Silent Hill 3 opens with the main heroine Heather walking around an empty amusement park. It’s pitch black, and the suits of cartoonish mascots lay around like corpses. Upon further inspection, all of them look to be bleeding from the mouth. Only a few steps away from that are cages that appear to inhabit some sort of tortured creature that you can barely make out. In that one area, before you even so much as open your first door, you’re shown exactly what Silent Hill 3 is all about.
The original game was about a constant oppressive feeling of the unknown, while the second was more subtle, asking you to look within yourself and others for the real horror. Silent Hill 3 is more visceral than both, opting to simply display gruesome sights and ask you to make sense of them all. The game is, to me, defined by these moments. Some of my favorite parts of the game involved me simply standing still, taking in whatever was front of me. It’s an advantage I have now, going through so many playthroughs and having knowledge of those horrors. For a newcomer, however, it can be downright terrifying.
More than any other game in the series, Silent Hill 3 is directly a work of horror. It’s one of the many reasons that I would say, over time, it’s become a game that I prefer even over its two legendary predecessors. Whenever I think about the game, a constant tint of crimson immediately comes to mind, followed by the image of Heather Mason attempting to process an indescribable situation. Heather is impulsive and confused, and such, so is the world around her, prompting you to never quite know what is around the next corner. Serving as a direct sequel to the first game, there are just enough familiar elements for you to make the connection, but often times the world itself will shift and change in ways it hadn’t previously. Walls will appear to bleed as if the environment was somehow living, much the same way that all of the creatures appear to be have a manic human quality about them, covered in what appears to be rotted flesh.
For sheer artistry, it still holds up as one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. I suppose that’s an odd thing to say considering that it’s an aesthetic based around creating disgust and fear, but if I were to point to what the series represents to me, it wouldn’t be a picture of Pyramid Head. More likely, it would be an image of Heather Mason, bathed in red, shaking in both fear and anger as an abomination looms ever closer. It would be Claudia Wolfe standing upright and proud, unshakable in her conviction, no matter how misguided.
For me, it doesn’t get any better. It looks and sounds just the way Silent Hill should. It’s a tale of personal tragedy that doesn’t forget the fantastical occult elements that the series originated from, and above all of that, it’s actually scary. It was, by admission of many on the development team, supposed to be the end of Silent Hill. I’d say it would have been as good of a place to stop as any. It’s a near-perfect game.