On the eve of a new version of Silent Hill 2 by the hands of Bloober Team, we celebrate the anniversary of the third game in the franchise, which originally saw a release on PlayStation 2 on August 5th, 2003. It’s been twenty years since, and the gamespace is a whole lot different. We celebrate this occasion with a look back at the game and reminisce about its importance to what Silent Hill eventually became following its launch.
By 2003, Silent Hill had already become a household name, one that three years later would even get a movie adaptation, the ultimate proof that a videogame hit mainstream big. But before the franchise managed to reach such heights, it was a plucky game series that managed to stake its claim among horror fans’ minds thanks to two excellent entries.
The original Silent Hill arrived in 1999 on the first PlayStation, where it, along with Resident Evil, haunted audiences like nothing before it. Harry Mason, having arrived in the foggy streets of the sleepy little town of Silent Hill, quickly became aware of the hellish experience ahead of him as he looked for his lost daughter.
2001’s Silent Hill 2, on the other hand, had a wildly different protagonist with James Sunderland: a disturbed individual that found himself going to Silent Hill after receiving an ominous letter from his recently deceased wife. Players were shocked to learn of James’ dark secrets, including his treatment of his spouse, with one of games’ darkest stories yet.
But the nightmare was far from over. With Silent Hill 3, a direct sequel to the first game, we’re introduced to an older version of Harry’s Daughter, Heather, as she embarks on a trip of her own through Silent Hill. Silent Hill 3 was the culmination of the first trilogy set in the myst-infested out-in-nowhere but eerily idyllic Northwestern spot, and the games that followed it never quite reached its level of atmosphere and ambiance.
Starting out at a deranged amusement park where Heather wakes up in, our journey eventually takes us to an abandoned mall in which the protagonist runs into a detective, Douglas, who is bent on interrogating her. His insistence leads her to hide and get out of the mall, but faith had something else stored for Heather, as her escape from the strange investigator leads her to meet Claudia.
Claudia, in turn, claims that Heather is integral in bringing a celestial world to the messed up reality that they live in, and things get even weirder from there, as the mall suddenly turns into anything but saintly, quite the contrary in fact. Once somehow out of that version of our world, Heather manages to get a confession out of Douglas, where he admits that he was hired by the mysterious Claudia in order to keep tabs on the girl.
Upon arriving home, Heather makes a gruesome discovery: her father, Harry, has been murdered on Claudia’s orders. It’s from this point on that she decides to walk down her dad’s footsteps and back into Silent Hill, with Douglas in tow. It’s there that she discovers Claudia’s true intent, using Heather as a key to bring forth god onto the world as the leader of her cult of fanatics.
Silent Hill 3’s story takes some twists and turns, and in true survival horror fashion, it leads to some unexpected places in truly disturbing fashion. While the overall mood of the game is dark, it’s a far cry from the reflection of James’ twisted soul like we saw in Silent Hill 2, but more of a voyage of discovery if you will, as Heather discovers her own identity by looking back on the events of the very first game, where her dad was the protagonist.
Later entries in Silent Hill tried their best to bring back the sense of absolute dread set about by the first three games, but none of them really managed to capture it. Perhaps Silent Hill: The Room, the follow-up to Silent Hill 3, was the one that got the closest, but due to that game’s unique setup, it swerved away and managed to be its own thing. And we will definitely talk more about it when we get to its own anniversary.
Silent Hill 3 is still an incredibly playable horror game, one that is full of scares both from the psychological and jump variety. In 2003, the monster designs that were signature to Silent Hill continued to be fresh and disturbing, helping set the grim tone that’s a trademark to the franchise. Heather’s visit to Silent Hill was the last connecting tissue that the series managed to maintain between its games, since all others had their own distinct and independent storylines.
Knowing that many fans will want to experience Silent Hill 3 for themselves, it’s worth pointing out where it’s available for play currently. Sadly, it’s a game that is locked to the platforms it was originally released for, that’s to say PlayStation 2 and Windows XP. Your best bet for playing it is probably getting a hold of a PC copy somehow, but keep in mind that running older software on Windows 10 or 11 can be a little tricky.
For the preparation of this get-together for Silent Hill 3’s anniversary, we used a PlayStation 2 copy of the game and ran it on original hardware for gameplay, and an emulator for the capturing of screenshots. Sadly, for some reason, cutscenes often cut out as you’re watching them while emulating the game on PC, a known issue that’s been addressed by a patch, but it can randomly occur regardless. The same thing tends to happen when playing the original Windows XP version, for some reason.
Knowing that Bloober Team’s remake of Silent Hill 2 is just around the corner, it doesn’t hurt to hope that in case it’s successful, we might get to see the third installment get similar treatment. As it stands, though, for as difficult as it is to get it up and running on today’s hardware, Silent Hill 3 manages to convey the same feeling of hopelessness as it did when it was first out, and knowing how Konami eventually handled its property, it’s a sad reminder of better days in gaming where we didn’t know how good we had it until we lost it.
Such is the nature of fanbases. But let’s not dawdle any further in this matter; this is an anniversary piece after all.
Here’s to Silent Hill 3! Twenty years-old and counting! May we revisit you again in twenty more!