Like its zombie antagonists, Resident Evil has lived well past what many expected and has weathered the highs and lows of various gaming trends and technologies. Still, Capcom (and various other publishers) have managed to use the franchise as a vehicle for delivering fast-paced action, thrilling suspense, and gnarly kills.
In this sense, it’s hard to rank this franchise; as each game has the ability to excite and captivate existing and new fans, but as a gamer who’s played the series (unbeknownst to his parents) since the beginning, I feel like I’ve played enough of these games to properly rank my Top 10.
As a heads up, I will be treating remakes (i.e. Resident Evil 2 ) as separate entries, but remasters (i.e. 2015 remaster of Resident Evil ) will not be treated separately. With that clarified, onto the list.
10. Resident Evil 5
To start things off with Resident Evil 5, was it scary? No.
There’s certainly a subsect of gamers that prefer the more action-oriented fun of Resident Evil, and even I find myself at times enjoying the side of the game where you run through with an infinite ammunition machine gun; but typically after I’ve beat the main campaign. Which most Resident evil games will do. Arguably Resident Evil 5 leans into that more early on with the addition of co-op and some more explosive set pieces.
Despite the lack of real horror, the game was and still is a ton of fun. In replaying the series before the Resident Evil 4 remake, I was surprised at how long the game was, and how fun it was to play co-op. I don’t think this would ever be more than a fun co-op action game for me, but it (and all of its ridiculous boulder punching) has a small piece of adoration from someone who prefers more horror to his action in a Resident Evil game.
9. Resident Evil (2002)
The first ever remake from Capcom, the Resident Evil remake took the first game, and for 2002, modernized it. Sure, Resident Evil was starting to see a bit of a facelift in Code: Veronica, but from the Dreamcast to the Gamecube, Capcom took the hardware and made the Spencer Mansion even more terrifying.
Sadly in replaying it, some elements like the tank controls and the camera hinder way more than they help. Still, there are some excellent visuals, and the story still resonates, even if many of the twists are practically spoiled for everyone these days. In my look ahead in the Resident Evil franchise, I mentioned that this game should get a remake in the new RE engine and I stand by that, and pairing it with Resident Evil Zero in one cohesive package would make it an amazing new way to replay those games.
8. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Not the first game in the series to feature a first-person perspective (show some love for Resident Evil Survivor) but the 7th game in the franchise took the bold move to place the game in the first-person; which aligned it with similar games of its type such as Outlast and the failed PT demo; but also effectively made Resident Evil frightening again after both Resident Evil 5 and later 6 failed to make the games as terrifying as they were before.
The Baker family makes for interesting antagonists, and the inclusion of Chris Redfield was a tasteful way to tie everything into the main continuity. My only issue with the game (and to a degree Village as well) is that I never found Ethan Winters to be a compelling protagonist. He’s an everyman which makes his suffering even crueler, but he doesn’t leave a lasting impact on me in the same way that Leon, Chris, Jill, etc left.
7. Resident Evil 3 (2020)
After Resident Evil 2 (2019) I think we all were excited to see where they took the story next, and admittingly upgrading Mr.X to Nemesis is a cool proposition. That said, Capcom made some baffling choices in regard to this remake.
For one, Nemesis is not as hard as he should be. Once you master the newly implemented dodge mechanic, it’s easy to swerve his more devastating moves and follow it up with a well-timed shotgun blast. Once you snowball that into getting some early upgrades for weapons, the game becomes a lot easier.
There’s also the length, Resident Evil games aren’t always the longest, and that’s ok generally. They prioritize replayability over a longer length. Whereas the Resident Evil 2 remake had a separate 2nd campaign and various side games and missions to play, the Resident Evil 3 remake had less content, making it shorter than the original game. It also lacked any replayability.
So why’s it so high on this list? For one, it’s gorgeous. It is, in my opinion, the best-looking Resident Evil game to date. On a modern graphics card or on an Xbox Series X/PS5 it shows off amazing textures and models. Also, the game for as short as it is, never really drags. I would’ve liked more content, but what we get never feels boring or slow. So there’s that.
6. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)
While I do enjoy the remake to an extent, the original Resident Evil 3 edges it out for me. It made Neesis actually frightening, and unlike the remake, there was no option to fight. You had to run. It showed a bleakness and an inevitability. Compared to other games in the franchise, Nemesis gave you plenty of no-win scenarios.
Sure it’s outclassed graphically by the remake, but the remake fails to live up to the original’s depiction of Nemesis, and that depiction made him a formidable foe even to this day.
5. Resident Evil: Village
Village took the framework set up by the previous game and ran with it. Arguably a much more interesting setting and experience; Village introduced so many exciting new gameplay elements such as the werewolves, or the bosses that acted almost like a Mr. X or Nemesis but they actually were more interactive and interesting.
4. Resident Evil Code: Veronica
For a very long time, Code: Veronica was my favorite in the franchise. It’s not the best, but it was my personal favorite. It was released at a time when the Dreamcast needed (and boy did it get) a game to push sales of the console; but it looked phenomenal, had stellar gameplay, and took the plot in very interesting directions. Arguably, this is one of the most satisfying games in the franchise to play. If you were playing this and you see Chris and Claire finally meet up, it’s an amazing monumental moment. Coupling that with Arcade-level graphics and Code: Veronica simply remains a benchmark for the franchise in terms of delivering a satisfying experience all around. While I love it, I also think a remake of it would be amazing to showcase the various environments and moments in a truly captivating way. Bring it on Capcom!
3. Resident Evil 2 (1998)
The original Resident Evil 2 set the benchmark for the series for years to follow. There’s a reason for that. It features streamlined gameplay, better graphics, an amazing story, and fascinating characters. There’s not much to say here other than, this is just a perfect game and a perfect Resident Evil experience.
2. Resident Evil 4
The original Resident Evil 4 lives in my head, rent-free, for the rest of eternity. Because as a teen, I was so scared of so many moments in this. The Chainsaw Man (Men?), the Las Plagas that spew out from their hosts, the various bosses. There are just so many moments in that game that are so incredibly memorable for me. I suspect the remake could surpass this. I am going in with an open mind.
1. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
The 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 took an already perfect game and made it better. The graphics are stunning, the minor improvements to the story really work, and the game really embraces the fun replayability of Resident Evil in a way where you can easily get this game on sale and put in 40+ hours between the two campaigns and the various side content. The Resident Evil 2 remake has set the bar, and it’s up to Capcom to deliver on all the other amazing games in the franchise with the same love and care they gave this remake, but if they do, we’re going to have an amazing new set of games to re-experience, and I’m all for that!
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