For over 20 years, the Silent Hill series has been synonymous with psychological horror. Captivating gamers with unsettling narratives, the games have shocked them with disturbing imagery and overwhelmed them with atmospheric tension. Despite the series sitting dormant for the better part of the last decade, the influence of Silent Hill remains strong. Even the best horror games of today owe at least something to this iconic franchise. Like any IP that has more than a few iterations, though, not all Silent Hill games have equal scares. With the inevitable revival of Silent Hill on the horizon, let's take stock of the game's history. Here are all the mainline Silent Hill games ranked from worst to best.
1. Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Revered by horror fans and critics alike, the second Silent Hill truly elevated its brand of psychological horror to new heights. The profound exploration of James’ grief and guilt still provokes analysis today and serves as a watershed moment in video game history. The haunting atmosphere, complicated characters, and cryptic puzzles remain some of the best in the survival horror genre. Characters like Maria, Pyramid Head, and Angela linger in the mind many years after meeting them in the game. For these reasons, despite no direct connection to the main lore of the series, this entry is arguably the best. Much like The Shining or Halloween did for film, Silent Hill 2’s iconic moments, characters, and levels add up to nothing short of a medium-defining masterpiece. This first sequel to Silent Hill stands as the pinnacle of the franchise and a landmark in entertainment generally. Regardless of how the upcoming remake turns out, Silent Hill 2 will always rank as a classic that all horror fans must play at least once.
2. Silent Hill (1999)
This maiden voyage of a new IP from Konami would go on to achieve incredible things. Despite coming from a small, unproven team of artists and programmers, Silent Hill remains an excellent game today. The game blazed trails in the survival horror genre, making this game all the more impressive for inventing its own rules. Foregoing the 2D backdrops of Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill embraced fully 3-D environments. This allowed Silent Hill to play with more dynamic camera angles and movement that really elevated the experience. The use of fog to cover up short draw distances ended up crafting an iconic atmosphere far more cerebral and psychological than anything before it. Playing as Harry and frantically searching for his daughter made the character relatable and kept the stakes high. On top of all of that, uncovering the town’s secrets and discovering the multitude of disturbing characters within brought Silent Hill to the top of the heap of its genre, where it remains today.
3. Silent Hill 3 (2003)
Continuing on with the story of the original game, Silent Hill 3 concocted a rather excellent blend of psychological horror and a captivating story. The first (and, for now, last) female protagonist for the series, Heather, spends most of the story confronting her past and filling in the blanks of her own origin. Therein lies the genius of this game. As Heather uncovers her connection to Silent Hill, the player also understands more about the town itself as Heather’s journey fills in the blanks. While some revelations might be somewhat predictable, going down this road with Heather still ranks as one of the genre’s best narratives. The iconic piece moments and boss fights here are unmissable for any Silent Hill fan. We could argue this is the best game in the series given the addition of slightly better controls than Silent Hill 2. Then again, we could make a totally reasonable argument for any of the original three, so we'll just go with out gut at this point.
4. Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)
Despite Silent Hill 4: The Room starting off in development as an entirely different game, and still feeling very different after becoming a Silent Hill one, this stands out as one of the better games in the series. The Room was centered on a protagonist trapped in an apartment, aside from a hole in the wall that would transport poor Henry into the bowels of various disturbing psychological hellscapes. These transitions would ultimately serve as “levels” but still felt tied together with returns to the apartment, where new items and story beats could be discovered. The music, atmosphere, and monster designs are some of the best in the series. By shifting focus away from the town itself, and instead following an isolated micro-story, The Room might have more in common with Silent Hill 2. The main lore of the town itself isn’t really dealt with much like it is in 1, 3, and Origins. Still, the combat is excellent, and the insane story is one for the books.
5. Silent Hill: Origins (2007)
Gamers often describe Silent Hill: Origins as the black sheep of the series. It’s not particularly bad or great. It certainly feels like a Silent Hill game and hits most of the right notes, but doesn’t really do much beyond that. Despite being an origin-focused story, it doesn’t really shed much more light on anything than previous games did, nor does it improve gameplay in any significant way. As a PSP title, it felt like a solid way to have a Silent Hill experience on the go. Nothing more, nothing less. Once ported to the PS2, and subjected to higher scrutiny, it didn’t fare as well. The tweaks to combat and the whole mirror-teleportation gimmick certainly set it apart somewhat, but it still can’t quite stand up to the games that preceded it overall. A forgettable protagonist also doesn't help.
6. Silent Hill: Downpour (2012)
As yet another Western-developed Silent Hill game, Downpour lacks much of the essence that made the original games special. Unlike Homecoming, however, Downpour shows some real willingness to try new things with a new take on several key components of the experience. This rain-drenched version of Silent Hill, while perhaps an acquired taste, works well enough. With a more proper open-world style format and more choices throughout, it’s definitely a tantalizing proposition…in theory. Unfortunately, technical issues wasted that potential. Texture popping and frame-rate drops stymie any sort of immersion. Combat, again, saw perhaps too much focus while the franchise's fundamentals went ignored. The game's narrative, while certainly an improvement over Homecoming, still failed to stay engaging. While Downpour’s does boast a cool new look, and the protagonist is arguably the best since Silent Hill 3, it just doesn’t quite come together as a memorable experience. It’s certainly not bad, but still just “okay” at best.
7. Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008)
Homecoming has the opposite problem of Book of Memories. The game seems willing to coast on the successful ideas of previous games with little interest in new ideas. The combat improved from previous entries, almost certainly a response to a common complaint about the first four games. But the compliments end there. With development being taken over by a Western team, the tone and atmosphere turned out differently–or, as most fans would describe them–worse. This led to the somewhat prominent “It’s an okay horror game, but a BAD Silent Hill game” sentiment that still surrounds it. We would take that further by calling it an okay game, but a bad horror game. Aside from not understanding the subtleties of Silent Hill, it’s also just not that scary or fun. Despite a few good boss battles, Homecoming treads old ground constantly, making it feel more like a Silent Hill knockoff than a real title. We would have gladly taken a worse-looking and worse-playing game that felt more like it belonged alongside its predecessors than this game. The fact that Pyramid Head shows up at all illustrates how Homecoming fears doing its own thing more than misinterpreting its own lore.
8. Silent Hill: Book of Memories (2012)
Silent Hill: Book of Memories makes a real effort to build something new. Any wild swing for the fences for an old IP does pose a significant risk. Designers risk missing the point of the series, disrespecting its legacy, or failing to achieve the basic tenets of a new idea. Sadly, Book of Memories fails in all of these areas. Book of Memories has no real excuse to be as uninteresting, poorly playing, and unpleasant as it is. While we can always give a point or two for taking a creative risk, this game fails to do just about anything else right. It managed to simultaneously alienate fans by not being a horror game and failed into bad dungeon crawler territory. Stepping away from the series’ focus on atmosphere and narrative in exchange for something new wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the way it was done here was a bad deal in every conceivable way. Even if the idea of a Silent Hill dungeon crawler seems interesting, we still wouldn’t recommend it.
Starting out in traditional news media, John shifted his emphasis towards gaming news, reviews and other topics in the pop culture over time. Now solidified in this space, he specializes in sifting through the classics and analyzing how they impact audiences today while still keeping up with newer experiences.