Capcom's comprehensive horror story

Capcom is releasing its latest piece of horror on January 25, Resident Evil 2 Remake.

I can't wait to return to the Raccoon City Police Department to attend a recruitment party 21 years later.

With the release of Resident Evil 7 two years ago, Capcom reestablished the Resident Evil series as the gold standard in horror gaming. This longevity wouldn't be possible without a willingness to innovate and change with the times.

The series runs the gamut of different chilling themes and settings, but Capcom has shown its versatility far beyond Resident Evil, cementing its reputation as the Stephen King of video game developers.

Here's a look back at Capcom's horror history:

Sweet Home - Home is where it starts

It's easy to forget that the original Resident Evil, released in 1996, drew from Capcom's earlier work. Sweet Home was released on the Famicom, so only in Japan, but a fan translation has been available for nearly 20 years. More of an RPG than an outright horror game, you traverse a mansion, avoiding zombies and other monsters while trying to uncover the mystery behind the haunted surroundings. This setting is clearly reflected in the many nooks and crannies of Spencer Mansion.

Sweet Home isn't the only zombie game from decades past that has had a significant cultural impact. Although Infogrames' Alone in the Dark looks a bit dated visually, it provided the template for a chilling zombie game long before the Resident Evil series was established. Sweet Home gained a fair amount of popularity in the culture, however, and - unlike Alone in the Dark - has not received a questionable reimagining years later.

Sweet Home is praised precisely for laying the groundwork for many different horror games. It featured permadeath elements that appeared in Atlus' tense first-person game, Hellnight. The creepy mother who will do anything to protect her child is a motif as old as the horror genre itself, but it appeared in the depraved intrigue of Dahlia Gillespie in the original Silent Hill game. Even at the PS1 stage, games were feverishly drawing on the best elements of Sweet Home. So while Capcom set the bar for themselves, they also set the stage for their competitors to create some of their best work.

Clock Tower 3 and Haunting Ground - the choice of survival horror purists

There's a constant accusation that modern Resident Evil is too full of ammunition. Ever since Code Veronica's twin-gun days, part of the fun of Resident Evil has been blowing shit up - we all love the final clash with a rocket launcher and a giant mutant.

If you want to get as far away from that as possible and play a game where you're completely defenseless, Capcom still has a solution for you. In both Clock Tower 3 and Haunting Ground, you play as a teenage girl being stalked in a creaky mansion, trying to protect her body and mind from the horrors hunting her. Even modern great titles like Alien Isolation owe a debt to the series.

In Haunting Ground, Capcom really cranked up the horror factor, with one powerful enemy who wants protagonist Fiona to be his puppet, and one demonic maid who hates her for her fertility. Encouraging sympathy for antagonists is explored once again in Resident Evil Remake through the character of Lisa Trevor; empathizing with an enemy who has been experimented on to the point of mutation, and who is simply looking for her mother, gives the story a certain emotional weight.

Of course, without the hard work of Sunsoft, producers of the original Clock Tower for the Super Famicom, Clock Tower 3/Haunting Ground would not have been released. However, by taking up the baton, Capcom has effectively bounced back from similar games in the genre, such as the Silent team's Forbidden Siren (where all the shibito are impossible to kill). The PC horror Amnesia gained recognition for its non-combat approach and sanity meter, but the foundations were laid much earlier.

Dead Rising - murder on the factory floor

Not content to limit itself to macabre themes of death and decay, Capcom went for something a little more frivolous in the debut of the Dead Rising series in 2006. Taking on the role of a war reporter caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in an American shopping mall, you get to wreak havoc and wear a lot of silly costumes - all in the name of journalism.

At least the first two installments of the series showed that Capcom had a knack for comedy-horror. Shamelessly borrowing from George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (the original and the 2004 remake), the games serve up mindless violence with a bit of anti-consumerist commentary. It's a slight departure from the often grim horror genre, which can also be seen in Capcom's Resident Evil 7 (with its Jack's 55th Birthday minigame), as well as in a number of Sudy51's works, most recently the free hack-and-climbathon Let it Die.

Capcom Vancouver's folding last September left the future of the series in question, especially since Dead Rising 4 received a poor reception (the Xbox One version currently has a 72% score on Metacritic). But regardless of what's in store for Frank, Chuck, Katy and that guy from the third installment, the first few installments of the series still offer a bright and bloody playground for the player to blow off some steam and butcher some "psychos" in their best disguises.

So Capcom tried its hand at a variety of horror styles, from shooting with an enhanced protagonist, to sneaking around in the shadows as a very vulnerable and shy character, to living as a complete dork. The breadth and depth of Capcom's experimentation with horror means that I'm sure great things are in store for us, and Resident Evil 2 should live up to the horror story.