I realized something about myself: I like columns.
I’m talking about topic categories. My first one was Stay awhile and listen which is about music I like and other musical subjects, then came Memorable Moments where I recount great gaming adventures I had.
Now here’s another one: Greatest Games Of All Time.
This is where I’d like to talk about games that, for me, rank among the best ever made, and what exactly it is that makes them so great.
Reading about the Resident Evil 2 remake, which even Angry Joe really digs (NSFW) and which I’m definitely going to buy as soon as I’ve got the time to play it, made me reminisce about the various horror games I’ve played over time. The greatest of them all, and indeed one of the best games I’ve played period, is Silent Hill.
It is easily the most scary piece of entertainment I’ve ever consumed. For a game that had to make do with PSone graphics and mostly refrained from utilizing jump scares this is all the more impressive. How did they do it?
One important factor for me is the despair and helplessness the game makes you feel right from the start without actually rendering you totally helpless as a player. I mean, sure, you don’t have any weapons at the beginning, but the first monsters you encounter you can run away from easily, and you find your first weapon, a club or somesuch, relatively soon.
For comparison, The Evil Within, a game that many, myself included, had hoped might bring Silent Hill’s spirit back, pits you against enemies you can neither fight nor escape from all the time. Either you get the sneaking part just right, or you die. To me that was much more aggravating than exciting.
Instead of invincible opponents Silent Hill mostly uses its very unique atmosphere to scare you.
Firstly, the town is pretty huge and you’re wandering around all alone (most of the time anyway). Due to the ubiquitous fog you can’t see very far, so you often have to rely on your hearing to identify threats.
The sounds most monsters make send chills down your spine, as does the crackling and squeaking radio alerting you of their presence. Even scarier than that is Akira Yamaoka’s ingenious soundtrack though. Much of it is more soundscape than music, and it’s fucking terrifying. Seriously, just listen to this and imagine playing the game alone in a dark room to that.
Whenever you think it can’t get any worse the game cranks up the horror to 11 by shifting over to the Otherworld, some kind of hellish parallel dimension.
When that happens the ‘music’ also goes all in. If this doesn’t freak you out I don’t know what would. I firmly believe that the game would only be half as great if it didn’t have that soundtrack.
It’s been about 20 years since I played the game, so I don’t remember many details about the story. I do remember that I didn’t get the ‘good’ ending though (if there even is such a thing) and that I was pretty disturbed and sad. It’s definitely not your standard demons invade our dimension, shit happens story, that’s for sure.
Despite all of this I’m afraid that Silent Hill isn’t a game I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who hasn’t played it yet. Much time has passed since it was made and gamers’ habits and expectations have changed a lot since then. I had to realize this myself when I started to play Silent Hill 2 for the first time about three years ago. Most fans agree that it’s even greater than the first one, but for some reason I’d never gotten around to playing it before. I gave up only a couple of hours in. I just couldn’t get over the sluggish controls, the stubborn camera, the backtracking and, yes, the blocky graphics anymore.
Now that they’re finished with Resi 2 I really hope Konami will do an equally great remake of Silent Hill. I think no other game deserves it as much. And, Konami, why not also do part 2 while you’re at it?