Silent Hill 3 art director Masahiro Ito reveals the game was nearly turned into an arcade shooter. The survival horror genre exploded in popularity following the success of the original Resident Evil and soon spawned other titles like Dino Crisis and Parasite Eve. These games put an emphasis on puzzle solving and resource management over action, and sought to constantly put the player on edge. Konami’s Silent Hill was a more psychological take on the genre, with the player taking control of a normal man searching for his daughter in a small town filled with nightmarish creatures.
The game proved to be groundbreaking, but its 2001 sequel Silent Hill 2 is not only considered the best of the franchise, it's regarded as one of the best video games ever made. Silent Hill 2 wasn’t a direct sequel and instead followed a new character as he came to the eponymous town based on a letter sent by his supposedly deceased wife. The game’s rich atmosphere, disturbing visuals and surprisingly strong writing made it an instant classic and later entries struggled to match its quality.
That said, Silent Hill 3 is also highly regarded, with the story acting as a direct sequel to the events of the original Silent Hill. Now art director and monster designer Masahiro Ito (via Bloody Disgusting) has revealed the third game was very nearly turned into an arcade shooter following disappointing early sales and fan response to Silent Hill 2.
Silent Hill 3 was supposed to be an arcade spin off/a rail shooter, not a direct sequel to SH1. Was a terrible plan. The sales of SH2 was really not good start. So I guess it was one of the causes of that. Also that plan wasted much time & some budgets of SH3. It wasn't SH:Arcade— 伊藤暢達_Masahiro Ito (@adsk4) February 21, 2019
Ito-san goes on to explain he felt this was a terrible idea and the next game needed to adhere to the franchise’s established style. He also revealed Silent Hill 3 became a direct sequel following fan feedback.
Silent Hill 3 is considered the last genuinely great instalment of the series, so it's strange to hear how radically different it could have been. It’s worth bearing in mind Konami was responding to the early reception of Silent Hill 2. Far from being acclaimed as a masterpiece, the sales were underwhelming and some considered it a big disappointment. Thankfully, the third game reverted back to being a survival horror title. The franchise would eventually score an arcade shooter in Japan in 2007 titled Silent Hill: The Arcade. While the game is, by all accounts, a competent shooter, it received a negative response due to its disconnect from the style of the series.
The storyline of Silent Hill 3 was later adapted for movie sequel Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. Sadly, it looks like the franchise itself might be over. Publisher Konami has all but exited AAA games development to focus on mobile titles, so iconic series like Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill are all in limbo. There hasn’t been a new console game since 2012’s Silent Hill: Downpour, and there’s still fan heartbreak over the abrupt cancelation of Hideo Kojima/Guillermo del Toro collaboration Silent Hills. A breakup between Kojima and Konami caused this very promising game sequel to be canned in 2015.