Ever since Capcom’s original Resident Evil title released on the Sony Playstation back in 1996, I have been a big fan of the franchise and credit it for creating my love for horror games. Resident Evil was the first game I received for my Playstation and I quickly became engrossed in its mysterious story and haunting atmosphere. With strong sequels and high production values, it became one of my favorite franchises in all of gaming.
During the last generation with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the franchise earned a few black eyes with disappointing sequels and poorly developed spin-off titles, making it difficult to be a Resident Evil fan. Thankfully, Capcom has restored the franchise back to its former glory this generation with both a fresh take on the franchise with Resident Evil VII and the newly released Resident Evil 2 remake.
To celebrate the release of Resident Evil 2, I thought it would be fun to rank the core Resident Evil series from worst to best. Only the core 10 titles will be included on this list, excluding any spin-offs, ports and the newly released Resident Evil 2 remake, since I’m not finished with it yet. Without further adieu, let’s get started.
10. Resident Evil 6
Known as the black sheep of the franchise, many consider Resident Evil 6 the worst game in the series, and for good reason. The game seemed to have completely forgot its roots in survival horror. Instead of atmospheric, tension-filled horror gameplay the series is known for, Resident Evil 6 took a full-fledged third person shooter approach that felt more like a John Woo movie than a creepy John Carpenter one.
Capcom tried to cram way too many stories and characters into this one, making it feel unfocused. The new characters introduced here were underwhelming and the globe-trotting story took players to locales that were boring and lacking any interesting art design. Resident Evil 6 was a bland, bloated shooter riddled with bad quick time events that completely forgot why fans fell in love with the franchise in the first place.
9. Resident Evil Zero
Resident Evil Zero originally started out as an exclusive Nintendo 64 title, but after a troubled development, the project moved to the Nintendo Gamecube and released after the original Resident Evil remake. The game had some gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds and character models while also returning players to a few classic locations from previous games now with a fresh coat of paint. Also, it was cool to see Rebecca Chambers in the starring role. Unfortunately, the game suffered from a poor story with dumb slug enemies that were frustrating to fight, as well as a character-swap system that was more confusing than fun. I seriously hated solving some of the puzzles in this game. While I appreciate how Capcom tried to do something new with the series here, it just felt boring and frustrating to play.
8. Resident Evil 5
I LOVED Resident Evil 5 when it first released. I played through it multiple times and tried to earn all of the achievements on my Xbox 360. However, once I returned to the game in its remastered edition on Xbox One, I played through it again and realized how uninspired it really was. The game features some frustrating partner AI, a really weird story, and some REALLY frustrating boss fights that made me want to pull my hair out.
Everything felt more of the same from Resident Evil 4 but not nearly as interesting or tense. Playing it co-op with a buddy didn’t help much aside from avoiding bad AI and having another person to complain to when I was getting bored with it. I blame this game’s success on why Resident Evil 6 was so bad, since the more action-fueled approach seemed to have inspired Capcom to go further in on that design. It’s a pretty mediocre Resident Evil game overall.
7. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
The first game to come out of the pre-rendered era of Resident Evil titles, Code Veronica was an ambitious game that launched exclusively on the Sega Dreamcast until it was eventually ported to the Playstation 2 and Gamecube. It was nice to see a mixture of set camera angles and dynamic camera angles that followed the player around at times, giving a more cinematic feel. Overall I really enjoyed Code Veronica, but the reason why it’s lower on my list is due to how plain weird it is and one glaring design flaw.
Steve Burnside and his striking resemblance to actor Leonardo DiCaprio was a pretty annoying character. Many of the villains were extremely over-the-top in terms of camp, making them all quite laughable. Also, there is a moment in the game where players can become unable to progress further if they didn’t save enough ammo for a mid-game Tyrant fight on an airplane. I almost suffered from this myself before I got lucky and found one box of ammo I skipped by backtracking to older areas. That really sucked and I never forgave the game for it.
6. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Coming off of the wildly successful Resident Evil 2, I felt like Resident Evil 3 had some huge shoes to fill. The inclusion of Nemesis, a hulking invulnerable enemy who stalks the player throughout the entire game, made RE3 stand out strong among the other two games. It’s easily the most tense game in the series. The story was enjoyable, allowing players to find out what happened to Jill Valentine during the events of Resident Evil 2 while also witnessing the execution of any S.T.A.R.S. members lingering around Raccoon City by the hands of Nemesis. The only reason this game is lower on the list is due to the uninspired level design. Running around the same looking streets only to eventually end up in the same type of locations from the first two games (aka boring ass labs) made the game annoying to backtrack through and a bit of a slog to complete.
5. Resident Evil (original)
I can thank this game for introducing me to the franchise while also making me a massive fan of horror games in general. Also, I find it to be probably the most nostalgic and memorable game in the series. Exploring the Spencer mansion was anxiety inducing and full of amazing art design. Moving on to the creepy guest house full of monstrosities is probably one of my most cherished gaming memories ever. The only reason this game isn’t ranked any higher is simply due to how poorly it aged. All of the dialog is hilariously bad and the blocky player models stand out like a sore thumb in front of those pixilated pre-rendered backgrounds. Still, it’s one of my favorite games ever made.
4. Resident Evil VII
Before the release of Resident Evil VII, I was very nervous. Coming off of two bland Resident Evil titles and a bunch of dumb spin-offs, I had very low faith in Capcom at this point. I owe Capcom an apology, because Resident Evil VII is fantastic. It tried something new by transitioning to a first person perspective. It included a brand new character without any ties to the previous games too, which was refreshing.
The story was unique compared to the series and played on some fun horror movie tropes found in titles like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes. For once in over a decade a Resident Evil game was scary again! VR integration elevated the whole experience too, making for a terrifying game to play on the newly released Playstation VR. Many of the series staples returned, such as object-shaped keys, puzzles and Metroidvania-like progression, all made a return. I loved it, but the game didn’t quite reach the heights of the last two games on my list.
3. Resident Evil 4
Many people blame Resident Evil 4 for creating the more action oriented gameplay the series suffered from in its later years. However, Resident Evil 4 traded jump scares and spookiness for a new type of fear — panic. From the opening moments of the game, Resident Evil 4 sends players into a flurry of panicy situations by engulfing them within high numbers of tough enemies. The first time that chainsaw enemy appears, I nearly crapped my pants.
The game continues this panic-filled gameplay throughout the entire run time too, making it a very memorable experience. Not to mention that the game perfected the art of the escort mission, forcing players to play a bodyguard role without frustrating us to no end. Ashley’s AI was very capable of handing her own and saying out of our way. We got new environments, new enemies, new threats and probably the coolest items vendor in gaming period. Let’s not forget the Regenerators — possibly the freakiest enemy in the series. Resident Evil 4 is simply a classic and one of the most replayable out of the entire series.
2. Resident Evil Remake
Take everything I said about the original Resident Evil, but fix everything that was bad about it. Poor character models? Fixed. Stupid dialog? Fixed… mostly. Low res pre-rendered backgrounds? Fixed. Capcom was able to take the original game, make it significantly prettier and scarier, all while remixing the entire experience to give returning players a fresh way to experience the original story. Crimson zombies are potentially the most terrifying enemies the franchise ever threw at us too (along with the Regenerators from RE4). Resident Evil Remake made the original game obsolete while retaining everything that made it special.
1. Resident Evil 2 (original)
I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve played through Resident Evil 2. I beat it on the Playstation at least 6 times before double dipping on the PC version and playing through it another 3 or 4 times at a higher resolution. Let’s not even go into the various ports I’ve played too, including the miraculous Nintendo 64 version along with the Gamecube and Dreamcast ports. Simply put, I adore this game.
Resident Evil 2 took what made the original game so successful and cranked it to eleven. The RPD police station is just as memorable and creepy as the Spencer mansion. The story was engaging and full of interesting characters. It was a prettier looking game that aged much better than the original Resident Evil. Zombies were in higher numbers, the lickers were much more frightening and the jump scares were delivered in more creative ways. I’ll never forget the interrogation room sequence and how it made me spring out of my seat.
I also loved the zapping system included in the game that made multiple playthroughs feel different while delivering new perspectives on the narrative. The introduction of Mr. X, a tyrant pursuing the player and popping out at unexpected moments, caught me off guard and paved the way for the game’s sequel. All of this makes Resident Evil 2 easily one of the most memorable and replayable video games I have ever experienced.
Well, that’s it! I hope everyone out there enjoys the Resident Evil 2 remake. Listen out for our full impressions soon on the That Pixel Life podcast!