Silent Hill
(Photo Credit: Konami)

Silent Hill 25 Years Later: Harry Situations

25 years ago, Silent Hill made waves on the PlayStation and enlightened the world of video game horror, helping to shape the future classics of the genre. Long before the renaissance of heroic and caring video game dads, Harry Mason was looking for his daughter in a fog-ridden town, facing down hellish monsters while fear ran rampant, but he wouldn’t let anything stand in his way. Team Silent worked hard to make their protagonist the everyman, but he was also a complex and engaging character.

Harry is a novel writer, intelligent and practical, but willing to believe in things he may not fully understand. He’s physically capable, able to make quick decisions, and decent enough with a gun to defend himself, but he’s far from an action hero. What makes him stronger is his devotion to his adopted daughter, Cheryl, who he and his wife, Jodie, found on the side of the road. With his ward gone missing in the corrupted town after a car accident, he braves the dangers and embarks on a mission to save her, never losing focus of that goal. He doesn’t seem religious, even with some of the apparent demonic influence and black magic he encounters. He’s rationalizing what they’ve seen, opening up believing in the Otherworld, but pessimism certainly acts as a cornerstone of his beliefs. Harry worries constantly about his daughter’s safety, which leads him to give his child a stun gun when she’s older and kill a cult member to keep her a secret, but that’s later on. 

“I don’t like this feeling. Like something bad will happen… No doubt, something terrible is going on.”

There are a lot of parents who say they’ll do anything for their children, but few people are asked to literally go through a nightmarish hellscape and battle a god. He’s a single father, as Jodie passed away four years prior, but at no point does Harry question his purpose or reconsider his actions for the child they took in. During his adventure, Harry encounters other residents of Silent Hill, most of them women with vastly different personalities. Potentially, these ladies remind Harry of his daughter, or at least the type of woman she could become. Not all of them have Harry’s best interest in mind, but that’s fine. They aren’t his primary concern either.

Our protagonist does have his moments where he can be despondent, blinded by his goals, and slightly caustic, especially in some of his conversations with his allies. Players see a prominent example of Harry’s coldness in his final conversation with Lisa Garland, who is really going through it at the end. She’s one of the most interesting and tragic characters in the game, but the moment Harry realizes that she might be a part of the darker world he’s seen, he refuses to embrace or comfort her, even pushing her back as she cries. He shuts her in the room, bracing against the door while Lisa bangs on it. It’s heartbreaking, but also hard to blame him, as she could have attacked Harry or become another obstacle in the way of reaching Cheryl.

We also see this in his willingness to slay Cybil Bennett, a police officer who is stuck in Silent Hill as well and becomes the victim of a parasite that forces her to attack Harry. The player can either acquire items to save her from the menace or simply murder her. I always felt that Cybil was a great character for what little time she had on screen, and I tried to help her (though I failed the first time). It turns out that canonically, she was slain by Harry, who does show remorse concerning her death and questions why it had to happen, but it feels like there had to be another way. In the end, Harry can’t save his daughter if he’s dead, and we cannot question his dedication, no matter how many other bodies are stacked up in the process. 

“Cheryl is my daughter. I will save her. No matter what.”

The game has multiple endings, even one that involves Harry being abducted by aliens. In my recent replaying, I made sure to get the Good+ scenario, which sees Cybil saved, Dr. Michael Kaufmann dealt with, and a chance for Harry to raise his daughter again, but I know that’s not the real outcome. The canonical conclusion sees Harry escape with the child, with no Cybil, making it back to the highway and questioning everything he just witnessed, but that isn’t the ending I preferred for many years.

I’m actually in favor of the Bad ending, partially because it was the outcome I received the first time I ever played the game, but also it seemed the most fitting for Harry’s story and his life as a writer. In this version, the player doesn’t do Kaufmann’s sidequest and kills Cybil, which means we fight a different form of the final boss, our own daughter, who thanks us for ending her pain. Instead of running out or taking a portal, we see our hero crumble, face down, and questioning how this could have happened as the place collapses around him. Then, after the credits, we observe one final shot of Harry back in his jeep at the site of the accident from the beginning of the game. His head is bloody, and the horn is sounding, as we realize he’s died from the wreck and everything we just did was his final thoughts of trying to save his daughter, all created in his head from his hyperactive imagination or as a defense mechanism to combat the realization he was dying. It makes this line from earlier in the game hit harder. 

“Was that another dream? Did I pass out again? I don’t want to think so, but maybe this is all just going on in my head. I could have had a car accident, and now I’m lying unconscious in a hospital bed… I don’t know what’s real anymore…”

I find that outcome compelling, even if it doesn’t align with later games or explain what happened to Cheryl in that version. Something about the inescapable dread and weight of the nightmare that is Silent Hill makes that ending feel right. Even if it means we failed, and Harry had no chance of making it, that’s a solid story. Harry is a good father, but he’s a complicated man who deserves an equally weighty ending. Janky combat, annoying puzzles, tank controls and all, I will always love Harry’s nightmare, even if I like to play with the outcomes a little.

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