Version tested: PSOne
Silent Hill (1999)
- Developer: Konami Team Silent
- Publisher: Konami
While the Resident Evil series was establishing itself as the unrivalled king of survival horror - and setting new precedents for shock tactic marketing at the same time - a team at Konami was working on a more thoughtful answer to the B-movie excesses of Capcom's zombie mash-up. 1999's terrifying Silent Hill is far from obscure, admittedly, but its inclusion in this list is warranted by its comparatively weak European sales relative to other, lesser, horror titles.
Unlike Resident Evil, which focused on shocks and gore for its atmosphere, Silent Hill drew more deeply from the tradition of Japanese horror - which wouldn't become well-known in the west for many years to come. A sinister, claustrophobic atmosphere, horrific back-story and evil creatures half-glimpsed through all-pervading fog were the order of the day. Videogames had never seen anything like it; raised on Hammer Horror and A Nightmare On Elm Street, neither had we. We didn't sleep with the lights off for a week.
Surprisingly, Silent Hill has aged rather well. It is, admittedly, entirely surpassed graphically by its PS2 sequels - which also elevated Team Silent's storytelling abilities to new heights. However, the PSone series progenitor had the benefit of being made late enough in the console's lifespan to know the limitations of the hardware, and design around them. Making the fog which plagued many titles on the system into a gameplay feature was an inspired move, as was focusing on sound rather than graphics for much of the atmosphere. Those decisions, and the sheer unpleasantness of the tale of Silent Hill, make this into a game which still has the power to unsettle, even eight years later.