Horror has been a popular genre for video games since the medium’s earliest days, and one of the most popular series celebrates its 20th anniversary this month – Silent Hill. The inaugural game in the series debuted on January 31, 1999, and the franchise has since expanded to include seven main titles, plus several spinoffs and remake collections, as well as films and other media.
While its contemporary rival Resident Evil had proven to be more action-oriented, Silent Hill instead leaned into psychological horror. Created by Keiichiro Toyama and developed by Team Silent for Konami, the Silent Hill series takes place in the titular town, and players take control of an “everyman” type of character. The series is notable for its atmospheric horror that leaves gamers perpetually uncomfortable while playing, as well as for having multiple endings that depend on what choices are made over the course of the story.
The first installment starred Harry Mason, who begins his story by traveling to the town of Silent Hill with his daughter, Cheryl. After crashing his car under mysterious circumstances, he wakes up and realizes that Cheryl has gone missing; he walks into Silent Hill only to find the town completely deserted, with out-of-season snowfall. While searching for his daughter, Harry begins encountering a bizarre symbol that repeats itself throughout the town, and also runs into several other women; he soon learns that Cheryl possesses one-half of a demonic soul, which drew them to Silent Hill in order to reunite with its other half.
The endings available feature both positive and negative outcomes, depending on what Harry was able to accomplish during his time in Silent Hill. There’s also a joke ending in which he’s abducted by aliens.
Silent Hill was positively received upon release, with much praise going to the audio design and the overall atmospheric horror. The original game eventually sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. The game was also later ported to other systems, and received a visual novel-style port to the Game Boy Advance that was exclusive to Japan. A “reimagining” of the original was released for the Wii and PlayStation 2, called Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which replaced the combat with chase-and-hide scenes and leaned more into the psychological aspect of the story.