Series logo from 1996
|First release||Resident Evil|
March 22, 1996
|Latest release||Resident Evil 2|
January 25, 2019
Resident Evil, known in Japan as Biohazard,[a] is a Japanese horror media franchise created by Shinji Mikami and Tokuro Fujiwara, and owned by the video game company Capcom. The franchise focuses on a series of survival horror games and includes live-action films, animated films, comic books, novels, audio dramas, and merchandise. The story follows outbreaks of zombies and other monsters created mainly by the Umbrella Corporation.
The first video game, Resident Evil, was released in 1996. The franchise has grown to encompass numerous sequels of various genres, incorporating elements of action, exploration, and puzzle solving, and storylines inspired by horror and action films. Resident Evil has been credited with popularizing survival horror games, as well as re-popularizing zombies in mainstream popular culture from the late 1990s onwards (along with The House of the Dead), leading to a renewed interest in zombie films during the 2000s. Resident Evil is Capcom's best-selling video game franchise, with over 95 million sold worldwide by 2019. The Resident Evil films are also the highest-grossing film series based on video games.
The development of the first Resident Evil, released as Biohazard in Japan, began in 1993 when Capcom's Tokuro Fujiwara told Shinji Mikami and his co-workers to create a game using elements from Fujiwara's 1989 game Sweet Home. When in late 1994 marketing executives were setting up to release Biohazard in the United States, it was pointed out that securing the rights to the name Biohazard would be very difficult as a DOS game had been registered under that name, as well as a New York hardcore punk band called Biohazard. A contest was held among company personnel to choose a new name; this competition turned up Resident Evil, the name under which it was released in the west. Resident Evil made its debut on the PlayStation in 1996 and was later ported to the Sega Saturn.
The first entry in the series was the first game to be dubbed a "survival horror", a term coined for the new genre it initiated, and its critical and commercial success led to the production of two sequels, Resident Evil 2 in 1998 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in 1999, both for the PlayStation. A port of Resident Evil 2 was released for the Nintendo 64. In addition, ports of all three were released for Microsoft Windows. The fourth game in the series, Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, was developed for the Dreamcast and released in 2000, followed by ports of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Resident Evil Code: Veronica was later re-released for Dreamcast in Japan in an updated form as Code: Veronica Complete, which included slight changes, many of which revolved around story cutscenes. This updated version was later ported to the PlayStation 2 and GameCube under the title Code: Veronica X.
Despite earlier announcements that the next game in the series would be released for the PlayStation 2, which resulted in the creation of an unrelated game titled Devil May Cry, series' creator and producer Shinji Mikami decided to make the series exclusively for the GameCube. The next three games in the series—a remake of the original Resident Evil and the prequel Resident Evil Zero, both released in 2002, as well as Resident Evil 4 (2005)—were all released initially as GameCube exclusives. Resident Evil 4 was later released for Windows, PlayStation 2 and Wii.
A trilogy of GunCon-compatible light gun games known as the Gun Survivor series featured first-person gameplay. The first, Resident Evil Survivor, was released in 2000 for the PlayStation and PC but received mediocre reviews. The subsequent games, Resident Evil: Survivor 2 Code: Veronica and Resident Evil: Dead Aim, fared somewhat better. Dead Aim is the fourth Gun Survivor game in Japan, with Gun Survivor 3 being the Dino Crisis spin-off Dino Stalker. In a similar vein, the Chronicles series features first-person gameplay, albeit on an on-rails path. Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was released in 2007 for the Wii, with a follow-up, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles released in 2009 (both were later ported to the PlayStation 3 in 2012). Also in 2009, Resident Evil 5 was released for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360, becoming the best selling game of the franchise despite mixed reviews.
Resident Evil Outbreak is an online game for the PlayStation 2, released in 2003, depicting a series of episodic storylines in Raccoon City set during the same time period as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. It was the first in the series and the first survival horror title to feature cooperative gameplay. It was followed by a sequel, Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2. Raccoon City is a metropolis located in the Arklay Mountains of the Midwestern United States that succumbed to the deadly T-virus outbreak and was consequently destroyed via a nuclear missile attack issued by the United States government. The town served a critical junction for the series' progression as one of the main catalysts to Umbrella's downfall as well as the entry point for some of the series' most notable characters.
Resident Evil Gaiden is an action-adventure game for the Game Boy Color featuring a role-playing-style combat system. There have been several downloadable mobile games based on the Resident Evil series in Japan. Some of these mobile games have been released in North America and Europe through T-Mobile. At the Sony press conference during E3 2009, it was announced that Resident Evil Portable would be released for the PlayStation Portable, described as an all-new title being developed with "the PSP Go in mind" and "totally different for a Resident Evil game". However, as of 2012, no further announcements have been made, and the game is considered to have been canceled.
In March 2011, Capcom revealed the third-person shooter Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, which was developed by Slant Six Games for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows and released in March 2012. A survival horror game for the Nintendo 3DS, Resident Evil: Revelations, was released in February 2012. In October of the same year, the next numbered entry in the main series, Resident Evil 6, was released to mixed reviews, but enthusiastic pre-order sales.
In 2013, producer Masachika Kawata said the Resident Evil franchise would return to focus on elements of horror and suspense over action, adding, "Survival horror as a genre is never going to be on the same level, financially, as shooters and much more popular, mainstream games. At the same time, I think we need to have the confidence to put money behind these projects, and it doesn't mean we can't focus on what we need to do as a survival horror game to meet fan's needs." Resident Evil: Revelations 2, an episodic game set between Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, was released in March 2015. A team-based multiplayer game set in the series' universe, Umbrella Corps, was released in June 2016.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was released for Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in January 2017. Set in a dilapidated mansion in Louisiana, the game uses a first-person perspective and returns to the series' survival horror roots. Unlike Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, the gameplay emphasizes horror and exploration over action.
A remake of Resident Evil 2 was released for the PlayStation 4, Windows, and Xbox One on January 25, 2019. It uses the RE Engine, which was also used for Resident Evil 7. The remake outsold the original game within a year, selling over five million copies. Following in the success of the Resident Evil 2 remake, Capcom revealed a remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in December 2019, known as Resident Evil 3. It will include Resident Evil: Resistance, a team-based online multiplayer mode previously announced as Project Resistance.
The main storyline of the games primarily concerns a group of individuals who battle against the Umbrella Corporation as well as characters in relation to them who have developed the T-virus which, among other things, can transform humans into zombies as well as mutate other creatures into horrifying monsters.
The Arklay Mountain and Raccoon City incidents
The plot lines of the main installments up to the third game all concern the T-virus outbreak in the Arklay Mountains and its spread to nearby Raccoon City.
1996's Resident Evil for the PlayStation follows protagonists Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, who become trapped in a mansion in the mountains, trying to search for the survivors of the Bravo team of the special police unit S.T.A.R.S. They discover that the mansion conceals the Umbrella Corporation's base where they developed the T-virus with their end-goal being the creation of a bio-weapon known as the Tyrant (for whom the virus named). Playing as either of the characters, the player must navigate the mansion alternately with the help of Barry Burton or Rebecca Chambers until they are betrayed by Albert Wesker who was secretly planning to steal the T-virus. Though appearing to be killed by the Tyrant, Wesker survived and masterminded some later events behind the scenes.
Resident Evil Zero, a prequel released originally for the GameCube, details the events leading up to the first game and follows Rebecca Chambers as she is separated from the Bravo team and has to team up with fugitive Billy Coen.
Resident Evil 2 follows a few months after the events of the first game when rats start infecting the population of Raccoon City with the G-virus. Playing alternately as Claire Redfield, the sister of Chris from the first game, or Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie police officer starting on the day of the outbreak. The players must escape from the city while at the same time confronting the mad scientist William Birkin. The same plot is repeated with minor differences in the 2019 remake.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, set both before and after the events of the second game, follows Jill Valentine's escape from Raccoon City while being pursued by another Umbrella bio-weapon, the Nemesis-T Type. The plot concludes with the sterilization of Raccoon City by a nuclear strike.
Resident Evil – Code: Veronica follows Claire's journey after escaping Raccoon City. She is captured trying to break into Umbrella's Paris facility and is transported to one of their research facilities. The facility is attacked by Albert Wesker's forces and becomes also overrun with the T-virus. Claire escapes and starts looking for her brother Chris while having to deal with Alfred and Alexia Ashford. Unbeknownst to her, Chris finds his way to the island and tracks Claire to the Arctic Umbrella facility. At the game's finale, Chris defeats the genetically-modified Alexia, faces off against Wesker and escapes with Claire.
Resident Evil 4 follows Leon S. Kennedy's mission to rescue the daughter of the president of the United States, who has been captured by Los Illuminados, a cult in Spain led by Osmund Saddler. Instead of T-virus infected zombies, Leon faces off against villagers infected with the Las Plagas parasite, which are labeled as Ganados, meaning livestock in Spanish, which makes them unyieldingly murderous but also maintains their dexterity and mobility, unlike the slow, shambling undead.
Resident Evil 5 concerns Chris Redfield's attempts to stop the selling of illegal bio-weapons in Africa, helped by Sheva Alomar. The bio-weapons in question were developed using the Las Plagas. The plot eventually involves Albert Wesker's plans to destroy humanity with a viral agent based on the Progenitor Virus and T-virus Antibodies called Uroboros.
Resident Evil 6 follows multiple protagonists, including Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Ada Wong and Jake Muller, who become involved in a terrorist strike using bio-weapons which results in the zombification of the President of the United States. The story involves a new fast-acting zombie virus called the C-virus which has been weaponized by the NSA to induce fear in the general populace and focuses on the individual characters' attempts to stop it from spreading.
In Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the player controls Ethan Winters, who wants to locate his missing wife, Mia, and has to defend himself against a strange family inside their seemingly abandoned house. The game is the first main entry to be played in a first-person view and unlike the recent sequels, the game focuses more on what survival horror gaming was like prior to the action style route undertaken after Resident Evil 4 and similar games, by having the player needing to evade the enemies more often, though there are still boss battles and puzzles to solve. Later, Capcom unveiled downloadable content chapters: Not a Hero, which focuses on fast-paced action, with the returning Chris Redfield, and End of Zoe, with a more horror tone which focuses on Zoe Baker.
Related games and other media
Several other games follow the escapades of singular characters.
The Resident Evil franchise has had a variety of control schemes and gameplay mechanics throughout its history. The first game introduced tank controls to the series. In a game with tank controls, players control movement relative to the position of the player character. Pressing up (for example on a D-pad, analog stick, or cursor movement keys) on the game controller moves the character in the direction they face, down reverses them, and left and right rotates them. This differs from many 3D games, in which characters move in the direction players push from the perspective of the camera. Some critics have posited that the control scheme is intentionally clumsy, meant to enhance stress and exacerbate difficulty.
The original game and its sequel featured this tank control scheme, and it was until the third entry, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis that more action oriented controls were introduced. The third game included a 180 degree turn and dodge command that, according to GameSpot, "hinted at a new direction that the series would go in".
Resident Evil 4 introduced a third-person perspective and more action-oriented gameplay and mechanics. This was complemented by an abundance of ammunition and more action controls. Some critics claimed that this overhauled control scheme "made the game less scary." The next two games in the franchise furthered the action-oriented mechanics: Resident Evil 5 featured cooperative play, while Resident Evil 6 allowed players to move while aiming and shooting. Resident Evil 5 contained more ammo than the last games, pushing the game to be decisively more action oriented. Resident Evil 7 is the first main Resident Evil game to use a first-person perspective and to use virtual reality. It drew comparisons to modern survival horror games such as Outlast and Slender: The Eight Pages. The game was praised for rediscovering its roots, while recovering from the negative reception of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6.
Puzzle-solving has figured prominently throughout the series.
The Resident Evil franchise features video games and tie-in merchandise and products, including various films, comic books, and novels.
In 1997, Marvel Comics published a single-issue prologue comic based on the original Resident Evil, released through a promotional giveaway alongside the original PlayStation game.
In 1998, WildStorm began producing a monthly comic book series based on the first two games, titled Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, which lasted five issues. The first four issues were published by Image, while the fifth and final issue was published by Wildstorm themselves. Each issue was a compilation of short stories that were both adaptations of events from the games, as well as related side-stories. Like the Perry novels, the comics also explored events occurring beyond Resident Evil 2 (the latest game during the series' publication) and thus were contradicted by later games. Wildstorm also published a four-issue miniseries titled Resident Evil: Fire & Ice, which depicted the ordeal of Charlie Team, a third STARS team created specifically for the comic. In 2009, Wildstorm reprinted Fire & Ice in a trade paperback collection.
In Hong Kong, there has been officially licensed Biohazard manhua adaptations of Biohazard 3 and Code: Veronica by Lee Chung Hing. The latter was translated into English and published by Wildstorm as a series of four graphic novel collections.
In 2009, Wildstorm began publishing a comic book prequel to Resident Evil 5, titled Resident Evil, which centers around two original members of the BSAA named Mina Gere and Holiday Sugarman. Written by Ricardo Sanchez and illustrated by Kevin Sharpe and Jim Clark, the first issue was published on March 11, 2009. On November 11, 2009, the third issue was released and the fourth was released March 24, 2010. The sixth and final book was finally published in February 2011.
Six live-action Resident Evil films have been produced, all written and produced by Paul W. S. Anderson. These films do not follow the games' premise but feature some game characters. The series' protagonist is Alice, an original character created for these films. Despite a negative reaction from critics, the live-action film series has made over $1 billion worldwide. They are, to date, the only video game adaptations to increase the amount of money made with each successive film. The series holds the record for the "Most Live-Action Film Adaptations of a Video Game" in the 2012 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, which also described it as "the most successful movie series to be based on a video game."
Four computer animated horror films based on the Resident Evil franchise were produced. Starring in these movies are Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and Ada Wong, as well as original characters new to the canon. The four films are Biohazard 4D-Executer (2000), Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008), Resident Evil: Damnation (2012), and Resident Evil: Vendetta (2017).
Over the years, various toy companies have acquired the Resident Evil license with each producing their own unique line of Resident Evil action figures or models. These include, but are not limited to, Toy Biz, Palisades Toys, NECA, and Hot Toys.
Tokyo Marui also produced replicas of the guns used in the Resident Evil series in the form of gas blow-back airsoft guns. Some models included the STARS Beretta featured in Resident Evil 3, and the Desert Eagle in a limited edition that came with other memorabilia in a wooden case, along with the Gold Lugers from Code: Veronica and the "Samurai Edge" pistol from the Resident Evil remake. Other merchandise includes an energy drink called "T-virus Antidote".
Resident Evil Archives is a reference guide of the Resident Evil series written by staff members of Capcom. It was translated into English and published by BradyGames. The guide describes and summarizes all of the key events that occur in Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, and Code: Veronica. Along with the main plot analysis, it also contains character relationship charts, artwork, item descriptions and file transcripts for all five games. A second Archives book was later released in December 2011 and covers Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, the new scenarios detailed in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, and the 2008 CGI movie, Resident Evil: Degeneration. The second Archives volume was also translated by Capcom and published by BradyGames.
A Resident Evil theme restaurant called Biohazard Cafe & Grill S.T.A.R.S. opened in Tokyo in 2012. Halloween Horror Nights 2013, held at Universal Orlando, featured a haunted house titled Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City, based on Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
The first Resident Evil novel was Hiroyuki Ariga's novella Biohazard: The Beginning, published in 1997 as a portion of the book The True Story of Biohazard, which was given away as a pre-order bonus with the Saturn version of Biohazard. The story serves as a prelude to the events of the original Resident Evil, in which Chris investigates the disappearance of his missing friend, Billy Rabbitson.
S. D. Perry has written novelizations of the first five games, as well as two original novels taking place between games. The novels often take liberties with the plot of the games by exploring events occurring outside and beyond the games. This often meant that the novels would later be contradicted by the games and, on a few occasions. One notable addition from the novels is the original character Trent, who often served as a mysterious behind-the-scenes string-puller who aided the main characters. Perry's novels were translated and released in Japan with new cover arts by Wolfina. Perry's novels, particularly The Umbrella Conspiracy, also alluded to events in Biohazard: The Beginning, such as the disappearance of Billy Rabbitson and Brian Irons' bid to run for Mayor. A reprinting of Perry's novels with new cover artwork began in 2012 to coincide with the release of Resident Evil: Retribution and its respective novelization.
There is a trilogy of original Biohazard novels in Japan. Hokkai no Yōjū (北海の妖獣, lit. "The Strange Beast of the North Sea") was published in 1998 and was written by Kyū Asakura and the staff of Flagship. Two additional novels were published in 2002, To the Liberty by Suien Kimura and Rose Blank by Tadashi Aizawa. While no official English translation of these novels has been published yet, the last two books were translated into German and published in 2006.
Novelizations of four of the five films; Genesis, Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution, were written by Keith DeCandido, while Retribution was written by John Shirley, though Afterlife did not receive a novelization. The Genesis novel was published over two years after that film's release while the Extinction novel was released in late July 2007, two months before the film's release. There was also a Japanese novelization of the first film, unrelated to DeCandido's version, written by Osamu Makino. Makino also wrote two novels based on the game Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. The books are a two-part direct novelization of the game and have been published in Japanese and German only. The first novel which was titled Biohazard: The Umbrella Chronicles Side A in Japan and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles 1 in Germany was released on December 22, 2007. The second novel which was titled Biohazard: The Umbrella Chronicles Side B in Japan and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles 2 in Germany was published in January 2008.
Most of the games in the main Resident Evil series have been released to positive reviews. Some of the games, most notably Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, have been bestowed with multiple Game of the Year honors and often placed on lists of the best video games ever made.
In 2012, Complex ranked Resident Evil at number 22 on the list of the best video game franchises. That same year, G4tv called it "one of the most successful series in gaming history." The series has sold 95 million units worldwide as of December 31, 2019.
The Resident Evil franchise is credited with sparking a revival of the zombie genre in popular culture, leading to a renewed interest in zombie films during the 2000s. According to Kim Newman in the book Nightmare Movies (2011), "the zombie revival began in the Far East" mainly due to the 1996 Japanese zombie games Resident Evil and The House of the Dead. In 2013, George Romero said it was the video games Resident Evil and House of the Dead "more than anything else" that popularised his zombie concept in early 21st-century popular culture.
In a 2015 interview with Huffington Post, screenwriter-director Alex Garland credited the Resident Evil series as a primary influence on his script for the horror film 28 Days Later (2002), and credited the first Resident Evil game for revitalizing the zombie genre. Screenwriter Edgar Wright cited Resident Evil 2 as a primary influence on his zombie comedy film Shaun of the Dead (2004), with the film's star and co-writer Simon Pegg also crediting the original Resident Evil game with starting the zombie revival in popular culture. In addition to the video games, the Resident Evil film adaptations also contributed to the revival of zombie films, along with 28 Days Later.
After the Resident Evil video games sparked a renewed interest in the zombie genre, it was followed by zombie films such as 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead (2004). The Resident Evil films, 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake all set box office records for the zombie genre, reaching levels of commercial success not seen since the original Dawn of the Dead (1978). They were followed by other zombie films such as Shaun of the Dead, 28 Weeks Later (2007), Zombieland (2009), Cockneys vs Zombies (2012), and World War Z (2013), as well as zombie-themed graphic novels and television shows such as The Walking Dead and The Returned, and books such as World War Z (2006), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) and Warm Bodies (2010).
The Resident Evil film adaptations also went on to become the highest-grossing film series based on video games, after they grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. The zombie revival trend was popular across different media up until the mid-2010s. Since then, zombie films have declined in popularity during the late 2010s, but zombie video games have remained popular, as seen with the commercial success of the Resident Evil 2 remake and Days Gone in 2019.
- Genetic engineering in fiction
- List of zombie video games
- Dino Crisis, another horror series by Capcom
- Onimusha, another series by Capcom with similar gameplay
- The Evil Within, other horror game made by Shinji Mikami
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