Horror and psychology are two things that interest me. I currently major in the latter, and would do so in the former if I could. From that, one might assume (correctly) that I like psychological horror. This is part of the reason why I believe, and will try to convince you of, that Silent Hill 2 is the best game ever made.
Ok, that might have been sudden, but bear with me.
Firstly, context. As the game’s plot goes, you play as James Sunderland, and you have been a widow for two years when suddenly you receive a letter from the late missus, Mary (which is never a good sign), beckoning you to the town of Silent Hill, where you two once visited in a happy vacation. In your confusion about where the letter came from, you follows its instructions (I realize some of you wouldn’t, but imagine you live in a universe where “Silent Hill” isn’t synonymous with “absolutely fucking terrifying”), finding a completely different town from the one you vacationed in with Mary.
Now, fans sometimes disagree about which is the best Silent Hill in the series (though the most self-entitled “hardcore fans” will say that Silent Hill 2 is the gospel). That’s understandable. Generally, Silent Hill games deal with the occult and demonic creatures, while Silent Hill the Second differs from the other ones. It is very abstract where the others are… less abstract. The psychological symbolisms are there in every game if you look for it, but it’s delicious icing in an otherwise already delicious cake. People don’t always stop to appreciate it.
Silent Hill 2 forces you to appreciate it. It doesn’t much care about the pagan lore of its foggy, homonymous town. The subject is barely touched upon, and when it is, you may not even realize it’s relevant to the series as a whole. The lore is there to prove that this is indeed part of the series, but this is a game that stands alone on its own. There is no evil, quasi-satanic clergy trying to foil your attempts of survival and/or rescuing your loved ones.
The standalone structure of Silent Hill 2 makes it great even for the potentially uninitiated to the series, who only knows the games as “that ones with the fog and the monsters”. Silent Hill 2 is almost a spin-off, barely connected to the continuity of the saga and more focused on the characters that compose its plot. This is a straight up story of people who are, on an emotional level, profoundly tormented, and why they are tormented, and how they are tormented.
While playing, you will stumble upon aberrations roaming the streets and buildings of the small town. You see, Mary’s illness that led to her death took a toll on James, and this toll becomes material through the town’s power. His feelings from watching Mary’s transformation from a vibrant woman into a miserable terminal patient are shown in the monster’s designs. Anger for not understanding why this had to happen to the woman he loved and for her becoming emotionally abusive from the pain of an undisclosed illness. Sexual frustration from being at her bedside to the very end, unable to be with her, but also unable to leave her. Everything is a reflection of James’ damaged psyche. The game explores some very grey areas of human morality through its development of James’ good and bad personality traits, all of which are too human.
When I said Silent Hill 2 is the best game ever made, of course I acknowledge that as an opinion. It is, instead, a personal favorite of mine. However being the fantastic psychological thriller it is, most people who played it would say that Silent Hill 2 should be featured in the annals of videogame history as a masterpiece, and you’d be hard pressed to convince them otherwise. The only exaggeration would be claiming you won’t find a better game, as that is subjective. Just understand that many of us are still looking for one. It’s such a unique videogame experience, and one you should play yourself to understand the beautifully conceived characters.