Fans of the long-running “Resident Evil” franchise have much to celebrate in 2021, with the release of a new game on May. “Resident Evil: Village” features the return of familiar characters and a tantalizing new fan favorite. Months before the game has even been released, fans have already been smitten by Lady Dimitrescu, the 9-foot tall possibly vampiric main antagonist of the game. Unlike other survival horror monsters like Pyramid Head, Lady Dimitrescu combines superficial elegance and subtle wrongness.
But although the elegant Dimitrescu is the current fan favorite, there has only ever been one First Lady of the franchise: Jill Valentine. Among Resident Evil’s characters, Valentine stands out as the first female protagonist. Even better, she is probably the first hardcore female protagonist in a survival horror video game.
Today, take the time to learn about and appreciate Jill Valentine, the first lady of survival horror.
Jill Valentine’s Inception and Impact
Jill Valentine was the brainchild of two of the creators of the first “Resident Evil” game. In 1996, Capcom hired Shinji Mikami and Isao Oishi to helm the project. Mikami, who would eventually become the master of horror video games, cooperated with Oishi to create the story and the characters.
Valentine is the sole (recognizably, at least) female in the first “Resident Evil’s” cast of characters. Although she was by no means the first female video game protagonist to be a totally badass soldier, she was the first badass female survival horror protagonists.
The history of video games by 1996 already included tough and powerful female characters like Samus Aran and Lara Croft. What makes Jill Valentine unique is how Mikami and Oishi designed her and the world around her.
The game designed by Mikami and Oishi was among the first to establish the survival horror genre. This is a genre defined by the lack of resources as much as the terrifying monsters. Unlike “Skyrim,” you can’t just buy hundreds of arrows or pick the best house. Each bullet and herb were precious resources to be conserved Valentine wasn’t armed with a whole array of powerful weaponry. She had a lockpick, a handgun and her wits.
“Resident Evil’s” genre also helped make her design and characterization unique. Unlike Lara Croft, who’s design was intentionally kept alluring despite her oversized breasts were a programming mistake, Jill Valentine wears a sensible attire for a special operative on her first appearance. Oishi ensured she wears appropriate clothes for a soldier: a tasteful beret, some huge shoulder pads, a comfortable looking uniform top and combat pants with boots.
Oishi and Mikami also did excellent work with her characterization. Although she was in a horrific situation, Jill Valentine wasn’t a terrified teenager like Jennifer Simpson from “Clock Tower.” Like almost all of the characters of “Resident Evil,” Valentine was a hardened former military and this tough-as-nails attitude and determination has helped her become and remain one of the greatest video game characters of all time.
Jill Valentine’s Pre-Game Biography
Jill Valentine’s video game career may have started in 1996, but her biography as a character goes way back. Born in 1974 to a French father and Japanese mother, the biracial Valentine grew up in the U.S. Much like many of “Resident Evil’s” cast, she had a military background. Valentine joined the U.S. army when she turned 18. She signed up with the army’s primary counter-terrorism unit, Delta Force. Her specialty, bomb defusal, and her prowess in combat made her an ideal candidate for the Special Tactics and Rescue Service team or S.T.A.R.S. of the fictional Raccoon City Police Department.
Valentine quit the U.S. Army in 1996 to join the S.T.A.R.S. team in their Alpha Unit. This squad was led by Albert Wesker and where she met her partner, Chris Redfield. However, it was during her time in the S.T.A.R.S. team, guarding a supposedly uneventful Mid-Western city, that she would run afoul of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation.
A Chronology of Jill Valentine’s Game Appearances
Since Jill Valentine’s first appearance in “Resident Evil’s” debut game in 1996, she has gone on to appear in 20 video games, including “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” and in other media. But the bulk of her story and development naturally occurs in her major appearances within the franchise.
The following is a catalogue of Valentine’s story as depicted throughout the games.
Resident Evil (1996)
In 1996, while serving under Raccoon City’s S.T.A.R.S. team, Valentine and the rest of the first “Resident Evil’s” cast of characters get reports of a spate of savage and cannibalistic killings in the mountains near the city. After the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team disappears while investigating, Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield and the Alpha Team’s leader, Albert Wesker, scout out the location. They soon discover that the perpetrators of the killings are zombified dogs and are chased into a nearby mansion. Unfortunately, the mansion itself is the source of the zombies and the epicenter of the crisis.
When she’s separated from the rest of her team, Valentine uses her wits and knowledge of lockpicking, as well as her combat skills, to navigate the booby-trapped mansion. She also fights undead horrors, mutated snakes, a gigantic shark and a horrifying plant. Ultimately, she discovers that Wesker has been working with the Umbrella Corporation, the people behind the zombie experiments. Wesker and the company have lured Valentine and the rest of the elite fighters to test a monstrous bio-organic weapon or B.O.W. Jill Valentine outfights the B.O.W. and escapes the mansion with Chris.
Resident Evil 3 (1999)
Unfortunately, Jill Valentine’s career is just beginning. A few months after the mansion incident, Raccoon City itself was corrupted by the zombie virus, turning it into a city of the dead. Compounding the problem, Valentine and the characters of this “Resident Evil” game discover that Umbrella has sent Nemesis, their latest B.O.W., to hunt down the former members of the S.T.A.R.S. team as a test run. Valentine traverses the undead-infested city while evading Nemesis. In the end, she defeats the monster and escapes the city just as its nuked by the government.
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (2007)
After the destruction of Raccoon City, Jill Valentine joined Chris Redfield in a special organization dedicated to preventing the creation of more B.O.W. Together, they track down Umbrella Corporation’s final stronghold in Russia. However, they discover that their former boss, Albert Wesker, has also been tracking down the base to steal its knowledge for his own. They destroy the base and end the corporation, but not before Wesker has time to take the data he’s been coveting.
Resident Evil: Revelations (2012)
Valentine continues her career as an unstoppable destroyer of bioweapons while working for the Federal Bioterrorism Commission. She is sent to investigate a new strain of the virus that decimated Racoon City. The virus had previously overrun a city which had to be destroyed via a satellite superweapon. The virus has resurfaced at an abandoned cruise liner and Valentine discovers a conspiracy to release it in another populated area. Redfield returns to assist her and together, the duo find out that the Commission itself has been propagating the virus to drum up more support and funding. After shutting down the conspiracy, they once more initiate the hunt for their former boss, Wesker.
Resident Evil 5 (2009)
Before the events of the main game, a special downloadable content reveals that Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield went on one last mission to bring down Wesker. However, their old boss had injected himself with a potent form of the zombie virus, Ouroboros, and had acquires super speed and strength. The battle against Wesker almost led to the deaths of the two agents, but Valentine sacrificed herself to save Chris. However, she and Wesker did not die.
Jill Valentine was saved by Wesker only to be controlled through drugs and experimented on. Now under Wesker’s control, Valentine acted as his lieutenant, opposing Chris and his new partner. Wesker dispatched her one last time to kill Chris, but she overpowered the drug controlling her and her former partner freed her from Wesker’s control. She helped him destroy their former boss once and for all before retiring to recuperate from her ordeal. This marks the last chronological appearance of Jill Valentine within the video game series.
Aside from her appearances in the “Resident Evil” games, Jill Valentine has appeared in other media. Most notably, she’s a playable character in the 2000 arcade fighting game “Marvel vs Capcom 2.” She’s also been portrayed in the live-action film series.
Marvel vs Capcom Games
“Marvel vs Capcom 2” is an arcade fighting video game featuring characters from the Marvel comics universe and characters from Capcom video games. Naturally, characters from “Resident Evil” make an appearance, including Jill Valentine in her iconic uniform from the first game. She also appears in the game’s sequel in 2011.
Resident Evil Film Series
Jill Valentine was originally going to be the protagonist of the first “Resident Evil” movie, but she was removed in favor of a new character Alice. She makes her debut in the movie’s 2004 sequel, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse.” Jill Valentine’s actress was Sienna Guillory. The English actress’s costume was based on Valentine’s blue top and boots outfit in the third game. Jill Valentine’s actress would reprise the role six years later for the post-credits scene for “Resident Evil: Afterlife.” In this appearance, her jumpsuit and chest unit were modeled after the Wesker-controlled Valentine from “Resident Evil 5.” Guillory would reprise the role a final time for “Resident Evil: Retribution,” with her story in the movie mirroring her counterpart’s final appearance so far. Jill Valentine’s actress has been praised by critics as some of the movie’s only saving grace.
In 2026, Jill Valentine will celebrate her 30th anniversary since she first debuted. Throughout that time, she has remained one of the most iconic and durable characters in horror video game history. Here’s to looking forward to more appearances by the first lady of survival horror.