Why Resident Evil 7 Is the Franchise's Scariest Game

2021 has been a huge year for the Resident Evil franchise as the iconic survival horror video game franchise celebrates its 25th anniversary with the launch of its latest installment Resident Evil: Village, a CG anime miniseries Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness and an upcoming cinematic reboot with Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. In the spirit of Halloween, let's look back on the video game series' most terrifying installment to date: 2017's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

Not only is Resident Evil 7 easily the scariest game in the series, but it also released at a time when the franchise desperately needed to find itself and return to its horror-fueled roots. RE7 introduced protagonist Ethan Winters in an adventure that initially seemed to be entire separate from the wider Resident Evil world.

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After receiving a mysterious email from his missing wife Mia, Ethan ventures into the Dulvey estate deep in the Louisiana bayou only to discover that the Baker family living inside are not only responsible for Mia's disappearance three years prior, but have also transformed into something monstrous and virtually unstoppable. If Ethan has any hopes to survive the night and escape the estate, he will have to keep his wits about him while searching the mansion for any way to effectively fight back against the evil festering within its walls.

When RE7 came out, Capcom was at a crossroads with the franchise following the lukewarm reception towards 2012's Resident Evil 6, which fans and critics said strayed too far from its horror roots and had relatively uninspired gameplay. Active development on what would become Resident Evil 7 began in 2014, with developers wanting the franchise to return to its stripped-down, survival horror roots and keeping the game largely confined to a single setting like the original game.

Resident Evil 7 became the series' first main installment to employ a first-person perspective, providing a more immersive experience and boasting a new gameplay engine (aptly dubbed the RE Engine and developed in-house by Capcom) to take advantage of contemporary gaming hardware. The game's fear factor is largely fueled by this shift to first-person and the technical capabilities provided by the RE Engine.

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To more effectively immerse players, the lighting effects and sound design instill a deep sense of dread as Ethan navigates the Dulvey estate with only a small flashlight while the ambient noise draws players deeper into the experience. The environment is gorgeously rendered, lending a real, lived-in feeling with rooting interiors that players can practically smell through the sheer amount of detail provided, with The Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre serving as cinematic influences.

Then, there's the game itself. For much of the prologue and first act, Ethan either only has light weapons or is unarmed. This lends a sense of tension even before he's being hunted relentlessly through the mansion's halls, with the chase made all the scarier by Jack Baker taunting Ethan as he runs and hides. Even after obtaining the game's early weapons, Jack often shrugs off attacks, while his wife Marguerite brings her own brand of body horror to the proceedings. To make matters even more harrowing, Resident Evil 7 sometimes forces players to venture into areas they know are full of hostile elements before subverting expectations with a fresh set of scares.

Resident Evil was facing an existential crisis of sorts following the launch of Resident Evil 6 and, over the course of its five-year development cycle, Biohazard was able to get the series back on track with major scares. In fact, Resident Evil Village's developers have said feedback that RE7 was too scary for many casual gamers led to the decision to tone those elements down for the latest game. However, considering the franchise needed to find its footing and return to its horror roots at the time, Resident Evil 7 needed to be scary -- and Biohazard certainly delivers on that more than any other Resident Evil game to date.

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Sam Stone (8276 Articles Published)

Sam Stone is a 10th level pop culture guru living just outside of Washington, DC who knows an unreasonable amount about The Beatles. You can follow him on Twitter @samstoneshow and ask him about Nintendo, pop punk, and Star Trek.

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