The rise, fall and resurrection of Survival Horror

Felipe Cabrera

Being a hardcore survival horror fan during the seventh console generation (PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii) has been a feat of survival in itself.

The sixth console generation (PS2, GameCube and Xbox) was the golden age of survival horror, and horror fans loved every terrifying second of it. Horror fans of the sixth generation saw the release of survival horror masterpieces “Silent Hill 2” and “Resident Evil 4”. Not every game was a hit, but the niche genre spoiled horror fans with plenty of options.

The seventh generation rolls around the corner and Activision releases “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”, a franchise that is now worth over $3 billion.

The industry exploded and every publisher wanted to get in on the money, wanting the success Activision achieved in the action genre. Developers left behind their niche genres to create action games.

“Looking at the marketing data [for survival horror games]… the market is small, compared to the number of units “Call of Duty” and all those action games sell,” “Resident Evil” producer Masachika Kawata said in an interview with Gamasutra. “A survival horror “Resident Evil” doesn’t seem like it’d be able to sell those kind of numbers.”

Survival horror games have died off in the mainstream conscience for the past few years. Games like “Dead Space” are fun action games with a horror element, but fans were missing the true survival horror experience from the games of the golden age. Horror titles like “Clock Tower” have disappeared indefinitely. Recent sequels to horror series that have stuck, like “Resident Evil” and “Silent Hill” have failed critically and among fans.

The mainstream market may have forgotten about survival horror, but the independent market hasn’t and is doing well for it. Frictional Games came out with “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” in 2009 and sold more than 1.4 million units in its first two years.

In 2012, Capcom released “Resident Evil: Revelations” on the 3DS. “Revelations” was a return to the series horror roots and was received by fans better than “Resident Evil 6” which went for a big budget action movie feel. “Revelations” did so well that it was released for consoles, and a sequel is being slated for 2016.

Survival horror is still cool, and in the wake of a new console generation, mainstream publishers are taking notice.

Sega and Creative Assembly came out with “Alien: Isolation” last week. “Isolation” is receiving far more critical love than last year’s alien abomination, “Aliens: Colonial Marines”. The key difference? “Alien: Isolation” went for survival horror while “Aliens: Colonial Marines” was a full on action shooter.

This month, Shinji Mikami, the creator of “Resident Evil”, and his Tango Gameworks studio is returning to the realm of survival horror with his new game, “The Evil Within”. “The Evil Within” is being published by Bethesda, the large publisher responsible for 2011’s hit, “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.”

“I was very cautious not to make it an action shooter,” Mikami said in an interview with PC & Tech Authority. “The biggest challenge was balancing how much player control we give to the players and still maintaining the tension the game needs as a survival horror game.”

The survival horror genre has always been a viable market in the video game industry, even if the industry has ignored it. If more big studios put out survival horror titles, it could be the big trending genre on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

This new console generation could be the platform for the next great age of survival horror games. The next horror classic may soon be creeping into your consoles like a chill crawling down your spine.