Although the PlayStation had been out for around two years in the States, I hadn’t gotten my hands on it yet in 1997. Frankly, I’m thinking that my brother and I were too busy with the Nintendo 64 at the time, because Goldeneye 007 was basically our entire lives for longer than I’d care to admit. However, I’m 99 percent sure that we finally got our PSX for Christmas in ’97. I believe this because Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back had come out two months earlier, and that was one of the must-have games at the time. That being said, I could be a year off—we may have gotten it in ’98 for all I know—but none of that really matters.
What does matter is that we eventually owned Resident Evil and it scared the living shit out of me. Unless anyone can tell me differently, it was the first game to do so, though DOOM II was a close second. The funny thing is, I don’t think I even tried to play RE until a good six months after we first got it, mostly because my brother was obsessed with the game. By that I mean he completed it in every possible way—the same held true when we received Resident Evil 2—and I was happy to watch him to do so.
There was something oddly calming about the game at first, perhaps because of the desolate setting. For those who don’t remember, you (as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, depending on who you wanted to play as) were placed in a mansion in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Raccoon City. And at the beginning, everything seems relatively chill. Sure there’s some slightly haunting music and you and your S.T.A.R.S. team can tell something is up, but you didn’t really know what that was.
That was, of course, until your first interaction with the infected beasts lurking within the mansion. I distinctly remember my brother and I nearly losing our minds the first time those damn dogs jumped through the windows of the mansion, a “gotcha!” scare up there with the Licker character who jumps through the two-way mirror in Resident Evil 2. But here’s the thing: you knew something was up in RE2 because it was the goddamned sequel! Clearly something was going to jump out at you at some point; it was just a matter of when that would happen.
But in the first Resident Evil? Forget about it. I wasn’t ready for some game to scare the bejesus out of me to the point where my hockey-playing brother also screeched quite loudly. But there we were and, of course, he pressed on through the mansion. What happened during the remainder of the RE experience was a continuation of the “gotcha!” scares with straight-up creepy-as-hell moments. Like, giant tarantulas? Are you out of your fucking mind Capcom? DON’T YOU KNOW I’M ARACHNOPHOBIC?! How about your first run-in with Tyrant? Yeah, that definitely didn’t give me a nightmare or two. Sweet lord.
The funny thing about the terror caused by RE was that it reached a Stockholm Syndrome-like level with my psyche. While these creatures (and the ones in subsequent titles) were doing their job—by that I mean being horrifying—they also earned a special place in my heart. I became a dedicated fan of the series, playing each and every installment that I could to death, though I have to admit Resident Evil 3 didn’t really do it for me. Code Veronica, though? One of the best excuses to own a Dreamcast, in my opinion.
I also read all of the books based on the video games, though that same affinity didn’t hold true when the films were eventually released. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good horror movie—and by good I mean bad—but this was a franchise so near and dear to me that I couldn’t fathom it being a so-bad-it’s-good film. Dramatic, I know, but I couldn’t help it. Maybe I’ll get around to seeing them one day, though if I want a zombie-related movie scare I’ll just watch 28 Days Later.
Anyway, feel free to share some of your favorite horror-related gaming experiences in the comments. I look forward to ‘em. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming HD remake of the first Resident Evil, even if they’re not releasing it on Wii U. Ah well, time to get an Xbox One or PS4.