The Most Tragic Love Story In Gaming
If you’ve played the Silent Hill series, you’ll already know where the title of this article is taking us. For those who haven’t played any of the games, I’d like to introduce you to Silent Hill 2’s protagonist, James Sunderland.
James Sunderland arrives on the outskirts of Silent Hill at the behest of a letter from his wife, Mary, who passed away three years prior. A distraught, broken man looking for answers, James has nothing to lose by investigating the origins of the letter, trying to find the “special place” within the town where the writer of the letter claims to be waiting for him. His first guess is the place where they spent an entire day looking out on the waters of Toluca Lake, Rosewater Park on the waterfront. As James makes his way, first through the forest, and then into the town of Silent Hill itself, he is confronted by horrors physical and emotional. The one that stands out the most initially is a static radio broadcast of a voice that sounds an awful lot like Mary. Fragmented, it’s impossible for James to make out what she’s saying.
He has no choice but to press on to the park. Arriving at Rosewater park, James encounters Maria, someone so similar to Mary she could be a twin sister. Except that unlike the reserved mannerism and way of dressing of Mary, Maria dresses and acts almost the complete opposite, going as far as to start hitting on James immediately. James pushes on to look for Mary, with Maria now in tow with a search for answers and a need to survive in mind for the both of them.
Over the next several hours, players will watch as James and Maria are split up often, nearly every time resulting in Maria being killed before James’ eyes by a looming figure wielding a giant blade. Each time she is slain, she returns, and grows more irate with James for being unable to protect her and for being so focused on Mary. James is grows more confused, Maria grows more hysterical, and the truth remains out of reach. The winding plot of love and lust comes to a head in room 312 of the Lakeview Hotel; the place where Mary and James had spent one of their most memorable vacations together. Having found a strange VHS tape, James watches it on the television of the room to find that it’s a home video of that vacation.
The video cuts away to reveal the truth, that Mary was dead by the hands of James himself. It’s then he’s forced to accept the truth he’d kept at bay, blocked from his mind. Mary had been sick with a terminal illness, and James distraught watching his wife in pain and seeking a freedom for both of them to be released from the situation had smothered his beloved with her own pillow. The repeated deaths of Maria at the hands of the ominous figure, Pyramid Head, served as a repeated reminder to the truth he’d blocked out of his mind. After pressing on further, James encounters Maria one last time, now dressed as Mary. Enraged at James, Maria takes on the visage of a monster and James finds himself forced to kill ‘Mary’ once again.
The game has multiple endings, but the most the player can hope for James is a bittersweet survival. He still has to live with his actions, the regret of his impulse. That he ended Mary’s suffering, but did so for selfish reasons, shows a character in a deep emotional struggle that is rarely explored in gaming. How he could love someone so much, while at the same time becoming so angered at the sickness that had taken hold of her and ruled both of their lives. Truly the story of James and Mary is one of the most tragic love stories ever in gaming, and one that sticks with the player long after the game is finished.