Best Protagonists in the Resident Evil Series, Ranked

Resident Evil protagonists

Best Protagonists in the Resident Evil Series, Ranked

Even if a game has an interesting plot setup and a captivating setting, a lack of compelling and well-developed characters for the player to invest themselves into can prevent a title from reaching greatness. Thankfully, the Resident Evil series has always featured some excellent characters for players to follow throughout multiple entries in the franchise, with the recurring core cast of heroes and villains occasionally joined by some interesting newcomers that become fan-favorites in their own right. Across 8 mainline games, over a dozen spin-offs, and remakes of the classic entries in the franchise, Resident Evil lays claim to some of the most iconic characters in all of gaming, and ranking the best protagonists in Resident Evil serves as a reminder of how many legendary heroes the series features.

And while the original Resident Evil presents a story that boils down to a clear dichotomy of “good vs evil”, the ways that the later games in the series continue to blur those lines and present protagonists that inhabit morally grey territory showcases a willingness to upend players’ expectations regarding legacy characters. As the franchise continues to grow, so too do its recurring heroes and villains. In turn, this results in protagonists that are well-rounded and three-dimensional, coming off as complex and human individuals and including more layers than the average main characters in a video game.

10. Sheva Alomar

Resident Evil 5 gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

It’s a shame that Resident Evil 5‘s newcomer Sheva Alomar doesn’t feature in any other games in the series, as she proves herself to be an excellent addition to the franchise’s roster of heroes. A fellow BSAA agent and Chris Redfield’s new partner, Sheva is able to instill a sense of trust very quickly while also establishing that she is a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Chris may still be reeling from the apparent loss of his former partner, Jill Valentine, but Sheva’s loyalty and cameraderie with Chris help the two of them to perservere through challenges that would break even the most seasoned partners.

She behaves identically to Chris for the most part, with players being able to control Sheva in Resident Evil 5‘s co-op campaign and needing to have parity with the host controlling the game’s main character. Still, Sheva’s helpful nature and ability to assist the player in combat (even as an AI-controlled companion) make her one of the better partner characters in the series. With a remake of Resident Evil 5 all but a guarantee at this point, it will be interesting to see how Capcom handles Sheva as both a character and a co-op partner in the game’s reimagining.

9. Carlos Oliveira

Resident Evil 3 (2020) gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

In terms of characters that receive improvements to their importance and development in the Resident Evil remakes, Resident Evil 3‘s Carlos Oliveira is hard to beat. Despite operating on the opposite side of the fence from Jill (being a member of Umbrella’s anti-bioterrorism response unit), Carlos quickly recognizes that the two share similar goals and need to work together. This spirit of cooperation sees Carlos come in clutch during some of Resident Evil 3‘s more suspenseful moments, particularly when he comes to Jill’s rescue after Nemesis infects her. The extended section of Resident Evil 3‘s remake where players get to step into Carlos’ shoes prove that he’s an excellent combatant while simultaneously showing the selfless lengths he goes to in order to secure a cure for Jill.

Though Carlos is a helpful ally in the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, the way that he gets further developed in the remake shows him to have a lot more personality and nuance to his character than originally depicted. Additionally, Carlos seems to genuinely care for both his squad mates and his newfound ally Jill, and he routinely exhibits a willingness to go above and beyond for his brothers (and sister) in arms. Carlos may not be one of the more prominent recurring heroes in the series, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less of a great character. His loyalty and combat proficency make Carlos a hero worthy of revisiting in a future Resident Evil game.

8. Ethan Winters

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard character model

©Resident Evil character renders

Introducing a new protagonist into a series like Resident Evil was always going to be tricky, with most of the starring characters of each game having a long legacy across multiple entries in the franchise. However, by making Ethan a regular, average guy who finds himself in horrendous circumstances, Capcom was able to inject a significant amount of humanity and relatability into Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Rather than coming off like some kind of super soldier akin to Chris Redfield or Leon Kennedy, Ethan Winters is just a facelss character with no combat training. The only thing propelling him forward is the chance to rescue and reconnect with his missing wife, and the ensuing “Hero’s Journey” that plays out through the events of Resident Evil 7 sees Ethan transform into a great protagonist in his own right.

It makes sense, then, that when Ethan Winters returns again as the protagonist of Resident Evil Village that he retains all of the experiences of Resident Evil 7‘s events to start off as much more of a badass than he was previously. Players learn that Ethan has received special combat training from the BSAA and Chris Redfield, resulting in him being a much more capable combatant and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. And, when push comes to shove, Ethan Winters displays that he is willing to do whatever it takes to save those he loves and the world at-large, selflessly sacrificing his own life so that others may live.

7. Rebecca Chambers

Resident Evil Zero gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

Though S.T.A.R.S.’ newest recruit may come off as a naive rookie, the truth is that Rebecca Chambers plays an incredibly important role in the Resident Evil series by providing indispensible help to Chris during the Arklay Mountains Incident. Her personality and presentation in the original Resident Evil from 1996 might come off as a little one-sided and stereotypical of a young female character, but it’s something that Capcom would ultimately fix in the Resident Evil remake and Rebecca’s own starring game, Resident Evil 0. If those two games prove anything, it’s that players should never underestimate Rebecca and her ability to stay strong in practically impossible scenarios.

Further, Rebecca routinely displays a sense of humor and lightheartedness in situations where it woiuld be all too easy to give in to fear and doubt. Her ability to stay positive and see the thin rays of hope for survival make her a unique hero in a series typically known for its dour and self-serious protagonists. Rebecca may be the newest and youngest member of S.T.A.R.S., but her inaugural mission in the Arklay Mountains and Spencer Mansion proves that she has what it takes to stand alongside the likes of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine.

6. Barry Burton

Resident Evil (2002) character model

©Resident Evil character renders

Even though players don’t actually get to control Barry Burton until Resident Evil: Revelations 2, his presence looms large over the original Resident Evil and its 2002 remake. Barry is both Chris’ former partner and a mentor of sorts to Jill, acting as her lifeline and a valuable ally during some of Resident Evil‘s pivotal moments. The reveal that he is a double agent and working for Wesker in order to save his family does little to dissuade his acts of heroism, and in actuality it shows Barry to be a true friend. At risk to the lives of both his wife and his daughter, Barry plays both sides and helps Jill while under orders from Wesker to get her out of the picture.

Barry eventually turns the tables on Wesker and helps Jill and Chris escape the mansion, with the canon ending to the original Resident Evil seeing the three of them survive the Arklay Mountain Incident. Following that initiating event in the Resident Evil series’ lore, Barry continues to assist Chris and Jill with their mission to expose Umbrella and hold them accountable for their crimes, continuing to act as a mentor and father figure to the franchise’s two most important heroes. His manipulation at the hands of Wesker aside, Barry Burton is a protagonist that almost always displays a sense of integrity, doing what is right regardless of the potential for great personal cost.

5. Claire Redfield

Resident Evil 2 (2019) gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

Breaking into the top half of the list of best Resident Evil protagonists is Chris Redfield’s younger sister, Claire. After learning of her brother’s intention to investigate Umbrella, Claire heads to Raccoon City to join him only to find it in the midst of a full-blown zombie outbreak. Then, after partnering with rookie RPD officer Leon Kennedy, she successfully escapes the city while also rescuing the young Sherry Birkin, daughter of one of Umbrella’s top virologists and t-Virus mastermind William Birkin. Claire proves herself to be every bit as capable as her older brother in terms of her combat abilities and propensity for heroism, and even after barely surviving Raccoon City she immediately sets off to continue her search for Chris.

Claire’s second main adventure in the series, and first with her acting as the sole protagonist, comes courtesy of the excellent and underrated Code: Veronica, and it’s during this game that Claire’s heroism shines through once again. Like her brother, Claire continually exhibits an unwillingness to give up when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, and both the Redfield siblings regularly put themselves in harms way in an effort to preserve justice and help those that can’t help themselves. Chris might arrive at the Antarctic facility to rescue Claire, but ultimately it’s Claire who saves both her and Chris’ skin.

4. Ada Wong

Resident Evil 4 (2023) gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

What makes Ada Wong one of the best protaonists in the series is her place as one of Resident Evil‘s anti-heroes. Ada is always in service of herself and only herself, and her alliegances shift so regularly that it’s always up in the air which side of the fence she happens to be on. After only being mentioned in files in the original Resident Evil, players finally meet Ada in the flesh when playing as Leon Kennedy in Resident Evil 2. The two share a bit of a romantic connection with one another, but Ada places her mission to recover the G-virus as her top priority and displays a willingness to betray Leon if it means accomplishing her task. And, as one might expect, Ada’s loyalty to her mission above all else sees her show up time and again as a villain-turned-unlikely ally.

Her surprise return in Resident Evil 4 is one of the better twists contained within the game’s plot, with her and Leon once again finding themselves needing to cooperate. The Separate Ways DLC gives players the chance to experience some of Resident Evil 4‘s key moments from Ada’s perspective, and it’s during these sections that it becomes clear just how valuable Ada is to Leon’s success in his mission to rescue Ashley Graham. Ada comes off as cold and selfish, but when push comes to shove she regularly provides help from the shadows.

3. Jill Valentine

Resident Evil 3 (2020) gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

More than just “the master of unlocking”, Jill Valentine is one of the most important characters in the Resident Evil story, surviving the original encounter with Umbrella to eventually take the company down and continue fighting against bioterrorism with the BSAA. Throughout it all, she never leaves Chris’ side, showcasing a loyalty to her former partner and fellow S.T.A.R.S. member that carries the two of them through several near-death experiences fighting against BOWs. Playing as Jill in the original Resident Evil would be the more popular choice for many thanks to her starting with more inventory space and a pistol, and that popularity would carry over into her being the series’ first recurring hero as the star of Resident Evil 3.

Regardless of whatever situation Jill finds herself in, she’s more than capable of handling anything that is thrown at her. Jill Valentine is tough-as-nails, both in terms of her combat prowess and her mental accumen, and she refuses to give up in circumstances that would cause most people to crumble. And, like Rebecca Chambers, her willingness to look past the apparent flaws of others leads to some incredible and life-saving partnerships with those who might otherwise appear to be villains.

2. Chris Redfield

Resident Evil Village gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

Along with Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield is both a survivor of the Arklay Mountains Incident and one of the original heroes of Resident Evil. Chris has the distinction of appearing in more Resident Evil games than any other hero on this list, and he continues to be one of the driving forces in the overarching plot of the series. However, recent games show Chris developing into a character on the brink, continually blurring the lines between heroism and villainy in order to accomplish his goals of stopping bioterrorism at any cost. His singular focus makes him a morally grey character not unlike Ada Wong, and in that regard he continues to be one of the most interesting stars of the franchise.

Aside from his characterization and motivations, though, Chris is an unstoppable force within the Resident Evil series. He is one of the most capable combatants to ever feature in the franchise, as evidenced by the multitude of games in which players get to control Chris and single-handedly prevent BOW outbreaks. The surprise chance to get to play as Chris in the thrilling climax of Resident Evil Village only serves to underscore that fact, and it will be exciting to see if the character factors into the upcoming Resident Evil 9 as either its main playable hero or a helpful side character.

1. Leon S. Kennedy

Resident Evil 2 (2019) gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

If integrity is a person’s willingness to do what is right in any situation, then Leon Kennedy is the Resident Evil franchise’s personification of that quality. Not many people show up to their first day of work in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and even fewer would stick around and continue to do the job. Leon takes his place as a new Raccoon City Police Officer seriously, and hangs around in the midst of a deadly zombie outbreak to see that he does his job and does it well. It makes perfect sense that his heroism during the Raccoon City outbreak would be recognized by some pretty important people (like, say, the President of the United States), and thoughout it all Leon never changes from being the hero we’re introduced to him as.

Thanks to his place as the main character of what are arguably the two best games in the series (Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4), Leon is one of the few recurring characters in the Resident Evil series that surpasses the dual protagonists of the original. Beyond that, though, Leon’s characterization is about as close to a traditional hero as you can get. He always does what’s right, no matter the personal cost, and he uses his skills in service of helping others rather than for personal gain. Playing as Leon is an absolute blast (especially once he reaches “secret agent” status in Resident Evil 4), but it’s his personality and heroism that make him the best protagonist in the franchise.

To top