‘RESIDENT EVIL’ CELEBRATES 25 YEARS: RELIVING DECADES OF HORROR
It’s not often a video game series — or any franchise for that matter —makes it past 25 years while heading into a future that’s promising of a new standard.
To date, the Resident Evil series has released nearly ten main entries, three remakes, more than a dozen spin-off games, six live-action films, novels, comics, animated series and more. Make no mistake, however, the survival horror franchise has certainly had its highs and lows. Genre changes and ill-thought-out spin-offs are among the biggest offenders, but a history of strong main titles and effective remakes make Resident Evil’s 25th anniversary on Monday worth celebrating.
Originally released on March 22, 1996 in Japan, the first Resident Evil game solidified not only what survival horror games looked like at the time, but remained a model for other series in the genre like Silent Hill and Clock Tower. The original RE was beloved enough to not only receive a full remake on the GameCube in 2002, but to also be released through ports on PC, the Sega Saturn and even the Nintendo DS.
The Resident Evil love continued on with Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, which all maintained a similar aesthetic and tone while employing new mechanics like the action-oriented dodge controls in the third installment.
A live action film series debuted in 2002 and debuted its sixth and final film in 2017. Each installment was commercially successful, but just as Resident Evil 5 is the best-selling entry in the series, sales do not necessarily indicate quality. Starring Milla Jovovich as the film series’ main character Alice, the movies loosely followed the video game’s story as each entry once again focused more on set pieces and explosions rather than a sense of horror. The plot is completely bonkers, too, but that’s not to say the video games haven’t had their fair share of off-the-wall moments either.
Another genre-defining moment came with the release of Resident Evil 4 in 2005. Gone were the fixed cameras and limited resources, replaced by a new over-the-shoulder perspective where action and precise aim took importance over tone and horror. The GameCube exclusive was praised for its innovation, but, unfortunately, continuing this trend into Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 did not prove as successful.
Marked as a low point for the series, the fifth and sixth games pushed hard into the thrilling action side of Resident Evil 4 by focusing on cover shooting, quick time events and ridiculous enemy and boss scenarios. The co-op aspect of the two games was great, but ditching the survival horror aspects that made the series what it is didn’t help make them stand out in a good way.
This particular era of Resident Evil was also marred by the release of a few unworthy spin-off games. While earlier in the series’ lifespan saw spin-offs like Resident Evil Outbreak, where players took control of Raccoon City residents just days after the outbreak, newer spin-offs like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps once again leaned heavily into the action side of the franchise. These multiplayer-focused shooters gave little hope to fans seeking a return to form.
A turnaround for the RE franchise was not far off, however. A five year wait for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard proved worthwhile as the seventh entry made a complete return to its horror roots while introducing a first-person perspective and story that was scaled back and less end-of-worldly.
This resurgence of Resident Evil goodness has continued since 2017. Resident Evil 7 was the first to use Capcom’s new RE Engine, a tool that would be continued to be used in stellar releases like the remakes for Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
The series is not slowing down, either. Resident Evil Village, the latest main entry, is set for release in May of this year and shows no signs of stopping the Resident Evil renaissance. If the Maiden demo released back in January is any indication, the series has a bright future ahead of it.
Photos courtesy of Capcom