|“|| I was weak. That's why I needed you... Needed someone to punish me for my sins... But that's all over now. I know the truth. Now it's time to end this.
James Sunderland is the protagonist of Silent Hill 2. As the game begins, James states that his wife, Mary Shepherd-Sunderland, has been deceased for three years. Regardless, James has received a mysterious letter in Mary's handwriting, stating that she is waiting for him in their "special place", somewhere in Silent Hill. When James arrives at the town, he becomes ensnared in a series of bizarre and nightmarish events which force him to question his sanity, memory and personality.
The developers of the game have stated that James can be thought of as having one of two personalities. Maria describes James as kind; Mary, in her letter to Laura, describes him as a little surly, but sweet underneath his enigmatic exterior. James is typically courteous to other characters he meets in Silent Hill. For example, he tries to help Angela Orosco cope with her emotional distress. When James first encounters Eddie Dombrowski, he becomes concerned for Eddie's well-being and advises him to leave the town. He also expresses concern for Laura, attempting to follow her through Silent Hill so she won't come to harm. However, James's "dark side" is revealed in some of his actions. After Maria's death in Brookhaven, he begins to entertain suicidal thoughts.
James lost some of his confidence and self-respect when Mary became ill. He denies the murder of his wife; even at the beginning of the game, he says, "Mary died of that damn disease three years ago." He is polite and mild-tempered, preferring to avoid arguments with Eddie or Angela. However, after each confrontation with Pyramid Head, it can be said he becomes more assertive as the game progresses.
James does several questionable things throughout the game, including leaving his car door open and parking in a skewed manner, leaving his flashlight on while hiding from Pyramid Head, sticking his hand inside a hole in a wall after being bitten by something inside, and dipping his hands inside a filthy toilet to retrieve a wallet and neglecting to wash his hands afterward. If the player walks up to Angela again in the cemetery, she will say, "Aren't you looking for someone?" A forgetful James will reply, "Oh yeah..." and walk off. He also does things that would appear risky to the average person, such as jumping down long, dark holes that appear to be bottomless. His determination to uncover the truth about Mary's fate, and his implied suicidal tendencies may explain his reckless and illogical behavior.
According to Book of Lost Memories, James was a clerk prior to his arrival in Silent Hill. His known family includes Frank Sunderland, from Silent Hill 4: The Room, who is revealed to be his father. Not much information about James before Mary came into his life is known. James and Mary had met at a house party held by a mutual friend. Their affection evolved from a blazing passion to a peaceful and stable relationship. Before Mary and James were married, James would listen to Mary play the piano. Mary liked to play the piano and even though she wasn't very good at it, James still loved to hear her play anyway.
Prior to the events of Silent Hill 2, Mary and James decided to take a vacation in Silent Hill after reading a brochure for the town. They stayed in the Lakeview Hotel, where James recorded a videotape of Mary. Mary stated in the videotape that she loved the town and would love to go to Silent Hill again one day. James accidentally forgot the videotape in the hotel and the couple left Silent Hill.
Three years prior to the game, Mary was struck with a terminal disease, and she deteriorated to the point of having violent mood swings. James became an alcoholic to escape his pain and loneliness, but it never changed anything. James questioned Mary's doctors about her illness, and could not believe they would just let Mary die. He searched through medical books for information about Mary's illness, but never found anything useful. Later in her illness, James visited Mary less frequently because she was emotionally volatile. Her mood swings left her spouse bewildered about what was "right" to do.
James felt frustration at needing a sexual outlet, but felt prevented from pursuing it by his marriage to Mary (this is later expressed by the character of Maria, as well as several creatures during James's quest in the town). Mary had become a burden on James and he slowly began to resent her; yet simultaneously, seeing the one he loved in such pain tormented him. The emotional trauma and emptiness left James in a constant state of mourning. Eventually he snapped, walked to Mary's bed and kissed her on her forehead before suffocating her with a pillow. James later repressed the memory of his wife's murder.
James then received a mysterious letter in Mary's handwriting, stating that she was alive and waiting for him in their "special place", somewhere in Silent Hill. James is disturbed and confused by this letter, and questions whether or not Mary truly died. Searching for an answer, James ventures to Silent Hill.
Silent Hill 2
James drives to Silent Hill, with Lost Memories suggesting he came to kill himself in the town they cherished. James is not the only one called to Silent Hill; two others, Eddie Dombrowski and Angela Orosco, have been drawn to the town by similar forces. However, before he arrives, his mind snaps from the trauma of killing Mary and he represses the memory. Instead, he becomes convinced not only that Mary has been dead for three years but that he has received a posthumous letter from her. It is at this stage that the player takes control of James, to discover the real events leading up to this point during gameplay.
James discovers the main road to Silent Hill is blocked and takes a stop in the Observation Deck's restroom. He takes a moment to stare deeply at his own reflection in a mirror. He exits the restroom, reminds himself of Mary, and then enters the town via a hiker's path, a trail the designers created to be purposefully long in order to increase the player's sense of isolation. On the way he meets a young woman named Angela Orosco, who has also just arrived in Silent Hill. James disregards Angela’s warnings about the town and reaches the main roads only to discover that the entire area is covered in fog and infested with grotesque monsters. He tries to find the "special place" mentioned in Mary's letter, where she is waiting for him.
James's first guess as to Mary's "special place" happens to be his first destination, Rosewater Park. Because all direct routes are destroyed or barricaded, he must cross through an abandoned apartment complex, where he meets Eddie Dombrowski. The apartments are also the scene of James's first encounter with Pyramid Head, a relentless persecutor who hunts down and attacks him at several points in the game. James also repeatedly runs into a mysterious little girl named Laura, who knows of Mary's name, leaving James curious as to what she knows.
When James reaches Rosewater Park's lakeside observation deck, he thinks he sees his wife, but is mistaken when the woman introduces herself as Maria. James agrees to let Maria accompany him for safety's sake. He remembers his other "special place", the Lakeview Hotel. While tracking Laura to Brookhaven Hospital, Maria stops to rest in a patient's room, claiming to have a mild hangover. James eventually finds Laura, who then convinces him to get a letter from Mary in a room. She then locks the door, trapping James in the room with creatures called Flesh Lips. After defeating the monsters, James quickly finds that the hospital has been horribly transformed to the Otherworld. He finds Maria and they try to find a way out of the hospital. In the basement, Pyramid Head reappears behind both of them, and Maria is killed by the creature's spear while James is helpless to save her. James is saddened by her sudden death and refocuses on finding Mary.
After leaving the hospital and exploring the town, he finds a key that lets him into the Silent Hill Historical Society, which according to the map is also a port to get to the Lakeview Hotel. However, he soon finds a series of disturbing secret entrances and bizarre holes that lead him into Toluca Prison. Eddie resurfaces again in the cafeteria, now armed with a revolver and once more sitting in close proximity to a human corpse. James attempts to reason with Eddie, but his reasoning has no effect on him.
As James explores the empty prison facility, he finds himself within a maze. James finds Maria, locked inside a cell, alive and unscathed following her death in Brookhaven Hospital. Maria comes onto James and beckons him to find a way into her cell. She undergoes a change in personality, switching between Mary and Maria's personalities at random. Maria also drops clues regarding Mary's "special place" and a videotape she and James made together. James soon relocates Angela, who is about to be attacked by the Abstract Daddy, a creature representing Angela's abusive father. After injuring the monster, Angela finishes it off in a series of violent attacks and has a tense confrontation with James.
Eventually, James locates an alternate route to Maria's cell, but upon entering, finds Maria lying dead on the bed. James exits the cell, and jumps through a hole representing his future grave. He stumbles upon Eddie surrounded by bullet-ridden corpses. Eddie gleefully admits the solution to his problems is killing. When James protests, Eddie says that James is making fun of him too and attacks him. Eddie reveals that both he and James were summoned to the town for a similar reason. James is then forced to kill Eddie in a gun battle inside a meat locker.
Emerging at an old pier at the edge of Toluca Lake, James sees a bright light that is visible from the northern shore; he boards a rowboat and makes the journey to the opposite side. The light is emanating from the Lakeview Hotel, which looks exactly the same as when he stayed there with Mary. James finds Laura there and she hands him a letter that was written by Mary. It states that Mary and Laura became friends one year ago and James realizes that Mary couldn't have died three years ago. Realizing this causes the first letter from Mary to appear blank. Laura then leaves him again to find the other letter.
James locates the old videotape mentioned earlier by Maria, and finds his way to Room 312, where he and Mary had stayed on their vacation. Inserting the tape into a player, James watches a static-ridden video of himself as he smothers Mary to death with her pillow. Laura enters the room and asks James if he has found Mary yet and James tells her the truth, causing Laura to yell at him and run out of the room. After watching the video the letter from Mary completely disappears, leaving only an empty envelope. Exiting the room, James finds the hotel flooded and burnt-out and eventually comes across Angela on a stairwell surrounded by fire. Angela and James speak for the last time and despite James’s pleas, Angela proceeds up the stairs and walks into the flames.
Entering what was once the lobby, James finds Maria, alive and tied down, screaming for James as she is surrounded by two Pyramid Heads. For a third time, Maria is killed and James finally understands what Pyramid Head and Maria are. The Pyramid Heads are a part of James himself, created subconsciously to punish him for his sins. Refusing to flee from his opponents, he turns and attacks the Pyramid Heads. With James now seeking vengeance as opposed to punishment, the Pyramid Heads cease to function and they deliberately impale themselves on their spears.
James finally meets a woman who resembles Mary before the final boss fight. The outcome of this encounter is determined by the player's actions during the game.
It is uncertain what happened to James during or after the events of Silent Hill 2. James's fate is left ambiguous. Silent Hill 4: The Room revealed that James disappeared when he went to Silent Hill. It can be speculated that he either died or went into hiding to avoid going to prison for killing Mary. Konami stated in the Book of Lost Memories that James's fate is up to the player.  The official Japanese novel, however, uses the "In Water" ending.
- Leave - The woman is Maria. James rebuffs her, because he doesn't need her anymore. She states that he "deserves to die too" (relating to Mary) and transforms into the final boss. After killing her, James meets with Mary. She forgives him for killing her and gives him the letter and tells him to go on with his life. In the next scene James is seen leaving Silent Hill through the graveyard with Laura ahead of him, possibly intending to carry out Mary's wishes to adopt the girl.
- In Water - The woman is Maria. James rebuffs her because she's not Mary and won't be able to replace her. She states that James will never have Mary back and transforms into the final boss. After killing her, James meets with Mary. She tells James that he suffered enough for killing her and gives him the letter. Mary dies before James can properly make peace with her. James carries Mary's body to his car and arrives at the conclusion that he's unable to live without Mary and realizes that he came to Silent Hill to take his own life in a place of memories. James is heard driving his car into the lake, killing himself to be together with his wife in death. This ending is ironic because James told Angela that he would never kill himself.
- Maria - The woman is Mary. She becomes furious with James for what he did and transforms into the final boss. After killing her, James is seen looking down at the lake in Rosewater Park. Maria appears, resurrected again, and asks James whether he killed Mary again. He reckons the encounter with Mary was just another illusion and asks Maria to be with him. Maria then gives James Mary's letter. Before the credits, James and Maria are seen leaving Silent Hill. However, Maria coughs, meaning that she will become sick like Mary and the events that drove James to murder may repeat themselves. This is another ironic ending because Angela told James that he found another woman.
- Rebirth - The woman is Maria. James states that he can't go on without Mary and Maria won't be able to replace his wife. She transforms into the final boss and James fights her. After killing her, James is seen rowing in a boat with Mary's body, going to perform a ritual to revive her, with an unknown result.
- UFO - Silent Hill 2 continues the tradition of the UFO ending. James is in Room 312 and out of the sky, UFOs come. The first game's protagonist, Harry Mason, appears holding the Hyper Blaster, pointing it at James. Harry says sorry, and asks James if he has seen his daughter, Cheryl. James is confused, and asks if Harry has seen Mary. James is then shot and knocked unconscious by one of the aliens. James is kidnapped by the aliens and Harry gives the alien a thumbs up.
- Dog - James walks into a room to find a dog with headsets on and states in disbelief that the dog was the one controlling everything that has happened in the game. James, realizing it was all the dog's work, then falls to his knees. The dog goes up to him and proceeds to lick his face.
Silent Hill 3
James is referenced by Heather in an optional cutscene. In it, she begins to dislodge a toilet but stops, saying, "Forget it. This is way too gross." She then stares at the player and says, "Who would even think of doing something so disgusting?" This cutscene is only unlocked if the player's memory card has a Silent Hill 2 save file.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
James makes another cameo in the Shattered Memories' UFO ending. He interrupts Cheryl and Dr. Kaufmann's appointment, much to Dr. K.'s frustration. He asks if he has the wrong day again, to which Dr. K. tells him his appointment is in the following day. Upon leaving, Dr. K. makes a comment about not having seen James's wife in a while. A few frames later, James can be seen spying on Mira and the alien sitting in the chair. He is voiced by producer Tomm Hulett.
Silent Hill: Downpour
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
James appears alongside Mary in the game's joke ending. They appear in the streets of Silent Hill and are accidentally sneezed on by Becca. He looks rather angrier than his wife. James also gets worried about Mary, saying she "might catch something", to which Mary replies that he "worries too much", in a humorous nod to her illness in Silent Hill 2.
A younger James makes a cameo in the comic Hunger, along with Mary. When Douglas Brenneman discusses how Silent Hill is often a site for honeymoons, an image is shown of James and Mary by Toluca Lake.
|“||In the initial stages of the scenario, he was a character who had two personalities, "Joseph" and "James." The name "Joseph" was borrowed from the name of a man suspected of being Jack the Ripper, and "James" is a derivative.||”|
- "I got a letter... The name on the envelope said... Mary... my wife's name."
- "My name is James. James Sunderland."
- "Angela, okay. I don't know what you're planning, but there's always another way."
- "Don't worry, I'm not crazy... at least, I don't think so."
- "Mary?! ...No. You're not."
- "This town is full of monsters! How can you just sit there and eat pizza?!"
- "How do you know about that? Aren't you Maria?"
- "Eddie! Have you gone nuts?!"
- "Hey, I didn't mean anything."
- "Maria. I want you... I want you with me."
- "You'd better do something about that cough..."
- "That's why I did it, honey. I just couldn't watch you suffer. No... That's not true... You also said that you didn't want to die. The truth is... I hated you. I wanted you out of the way. I wanted my life back..."
- "I was weak. That's why I needed you... Needed someone to punish me for my sins... But that's all over now. I know the truth. Now it's time to end this."
- The save menu's background is of James's face, stained with red which could represent anger or murder. His face appears to be blurred by water or glass. It could also simply be James's reflection on the Save Point's glossy surface.
- It is speculated by some fans that since James had just recently killed his wife, that her corpse is actually in the trunk of James's car at the beginning of the game. Book of Lost Memories alludes to this and the novelization affirms this with the In Water ending. However, Masahiro Ito said on his Twitter page that he believed that Mary's body was actually in the back seat. When asked how James didn't notice her corpse, Ito replied that James had repressed the memory of her murder.
- James's surname is an allusion to his mental state; sunder meaning to break or shatter, and land being representative of James's sense of reality; his world.
- James's beta design (shown in the gallery below) depicts him with slicked back, auburn hair. This hairstyle made him resemble Harry Mason. It should be noted that James shares other similarities with Harry: the two of them suffered for having lost their wives, who both died of long and painful diseases. Depending on the endings, both of them leave Silent Hill with a new adopted child (Heather in the Good and Good + Endings for Harry, Laura in the Leave Ending for James).
- James wears the same M-1965 Field Jacket as Jacob Singer, the protagonist of the 1990 psychological thriller Jacob's Ladder. The developers of Silent Hill 2 have stated that Jacob's Ladder was an influence, likely making this an homage.
- In the Dog ending, James has a tattoo of a heart on his left arm.
- In the Wood Side Apartments, the body of a man sitting in front of a TV displaying static can be seen after James finds a pistol. The game's art director, Masashi Tsuboyama, said that the man sitting in the chair is actually James himself and that he came straight out of James's imagination.
- In the Blue Creek Apartments, inside of Room 209, James may be able to hear a whisper that appears to say, "See my dead wife and come home, do some laundry, do some..." It has been speculated that it may represent a part of James's thoughts about what to do after he murdered Mary, although Japanese translator Jeremy Blaustein stated in an interview that he believes it was just one of the voice actors talking to himself in the recording booth and that the Japanese sound recorders would not have known what it had meant as it was unscripted. 
|The whisper heard in Room 209.|
- In Brookhaven Hospital, James finds records about three patients: Jack Davis, Joseph Barkin and Joshua Lewis. It is not a coincidence that James and the three patients' names start with the letter J. Jack represents the part of James who is normally a model person, yet also has suicidal feelings. Joseph represents the part of James who feels guilt and regret for killing Mary and the delusions James is immersed in. Joshua represents the part of James who feels he needs to be persecuted and also represents his violent self (i.e. the act of killing).
- The Tablet of "The Oppressor" represents James and his sins.
- Almost every corpse in the game (excluding the ones in the holes inside the prison) wears the exact same clothing as James.
- James is the only naturally blond protagonist in the whole series.
- In Silent Hill 3, Douglas Cartland mentions a man who went missing in Silent Hill and was never found. It is possible that Douglas was referring to James.
- Guy Cihi reprised his role for a YouTube video of a fan-fiction novelization of Silent Hill 2.
- In Silent Hill: Homecoming, one of the achievements is known as "Shades of James", unlocked if the player defeats a Siam.
- In Silent Hill: Homecoming, if the player unlocks the secret ending, they earn the achievement "The Old Gods haven't left this place", a reference to what James said in the Rebirth Ending of Silent Hill 2.
|Harry Mason - Cheryl Mason - Dahlia Mason - Dr. Kaufmann - Cybil Bennett - Michelle Valdez|
|Bar Maid - The Stewarts - Mr. Gordon - Lisa Garland - John - James Sunderland - Mira - Greys|
|Raw Shock - Larval Stalker|
|Alchemilla Hospital - Annie's Bar - Diner 52 - Good Ol' Days - Green Lion Pawn Shop - Lakeside Amusement Park - Levin Street - Lighthouse Clinic - Midwich High School - The Balkan - Toluca Mall - Nightingale Apartments|
|Echo Photos - Flare - Flashlight - Harry's Phone - Real World - Ice World - Memento - Phone Numbers - Psych Profile - Tookie the Toucan - Manifestation - UFO Ending - Sexuality|
|Keys - Puzzles - Secrets and Unlockables - Soundtrack|