The first time I saw a Licker, I almost jumped out of my skin. The room was dark save for the crackling glare of the stocky Panasonic TV set in front of me, and I was far too little to be playing Resident Evil 2. The PlayStation controller felt slippery in my sweaty palms as I ambled through Raccoon City Police Department, guided the whole way by my kind older brother who pointed out zombies before they could take a chunk out of my heroic Leon S. Kennedy.
That is, of course, until a sprawling figure crawled across the window. It happened so quickly, nothing more than a horrifying blur as I turned a corner while navigating the labyrinthine corridors. I yelped, chucking the controller forcefully at my poor brother as if to say: "take over for me while I fetch my inhaler". Resident Evil 2 was the first game that scared the crap out of me, and I'm not the only survival horror fan with a renewed sense of urgency to relive it.
Chasing the dragon
The horror renaissance is very much upon us. Remakes are nothing new in the video game world, and anyone who's watched Scream 2 can recite the rules for any self-respecting slasher sequel by heart. That said, this renewed vigor for survival horror in video games hasn't been seen since the early 2000 when the genre truly took off.
It's no exaggeration to say that 2023 is looking like an utter dream if you love the stuff of nightmares. The long-awaited Dead Space remake launched in January, charming us with gleefully gory necromorphs to slice to pieces aboard the abandoned Ishimura. At the time of writing, Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake is just around the corner, and that impressive chainsaw demo already has me hooked. We're also looking forward to seeing what Bloober Team will make of tortured protagonist James Sunderland in the PS5-exclusive Silent Hill 2 remake, and although it's not quite survival horror, I'm already loving what I've played of Dead Island 2 despite it being more than a decade since the last game. So what is it about the genre that we find so captivating? Why is it that after all this time, we still love the thrills and chills of classic horror games?
One of the many reasons is the incredible nostalgia hit. Playing Resident Evil 2 as a kid gave me that adrenaline rush of doing something I wasn't supposed to do, and I get the same delicious brain buzz from playing Resident Evil 2 remake today. The fixed camera angles and tank controls have been left in the 90s, but my love for exploring the RPD has not.
The sense of nostalgia I have when looking back at Resident Evil 2 is a powerful thing, something that paints my opinion of it to this day. The same can be said for any other title that consecrates a "gaming first" for you, or stands out as special. Whether you picked up Resident Evil a little too young like I did or discovered the series at a more appropriate age, you never forget your first big scare. Maybe by playing remakes of our old favorites, we hope to glimpse those moments once more.
Next generation horrors
Nostalgia is one reason behind the horror resurgence of recent years, but it's far from the only one. Dramatic gothic color palettes, brooding characters, memorable boss battles, and intricate plots simply look and feel better on newer machines pushing more powerful tech. The fact is that remakes breathe new life into a game or series that might otherwise fade into obscurity as its players grow up. Not everyone has access to a Gamecube or PS2 these days, so it doesn't do any good to grumble at the younguns over the rim of your beer and mutter about how the best games came before their time.
Good remakes aren't a case of rehashing something old, and I'm tired of explaining that they're not just for people who played the originals. To me, they are about enhancing classic titles and elevating them to modern standards, making them accessible to hundreds of thousands of current-gen console users and horror fans in the process. Sure, those of us who are lucky enough to still have a Dreamcast gathering dust quietly in the garage might beg to differ, but as a community, horror fans gain nothing from gatekeeping stuff we love.
And it's not just horror games that are undergoing a resurgent boom. Horror remakes, requels, adaptations, and reboots are everywhere right now, from the huge success of The Last of Us on HBO to 1979's Halloween receiving three direct sequels in the last six years. Scream is alive and well even without Sidney Prescott, Evil Dead Rise breathes uncanny new life into the gory 80s film franchise, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's asymmetrical horror game from developer Sumo Digital finally has a release date.
20 years later, playing the Resident Evil 2 remake felt very much like coming home. I still can't land a headshot to save my life, but seeing that Licker crawl across the window of the RPD was every bit as thrilling as I remembered. There's never been a better time to live, breathe, and play horror, and remakes are what keep the genre alive and relevant to this day.
Sink your fangs into the best horror games if you're hungry for more.