Best Resident Evil Games, Ranked

Resident Evil (2002) gameplay

Best Resident Evil Games, Ranked

The Resident Evil franchise might be one of the most important series to begin during the 5th console generation, both outpacing the games that inspired it and outlasting a slew of imitators and successors to remain one of the longest-enduring survival-horror series. After helping to almost single-handedly birth the survival-horror genre in 1996 and then releasing a highly-regarded trilogy of games on the PlayStation, Resident Evil would once again change the gaming landscape with the release of Resident Evil 4. And, somewhat miraculously, the series would persist through a lull in popularity and fan acceptance to successfully reboot a third act for itself with the incredible Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and a succession of remakes of classic games.

Simply put, the Resident Evil franchise has the kind of longevity usually reserved for the likes of gaming’s “Mount Rushmore”, exhibiting a legacy befitting of longer-running series like The Legend of Zelda or Mario as opposed to other franchises with their beginnings on the PS1. Between its excellent initial trilogy, a fan-favorite side-story and a groundbreaking 4th mainline entry, and the series’ modern reinvention, Resident Evil might actually be in the best place it’s ever been as a franchise. With that, it’s arguably high time for a ranking of the best games in the Resident Evil franchise.

10. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (2000)

Resident Evil - Code: Veronica key art

While the genuine 4th entry in the Resident Evil series would suffer through several false-starts and reboots, eventually releasing a half-decade later, the franchise would see its first true “next gen” entry in the excellent Resident Evil – Code: Veronica. Originally releasing on the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast in 2000, the game would eventually receive ports to both the PlayStation 2 and GameCube while simultaneously adding-in content cut from the original release. Regardless of which version players are familiar with, though, Code: Veronica is a unique outlier within the Resident Evil series that deserves a remake in the same vein as the original trilogy. Not only does the title successfully transition the series into full-3D for the first time, it does so while committing to an oddball tone that errs much more on the side of camp than any other Resident Evil title before or after it.

And that’s to say nothing of the impactful revelations Code: Veronica has in store for the series’ lore. The reveal of Albert Wesker’s survival following the original Resident Evil would end up being one of Code: Veronica‘s biggest twists, and the ensuing collaboration between the Redfield siblings to stop both he and Alexia Ashford is one of the franchise’s greatest moments. It’s a shame that players have yet to get another Resident Evil in which Chris and Claire team up against bio-terrorism, but Code: Veronica earns its special place in the Resident Evil timeline for precisely that reason. With it’s offbeat (for the franchise) tone, excellent story, and great pacing, Code: Veronica is essential Resident Evil that somehow gets lost in the conversation of the series’ greatest entries.

9. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard key art

While much of the discourse around the game would have you believe that Resident Evil 6 was an unmitigated disaster, the truth is that the title was actually just painfully mediocre in comparison to the rest of the franchise. For a series that normally maintains an incredibly high bar of quality and engagement, Resident Evil 6 would feel like a critical misstep, and it would end up being the game causing Capcom to go back to the drawing board. Resident Evil 4‘s more action-focused gameplay would give way to an even more action-packed Resident Evil 5, and the series’ continued venturing down that path saw Resident Evil 6 completely lose sight of what makes the franchise special in the eyes of longtime fans. But, thanks to Resident Evil 6‘s middling performance, players would get one of the all-time greatest games in the series.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is both an exciting new chapter in the overarching saga of the franchise as well as a soft reboot of sorts for the Resident Evil series. Players take on the role of not some specially-trained law enforcement professional but instead an Everyman nobody, not even seeing the character’s face thanks to the game’s switch to a first-person perspective. Once again, proceedings largely take place within the confines of a sprawling remote homestead akin to Resident Evil‘s Spencer Mansion, compelte with multiple areas on the property for the player to explore. And, for the first time in over a decade, the Resident Evil franchise would be genuinely scary again thanks to the deranged Baker family. Biohazard is a triumph on every level and a great reset for the Resident Evil series, and thanks to its success players would get the modern Resident Evil remakes.

8. Resident Evil 3 (2020)

Resident Evil 3 key art

Nearly two decades after the release of the phenomenal Resident Evil remake on GameCube, fans of the franchise would get the oft-rumored remake of what many consider to be the best game in the series — Resident Evil 2. The critical and commercial success of Resident Evil 2‘s remake would both solidify Capcom’s new plan for the franchise (releasing new mainline entries alternating with remakes of classic games in the series) while quickly giving way to a remake of the original’s sequel — Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Releasing just a year after Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 is the iconic tale of Jill Valentine’s escape from Raccoon City during the height of the zombie outbreak, with its plot running concurrent to the events surrounding Claire and Leon’s adventure in Resident Evil 2.

Though some fans would decry Resident Evil 3 because of its shorter length, the game would end up being another excellent series remake. Where the title truly shines is in its ability to transform what’s arguably the weakest game in the original trilogy (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis) into a much more cohesive and tightly-paced experience. Additionally, the ways that Resident Evil 3 replicates the tone and presentation of Resident Evil 2 makes it feel like a defining chapter in the series toward establishing the conventions of the remakes moving forward. Whether the game started as DLC for Resident Evil 2 is irrelevant, as Resident Evil 3 is undoubtedly one of the best titles in the franchise and a highly-enjoyable experience.

7. Resident Evil VIllage (2022)

Resident Evil Village key art

The lead-up to Resident Evil Village‘s release would see many compare the game to the iconic Resident Evil 4 thanks to both titles’ implementation of a remote European setting. As it turns out, those comparisons would end up being spot-on, as Village feels like a return to the compelling mix of action and horror on display in Resident Evil 4 while also continuing the saga of Ethan Winters that began in Resident Evil 7. Now trying to start a new life with his wife and baby daughter in Europe, Ethan sees his life turned upside-down in the blink of an eye, once again thrust into a conflict with BOWs while simultaneously needing to rescue a loved one. Only this time, Ethan is fresh out of some combat training courtesy of the BSAA and Chris Redfield.

Though the game introduces a new villain in Mother Miranda (as well as some interesting revelations regarding how Village‘s story connects to the rest of the series’ lore), it’s Miranda’s lieutenants — the leaders of the Four Houses — that steal the show. Each of Village‘s Four Houses present the player with a sort of “carnival of horror” where each of their respective areas incorporate a different kind of horror trope for the player to experience. This culminates in Village offering more variety in its challenges and setting than is typical of the Resident Evil franchise, complete with some light Metroidvania elements thanks to the player’s regular return to the titular hub area. With its emotional conclusion to Ethan Winters’ saga and its excellent first-person horror-Metroidvania gameplay, Resident Evil Village sets a high bar for the upcoming ninth entry in the series.

6. Resident Evil (1996)

Resident Evil key art

Though the original Resident Evil isn’t the first survival-horror game (or even the first one from developer and publisher Capcom), its importance in helping to establish the genre and popularize it can’t be overstated. Originally releasing in 1996 for the then-new Sony PlayStation (which was only about to hit its one-year anniversary of being on the market), Resident Evil would borrow heavily from the games it took inspiration from (namely, Alone in the Dark and Capcom’s own Sweet Home) to become something of a cultural phenomenon. The PlayStation’s embrace of the CD-ROM format was an intentional move to push the medium of video games further than previously possible, and Resident Evil would be precisely the kind of cinematic and genre-defining game that made good on that promise.

And though pop-culture media involving zombies is a sure-bet now, it was anything but back in 1996. Capcom’s risk in developing a horror game (essentially a brand-new genre at the time), along with its embracing of cult-classic horror influences (such as the films of legendary director George A. Romero) and blend of puzzle-solving action gameplay, would be a calculated one that ultimately paid off, single-handedly birthing the most successful horror IP of all-time across games, movies, comics, and other media. That we’re even able to compile a list of “best Resident Evil games” all boils down to the genius and success of its first entry, and the game still stands as a medium-defining masterpiece. A true game of a generation.

5. Resident Evil 2 (1998)

Resident Evil 2 key art

Of course, if there’s one game that could beat out the original for the title of “best Resident Evil on the PlayStation”, it’s the incredible Resident Evil 2. The second game in the series is bigger and better in nearly every way, taking the foundation established by Resident Evil and expanding upon it in a myraid of ways that still impact the franchise to this day. The puzzles are more complex and ingenious, the combat is more challenging and fun, and the story and characters receive a substantial upgrade in terms of their development. Where Resident Evil comes off as a campy homage to Night of the Living Dead, Resident Evil 2 presents players with a zombie apocalypse in full-swing more along the lines of Dawn of the Dead.

To go along with these heightened stakes for the characters are a slew of new improvements to the series’ formula, such as intertwining campaigns for the game’s two protagonists and the opportunity to switch off and play as new side characters during important story moments. Each character has their own unique weapons to collect and puzzles to solve, making completing the game as each a necessity. Then, players get to boot up a complete save file and experience the B Game campaigns for the alternate character to get the full experience. Resident Evil 2 features a better story, a better setting, better combat, and better puzzles over the original, making it the definitive PS1 Resident Evil title.

4. Resident Evil 4 (2023)

Resident Evil 4 (2023) key art

Though conventional wisdom might suggest that it’s impossible to improve upon perfection, 2023’s Resident Evil 4 remake puts that statement to the test. Remaking what is often considered to be the best game in the Resident Evil franchise was always going to be a considerable challenge, so much so that many fans would vocalize a desire for Capcom to remake Code: Veronica or even Resident Evil 5 before turning their sights on the next chronological mainline entry to get the remake treatment. Thankfully, Capcom fully understood the assignment, delivering a masterwork of a remake that both stands on its own merit and reimagines one of the greatest games of all-time for a modern audience.

The stroke of genius inherent in Resident Evil 4‘s design is present in Capcom’s willingness to not attempt to fix what isn’t already broken, resulting in an incredible amount of familiarity in the game’s proceedings. Still, there’s enough new here to entice even the most experienced Resident Evil veterans, with the new parry mechanic a standout inclusion that completely transforms the moment-to-moment gameplay. There are some things that don’t make it past the cutting room floor in the transition from the original Resident Evil 4 to its remake, and as a result it sits just below its source material in terms of its overall greatness within the series. That said, Resident Evil 4 is simultaneously an incredible remake of a classic game and one of the best games in the Resident Evil franchise.

3. Resident Evil (2002)

Resident Evil (2002) title card

There are only two games on this list that outpace their source material to be that all-too-rare occurrence of a classic game remake being better than its source material. The first is the 2002 remake of the original Resident Evil for the GameCube. Occasionally called Resident Evil HD or the REmake, 2002’s Resident Evil is a masterclass in how to reimagine a classic game, as it carefully straddles the line between homage to its source material and innovation. In fact, without Resident Evil, there’s every possibility that the series’ modern remakes of classic entries might have a distinctly different approach. Resident Evil ditches the B-movie camp of the original in favor of a dark and sinister tone that more calls to mind gothic horror and suspense, and it’s infinitely more terrifying as a result.

That same darker tonality and more pronounced horror atmosphere would carry into the modern Resident Evil remakes, but it begins here in the series’ first attempt at reimagining the ground-breaking first title. What’s more, the game’s inclusion of content cut from the original release of Resident Evil sees it somehow rise above the greatness of its source material to become the definitive version of the game. New mechanics and story beats aside, though, Resident Evil is arguably the greatest way to experience the beginning chapter in one of gaming’s most important franchises, and for that it sits higher than most other entries on this list.

2. Resident Evil 4 (2005)

Resident Evil 4 title card

While there are certinaly those that might place its remake higher than the original, the sheer impact and importance of 2005’s Resident Evil 4 help it to achieve something of a legendary status both within and beyond its franchise. Right as the gaming landscape found itself in the midst of a period of great change and innovation, Resident Evil 4 would arrive to completely re-write the book on what players would expect from a third-person action game. To say that Resident Evil 4 is one of the most important and groundbreaking titles to ever release is not hyperbole, as its mechanics and design would be replicated and iterated upon across more than 2 console generations following its release.

In fact, it’s not a stretch to make the case that the original Resident Evil 4‘s impact is still felt in today’s gaming landscape, especially considering the modern Resident Evil remakes adopt its “over-the-shoulder” camera perspective. Whatever the case, players’ second chance at controlling Resident Evil veteran Leon S. Kennedy in his second adventure is one of the greatest action games of all-time. Resident Evil 4 may have been the series’ first foray into action-horror territory (and, ironically, would be the beginning of a trend nearly causing the series’ downfall), but it nails the balance of the two genres so perfectly as to be not just one of the greatest Resident Evil games but one of the greatest games of all-time, period.

1. Resident Evil 2 (2019)

Resident Evil 2 key art

The release of 2002’s Resident Evil on GameCube would open the door for what would be a dream project for longtime fans of the franchise — a Resident Evil 2 remake. For years, the existence of a Resident Evil-style remake of Resident Evil 2 would circle the rumor mill only to never materialize, and eventually the franchise would continue pressing forward rather than look to its past. Not until after the series’ relaunch and successful horror-leaning pivot of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard would Capcom entertain remaking another classic game in the series, and of course the company would immediately place Resident Evil 2 as the primary candidate to recieve the first honors. Nearly two decades since the last Resident Evil remake, Resident Evil 2 would launch in 2019 and set a gold standard both for Resident Evil remakes and remakes in general.

Between its definitive horror-leaning tone and atmosphere and its deft toying with players’ nostaligia for the original Resident Evil 2, 2019’s remake is a master-class in how to reimagine a classic game for a modern audience. Everything about the original that made it one of the best games in the series is present in the remake, only dialed up to 11 and presented to players in grotesquely beautiful detail. The addition of Mr. X as a persistent threat stalking the player through the Raccoon City Police station (something that only briefly shows up in a B Game of the original) completely recontextualizes the experience of the first half of the game, and the other changes the remake makes over the original culminate in the game being (much like 2002’s Resident Evil) the definitive version of one of the best games ever made.

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