Friday, 24 May 2024

An Interview With Shinji Mikami: The Father of Survival Horror

Shinji Mikami, the renowned game developer, is widely recognized as the father of survival horror. However, his journey to this title began with a different path. Before diving into the world of horror, he worked on Disney properties, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Aladdin, and Goof Troop. It wasn’t until 1996 when Mikami had the opportunity to create his own intellectual property for the PlayStation, and thus, Resident Evil was born.

The Birth of a Genre

Resident Evil took players on a terrifying journey through a mansion infested with zombies, setting the stage for a new genre of gaming. This groundbreaking release kickstarted Mikami’s successful career and led him to work on other iconic titles like Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, Killer 7, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Viewtiful Joe, Vanquish, and God Hand. While his latest venture, The Evil Within, takes him back to his survival horror roots, it is his first foray into the genre since Resident Evil 4 in 2005.

Embracing the Evolution of Survival Horror

In a recent interview with Game Informer, Mikami shared his thoughts on the current state of survival horror. He expressed his pride in creating a genre that blends elements of horror and action, and acknowledged the genre’s shift towards a more action-oriented direction. While he has his own definition of survival horror, Mikami recognizes that the interpretation of the genre varies among players.

The Birth of The Evil Within

Mikami’s motivation behind creating The Evil Within was simple: he wanted to make a pure survival horror game. His intention was to depict horror in a world that transcends the boundaries of reality. As someone who has been immersed in both Japanese and Western horror throughout his life, it’s no wonder that The Evil Within features elements from both styles.

Exploring Psychological Horror

One of the unique aspects of The Evil Within is its focus on psychological horror. By distancing the game from reality, Mikami creates an unsettling atmosphere that keeps players on edge. The ambiguity surrounding the events in the game adds to the overall horror experience.

Balancing Fear and Fun

Creating a balance between horror and fun is a significant challenge for developers. Mikami explains that achieving this delicate balance requires considering various factors, such as player speed, visibility, and even player motivation. It involves trial and error and is undoubtedly a painstaking process.

Delving into the Human Brain

To create a believable horror experience, Mikami studied how the brain processes information and controls emotions. While he didn’t consult a neurology expert, he conducted research to ensure the game effectively tapped into the human psyche.

Guiding Players in The Evil Within

In The Evil Within, there are situations where running is the best course of action, but the game doesn’t explicitly tell players this. Mikami employs three methods to guide players towards fleeing rather than fighting. First, he introduces unique and formidable enemies that require more than just weapons to defeat. Second, the game’s story or non-playable characters inform players that running is their only option. Finally, Mikami reduces the availability of ammunition, leading players to naturally choose flight over confrontation.

Pushing the Boundaries of Horror

When it comes to horror elements, Mikami doesn’t shy away from terrifying concepts. While he may leave out elements that cross the line into grotesque territory, he is not afraid to push the boundaries to create truly chilling experiences.

The Evolution of Horror on Next-Gen Consoles

Mikami appreciates the capabilities of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in enhancing the light and dark aspects of The Evil Within. However, he also acknowledges the fine line between making the game visually beautiful and maintaining its core horror elements.

A Nod to the Past

As a nod to his past and the fans of survival horror, Mikami deliberately included scenes in The Evil Within that pay homage to iconic moments in the genre. These subtle references bring a sense of nostalgia and delight to horror enthusiasts.


Q: What is survival horror?
A: Survival horror is a genre that combines elements of horror and action, where fear and exhilaration coexist.

Q: How did Mikami come up with the idea for The Evil Within?
A: Mikami’s goal was to create a pure survival horror game with a unique and unsettling world.

Q: Are there any horror elements that Mikami left out of The Evil Within?
A: While he doesn’t shy away from scary concepts, Mikami may exclude elements that cross the line into grotesque territory.

Q: How does Mikami guide players towards running instead of fighting in The Evil Within?
A: He achieves this through introducing formidable enemies, conveying the need to run through the game’s story or non-playable characters, and reducing the availability of ammunition.


Shinji Mikami’s contributions to the world of survival horror are undeniable. From his early work at Capcom to his latest endeavor with Tango Gameworks, he has continuously pushed the boundaries of the genre. With The Evil Within, Mikami invites players to embark on a terrifying journey that combines elements from both Eastern and Western horror. As the father of survival horror, Mikami’s legacy continues to inspire and captivate players around the world.

For more information about Shinji Mikami and his work, visit the official Wqaindia website.