Resident Evil says the name of itself when you press start. Then you watch an awesome live action movie. Then you watch some cutscenes with some gameplay in between, then you're turned loose in a mansion full of the undead. Yes please.
Let me set the stage for you. I just got a playstation one. Its the about year 1997. I'm around the age of eleven. I've borrowed two games from the neighbors who have a playstation. Suikoden and Resident Evil: Directors Cut. About five other friends of mine are there with me, all similar ages. We're all into horror movies and violence. Resident Evil of course goes in first. We watch that opening cinema and are all on the floor. Its amazed us, but then just when we thought things couldn't get any more hilarious, the game has characters that talk. Not just with text, but actual voices. Hilarious voices that must be heard. Not just for how awful they are, but the brilliant dialog from which they speak.
So you walk around for awhile with everyone talking, then you meet your first zombie and get aqauinted with the combat. Then we start exploring this mansion. When one of us died, we would hand off the controller starting with me. When things finally got back to me, I made the mistake of taking us down the corridor on the right. Then running out of ammunition when attacked, to which Elmer Fudd's classic line "No more buwwets" was all I could say in horror as I tried to flea undead puppy monsters. Every time I play Resident Evil I'm taken back to this afternoon. Not because after everyone left I got to play Suikoden and experience that right alongside Resident Evil, but because of that experience of having everyone around. Laughing and joking our way through the game. We didn't make it far at all, but we had a blast. That's what games should be. A good time.
Keep in mind up to this point all I've played was the legendary Playstation demo disk #32 with Parappa and Tom Raider 2, then the N64 and Super Nintendo. Just days before this all me and my friends wanted to play was Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3. Now we're introduced to zombies, murder, voice acting, polygons, and a storyline. These are things games had never presented to me in this way before, so of course I was way into this. I really want to mention all the cool stuff in this game, giant boss battles, solving puzzles like crazy, the scene where the hunters show up in the mansion and you have to fight them. Let me stop there for a minute, about half way into the game you come back to the mansion and find that the zombies are the lesser threat now. These new bastards called Hunters have shown up and are much more vicious, but look like conflict frogs. Deadly war amphibians that slash you and can kill you in less then three hits.
Resident Evil has somewhat awkward controls. To say the least of the genre of "survival horror." Moving can be tricky, but in order to fire or use a weapon you have to hold down the R1 button. Something that can take some adjusting at first. Then you can also aim up and down with your weapon. I like this, but some people don't. You run around solving puzzles. Pushing crates, pushing statues, take an item from here to there, that sort of stuff. You've six inventory slots if you choose Chris as your character and eight if you choose Jill. Basic gameplay is pretty similar, just that you start with a pistol with Jill and have to scrounge for one with just a knife in Chris's game. Storyline differs too. One really weird thing that most of the series features is a magical box. These boxes show up all over in "safe rooms" and magically transport your items from location to location, allowing you to swap what you need and don't need in your stuff. I almost forgot the main reason to play as Jill: She has two more slots in her backpack than Chris, allowing you to pack more weapons and puzzle items.
I'm a guy who likes the storyline in resident evil. The basic premise is the type of thing that all game should strive for. An elite special forces police squad called STARS is called in to investigate a mansion. One team has already been sent and has had contact with them lost. So now your team shows up and the game begins. Being ten to twelve makes this a lot more interesting than it should be. As an adult into campy horror films, I can appreciate this. Even now I love how silly this game goes. I won't spoil the twists or turns the story takes, but seriously. If you can play through it sometime, do so. If only for the story. If you could just watch the storyline on a video website, you'll laugh yourself insane. If you like horror movie stuff that is.
Biohazard as Resident Evil's known in japan has many many sequels. I'm sure you know that already though. Ones that play like this are Resident Evil 2, 3: Nemesis, and Code Veronica. Resident Evil Zero changes things by adding in a switchable character and allowing you to drop items anywhere. Plenty of other sequels are out there. 4 and 5 however switch to a more action oriented style, much like comparing the film Alien with its sequel Aliens. Other similar games would be Dino Crisis and Silent Hill, both of which have almost the same gameplay. Plenty of sequels in those series too. Worth checking out if you want more gameplay with inventory management and horror elements. I could list off tons of others like Onimusha, Siren, Fatal Frame, Galereans, and so many others. Not saying that they're all amazing or awful, I'm just going ot say that none of them are Resident Evil though. I can't go back in time and play them first and have that first experience with the series.
One last point to mention: There was a remake. A full on 3D realized remake. Same basic gameplay, but with some new additions. A scene with sharks, you now can pack knves, if you don't burn zombies corpses they come back as crimson somethings (I forget the name and don't want to look it up) and are vicious bastards that are even worse than Hunters, there was a trick with the magic box that let you get unlimited ammo, stuff to connect it with the later games that talk about T-Virus and G-virus nonsense, and the graphics have been overhauled. Not just blast processed or anything silly like that, its a whole new game. The graphics are beautiful and if you own a Wii or Gamecube, pick this up. The sequels, which aren't remakes, are quite expensive on gamecube for some reason, but the original shouldn't be too hard to pick up on the cheap.
Gameplay from remake: