James Sunderland (Guy Cihi) is the protagonist of the main scenario of Silent Hill 2. He comes to the town after receiving a letter from his wife Mary (Monica Taylor Horgan), who died of an illness three years before. While exploring the town, he encounters Maria (also Monica Taylor Horgan), who strongly resembles Mary except for a different personality and clothing; Angela Orosco (Donna Burke), a teenage runaway on a search for her mother; Eddie Dombrowski (David Schaufele), another teenage runaway who was somehow brought to the town; and Laura (Jacquelyn Brekenridge), an eight-year-old who has met and befriended Mary.
After arriving in Silent Hill, James decides to search a local park, where he meets Maria, who claims that she has never met or seen Mary and, as she is scared, he allows her to follow him. While looking for Laura inside a hospital, James and Maria are ambushed by the monster Pyramid Head, and Maria is killed by him just as James escapes; He resumes his task of finding Mary, and chooses to search a local hotel, where he and Mary spent their vacation. On the way, James finds Maria alive and unharmed in a locked room. She claims ignorance to their previous encounter and discusses elements of James and Mary's past that only Mary would know. James then sets off to find a way to release Maria from the room and eventually returns to find her dead again. Later on, he rescues Angela from a monster; she confesses that her father used to sexually abuse her, and a newspaper clipping James can find implies she killed him in self-defense before coming to Silent Hill. He also confronts Eddie, who admits to maiming a bully and killing a dog before fleeing to Silent Hill; attacked by Eddie, James kills him in self-defense. At this point it is revealed that in Eddie's version of Silent Hill all the monsters experienced by James are experienced by Eddie as people laughing and taunting him to violence.
At the hotel, James locates a videotape which depicts him killing his dying wife. At this point in the game, the letter from Mary is shown to have been a blank piece of paper the entire time. In another room, a final meeting with Angela sees her giving up on life as she is unable to cope with her trauma and guilt any longer. She walks into a fire and is not seen again. At this point it is revealed that in Angela's version of Silent Hill the town is always on fire.
James later encounters two Pyramid Heads, along with an alive Maria, who is killed again. James realizes that Pyramid Head was created because he needed someone to punish him, and all of the monsters have been manifestations of James' psyche. The envelope from Mary disappears and both Pyramid Heads commit suicide. James heads to the hotel's rooftop; depending on choices made by the player throughout the game, he encounters either Mary or Maria disguised as her.
Silent Hill 2 features six endings, all presented as equally possible; Konami has kept their canonicity ambiguous. In "Leave", James has one last meeting with Mary, reads her letter, and leaves the town with Laura. "In Water" sees James commit suicide by driving his car off a cliff. The "Maria" ending sees Mary as the woman on the rooftop, who has not forgiven James for killing her. After her defeat, James dismisses her as a hallucination and then leaves the town with an alive Maria, who briefly coughs, suggesting she will become sick just as Mary did, and the cycle will repeat. The other three endings are only available in replay games, including "Rebirth", in which James plans to resurrect Mary using arcane objects collected throughout the game, and two joke endings: "Dog", where James discovers that a dog has apparently been controlling all the events of the game, and "UFO", where James is abducted by extraterrestrials with the help of the first game's protagonist, Harry Mason.