It's hard to believe that Konami's sanity-stretching psychological horror game is a whopping 15 years old. Released on September 24, 2001 Silent Hill 2 felt terrifyingly modern, pioneering concepts still used to unhinge players today.
Rather than acting as a direct sequel to the first game, SH2 switched perspectives to James Sunderland, who arrives in the titular town looking for his dead wife. And it gets weirder from there.
It's safe to say that spiritual successor Silent Hills isn't coming any time soon, so let's instead take a look back at the franchise's past with 15 interesting tidbits you might not have known...
1. Silent Hill 2's story is based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment
Dostoyevsky's literary masterpiece, first published in 1866, might not seem like the most obvious inspiration for a modern video game, but lead CGI director Takayoshi Sato did in fact use it as a base text from which Silent Hill 2's story was built.
The two tales do share many thematic similarities, both exploring the psychological weight of unconfronted guilt. The book's protagonist, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, murders an innocent pawnbroker just as SH2's leading man, James Sunderland, butchers his helpless wife.
2. Uncanny corpses
Have you ever noticed the way in which this series reuses character models to disturbing effect? There are multiple unnerving moments in SH2 -- which, equally, can go entirely missed -- when you're confronted with a dead body wearing your character's clothes, made up with recycled assets. These troubling prophetic omens hint at the dark fate that awaits.
3. There's a real Silent Hill that the game's town was based on
You can get an in depth look at the location that inspired the mist-ridden hell hill here, which is called Centralia. In May 1962, residents of the town were burning trash at a landfill site when a fire travelled down one of the mine shafts and ignited the coal below. It created enough heat to sustain a subterranean fire for 250 years, and still causes craks to form above ground today.
4. James' chainsaw pose is a reference to Ash from Evil Dead
The animation of a crazed James proudly displaying his chainsaw skills is a not-so-subtle reference to Ash's iconic pose in Evil Dead.
5. Whose footsteps are those?
In order to avoid a sense of repetition, sound designer Akira Yamaoka recorded over 100 different noises of footsteps to splice into the game. Now that's dedication.
6. A scarily unpredictable score
Okay, so this isn't a No Man's Sky level of randomness, but many components of Silent Hill's sound mix are unpredictable. Ambient noises, stock sound effects and general notes of dread randomly combine to create a stiflingly atmospheric and, more importantly, totally unpredictable experience.
7. The games are full of easter eggs referencing classic horror movies
Observant players of the first game will have spotted posters for The Shining (pictured above) along with other reverent nods to staples of the genre: A shop called Cut Rite Chainsaws (like the same one that appeared in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and a replica of the stairwell found in Psycho.
8. Stranger Things was partly inspired by Silent Hill
Matt and Ross Duffer are the men responsible for bringing you this summer's Netflix smash hit, but they didn't do so alone.
"We talked about Silent Hill, the video games were an inspiration, and Alien was an inspiration, in terms of the look. We play a lot of video games—there’s a Silent Hill vibe."
All the more reason to close this loop and get a Stranger Things video game out there!
9. Silent Hill Origins began life as a comedy
Climax Studios, the developer once assigned to work on Origins, initially set out to make a darkly comic game in line with the tone of Evil Dead 3. Needless to say, this comedic vision never came to life.
10. The streets are named after horror legends
Silent Hill's street names are borrowed from some pretty influential novelists you may well recognize, including:
- Robert Bloch, author of Psycho
- Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451
- Richard Bachman, Stephen King’s pen name
- Ira Levin, author of The Perfect Day
- Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend
11. Recognize this school?
As the developers were based in Japan, they needed an accurate reference point for creating a US high school. Naturally, they turned to 1990's Schwarzenegger starring comedy Kindergarten Cop. You can even spot the same posters from the movie pasted over the game's school walls.
12. Silent Hill ramen is good for you
A number of restaurants in Japan partnered with Konami to sell slimy, blackened noodles. Though designed to look unappetizing, they're actually making me rather pekish.
13. Many changes had to be made for Western ratings boards
Particular controversy surrounded an enemy type called the Gray Child. A naked toddler with a knife, this monster had to be modified in line with EU and US censors, changed to be faceless and slightly larger. You know, so it's not quite as obvious that you're murdering children.
14. Pretend to be Pyramid Head!
Yes, he's just about the scariest incarnation to ever grace a video game, and yes you can play dress up as him. Equipping the Great Knife and turning off your flashlight in Silent Hill 2 will fool other enemies into believing you're the three-pointed terror!
15. Playing the soundtrack backwards will (predictably) produce devilish voices
Achieving the Rebirth ending will result in The Reverse Will being played over the credits. It's a song that sounds uncharacteristically jovial...until you play it backwards.
Now you'll hear faint, creepy whispers of the prayer 'Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep':
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take
Listen for yourself: