Resident Evil Gaiden — The One That Never Happened

A look back at the handheld horror game that Capcom retconned to oblivion.

Resident Evil Gaiden is a unique entry in the long-running survival horror series, often overlooked due to its release on the Game Boy Color. Released in 2001, this spin-off brought the franchise to the handheld platform, albeit with a few necessary gameplay compromises.

Time hasn't been kind to Resident Evil Gaiden. The game's poor sales, barebones story, and unorthodox gameplay have made it a bit of a joke in the Resident Evil community. To make things worse, Capcom nuked it from the series' canon in follow

The truth is that Resident Evil Gaiden, while certainly not a great game, is a worthy attempt at bringing a total horror experience to the tiny, underpowered Game Boy. After all, it's hard to scare your pants off with only two colors and a 160x144-pixel screen, so it's little wonder we rarely saw any horror games on the Game Boy.

In this retrospective, we'll delve into the development, story, mechanics, and lasting impact of the Resident Evil game Capcom wants you to forget.

The Development of Resident Evil Gaiden

In the late '90s and early '00s, Capcom was eager to expand its horror franchise outside of the PlayStation. At the time, the Game Boy had a sizable user base and had already established itself as the uncontested king of handhelds. Developing games for Nintendo's handheld was cheap, and the Game Boy's limited hardware meant they could keep the project small in scope without disappointing fans of the franchise. And so plans were put into motion for a Resident Evil game specially made for Nintendo's portable.

Resident Evil Gaiden was developed by Capcom in collaboration with British studio M4, known for their work on the Game Boy Color port of the popular game, Driver. The challenge of adapting Resident Evil to a handheld console with limited hardware capabilities led to a departure from the series' traditional gameplay and visual style.

Trapped on a Cruise Ship

Resident Evil Gaiden takes players away from the familiar settings of Raccoon City and the Spencer Mansion to the Starlight, a cruise ship infested with zombies. Players take control of fan-favorite Barry Burton and newcomer Leon S. Kennedy, who embark on a mission to rescue a survivor and uncover the truth behind the outbreak. The confined setting and suspenseful narrative provide a unique atmosphere that still captures the essence of the series.

A New Perspective

To accommodate the Game Boy Color's limitations, Resident Evil Gaiden adopted a top-down perspective for exploration and puzzle-solving. The combat system underwent a significant change, shifting to a first-person view with a unique timed-aim mechanic. While these changes set the game apart from its predecessors, they added a fresh dimension to the franchise.

A Pixelated Nightmare

Resident Evil Gaiden pushed the boundaries of the Game Boy Color's graphical capabilities, featuring detailed environments and character sprites. The game's soundtrack, although limited by the console's hardware, effectively conveyed a sense of dread and tension, reminiscent of the mainline series.

A Mixed Bag

Resident Evil Gaiden received mixed reviews upon release. Critics praised the game's storyline, atmosphere, and the developers' efforts to adapt the franchise for a handheld console. However, the game was also criticized for its clunky combat system and lack of save points. Despite these shortcomings, Gaiden has gained a cult following over the years, with fans appreciating its unique approach to the Resident Evil formula.

An Ambitious Experiment in Handheld Horror

Resident Evil Gaiden remains an interesting chapter in the history of the Resident Evil series. The game's bold attempt to bring the survival horror experience to the Game Boy Color platform showcased the creativity and ambition of its developers. No, it's not very good, but Gaiden dared to veer from the series' tried-and-true horror formula, and that's worth appreciating.