This is a difficult one for me to really express appropriately because at when I was around nine years old, I wasn’t familiar with the genre of horror in video games. Horror, to me, was something associated with film and Stephen King Novels. I think the scariest game I had played at that age was been Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition for the Sega Genesis. It was a fun kind of scary. Imagining myself as Dr. Allen Grant, placed on this island full of giant lizards that could murder me in a myriad of ways.
Then I spent the night at my cousin’s house and we had made the usual plans, stay up all night and play video games, drink soda, and generally be fools. Then I noticed a game I had never heard of before, in a strange looking case for a PlayStation game. It was long, thick, and had some rather gnarly cover art. It looked like something out of a comic book page. I had to play it.
A Descent into Terror
My cousin told me it was a game about zombies. I thought that sounded very cool as a child who enjoyed games of all sorts. I was warned that the game was scary but I always thought my cousin was a bit of a baby anyway. Turns out he was right.
Resident Evil was the first game I had ever played that truly disturbed me. When I say disturbed, I’m putting it lightly. Resident Evil shook me to the very core of my adolescence. That’s not to say that I hadn’t been truly scared before. I saw Puppet Master when I was six and I still hate dolls of any kind because of it.
This was a different kind of fear. To this day, I still have trouble explaining what I felt that night. The closest I could come to describing it is with the word “altering.”. That’s exactly what the opening of that game did to me, it altered how I saw video games from that point forward. It had removed me from the realm of childish innocence where you were a cartoon mascot and thrust me into a new world where video games could be more than just something you did to play in silly little worlds with wacky characters. As it turns out, They could be something you do to raise your heart rate, feel terror while in the comfort of your own home, and showed me games aren’t exclusively for children.
Nightmares that Linger
I can recall my first steps in the mansion as if they were happening this very moment. The chilling atmosphere, the creaking of the rickety doors, and the feeling of dread that loomed over you always. I wouldn’t call this game an experience so much as it was an experiment on my psyche. This kind of mentally abusive horror had been toyed with in the past but developers were never able to quite hit their mark. Yes, that is specifically a call out to the Sega CD, Night Trap It tried and failed to force emotional turmoil. This is where Resident Evil shines.
No matter which character you choose to traverse the halls of this dreaded mansion with, you could never truly feel safe. The first few zombies you come across aren’t so much a threat as they were a shock, Considering the amount of times you needed to shoot one to put them down. No, the true terror in this game comes later.
Hunters, Crimson Heads, and to a lesser extent of fear the dogs. The dogs had two shining moments in this game, but the window and patio scenes were simply jump scares that never affected me beyond the first time it happened.
A New Vision of the Art
Resident Evil altered my view on games, but in truth, it did something more than that. This was the first time a game had forced me to quit playing and go back to other games. I was not capable of dealing with the Crimson Heads upon my initial encounter with them. The first time I heard that stomping coming down the hallway I felt a strange mixture of fear, confusion, and then the urge to poo. One slash to the back and I was down.
That was the end for me. Fast forward to the era of the GameCube and I was around 14 years old. Resident Evil had been remastered and I simply couldn’t resist. This was finally the first time that I would complete a Resident Evil game, in this beautiful remaster. A game that I still believe it’s one of the best looking titles on the GameCube. I was never scared but I certainly had an incredible amount of adrenaline rushing through me throughout the entire game. I suppose this is simply because I was too old by the time this game was released to really be frightened by things anymore.
By the time, I had reached the Tyrant at the end and found out that this entire thing was a plan devised by our leader, Wesker, I was equal parts excited and infuriated. Overall this was one of my favorite experiences as a child and undoubtedly one that shaped the way I appreciate games as an artistic medium to this day.
Play the game. If for some reason, you haven’t at whatever point in your life, you owe it to yourself to play both the original on PS1 and the remake on GameCube. The remake is also available on PS4 and 3. However, I find it best to stick to the classic consoles for that authentic feel.
Protip: If you want to be consumed by fear treat Resident Evil as you would all great horror, enjoy alone, in a dark room with the sound turned up.