Capcom has been a household name in video games for decades and, like many developers, it’s had low and high points. The Japanese company has been riding high over the last few years, but it wasn’t long ago that it suffered through its worst rough patch in quite some time. In the late 2000s and early to mid-2010s, the once-beloved video game giant was putting out a consistent stream of games with major issues. Some games lacked content and felt unfinished, such as Street Fighter V. Some games included egregious DLC, such as Street Fighter X Tekken. And worst of all, examples like Resident Evil 6 demonstrated that Capcom was designing its games in ways that flew in the face of everything that made those franchises special to begin with.
Yet, despite it all, Capcom has made a monumental comeback. A streak of critically acclaimed games over the last few years has proven that Capcom has learned from its mistakes and is confidently charging ahead on a path that we can’t wait to see unfold.
The rough patch
Disappointment after disappointment in a variety of major franchises set the stage for one of the weakest periods that Capcom had ever seen. This was the company that developed games like Resident Evil, Street Fighter II, and Devil May Cry, which essentially pioneered the survival horror, fighting, and hack-and-slash genres respectively. Yet, all three of these franchises would suffer during this time. Devil May Cry 4 was well received, but its second half felt rushed. And instead of working on a sequel, Capcom handed the reins to the talented team at Ninja Theory. While DmC: Devil May Cry served as a solid reboot, its new direction was far too off-putting for traditional Devil May Cry players and it never received a sequel to capitalize on its new ideas.
Resident Evil was once the pinnacle of the survival horror genre, but with each new release, the series was headed in a more action-heavy direction. This culminated in the Michael Bay shenanigans of Resident Evil 6, which is widely considered the worst numbered entry in the franchise, as it abandoned any semblance of being survival horror. To make matters worse, spin-offs like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City were repetitive and buggy. If Capcom couldn’t understand what made Resident Evil work, then it was truly off track.
Street Fighter wasn’t safe either. Despite being a core pillar for Capcom, Street Fighter V launched as a barebones package with a severe lack of content. Gamers were also critical of its character redesigns and poor online netcode. Elsewhere, Street Fighter X Tekken was criticized for including on-disc DLC, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was released with a limited roster, poor story, and underwhelming visual presentation. The icing on the cake during this time is that Capcom had also taken part in unsavory microtransaction practices and continued to re-release games shortly after their initial launch.
All told, Capcom felt like it was chasing all the wrong trends to increase profits and gain a wider audience at the expense of alienating its loyal fans. It was failing on every front, which makes it all the more impressive that it has since managed to right the ship.
Don’t call it a comeback
Fans are more optimistic about Capcom than ever now, and that’s because the company has rebuilt its reputation with a steady cadence of excellent titles in almost every franchise. It began with the rebirth of Resident Evil in 2017. The ‘Kitchen demo’ was genuinely scary, and more in line with modern takes on the horror genre. That’s probably why no one expected it to eventually be Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The game perfectly blended classic Resident Evil game design with modern horror ideas, resulting in a focused love letter to fans and a true return to the series’ roots. It was a demonstration that Capcom still knew what makes the series special.
The masterful remake of Resident Evil 2 in 2019 and the well-received Resident Evil 3 remake and Resident Evil Village further cemented the true return of the most iconic survival horror franchise in video games. Like a shambling zombie, Capcom clawed its way back to the top, and Resident Evil was only the beginning. Monster Hunter: World’s astronomical sales and reception brought the somewhat niche series into the spotlight like never before. It was a modern and easily appealing take on Monster Hunter with exciting innovations and excellent multiplayer options. Monster Hunter Rise also found similar success, with enough new mechanics to freshen things up for veteran players.
If Capcom only released RE2 in 2019, that would’ve been enough. But, within a few months of RE2 came Devil May Cry 5. Veteran Capcom Director Hideaki Itsuno helmed one of the best entries in the series to date thanks to a mixture of familiar gameplay and V, a character with an entirely new playstyle. Another Capcom veteran, Koji Oda, directed Mega Man 11, which was also a return to form.
A common thread among these success stories is that Capcom is returning to the roots of what makes each franchise tick, while also evolving the formulas in small but meaningful ways. RE2’s shooting mechanics feel like a natural evolution of Resident Evil 4, Monster Hunter: World was more accessible, and DMC 5 used a new character to experiment with a fresh combat style. It certainly also helps that almost every Capcom title over the last few years has been powered by its ever-impressive Reach for the Moon (RE) engine.
Anything feels possible now
Capcom has earned back its goodwill, found its groove, and looks ready to continue its hot steak. The company’s newfound confidence is apparent in the varied types of games it’s coming out with. Street Fighter V eventually improved into a solid fighter thanks to years of support. Fighting game fans are now eagerly anticipating the release of Street Fighter 6, which seems to be a major evolution of the Street Fighter formula and looks stunning in motion too. On top of that, RE players (who have already been eating good) can look forward to Resident Evil Village Gold Edition and Resident Evil 4 remake in the near future.
Capcom is nailing its legacy franchises, but it’s also pushing forward with new ideas. Original IPs like Exoprimal and Pragmata are on the horizon. While we don’t know how these will pan out just yet, fresh IPs are essential to pushing the video game industry forward, and it’s heartwarming to see Capcom flexing its creative muscle once more.
We’ve talked about Capcom’s familiar franchises and new ideas, but what about its legacy titles? Capcom has recently been digging into its war chest to release packages like the Capcom Fighting Collection. Street Fighter V players may also remember the addition of Akira Kazama from Rival Schools: United by Fate as a DLC character. Given how Darkstalkers is heavily featured in the Capcom Fighting Collection and Akira was an unexpected addition to SFV, could Capcom be testing the waters for some revivals? We’re crossing all of our fingers for that.
There have been various issues around the Marvel vs. Capcom series, but Capcom has a friendly relationship with rival developer SNK. So could an SNK vs. Capcom return be in the cards? It’s a lofty dream to be sure, but Capcom feels like a company willing to take these risks now, especially since the announcement of Dragon’s Dogma 2. Perhaps Dino Crisis fans will eventually see their dreams of a new entry or remake come true as well, eventually.
Capcom had sunk to a dark place, but the storied Japanese game developer has made one of the most impressive comebacks we’ve ever seen, and we’re anxious to see where this momentum takes it next.