In 1992 the first modern-day 3D survival horror game was released on PC called Alone in the Dark. The game was not entirely spooky and for the most part, not very dark at all. Although, with graphic limitations back then it was pretty hard to justify any sort of lighting effects. The music was no better either. While it had the creepy vibe it was going for, it was very stressed. This was especially true when facing monsters, the music would suddenly ramp up into something out of an intense action sequence in a movie. While it was a good attempt, the game didn’t really frighten you. 4 years later, when 3D graphics became a little better to manage and video and sound had substantial improvements, Tokuro Fujiwara and Shinji Mikami of Capcom put together a game that, unbeknownst to them, would change the course of survival horror forever. The game was called Biohazard (バイオハザード), and it launched on this day, March 22nd 1996 on the Sony Playstation.
Biohazard was largely inspired by an earlier work of Fujiwara’s called “Sweet Home”, which was a top-down survival horror RPG for the Famicom released back in 1989. The game was never released outside of Japan most likely due to the excessive language and gore that was included in the game. Nintendo had more of a kid-friendly focus outside Japan, so the game had no plans to ever be released overseas. Fujiwara had a lot of ideas and plans that couldn’t be put into Sweet Home due to the excessive limitations of the Famicom’s graphic capabilities, but had the chance to bring those same ideas to life when he developed Biohazard. The result was a game that sold over 5.08 million units worldwide. When brought over to North America, the name “Biohazard” would have been confused with the 1992 Sega game called “Bio-Hazard Battles”, as well as a New York Alternative Metal band who called themselves “Biohazard”. The name change was a result of an internal company contest to come up with a new name. Resident Evil was settled to become the official title for the North American release.
The story of the original Resident Evil takes place in Raccoon City where a team of former military personnel and scientists known as S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) investigate the outskirts of the city where a series of murders have taken place. These murders have shown signs of cannibalism throughout all the victims bodies. After the Bravo team of S.T.A.R.S. goes missing the Alpha team is sent in to seek out Bravo team. Here, the player can choose between Alpha team members Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine to lead the search. Each character has their own route they follow and unique partner to help aid them throughout the mission. When Alpha team arrives at the scene they find the crashed helicopter of Bravo team. Here, the team suddenly gets attacked by a pack of vicious meat-hungry dogs. After witnessing the attack, the pilot of the helicopter panics and takes off , leaving Alpha team to fend for themselves. After surviving the attack, Alpha team find shelter in a nearby abandoned mansion where the game officially begins. From here, you will find a variety of puzzles to solve and many types of monsters, zombies, and other deadly creatures that will attack you without warning. During your investigation you learn that these mutations were caused as a result of a highly contagious virus known as the T-virus, which was created through a series of illegal experiments. These experiments were lead by a biomedical company known as Umbrella Corporation. Through further investigation the player will discover a secret underground lab where Umbrella continues to conduct its researches. As well, Alpha team member Albert Wesker will also be found here, revealing himself as a double agent working under Umbrella to use a mutated supersoldier known as Tyrant to kill the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members. After an intense confrontation with both Wesker and the Tyrant, the player escapes the mansion and calls for the helicopter to pick them up to escape. But not before one last battle with the Tyrant takes place, and after a successful victory you escape the area and return to police headquarters. Depending how well you survive and how well you lend a hand to your supporting partners, there are 4 different endings that can occur when you finish the game.
On January 21st, 1998, Biohazard 2 was released on the PS1, which takes place just 2 months after the events of the first game. However this time you have the choice to control two different characters. Leon Kennedy, a new recruit to the Raccoon City police force, and Claire Redfield, a college student looking for her brother Chris Redfield (from the first game). The game became the fastest-selling video game in the US with over $19 million in sales surpassing all but one Hollywood movie at the time. It also broke sales records set by Final Fantasy VII and Super Mario 64. The game sold over 3 million copies worldwide. In August of 1998, a Dual Shock version of both RE2 and 1 was released adding support for the recently updated PS1 controllers, which originally had no analog sticks or vibration functionality. These Dual Shock versions also included new game modes, and orchestrated soundtrack. A Sega Saturn port was planned alongside the PS1 release, but was unfortunately canceled in October of 1998 due to technical difficulties. A remaster was released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999 and a port of the PS1 original was released for the GameCube in 2003. As well as an entire remake of the game being recently released on January 25th, 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Now I could give you a summery of this game, but its pretty tough to introduce the slew of new characters, how they tie in with each other and their relationships from previous and future games. Just know that the series in the most absolute basic nutshell is about a group of Raccoon City citizens out to stop secret organizations from spreading various parasites and viruses that’s turning all of humanity into crazed psychopaths and bio-weaponized monsters. All that aside, a variety of corporate drama and tense relationships between the surviving main cast of characters draws on the story even further. Much like the television series The Walking Dead, a simple survival from zombies turns into a crazed series of events to extend the storyline, which is all the more reason why I don’t get into specific story details because it is very complex (albeit linear at the same time). But considering this series has gone for as long as it has, that’s 25 years worth of continuous storytelling I’m saving my hands from typing and would just suggest you check out the games for yourselves if you’d like to learn more about the story. I’ll even post a series timeline for you to watch at the bottom of this post that was written by GameSpot’s Adam Mason with spoilers a plenty. For now, lets get back to this retrospective look at the series.
Biohazard 3: Last Escape (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis) was released on the PS1 on September 22nd, 1999. The game takes place 24 hours prior to the events that took place in RE2, so it was actually a prequel to the 2nd game. A demo of the game was included with Capcom’s other survival action series Dino Crisis, which was released on July 1st, a few months before RE3’s release. The game was a big success with very positive reviews and was ported over to the Dreamcast in 2000 and GameCube in 2003 with enhanced higher resolution graphics. The GameCube port specifically was lead with some concerns and confusion as the retail price was $40, compared to the earlier Dreamcast port which was only $20. No new features or updated graphics were made to the game to justify the higher price mark. This was especially troubling when Resident Evil 0 and the remake to the original Resident Evil were released on GameCube in 2002 with exceptionally higher resolution 3D graphics that were more standard to the typical GameCube library. RE2 and 3 were both ported from the PS1 version of the game, rather than the Dreamcast version. Why this decision was made is anyone’s guess. It wasn’t until April 3rd of 2020 when a proper remake of Resident Evil 3 was released for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
The next generation of Resident Evil started on February 3, 2000, when Resident Evil Code: Veronica was released for the Sega Dreamcast. The game plays exactly like its previous iterations with major differences in using real time 3D environments as well as dynamic camera movement as opposed to just single shot screen transitions. It was the first game to debut outside of a Playstation console, but was later updated and ported over to the PS2 and GameCube as Resident Evil: Code Veronica X just one year later. This port contained about 10 minutes of extra cinematic video as well as slight graphic improvements. The game was further remastered in high-definition and released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2011, but kept the same “Code Veronica X” title in its name. In 2017 the PS2 version of the game was released on the PS4, taking away the remastered enhancements that were found in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. The original Code Veronica on the Dreamcast outsold Sega’s Shenmue in its first week of release and amassed 1.14 million copies sold worldwide during its overall run in retail. The PS2 version of the game even ended up outselling Resident Evil 4 in total number of sales by 2006.
On November 12, 2002, a prequel to the original "Resident Evil", titled Resident Evil 0, was released exclusively to the Nintendo Gamecube. It was later released to the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC later on. Resident Evil 0 was originally going to be developed for the Nintendo 64DD, however because of lackluster sales of the 64DD, the game was planned for development as a standard N64 cartridge instead. The game was originally expected to release in July 2000, however production was rapidly slowing down as the amount of data being used to develop the game was no longer able to fit on a standard N64 cartridge. Because of this, production shifted over to the Gamecube where everything was redone from scratch, while also taking advantage of the increased space for upgraded visuals, more CGI videos, and re-recorded voice overs. In January 2016 an HD Remaster of RE0 was released and later ported over to the Switch in 2019.
On January 11, 2005, the next installment Resident Evil 4 was released on the Nintendo GameCube. The GameCube saw amazing sales numbers for both Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 0 when those were released on the GameCube in 2002, so for Capcom to release RE4 exclusively for the GameCube was no question. The game saw a drastic shift in gameplay going to an over the shoulder style third person action game. It was the first game where the survival horror aspect of the series was taking a little more of a back seat approach this time around. Resource management wasn’t as much of an issue as you had shops where you could purchase the supplies you needed. The game later got ported over to the PS2 later that year with the addiction of a new scenario exclusive to that version of the game. No other graphical enhancements or changes were made. A Wii port titled Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition was released in 2007 which took advantage of the wii remote and nunchuk controls for more precise and accurate aiming. The additional content found in the PS2 port was also included in this version of the game as well. If you were more comfortable with the standard controls the GameCube and Classic Controller were supported as well. Resident Evil 4 was also the first game in the series to receive a mobile port in Japan in 2008 called Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition. The game was split into sections rather than be a continuous story like the console release. With the release of the iPad, RE4 was also released for that device as well, dubbed Resident Evil 4: iPad Edition. The game has also been released on the Nintendo Switch in 2019 along with the Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil Zero. Overall, in terms of the game’s original GameCube release, it received a few Game of the Year awards in 2005 from both the Spike Video Game Awards, and Famitsu magazine. It was named the Best-Selling Survival Horror Game in 2012 by Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition, with roughly 8 million copies sold worldwide. That title was taken away by the next installment, which was of no surprise to anyone.
On March 5, 2009, Resident Evil 5 was released for the PS3 and Xbox 360. This was the first game where it played much more like an action game than survival horror, and this was going to be the stage for a few more games in the series before returning to its survival horror roots. This was also the first game designed for two player co-op. You can play the game completely single player, as your partner will be controlled via AI, but a second player can join in either online or local split-screen. The game takes you into Africa and is almost entirely set during the daytime, whereas previous titles had you playing mostly at night. The music of the game was composed by a Hollywood Studio Symphony to give the game a much more cinematic and Hollywood feel to bring appeal to more of a general global audience. RE5 became the best-selling game in the franchise with over 12.1 million units sold worldwide. It was also Capcom's best selling title for almost 10 years when their epic Action RPG smash hit Monster Hunter: World took over the spot in 2018.
October 2nd, 2012 was the day of release for the next title, Resident Evil 6. It was initially released on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but later released on the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam. The game allows you to play one of four scenarios, each tying in to each other and interwoven as one complete story. The game introduces a new type of enemy called “J’avo”, which are mutated humans infected with the C-virus which are more intelligent and slightly more aware than zombies. They are able to wield various weapons and even communicate with each other to plan out attacks. They can recover their own health and even regenerate into a much stronger being overtime. The only way to kill a J’avo is by dealing enough damage to raise its body temperature to its maximum capability, where it’ll finally disintegrate into sparkling flames. The game did not receive as much praise as previous installments in the series, but had a pretty successful run overall ranking as the fourth best Resident Evil game in the franchise selling roughly 7.7 million units worldwide.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was released on January 24th 2017 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The game was also released a year later for the Switch exclusively in Japan, but only through the cloud (titled: Biohazard 7: Resident Evil Cloud Version). The way the Cloud version worked is you are allowed to play the first 15 minutes of the game for free and if you wanted to keep playing, pay $20 for the full game plus all DLC for 180 days. In a sense this is sort of like an extended rental service for the game where you only have roughly 6 months of ownership of the full game before you get locked back into the trial version. Seeing as the game is being streamed over the cloud, gameplay experience can vary depending on the internet connection, and lost connection is very likely if you’re playing the game outside of Japan. As for the game itself, RE7 brings the survival horror focus back into the series as well as being the first game to be playable in VR to truly immerse yourself into the games environment. This VR experience is only available on the PS4 port of the game. RE7 was the first game to use the “RE Engine”, a new engine developed by Capcom that was used in future Resident Evil games as well as a few other titles made by Capcom. Games like Devil May Cry 5, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, and Monster Hunter Rise have used this engine as well as the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes. As of December 31, 2020, the game has currently sold over 8.5 million copies.
Now we reach 2021 when Resident Evil 8: Village is the next installment in the franchise due to release a little less than 2 months away on May 7, 2021, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam. A demo of the game titled “Maiden” was released exclusively to the PS5 in January 2021. The team behind the game have been developing it for roughly four years now and is said to take inspiration from RE4’s style of gameplay with the balance of combat, puzzle solving, and exploration. The game is set to be a direct sequel to RE7 with a castles and vampires theme this time around. We’re looking forward to this next iteration of Resident Evil and hope for yet another memorable and successful game by Capcom.
For those looking to learn more about the story of Resident Evil I’ve included a pretty summarized timeline video of the events that take place across the games.