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There are few games out there that can really have the potential to scare you. And as we know, there are different ways to scare people: Gore, blood, jumpy scenes, silence, and psychological.
The thing that most scares me is psychological horror. Yes, I jump at scenes in Dead Space, Resident Evil, etc. But what really terrified me, and still to this day, is Silent Hill 2.
Stop reading now if you haven't played it. If you haven't go buy it now (just buy it, ok?) and play it all the way through. Then click back to this article.
Finished the game already? Ok good, now we can continue.
Something, obviously enough, is amiss in James Sunderland's life. He first receives a letter from his wife…who died a few years prior. In the letter it says to meet her in their "special place" in Silent Hill.
The divide between what is real and what isn't becomes apparent right from the start in his monologue. "Dead people can't write letters." It's an obvious, common sense statement but it sets the stage beautifully; something is just not right.
Throughout his trials, odd as they may seem, James is desperately seeking the truth as to what is really going on. Why are their monsters in Silent Hill? Who are these people that he keeps running into? You play the game wondering, and wondering, and trying to seek the answer but the more you play it, the more questions you get.
The ominous town, blanketed in fog, represents a cloudy image of what James perceives as reality. The monsters, gross and disgusting in form, represent oppresive emotions and feelings. Is this how he sees himself? Or is something really wrong with the town, Silent Hill?
You play the game till the end, trying to find your wife. Is it some cruel game someone is playing on you? Or, maybe it is a town curse pulling you in, and wants you to take part in some "ritualistic sacrifice." You'd think it would be so easy.
Alas, you reach the conclusion to only find out that it is not so easy. The ending is so unsettling, and so beyond what you assumed it was that it completely throws away any notion of it. You thought you had all the answers, and yet in the end they were broken apart, piece by piece. THAT, to me is scary.
The endings even become altered depending on how you play. Are you constantly fighting those monsters in front of you, beating back your emotions and inner demons? Do you treat your tag-along Maria with disdain, leaving her to fend for herself? Your ending to the realization that it is all an internal struggle depends on how you experience the story. The writing throughout the experience was beautiful in design.
The imagery is scary (monster design, setting, etc.), and the sense of lonliness is even more scary. The music in the game is equally engaging. As you fight against your inner most demons at the end, the dark drones and chorus melody gets your adrenaline pumping, not out of excitement but out of fear. The silence as you walk down a long, dark, and dreary stairwell (signifying your inner-most consciousness) proves that music does not have to always be present: silence can be scary as well.
Silent Hill 2 was a game many others were based off of (especially the editions following it). It proves that a scary game doesn't have to have it's fair share of gore, blood, or jumpy scenarios. Sometimes the scariest things are what goes on inside our own minds. Our own tormented memories.