The Silent Hill series is full of complex, interesting and eccentric characters, most of whom aren’t what they seem at first. In most cases, this is especially true for the protagonists, adding to the already mysterious vibe of the games.
Though we play as them, most of the time, we don’t really know them, which adds an intriguing layer to the story as we often find truth, satisfaction, and horror as they do when we experience their journeys. But when we find out certain details about them, we are often alienated or endeared to them. So which ones have had the most interesting stories and developments?
There will be major, unmarked spoilers about multiple Silent Hill games ahead, proceed with caution.
9/9 Henry Townsend - Silent Hill 4: The Room
The protagonist from one of the most divisive games in the Silent Hill series, Henry Townshend is a normal guy, perhaps the most normal and well-adjusted of the SH protagonists, lacking any of the trauma or involvement in the lore. This gives him the vibe of an everyman, someone essentially an outsider looking into the bizarre and horrifying world of Silent Hill.
While he initially functions as a fine audience surrogate, Henry never gets more interesting than the concept of ‘normal guy’. There are hints that there might be more to him, that he might be a shut-in and not always all there, but these never really figure into the story.
8/9 Alex Shepherd - Silent Hill: Homecoming
The protagonist of one of the most action-oriented main Silent Hill games, Alex Shepherd is perhaps one of the most athletic and effective combatants in the series. There’s a good reason for this - Alex is a soldier, a recently discharged veteran coming home to a bunch of weird stuff going on. Except, he’s actually not.
He’s actually been at a mental institution before the events of the game. While that looks like a decent twist on paper, the details feel too contrived to lend it any weight and instead just raise further questions.
7/9 Maria - Silent Hill 2: Born From A Wish
Maria is an important part of James’ story in Silent Hill 2, and was the protagonist of her own side-story, Born From A Wish. Though short, Maria’s side-story fleshes out her character and brings up some interesting quandaries about her existence, especially if you played the main game first. It would be safe to assume that she was created to mess with James, no more sapient than the monsters that roam the streets if you hadn’t played her story, but afterward, you realize that she has her own thoughts and desires, her actions having logic and reason behind them.
Unfortunately, there are inconsistencies between her portrayal in her own story and James’ which are difficult to reconcile, muddying the waters and making you question whether she’s an independent being after all.
6/9 Murphy Pendleton - Silent Hill: Downpour
At the beginning of Downpour, we know very little about Murphy Pendleton, save for the fact that he is a prisoner and that he likely deserves his sentence. As we go through the game, we find him to be a man beset by demons, even before he found himself in Silent Hill.
Though a lot of Murphy’s past and personality is determined by the player, we at least know he’s not all bad, and that his worst traits are brought out by a desire for revenge and a hot temper. If you take the tie-in comic Anne’s Story as canon, we find someone who is driven by vengeance and grief. He isn't a bad person, but one who tends to make bad decisions.
5/9 Cheryl Heather Mason - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
The question of who the main character is not as obvious as it would seem when you start the game. In fact, save for some hints that work better in hindsight, you’re not informed of who the story is really about, till the very end of the game.
Then we find out that Harry Mason isn’t really who we thought he was and that he died a long time ago. Instead, we’ve been in the shoes of a figment, an abstraction of someone’s attempt to sort out their long-standing grief, none other than Cheryl Heather Mason. The reality is that we’ve been following her journey of dealing with her father’s passing, especially in our interactions with her psychiatrist, Dr. Kaufmann.
It’s a masterful twist that casts the entire game in a completely different light, and though we don’t see Cheryl except for the very beginning and the very end, we know a lot about her– enough to paint a picture of a broken girl who misses her father.
4/9 Travis Grady - Silent Hill Origins
Perhaps one of the most traumatized characters in the series, which says a lot, considering just how messed up everyone is in Silent Hill. He’s dealt with so much that until his traipse through the fog and rust, he forgot that his mother tried to kill him and his father killed himself when Travis was a child. He’s clearly heroic, not only running into a burning building to save Alessa, but checking on her later despite not even knowing her. He also helps her throughout the story, at first unwillingly, but at the end, deciding to finish the job.
But there’s also a hint of darkness about him, given his familiarity with violence and a few other bread crumbs spread throughout the game, with the Bad Ending even implying that he might have been a serial killer. Travis is also important to the overall lore of Silent Hill, saving Alessa and allowing her to set the first Silent Hill in motion, and to a lesser extent, driving Alex home in Homecoming.
3/9 Harry Mason - Silent Hill
A lot that can be said about Henry Townsend can also be said about Harry Mason - he’s a normal everyman, free of a guilty past, who got mixed up in some spooky stuff. But, for some reason, he works better as a character. Maybe it’s because, despite his lack of (known) connections to the town, we can root for him, since he has an important and logical reason to be in Silent Hill: he’s looking for his daughter.
Maybe the thing that gives him the drive to wade through the supernatural BS, also endears him to the player. In any case, he’s a great example of an audience surrogate character done right.
2/9 Heather (Cheryl) Mason - Silent Hill 3
Though we don’t know it right away, Heather is the star of one of the few direct sequels to a Silent Hill game, since she is, in fact, the very daughter (give or take a reincarnation) Harry Mason was searching for.
Already, she’s intriguing, because we get to see the person she grew up to be, and she’s such a well-constructed character that it’s obvious that she was raised by Harry. When he’s murdered, we feel her desire for vengeance like it’s our own. Overall, she feels very much like the character the game portrays her, a teenage girl in over her head.
1/9 James Sunderland - Silent Hill 2
The protagonist of a pitch-perfect horror game and as such, he’s a major contributing factor as to why SH2 is so beloved. From the first moment we met him to the end, he was an interesting character. After all, how many quests begin with a letter from your dead wife, saying that she’s waiting for you in a spooky town?
What comes after is a mind-bending odyssey of grief, loss, trauma, repression, delusion, and ultimately, even love. Yes, in its positive connotations but especially in its negatives. Throughout the journey, we play as James Sunderland, one of the most effectively written unreliable narrators in fiction. It works flawlessly because he’s lying to himself as much as he’s lying to us, which ironically makes him more realistic and compelling.