Prepare to celebrate the world of Survival Horror as we knew it then and know it now, as Resident Evil just turned two and a half decades and celebrates its 25th Anniversary today.
If you ever held a controller on your hand in today’s gaming world, Resident Evil will probably pop up in your search list as one of the most popular video game franchises to play in this day and age… And with good reason. Spawning over a dozen mainline titles and each featuring different characters and story elements, the common themes that bring all of these together is horror and action. For a time RE went through an identity crisis beginning with its fourth sequel that took a more survival action approach… But the game that started it all was more focused on putting fear and tension in your eyes, and Capcom delivered an experience that was similar to Alone in the Dark rather than a first person shooter game like Doom.
First released as Biohazard on March 22, 1996 in Japan for the original Sony PlayStation, the first Resident Evil was the product of a genuine attempt to remake an old NES game but ended becoming something entirely different. Directed by Shinji Mikami and produced by Tokuro Fujiwara, the game draws inspiration from horror films like The Shining and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and was molded into a third-person horror adventure that was more of conserving your ammo, evading enemies, and solving puzzles — and coined the genre known as Survival Horror.
Utilizing the power of Sony’s first video game console and CD based technology, Resident Evil became a critical and commercial success upon release. Despite the B-Movie level voice acting and live-action cut scenes, fans were impressed with the level of immersion and action amidst a isolated mansion setting where zombies and all manner of biological creatures could attack you. Plus the story introduces two very likeable protagonists in Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine — who would go on to represent and reappear through the course of the series’ history. RE1 also has the distinction of being one of the best-selling games for the original PlayStation in 1996, right before Final Fantasy 7 was unleashed to the masses the following year.
Coincidentally, March 22 also marks the release date of the Resident Evil Remake back in 2002! One of the then Nintendo Gamecube only exclusives Capcom promised for the company and the system, the game was a complete visual and technical makeover for the original Resident Evil — bringing Survival Horror to a new generation of fans and incorporating a more realistic tone and interpretation of the game. Shinji Mikami returned to direct and once again Chris and Jill’s stories are told during the Mansion Incident — however new elements were added to make this remake a whole new experience for fans, such as the introduction of the mutated Lisa Trevor and the addition of defensive weapons. While the remake did remain exclusive to Nintendo for over a decade, the game would see new life as Resident Evil HD Remaster — which was a high definition port released for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
With the release of sequels, spin-offs, and appearing in other forms of media including a new reboot movie called Welcome to Raccoon City coming out this year, Resident Evil has stood the test of time these 25 years — and it is all thanks to a game that introduced zombies and a mansion setting to gamers that wasn’t about guns blazing and more of using your head to survive. With Capcom set to release a new installment this year with Resident Evil Village, the franchise is only going to move forward grow even stronger as the fanbase continues to celebrate its legacy.
Happy Anniversary, Resident Evil!