When it comes to survival horror, few games can stand as tall as the Silent Hill franchise. Since the series’ beginnings in 1999, gamers have been experiencing the terrifying world of Silent Hill, scared of what lies behind every fog-covered corner. Silent Hill is made up of so many aspects that scare those playing the game, all coming together in one horrifying package. So the question is: what is it that makes the Silent Hill series so terrifying?
When it comes to Silent Hill, one of the most horrifying aspects of the games would have to be the audio. It is a scary thing to hear the static of the radio when enemies are near, and then to hear them groan as they approach, raising the hairs on the back of your neck. In P.T. (the playable teaser for the now canceled Silent Hills), just hearing the sobbing of the game’s antagonist can create a sense of urgency, as you do not know when she will attack. This can make players tense, make them fear before they even see what is coming. This worked well in the early games, as the player is given a limited field of vision. It is a very scary thing to hear danger approaching, but not be able to tell what it is.
There was one thing that always stuck with players when it comes to Silent Hill: the monsters. The monsters in Silent Hill are not your typical enemies; they are twisted and demented creatures that could easily haunt your nightmares. The creatures are disturbing, and can make an imprint. They can be incredibly creepy, from the twitchy, faceless nurses to the twisted Lisa. Very few games can match Silent Hill’s ability to create such horrifying monsters. It can get even worse when you realize the meanings behind some of the monsters. Silent Hill’s creatures can represent sexual tension, rape, suicide, and more. Every creature has a dark meaning behind it, and some can turn the stomach of even those with an iron will. There are creatures that will not attack you, but are still incredibly creepy, and will still bring a sense of dread. The inhabitants of Silent Hill are twisted, and will stay on players minds after playing the game.
In many games these days, the player takes control of a powerful character, a character with the means to defeat their enemies. They have the power to vanquish their foes, a way to overcome those that oppose them. This is not so with many of the characters in the Silent Hill franchise. In this series, we are given the “Everyman Character”, a protagonist who is no one spectacular at all, and is just another normal person. And that is one of the scary things about Silent Hill; you are playing as an average person who is being haunted in their own personal hell. These protagonists have no powers of any sort, and must learn to fend for themselves with limited amounts of help. This can make the player feel powerless at times, as they ride the tide through Silent Hill. It can be a very scary thing to know you have very little power against a world that wants to torment you.
While it is bad to be an everyman character within Silent Hill, it’s even worse when you do no not have an arsenal to take out what you come across. While you are given guns in the games, ammo is in limited supply. Instead, you are given makeshift weapons such as pipes and wooden planks, but they are not the most efficient tools for combat. Thus, players must learn when to run and when to fight. What makes things even worse that there are times when you cannot kill your enemy in any way, or when you cannot even run away. There are monsters like the menacing Pyramid Head and the towering Bogeyman, creatures who will hunt you down that you cannot fight back against.The game gave you a weapon; that doesn’t mean they want it to be entirely effective.
One of the most famous, and terrifying, aspects of Silent Hill would have to be the town itself. When in this world, the town is enveloped in a deep, ominous fog, with the only sound being whatever is lurking within Silent Hill. This stillness can be somewhat comforting, which makes things worse when entering Otherworld. Otherworld is the other side of Silent Hill, the twisted, rusted side that is made of a person’s psyche.
This side of Silent Hill is made of the fears, anxieties, and traumatic pasts of whomever is caught within it, turning it into that person’s personal hell. That side is usually covered in blood and rust, with bodies hanging from the ceiling and giant faces glaring at you when you walk into a room. Where the fog lulls you into a false calm, the Otherworld leaves you tense and frightened. There are so many different aspects of Silent Hill that makes the games so scary, but the world itself is probably the worse part of it. Silent Hill wants to not only scare and kill you, it wants to torment you.