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Silent Hill (サイレントヒル Sairento Hiru) is a survival horror video game series consisting of eight installments published by Konami and its subsidiary Konami Digital Entertainment. The first four games in the series, Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4, have been developed by an internal factor, Team Silent (a development staff within former Konami subsidiary Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo). The latter four games, Silent Hill: Origins, Homecoming, Shattered Memories, and Downpour, and an upcoming ninth installment titled Silent Hill: Book of Memories have been developed by various external developers, such as Double Helix Games, Climax Studios and Vatra Games.
Silent Hill is set in a multiverse consisting of reality and an alternate dimension whose form is based on the series' eponymous fictitious American town, which depending upon whether it is the game universe or the movie universe is a small town within either Maine (the games) or West Virginia (the movies). While most of the games in the series take place within Silent Hill itself, a few do not; those that aren't, such as Silent Hill 4: The Room and Silent Hill: Homecoming, are connected to the town through history, people and various events that occur within the other games. The series is heavily influenced by the literary genre of psychological horror, with its player characters being mostly "everymen", in contrast to action-oriented survival horror video game series featuring combat-trained player characters, such as Resident Evil, which is widely regarded as Silent Hill's strongest "rival".
In the series, the town of Silent Hill was once known as a sacred and holy place by Native Americans. When settlers from Europe arrived in the 1600s, the Native Americans were forced to abandon it. Even then, the land seemed to possess a mysterious power. As time passed, the power of Silent Hill appeared to increase which in turn led to strange events such as disappearing citizens, misfortunes at Toluca Lake, and the mayor of Silent Hill suddenly dying. These would later serve to shape the events which occur in subsequent games and the lives of the characters involved.
Three of the games (Silent Hill, Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill: Origins) strongly relate to the first game's primary storyline, which tells of the attempted sacrifice of a young girl named Alessa Gillespie by the town's religious cult, the Order, in an attempt to bring about the rebirth of God.
Ordinary people with darkness (sins, personal issues, guilt, or unable to see the truth) in their hearts (for example, James Sunderland, Angela Orosco, and Eddie Dombrowski) are "called" to the town where they witness the supernatural (for example: monsters that symbolize their hidden personas and subconsciousness, an alternate dimension known as the Otherworld). In other instances, people who are related to the town in some aspect or way are also called to the town and can also see the oddities. For example, Harry Mason's daughter is half of a little girl's soul who lived in Silent Hill, while Henry Townshend visited Silent Hill many times to take photographs.
While each game features characters unique to that story, many are in some way connected to others. For example, Silent Hill explores the story of Harry Mason, who is searching for his missing daughter, Cheryl. The third game is set a number of years later, and the player takes control of Harry's daughter, now named Heather. In the second game, the main protagonist is a man named James Sunderland, and in the fourth game a character named Frank Sunderland is implied to be his father. Likewise, many characters share surnames, but are never specifically singled out as being related (Mary Shepherd-Sunderland and Alex Shepherd, Lisa Garland and Steve Garland, etc.).
Psychological and emotional themes are included in many of the games. Many of the monsters in the series represent different things related to the characters themselves. Many characters often go through character development during the games, such as James realizing the truth about his wife, Mary, or Heather beginning to learn about her past and who she is.
Common features in the Silent Hill games include survival horror and action-adventure elements, exploration of detailed and disturbing environments, in-depth puzzles and riddles, eerie sound effects and music provided by the series composer, Akira Yamaoka (from Silent Hill to Silent Hill: Homecoming) and Daniel Licht (Silent Hill: Downpour and Silent Hill: Book of Memories), and a complex storyline revealed through numerous cinematic cutscenes and in-game notes.
In contrast to the Resident Evil series which features "practical" items such as lighter fluid, batteries and key cards, Silent Hill features more "random" items such as a volleyball, a stuffed cat, a shoe, a piece of hair and chocolate milk. Collecting these random items and trying to find a use for them is a large component of the gameplay. A lot of the time, the actual use of the item goes against the item's intended purpose, such as a hairdryer being used to electrocute a tentacle monster or a juice box being used to dislodge a garbage chute.
Each game unfolds like a movie with several possible endings; the player's choices during the game determines which ending is shown. As such, there are no canonical endings for most of the games, but for those few with direct sequels (i.e., Silent Hill 3 unfolds from Silent Hill's Good ending). On an average, games feature two Good endings (one better than the other), two Bad endings (one worse than the other, often resulting in the characters' demise) and a "UFO Ending", a joke ending whereupon aliens appear.