Since 1996, survival horror fanatics have been enjoying the delightful cheese-fest that is the Resident Evil franchise. From that opening, live-action cinematic to the more advanced experiences of modern gaming, Capcom’s long-running horror series has had many ups and downs.
Laying out the best and the worst of Resident Evil can be a drawn-out, complicated process as there are more than 20 entries spanning 24 years. To make matters a little easier, I’ve broken down this ranking to just the main installments, including any remakes, despite how they may veer from the original canon.
Take a trip with me down memory lane as we revisit the halls of Spencer Mansion, slog through the sewers of Raccoon City, and travel to cities around the globe to rank the best Resident Evil games, and also the worst.
I’m sure some would put Resident Evil VII in this spot, but the sixth title rings truer to me as the lowest point for canonical Resident Evil games.
Looking beyond the blatant shift to an action-packed experience, the story was as convoluted and silly as the series gets. Bland enemy types and ridiculous, almost mechanical transformations into forgettable monstrosities rounds out some of the primary complaints I have about Resident Evil 6.
Until this entry, there has never been a game in the series I didn’t want to experience again. Even if it were just for the atmosphere. Outside of Leon’s time at Ivy University, which was at least serviceable as a survival horror segment, the game felt like it went on forever. I didn’t care about anything happening, even if it meant peril for our favorite returning characters.
I just wanted it to end.
11. Resident Evil 5
It’s not that Resident Evil 5 is a bad game. It just isn’t a great Resident Evil game. In fact, it’s a pretty bad one. Slap an entirely different set of names and backstory on it, and it could work as a standalone blend of action and survival horror. But by this time, Capcom had overly complicated the series’ plot, making it a slog to play through.
Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar were fine protagonists, up until that mind-boggling moment when Redfield punches a boulder. I cared what happened to them, but, near the game’s final act, I was kind of done controlling them. Especially when playing with an AI character.
Resident Evil 5 introduced split-screen co-op into the series with an AI that loved swallowing up bullets and herbs. The only real way to enjoy the title was with a friend, but even then it’s not gripping enough to want to sink 20 hours.
10. Resident Evil 3 (2020)
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis always had the feeling that it wasn’t meant to be part of the main series, but the 2020 remake amplified that tenfold. I could go on about the six-hour length or how the development team failed to fully utilize Nemesis, but I won’t. However, I will say that, despite the graphical and mechanical improvements, this is a major downgrade from the original version.
Everything about it is so rushed that it somehow feels shorter than the 1999 version. They clock in at about the same length, but the pacing of Nemesis was handled so much better. Additionally, the development team somehow left out the clock tower and graveyard segments. When you set out to remake a game, you don’t cut out two of the most iconic moments without replacing them with something even more memorable.
Unfortunately, the 2020 remake falls short in many ways that it isn’t a necessary playthrough for fans of or newcomers to the series.
9. Resident Evil 0
You know what very few people said after playing Resident Evil (1996)? “I can’t wait for that Rebecca Chambers-led prequel.” Yet here we are, with Resident Evil 0 to fill the void that nobody felt.
Zero is an okay game, but I think Capcom could have chosen a better protagonist. Especially since she just vanishes from the video game series and isn’t seen again until the animated movie, Vendetta. Why not choose one of Bravo Team’s other members? Sure, they all end up dying in Spencer Mansion, but that would actually add a tragic element to 0 and help it stand out a bit more.
Being able to swap between Rebecca and disgraced Force Reconnaissance Officer Billy Coen was a neat feature, but too much else about 0 lacked the finesse of the remake it released alongside.
8. Resident Evil Code Veronica
It has always struck me as odd that Code Veronica was ripped of its numerical title and labeled more of a spin-off when it feels more like a sequel to the core series than Nemesis. Claire Redfield returns to the series, still on the neverending hunt for her brother, Chris. Her journey brings her to an Umbrella facility in Paris, where she finds that the incident in Raccoon City is far from contained.
Not much changed between Nemesis and Code Veronica. Umbrella’s B.O.W.s are as deadly as ever, ranging from flesh-hungry zombies to other horrifying monstrosities. Where Code Veronica differs most is with its variety of locations. Players follow Claire and her new companion, fellow inmate Steve Burnside, across Rockfort Island in the Southern Ocean to a secret facility in Antarctica.
One of the game’s biggest pitfalls is the emergence of the immortal Albert Wesker. His return is arguably one of the worst decisions made in the series.
7. Resident Evil 3 (2000)
Before there was the 2019 version of Mr. X, players were dealing with Nemesis. Jill Valentine returns to take players through the horrors of Raccoon City before and after the events of Resident Evil 2. Many of the mechanics from Resident Evil 2 return, though Jill is equipped with a dodge ability that is a necessary component when combating the very persistent Nemesis.
Capable of following players in some segments, Nemesis became the scariest villain in the Resident Evil universe. Even after 20 years, it still remains at the top of that long list of horrifying B.O.W.s.
Some elements of Nemesis’ plot seemed forced just to give Jill more obstacles, but it’s a serviceable sequel with some very cool moments. The Grave Digger fight was fun and highlighted another change to the sequel – multiple ways to kill bosses. Nemesis also featured a few choices for players to make that altered some game elements.
6. Resident Evil VII
Resident Evil VII introduced a big change in the series and received a ton of flack for it. Admittedly, even I stayed away for a year after its release, fearing it would feel too much like it was feeding on the survival horror trend of helpless protagonists. On the contrary, Resident Evil VII doesn’t lazily mimic games like Outlast and Amnesia. Instead, through new mechanics and much more, it further proves that survival horror is made for first-person.
Stepping away from the core story while also dropping hints that it’s within the same universe as the canonical series, Resident Evil VII introduces Ethan Winters, a new character searching for his wife. When he arrives at a lone plantation in Dulvey, LA, he finds himself at the mercy of the Baker family – a band of deranged killers suffering from a terribly deadly mutation. Again, the Bakers could have been incredibly generic, but Capcom worked its magic to make them quite frightening.
Being pursued by the relentless Jack keeps your heart pounding, which is good because the common enemies, the Molded, are pretty bland. When it comes to sound design, Capcom hit it out of the park. Every creak of the house sends shivers down your spine and makes you fear what devilish horrors await around the next corner.
5. Resident Evil (1996)
I’d love to say the original Resident Evil was by far the best in the series, but a lot has happened since 1996. It is, however, still among the top five. Some would say the corny dialogue and terrible voice acting works against it, but I think it helps the charm of this PSOne release.
Resident Evil may not have been the first survival horror game, but it certainly pioneered the genre. You can’t throw a dart at a wall of every survival horror game without hitting one inspired by Capcom’s release. Slow pacing, eerie music, and the sprawling mansion come together for a pretty frightening gaming experience that launched the franchise.
There’s so much about this title that will forever go down in the annals of the genre, particularly the enemy types and the characters. The original also spawned some of the greatest lines in gaming history.
We’ll never forget you, “Jill Sandwich.”
4. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
The Resident Evil 2 remake is gorier, scarier, and longer than the original. It’s a fascinating entry in the series that hits so many high notes, but can’t quite creep ahead of the source material. The primary reason? Because Capcom opted to skip out on a true A/B scenario. While you can tackle the campaign as Leon or Claire and then pick it up again as the other character, it’s not the same as what was accomplished with the 1998 release.
Overlooking that hiccup, though, the remake is a fantastic piece of horror. It truly is a terrifying game. The Raccoon Police Department is coated in viscera and dripping with blood and every sound reeks of impending doom. Capcom toned down the cheesiness a little, which ensures the mood is consistent throughout.
The remake also gave us a brand new Mr. X, who, for an entire segment of the game, follows players through the police department. Every inch of the former museum is patrolled by the heavy-footed B.O.W., making it even more critical not to backtrack into the wrong areas. You want him gone as soon as possible, and the only way to do that is to progress.
On a side note, Resident Evil 2 (2019) has some bloody hilarious mods that give Mr. X a new look if you need to tone down the horror.
3. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 was the first time the series deviated from its tried-and-true style. Shifting the camera to behind the character completely amplified the immersion and made it possible for returning hero, Leon Kennedy, to go up against smarter and more agile enemies.
Sent to a small village in Spain to find the president’s missing daughter, Leon soon finds that zombies were the least of his worries. Infected by a parasite, Las Plagas, the villagers have become a swarm of killing machines. They’ll follow Leon into houses, climb ladders, and use whatever means necessary to kill the U.S. government agent.
That means a much more tense and heart-racing experience than the series has ever delivered. Resident Evil 4 introduced new mechanics and story elements that would carry over to future titles, for better or worse.
2. Resident Evil 2 (1998)
Resident Evil 2 tops the original in every way. Its gameplay is tighter, character models look better, the story has a better flow, the Raccoon Police Department is more interesting to traverse than Spencer Mansion, and William Birkin is single-handedly the best villain in the Resident Evil series.
When rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield’s sister, Claire, meet up in town, there’s little time for small talk. The outbreak has already littered the streets of Raccoon City with bodies, most of them reanimating for a taste of human flesh.
Resident Evil 2 builds upon the Umbrella Corporation’s story in all the right ways, introducing conspiracies and partnerships with governing bodies. It fleshes out the notion that Umbrella is a much bigger threat than originally perceived, and that things are only going to get worse.
I will forever have a soft spot for Resident Evil 2 and will never forget the countless nights I stayed up much later than I should have to play through both A and B scenarios over and over again.
1. Resident Evil REmake
The Resident Evil REmake is one of very few remakes that surpasses the original. Capcom knew exactly what they were doing when they recreated the Spencer Mansion for the Gamecube release. From alterations to the gameplay to a complete graphical overhaul, the REmake is a remarkable improvement that’s longer and scarier than the 1996 release.
Resident Evil REmake even expands upon the story to include subplots like the tragic tale of Lisa Trevor. These moments don’t just add length to the game. They further show just how vile the Umbrella Corporation is.
The mansion is full of return horrors like Neptune, the zombified shark, and Yawn, the terrifying snake in the attic. Zombies also get an upgrade as the surprisingly faster and stronger Crimson Heads. Not only do you have to put down zombies, you now have to ensure they stay down by setting their corpses on fire.
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