Violence: Silent Hill is extremely violent, with visceral gore and bloodshed. It is one of the most obvious examples of body horror in video games; most of the monsters are horrifically deformed versions of humans.
Horror: Silent Hill is pretty terrifying—its creators have defined it as psychological horror with a focus on the fear of the unknown. The atmosphere is incredibly disturbing, there are multiple jump scares, and its creatures are typically horrifically deformed versions of humanity. It is insinuated that many of the protagonists are suffering from mental illness, delusions, or hallucinations.
Sexual Content: Sexuality and sexual frustration is a theme in many of the games, for various reasons and with various outcomes. Silent Hill 2 depicts a male monster raping several female monsters, though the rape is not visually explicit. Sexual abuse is also heavily insinuated in several of the games, though it tends to have occurred in the past. Silent Hill 3’s protagonist is impregnated against her will due to mystical forces. In Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the protagonist can choose to look at pictures of half-naked women and act like a sleaze, and his choices will determine how sexualized other characters become in his dreamworld, as well as the progression and outcome of the game itself. Several monsters also present sexual themes, including the Abstract Daddy (a deformed bed), the Nurses, and the Two-Back. Silent Hill’s sexual content, though it is not generally explicit, is an extremely disturbing and negative representation of sexuality.
Strong Language: Strong language is used throughout the games.
Substance Use: Characters drink alcohol on several occasions.
Nudity and Costuming: Some female characters and female-presenting monsters (the “Nurses”) have fairly low-cut tops—they are manifestations of a protagonist’s sexual frustration. In Silent Hill: Homecoming, one monster appears to have nipples, though she is technically a plastic/wooden doll. In fact, aside from the nurses, most enemies do not appear to wear clothing, but are removed enough from humanity that the nudity does not seem explicit. Think Ken doll without shorts.
Player Interaction: Silent Hill: Book of Memories includes a multiplayer component.
Savepoints occur at specific intervals; players must locate the savepoints in order to save their progress.
Silent Hill is a small American town that is covered in fog, snow, or ash, depending on the story. It is strongly implied that the town takes on the form that its occupants subconsciously invoke. Although all games—and the movies—in the franchise feature different characters and settings, each of them has a few elements in common. The town of Silent Hill is one of them (except in the 4th installment). The horrific creatures, alternate-reality setting, police officers as NPC characters, and the loss of someone close to the protagonist are elements found in each game.
The first game features a father, Harry Mason, whose adopted daughter is missing after a car crash. He finds himself in Silent Hill, where he meets policewoman Cybil Bennett and begins searching for his daughter. It becomes apparent that the town is infested with strange monsters, and there is some cult activity going on among the townspeople. Mason’s daughter is a reincarnation of a different girl, Alessa, who lived in Silent Hill before the cult destroyed her. Other games have similar plots.
Silent Hill 2’s protagonist is searching for his wife when he ends up in the town and meets several other people searching for her. It turns out that each of them has taken a life, and the town has manifested its hellish form because they believe they must be punished.
Silent Hill 3 features Harry Mason’s much-older daughter, Heather, who is being pursued by the same cult Mason encountered in the first game.
Silent Hill 4: The Room actually doesn’t take place in Silent Hill, but in an apartment building in a different town; the protagonist must escape from the apartment. This game places more focus on combat than the others.
There are several other Silent Hill games that aren’t made by Konami, though the company continued to act as publisher.
Silent Hill: Origins is a prequel to the first game, and features a man searching Silent Hill for information on a girl he rescued earlier (Alessa), unlocking his own repressed memories along the way.
Silent Hill: Homecoming has a soldier returning home from war to find his kid brother missing, which leads him to Silent Hill. Because the character is a soldier, he is adept at combat, and thus the game focuses more on combat than previous games.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is an alternate-universe reboot of the first installment, featuring Harry Mason and his quest to locate his missing daughter. The game differs from Silent Hill 1 in several key ways; the story is framed in two different settings, the first being a typical second-person gameplay, and the second being Mason’s psychotherapy sessions. His answers to key questions in these sessions determine the direction of the story. This game involves no combat whatsoever.
Silent Hill: Downpour features a prisoner on the run. He struggles with his conscience and must work with a policewoman whose father he supposedly murdered to escape Silent Hill.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a multiplayer RPG game with up to four players, which makes it significantly different from the other games in the series. Players must move through areas by solving puzzles, defeating monsters, and locating in-game currency. The game was met with criticism from many reviewers due to the shift in the game’s nature.
Most games in the Silent Hill franchise are survival horror games; each game has a slightly different mechanic, but in most, the idea isn’t so much to fight the monsters as it is to escape the monsters. Even when combat is included, it isn’t the focus. In Silent Hill 1, for instance, Harry Mason can use both firearms and melee weapons, but he is inexperienced and pretty bad at it. The games also all feature multiple endings, one of which is a joke ending where the protagonist encounters UFOs.
The Silent Hill franchise has also spun off two feature films and various print pieces.
Konami, primarily; later, Climax Studios, Double Helix Games, and WayForward Technologies (though Konami continues to act as final producer)
The original version of a monster called “The Grey Child” had to be revised before Silent Hill 1’s American release, due to the fact that it looked too much like a real child.
I’d advise caution before letting younger kids play any of the Silent Hill games, as they are intensely horrific at times. Keep an eye on any gaming that might happen before bed. However, here are some conversation leads for kids who are ready:
- Silent Hill is an American town based on what a group of Japanese writers thought it might be like. Do you think the representation is accurate? Why do you think they pictured a rural American town like this?
- The monsters in Silent Hill all resemble humans, though they are grossly disfigured. Do you find these enemies more frightening or gross than typical game enemies? If so, why?
- Silent Hill is primarily about psychological horror. What do you think makes the games as unsettling as they are? Is it the setting, with its strange noises and rusted contraptions, or is it the monsters? Is it the uncertainty about the protagonists’ memories/motivations/perceptions?
The Otherworld is the name for the alternate-reality version of Silent Hill that the protagonists find themselves in. Pyramidhead is a well-known enemy from the series. The Nurses are another well-known enemy.