With Resident Evil Village finally out in the wild and receiving just as much, if not more, praise than its predecessor. Both are classified as horror games, but both take different approaches to it. Resident Evil 7 follows the series’ earlier days more closely, while Resident Evil Village leans more towards the later games. Both games create atmospheres thick with horror tension and both even deliver genuine scares from time to time. Those scares and preceding tension, however, often come from different places. One comes from vulnerability and paranoia and the other from scarcity and surprise. Which one is more horrifying? Perhaps it depends on the player.
First, neither RE7 nor RE8 leave the player on the back foot for too long. On the standard difficulty, both games allow the player to build-up a nice stockpile of arms by the end of the game. Eventually, even bosses aren’t much of a threat anymore. Once this happens, the tension in either game almost completely dries up. Horror and terror both come from a place of powerlessness, so it’s difficult for any game to remain scary once the player becomes a one-man army.
Out of the two though, RE7 probably does a slightly better job of keeping the situation scary near the end. Due to preceding events, Ethan Winters finds himself without most of his weapons for a time at the end, so the “molded” are able to be genuinely threatening again for a while. Wandering into a room with a “molded” isn’t just an inconvenience anymore. It doesn’t last long, but it is still a nice return to early game vulnerability. RE8 has a segment like this too and it’s arguably more horrifying. That segment comes near the half-way mark, however, with the rest of the game succumbing to one-man army syndrome.
Actually, up until its halfway point, RE8 is more or less on par with RE7 in terms of the horror factor. The early Settlement, Castle Dimitrescu and House Beneviento all must be explored in a vulnerable state, and the latter two locations each have fights Ethan simply can’t win. In the Castle’s case, Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters can both be encountered wandering the halls; they cannot be hurt, only avoided. So investigating the castle makes for an intense time. The same can be said for House Beneviento. The only thing Ethan can do there is hide from the grotesque monstrosity stalking its halls, so it too is a wonderfully-tense period in the game. It’s very much like the Baker House and The Old House segments in RE7. In those segments, just like these, Ethan’s arsenal doesn’t do him all that much good against his monstrous captors.
It’s really in their latter halves that the games diverge in approach. RE7 still tries to keep players off-balance with the Swamp, the Testing Area and the Wrecked Ship before finally allowing them to let loose in the Salt Mines. The first three sections all feature action, but are more interested in creepy atmosphere, puzzles and even depowering Ethan for a time. In a word, they’re still scary. RE8 on the other hand leans much more fully into action. The Reservoir, the Stronghold and even Heisenberg’s Factory are more about blasting one’s way through hordes of enemies than anything else. There’s tension to be had in terms of resource management and meeting strange new enemies, but they almost never manage to actually feel threatening. There’s still plenty of fun to be had, but it’s fun of a different sort.
Ultimately, both Resident Evil 7: biohazard and Resident Evil Village feel like proper entries in the series. Both games have their scary moments, and both games do a good job of creating a tense, threatening atmosphere. All that said though, the horror edge should go to RE7. It does a better job of keeping Ethan’s power level low in comparison to the horrors he’s fighting. He has his strong moments, but they come later and have larger gaps between them than in Village. RE8 has its scary peaks too of course, but they almost all come in the first half of the game. This doesn’t mean that RE7 is better than RE8 of course. Rather, it’s just more likely to deliver a more satisfying overall horror experience.