This week is the 20 th anniversary of Resident Evil, and we’re thrilled to kick off a macabre, year-long celebration commemorating the birth of survival horror. We’ll be delivering videos, livestreams, developer diaries, and more to pay tribute to the king of horror games. Today we reflect on the series’ enduring and varied history, looking back on the unforgettable main entries that Resident Evil’s fans have survived over the last two decades.
The Resident Evil series has come a long way since it released in Japan on March 22, 1996, but the original three PlayStation games played a critical role in solidifying the series’ future. The Resident Evil franchise has also played a huge role in my life, so I’m adding in my personal perspective in how each core game impacted me. Please join me by sharing your memories in the comments below.
Platforms: PlayStation (Launch), PC, Sega Saturn, Nintendo DS
The iconic S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team’s maddening one-night stay in the Spencer Mansion is unforgettable. Resident Evil stood out the moment bodies started dropping in its live-action intro, which like other one-liners (who hasn’t heard a “Jill sandwich” joke by now?) has become infamously and endearingly cheesy over time. Legitimate terror greeted players brave enough to venture deep into the mansion, from zombies bursting out of closets to the introduction of the vicious Hunters. Before Resident Evil, few games made players cherish every shotgun shell or healing herb quite the same way. The mansion may have exploded into millions of pieces, but the foundation of our love for Resident Evil was cemented forever.
Tim’s Take: My first experience with Resident Evil happened at the ripe age of 11 – probably too early by my parents’ standards. Without warning, my cousin flicked off the lights and booted up his PlayStation. I sat mute as he explored the halls of the mansion, my muscles tensing with every camera angle change or distant zombie moan. I still recall believing that a Hunter leapt out of the walls and swiftly decapitated Jill. What twisted tricks did this twisted game have in store? That night ended with my cousin battling the Tyrant in the hidden lab beneath the mansion. The CG cutscene introducing the gigantic monstrosity with an exposed heart was cutting-edge at the time. The beast terrified me. I lay awake at night for too long believing the Tyrant would emerge from my aunt and uncle’s creepy basement, clawed hand raised for attack. I finally fell asleep after convincing myself that the Tyrant’s nine-foot frame wouldn’t fit through the doorway.
Resident Evil 2
Platform: PlayStation (Launch), PC, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube
True horror, like the evil Umbrella Company’s deadly viruses, can’t be contained. Two years after the original game, Resident Evil 2 delivered players a grander, more intense experience as the zombie outbreak spread into Raccoon City. Series mainstay Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie RPD officer with the worst training day ever, joins up with Claire Redfield as she searches for her brother, S.T.A.R.S. member Chris. Leon and Claire’s paths diverge as they survive on Raccoon City’s zombie-infested streets, explore the enigmatic RPD station, and encounter the mad mind behind Umbrella’s lab in a huge underground lab. Resident Evil 2’s branching, intertwined scenarios delivered unfathomable new depth for players craving more. Fans’ appetites for RE 2 won’t be truly satisfied until they know more about the recently confirmed and highly anticipated remake.
Tim’s Take: Resident Evil’s hooks were in me after my horror-loving cousin exposed me to the original. I remember how the substantial, double-disc jewel case intimidated me with the expansive challenge it was sure to contain (Little did I know how complex and gargantuan playing the A and B scenarios for both Leon and Claire would be). Surviving on the overrun streets of Raccoon City was exactly what I wanted from a follow up to my favorite horror game. I’ve dodged the initial flaming zombies on the way to Kendo’s Gun Shop that I could almost do it blindfolded (don’t hold me to that). I’ll always remember the first time fighting my way to the RPD station for and breathing a sigh of relief as the gentle piano music settled in.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Platforms: PlayStation (Launch), PC, Dreamcast, GameCube
Leon and Claire weren’t the only duo trying to escape Raccoon City alive, as Jill Valentine returned in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis alongside Carlos Oliveira, a hired Umbrella gun with a heart of gold. Jill’s last escape wasn’t easy, either. A deadly, tenacious bio-organic weapon called Nemesis relentless stalked the former S.T.A.R.S. member through the streets. Nemesis is among the Resident Evil series’ most iconic villains thanks to his infectious grasp, powerful rocket launcher, and nasty habit of striking players when they least expect it. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis ends with Raccoon City’s irreversible infection being cleansed by a high-destructive missile. The sleepy, Midwestern town of Raccoon City may have been eradicated, but the outbreak was just about to go global.
Tim’s Take: I remember purchasing Dino Crisis solely for the purpose of acquiring the Resident Evil 3: Nemesis demo disc (Luckily, Regina’s adventures in Dino Crisis were worth the price of admission). This sneak peek of Jill Valentine’s return built upon everything I loved about exploring Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2 while injecting the most terrifying villain in the series to date. I had an idea that my mom was planning on buying me RE 3 for my birthday, but I wanted it so bad that I jumped the gun and bought it anyway (she wasn’t happy). Few words can describe the intense feeling of dread I still experience when I hear a door open and shut, accompanied by Nemesis’s snarling and tense chase music. Returning to the RPD building before the events of Resident Evil 2 was also a treat for obsessive fans like me. RE 3 with Nemesis’s constant pressure and challenging boss battles, will always give me a sense of profound relief upon seeing the credits roll.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Resident Evil 20 th Anniversary Retrospective coming soon. In the meantime, veteran Resident Evil producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi recounts his life spent developing the iconic series , from the monsters lurking in the Spencer Mansion to the latest, exciting globetrotting adventures.