There is no franchise in all of gaming that means more to me than Resident Evil. I’ll never forget the trip my dad and I made to Target that fateful day when he finally let me get a PlayStation 1 and copies of Resident Evil 1 and 2. Zombies in gaming and film form have been in my blood from a young age, so these seemed like no brainer pickups for me. I’ve played almost every game that has been released and all of their various ports since (except for RE: Gaiden on the GameBoy Color). The early half of this venerable franchise is mostly known for birthing the modern Survival horror genre as we know it while its later entries tend to veer more into Michael Bay style action films. Then the 1-2 punch of Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2: Remake drag this series kicking and screaming back to its survival horror roots.
Needless to say it has been sort of an up and down roller coaster ride for RE fans. Some people stick to their guns and like the scarier original entries while some fans new and old prefer the more action heavy outings. Whatever your preference may be… there is something for every type of gamer out there. This year marks the 25 year anniversary since the release of the original RE game on the PS1. To celebrate this momentous occasion there’s a lot of RE goodness coming our way this year. There’s a new anime series debuting on Netflix this summer called Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness. There’s a live action film reboot called Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City that seems to be more of a close adaption of the games than the Milla Jovovich starring film franchise. We’re getting 2 new games: a straight sequel to RE 7 called Resident Evil Village and with it is packaged a PvP deathmatch style online game called RE: Verse which stars various characters and monsters from the series storied history battling it out in typical deathmatch style matches and maps set across franchise. It’s a great time to be a fan.
Resident Evil Village and RE: Verse are due to release on May 7th (3 days before my birthday squee!!!!) and that is fast approaching. I’m so fucking excited to play this game as all the pre-release footage makes this look like it’s going to be another home run for the series. So this here article is going to be a Top 7 list of Resident Evil games to celebrate the upcoming game. My opinions are my own and don’t represent the community or anyone else for that matter. Everyone has their own interpretation of which games they like and here’s mine!
7 RESIDENT EVIL: REVELATIONS
After Resident Evil 5 had come out and continued along the action focused track that RE 4 had laid out for the franchise, the fans we’re starting to notice a huge tectonic shift in the themes and atmosphere Resident Evil was known for. Gone was the dark spooky mansions, Lovecraftian biological horrors, knife’s edge tension and here seemed to stay was frenetically paced set pieces, balls to the wall action and threats, and bad guys that seemed to grow more and more global with each game. Revelations was an offshoot/side story created to give something back to the fans of the scarier entries. The mainline numbered entries would have their over the shoulder explosions and rampant chaos while these side games would go back to slower paced storytelling and actual darker/scarier atmosphere. The game itself was OKAY and not exactly blowing down any doors, but it was just nice to see Capcom recognize that this all started as a SURVIVAL HORRROR series and that it was willing to cater to those at the time. The game takes place on a mostly abandoned cruise liner that has been ravaged by a zombie outbreak. It's isolated from the world feeling is much more foreboding than the globe spanning spectacle that would follow later that year with Resident Evil 6. Not to mention it’s just nice to spend some time with Jill Valentine who is without a doubt the best character in the entire series.
6 RESIDENT EVIL 5
This was the game that solidified the action heavy focus of later RE titles. RE 4 was the one that started the path that lead to that direction, but it still maintained a healthy balance of horror as well. Resident Evil 5 sees the return of RE’s longest running protagonist Chris Redfield as he travels to Africa in search of the cause and origin of the Tricell Corporation’s newly unleashed Uroboros Virus and its ties to Umbrella and its T-Virus. Along the way he meets a new and fairly badass partner Sheva Alomar as the two search for answers in a quest to shut down bio terror as a global threat once and for all. This game is a REALLY far cry from the original games in the PS1 era but that’s not really a slight against it. RE 5 has a really fun co-op mechanic that allows two players to take advantage of the many branching paths that allow you to see the narrative from different perspectives. This coupled with an in game store that allows you buy weapons, costumes and all sorts of upgrades that turn you into a death dealing machine capable of defeating all you survey adds to all sorts of replayability. It’s really a solidly fun game that I revisit often even if it’s probably the least scary of all the RE games. Some consider it a sin since this is technically a horror franchise, but I personally think it’s a fun game that deserves to be played by as many people as possible.
5 RESIDENT EVIL 3: NEMESIS
I really wanted to include the RE 3 Remake on this list. It’s my 2nd most played game in all of 2020 and also possibly my favorite game released all of last year. However I chose to pick the original it was based on instead. There’s just too much cut out of the remake and too much changed around to the point that it’s almost a different game entirely. Coming hot off the heels of the massively successful RE 2, there were several versions of this game that Capcom was developing at the same time. RE: Code Veronica was originally intended to be the follow up to RE 2 as it featured Claire Redfield (one of the 2 playable characters in RE 2) and her quest to find her brother Chris (one of the playable characters from the first game). However, this game wouldn’t be ready for the PS1 and would need to be released on the then upcoming PS2 console. So Capcom, not wanting to ignore the momentum they had built from RE 2 had decided that a spinoff game also being developed at the time would be promoted to mainline status and that they would use Jill Valentine as the main character to connect it to the rest of the series. Ultimately the game that wound up being RE 3 was a good one. RE 2 was more about grand gothic horror and RE 3 was a more contained story about one woman’s fight to escape her city alive as it was being ravaged by the biological horrors wrought by the Umbrella Corporation. It had some new mechanics never seen before and actually never seen again in the franchise. There are key moments in the game where it stops and allows you to make a choice on how to proceed. Depending on the choice you make, the story and plot direction are greatly affected allowing for multiple endings and multiple scenes playing differently. This coupled with a much shorter play time allowed for a better range of replay ability.
4 RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD
Many people regard Resident Evil 4 as not only the bar to judge the rest of the franchise but the pivot point where things really and truly changed for the rest of the series. For better or worse, RE 4 is the origin point for a lot of the things that are now standards in the modern era. However this is the game that started us on the path to the lower points in the series as well. RE 6 is widely regarded as a “fun” video game but an ultimately trash Resident Evil game and with good reason. RE 6 literally shed all of its survival horror trappings in favor of a game that spans multiple timelines, with multiple characters with a setting that took place all over the globe. So when Resident Evil 7 was announced and subsequently released… it was like another RE 4 in the sense that it shook up the formula of what it means to be a Resident Evil game yet again. It was in 1st person which had never been done in the franchise up until that point and was a pure and unadulterated horror experience from beginning to end. Gone were the excessive action set pieces and QTE events… and here to stay was an oppressively dread filled environment that was as scary a video game as the first one when it was first released. The first person perspective was a welcome breath of fresh air as it made you feel like you were in the shit so to speak as opposed to experiencing it from someone else’s point of view. Resources and ammunition we’re much more scarce and harder to come by. The story while firmly taking place in the RE universe feels largely detached from the more convoluted story that had been established in RE’s 4,5 and 6. Its feelings of isolation and despair as you search this rundown mansion for your missing wife while this psycho hillbilly family infected with a virus that has turned them into indestructible monsters is unmatched. It took me forever to beat this game simply because upon first play through it legit scared the shit out of me.
3 RESIDENT EVIL 1 (REMAKE)
I know it might be considered sacrilegious to admit this out loud, but I find that the original Resident Evil for PS1 is damn near unplayable by today’s standards. I still fire it up every once in a while for nostalgic purposes but as a game it’s really really dated in the worst way. So when Capcom remade the game and released it on the GameCube, it was met with almost UNIVERSAL praise. This version of RE 1 is damn near survival horror perfection (if it weren’t for the other 2 games on this list). It updates all the things that don’t work while keeping intact all the things that did work and modernizes them as well. The pre-rendered backgrounds featured in this remake are perfection and go such a long way to making this probably the second overall scariest game in the franchise(re 7 is still the balls to the wall scariest). It’s a very slow paced burn that doesn’t hold your hand or give you directions on where to go next. While there is a path to follow its entirely up to you which rooms to explore first and which keys to gather to unlock more rooms and as such unravel the mystery you’ve dropped yourself into. You really feel like you’re a detective just like the avatar you’re manipulating around the world. I wouldn’t say it’s an open world because despite the lack of direction… you’re still being funneled in the very specific ways the studio wants you to be. It’s not at all immersion breaking though, the atmosphere on display more than makes up for it. This game even though it was released during the halcyon days of the GameCube’s lifespan… still looks and feels like a game that could be released today during the current console generation. It was ported over to the Xbox One and Ps4 “remastered” with full 1080hd graphics and a locked 60 frames per second. This is absolutely the best possible way to experience this stunner of a game as it just makes the horrors contained within the Spencer Mansion that much more horrific.
2 Resident Evil 2 Remake
These last two entries were the hardest to place on this list. How do I prioritize one over the other? Replayability? Scares? Story? Graphics? I’ve gone back and forth the whole time writing this piece knowing it was inevitably going to come down to these two. The rest of the list snapped into place pretty easily, but these I agonized over. Eventually I settled that Resident Evil 2 Remake would get the no 2 spot. This is honestly almost a flawless experience. It picks up the baton from Resident Evil 7 with putting the horror and the scares above the action and the set pieces. It creates a claustrophobic horror filled experience while the entire city falls apart to the zombie apocalypse. This remake is ALMOST as faithful a retelling of its source material as the Re 1 remake is (minus a few speed bumps). It has multiple scenarios for both Leon and Claire that remixes item placements and enemy placements to make the second run through a little bit harder to predict. It has extra game modes for speed running enthusiasts. You also get graded on how fast or efficiently you’re able to complete each campaign which in turn nets you unlockables in the form of different weapons with unlimited ammo you can use on subsequent playthroughs on harder difficulties. There is simply so much content to take in and so much to see and do in this game. It also has to be stated that once you get to the point in the story where you’re constantly being stalked by Mr. X, the horror and stress ratchets up by 1000. It’s an easy way to incorporate a faster paced narrative while not sacrificing the scares and the horror. There are a few elements that were cut from the original game, a few levels and a few story beats that keep this from being a faithful 1 to 1 recreation. While that particular set of ostracized content is missed and keeps the game from being a truly perfect creation, you soon forget about it being gone mere minutes after you’ve completed your first run and are already gearing up for the next. This is easily the scariest game in the series, right next to RE 7. The little amount of ammunition and healing items(especially on the Hardcore difficulty) you have to survive with coupled with the truly deadly enemies stalking you around every corner come together to make Re 2 Remake the true bar by which all future titles should be judged in my opinion.
1 RESIDENT EVIL 2 (1998)
Resident Evil 2 is honest to god my all-time most replayed video game in my entire history of playing video games with only its remake perhaps matching it. Resident Evil 2 takes everything that didn’t work with RE 1 and tosses it aside, takes everything that did work and amps it up to 11 while also forging its own path and identity. There’s just the right amount of camp that is mixed in with the serious tone of the horrors you experience in this game. It tries to scare you while also letting you know that it’s okay to have fun as well. While its graphics these days feel dated and make it hard to watch on today’s crop of 4K enabled televisions, the soul and the heart of this game bleed through every pore it has to offer. While Resident Evil 1 was the genesis of the modern concept of survival horror gaming, it was Resident Evil 2 that really perfected said concept and created a game that had wide and everlasting appeal to every kind of gamer in the world. Much in the same way that many would view George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as the greatest zombie movie of all time… the same could be said about the OG Resident Evil 2 being the greatest zombie video game of all time. It’s revolutionary zapping system where certain decisions made on one playthrough of one character affected the other, its epic and tragically gothic story and widening of the overall mythos all create a classic game that goes unmatched to this day. It’s pitch perfect pace starts slowly and naturally ramps up the further you dig into the mystery of how this all started. While not as “technically” flawless as its remake ends up being, you really can’t compare the two in that regard as they are separated by 20+ years of technical advancements. However, RE 2 OG gets the No 1 spot over its remake simply due to the fact that there’s just a soul to the older game that was allowed to settle in and take root in the soil of popular zombie fiction. I’m sure given time the remake will be just as iconic as this one… but this original game really made huge advancements in the survival horror genre and gaming in general that we’re still seeing the lasting impact of to this day. Resident Evil 2 for the PS1 is as iconic as any Zelda or Mario game to me and represents the pinnacle of what can happen when technical achievement meets unlimited imagination at the corner of artistic creation.
So that its folks! Those are my 7 favorite Resident Evil Games in the leads up to this week’s release of Resident Evil: Village. Stay tuned to TBK where I’ll have a review of Village once it releases. Let us know what you think in the comments below and stay frosty my friends.