Imagine a dark house. You walk cautiously down the hall with shotgun in hand, nervously scanning from side to side for the enemy. There's a faint creak as your feet tentatively weigh down the aging wood. Then, suddenly, zombies! Everywhere! Gradually stumbling down the hallway in your general direction! "Uhhh. Uhhh. Uhhh," the leader says over and over. You try to run, but end up turning around in circles out of confusion! You try to shoot, but you've forgotten to hold down the shoulder button to draw the gun which is already in your hand!! The zombies are all over you now, biting, ripping and vibrating your controller! With a final pained scream, you fall down dead as the zombies continue to recycle animations at your lifeless body.


Survival Horror is one of the two or three 'new' genres invented in the past five years. It attempts to bridge the gap between the repetitive gameplay of action games, with the fetching of pointless items that endear RPG's to people with too much free time. Capcom claims great pride in inventing it with their Resident Evil series. However, as early as Pac-Man, games have incorporated the elements of item-gathering and running from curiously invincible enemies. So what makes survival horror Survival Horror? In my somewhat extensive research, I've discovered the key elements.

  • Dreary, muddled backgrounds. This is done not only to enhance mood and camouflage the monsters, but to make it really hard to find the important items. Remember, frustration over menial tasks is what sells the game!
  • Appropriate voice acting. All Survival Horror characters must sound as though they jogged to the recording session in summer heat. They will then record the lines until exhausted at which they begin taping the zombie dialogue. "Uhhhh... Uhhhh...."
  • Limited equipment. To enhance the realism of the (PURELY FICTIONAL WITH NO POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING REALITY) scenario, you will have an arsenal of incredibly weak guns with five bullets each. However, you can effortlessly carry six items at any given time regardless of size. You can store excess equipment like the trillion keycards, jewels, and houseplants inside Magic Boxes throughout the place. Magic Boxes are magic because if you put say, a Glock in the box in the basement, and decide you need it while upstairs, you'll find the same Glock in the attic. These may be the same forces that created the zombies and monsters.
  • Things will crash through the windows at some point. Whether it's the dogs in Resident Evil, or the raptors in Dino Crisis, something will crash through some window at any given point in the game. This means that Chrono Trigger and TMNT: The Arcade Game have Survival Horror Elements and are therefore great by association! Or maybe that's the other way around.

With the guidelines set down, let's move on to highly opinionated, psuedo-in-depth coverage of individual titles.

Resident Evil: The ur-game from which Survival Horror games burst from in a gory chest explosion. The patented character-relative control scheme makes its debut!

Dino Crisis: Yet another eccentric scientist type has been screwing around with nature, and this time you fight unkillable dinosaurs instead of immobile zombies.

Conventions in Survival Horror: Take a look back across the history of gaming as I attempt to figure out exactly what went wrong besides the obvious part where Capcom tested biological and psychological weapons on players.