the draw distance faded into a featureless mass of gray pixels. But when the developers decided it would be a good stand-in for fog, that technical problem became a deeply unsettling boon. From the minute Harry Mason enters Silent Hill looking for his lost daughter, you’re assaulted with its unsettling nothingness, and just knowing that something is out in the fog waiting for you is an instant nerve-frayer.

Of course, not everything about Silent Hill was a happy accident; from its opening scene the game is full of deliberately unnerving set-pieces, like mauled dogs, blood-smeared walls, and the world’s creepiest locker that promise pain and terror even when none is forthcoming. It’s all about the build-up to fear, and the original Silent Hill is still the master of the slow, painful burn.

1. Silent Hill 2

We hate to be predictable, but this is a given. The original Silent Hill may have introduced the series’ unique brand of creeping dread and bare-faced gore, and later games may have been more innovative, but none execute on everything they try to accomplish as brilliantly as Silent Hill 2. It’s subtle at first, almost getting you to believe it’s just another monster-thrasher in its opening hours. But then whispers about James’ history bubble to the surface, obscure hints fall into place, and a brilliant twist forces you to face the truth: this town is a very personal hell for James, and instantly you see everything differently.

All of Silent Hill 2 is focused on realizing that vision, so everything fits together like a perfectly esoteric puzzle. Every monster serves a symbolic function outside of just being scary (and oh are they ever), especially the iconic Pyramid Head. The way James fights, or even interacts with his inventory changes the way he behaves. And James’ seemingly milquetoast personality is laid out so meticulously that you’re completely sideswiped when you figure out who he really is. Perhaps most notable of all, it has no fear in approaching an intimate and uniquely terrifying topic in a way that only Silent Hill can. From its first moment to its last, it asks you why. I don’t know is the scariest answer of all – and it’s the truth.

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