Capcom’s tremendously popular survival horror series isn’t as much about true scares anymore as it is “oh, look at that—now shoot it, shoot it, do the quick-time event” moments, but it keeps us coming back for more. Maybe not for more Chris Redfield boulder-punching, but definitely more burning dead guys tumbling out of ovens and pee-your-pants scary monsters slithering from the lab. Relive our top ten most horrifying moments with us. Just have a friend ready to resuscitate you if the horror becomes too much to bear.
10) No need for a doggie door
This is hands-down the most classic “jump” scene in the series, so it’s our number ten for predictability. At the time, though, cheap scares that you laugh about afterward made Resident Evil thrilling and suspenseful, a horror lover’s dream come true. Whether or not you approve of such shallow tactics, zombie dogs crashing through windows was once a clever move, especially so early on in the game.
9) The flying dead
In the original Resident Evil, crows were far from bird-brained—they were menaces who carefully calculated their next strike. They made a fast meal of Forest Speyer, member of STARS, but their most chilling moment was when they perched along the top of the gallery corridor, where players had to press the buttons under paintings in chronological order according to their subject matter (from cradle to grave). These feathered foes only scratched at players if they made a wrong selection—otherwise, the birds were content to watch with soulless black eyes.
8) Pet sematary and gardens
Resident Evil 4 might have rejuvenated the series with a good injection of action, but it’s still a master of horror and a guru at faking players out. The crows, which were once ravenous beasts, timidly peck at the ground and drop goodies with one successful pistol shot. Dogs in the series, affectionately known as Cerberus, were never nice, but then RE4 gave players the chance to save a wounded wild pup. So all dogs in RE4 must be nice, too.
Psych! These dogs (called Colmillos, or “fangs”) are vicious killers that sit atop moonlit hills in cemeteries and pick you off in hedge mazes (their award-winning performance). They’ll tear your face off if given the opportunity—or rip you to shreds with the Plagas tentacles on their backs.
7) The first couple times you saw Nemesis
Sure, Nemesis is scary. He could give the Cerberus a few pointers on how to jump through windows for the greatest dramatic effect, and he knows all the best ways to use a rocket launcher. However, the “STARS …” thing got old after the first hundred times he said it, and when he started popping up at the most inopportune moments (ie., anytime you needed to move from Point A to Point B), it was just rude. He became a hindrance, not an obstacle—you could easily run around him most of the time, and it was a tired routine. By then, Nemesis was so annoying and frustrating that every time players had to deal with him, they were pretty scary to look at, too.
6) I want to suck your … brains
Resident Evil Code: Veronica was more disturbing than scary, but that’s what happens when your main threat is a cross-dressing psychopath who’s a little too sweet on his sister. The game did manage a few frightful moments, including the first glimpse of the imprisoned Nosferatu—the father of the household turned guinea pig. Fighting him was tricky, considering players had to use their scopes to peer through the blinding snows in Antarctica to target his vulnerable, beating heart. Who knows why he’s named after a vampire. Maybe it’s because the term possibly originates from the Romanian word nesuferit, meaning insufferable—the most apt description of his children there is.
5) Leon-lickin’ good
Lickers are to RE2 what Hunters were to RE1 and Nemesis was to RE3. Their image goes hand-in-hand with the game. Unlike the other mutated monsters, they’re a much more exotic and daunting threat, especially when put into groups. Once they infest an area, they crawl through the hallways like roaches with whip-happy tongues. They’re prone to surprise attacks, too—leaping onto players or, as Leo discovered in the police department, dripping a puddle of blood from the ceiling, where one snatched and devoured its victim, throwing away the head.
4) Zombie in the mirror
Crimson Heads, faster and stronger than the standard zombie, were a fantastic addition to the GameCube remake of the first game. Players had to burn or decapitate fallen zombies to prevent them from rising again as more powerful undead, but when they first appeared, gamers were unprepared. Capcom set us up good, too. During one of the first encounters, players spot an upright zombie in a mirror positioned against the corner of a wall. Stupid zombie—now you can kill him before he knows what’s coming! Wrong. Expect these quick-legged predators to pounce first.
3) Cabin fever with Lisa Trevor
Besides Crimson Heads, one of the most unexpected parts of the Resident Evil remake was Lisa Trevor. An Umbrella test subject separated from her parents at a young age, Lisa yearned to reunite with her deceased mother, and her longing made her uncontrollable. Eventually she took residence in an abandoned cabin in the woods outside the infamous mansion. Her character was written into the remake to add more believability to the backstories of those affected by Umbrella’s dirty experiments, but her introduction was a little too personal for us. We’ll stick with reading diaries, thank you.
2) Meeting Regenerators and their pointy cousins, the Iron Maidens
Even scarier than entering the cozy home of a crazed monster woman is leaving rural terrain for the freezing halls of the island laboratory in Resident Evil 4. The naked and lanky Regenerators are eerie enough, but the tougher Iron Maidens variants, which sprout needles from their pallid skin, are even deadlier. Not to mention they’re hard to kill—players need a thermal imaging scope to pinpoint and shoot the Plagas within their weird bodies. Leon’s brush with one in the autopsy room was easily the scariest moment in the game, and the sound of their raspy breathing before they even come into view will send the bravest players running for the exit.
1) Accidentally shooting the Merchant
In all my years of shooting zombies, never once was I as scared as when I accidentally shot the Merchant in Resident Evil 4 after stumbling away from the crank and bridge sequence in the castle. With my heart still pounding and fingers still twitching, I mistook the Merchant for a regular cultist in black robes. Panicked, I fired another round before he got close enough to take my little remaining health. The agony of realization was unbearable: “Oh crap, he’s just lying there! Why isn’t he getting up? I haven’t saved my game in forever! Is he gone for good? Oh god, it took me eighty tries to beat that part! Stupid Ashley! I don’t have any ammo left! Ahhhh!”
After I finished hyperventilating, yes, the Merchant did return at a later point, and he didn’t swindle me one bit.
What are your favorite Resident Evil scary moments?