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Thirteen years ago today, Silent Hill 3 was released on the PlayStation 2 from Konami. I was at the height of my years in middle school and I didn’t even sit down to play the game until I got the HD Collection for my Xbox 360, years later. But when I played Silent Hill 3, it was after I had beaten the second game, and it felt far more terrifying than the others.
The last Silent Hill game to ever be released, if we had to be fair, was probably P.T. I’m not even sure we can consider that a Silent Hill game because of how different it was, but let’s just say it was. Before that, we had Silent Hill Downpour, which was a monumental failure, and then before that was Silent Hill Homecoming. I don’t like to count the dinky little games on Vita or anything like that, but I focus on the big dawgs like 1, 2, 3, 4, Homecoming, Downpour and P.T. So if we take a look at all of those games combined, there’s one that stands out more than anything.
Silent Hill 1 was terrifying mainly because it was so hard to see anything, so not only did you feel surrounded by darkness, but the fog was so thick and mysterious, hiding only the sounds of your worst nightmares.
Silent Hill 2 introduced Pyramid Head as the sole punisher of James Sunderland and his chain of sins. While the story was utterly heartbreaking and terrifying and Pyramid Head’s character breathtakingly horrifying, it wasn’t quite as terrifying as Silent Hill 3.
When I began Silent Hill 3, I played right after beating Silent Hill 2, so the previous game was still fresh in my mind. The first thing I immediately noticed about the game was its use of lighting. There was something about not being able to see your surroundings clearly. Only certain things would stand illuminated and others hid in the darkness, waiting for you. The creatures in Silent Hill 3 were some of the scariest I had ever seen, like something that sprouted from a nightmare.
And everything after that kind of fell apart.
After trying to play Silent Hill 4 several times, I absolutely hated it. I didn’t like the idea of this one room being a puzzle, a doorway into another dimension. That game wasn’t Silent Hill to me. It was more of a spin-off. Silent Hill isn’t about being stuck in a haunted room, I don’t care what kind of settings you got to visit in that game. It’s about roaming the streets of Silent Hill, discovering secrets and battling the things that linger in the darkness. It’s about taking down the wrath of Silent Hill. And the fourth game just didn’t do it for me. Silent Hill Homecoming was just okay. It had the right idea, good intentions, but something about it just didn’t scream Silent Hill for me. It was close, though. Every now and then I pick it up and give it a whirl for a couple hours. But it wasn’t as scary as Silent Hill 3.
Don’t even get me started on Silent Hill Downpour. That’s a whole article for another time.
And finally, while P.T. was as terrifying as they get, it wasn’t Silent Hill. It was the birth of something else. The beginning of another era of horror. And as much as I appreciate what P.T. did for survival horror gaming, I only have eyes for the true Silent Hill experience.
So today, take a moment to remember where survival horror came from. Over 13 years ago when the first Silent Hill was released and the next two followed, those titles began an era and they ended the era, and we’ll never forget that.