Ever since I played Code: Veronica on the Dreamcast way back in 2000, I’ve been in love with the Resident Evil series. No other game has managed to replicate its atmosphere, mechanics and some of the finer aspects, like save rooms.
Since then, I’ve played most of its entries, even Survivor (sigh), and many of them hold an honorary place in my list of favourite games. But throughout the decades, the series has experienced a lot of changes and a large number of highs and lows.
From what started out as a pure survival horror title, over the years it transitioned into a less appealing action-oriented route. Based on that, I decided to rank every game in the series and detail the strengths and weaknesses of each.
For this list, I only considered numbered, officially released entries. So no ports like Resident Evil: Deadly Silence or unfinished builds like Resident Evil 1.5.
10. Resident Evil 6
And Jill’s sandwich, however appetizing, goes to Resident Evil 6. This entry is kind of like what Devil May Cry 2 is to its respective series. It tried to become cool and in doing that strayed way too far from the pre-established characteristics of its predecessors.
RE6 featured fan-favourite characters – Leon, Chris and Ada – and introduced a brand new character by the name of Jake Muller. It also marked the return of Sherry Birkin for the first time since Resident Evil 2. Multiple characters meant multiple campaigns and multiple campaigns meant more content overall. Instead, we witnessed a mundane action game from multiple different perspectives set within the Resident Evil universe.
Survival horror was further neglected in favour of action, shootouts, explosive cutscenes and redundant quick-time events. Most enemies no longer even resembled zombies and were more in line with mutants carrying conventional weaponry. Collecting points and developing skills also didn’t quite fit within the context of the series.
Among the game’s saving graces were Leon’s campaign which still, to a degree, retained the notion of the horror roots. And Jake, being the son of late Albert Wesker, was rather intriguing as a newly introduced character. Much like with Resident Evil 5, one might consider it to be a good game, but certainly not good enough in comparison to the rest of the series. It focused on acton segments too much and lacked the series’ signature identity. Hence, it deservedly rests at the very bottom of this list.
9. Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 felt more like an experiment from Capcom; like they wanted to change the formula for the new generation of consoles. As with any new entry, I was excited for RE5 when details on it first surfaced, and trailers didn’t indicate at anything wrong. Alas, that excitement waned soon after completing the game. Admittedly, I was content with the overall experience, but didn’t feel like I had played a Resident Evil game.
First of all, Africa was not a good choice for a setting. Early segments of the game were spent out in the sun and completely diminished any notion of a horror experience. RE5 also pushed the action of RE4 even further, relying too much on shooting, and the new enemies just weren’t scary at all. They were merely an “improved” version of the Ganado from Resident Evil 4 and didn’t resemble traditional zombies in the slightest.
For the first time, RE5 featured a local and online co-op, where one player would take control of Chris and the other of his partner, Sheva. Because of the lacklustre AI, this felt like a welcome addition and playing with a friend was fun. But having a partner at your side, whether online or off, hurt the horror aspect of the game once again.
Story-wise, between the original and Code: Veronica, RE5 was where Wesker’s invincible supervillain persona really peaked. Fighting against him provided some of the most spectacular and memorable moments in the game. And despite its many flaws, RE5 was an enjoyable game, but in comparison to the best, it lacked many integral components.
8. Resident Evil 7
From the very first trailers, Resident Evil 7 began its life as a highly promising new entry in the series. It featured a new first-person perspective and introduced new characters completely unrelated to the somewhat tired old cast. And once the game released, it set the stage for what looked like an excellent horror story.
RE7 followed a brand new character, Ethan, who goes to Louisiana in search of his missing wife. His search brought him into a shabby wooden house inhabited by, as it turned out, a family of murderous lunatics. It all felt like one of those grimy found-footage films and once again focused on horror. Escaping the pursuers, hiding behind furniture and peeking around corners – the first few hours were brilliant. But alas, the game gradually went downwards, completely losing intrigue during the later segments.
Its excellent atmosphere got ruined by arguably one of the worst designed enemies in video game history – the Moulded. They were these black boring blobs taking a humanoid shape, tricky to kill and absorbed way too many bullets. Moreover, one Moulded didn’t look much different from another, with only minor differentiating features.
If RE7 refrained from introducing any other enemies and instead focused on the family, it would’ve turned into a much better game. It featured many familiar items and weapons from the series, and even a save room. And it came extremely close to being a true RE experience from the first-person perspective. In the end, it hardly felt like a true Resident Evil game, but for the first time in years, it was a brave step in the right direction.
7. Resident Evil Zero
Released in the same year as the remake of Resident Evil, RE0 portrayed events leading up to the first game. An intriguing premise, at the very least, and an experience which took over a decade to release on other platforms. But while it looked and often played just as well as its remade predecessor, some of its gameplay features were sub-par.
Players took control of two different characters: Billy, a convicted felon, and Rebecca, a timid medic from the first game. Both characters had their strengths and weaknesses, a separate inventory, and could be switched almost seamlessly throughout the game.
This new approach sounded great in theory, but for various reasons, was far from it in practice. Item boxes were removed and even two separate inventories weren’t enough to house all of the items. To somewhat remedy this, it was possible to exchange items between characters or drop them anywhere to pick up later.
However, the latter led to constant backtracking as you had to prioritize items necessary for progression over powerful weapons and supplies. Did you leave the grenade launcher in another building just because you needed the space for a keycard? Too bad, because now you must run all the way back and retrieve it.
In addition to that, the game’s story was rather ridiculous and contained numerous plot holes. Billy and Rebecca also didn’t exactly feel like lead characters and perhaps should’ve been relegated to a spin-off entry. RE0 takes a low spot on the list mainly due to its tedious backtracking and somewhat unfinished story.
6. Resident Evil
Resident Evil established the genre of survival horror and to this day remains as one of the few representatives of it. It also introduced the series’ prominent cast: Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton and the villain, Albert Wesker. And the Spencer Estate still holds its place as one of the more frightening environments in video games.
But let’s get one thing straight – the original Resident Evil isn’t so low on this list because it’s a bad game. It’s so low because, after more than 20 years on the market, it looks like a pixelated piece of garbage. Its cutscenes, awkward animations and terrible voice acting (though it does have its charm), haven’t aged well. And most entries after it improved upon the original’s formula in pretty much every way.
Some of its stronger points remain intact, such as the atmosphere, the relaxing nature of save rooms and the scarcity of resources. Traversing the gloomy hallways of the estate and hearing zombies plod along and groan, still sends shivers down the spine. So does reaching a save room with its uniquely relaxing melody, but for a different reason.
Solving the numerous puzzles and reading object descriptions further compliments the overall atmosphere. And in a way, its dated visuals and rudimentary controls almost add to the whole fright factor. It’s a game that every RE fan should experience at least once if only to realize how far the franchise has come since then.
5. Resident Evil 2
Unlike most players, I’ve never been exceptionally fond of Resident Evil 2. For some reason, it never quite clicked with me, though, of course, I still enjoy it very much.
Events in Resident Evil 2 took place two months after the original when the virus had already reached the city. It featured a duet of new characters: young police officer Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, Chris’ sister. Unlike Chris and Jill from the first game, these characters were not exactly prepared for combat, so playing as them led to a completely different horror experience.
What made RE2 stand out from the rest, was its diverging story featuring separate scenarios for Leon and Claire. This was also somewhat true for the original, but RE2 elaborated upon that even further. Depending on the chosen character, you would experience different cutscenes, meet different NPCs, access different locations and even fight different bosses. Moreover, completing the game as one character unlocked the ability to play through that campaign with the other. This meant a total of four different campaigns with an unprecedented amount of replayability.
Overall, the story was RE2’s greatest asset, in no small part thanks to its environment – the Raccoon Police Department. Somehow, it was no less frightening than the mansion in the original and featured a generous number of intricate puzzles. Much like the first game, it hasn’t aged all that well visually, but still maintains a top-of-the-class atmosphere over other entries.
4. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Resident Evil 3 unfolded a mere day before the events in RE2 and portrayed Jill’s escape from the zombie-infested city. But unlike its predecessor, it didn’t limit the environment to just the police station; the whole city was open for exploration. However, the biggest selling point of RE3 was already in the title: Nemesis.
RE3 took Mr X from RE2 and made him into a constant, relentless threat in the form of the invincible Nemesis. Repeatedly encountering this hulking brute throughout the vast city felt exhilarating. And running or hiding from him in save rooms didn’t help and only led to having the relaxing “Free From Fear” replaced by the ominous “Feel the Tension” track. Moreover, once you went out, Nemesis would resume the chase.
This resulted in a heart-pounding game of cat and mouse across the whole story. Many of these encounters featured a set of choices on how Nemesis should be dealt with which often meant simply running away. But these choices also determined how a scene would conclude, what would happen next, and even alter the game’s ending.
Killing, or rather incapacitating Nemesis at certain intervals bestowed players with an increasingly better reward. These ranged between weapon parts and first aid packs to some of the most powerful weapons in the game. But the constant threat of Nemesis aside, RE3 featured a great story with memorable characters, a galore of great puzzles and tons of replayability with the new “The Mercenaries” mode.
3. Resident Evil Remake
Video game remakes don’t happen often and for good reason. Not many developers have the skill to pull it off and remaking something can prove more challenging than building it from the ground-up. How do you remake a game and improve upon the original, while not compromising its integrity? Ask Capcom.
In 2002, Capcom did the unthinkable and released what is, to this day, considered one of the best remakes ever. RE: Remake felt pleasantly familiar, with many of the original events intact. And yet, it added more to the plot, along with an all-new enemy. For the longest time, only GameCube owners were able to experience this horror masterpiece. Until in 2015, Capcom remastered the game for current-gen consoles and PC.
Even today, with minor improvements, this remake stands visually on par with modern releases. Which largely stems from its intricately detailed backgrounds and character models. Take just one look at its gorgeous lighting and shadows and you’ll realize that the remake of Resident Evil hasn’t aged a bit. Shadows dance across the walls and lightning strikes behind the windows as you proceed through the eerie mansion halls. These visual enhancements created the most horrifying RE experience of its time.
But even beyond that, it introduced new costumes for Chris and Jill, reimagined puzzles and an entirely new save room theme. New mechanics, such as being able to burn zombie corpses made for strategic disposal of potential threats. And if there exists a better remake than this, well… it may just rank higher on the list.
2. Resident Evil 4
Often considered as the best in the series, Resident Evil 4 bridged the gap between survival horror and the action of later games. Unlike subsequent entries, it maintained the balance between horror and a third-person shooter. It also introduced the now prominent over-the-shoulder view and was the last game in the series directed by Shinji Mikami.
Resident Evil 4 featured possibly the best plot in the series and also one of the longest campaigns. Once again, it placed the spotlight on Leon S. Kennedy, now more mature and experienced than before. His mission was to locate and rescue the president’s daughter, Ashley, all the while battling a new threat – the Ganado. These enemies were much faster and smarter than a regular zombie and often equipped with some sort of a weapon.
In some instances, RE4 felt like a long escort mission: a gamer’s worst nightmare. But the story saved it from becoming stale. Clusters of chapters were masterfully split into distinct segments featuring an entirely different villain. Facing off against each of the game’s bad-guy’s felt unique and made the whole experience highly diverse.
Upon completion, instead of rounding the story off with Leon’s campaign, RE4 provided access to a new mode titled Separate Ways. This mode featured Ada as the protagonist and portrayed events from her perspective. With added hours of gameplay, it featured new events, cutscenes and even boss battles. And while two scenarios in the original and RE2 were kind of expected, having the ability to play as Ada in RE4 came as a surprise.
Despite introducing an over-the-shoulder perspective and becoming “faster” it still felt like a true Resident Evil experience.
1. Resident Evil 2 Remake
For the first time since 2002, the remake of Resident Evil 2 brought back survival horror in its purest form. Dark, cramped environments, the scarcity of resources, and zombies were scary once again. How often have you been scared by zombies or relieved to find a pack of bullets for the handgun? And if all that wasn’t enough, then Mr X made sure that you wouldn’t go a single day without at least two pairs of underwear.
Its story remained largely intact, with some minor changes and subtle additions. However, the differences between Leon and Claire’s scenarios were rather questionable. Despite following different paths and experiencing a few different events, they somehow managed to fight exactly the same bosses. Um… how? That aside, the main attraction of this new entry was combat and horror, in part due to the revamped over-the-shoulder perspective.
Combat and atmosphere made up for most plot inconsistencies. Shooting a zombie would make them flinch or even tear off a piece of flesh, leaving a visible laceration. And even dismembering the walker would still allow them to continue crawling towards your character. RE2 featured an astounding amount of approaches to each combat situation.
Reimagined hallways of the police department made for one of the most frightening environments in the series’ history. With thunder flashing behind the windows and only the faint beam of the flashlight illuminating the way; you never knew what to expect behind the next corner. Also, for the first time since 1998, the Raccoon Police Department finally had bathrooms for officers to relieve themselves.
Do you agree with the list? What’s your favourite entry in the series? Let me know in the comments below. And if you wish to delve deeper into the Resident Evil universe, then I suggest checking out The Sphere Hunter on YouTube. She does brilliant retrospects on the series and her voice will play your heartstrings like no one else.