Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Which is the Best PS1-era Resident Evil?

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Which is the Best PS1-era Resident Evil?

Though Resident Evil clearly borrows from the games that came before and inspired it in its mechanics and structure, the title would inarguably do each of those core elements more justice than its predecessors, and in the process the game became responsible for coining the term for the burgeoning genre it was at the forefront of — Survival-Horror. The success and cultural impact of Resident Evil would both lead to a slew of imitators (some great, some not so much) and the need for a sequel. Two years after the release of the first Resident Evil, the incredible Resident Evil 2 would arrive on PlayStation, and its own follow-up and conclusion to the series’ time on PS1 would arrive just one year later in 1999. Interestingly, pitting the original Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 sees the series battling for its best setting and premise.

The first Resident Evil takes place entirely within the confines of the Spencer Mansion, which aside from being one of the more iconic settings in gaming is also a relatively similar space to the setting of the games that Resident Evil draws most of its inspiration from — Sweet Home and Alone in the Dark. Fitting, then, that the two sequels would expand the scope and scale of the original Resident Evil to see the t-Virus outbreak spill into the streets of Raccoon City proper. In the process, the two PS1 sequels to Resident Evil and conclusion to the series’ PS1 trilogy see the series emulate a vision of the zombie apocalpse similar to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead where the original Resident Evil mimics its predecessor — Night of the Living Dead.

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Side-by-Side Comparison

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3

Beyond expanding the original game’s setting and premise, the two PS1 Resident Evil sequels also introduce a slew of gameplay and narrative improvements to the franchise. The original Resident Evil would essentially break ground on uncharted territory within the medium of video games, becoming one of the few examples of a horror video game available to players and helping to define the characteristics of the genre it helped kickstart. In contrast, Resident Evil 2 and 3 both learn from the design and impact of the original game in the series to deliver an experience that enhances nearly every element while still remaining true to the spirit of the original. Resident Evil 2 and 3 tell better stories and introduce new and better gameplay elements, but the original Resident Evil would walk so that both of those games could run.

CharacteristicResident EvilResident Evil 2Resident Evil 3
Release DateMarch 22, 1996January 21, 1998September 22, 1999
DirectorShinji MikamiHideki KamiyaKazuhiro Aoyama
ProducerTokuro Fujiwara
Masayuki Akahori
Shinji MikamiShinji Mikami
Versions on PS1321
RemakesResident Evil (2002)Resident Evil 2 (2019)Resident Evil 3 (2020)
Review Aggregate Score91%89%91%
Total Sales5.08 million units5.77 million units3.5 million units
SettingSpencer MansionRaccoon CityRaccoon City
ProtagonistsJill Valentine
Chris Redfield
Leon S. Kennedy
Claire Redfield
Jill Valentine
Carlos Oliveira
Contribution to Survival-Horror GenreCoining of genre name and gameplay mechanicsMore enemies on-screen at once, intertwining campaignsSplit-second player choices impacting outcome, crafting items

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: 5 Must-Know Facts

Here are 5 must-know facts for comparing the original Resident Evil to its two PS1 sequels:

  • Although the original Resident Evil establishes the formula that its sequels adhere to, both Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 introduce significant contributions to the franchise through their gameplay and narrative enhancements.
  • Speaking of narrative, Resident Evil 2 would drastically improve the quality of voice-acting and writing present in the English localization over its predecessor, resulting in characters that were much more believeable and natural sounding. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis would continue this trend as well.
  • The sales of the original Resident Evil are nothing to scoff at, with the title selling more than 5 million units across its 3 different releases on the PS1. Though Resident Evil 2 would slightly outsell it, its critical reception is also just slightly lower than that of the original. Conversely, Resident Evil 3 has the same critical reception as the original but would end up being the lowest-selling game of the original PS1 trilogy.
  • Resident Evil‘s confining players within the Spencer Mansion mostly serves as an appropriate setup for the game’s story and a fitting homage to the earlier games that inspire it such as Alone in the Dark and Sweet Home. Fittingly, Resident Evil 2 and 3 see the player experiencing the impact of the t-Virus outbreak on Raccoon City firsthand, expanding their settings to include the city itself and secret laboratories hiding underneath its surface.
  • After Shinji Mikami’s assuming of the director’s chair for the first entry, he would switch gears to become the Resident Evil series’ producer for its two PS1 sequels. The next (and last) time that Mikami would perform directorial duties on a Resident Evil title would be 2005’s Resident Evil 4.

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Gameplay Improvements

With both Resident Evil 2 and 3 having the benefit of learning lessons from the original Resident Evil‘s development, both sequels exhibit significant contributions to both the Survival-Horror genre and the Resident Evil franchise. First and foremost, improvements to the engine for Resident Evil 2 would result in more enemies being able to be on-screen at once, which comes in handy given the game’s increased stakes and premise of a genuine zombie outbreak within Raccoon City proper. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis would continue to build on this to have the most possible enemies visible on screen at once, resulting in several scenarios where it’s all too easy for the player to get overwhelmed.

Additionally, Resident Evil 2 would introduce more complex puzzles and intertwining campaigns that the player benefits from completing in alternating order. If the player wants to see the entire story that Resident Evil 2 has to offer, they need to beat the A Game as Leon and then complete Claire’s B Game, and then beat Claire’s A Game and Leon’s B Game (or vice versa). Then, even more additional side scenarios become available that further flesh out the story of Resident Evil and saga of the Umbrella Corporation. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis doesn’t feature multiple campaigns, but it does offer the player differentiating choices on how to approach encounters with the titular Nemesis, as well as adding in the ability for players to craft their own ammo in a game where resources are at a premium.

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Story Improvements

Because the original Resident Evil would represent mostly uncharted territory for Capcom and for video games in general, there wouldn’t be any precedent for the company to follow in terms of how they approached delivering the game’s horror narrative. Director Shinji Mikami does an excellent job of framing scenes as if acting as the game’s invisible director, giving the title an uncharacteristically cinematic look for its time, but the voice-acting and writing leave something to be desired. While the B-movie aesthetic is somewhat intentional in the original Resident Evil, the reality is that the voice actors had a limited script to work with that was translated into English by non-native speakers. The result is that most of the game’s dialogue comes off as choppy and awkward.

In comparison, Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis place a much greater emphasis on having their narratives, dialogue, and character development match the cinematic look of the games. The stories of both PS1-era Resident Evil sequels are leaps and bounds ahead of the original game, delivering realistic and three-dimensional characters who sound much more natural when interacting with each other in the game. Additionally, the increases to each game’s scope and stakes in terms of their settings and plot carry over to the emotionality of the characters, who deliver believable performances that get the player more invested in the narrative of each game.

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Sales and Reception

The arrival of Resident Evil in 1996 would prove to be more than just a launch of a successful game, as it would inevitably signal the beginning of the most successful horror IP in history and also establish the paradigm shift within games to more closely emulate movies. The switch from cartridges to CD-ROM during the 5th console generation carried with it the promise of delivering experiences unlike anything players had previously seen, and Resident Evil would end up being one of the flagpole titles to illustrate how far the medium of games had come and could continue to evolve. As a result, Resident Evil would end up being an incredibly successful title in its own right, both commercially and critically. In addition to a critical average of 91%, the game would eventually sell over 5 million copies across its original release and two re-releases on the PS1.

Resident Evil 2, thanks to the success and reception of the original Resident Evil, would end up being a major release for the PS1. Further, the game’s highly-publicized troubled development would lead to fan expectation for the game’s release reaching a fever pitch ahead of January, 1998. Resident Evil 2 would both outsell the original Resident Evil and other PS1 games in the first quarter of 1998 to become one of the best-selling games upon its release, even though its review aggregate score sits slightly lower than the original at a respectable 89% (surprising, given that most fans consider RE2 to be the highlight of the original trilogy). Nemesis‘ arrival a year later would see the series achieve its highest critical marks yet, but its sales would fall slightly lower than its two predecessors.

Resident Evil vs Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Mansion or Police Station

Even though both Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 expand the available square footage for players to explore by bringing proceedings from the Spencer Mansion into Raccoon City proper, they both see a large bulk of their gameplay take place within a similarly structured setting. Taking place of the Spencer Mansion in the two Resident Evil PS1-era sequels is the Raccoon City Police station, which (thanks to chief and Umbrella plant Brian Irons) is jam-packed with as many secret passages, puzzles, and strange goings-on as the iconic original setting of the series. However, where the two sequels differ from the original Resident Evil is in their inclusion of the downtown areas of Raccoon City, which show the player the effects of the zombie outbreak front and center and clearly display a heightened sense of danger.

Bottom Line

There’s something undeniably special about the original Resident Evil, regardless of the time that someone experiences the game for the first time. The Spencer Mansion exists as one of the best and most iconic locations in all of gaming, and its labyrinthine corridors and head-scratching puzzles are likely burned into the minds of longtime Resident Evil fans. And, lest it be forgotten, the general gameplay loop and core elements of Resident Evil are the foundation on which the Survival-Horror genre would eventually be built (the genre even gets its name directly from Resident Evil‘s in-game messaging to players). Basically, in more ways than one, there could be no Resident Evil 2 or 3 without the original game in the series.

That said, Resident Evil is not a perfect game, and the improvements that its sequels make to the overall formula would end up sticking with the franchise and cementing it as a genuine pillar of the gaming industry rather than a one-and-done title for Capcom. Resident Evil may have come first, but both Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis improve upon its groundbreaking formula in nearly every conceivable way. Between both games’ better implementation of storytelling and more finely-tuned gameplay elements, as well as their providing of a thrilling conclusion to the tale of scientific hubris gone wrong from the original game, RE2 and RE3 stand out as two of the best games in the series and an example of how sequel games can outclass their predecessors.

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