Ah, October. In many parts of the U.S. the leaves are turning, the air is getting cooler, people are putting up their Halloween decorations, and survival horror fans are looking for the perfect game to curl up with as darkness comes earlier and earlier. There are countless games to choose from, but one series has managed to ascend from a basic video game into something that permeates the collective conscious in a way few others have: Silent Hill.
If you're anything like me, you may be wondering, "Where can I play Silent Hill games this October?" I pose the question because Silent Hill has always been a major gaming blind spot for me. Apart from a viewing of the mediocre 2006 Silent Hill film, I know next to nothing about the franchise, apart from seeing Pyramid Head cosplays at conventions and being repeatedly told it's among the best horror games ever made. So, I decided I wanted to check out Silent Hill for myself and see once and for all what everyone has been talking about… only to discover these games are not all that accessible to new players.
What Is Silent Hill Playable On?
Back in 1999, Silent Hill was birthed onto the original Sony PlayStation. Given the hardware limitations, it famously used fog mechanics to hide draw distance and ramp up the anxiety-inducing feeling of claustrophobia. It didn't push the limits of what was technically possible, but rather leaned into them to creatively establish an IP that would be beloved and sought after decades later. Photorealistic graphics can age with the times, but nothing can replace the way a game makes you feel.
Silent Hill 2 came along a couple years later on the PlayStation 2, followed up by Silent Hill 3 in 2003. Given PS2 backwards compatibility, this console is one of the better options when it comes to playing the original Silent Hill games.
In 2012, the Silent Hill HD Collection remastered Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3, making them available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Backwards compatibility means you could download this game to a current-gen Xbox Series X or Series S, but for PlayStation fans, it is still locked on the PS3, a console whose cell architecture still makes it difficult to port games from to this day. In fact, if you're wondering, "Can I play Silent Hill on PS4?" the answer is no.
Up until recently, the Silent Hill HD Collection was available via PSNow, or what is now the higher PlayStation Plus subscription tiers, but that is no longer the case, effectively locking the original Silent Hill games out of the latest two generations of PlayStation consoles (though there are other horror options on PlayStation Plus Premium). Still, even if you can get your hands on the Silent Hill HD Collection, is it the best way to experience the original Silent Hill sequels? Fans would say no.
Video game preservation is important, and the unfortunate reality is the original source code for Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 has not been preserved. This created unnecessary hurdles for the dev team as they attempted to piece code together that was not from the original games. There were also questionable updates, like removing much of the fog from the overworld, making the Silent Hill games feel extremely different from the originals. This turned a spectacularly atmospheric game into something more bland and forgettable. Does the Silent Hill HD Collection have its place in the series? I'm certainly not upset it exists, but it doesn't provide an ideal experience for a first playthrough.
What Is the Best Way to Play Silent Hill for the First Time?
Though the Silent Hill HD Collection makes it possible to enjoy these games on a modern Xbox console, it does lose a lot of what made the games special to begin with. The original hardware is the best way to get the most authentic experience, but unfortunately, that's both a financial and time investment if you're looking to score a good deal.
The games themselves will likely be priced more aggressively than the consoles, so keep that in mind if you're on the hunt. Could we see an authentic Silent Hill collection come to a modern console eventually? Latest news updates indicate we're on the cusp of a Silent Hill revival, but only time will tell what that actually means.
Up until now, we've ignored the sequels beyond the initial Silent Hill trilogy. Not all of these games are as egregiously locked on old hardware as the original trilogy is, but they can still be complicated to get running. Silent Hill 4: The Room received a re-release in 2020 with patches to make it playable on Windows 10. The 2007 game Silent Hill: Origins, meanwhile, was released on PSP and received a PS2 port, making it less accessible. For a while, you could play Silent Hill: Origins on PS4 via the PlayStation Network, but it was eventually removed.
Silent Hill: Homecoming is available on Xbox consoles as well as PC and PS3, and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is available on PSP, Wii, and PS2. Up until now, I didn't realize Wii U owners would be able to access the Silent Hill universe, but the console's ability to play Wii discs makes that possible. The eighth installment, Silent Hill: Downpour, was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and is currently available via backwards compatibility on Xbox Series X and S consoles.
How Do I Play Silent Hill in 2022?
I, like many other survival-horror enthusiasts, hope we'll get a genuine Silent Hill collection released on modern consoles eventually. The PT cancellation and removal from the PlayStation Store is still a sore spot for fans, and the infamous split between developer Hideo Kojima and Konami further muddies the ashen-strewn waters of Silent Hill.
PC gives you the most versatility when it comes to accessing these older titles. Beyond that, an Xbox console is your next best bet to at least play the Silent Hill HD Collection via backwards compatibility.
If you happen to have an old PS1 or PS2 laying around, you can pick up the games from an online retailer, but these can easily go for over $100 each. I suggest checking out local Buy Nothing groups or even yard sales to see if someone might be willing to part with these titles. Local game shops can also be an excellent resource, with inventory changing all the time.
With a little luck and ingenuity, hopefully many of us will be able to experience the original Silent Hill horror classics for the first time this October.