Survival horror is a subgenre of action-adventure video game inspired by horror fiction. These games make the player vulnerable by providing them with less ammunition and fewer heavy weapons than other action games. Although combat is a part of the gameplay, the player must ration ammunition by evading enemies and avoiding direct confrontation. The player is also challenged to find items that unlock the path to new areas, and solve puzzles at certain locations. Games make use of strong horror themes, and the player is often challenged to navigate dark maze-like environments, and react to unexpected attacks from supernatural monsters.
The term "survival horror" was first used for the original Japanese release of Resident Evil in 1996, which was influenced by earlier games with a horror theme such as Sweet Home and Alone in the Dark. The name has been used since then to describe games with similar gameplay, and has been retroactively applied to games as old as Haunted House from 1981. Starting with the release of Resident Evil 4 in 2005, the genre began to incorporate more features from action games, which has led game journalists to question whether long-standing survival horror franchises have abandoned the genre. Still, the survival horror genre has persisted in one form or another, with several critically acclaimed titles in recent years
Survival horror refers to a subgenre of action-adventure video games which draws heavily from the conventions of horror fiction.1 .2 The player character is vulnerable and under-armed,3 which puts emphasis on puzzle-solving and evasion rather than violence 4 Games commonly challenge the player to manage their inventory 5 and ration scarce resources and ammunition.3
While many action games feature lone protagonists versus swarms of enemies in a suspenseful environment,6 survival horror games are distinct from otherwise horror-themed action games. 8 Rather, they de-emphasize combat in favor of challenges such as hiding and running from enemies, and solving puzzles.6 Still, it is not unusual for survival horror games to draw upon elements from first-person shooters, action-adventure games, or even role-playing games.1The origins of the survival horror game can be traced back to earlier horror fiction. Archetypes have been linked to the books of H. P. Lovecraft, which include investigative narratives, or journeys through the depths. Comparisons have been made between Lovecraft's Cthulhoid Old Ones and the boss encounters seen in many survival horror games. Themes of survival have also been traced to the slasher film subgenre, where the protagonist endures a confrontation with the ultimate antagonist.1
Some common elements of survival horror games can be found in the 1981 Atari 2600 game Haunted House. Gameplay was typical of future survival horror titles, as it emphasized puzzle-solving and evasive action, rather than violence.4 The game made use of monsters commonly featured in horror fiction, such as bats and ghosts which each had unique behaviors. Gameplay also incorporated item collection and inventory management, along with areas that are inaccessible until the appropriate item is found. Because it has several features that have been seen in later survival horror games, some reviewers have retroactively classified this game as the first in the genre.5 Many of the features of the genre could also be seen in the 1989 release Sweet Home, for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Gameplay involved battling horrifying creatures and solving puzzles. Developed by Capcom, the game would become an influence upon their later release Resident Evil, making use of its mansion setting and its "opening door" load screen