Few franchises in gaming have had the run of Resident Evil. Hell, the series celebrates 25 years since its debut this year, and we’ve had eight mainline games, dozens of spin-offs, multiple remakes, a series of movies, and soon, a Netflix show too.
Resident Evil was built on a simple premise – zombies are scary, and mansions in the mountains should be left well alone. But why does it make a stronger case for those elements than most other horror titles?
The Early Years
Of course, the first game is legendary. Whether your earliest memories are encountering your first zombie, an undead dog jumping through the window, or clenching your controller tightly as you waited to see what was around the next corner, the game is unforgettable despite feeling incredibly narrow in scope.
It also introduced another under-appreciated tenet of the series – ridiculous dialogue, something that paved the way for the series to come.
Seriously, check this out:
In the first game, we meet Albert Wesker, who double-crosses the player to set up one of gaming’s most bizarrely enjoyable “good vs evil” conflicts.
From the mansion we head into Racoon City, not once, but twice, and while the playground gets larger (and more detailed), few things really change (outside of some very persistent new friends, the Tyrant and Nemesis.)
While Resident Evil 4 shifted the focus to European parasites and Resident Evil 5 made Chris Redfield a man capable of breaking a boulder by punching it a lot, Resident Evil 6 was inarguably a low-point in the franchise.
Offering a series of play styles and characters, none of which were actually all that fun, Resident Evil 6 provoked a rethink that led to the chilling Resident Evil 7 and the upcoming sequel, Resident Evil Village.
Why Is Resident Evil So Popular?
Ok, so that’s a VERY brief history lesson, but what keeps players coming back? Is it the cheesy dialogue? Or is it the underlying story that has more double-crosses and betrayals than the entirety of Game of Thrones?
Even the gameplay changes so much between instalments that it’s hard to imagine anyone finding continuity there. But, perhaps that’s part of the fun.
Everyone that’s played a Resident Evil title likely has a different touchstone. For some, it’s the Licker, scuttling across windows while the player explores the Racoon City police station. For others, it’ll be Nemesis bursting through a wall, or the first time you pop a Garnados’ head and they sprout a tentacle. For me, it’s Yawn, a f**king snake that still haunts me to this day.**
While the first things that come to mind are always different, these are all memories with one thing in common – they’re unshakable. I remember encountering Nemesis on PlayStation 1 just as vividly as I remember his much more detailed character model chasing me down in last year’s remake.
Of course, some will have their earliest memories of the franchise in silver screen form, and to those people, we apologise. But hey, hopefully, Netflix does a good job, right?
All joking aside, it’s clear that Resident Evil’s enduring legacy doesn’t necessarily come from one thing or even a handful of things. It’s a franchise that has evolved, growing extra tendrils, mutating in new and unexpected ways, like so many of its nightmare-inducing enemies.
We’ve had zombies, parasites, creatures the size of houses, living weapons, and monstrous wildlife, and it won’t be long until we’re encountering the Vampire Lady of our dreams.
Whether it’s a mansion, an entire city, or a Village, Resident Evil adapts and endures.