With the remake of the second Resident Evil game underway this month courtesy of Capcom, it’s time we look back at what makes the series so great. Is it the survival horror aspect? Is it the action and crazy adrenaline-pumping setpieces? Is it the suspension and air of dread it emanates? Or is it the hilarious and over-the-top dialogue that made it a subject of internet videos and memes for years to come?
It’s all of the above, really. Capcom really did put their best zombie foot forward when it wanted to create a 3D remake of its NES classic Sweet Home, but with special ops soldiers stuck in the proverbial creepy hell-filled bio-terror-packed mansion instead. 15-plus entries later, coupled with some identity issues, the series is still going strong.
So which Resident Evil game is the best? Which entry deserves to stay in the trash heap? Until our review of the Resident Evil 2 Remake comes out next week, why not check out how we rank the main Resident Evil games and see how the offshoots fare?
#15. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (2012)
Dead on arrival indeed. This spin-off shooter could have been a nice twist on the RE formula. Instead, we ended up with a half-baked project.
Operation Raccoon City has godawful controls and terrible design choices, not to mention shallow gunplay and poorly-staged and unbalanced action moments that make the Sherry Birkin vs G fight seem fair in retrospect. We thought this was just a fan-made game gone wrong; Capcom really wanted to make a quick buck out of the RE franchise with this turd.
This game goes to show that you can’t always hide your terrible products behind such a prestigious name to fool consumers.
#14. Umbrella Corps (2016)
Another dead-on-arrival title. The premise is interesting: play as soldiers who can sic zombies at each other by disabling the opposing team’s “zombie repellant” aura and revel in the chaos that follows in a competitive shooter not unlike Counter-Strike. The game’s map design also showed promise.
The problem? The execution was horrible. From a terrible single-player mode that teaches players jack about the game, to a stilted cover system and half-assed gameplay, there’s really no reason to stick around this company.
#13. Resident Evil 6 (2012)
Clearly the most misguided Resident Evil game ever. It’s not even a survival horror game when you look at the big picture. It’s a pure action game with standard setpieces, blink-and-you’ll-die scripted events, and way too many quick time events that make up the bulk of the gameplay.
There’s no tension whatsoever when half your playable cast have spec ops training and aren’t completely vulnerable. This is not what fans want out of their RE experience.
#12. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (2000)
This Dreamcast entry is proof that the series is in need of rejuvenation. Even with its fancy graphics for its time and having the Redfield siblings in the same game, the same fixed camera gameplay has been run to the ground at this point in time and seems archaic to go back to in retrospect.
There are segments in the game that require you to be diligent with your save slots because they can make progress impossible. Plus, Steve Burnside is arguably the worst sidekick you can ever have on your side.
It’s not a terrible game, but it’s outdated. It’s the one entry you’ll love because you’re still wearing your rose-tinted glasses.
#11. Resident Evil Zero (2002)
File this game under the “unnecessary prequel” category. This RE prequel had the unfortunate task of following up the Resident Evil remake. It’s nice as a companion piece that features an RE side character and some guy named Bill, and while it has some good scares, setpieces like the train sequence, and decent puzzle moments.
In the end, there’s really nothing remarkable about this entry, especially with the other entries below that are way worth your time.
#10. Resident Evil (1996)
The original recipe, though time and the remake culture hasn’t been kind to this old soul. This is an interesting curio because of its atmosphere, its b-grade qualities, its archaic-yet-charming look, and its survival horror and puzzle-laden gameplay. It takes the best bits from the Alone in the Dark series, modernizes it, and make it its own brand of horror and suspense.
A pity then that it’s been superceded by the remake. Otherwise, a fancy curiosity at best if you’re into delving deep in Capcom’s survival horror roots post-Sweet Home.
#9. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles / Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (2009)
If you’d rather forgo all the nonsense from past Resident Evil games and just go straight for the story, you can’t go wrong with this recap done in rail shooter style. Suddenly the plot seems more plausible and easy to follow with these two-parter games that mix in the creepy survival horror vibe of the games while also delivering some staged action.
It’s not your orthodox experience, but it’s still keeping in line with the spirit of RE as a recap of sorts.
#8. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)
The only reason this Jill Valentine-focused entry is ranked up pretty high is because of one character: the titular Nemesis. He hunts you down endlessly, can travel between areas, and ambushes you when you least expect it.
Granted it’s just well-hidden scripted events, but at the time it was refreshing and challenging. Even if most of the game is reusing RE2 assets (it took about a year or less to develop, FYI), the Nemesis system and the extra Mercenaries mode makes this sorta-expansion to RE2 worth checking out.
#7. Resident Evil 5 (2009)
What’s better than RE4’s over-the-shoulder revamped controls and action? RE4’s over-the-shoulder revamped controls and action with split-screen co-op. Apart from that fun feature that makes couch co-op gameplay fun for players, the African setting in the first third of the game is a nice change of pace and does try to bring up the harsh side of third world countries. The camaraderie between Chris and Sheva is genuine and well-voiced.
The rest of the game? Well, the whole game’s less-focused on horror and more on crazy Umbrella Corp. mutant & Majin villager battle setpieces -particularly the shantytown and cabin bits with the narrow corridor layouts and dead ends. The game’s narrative also went full anime for the sake of tying up the loose end that is Albert Wesker, the main baddie since the first RE who somehow adopts a British accent to accentuate his evil-ness. Brilliant move, that.
While it may work for some people, others were turned off by these factors and the other African locations that portrayed its natives as bad stereotypes. It’s definitely not a PC game, but at least it showcased the best way to evolve the RE4 mechanic, for what it’s worth.
#6. Resident Evil: Revelations (2012)
In retrospect, this one is just Capcom making amends with some spin-offs and in-between games while sticking to the perspective and survival horror gameplay everyone knows and loves. At least the ones who played RE4.
Stuck on a cruise ship filled with bio terrors to avoid and maim while trying to get out alive? Yeap, this game invokes the claustrophobic atmosphere and presents a cool and chilling kind of survival horror. This game was tailor-made for the 3DS, not so much for the PC given its static and small environments designed for a more pocket-sized mobile experience in mind.
Still, you can’t fault Capcom for trying to go back to its survival horror roots in a new setting and scenario. Luckily, there’s the sequel that improved upon this game’s blueprint.
#5. Resident Evil 2 (1998)
Arguably the best fixed-camera angle entry among the late 90s-early 2000 entries, this one expanded the scope of the first game. With a bigger area to explore (Raccoon City’s pretty dang huge), two coinciding stories to play through, great action setpieces and scares, and tense moments aplenty, this entry is worth playing over the other entries just because it did a lot and even featured a ton of unlockables that you can get if you finish the game and fulfil certain parameters. Suddenly the game becomes more fun when you activate unlimited ammo and rad weapons.
This one gets bumped down because the remake may dethrone this one and make it a little less relevant. From what we’ve played so far, it looks like there may be a new top 5 RE game candidate once this year is done and over with.
Plus, without this game’s success, we wouldn’t be getting the walking contradiction that is Hideki Kamiya. You know, that guy who made Devil May Cry, created Bayonetta, and perfected the art of banning your fans on Twitter.
#4. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (2015)
The second time’s a charm, at least in the Revelations entry. This time, the game is set on a prison island filled with zombies and bio-terrors, and is structured as an episodic game that makes it a 2-hour-per-playthrough kind of experience that gets better with each chapter.
The tag-team co-op gameplay is great since you also have to work together with non-combat savvy folks like Moira and Natalie, a teen and a child who run real good and have other skills that can help protagonists Claire Redfield and Barry Burton like distracting zombies and other mutants.
Also, Moira has the best lines in the game that help preserve the B-grade charm of the series. That’s always a plus point, right?
#3. Resident Evil 4 (2005)
RE4 is not that scary. It’s chilling and dread-inducing, and the villagers you fight in the game are a new breed of gaming terror, but it focuses more on the action rather than the “survival horror” aspect. Which is all well and good; the game’s engine and gameplay is so monumental in the series that every other sequel in the RE series is cribbing off from this entry.
And why shouldn’t it? The controls are a good balance of action and “goddamn it why aren’t you moving faster” frustration that’s needed in a horror game. Its pacing is masterful, and the escorting bit isn’t as annoying as you thought it was.
#2. Resident Evil (2002)
This REmake righted the wrongs and outdated concepts of the original, not that the first game was terrible or anything. It’s just that with this already available on PC and other platforms, it’ll be very hard to go back to the 1996 classic unless you’re doing it for the nostalgia feels.
The REmake retains the claustrophobic tension of the mansion and underground lab but made logical and exciting new additions and improvements in the flow and structure of the overall game. Old puzzles from the first RE get a revamp in this version, and the Crimson Heads mechanic made sure you deal with fresh zombie corpses on the floor lest you get a surprise visit from a faster and tougher aberration.
The cheesy dialogue from the first game is rewritten very well while still retaining that B-grade essence. At some points, Jill Valentine sounded like a less over-the-top Katey Sagal (during her Futurama stint).
This remake proves that you can indeed teach an old jumpscare Dobermann new tricks. There’s a reason why people hold this Resident Evil game in very high regard; it’s the quintessential Capcom-sanctioned survival horror action experience that’s masterfully reworked for future generations of horror gaming fans.
#1. Resident Evil 7 (2017)
This is the prime evolution of an RE game: survival horror action with a huge emphasis on the “survive” and “horror” with some sprinkles of the “action” when things turn sour real fast.
This game deserves to be first on the list because of its perspective and protagonist archetype change. Suddenly, the prospect of playing a first-person camera RE game set in a decrepit mansion filled with a crazed hillbilly family, where you’re a victim with little to no combat training, is even more terrifying than ever.
Antagonist Jack Baker has a perfect balance of goofy and chilling; just right for a Resident Evil game. In a survival horror gaming environment filled with walking simulators, RE7 decides to show everyone how it’s done. And it delivered and then some.
And holy crap, that theme song. It’s just so goddamn chilling.
Do you agree with this list? If you do, let us know! If you don’t, let us know too! We’d love to hear your feedback.