Silent Hill is a peculiar series. It’s as divisive as it is beloved by many. For those still new to the series, making sense of the menagerie is as daunting as the twisted monsters that stalk the halls of the titular town. This is why here, today, we’re giving a no-holds-barred recount on all the Silent Hill sequels. No rose-tinted glasses. Only the finest Silent Hill sequel that still holds up today will reign supreme!
The Worst – Silent Hill: Downpour
The saddest thing about Vatra’s Silent Hill: Downpour is that it could’ve worked. On paper, a story about a disgraced convict father with an ambiguous past navigating an open world Silent Hill has loads of potential. A heavier emphasis on the morality of your actions, right down to whether you spared the lives of enemies. An over-the-shoulder camera system made to put the horror front and center. A limited arsenal where running is oftentimes advisable.
Unfortunately, every single creative decision falls apart upon playing. Messy combat and lackluster level design made for a terrible open world. The story lacked a concrete anchor to build a message, complicated by weird moral consequences. Oh, and uneven technical performance issues majorly hindered the title to boot. What was originally meant to be the dawn of a new age of Silent Hill games instead became a final nail in the coffin for the series for years.
To hammer home how far things went off the rails, this remains one of only two games for Silent Hill without series’ composer Akira Yamaoka’s talents. Despite ambitious goals, the current ‘finale’ to the series is as necessary as a Children of the Corn sequel.
The Unnecessary Prequel – Silent Hill: Origins
And after the pratfall of a finale, we circle back to the wildly unnecessary prequel story of Silent Hill: Origins. The biggest issue with Origins isn’t that it’s bad, per se, but it’s so wholly unnecessary. Its biggest impact on the greater canon is that the protagonist, Travis, makes a cameo in Silent Hill: Homecoming. Unless you really wanted to see most of the cast of the original Silent Hill upgraded to the fidelity of a PSP’s processing power, there’s nothing hugely memorable here.
From mechanics to presentation, it’s “fine, for a handheld game.” You’ve got your discount Pyramid Head knockoff chasing you around town, the Order cult conspiracy, and Otherworld shenanigans. It’s not bad, and if you wanted an older school style of Silent Hill, Origins works. You just can’t expect to experience some profoundly fresh vision of the franchise.
There was a PS2 release with better fidelity, but physical copies of Origins are harder to come by than far better entries in the series. The digital PSP version is still available on the PlayStation Network, but it takes a few steps to load it onto your PS Vita. Only the most devoted Silent Hill fans need to play Origins. For the rest, it’s merely an extended prologue you don’t need to appreciate the original Silent Hill.
The Rail Shooter?? – Silent Hill: The Arcade
Did you know there’s a Silent Hill arcade game? Because yeah, that’s a thing that someone at Konami not only greenlit but fully developed with a story! You play as Eric and Tina, two members of a local university’s occult club who get tangled up in a mystery involving a lost steamboat. The ensuing campaign is a first-person on-rails shooter with a surprisingly high quality of polish for an arcade game.
Across nine stages, Eric and Tina have to try and save their friends from familiar haunts such as Brookhaven Hospital, the Historical Society, and Lakeside Amusement Park. In lieu of the mangled Silent Hill HD Collection, this is probably the highest fidelity rendering of these classic locations. Familiar monsters show up, but there is a unique, tragic villain who ascends into a memorably ghastly form. It’s a game that leans on iconography, but also clearly has creative aspirations to be more than just a basic shooting gallery.
Given most gamers wouldn’t go to an arcade for Silent Hill, The Arcade is the strangest sequel by far. It’s since proven rare enough that series fans created their own emulator just to make it playable on PC. It might not be a spellbinding tale thanks to laughable voice acting, but it’s otherwise on-par with the likes of Dead Space: Extraction. It’s good dumb fun if you can find a cabinet or have the DIY know-how to get the game running.
The Page Turner – Silent Hill: Book of Memories
What do you get when you combine a storied handheld studio, a famous horror series, and the most powerful gaming handheld of its day? A Diablo clone, of course! Jokes aside, Book of Memories gets an undeservedly harsh reputation for otherwise being a solid PS Vita action-RPG.
Considerable survival horror elements are honestly better incorporated here than its home console peer, Downpour. Weapon degradation and limited resources keep you on the knife’s edge against a gauntlet of fierce foes.
Though it deviates with elements like a customizable protagonist, co-op with up to two other players, and dungeon crawling autogenerated levels, it all works. The atmosphere is there, bolstered by tight presentation for a game so clearly on a small budget. Though the textures tend to be muddied by processing limitations, Book of Memories is a graphically stunning video game.
Realistically its biggest flaw is being loosely tied to Downpour. Both were released in the infamous “Month of Madness” promotion. Despite a middling critical reception, Wayforward went so far as to release an entire DLC expansion pack for the game.
Unfortunately, Book of Memories is only playable on the PS Vita handheld natively. Sony inexplicably blocks playing it from PSTV units by default without homebrew intervening.
Given the game remains one of the more notable PS Vita exclusives, it’s a shame the only way to experience it at a proper resolution is through extraneous means.
The Beginning of the End – Silent Hill: Homecoming
To say Double Helix’s sole contribution is contentious is an understatement. Cards on the table – I don’t hate Silent Hill: Homecoming. Is it flawed? Yes, in many regards. The PC and Xbox 360 ports, which are the only versions still available digitally, have frustrating glitches and performance issues. Even the superior PS3 version doesn’t solve the game’s many Western horror cliches.
The result is neither the bonkers vision the developers set out to create, nor the grounded Silent Hill V that fans wanted. It’s a game of compromise where nobody wins, but it’s far from the worst Silent Hill game. Whether you find deeper meaning in the story about a soldier returning home to a broken home amid a series of abductions is a matter of personal opinion. There are solid arguments for and against Alex Shepherd’s twisted journey through Shepherd’s Glen and Silent Hill.
What does need to be settled is that Homecoming isn’t an action game.
Yes, the combat system is faster, but it’s essentially Silent Hill 3’s core ideas with tighter controls. It’s also a rare instance in the series where even the average player has a reason to use the knife or pistol outside of conserving more powerful resources. Combined with some great boss encounters and enjoyable puzzles, Homecoming is earnestly trying to be a Silent Hill game. It’s far from the best, but it certainly isn’t the worst.
The Last Team Silent Game – Silent Hill 4: The Room
Silent Hill 4: The Room is the entry everyone has an opinion on but no one’s ever quite come to a consensus. Right now it’s actually playable, with some fiddling, thanks to a GOG re-release. It ended up being Team Silent’s last released game before dissolving, but for a final effort, it’s fascinating. Being trapped in an apartment connected to otherwordly nightmares is oddly timely given the state of the world.
Well, until you find out the antagonist, Walter Sullivan, is tied in with the Order. Rather than move forward, The Room drags the Order back in, kicking and screaming, to cause more occult shenanigans. Where many blame Homecoming for doing this, it’s The Room that started this trend. It’s not that Sullivan is a bad antagonist, but he could’ve just been his own thing. Instead, there’s a wide number of callbacks big and small to the preceding three games.
Silent Hill 4 balances its reverence for what came by shaking up its core gameplay. The addition of a first-person hub area set in protagonist Henry’s haunted apartment is splendid. Traveling through portals to twisted realms like a gothic Doctor Who. It’s a fresh take on familiar series ideas. However, an emphasis on backtracking through said worlds, thanks to limited inventory space isn’t ideal. A heavier emphasis on combat, even giving you a companion you need to escort, didn’t endear the game to all fans either.
Given its easy accessibility and unique premise, The Room is absolutely worth checking out. Just don’t expect the series’ zenith.
The Beloved Prodigal – Silent Hill 2
Before the angry fans in the back get their pitchforks out, Silent Hill 2 isn’t bad. In fact, Silent Hill 2 remains one of the most foundational pieces of survival horror gaming out there.
And everyone has trodden its ideas to death.
Its story remains a uniquely morbid tale about a grieving widower coming to grips with his guilt and repressed sexuality. However, everything else about Silent Hill 2 lacks the impact now that it had two decades ago. Even subsequent sequels have diluted the impressive stature of Pyramid head.
What was once a highly novel horror game has been codified into a predictable blueprint. Countless games have tweaked, expanded, and reconsidered how Silent Hill 2 attempts to scare its players.
This is a credit to how inspiring Silent Hill 2 was for so many developers. However, it also makes returning to the original classic that much more underwhelming. Time has not been Silent Hill 2’s ally. Unless you’ve never played a modern survival horror game before, Silent Hill 2 has a much harder time surprising you. None of this is the game’s fault, but more the nature of how the genre has evolved.
That said, there is one aspect genuinely worth condemning – the game’s voice acting. Though Maria and Laura all have solid actors, the majority come off less as uncanny, but just… bad. If you dig that sort of campiness, you can look past it, but it’s not a vocal direction new players are likely to jive with.
Silent Hill 2 is a historically significant game, and if you put the story above all else, you can still get something out of it. If you’re looking for a gripping survival experience though, you’ll have to look to its direct successor. But more on that in a moment.
The Remake – Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Ah-ah, again, let’s put down the pitchforks a minute. Though Shattered Memories is easily the most divergent entry in the series it’s also the best entry point. A top to bottom remix of the original Silent Hill, Shattered Memories does its damnedest to create an accessible, standalone, fresh take on the series.
The result is more in line with Silent Hill 2, but with all the traditional survival mechanics traded for new ideas like a multi-use cellphone. Trading isometric camera angles and combat for stealth and manic chases. Puzzles take center stage, working in concert with a heart-wrenching story that smartly updates the original’s occult Puritanical setting. In lieu of The Order plotting doomsday, Shattered Memories instead frames itself like a lost The Twilight Zone episode.
Though the psychological profiling system was limited, the variability of events is impressive to this day. Combined with astonishing animation and lighting, Shattered Memories is a standout Wii game. It manages to retain the same atmosphere as the original Silent Hill without being beholden. It’s nostalgic without being blind to new possibilities.
If you can’t stand motion controls, Shattered Memories did receive PSP and PS2 ports for more traditional play. Remarkably, the Wii is the advisable platform as the mixture of gesture and button controls is incredibly smooth. That such an unlikely to succeed entry pulled out all the stops is truly an achievement to developer Climax’s credit. It’s a shame we never saw more from them in the series after this game.
The Best – Silent Hill 3
Oh, Silent Hill 3. It’s rare you get this perfect a sequel. It takes the basics of Silent Hill 2 with greater creative ambition without losing its way like many of those that followed. Most notably, Silent Hill 3 takes the series into an urban jungle of terror. Amusement parks, shopping malls, subways, and construction sites are transformed into gnarled hellholes full of fascinating frights.
The themes are modernized yet retain the original central conflict. Present-day values come to blows with puritanical extremism. Yet where Silent Hill framed this around parenthood, Silent Hill 3 beautifully flips the script. Instead of an adult, it’s a story about a young woman coming of age. The sequel’s heroine, Heather, is faced with not only threats of violence but her own body turned against her.
Out of every Silent Hill sequel, Silent Hill 3 is easily the most laser-focused entry. The entire game plays around themes of misogyny, sexism, abortion, and the abolition of women from oppression. This could’ve all very easily blown up in Team Silent’s face given how few games had dared to explore such themes. Yet, it strikes just the right chord.
Though the Order comes up again, it serves an important purpose. The cult’s presence creates a solid capstone on the themes of the original game. The scares are strong with some surprises that can even catch survival horror veterans off-guard. Heather is an incredibly relatable, humble protagonist. Her journey, though heavily allegorical, is extremely relevant to this day.
But That’s Just One Fan’s Opinion
The thing that’s easy to lose sight of when you have a series as storied as Silent Hill: each entry is a favorite for someone. Yes, there is even someone out there who earnestly loves Silent Hill: Downpour*. And you know what? That’s great! You can know every secret of Silent Hill 2 by heart or maybe you only played Shattered Memories because you’re a Nintendo enthusiast.
Heck, there are even fans of the Silent Hill movies. Instead of worrying about who’s right, we can all share why our favorites stick with us all these years later.
*His name is Greg, and a tactical team of Silent Hill nurses is coming to stop his thought crimes.