Game Theory

After Resident Evil 4 Remake, the Future of the Franchise Is Unclear

The end of the road.

Resident Evil 2 Remake closing shot
Capcom

The Resident Evil franchise pioneered video game survival horror when it debuted back in 1996. In 2023, the series is more popular than ever. The Resident Evil 4 remake is one of the best games of the year so far, and just the latest in a string of successful remakes for the series. In addition, 2021’s Resident Evil Village was a triumphant entry in the mainline of titles.

Yet with so much success, Capcom finds itself with no clear path forward — which leaves me wondering where Resident Evil goes next.

The past six years have been a great time to be a Resident Evil Fan. Beginning with the bold new direction the series took in 2017 with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the series has released give major titles to critical success. A big part of this is due to Capcom’s investment in high-quality remakes of older titles in the series.

After the Resident Evil 4 remake there is no clear path forward for the series.

Capcom

Resident Evil 2 remake helped kick off the remake trend that’s in full swing in 2023. As a masterful remake of one of the best titles in the series, it became the pinnacle of survival horror gaming. This success was followed up by a remake of Resident Evil 3 and most recently the remake of Resident Evil 4. Yet after the high of Resident Evil 4, it is unclear if the remake series has a future.

Resident Evil 5 and 6 both have a long list of structural and thematic issues. (Specifically, the racism of RE5’s main story.) So, remakes of these titles don’t seem likely. Of course, Capcom could go back and remake the original Resident Evil, but why then why didn’t they start the remake series with Resident Evil 1? Well because a definitive version of the game exists in the form of the 2002 remake.

The only game that could use the remake treatment is the oft-overlooked Resident Evil — Code: Veronica. Code: Veronica is in many ways the true sequel of Resident Evil 2 and 3, but lacks the popularity of the main numbered titles that helped give the remake series its success. Even if Code: Veronica does get remade, what next? The lifespan of the remake series is finite.

Similarly, the massive success that the soft reboot of the series, which began with Resident Evil 7 and continued with Resident Evil Village, received has seemingly ended. Those two games began as a departure from the bloated lore of the series and followed the new character, Ethan Winters. Yet Village reinjected lore from the older games and made more clear connections between the old and new generation of Resident Evil, finally ending with the demise of Ethan Winters.

Just when the series had successfully reinvented itself, it seems lost once again, and the inevitable Resident Evil 9 is a mystery to everyone. But the threads from both the main and remake series do suggest an answer.

Resident Evil Village begins the reintroduction of fan-favorite characters.

Capcom

While Resident Evil 7 and Village helped bring Resident Evil back into the spotlight, it did so as a different beast than what the series had been before. To help familiarize a new audience with the history and iconic characters of Resident Evil, Capcom made the remake series. This culminates in Village, which acts as a finale to the soft reboot while bringing Chris Redfield (once the face of the series) back to the forefront of the action. The remake series similarly ends on a high note with Resident Evil 4, a perfect place to leave the remake series.

Going forward it leaves Resident Evil 9 in the perfect place to fully bring back the characters that have so long been left in the wings. For six years we have been wondering where, when, and if Jill, Leon, Claire, Ada, and company would return to the series. Resident Evil 9 can answer those questions, while hopefully retaining the lessons learned from the soft reboot and avoiding jumping the shark, in the same way Resident Evil 5 and 6 did.

Resident Evil has been reborn more than once. The series was once survival horror at its core, but then it became more action focused. Most recently, Resident Evil 7 returned the series to its horror roots and took that even further. Now the series once again waits to evolve into something new — with a hint of something old.

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