Your guide to getting started on gaming’s most iconic horror franchise
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of CONNECT.
Knox Yoder (Saga)
No matter where you are in the world, there’s nothing like delving into something spooky in the month of October. Whether it’s a horror movie such as Ju-On, a book such as My Best Friend’s Exorcism, or a TV show such as Midnight Mass, a good piece of horrific media can take your October from good to great. Sometimes, however, simply watching the horror just isn’t enough. If you want to take your horror experience to the next level, it’s time to take a trip to the world of Resident Evil.
One of the longest-running horror video game series of all time, Resident Evil (known in Japan as Biohazard) is perfect for gamers of all experience levels. The series tells the story of the evil Umbrella corporation, a pharmaceutical powerhouse that inadvertently creates a virus that unleashes zombies, monsters, and general terror upon the world. Dripping with atmosphere, filled with terrifying creatures, and brimming with interesting lore, Resident Evil will captivate and enthrall all who dare take a step onto the streets of Raccoon City.
With over 25 games in the series, however, it can be intimidating to know where to start. Do you start with 1996’s Resident Evil, the first game in the franchise? What about the 2002 GameCube remake? Or maybe Resident Evil 7, the beginning of a new era for the series? This can all be very confusing, but worry not; by the end of the article, you will be fully equipped with everything you need to know to become a zombie-killing master.
Unlike some video game series, there’s no real right or wrong Resident Evil game to play first. Many fans, such as myself, simply stumbled into the series by chance with a random entry. When considering where to start, however, two games stand above the rest: 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and 2019’s Resident Evil 2 Remake.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Originally released in 2017, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (known in Japan as Biohazard 7: Resident Evil) is the first in what many consider to be a new era for the franchise. Focusing on a completely new cast of characters and seemingly removed from the events of the prior games, RE7 is literally built for those with no prior knowledge of the series.
In RE7, players take control of Ethan Winters, a man searching for his wife Mia, who has been missing for the past three years. When he receives a cryptic video message from Mia, Ethan is led to a seemingly abandoned farm in Dulvey, Louisiana. There, he slowly uncovers the mystery behind Mia’s disappearance and must survive an onslaught of horrors from the farm’s residents, the Baker family.
While most games in the series draw upon atmospheric zombie horror, RE7 draws heavily from a different subgenre of horror: hillbilly horror (think Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, or House of 1000 Corpses). It also changes the series’ main gameplay perspective from third-person to first-person, making the game much scarier in comparison to its predecessors.
The game is seen as a return to form for the franchise after 2009’s Resident Evil 5 and 2012’s Resident Evil 6 pivoted from survival horror to action horror with mixed results. RE7 is a truly scary experience and is sure to send chills down the spines of even the most seasoned horror fans at least once during its roughly nine-hour story campaign. Plus, the game leads directly into 2021’s Resident Evil Village, which I personally consider to be the highlight of the entire franchise.
RE7 also features some of the most fun gameplay in the franchise, with challenging puzzles and simple yet rewarding combat. Those looking for a challenge can kick the game up to “Madhouse” (the game’s hard mode) while those interested in a more chill experience can breeze through combat and focus on the story in easy mode.
If you have access to any modern consoles, RE7 is fairly accessible. The game is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Amazon Luna, and even Nintendo Switch (granted you live in Japan and can stream it from the cloud). Having been released over five years ago and having sold millions of copies, you can generally find the game for less than $20; it is even included with the base PlayStation Plus subscription on PS4.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Those looking to delve into the series’ “original” era of games need look no further than Resident Evil 2 Remake. As the name might suggest, the game is a remake of 1998’s Resident Evil 2, updated with modern graphics and gameplay.
While not the first game in the series’ timeline, Resident Evil 2 Remake serves as a great entry point. Players take control of rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield on the first day of a massive zombie outbreak within Raccoon City. Together, they must fight to survive the night, uncover the mystery behind the outbreak, and perhaps find a way to stop it from spreading outside of the city.
Resident Evil 2 Remake takes the story and general premise of the original Resident Evil 2 and modernizes it perfectly. The original few games in the series utilize an outdated control scheme called “tank controls,” which frankly make them incredibly difficult to play in the modern era. Thus, the remake’s change to modern third-person shooter controls makes it accessible to a whole new generation of players who likely have never played the original.
While Resident Evil 2 Remake may be a little less scary than Resident Evil 7, it still has its moments. In particular, a recurring, unkillable enemy known as Tyrant or Mr. X is a constant point of tension throughout both Leon’s and Claire’s campaigns. Hearing his thundering footsteps approach as you attempt to kill other enemies or solve puzzles is chilling and will lead to more than a few memorable moments.
Resident Evil 2 Remake leads perfectly into a whole slew of other titles if you are hungry for more after finishing it. There’re 2020’s Resident Evil 3 Remake, 2023’s upcoming Resident Evil 4 Remake, the original Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, and Resident Evil 6.
Similarly to Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2 Remake is incredibly accessible. It can typically be found for around $20 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Amazon Luna.
Knox Yoder (they/them) is a first-year JET living and working in Ureshino, Saga. They have too many hobbies, including but not limited to binging horror movies, playing new and old video games, reading manga, and nerding out over My Chemical Romance. They are probably the most punk junior high school teacher in Saga.