The High NotesFor every gaming website, the month of October can only mean one thing: the chance to talk about scary games. Each year, without fail, the approach of Halloween can be marked by lists of best horror games, terrifying characters, or scary moments, and The G.A.M.E.S. Blog is no exception. As a big fan of horror in general, I feel that games have the biggest potential for scaring people due to their very nature. Unlike a book or movie, a game requires its audience to participate; instead of closing your eyes as the heroine ignores logic and common sense and enters the darkened room, you must be the one to open the door and walk inside. Few games take advantage of this potential quite like the Silent Hill franchise, which uses a much more subtle approach to frighten players. Instead of relying on jump scares or grotesque enemies (although it does have those, as well), this series uses setting and atmosphere to great effect. One crucial aspect of creating this atmosphere is the soundtrack, and series composer Akira Yamaoka has a style all his own. So, in honor of All Hallow’s Eve, we’re going to take a look at some of the best music from Silent Hill.

Silent Hill 2 – Scuttle in the Dark

See what I mean about Yamaoka’s unique style? Oftentimes in the series, when players are exploring the various areas, they are accompanied by a soundtrack which is composed more of ambient noise than anything else. It’s not something you would probably stick onto your iPod (and if you do, you might want to get that checked out), but it is a perfect complement to the rest of the setting. It draws you in, making each area feel more alive, as well as ratcheting up the tension considerably. Many of these songs consist of almost industrial noises, like this one from Silent Hill 2. Scraping metal, deep thumping impacts, and the underlying screech all work together to fray your nerves, and I’ll tell you from experience that it made me dread every corner and camera change when I was playing.

Silent Hill 2 – True

Its important to understand that the Silent Hill games are about much more than foggy towns and scary monsters. There are reasons why the protagonists find themselves in such a terrifying place, not just as fodder, and these motivations help the player identify, sympathize, and stick with these people in the face of such horror. The music should play a role in creating such ties. “True” plays at one of the climaxes of Silent Hill 2, as James and the player finally reach their destination. Its a powerful moment, one that this song complements perfectly, driving home not just the sadness and horror, but the weight that the truth holds. At the end of the scene, players are equally as sobered and determined as James himself to face what is coming.

Silent Hill 3 – Letter – From the Lost Days

Silent Hill 3 centers around Heather Mason, whose seemingly normal life is torn apart when ghosts from her past come looking for her. Much of the game is spent trying to solve the mysterious circumstances that surround Heather, her father, and a mysterious place called Silent Hill. Many of the songs in the game reflect this theme, and wouldn’t be out of place in a murder mystery. They provide a welcome relief from the more intense and nerve-racking sections of the game. This song in particular comes at an important junction in the story, when Heather decides to face the demons that are pursuing her. The lyrics help to convey both her resolve and remaining confusion, which really contributes to her character.

Silent Hill 4: The Room – Room of Angel

When comes down to it, Yamaoka understands just how powerful a hold music has over peoples emotions, and is a master at pushing people’s buttons. His scores can invoke everything from blind terror to crippling despair. One of the best examples of this is one of main themes from Silent Hill 4, “Room of Angel”. Everything about this one, from its tempo to the instrument choices, is full of sadness, regret, and bitterness, mirroring the conflicts and tragedy of the characters. Not only that, it manages to be both soothing and creepy at the same time, which is something I’ve never really seen before. The heavy echo on the lyrics make me think of some sort of cult indoctrination, which fits the series like a glove.

Silent Hill – Silent Hill

Well, this is certainly a change in pace, and its one of the trademarks of Yamaoka: when he’s not trying scare the pants off of you or make you cry, he really loves awesome, rocking, guitar heavy songs. This song is the main theme for the series, and is sampled in almost every game that came afterward, as well as the 2006 film version. I really love the opening for this one; the quick, erratic notes at the beginning help to set the creepy tone right from the start. What’s truly amazing about this is that, even with the huge amount of disparity between this and the normal music in the game, the song still feels appropriate to the overall tone and feel. This can be said for many of the other games, such as “Luara’s Theme”, “You’re Not Here”“Waiting for You”, “When You’re Gone”….. you know, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that he really wanted to be in a rock band. Oh, right.

Have any other great songs from Silent Hill that I missed, or any other horror games we should feature before Halloween? Please share them in the comments below.