In 1996 Capcom released Resident Evil for the original PlayStation, changing horror gaming and horror as a whole. Games such as Sweet Home (1989) for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Alone in The Dark (1992) had been out for years, but with Resident Evil’s dark atmosphere, violence and terror, the game was in a league of its own.
Horror games take the visual media established with horror film and push it beyond simple visuals and into the interactive.
To clarify what I mean, I can use a horror movie such as Scream as an example, which was also released in 1996. Scream is a great movie in its own right. However, Resident Evil had something Scream did not. While a movie like Scream has violence and an imposing atmosphere, the viewer is always a passive observer, only along for the ride. By contrast, in Resident Evil the player directly controls Jill or Chris exploring a mansion infested with monsters.
In horror games, you can’t look away when things get intense, and you can’t just yell at the characters to stop being stupid because now you are the one in control. Silent Hill 2, which was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001, takes the sense of terror even further than Resident Evil does. While Resident Evil was an action horror, Silent Hill 2’s horror was much more atmospheric and imposing.
While Resident Evil’s mansion was highly detailed and had frightening style to spare, Silent Hill 2’s atmosphere is nothing if not oppressive. Throughout Silent Hill 2 the player explores the town of Silent Hill, which is covered in a thick fog as a soundtrack filled with droning sounds and ominous effects plays in the background
Games like Silent Hill 2 specifically invoke feelings of being watched or even stalked in a safe environment without any unfortunate real-life implications.
Until technology advances to the point where media and reality are indistinguishable, the closest one can get to escaping a pursuer with no risk to their person or safely wandering through a frightening location is through horror games. Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil allow us to get even closer to horror than a film does.
Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil are aging, but the remake of Resident Evil 2 released in 2019 only intensified those feelings.
In Resident Evil 2 (2019) you attempt to escape a police station infested with zombies with all the wonders of modern technology to enhance the experience. The environment is dark and frightening as you explore the police station. You can hear each footstep or creak of the building. As the game progresses, you are eventually hunted by an unstoppable monster throughout the police station, creating intense feelings likely not experienced since the days of being hunted by ancient lions in the Savannah.
Horror games let us experience paranoia, fear or adrenaline on a level that is difficult to replicate on a movie screen. Because it is a video game, Silent Hill 2’s atmosphere and feelings of dread forces the player to continue. They can’t look away from the screen or sink into their chair.
Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 (2019) makes the player defend themselves from attackers in a way they could only watch a terrified teenager or action star do so on screen.