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Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil Mastermind, Leaving Studio He Founded

Shinji Mikami, famed Japanese game designer best known for his work on the Resident Evil series, has decided to leave Tango Gameworks after founding the studio over 10 years ago, according to a TrueAchievements report that was corroborated by Bethesda on Twitter.

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Mikami’s career spans a variety of games and genres

Mikami is a legendary game designer at this point, an old head in the industry who’s been around since the ‘90s where he started at Capcom. While his first big game as a designer at the Japanese studio was the 1993 action-adventure game Goof Troop for the SNES, he leveled up and directed the adventure horror classic Resident Evil in 1996. This game wound up doing gangbusters numbers for Capcom, catapulting Mikami to stardom and solidifying Resident Evil as the tentpole horror franchise we know today. He’s since worked on a number of Resident Evil games throughout his Capcom tenure as either an advisor, director, producer, or writer while cutting his teeth on other storied projects. This includes the survival horror series Dino Crisis, the 2000 hack-and-slash action-adventure game Onimusha: Warlords (a fave of mine), the 2001 action-adventure game Devil May Cry (another fave of mine), the 2003 side-scrolling beat-’em-up Viewtiful Joe (one more fave of mine), and so many more. He’s also served as an executive producer for a handful of Phoenix Wright games. This man’s resume is long, yall.

And now, the storied game developer is starting a new chapter in that resume. In a company-wide ZeniMax email viewed by TrueAchievements, Bethesda’s senior vice president of development, Todd Vaughn, delivered the news of Mikami’s departure. Though unclear when he’s leaving, Vaughn said Mikami plans to dip out of Tango Gameworks “in the coming months.”

“I am writing today to let you know that studio head Shinji Mikami has decided to leave Tango Gameworks in the coming months,” Vaughn said. “Mikami-san has been a creative leader and supportive mentor to young developers at Tango for 12 years through his work on The Evil Within franchise, Ghostwire: Tokyo, and of course, Hi-Fi Rush.”

Bethesda then confirmed the news today on Twitter, thanking Mikami for his work and saying it’s excited about Tango Gameworks’ future.

“We can confirm that Shinji Mikami has decided to leave Tango Gameworks in the coming months,” the statement reads. “We thank him for this work as a creative leader and supportive mentor to young developers on The Evil Within franchise, Ghostwire: Tokyo, and, of course, Hi-Fi Rush. We wish Mikami-san well in the future and are excited by what lies ahead for the talented developers at Tango.”

Kotaku reached out to Bethesda and Tango Gameworks for comment.

Mikami elevated the lesser-known with Tango Gameworks

After spending about two decades at Capcom, Mikami worked with PlatinumGames to release the 2010 third-person shooter Vanquish. In the same year, he founded Tango Gameworks, which was almost immediately acquired by Bethesda Softworks’ parent company ZeniMax Media. Four years later, in 2014, Mikami returned to his scary roots to direct the survival horror game The Evil Within. It garnered a pretty positive reception, leading to a sequel in 2017. It was during this game’s development that Mikami started to take a backseat, opting to serve as a producer while supervising the game’s progress. Tango would go on to release the 2022 open-world action-adventure game Ghostwire: Tokyo and this year’s rhythm-based action game Hi-Fi Rush, both of which would be Mikami’s last projects as the studio’s executive producer. He’s leaving on a high note.

Mikami leaving Tango Gameworks is a bummer. He’s worked on so many varied games, proving his creativity knows no bounds. He also helped propel the careers of others through Tango Gameworks, most notably Ikumi Nakamura, an artist who worked on The Evil Within and Okami before stepping into the creative director role for Ghostwire: Tokyo. On the studio’s official website, Mikami said he “want[ed] to create a place for young creators to challenge themselves,” pointing to the “many talented creators in Japan” that don’t have access to the same opportunities. This is a man who used his power to elevate the obscure and unknown, something you don’t see too often anymore.

While Mikami said in December 2020 he could direct one last game, it’s unclear what’s next for the famed Japanese game designer now. But here’s hoping Mikami stays in the games industry to continue the work he sought out to do at Tango Gameworks, that of elevating lesser-known creatives to diversify the types of games we see in the world.

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