The Resident Evil series has been a driving force of the survival horror genre since it’s the first release in 1996. The series’ focus on tense atmosphere, ammo conservation, and terrifying enemies helped solidify its success over the last two decades. All that as the series shifted genres multiple times, from adventure to action to multiplayer and back to its horror roots in 2017’s Resident Evil VII. However, the success of the franchise has not been a straight line, leaving more than a few unreleased titles in its wake.
Unreleased Resident Evil Games
In the last 20 years, Capcom had struggled throughout the development of several Resident Evil titles. Most notably, development of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, and Resident Evil 4 stalled several times. Causes included technical limitations, design flaws, or simply bad timing. The successful evolution of the franchise could be attributed to the active and critical nature of each game’s development cycle.
Check out some of these Resident Evil games that never came to be. While some of these versions were scrapped entirely, a lot of these early prototype designs and plots would be recycled in future games — and not always Resident Evil games!
Resident Evil 1.5
After the success of the first Resident Evil, Capcom quickly began production on a sequel for the PlayStation. Its plot focused on a major zombie outbreak in Raccoon City two months after the events of the first game. Development of Resident Evil 2 began one month after the completion of its predecessor in 1996, with the first footage of the game shown at the V Jump Festival ’96 that July.
The game followed two protagonists, Leon Kennedy and Elza Walker. Leon Kennedy was a rookie Raccoon City Police Officer and Elza was a college student returning to Raccoon City after a semester of classes. Elza would transform into Claire Redfield in the official Resident Evil 2 release. While the general plot and antagonist William Birken remained, other elements of the game were left on the cutting room floor. Some of these included two enemy types – a human/spider hybrid and Infected Gorilla.
As the game was approaching its March 1997 release date, the developers were dissatisfied with the project’s current build. Shortly thereafter, 1.5 was scrapped at a development stage of 60–80 percent completion. Development of the game was reset, and the true release of Resident Evil 2 would come in January 1998. Interestingly enough, the Resident Evil fan community has salvaged assets from RE 1.5 and have begun to patch the game together into a playable build. For more details, check out the-horror forums.
Resident Evil Zero
The concept of a prequel to the original Resident Evil first blossomed shortly after the Nintendo 64’s announcement in 1995, while the original Resident Evil was still in development. The game would be known as Resident Evil Zero. Taking place prior to the events of the first game, the plot follows S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team as they investigate the strange murders in the Arklay Mountains region.
Capcom was interested in the Nintendo 64 due to its in-development add-on known as the 64DD. The Nintendo 64DD was a disc drive add-on that would boost the capabilities of the console. CD games had to the potential to store up to 64MB of data – in comparison to early Nintendo 64 cartridges that contained a measly 4MB. However, The 64DD peripheral suffered a multitude of delays, and Zero switched entirely to cartridge development.
Gameplay for Resident Evil Zero was first unveiled during the Tokyo Game Show in Spring 2000. The reveal was limited to footage onboard the train, the Ecliptic Express. Despite the promising gameplay, the game suffered from slowdown issues when under attack from zombie dogs. By January 2000, updates on the game were scarce as it became clear that the game could not fit on a single cartridge. Production stopped entirely when it was decided that any attempts to make more room (i.e. deleting parts of the game) were not economically viable.
Resident Evil Zero would make a triumphant return on the Nintendo Gamecube. After the release of the Resident Evil Remake, Capcom would revisit Zero’s concept. The game was released in November 2002 to warm reception. As a nod to the Nintendo 64 prototype, the Resident Evil Zero HD re-release includes a costume for protagonist Rebecca Chambers that resembles her original prototype costume.
Resident Evil 3
The original build of Resident Evil 3 was the brainchild of its producer, Hideki Kamiya, who began working with FLAGSHIP towards the end of Resident Evil 2‘s development in late 1997. Looking to add more diverse environments to the series, Kamiya intended for a cruise ship to be the next setting for the franchise.
The original Resident Evil 3 served as the sequel the events of “4th Survivor“, continuing the exploits of HUNK, a USS agent previously seen in Resident Evil 2. The plot followed Hunk as he attempted to retrieve a sample of the G-Virus while getting caught up in a viral outbreak on a cruise ship. An alternative standard enemy to the Zombies was envisioned, with the t-Virus infusing plant DNA into infected humans.
In mid-1998, Capcom grew concerned that the game’s sales would be hindered by the upcoming release of the PlayStation 2 console. After Kamiya was instructed to migrate development to the new console, he instead scrapped the entirety of the project. However, the cruise ship location would be salvaged for the light gun focused Resident Evil: Dead Aim, which released on the PlayStation 2 in 2003.
Resident Evil 4
After the release of the Resident Evil trilogy, Capcom knew the series required a new presentation and approach. Resident Evil 4 is famous for suffering through a long, tormented development cycle. Four different variations of the game were produced before it’s final release. Check out the Fandom piece 5 Times ‘Resident Evil 4’ Faced Cancellation to get an in-depth look of the game’s many design stages.
The first version
The original version of Resident Evil 4 followed protagonist Tony Redgrave and his twin brother Vergil, the sons of Lord Spencer who have become superhumans through the use of the G-Virus. Tony maintains a human form but possesses superior skills and intellect. Director Hideki Kamiya also sought to drop the series’ pre-rendered backgrounds for a dynamic camera system. The game began development in late 1999 and continued into 2000.
Focusing on the use of action alongside the horror themes, the developers attempted to heavily stylize combat while still fitting within the world of Resident Evil. The gameplay changes were later seen as too radical for the franchise, and this version was re-tuned into the popular hack-and-slash Capcom game, Devil May Cry.
The second version (Castle)
After the first iteration evolved into Devil May Cry, Capcom’s Production Studio 4 began development of Resident Evil 4 alongside the Gamecube Resident Evil Remake. This game was formally announced in 2002. This version’s premise was to feature Leon S. Kennedy infiltrating a European castle belonging to Oswell E. Spencer. Over time Leon was to discover the origins of the Progenitor Virus. One of the highlights of this version was an area that resembled a flying airship.
Development on this version was later scrapped due to technical difficulties. One of these technical issues stemmed from a”Black Fog” enemy, which is said to have been impossible to properly animate with the technology of the time. Capcom would only succeed with such animation when animating the Uroboros enemies of Resident Evil 5.
After production ceased, the prototype of this version was handed to Capcom Production Studio 3, who were interested in creating a survival horror game with a female protagonist and her dog. This new game would become Haunting Ground, which released in 2005.
The third version (Hallucination)
Hallucination is the name given to the third stage in the Resident Evil 4 development cycle. First shown at E3 in 2003, this version was set in a mansion and featured Leon fighting what appeared to be paranormal enemies, such as medieval suits of armor and living dolls. These hallucinations were caused by Leon being infected by a virus. The most notable enemy in this version was the “Hook Man“, a ghost-looking man carrying a large hook. The Hook Man would appear frequently, pursuing Leon throughout the castle.
This version would also be the first time Resident Evil would feature an ‘over-the-shoulder’ viewpoint when the main character draws their weapon. Ultimately, this version was scrapped due to technical limitations – the largest obstacle was rooted in the Gamecube’s inability to load two simultaneous versions of each room required for Leon’s hallucinations.
The fourth version (Zombie)
Zombie was the name given to the fourth production version of Resident Evil 4. Until late 2003 Resident Evil 4 was in its “Hallucination” stage of development before starting anew. Zombie was seen by staff members as a return to the franchise’s standard formula, which producer Shinji Mikami had become highly critical of. Little information is known of the intended setting of this game, as no concept art is known to have been made. What is known is that there was to be a new type of human enemy, referred to as dabamen. Soon after the project began, producer Shinji Mikami took over directorial duties, ending the project. The Dabamen were later recycled as the Ganados.
The Final version of Resident Evil 4 would be released in 2005, undergoing several successful changes to the series’ formula and becoming critically acclaimed. The finalized version borrow some elements between all of the design stages and would be a major influence in the future titles Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6.
Other smaller Resident Evil titles experienced scrapped and canceled versions.
- In 1999, HotGen Studios, Ltd., a company in the United Kingdom, was selected by Capcom to port the original Resident Evil to the Gameboy. However, after sending the finished product to Capcom for evaluation, the company turned it down. Their official statement in 2000 claimed that they were “not confident that the product would have made both consumers and Capcom happy.”
- A tweaked port of Resident Evil was also considered for the Gameboy Advance. Italian Developer Raylight Studios sent Capcom a demo of the game to showcase their Blue Roses game engine. However, Capcom did not approve the project.
- A tentative version of Resident Evil Outbreak File 3 sat in development hell for quite some time. Media footage and screenshots can be found in the cut-out scenarios and areas shown during the development of Outbreak which did not make it in either Outbreak itself or File 2. By using cheat devices such as the Game Shark on Outbreak 1 and 2, players are able to hack/unlock some hidden character skins which are thought to be from this unreleased sequel.
The Resident Evil series has gone through several bumps in the road to its success, but the series’ longevity can be credited to the tireless work of Capcom development teams to release the highest quality product.