There are currently six main Silent Hill games, all of which were released to strong sales and critical acclaim. The success of these games has generated a series of comic books, a film adaptation (with a second under development), and novelizations.
Common features in the Silent Hill series include horror and action-adventure elements, detailed and disturbing environments, a chilling soundtrack provided by series composer Akira Yamaoka, and a complex storyline revealed through numerous cinematic cut scenes and in-game notes. Each game unfolds like a movie with several possible endings; the player's choices during the game determine which ending is shown.
Silent Hill is a small town situated around the edge of Toluca Lake and a large forest, with the older sections of town located to the north and along the banks of the adjacent river. Due in part to heavy commercial development, the town is fairly self-sufficient; it has an elementary school, a shopping mall, a church, two separate hospitals, a sanitarium, and other stores and attractions. The majority of the town's businesses are locally owned mom and pop stores, with no apparent influence of chain stores or franchises beyond a burger joint called "Happy Burger". Old Silent Hill and Paleville hold large residential areas with both apartments and homes, as well as several motels and the grand Lakeview Hotel. The beachfront area of Paleville also has a lighthouse and hosts the Lakeside Amusement Park.
Prior to the 1600s, the town of Silent Hill was the home of members of an unnamed Native American tribe that used the land for sacred rituals. At the end of the century, settlers arrived and founded the town; shortly thereafter, they began to rapidly die off. The deaths were attributed to an epidemic, and Brookhaven Hospital was built to treat those affected. Eventually the settlers fled the town, leaving it abandoned for nearly a century, until it was resettled as a penal colony in the early 1800s. Twenty years later, another epidemic broke out, and Brookhaven Hospital was rebuilt and reopened. In the 1840s, the prison was closed, and the town once more abandoned; in the 1850s, coal was discovered there by another wave of settlers, and it became a boom town.
During the American Civil War, the town served as a prisoner of war camp; after the end of the war, the prison used to house prisoners was converted into a state penitentiary, and shortly thereafter, Silent Hill became a resort town. Around roughly the same period, a group of religious zealots founded a series of small doomsday cults based upon the escathology of the unnamed Native American tribe which occupied the land before settlers arrived. Collectively referring to themselves as "The Order", the cults-- each of whom worshiped a different sub-deity- practiced human sacrifice and necromancy in an ongoing effort to resurrect "The God", an ancient deity which they believed would usher in an age of paradise by killing all humans. In order to fund their efforts, The Order dealt a psychedelic drug called White Claudia, manufactured from a plant indigenous to the town. The drug trade served to increase tourism to the town from the residents of surrounding areas, who traveled there to obtain White Claudia. The drug trade was crippled in the early 1980s, in the midst of a war between The Order and local authorities, during which members of the order murdered several police officers.
Three parallel layers or dimensions exist within the town: a normal, populated town; a quiet, seemingly abandoned town veiled by supernaturally thick fog; and a dark and decaying town (called the "Otherworld") filled with disturbing, hellish imagery. Only the latter two layers are explored by the games' protagonists, where demonic and disfigured creatures roam the streets and buildings (appearing in greater numbers in the Otherworld). Electricity and lighting are extremely limited or nonexistent as well. Occasionally, characters will transition between dimensions, and in some cases the dimensions may collapse into each other, creating an incoherent space called "Nowhere."
The different appearances of both the town and its inhabitants are made manifest from characters' personal fears, though not necessarily those of the protagonists. These manifestations may be shared between characters, or otherwise appear exclusively to only one of them. It is implied that Silent Hill always held a supernatural presence, but the town's violent and deadly history since the early modern period had perverted these energies into something darker.
Commentary published by Konami has stated that the power of Silent Hill has "intensified greatly" since the events of the first game. While the first two games featured protagonists who were drawn into Silent Hill, in the third, fourth and sixth games, the Otherworld has reached out to people in nearby towns of Ashfield and Shephard's Glen.
The location of Silent Hill is ambiguous, with hints of it being in New England (although California and other locations have also been suggested). There are a number of clues regarding town's location throughout the series:
The first Silent Hill title, which served as the model for all but the fourth game, utilized a third-person perspective with fixed camera angles at certain points. Most sections take place indoors, connected by open streets and alleyways (though the third and fourth game feature greatly reduced exploration of outdoor environments). The alternating fog and darkness only allows the protagonist and player to see within a ten-foot radius at any time. At the beginning of the game, the character is usually equipped with a pocket flashlight and a radio that emits static in close proximity to monsters.
Much of the series' gameplay revolves around solving puzzles, often to obtain a key or other item essential to the plot. Various monsters are also encountered in nearly all parts of the game. The player has access to a variety of improvised melee weapons and firearms, although most characters do not show any indication of experience with firearms.
All the games feature multiple endings. Silent Hill, for example, had a progression of endings from "bad" to "good+," depending on how many side objectives the player accomplished prior to the final boss fight. The endings of Silent Hill 2 were presented as being all equal, with no clearly defined "bad" ending. There are also humorous "joke" endings in every game (except Silent Hill 4), most commonly referred to as the "UFO Ending" because the main character comes in contact with extraterrestrials. Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill: Origins, however, both force a "good" ending on first-time players, with "bad" and "joke" endings for players who use a continuing save.
Beginning with Silent Hill 2, the series introduced the Noise Effect. it has become a staple in the series and is explained in the "Book of Lost Memory". The noise effect acts like a film grain filter, giving the game a constant sense of noise and presence, especially in the dark. This can severely inhibit the player's sight, as common objects such as pipes, walls, and posters can appear from far distances as monsters, and vice versa with distant monsters appearing as objects from a distance when not in motion. This effect has been expanded in Silent Hill 4 and Silent Hill Origins by causing noticeable increases when in the presence of monsters/spirits (even without the radio or flashlight on). This feature can often be shut off after completing the game once.
During the progress of the game, the protagonist Harry finds that Cheryl has a disturbing past as the details of her genesis are revealed.
This game was followed by the release of the side story for Game Boy Advance called Silent Hill: Play Novel which is detailed below.
The game was not originally meant to be a part of the Silent Hill series, but the decision to transform it into a Silent Hill game was taken early in the development of the game, so it was heavily reworked.
The sixth installment was officially confirmed on July 11 2007, during E3 2007 for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. The game tells the story of Alex Shepherd, a soldier who has returned from a war overseas. Shepherd discovers upon his arrival that his father has gone missing and his mother has become catatonic. Joshua, his brother, is the only one who can provide solace, but he soon vanishes. The game will chronicle Shepherd's search to find his missing brother. Like Silent Hill: Origins, Team Silent did not develop the project; instead, development was done by Double Helix games from Foundation 9 Entertainment. Silent Hill: Homecoming has arrived in stores October 1 2008,
At the 2007 Japan Arcade Operator's Union trade show, Konami revealed a forthcoming light gun arcade shooter game based on the Silent Hill series. The game deals with two characters, Eric Lake and Tina Townshend, who have entered the town of Silent Hill after the mysterious return of the "Little Baroness" after it vanished 89 years earlier in 1918, and must battle enemies which include Nurses and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2. It is said that the two-player arcade will play much like The House of the Dead.
While incorporating elements from the first four games, as well as original material, the film adaptation generally follows the plot of the first game in the series. However, there were significant changes such as a role reversal for the prime antagonist, and a religious cult resembling Christian fundamentalists rather than devil worshippers.
Harry Mason was replaced with Rose Da Silva (played by Radha Mitchell), a married mother. Rose's adoptive daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) wanders and cries out "Silent Hill" in her sleep. Against the wishes of her husband Chris Da Silva (Sean Bean), Rose takes Sharon to find the elusive town of Silent Hill, in hope of finding the source of Sharon's nightmares. On the way Rose encounters a police officer, Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden), who is suspicious of the distraught mother and her actions. Cybil follows Rose into Silent Hill where they are caught in a living nightmare, and encounter a religious cult connected to Sharon's past.
The film featured music from series composer Akira Yamaoka. The musical score featured several selections of original game music, such as the opening from the first game "Silent Hill", "Promise - Reprise" from Silent Hill 2, and "Theme Of Laura" and "Laura Plays the Piano", also from the second game. Also, the song featured in the intro of "Silent Hill 3" is played during the end credits; that song is titled "You're Not Here".
The film was released through Tristar in the United States, and Pathé in Europe. Although panned by most professional critics, general audiences reacted more favorably, and the film was considered a financial success, opening at #1 in the US with $20.1 million dollars on its way to a total of $47 million domestically. A sequel has been commissioned with the IMDB predicting a 2010 release, but presently little is known about it.