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Resident Evil 7 is the first full-length game to use Capcom's in-house RE Engine. The development was led by Koshi Nakanishi, director of the 2012 Nintendo 3DS game Resident Evil: Revelations. A year prior to its announcement at E3 2016, it was presented as a virtual reality demo called Kitchen. The team took inspiration from the 1981 film The Evil Dead, scaled back the game to one location, and used a first-person perspective to immerse players. Two downloadable content scenarios were released, Not a Hero and End of Zoe.
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The player controls Ethan Winters from a first-person perspective as he searches a derelict estate for his missing wife. Although Ethan is a civilian with few combat skills, he is able to arm himself with a variety of weapons including handguns, shotguns, flamethrowers, explosives and chainsaws against the estate's residents, the Baker family, as well as humanoid fungal creatures known as the "Molded" and mutated insects. He can block attacks to reduce damage. Various sections of the game are spent being pursued by members of the Baker family, who, if engaged in combat, can only be temporarily incapacitated. However, these encounters are avoidable by means of stealth, or running away.
In 21, Clancy is knocked unconscious by Lucas. When Clancy awakens, he finds himself confined to a chair, his hand placed within a "finger guillotine"; a man sits across from him wearing a sack whom Lucas refers to as "Hoffman". Broadcasting himself, Lucas announces that the men will have to play blackjack to win their freedom; the loser of each round will lose a finger, and the first to lose all five fingers will be killed. After Clancy wins the first round, Hoffman demands another game. Lucas straps the two to a device that administers electrical shocks, increasing in power for each round lost, with the final level fatal. Clancy wins and Hoffman is seemingly killed. Lucas uses wires to manipulate Hoffman's body like a puppet, before he places a large saw between the men, moving closer to the loser. Clancy wins again and Hoffman is revealed to have just passed out from pain; he awakens just as he is killed. Lucas congratulates Clancy, and moves him to play another game.
Purchase of a GameStop-exclusive Collector's Edition included an eight-inch model of the Baker mansion, which when opened functions as a music box playing the main theme rendition of "Go Tell Aunt Rhody", a mannequin finger-shaped 4 gigabyte USB flash drive contained within a VHS tape box, a SteelBook Case containing the game, a lithograph of the Baker family, and a note. The UK version added the Survival Pack: Action Set DLC, a 20th anniversary artbook and a seven-inch replica of the mansion, but did not feature the music box. U.S. pre-orders on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One came with a code for a free download of Resident Evil: Retribution. A 4D candle with the scent of the Baker House Mansion was made to enhance the virtual reality experience. The Gold Edition, released on December 12, 2017, includes previously released downloadable content (DLC) as well as the End of Zoe DLC.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was released for PlayStation 4, Windows, and Xbox One in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand on January 24, 2017, and in Japan on January 26. For the first 12 months of its release, the virtual reality format was exclusive to PlayStation VR. Over 4,700,000 players have accumulated worldwide, over 750,000 of them being VR users. The PC version was tamper-protected by anti-piracy software Denuvo, which was hacked within five days of release. A cloud version for the Nintendo Switch, titled Biohazard 7: Resident Evil Cloud Version, was released in Japan on May 24, 2018. Players may access the first 15 minutes of the game for free, and continue playing it afterwards by purchasing a pass allowing unlimited play for 180 days. This version is scheduled for a worldwide release on December 16, 2022. The game was also released for Amazon Luna on December 9, 2020, and for Google Stadia on April 1, 2021.
Versions for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S were announced on March 2, 2022, and released on June 13, 2022 alongside upgrades for Resident Evil 2 (2019) and Resident Evil 3 (2020). These versions include visual enhancements including ray-tracing and high-framerate modes, and the PlayStation 5 version supports haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Owners of the game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are able to upgrade for free, and a free upgrade patch for the Windows version was released simultaneously.
Shortly after the game's reveal, a playable teaser named Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour was released on the PlayStation Store. The demo takes place in a dilapidated house, which the unnamed male player character needs to escape. Depending on the actions taken by the player, the teaser may have three different outcomes. Capcom later revealed that the teaser was a standalone experience and not a segment of the game, which has more variety in its environments, and additional mechanics, such as combat. By July 2016, the demo had been downloaded over 2 million times. An update called the "Twilight Version" was released on September 15, 2016, and gave access to new rooms and items to find. Along with the new version, Capcom released a trailer for the game. Another update called the "Midnight Version" was released on December 3, which unlocked additional areas of the house, along with several new items to find and a puzzle concerning a riddle in the Twilight Version. The demo was released for Xbox One on December 9 and for PC on December 19.
Writing for Game Informer, Andrew Reiner commended the "tense, unsettling, overly gory" atmosphere for providing a competent introduction to Resident Evil 7. The Baker house and the nature of exploring it posed significant interest to him, for together, they would present new aspects regarding the occupants and be enhanced by the first-person perspective. Scott Butterworth at GameSpot enjoyed the narrative overall, valuing its memorable moments and the thematic consistency of the writing. He was impressed with the reliance of atmosphere as opposed to jump scares to heighten the feeling of danger. Using the Baker family to multifarious ends of gameplay was complimented as a logical extension of the established world; the interactive VHS tapes were approved of for the same reason, said to serve "beautifully as both a narrative device and a way to break up Ethan's exhausting mission". On PlayStation VR, Butterworth mentioned that, in its employment, the element of horror appeared more realistic.
Leon Hurley, writing for GamesRadar+, was of the opinion that, while the "gore and guts" were sparingly effective, a number of his most favorite moments had to do with investigating the "beautifully designed" Baker house. As for the VR, it was dubbed as a terrifying experience "where the mildewy atmosphere gets into your soul". Giant Bomb's Dan Ryckert referred to Resident Evil 7 as the reinvigoration of earlier components in the series while at the same time yielding a fresh outlook with a yet-unrivaled story. The main antagonists bore substantial weight to Ryckert's cause for worry, and gave way to thrills when prompted to flee them. He viewed the first-person perspective as "bold", and attributed to the PlayStation VR, an earnest addition to the "scare factor". Chloi Rad of IGN endorsed the pervading tone of eeriness in the game, owed entirely to the plantation, which she thought was "one of the creepiest single settings since the Spencer Mansion". Also, she observed that the game world gave off a robust sense of place with unwavering exploration. To her, the Baker family were the most compelling of the characters because of the consequent emotional strain felt in their presence. Andy Kelly at PC Gamer began his review, writing, "It's a return to the atmospheric, slow-burning horror of the original". He disagreed with Ryckert's assessment that the first-person was a bold reinvention, instead praising it for being "classic Resident Evil through and through". Kelly saw the regular state of vulnerability he was faced within the game as one of its greatest strengths, giving credit to the visuals and audio for adding to the "rumbling sense of dread". He considered flashbacks via VHS tapes to be one of his favorite features. Polygon's Philip Kollar applauded Resident Evil 7's return to form, declaring that "no Resident Evil game since the first has done as good a job as RE7 at making me feel scared and helpless".
Capcom's pre-release sales projection for the game's launch window, through the end of March 2017, was 4 million copies. The game had shipped over 2.5 million units worldwide days after the release, while the demo exceeded 7.15 million downloads. The modest shipment figure had an effect on Capcom's stock price, which fell more than three percent following the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It was the best-selling video game in the UK during its week of release according to Chart-Track, amounting to the third-best debut in Resident Evil history behind Resident Evil 5 (7.1 million) and Resident Evil 6 (6.6 million). 200,000 copies had also been sold through Steam during that time. It ranked first in the Japanese charts for the week ending January 29; the PS4 sales totalled 187,306 copies, 58.9 percent of its initial shipment. In the month of January in the United States, Resident Evil 7 sold the most out of any video game.
On February 1, Capcom communicated to its investors that the game had recouped its budget, while it remained at the top of the UK sales chart in its second week and ranked as the second-best-selling video game in the United States, behind For Honor. By April 2017, Resident Evil 7 had sold 3.5 million copies worldwide, short of Capcom's expectation of 4 million. In May 2017, Capcom gave the game a lifetime sales forecast of ten million units, citing favorable reviews, marketing and downloadable content as contributing factors. The game entered the top 10 of "Capcom Platinum Titles" that passed 1 million sold copies, and by September 2018, total sales reached 5.7 million, which rose to 6 million by that December, 7.5 million by March 2020, 7.9 million by June 2020, 8.5 million by December 2020, and 9 million units by March 2021. As of June 2022, the game had sold 11 million units.