Is it really 25 years since the Spencer Mansion opened its doors to Jill, Chris, Barry, and Wesker?
Very few video game franchises manage to get to a landmark anniversary like this and still be as relevant as they once were, but Resident Evil is undoubtedly as big a deal as it ever was, making it the most famous horror game series in the world. Sure, there was a time where it seemed Resi would fade away having forgotten its roots, but it came back snarling and biting with the same furiosity as before.
Through the ups and downs, the spinoffs, the rebirth, the movies, the evolutions, and the boulder-punching, Resident Evil has given its fans so many memories, good and bad. Plenty of us here at Bloody Disgusting are big fans, with longstanding affection for the impact the series has had on our lives, so we felt it only right to write about some of our favorite Resident Evil things.
Micheal Pementel: I had been aware of the Resident Evil games for years, but RE4 was my proper introduction to the series. That initial opening – heading into the small European town – still gives me a chilling joy to this day. I’m fond of the gameplay as well, making for a more combat-centric approach, while not losing an ounce of suspense and creepiness. I can replay this one over and over again.
Neil Bolt: When Resident Evil 2 came out, I was just starting to become obsessed with zombies thanks to Romero and Fulci, and before I ever got to play the game, I owned a game guide magazine that featured a detailed walkthrough of Resident Evil 2’s various scenarios. I must have pored over every image in that guide countless times and by the time I had a PlayStation and a copy of the game, I felt like I knew it inside out. Every monster, puzzle, boss fight, and save room burned into my brain.
Finally playing Resident Evil 2 was everything I hoped it would be. There’s such a sense of scale to the depiction of a city in bloody chaos, with its limitations cleverly concealed by expert level design that continually gave glimpses at the bigger picture whilst guiding you down particular paths towards unearthly terror. The police station remains my favorite location in the entire series (the remake does a great job with it too) and the roster of evil is superbly memorable (Mr. X! Lickers! Birkin! Irons! Sewer Croc!). Yes, nostalgia for a formative moment in my love of horror is a big reason behind my opinion, but it’s been an unfaltering opinion for over two decades.
Aaron Boehm: While I did play the original games when they came out and will always appreciate them, I feel like the more modern Resident Evil games are the ones that I find myself wanting to return to, particularly Resident Evil 7. In the same way Resident Evil 4 reinvented the series by changing several of its core features, Resident Evil 7 was able to capture the classic feel of the original game with a completely different setting and perspective.
Instead of pulling from classic zombie movies, RE7 feels more like a combination of Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the Evil Dead, full of horrific unkillable hillbillies, gooey humanoid monstrosities, and a chainsaw duel for the ages. The game took iconic elements like tight resource management and compact but expanding level design and combined it with the more modern feel of games like Alien: Isolation or Outlast. It was so hard to believe this was a Resident Evil game based on the reveal trailer, but after playing it through you can see the DNA of the series in every part of the game.
Harrison Abbott: At this point, I’m better acquainted with the environments of Resident Evil 4 than I am with my hometown. I can pinpoint the location of each blue medallion; instinctively sidestep every ambush, and anticipate traps without even thinking. It’s a testament to the game’s ludicrous staying power that this intimate familiarity hasn’t resulted in me growing bored with it. Quite the opposite, I seem to have a compulsion to own the bloody thing on every platform going, and its impact has yet to dull. I still panic during the opening village raid, I’m still giddy whenever I line up a bunch of headshots with the sniper rifle, and I still can’t shake my insatiable addiction to tinkering with Leon’s gear. When it’s inevitably released on the PlayStation 5, you can bet that I’ll be purchasing it all over again.
Mike Wilson: Of all the games in Resident Evil‘s history, I have to go back to the original Resident Evil 2 each time. Sure, you could say that the remake surpasses it (admittedly, it does in a lot of ways), but I just always love diving into the game that takes the original Resident Evil and surpasses it in every way. The graphics, sound, gameplay, and atmosphere remain some of the best the genre had to offer during that console era, and it remains my go-to if I ever think of firing up my PlayStation.
Luiz Coelho: RE2 scared me the most and I replay RE4 every year, but if every RE game was stored in a single burning warehouse and I could only save one, it would have to be the Resident Evil remake. Reliving the Spencer Mansion incident with beautifully updated graphics and remixed gameplay makes this the closest thing to a truly perfect Survival Horror experience. The save room theme is also the best track in the whole series!
Trace Thurman: The cream of the crop is the original Resident Evil, specifically the 2002 remake for the GameCube. While many people will lament the tank controls (an issue that was somewhat remedied in the HD remaster back in 2015), they work in the game’s favor when you take into account just how much they add to the complete and utter sense of dread you feel as you move from room to room in the Spencer Mansion.
I can still feel the sweat that dripped off my brow as I watched each and every door-opening cinematic, just waiting to see what horrors awaited me on the other side. Resident Evil sports a truly chilling atmosphere and the 19-year-old remake simply looks amazing, even by 2021 standards. It also features many of the franchise’s best moments: the iconic first zombie encounter, Yawn, the dogs jumping through the window, Lisa Trevor, Wesker’s betrayal, and the Tyrant. The 1996 version may have helped define survival horror, but the 2002 remake perfected it (and toned down the original’s campiness). It is hands-down the scariest game I have ever played.
Trace Thurman: Without a doubt, it’s Russell Mulcahy’s Resident Evil: Extinction. Everyone loves to hype up Apocalypse because it acted as a course-correction for the soon-to-be franchise after the original film was maligned for bearing little resemblance to the source material. But while Apocalypse features the highest quantity of game elements in the film franchise, it still fails at being a film, featuring limp direction, bizarre editing, atrocious dialogue and wooden acting. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just bad.
Luckily, Mulcahy (Highlander) was brought in to direct the third franchise entry, and boy oh boy is it fantastic. While the desert setting may turn off franchise purists, Extinction added a little something different to the franchise that we hadn’t really seen before. Plus, Mulcahy has a sense of style that Apocalypse’s Alexander Witt was sorely lacking. Extinction focuses on the characters in a way that the first two films did not. Whereas those films emphasized the situation that the characters were in, Extinction chooses to put the emotional plight of its characters front and center, and it’s all the better for it. That’s not to say that Extinction slacks off in the action department. From the opening scene, that, if you saw it in theaters, makes you think the wrong reel was put in the projector, to the outstanding crow set-piece, to the Vegas attack, to the climactic Tyrant battle (and the callback to the original film’s laser room!), it’s all a total blast. Extinction may not be very Resident Evil-y, but taken on its own terms it’s easily the best film of the lot. Plus, daylight horror!
Neil Bolt: I have a complicated relationship with the Jovovich era of Resident Evil films in that I detest all but two of them, and even then, only one of those is actually quite good. That film is Resident Evil: Extinction.
Most of these films don’t do justice to the original characters when they use them (which is saying something as they’re hardly the most nuanced bunch) and only make half-arsed nods to the games. Extinction’s greatest achievement is that it tries to tell a new story in the Resident Evil mold (a properly post-apocalyptic Resi under the desert sun!) and manages to give us a badass Claire Redfield. I’ll even forgive it for ripping off Day of the Dead!
Micheal Pementel: I really enjoy all the Resident Evil movies, but not everyone has grabbed ahold of me like Apocalypse. I love watching Alice go up against Nemesis (who is a big personal favorite), and the overall action set pieces are top-notch in my book.
Harrison Abbott: I’m all for cinematic adaptations that take liberties with their source material, but I’ve never understood why Paul W.S Anderson chose to disregard almost everything that made Resident Evil popular to begin with. His films are too far removed from the original games in my opinion, retaining only superficial details like character names and a handful of monster designs.
That being said, the first movie remains something of a guilty pleasure when taken on its own terms. It’s got a neat premise (mercenaries trapped in a zombie-infested facility, under the watch of a HAL-9000-esque A.I), enjoyable action, and – unlike the later entries – a straightforward narrative that keeps me invested until the end. Oh, and the laser grid sequence is pretty cool too.
Luiz Coelho: The first film is fun and I appreciate the goofy thrills of Extinction and Afterlife, but Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse is my jam. It hasn’t aged as well as some of the other films in the franchise, but Nemesis, lickers, and a post-apocalyptic setting make this one oodles of fun. It also gets bonus points for scaring the crap out of a young me with its ill-advised ad campaign in the Toronto Subway System back in 2004.
Mike Wilson: I have to go back to the one that started it all in 2002’s Resident Evil. I wasn’t too keen on Paul W.S. Anderson eventually carving his own mythology into things, but honestly, this was one game-to-film adaptation that got it right. Plus, that laser field scene ranks up there (for me, at least) as one of the coolest-looking death scenes in a film ever.
Aaron Boehm: I’m not the biggest fan of the movies, but I do have a soft spot for Resident Evil: Apocalypse. While the first movie made some interesting changes, it didn’t capture the video games in the same way the follow-up did. Apocalypse did a good job of marrying the elements that the movie franchise wanted to focus on, like the over-the-top action Alice is capable of, with more classic elements of the video game, like RE3’s Nemesis. The design of the Nemesis translates perfectly to film, and it’s truly epic to see such an iconic character brought to life.
While most of the other movies that I’ve seen in the series kinda run together for me, standout scenes like the church fight against the Lickers make me remember Apocalypse more distinctly, and fondly, than the others.
Neil Bolt: In both the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3, the introduction of the Hunters is a very unpleasant surprise. Just as you’re getting to grips with the growing insanity of the situation, along come these amphibian/reptile monstrosities to change the pace.
It’s the blunt lethality of their sharp talons that does it I think. The first time I saw my character beheaded by one of these screeching beasts was somehow worse than the countless other deaths that came before it.
Luiz Coelho: The Iron Maidens from Resident Evil 4! I’m not sure if it’s the twitching animation or their infuriating spike attack, but they still give me the heebie-jeebies no matter how many times I kick their regenerating asses.
Mike Wilson: The first time that I saw pictures in GamePro of a Licker, I was hooked. The design at the time (to me, at least) looked like an awesome combination of Marvel’s Carnage and Venom (because the 90s), and the first time you actually meet a Licker in RE2 is just so surreal. Even to this day, I still love the design, and it showing up in the first Resident Evil film made me giddy as all hell.
Micheal Pementel: Hands down a true badass. A relentless menace who charges full force at his prey. Let alone his awesome imagery, Nemesis’ terrifying aura and strength have made him one of my all-time favorite villains in the medium of gaming.
Aaron Boehm: It’s so interesting to me that a game that is known for being about zombies manages to have such a wide variety of terrifying and challenging enemies. My favorite of these twisted creatures is the Licker. The crawling, long-tongued monstrosity has a simple design, but the way it moves through the space and attacks the player gives such a strong variation on the standard combat encounter of the game.
The game’s shambling, slow-moving zombies often lull you into a false sense of security, making you confident that you can take most enemies one-on-one. When a Licker shows up, their quick movement changes that pace and immediately shatters your confidence, causing you to flail and panic as this horrifying creature approaches you at shocking speed. Even when you have more precise control over your aiming in the Resident Evil 2 Remake, Lickers still provide a worthy challenge when they show up.
Trace Thurman: This was a tough one, because the humanoid leeches (and the music cue that accompanies them) in Resident Evil 0 are the creepiest enemies in the franchise. That being said, I’m going to have to go with Lisa Trevor, who stands apart from all the other monsters if only because her backstory is one of the most detailed and the most tragic.
An addition to the 2002 GameCube remake of Resident Evil, Lisa Trevor was the daughter of the Spencer Mansion’s architect, George Trevor. When the mansion was completed in 1967, Lisa and her mother Jessica were abducted and used as test subjects for the Progenitor virus (a precursor to the t-Virus). Jessica didn’t take to it, so Umbrella killed her and brought in a doppelgänger for Lisa to spend time with. Lisa, whose body had adapted to the virus, saw through the ruse and promptly tore off the doppelgänger’s face. After 20 years of testing she served no further use to Umbrella, and was left to roam the tunnels underneath the mansion, collecting the faces of her unlucky victims and attaching them to her own.
In the game, Lisa Trevor is an unstoppable monster that cannot be killed. All you can do is avoid her as she stumbles toward you, dragging her chains on the ground and letting out a devastating moan. Of course, we learn in The Umbrella Chronicles that Albert Wesker put Lisa down for good, but Ms. Trevor undoubtedly left a lasting mark on the franchise, with one of the most memorable (and disturbing) documents being one of Lisa’s very own
Harrison Abbott: Whilst most of the creatures in Resident Evil rely on their intimidating appearances to freak you out, the Regeneradors manage to outdo them all without even being seen. Their horrendous breathing (which increases in volume as they inch ever closer) still fills me with dread to this day, despite the fact that I’ve killed them innumerable times before. Likewise, knowing that you just need an infrared scope to identify their parasitic weak points is only a cold comfort when you’ve got one of the twitchy abominations standing right in front of you. After all, they’re utterly bloodcurdling to look upon and can instantly regrow any tissue that you destroy within seconds.
Detractors who criticize Resi 4 for being too much of a departure from the series’ horror roots obviously haven’t faced these mutants in a while. Otherwise, they’d rethink their position.
Mike Wilson: I have to give it to Nemesis. I know, everyone loves Nemesis, but come on, it’s not hard to see why. The dude scared the crap out of little ol’ me in the original Resident Evil 3, and is just as scary in the remake. The iconic “S.T.A.R.S…”, the way he shows up to wreck Brad Vickers in the original game (in shocking fashion), and frankly, the guy is Umbrella’s T-800. How can you possibly not be paranoid of this guy showing up and hounding you?
Harrison Abbott: The worlds of Resident Evil are invariably hostile, so it’s only natural that players grow attached to those rare friendly faces they encounter along the way: like Barry Burton; Ada Wong; or Carlos Oliveira. An especially genial contact is RE4’s Merchant, who gives Leon a much-needed break from all the Ganado-slaying and booby-trap dodging, by pitching up his shop at regular intervals. A remarkably jovial fellow, this unnamed vendor always puts customer-convenience first: appearing wherever he’s needed; buying any old tat that you wish to offload (and cordially pretending that it’s a remarkable find); and selling rocket launchers to those speed-runners who need to hastily dispense with bosses.
Not only does he preside over one of the most compelling economies in all of gaming, but he also organizes fun little distractions for Leon. Just to take his mind off things. For instance, he scatters a load of collectible medallions around the village and even sets up a carnival shooting gallery, where he adorably offers up a small figurine of himself as a top prize. What a standup guy!
Luiz Coelho: From rookie police officer at the wrong place at the wrong time to becoming a bad enough dude to rescue the president’s daughter, it’s hard not to root for Leon S. Kennedy. The JRPG-protagonist hair is a bit much, but Leon’s still my favorite RE character and I’d love to see him show up again in future games.
Trace Thurman: Ada Wong because, who doesn’t love a good femme fatale? I’m still not certain how she survived her fall at the end of Resident Evil 2, but I’m sure glad she did! Ada’s duplicitous nature is one of the most fascinating things about her, and while her betrayal was a true shock in Resident Evil 2 (even though we should have expected it since it mirrors Wesker’s betrayal in Resident Evil), Capcom has wisely capitalized on her survival by making her a foil for one of its other best characters: Leon S. Kennedy. Whether she’s on the sidelines in Resident Evil 4 or gets her own campaign in the lackluster Resident Evil 6, Ada never fails to make an impression. She always leaves you wanting more, and that’s never a bad thing.
Aaron Boehm: To me, Resident Evil games are often more defined by their antagonists than their heroes, and there’s no villain in the series I like more than Nemesis. While he doesn’t have complicated motivation or personality, this imposing monster more than makes an impact on the series. His relentless pursuit of the player gives Resident Evil 3 a constant feeling of dread, not knowing when the unkillable beast will show up again to torment the player.
Not only does he set the tone for the game with his unpredictable presence, but he has one of the most imposing looks of any character in the series. The big leather jacket. The melted face with the horrific mouth. Everything about him makes him stand apart from other monsters, including being intelligent in ways that other creatures aren’t. In addition to being able to wield weapons, like his signature rocket launcher that defines his silhouette, the fact that he’s constantly tracking the player, while bellowing ‘STAAAAAAAAARRRSS’ menacingly, makes him that much more threatening than any other villain that you just happen to run into.
Neil Bolt: The Master of Unlocking just pips Leon and Claire for me. A lot of that comes down to the novelizations of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3 by S.D. Perry, which really enhanced Jill’s backstory, and helped to place her as the series’ own Ellen Ripley/Sarah Connor type.
While I’m not the biggest fan of the Resident Evil 3 remake, I really like what they did with Jill as a character, and it only strengthened my opinion that she’s the best ass-kicker of the lot.
Micheal Pementel: I won’t spoil anything in case you’ve yet to play Resident Evil Remake, but Lisa Trevor? Wow – what an excellent character. Lisa is the embodiment of what makes monsters so fascinating; not representing anything of a societal significance, but of a personal hell. She is a brilliantly tragic monster who is terrifying – and yet your heart will break for her.
Favorite Resident Evil Moment
Harrison Abbott: The indisputable highlight of Resident Evil 7 is the Marguerite Baker encounter. This is easily one of my favorite boss battles in all of gaming. The final form adopted by the Baker family matriarch is a creative instance of body horror (what with her painfully elongated arms and the grotesque wasp hive protruding from her crotch) and the way in which she scuttles around the greenhouse like an oversized insect is truly unnerving. I’ll never forget how excited I was the first time I participated in this intense bug hunt, nervously scanning for Marguerite hiding in crawlspaces, dashing past windows, or lurking directly above me on the ceiling. It was the moment I knew for sure that the developers had cracked the formula and that Resident Evil had finally recovered its horror mojo. And it felt so good to be back.
Luiz Coelho: Facing off against Dr. Salvador and his chainsaw in RE4! While the game’s chainsaw-wielding enemies eventually turn into more of a nuisance than a legitimate threat, you never forget your first decapitation.
Aaron Boehm: The chaotic and wild showdown against Jack Baker in the early part of Resident Evil 7 is one of the wildest and most intense boss fights I’ve ever played. The garage you’re trapped in doesn’t provide much room to get around, making for a claustrophobic encounter that gets more intense as you slowly realize what you’re up against.
Everything in the fight has such a natural progression. You get a gun at the beginning of the scene, so of course, your first instinct is to run around and try to collect ammo to unload into him. Panic starts to set in as you realize that the bullets have little effect, then you come across car keys. There’s a car in the middle of the garage, but games like this don’t usually let you drive, right? You try it anyway, and sure enough, you can drive around in an attempt to run him down in the cramped space. Even after you think you’ve finished the job, he does the classic horror movie villain move of emerging from the flaming wreckage for one last scare.
The first time I played through the game, everything went smoothly, but I was showing a friend this fight and confidently walking him through the steps. To my surprise, I hesitated a bit when getting in the car, and Jack threw me out and started driving around. I thought I knew everything about how to handle this boss fight, so when it threw this curveball at me, I was ecstatic. I love it when games plan for player actions that not everyone will experience, and this was such a great little moment to discover, elevating an already great encounter to a legendary one.
Trace Thurman: The reveal of Wesker’s henchperson In Resident Evil 5 to be none other than a brainwashed/chest-robot-bug-implanted Jill Valentine is one of Resident Evil’s best moments. Not only was it a fun way to bring back one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, but it added some emotional depth to the (admittedly frustrating) boss fight as you try to subdue Jill without killing her. It all makes for a truly exciting set-piece, with the only real bummer being that Jill has nothing to do after this sequence. #JusticeForJill.
Mike Wilson: The most memorable moment for me was in Resident Evil 4, but it’s rather odd and infamous: the boulder chase. I know, you’re probably wondering why the hell I’m going with this one. Well, to be honest, the first time I experienced this moment, I yelled “Seriously?!” and ended up dying. I never got the whole purpose of quicktime events, and the ludicrousness of “mash ‘X’ to not die” while running from a boulder (with a slight undercrank in the speed, mind you) was something that stuck with me, for some reason.
Micheal Pementel: I have few fears, but one of them is large bodies of water. I will swim in an ocean during the day, but hell no when it comes to night. With this in mind, it is nerve-racking making one’s way to the control room where the Neptune sharks are. I get sweaty palms crossing this room: You’re walking, a small ripple glides across the surface, and then comes a big ass shark to gnaw you in half.
Neil Bolt: Genuinely the toughest category to pick just one thing for. The dread of realizing Nemesis will just pop up at a moment’s notice? Facing monstrous versions of regular animals (this never gets old for me)? Wesker not being dead? All big moments in a sea of them, but my pick is the opening of Resident Evil 2.
Seeing the carnage of Umbrella’s actions unleashed on Racoon City as you try to make your way to the R.P.D. is something that is permanently imprinted on my mind. Finally making it into the police station is strangely relieving considering the last time I’d entered a building in a Resident Evil game, it was far far worse than outside. The same is certainly true of the police station.