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16. Silent Hill 2
KCET | Konami | 2001
The greatest of all Silent Hill chapters, this chilling survival horror sequel returns to the mist-streaked town of nightmares with a new and even more disturbed and disturbing cast
What made it so great?
The magic of the Silent Hill series lies in its talent for finding a fine equilibrium of claustrophobic tension, intangible dread and good old schlock-horror spooks, and Silent Hill 2 provides a gripplingly horrific blend of each style of scare. But it also holds the best balance between pick-axe swinging combat and blind, fleeing terror, wrapping it up in a deliciously obscure plot that squirms just out of the reach of your understanding like a slimy bar of filthy, pitch black soap.
Hero James Sunderland has traveled to the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his wife Mary. Alarmingly, she's been dead for years. An assortment of odd characters awaits, from the creepy Maria - who resembles James' dead wife far too closely for comfort - to an irritating young girl called Laura, who wanders miraculously unharmed through the monster-infested streets.
Silent Hill 2 offers many of the series' stand-out gruesome and unsettling highlights, including the constant pursuing menace of the disgustingly fantastic Pyramid Head; the insane double-legged mannequin-things; the five-minute-long stairway descent and a heart-stopping moment when James witnesses Pyramid Head's murder/rape of one of the game's maggoty-white, sausage-skin fleshbag beasts. It's a dark and challenging voyage into a fevered nightmare, and a strong contender for the most psychologically disturbing game ever made.
Get ready to play
As the disquieting David Lynch to Resident Evil's George A. Romero, Silent Hill is never likely to offer the sort of breakneck actionfest that shooter fans will appreciate. Instead, it's a slow-burning assault on the senses. A long session can feel mentally exhausting, so be prepared for an emotional workout. You can pick up secondhand copies for next to nothing.
Another videogame that successfully brings together shit-your-pants shocks and haunting levels of frightful atmosphere is the Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Its main appeal being a brilliant skew on survival horror's arsenal of axes and guns - the only defense you have is a ghost-busting camera. Cue a brilliant sequence of scary adventures where you never feel able to relax, thanks to the camera's lack of confidence-boosting violence. Snap it up.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Games that Shaped a Generation coverage here.