One of the most defining characteristics of a horror game is the setting. Careful attention to detail and design are critical in building up tension and ultimately scaring the pants off players. Few other horror gaming series understand these fundamentals better than Resident Evil.
The series developers, Capcom, are masters at building striking locations with plenty of scares and puzzles. They can seamlessly jump from a creepy gothic stairwell to a post-apocalyptic laboratory without breaking the immersion. Not every room is a masterpiece of ambiance, but a few select areas are noteworthy for their deeply unsettling nature.
10 The Residence
The very first Resident Evil game includes some downright disturbing areas, heightened by the stylized camera angles and creepy décor. One of the most ghastly areas of the game is the Residence, a dorm-style complex on the grounds of the Spencer mansion. The heroes of the first game make their way into this seedy den of evil, finding gruesome scenes including bleak notes from deceased Umbrella employees, giant mutant spiders, and a plant that has overtaken the facility with its massive roots. A truly creepy area, this section of the game is more ominous than new players might be prepared for.
9 The Knight Room
The Resident Evil games are scary even when players have an entire arsenal to fight with, but take away all weapons and the rules change completely. One of the creepiest areas of Resident Evil 4 pops up during a section of the game where the player plays as Ashley, the president’s kidnapped daughter. Ashley cannot use any guns and must rely on her own speed to outmaneuver enemies. This gets complicated when she arrives in the knight room, a basement area that sends a group of demonic suits of armor clanking towards the unarmed girl. Needless to say, running is the only option in this terrifying section.
8 The Morgue
A room full of dead bodies is troubling by itself, but during a zombie invasion, all bets are off. During the events of Resident Evil 2, players make their way down to the basement of the police station and into the morgue/autopsy room.
Needless to say, bodies in Resident Evil games don’t stay dead for long and things get frightening as the coffins are opened.
7 The Courtyard
The Arklay mountains are home to some pretty dangerous creatures, namely those of the zombie variety. The outdoor portion of the first game is even more ominous than the mansion itself. Crawling with all types of zombies and the mutated Lisa Trevor, the player must navigate these dense woods through twists and turns to reach the lone cabin at the edge of the forest. The best tactic for getting through these frightening woods is to run and not look back.
6 The Sewers
Resident Evil 4 includes some pretty gruesome creatures. Leon Kennedy is used to squaring off against the nastiest of the nasty, but even he can be taken by surprise sometimes. The Novistador is a bizarre humanoid bug-like creature that can turn invisible and spray acid onto unsuspecting victims. Leon first encounters these monsters in the castle sewers, a terrifying section filled to the brim with the invisible foes. The pitter-patter of their feet against the water is a traumatizing sound for many Resident Evil fans.
5 The Old House
The entire setting for Resident Evil 7 is sinister by itself, every room is a nightmare. The Old House is the decrepit building on the Baker Ranch that Ethan must explore. Unfortunately, the Old House isn’t any less scary than the Main House and the Baker family makes use of the dimly lit space to torment Ethan. Not every room in the house is filled with scares, but the potential threat is always nearby.
4 The Laboratory
Almost every Resident Evil game features some sort of lab or research facility. Some are scarier than others, but all of them help further expand on the evil deeds of Umbrella. The laboratory in the first game is a dark series of twisting hallways filled with zombified scientists and the monsters known as Chimeras, a human-fly hybrid of terrifying proportions. It is deeply unsettling to explore the halls where the madness began, knowing that things will only get worse for Raccoon City.
3 The Village
Resident Evil 4 is full of disturbing locations, the whole game is basically a fever dream through a small European town. The desolate village Leon is first dropped off in is a sinister sign of things to come for players.
Chainsaw-wielding maniacs and other violent villagers are Leon’s welcoming party as he searches for the president’s daughter. Along the way, Leon discovers victims impaled with pitchforks, plenty of threatening traps, and numerous creepy cult symbols and insignias.
2 The Training School
Resident Evil Zero acts as a prequel to the first game’s events, establishing what Rebecca Chambers was up to before the mansion incident. The youthful rookie gets a rude awakening when she and escaped prisoner Billy Coen discover the Umbrella Executive Training School. It’s a boarding school that doubles as a macabre laboratory, having been the site of countless evil experiments carried out on the students. The aftermath of these experiments is downright grisly. Skeletal remains litter gas chambers and cages, horrible torture devices decorate the facility, and hideous creatures roam the halls looking for blood.
1 Prison Cells
One of the scariest boss fights in the whole series occurs in Resident Evil 4 when Leon discovers the prison cells in the castle aren’t as empty as they first appear to be. Bound to the wall is the intimidating Garrador, a killing machine with heavy armor and sharpened claw knives as weapons. The close-quarters fight is heightened by the fact the Garrador is blind and any sudden movements or gunshots will alert the monster, sending it on a murderous rampage. The castle is home to some pretty disturbing locales, but the prison is a bleak reminder that evil lingers around every corner.