Resident Evil Remakes, Ranked

Resident Evil 2 key art

Resident Evil Remakes, Ranked

Not even a full 10 years after its debut in 1996, the original Resident Evil would receive a remake in the form of the excellent GameCube title of the same name. 2002’s Resident Evil would do more than just update the visuals of Capcom’s survival-horror classic, though, instead going above and beyond to create the foundation on which the series would build a hugely successful run of other Resident Evil remakes nearly two decades later. The darker tone, emphasis on gothic horror over camp, and clever ways it toys with players’ nostalgia for the original help to elevate the Resident Evil remake to something vastly different from its source material despite remaining familiar. That same formula continues to carry the modern Resident Evil remakes, and with Capcom confirming more are on the way, it’s a great time for a ranked list.

Since the announcement of Resident Evil 2‘s remake in 2017 (something that would likely not have been possible without the sorely-needed shot in the arm the series got with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard), the franchise now alternates between a predictable pattern of releasing new mainline games interspersed with remakes of classic titles. The first to arrive would be the reimagining of Resident Evil 2 in 2019, with Resident Evil 3 arriving a year later and, most recently, 2023’s Game of the Year contender Resident Evil 4. Each of these modern remakes offers stunning visual uplift to their source material while adhering to a similar gameplay format, and the future of the franchise has nowhere to go but up if it keeps producing quality remakes utilizing this formula.

4. Resident Evil 3

Resident Evil 3 key art

Release Date: April 2, 2020
Original Release: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, September 22, 1999

It says something about the overall quality of the Resident Evil remakes that an excellent experience like Resident Evil 3 ends up on the bottom of the list. The original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is arguably the weakest of the initial PS1 trilogy of games, and the remake goes a long way toward course-correcting some of that game’s critical flaws. Still, there are plenty of fans that feel Resident Evil 3 should have been a DLC rather than a full retail release thanks to its shorter length and cut content from the original. On the other hand, that same cut content results in the original having some pacing issues that the remake resolves, so it really depends on what you’re looking for from a remake as to whether Resident Evil 3 sticks the landing.

Ultimately, though, Resident Evil 3 succeeds at making the story of Jill Valentine’s escape from Raccoon City a thrilling chapter in the series canon. Characters that were largely ancillary in the original are given much more depth in the remake, and the encounters with Nemesis are substantially more terrifying and action-packed. Whereas the original mostly sees players have the choice to fight or flee from Nemesis whenever he shows up, the Resident Evil 3 remake makes each encounter its own bombastic setpiece, culminating with some of the best boss fights in the series. It may be more action-heavy than the other remakes, but Resident Evil 3 is still a great time and a worthy reimagining of its source material.

3. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 (2023) key art

Release Date: March 23, 2023
Original Release: Resident Evil 4, January 11, 2005

In the spirit of objectivity, each of the Resident Evil remakes should be judged purely on the merits of how well they reimagine the original games while also bringing something new and exciting to the experience. With that in mind, the ranking of the Resident Evil remakes is a tough list to compile and could change on any given day with how excellent all 4 games on this list are. The original Resident Evil 4 is such an important and groundbreaking title that a remake of it could almost be considered the equivalent of video game blasphemy if not executed properly. Thankfully, Capcom happens to fundamentally understand what makes Resident Evil 4 so important.

The Resident Evil 4 remake does the impossible and makes a game that many players already consider to be perfect somehow better. Unlike the original, players can now move and shoot at the same time, but the trade-off for increasing Leon’s mobility and no longer needing to carefully consider positioning is highly aggressive enemies that now require careful parrying using the Combat Knife. Resident Evil probably isn’t a series that comes to mind when thinking of games that need a parry mechanic, but Resident Evil 4 somehow makes it work in a way no one saw coming.

Beyond the changes to moment-to-moment gameplay and the significant visual upgrade, Resident Evil 4 largely remains the same experience as the original. That familiarity is what drives the success of the remake, and it also helps to highlight the brilliance of the original all while smoothing out some of its rougher edges thanks to its age.

2. Resident Evil

Resident Evil (2002) title card

Release Date: March 22, 2002
Original Release: Resident Evil, March 22, 1996

Arriving 6 years to the day after the release of the original is the remake of the first Resident Evil. Somehow, Resident Evil remains both the first remake in the franchise and one of its best. The true success of the Resident Evil remake is its much more serious take on the mansion incident, abandoning the over-the-top camp and B-movie acting of the PlayStation original in favor of a much darker, gothic horror atmosphere and tone. Additionally, the new content and interesting deviations from the original’s order of events make for a “remix” of sorts that even returning players can come back to and find something fresh. And that’s without even mentioning the Crimson Heads.

For the first time since the Cerberus dogs jumped through the Mansion 1F hallway to terrify an entire generation of players, Resident Evil would actually be scary again. Make no mistake, the 2002 Resident Evil somehow both is and isn’t the Resident Evil that you remember, punishing players that rely too heavily on their nostalgia while also introducing new threats that completely flip the script on what should be a predictable survival-horror gameplay loop. All those elements combine to make Resident Evil greater than its source material, and they also act as a proof of concept for how the series would approach remakes of classic games moving forward.

1. Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 (2019) key art

Release Date: January 25, 2019
Original Release: Resident Evil 2, January 21, 1998

In terms of what makes a great video game remake, the general consensus seems to be that a “good” remake should both pay homage to its source material and also provide a compelling reason for its existence. Most remakes attempt to justify their existence through significant audio and visual upgrades while maintaining the core elements that made the original game a fan favorite, while others go beyond to truly reimagine their namesake in a brand-new light. Resident Evil 2 is the rarest of remakes that does both. Not only is Resident Evil 2 an astounding achievement in presentation and visuals, but it also takes what is arguably the best and most beloved game in the series and somehow one-ups it in every way possible.

The familiarity of Resident Evil 2 is once again the game’s greatest strength, as the title willingly embraces player nostalgia to a point before completely pulling the rug out from under us. The introduction of Mr. X as a persistent threat within the confines of the Raccoon City Police station makes for a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse that was only briefly introduced in a B game/2nd playthrough from the original, and the new visual upgrades and facial animations (as well as some incredible motion capture and voice acting) elevate the series-best story to new heights. Resident Evil‘s remake may have set the theme for the future remakes in the series, but Resident Evil 2 establishes everything else that makes both Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 4 so successful. Now if we can only get that Code: Veronica remake.

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