Silent Hill Turns 20: A Look Back At The Survival Horror Genre’s Unloved Stepson

20 years later, Silent Hill is arguably the greatest psychological, survival horror video game.

Silent Hill will forever sit behind Resident Evil as number two when it comes to survival horror games. But despite the latter’s commercial success and its recent Resident Evil 2: Remake, you could argue the original Silent Hill was a better game than RE’s first installment. So, let’s address this today eternal discussion on the cult classic’s 20th anniversary.

Back in January 1999, gamers were introduced to the character Harry Mason, whose sole purpose was to find his missing adopted daughter in the mysterious town of Silent Hill. Riddled with horrors, creatures and a ridiculous amount of fog, players encountered twists and character backstories that gave light to the town’s origins and darkness.

Silent Hills’ nightmarish and grotesque environment provided a unique psychological journey that was very different from the typical jump scares that gamers were previously accustomed to like 1992’s Alone in the Dark.  The complex character developments, unpredictable navigational helplessness, and ominous audio cemented this game as a platform-defining title for the original PlayStation.

While Resident Evil provided virus-ridden apocalyptic zombies, Silent Hill came through with a more cerebral, disturbing mind f*ck of a gaming experience. And although the original Resident Evil game birthed the modern survival horror genre, Silent Hill gave the space more layers through its storyline and gameplay. The first installment also paved the way for Silent Hill 2, which is one of the greatest video games of all-time.

Following its birth, this series went on to have eight additional titles, spin-offs, and two feature films: Silent Hill (2006) and Silent Hill: Revelation (2012).

But while offering a viable alternative in horror gaming, Silent Hill still could never surpass Resident Evil in overall popularity and commercial success. These are among the reasons why the RE vs SH debate still lives on to this day. No matter what people say, Silent Hill along with Resident Evil redefined and paved the way for future survival psychological games like F.E.A.R. (2005) and Dead Space (2008).

 

20 years later, this video game’s undeniable mark is still felt within the industry, and so for that reason, we must pay our respects.

Erin Ashey Simon is a writer, producer, host and contributor for The Shadow League. Host of Cheddar Esports and Grass Routes Podcast, a former college athlete who passes the time playing flag football. Simon has previous work experience at Cycle Media, REVOLT TV, The Wall Street Journal, and more. Originally from New Jersey, Simon graduated from the University of Kentucky.