Survival Horrigins Part 2: Birth of a Genre

1996, Clinton is still in office, the economy is going strong and the Spice Girls release their first single. Things are looking good everywhere and the world of video games is no different.

Resident Evil releases on March 22nd. In addition to spawning countless sequels and spinoffs and two different movie series, this game established the survival horror genre as we know it today.

Because Scary Spice... Get it? GET IT????
Because Scary Spice… Get it? GET IT????

Resident Evil was the first game to label itself survival horror. It was also the first game to pull in every major element of survival horror in one place, elements that still make up the core of the genre today. The game has been re-released and remastered several times and is even coming out again early next year with updated controls. It is one of those games that is just that important. It is one of the games that defined the PlayStation and without it, cutscenes, voice acting and game development in general would likely not look quite like they do today.

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The critical and commercial success of Resident Evil paved the way for any number of variations and expansions on the genre. Silent Hill, took atmosphere to a whole new level by introducing fog and using interesting camera angles. Parasite Eve, mixed Resident Evil style exploration and puzzles with Final Fantasy style gameplay. Clock Tower made a survival horror game based completely around puzzles. It took away your weapon so your only defense was to run and hide. All of these games, good and bad, pushed the genre forward.

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Many amazing horror games came out of this generation. It was a time of explosive growth and experimentation, much like the indie game scene today. The early years of a new genre’s existence are often the most diverse, especially if it is successful, and it is difficult to imagine publishers supporting this level of creativity in survival horror today.

This explosive growth went all the way through the rest of the ‘90s and into the early 2000s. That is when the genre began to show some fatigue. Some franchises saw too many entries too close together, clones flooded the market and the onset of the First Person Shooter made it hard for anything else to stand out. The next generation would separate the men from the boys.

Join us next time for Survival Horrigins Part 3: Rise and Fall.


Mike Bertrand is MONG’s foremost expert on survival horror games and will be happily dropping knowledge bombs on your faces all month. Tweets.

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