This week marks the re-release of Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 0, and the Resident Evil remake on the Nintendo Switch, bringing three survival horror experiences to one hybrid portable platform. Combined with the release of Resident Evil 2's fantastic remake earlier in 2019, this almost feels like the year of Resident Evil. With that in mind, the team here at USG fought long and hard over which entries represented the best Resident Evil games. Following that civil discussion, we present to you most of the Resident Evil games ranked from the worst to the very best.
What are the Best Resident Evil Games?
We know that the number one in this list of the best Resident Evil games is already going to elicit some heated conversation, so how did we come up with the full list of the best Resident Evil games? We started with full ranked personal lists, and then combined those to get the near final list. Then Reviews Editor Mike Williams, the person who's played the most games in the series, was made the final arbiter, shifting some games slightly up or down the final list. So, you may disagree, but this is USG's list of the best Resident Evil games. You can leave yours in the comments section below!
- 20. Resident Evil Survivor, Survivor 2, and Dead Aim
- 19. Resident Evil Gaiden
- 18. Umbrella Corps
- 17. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
- 16. Resident Evil Outbreak and Outbreak File #2
- 15. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
- 14. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
- 13. Resident Evil: Revelations
- 12. Resident Evil 6
- 11. Resident Evil
- 10. Resident Evil 0
- 9. Resident Evil 5
- 8. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
- 7. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
- 6. Resident Evil: Revelations 2
- 5. Resident Evil 2
- 4. Resident Evil (Remake)
- 3. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
- 2. Resident Evil 4
- 1. Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
20. Resident Evil Survivor, Survivor 2, and Dead Aim
Here at the end of our list, we package up a whole series of games as a single entry. It's actually three different games: 2000's Resident Evil Survivor, 2001's Resident Evil Survivor - Code Veronica, and 2003's Resident Evil: Dead Aim. (Four games if you count Dino Stalker, based on the same engine, but using the Dino Crisis series for inspiration.) All three games were made to support Namco's GunCon and GunCon 2 light gun peripherals for PlayStation and PlayStation 2.
The problems started early and mounted up. The first game came out after the Columbine High School shooting, so light gun support was removed. The second game for PlayStation 2, was originally developed for arcades by Namco, and ultimately didn't make it over to the United States. Dead Aim was developed by Cavia, the folks behind Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors, Drakengard 2, and the awful Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance. It had light gun and mouse support, and tried to stick closer to the original series by having a third-person viewpoint when moving and a meatier story to it.
Dead Aim is the best of the bunch, but it's not a great Resident Evil game, nor is it a particularly exciting light gun game. It was a failure in both directions, for a spinoff series that was generally a failure all around. —Mike Williams
19. Resident Evil Gaiden
There was a time when publishers were desperately trying to fit their big-budget games onto the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Many of these games only tangentially had anything to do with their PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube counterparts. Resident Evil Gaiden is a cast-off of that era.
Resident Evil Gaiden has RE 2's Leon Kennedy and RE's Barry Burton exploring a luxury cruise ship where an outbreak has taken place. (If you're up on your Resident Evil, that's also the setting of the portable Resident Evil: Revelations.) Gaiden offers exploration from a top-down viewpoint, with your character wandering the decks of the ship. If you ran into a monster, the game would switch to first-person RPG combat. In these instances, there's a bar with a reticle sliding back and forth determining your hit range. Players had to time button presses to damage an enemy, or outright kill them; it's an ugly system overall and did Gaiden no favors.
Out of the entire sprawl of Resident Evil games, this is one of the few considered non-canon. Just leave it behind. —Mike Williams
18. Umbrella Corps
If your only experience with Resident Evil was Umbrella Corps, you would be utterly baffled by every new game that came after it. This series is built on tension, carefully crafted clockwork levels, puzzles that involve clock hands, and undead that at their best, provide a meaningful encounter. Umbrella Corps is none of those things.
Umbrella Corps is the maw into which Capcom dumped all the buzzwords that couldn’t fit in a proper Resident Evil. Umbrella Corps is an arcade survival-shooter where soldiers slide around the floor at inhuman speeds, while zombies shamble about like decorative ducks in an old-timey shooting gallery.
Umbrella Corps is the made-up game for an episode of Law & Order about gamer crimes, only sold in real life at your local stores. A half-hearted attempt to make a multiplayer Resident Evil-lite, cash in on a few gameplay trends that were hot three years prior to its release, and move along to something infinitely more worthwhile. —Eric Van Allen
17. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
In 2012, Capcom once again tried something different with the Resident Evil franchise. Developed by Slant Six Games, the now-defunct studio behind SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs series, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City had a clear vision at least. The idea was to marry SOCOM play to Resident Evil, putting players in the shoes of an elite military force trapped in Raccoon City.
The final result wasn't all that great though. Operation Raccoon City had a single-player mode, but it's little more than window dressing for a series of unconnected missions. The real meat was online play, pitting two squads of six players against one another and the zombie hordes. But sadly, the gunplay was underwhelming and even at its best Operation Raccoon City is simply boring. There's life in the idea, but this isn't the beating heart of it. —Mike Williams
16. Resident Evil Outbreak and Outbreak File #2
The story here is quite similar to Operation Raccoon City, and the conception of that game probably had its genesis in Outbreak. Both Outbreak titles are cooperative online Resident Evil experiences, taking place at the same general time as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The aim was to make an online Resident Evil, for use with the PlayStation 2 Network Adapter.
Outbreak and its sequel aren't entirely unsuccessful attempts at online RE, especially since they released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2003-2004. As you jump from character to character across the episodic storyline, you get snippets and highlights of the common man's story during the Raccoon City outbreak. Players had to work together to defeat the zombie hordes and complete objectives. Unfortunately, the scenarios available were pretty short, the monsters are mostly reused, and the story isn't that great. Also, since it was online, players had to contend with being unable to pause to check their inventory for the first time in series history. Folks hated that. —Mike Williams
15. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Based on the popular time attack mini game in Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D does a good enough job of making a case for Nintendo's somewhat gimmicky handheld. The arcade-y gameplay of Mercenaries, where players takes control of a popular Resident Evil character and tries to kill as many zombies as they can in the allotted time, even works well on the go.
In fact, the decision to spin Mercenaries off as a separate games makes sense, and Capcom has since expanded the arcade-y side modes into longer games like Operation Raccoon City. While Mercenaries 3D played fine and looked fine, the lack of content makes The Mercenaries 3D more of a power demo for the 3DS than a must-play Resident Evil game. —Matt Kim
14. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
While every Resident Evil fan in 2009 was eagerly anticipating the release of Resident Evil 5, Wii fans were left with the light gun shooter, The Darkside Chronicles, as a consolation prize.
A sequel to the Umbrella Chronicles light gun shooter (Capcom has made a surprising number of these for the Resident Evil franchise), the Darkside Chronicles had one advantage over early RE light gun games: motion controls. Thanks to the Wiimote, playing Darkside Chronicles felt like a true arcade experience rather than a cheap thrill ride. The only problem is that ultimately there's no way an arcade experience competes with the full Resident Evil experience. The updated visuals for classic Resident Evil games and original side story starring Leon Kennedy were a nice touch, however. —Matt Kim
13. Resident Evil: Revelations
No one thought a Resident Evil game on Nintendo 3DS could work. And with Resident Evil: Revelations, well, they were mostly proven wrong. It may not hold up to today's standards, especially after the HD update of it placed it on more capable hardware, but it was still an impressive game for how far it pushed the 3DS.
Resident Evil: Revelations may be the most claustrophobic feeling game of the series, and it's that way by design. The corridors are narrow, and barely edge you in movement. (You are, dominantly, on a creepy ship after all.) While you can move and shoot at the same time—unlike most other games in the series—you're still fairly restricted. (Unless you have that pesky Circle Pad Pro attachment for your 3DS, which helps enable camera movement.) The first Revelations is an impressive outing for Resident Evil on such a portable console, and even if it doesn't stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the series, it will be remembered for doing the unexpected and bringing Resident Evil to portable in a big way. —Caty McCarthy
12. Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil 6 is really the moment Resident Evil went off the rails. Failing to decide on the tone for its sixth mainline game, Capcom split the difference and made each of its multiple sections sport a different style and aesthetic. Split between four playable characters, Resident Evil 6 featured some parts that were more action-y, others more scary. But the whiplash that generated never made the game gel together.
Instead, Resident Evil 6 was ultimately just too much. Too much plot, too much bombast, too many characters. There was even a clone plot! Any way you look at it, Resident Evil 6 represents the excess the series slowly built up over the years. Luckily, it stripped the series down to its essentials for the following games. —Matt Kim
11. Resident Evil
The granddaddy of the entire franchise rests here on our list. Originally conceived as a remake of another Capcom horror game for the Famicom, director Shinji Mikami would end up finding inspiration in The Shining, Alone in the Dark, and more, becoming the Resident Evil we know and love.
This is the official beginning of the Umbrella Corporation, S.T.A.R.S., Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, and the whole rest of Resident Evil's meandering storyline. It's you in a vast mansion, with zombies and other mutated monsters, trying to solve puzzles with increasingly odd keys and ultimately survive the night. The fixed camera, the limited inventory, the sparse ammo, and the weird tank controls; there was nothing else like Resident Evil at the time. The thing is, the original Resident Evil didn't age all that well. If you're looking to revisit it, you're better off with the 2002 remake, though that does mean you lose some of the B-movie charm from the voice acting and live-action opening. —Mike Williams
10. Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 0 is at its best at the start of the game when S.T.A.R.S. medic Rebecca Chambers wakes up on a spooky train. It's a novel setting for a horror game, one that distills the claustrophobic dread of early Resident Evil games into a literal location. Alas, Resident Evil 0 stops being a unique entry into the franchise the moment it enters its more conventional mansion location.
And while Resident Evil 0 absolutely still appeals to fans of Resident Evil Remake, the game wasted an absolutely stellar setting when Rebecca and Billy leave the Ecliptic Express. Years later, I'm almost mad that Resident Evil 0 ditches the train early on to become just another spooky mansion game. At least Train to Busan had the courage to leave one train for another. —Matt Kim
9. Resident Evil 5
Visually Resident Evil 5 is stunning. That putrid yellow that permeates the early portions of the game are absolutely phenomenal at setting up the feeling of the first leg of the game. It's also a crime that we haven't seen Sheva Alomar again. Unfortunately, like all Resident Evil games from this time, Capcom splits the difference yet again and changes the tone from horror to action part way through.
As Resident Evil 4, 7, and Remake 2 show, there's a right way to blend survival horror with action elements. Unfortunately, Resident Evil 5 dropped the thread a little too quickly and becomes a retread of Resident Evil 4 around the halfway mark. While the game serves as a conclusion arc for Resident Evil's long-running villain Albert Wesker, the abrupt tonal changes toward the end of the campaign led to scenes like Chris Redfield punching a boulder. Just ridiculous. —Matt Kim
8. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
I already wrote an extensive love letter to Resident Evil 3, when I mused how Capcom could use it as the base for a remake better than Resident Evil 2 (2019). While Resident Evil 2 is the one that everyone remembers, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is no slouch either.
RE 3 took the baseline established in RE 2 and started to play up the action. Instead of the occasional Tyrant encounter in Resident Evil 2, returning heroine Jill Valentine had to deal with an ever-present Nemesis. With the larger threat, Jill also gets more firepower and new movement abilities, like the 180-degree quick turn and the timed dodge mechanic. Jill is far more mobile that those who came before, and veteran players with pinpoint precision can get through the entire game unscathed.
Resident Evil 3 also brought player choice into the equation, as Jill has to make specific branching decisions at certain parts of the adventure, many of which determine which ending you receive. And all you Mercenaries fans out there should realize that RE 3 was the first game to feature the alternative mini-game mode. Resident Evil 3 isn't as good as its immediate predecessor, but it's still a pioneer in its own way. —Mike Williams
7. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Code Veronica stands out for probably having the strongest narrative of the pre-Resident Evil 4 Capcom zombie games. Code Veronica told a story that was as much Thomas Harris as it was Resident Evil. And headlining this entry were the two Redfield siblings, Chris and Claire.
The psycho-thriller plot of the Ashford twins on Rockfort island made for a compelling hook, and was probably the closest the series got to some of the psychological trappings of cerebrally driven horror game contemporaries like Silent Hill. Although I'd stop short of calling Code Veronica a full psychological horror game.
By pitting sibling against sibling, Resident Evil's rah rah action hero stereotypes gained some extra dimension. And taking the action outside of Raccoon City grew opened up the lore of Resident Evil. We probably could've done without Steve Burnside though. —Matt Kim
6. Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Most people have not played this game. Revelations 2 was released episodically back in 2015 to very little fanfare. It was an experiment by Capcom, making a Resident Evil without the budget or visual bells-and-whistles that categorize many of the mainline entries. It was quickly forgotten, a mere footnote in Resident Evil history. Most of the USG team hasn't even played it.
Revelations 2 is a damned good Resident Evil game though. The first Revelations suffered from trying to fit everything RE into the 3DS, but Revelations 2 is surprisingly focused. Across the four episodes, you play as either Claire Redfield or Barry Burton. It takes place in two time periods. Claire and Barry's daughter Moira are in the past, having been kidnapped and stranded on Sushestvovanie Island under the watch of the mysterious Overseer. Barry's adventure is six months later, as he comes to the island to find Claire and his daughter, only to be met with a strange girl named Natalia. Both halves build on one another over the course of the episodes.
Everyone praised Resident Evil 2 for its direct return to the old school RE formula, but Revelations 2 did it first. The island is full of interesting unique environments, including the prison, a mansion, a huge lab, and even the open forest, as opposed to the cramped corridors of the boat in Revelations. Enemy variety is stronger here, instead of the mostly-human Ganados and Majini of RE 4 and RE 5. The focus is on classic survival horror, unlike the wildly different gameplay types of Resident Evil 6. Light and darkness plays heavily into Revelations 2, with many regions offering only your flashlight or a flickering lamp as a source of safety. It does all this while maintaining the goofy tone of franchise, offering very bad dialog with a completely straight and somber tone.
Its biggest misstep is probably the ending, but up until that point, it's pure Resident Evil with no fluff or nonsense. It's focused, but there's some ambition here, and the writing is generally better than some of the entries further down this list. And you can burn through the whole campaign in 8-10 hours, so it's not a huge drain on your time. —Mike Williams
5. Resident Evil 2
While it's since been outstripped by its excellent remake, the original Resident Evil 2 holds up pretty well. After the success of the first Resident Evil, Capcom wanted to build something bigger and better. Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami switched over to producing and he turned to young upstart designer Hideki Kamiya for the second entry. Kamiya moved the setting to the streets of Raccoon City, with multiple lead characters fighting hordes of zombies. A lot of that original experience—Resident Evil 2 was completely overhauled mid-production—made its way into the final product.
Resident Evil 2 introduced the world to Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, the former of whom would take the sole starring role in Resident Evil 2. Each had their own scenario, and through the "Zapping System," the actions in one scenario would effect the second playthrough with the other character. It was bigger than its predecessor, moving beyond the confines of a single mansion to deliver players a city under a massive viral outbreak.
At the time of its release, Resident Evil 2 was damn near a playable Hollywood film. Yes, the polygonal characters haven't aged that well, but in the PlayStation era it looked like a stunner, with those lavish rendered 3D backgrounds. And with the addition of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai writer Noboru Sugimura to the team, the story of Resident Evil was leaps and bounds ahead of the first game. All RE 2 had to do was be bigger and better than the original, something it did with seeming ease. —Mike Williams
4. Resident Evil (Remake)
One of my earliest memories is waking up late at night, stumbling into the living room because I heard my mom and the television on, only to find a scary zombie turning toward the screen having just sucked down some brains. Little did I know back then, it was the early moments of Resident Evil, and my mom was playing it while little ol' me was in bed. Then I cried, and she felt really bad that I saw such a scary thing.
The Resident Evil Remake, which I feel like I've started over and over again on virtually every platform on this point, is always solid. It feels old school still, in a way the most recent Resident Evil 2 remake does not. The graphics may not be amazing in 2019, but the rough edges of the original PlayStation entry are gone. The story is carefully tuned for HD, with a revised script trickling in the mystery of whatever's behind the T-Virus outbreak, before the Umbrella-saturated plot goes in a variety of directions in its successors. Even in 2019, it's proof that sometimes you just can't beat the simplicity of the first Resident Evil, where it's largely just Jill or Chris, a creepy mansion, a mystery, and zombies in your way. —Caty McCarthy
3. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
After the bombastic Resident Evil 6 burned all the heat out of the action side of the franchise, Capcom needed to do something drastically different. It didn't want to entirely go back to original style that categorized all of the games up until Code Veronica, but it did want to return to the horror and tension of not knowing what was around the next corner.
Enter Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, whose title was is a reference to the Western and Japanese titles of Capcom's horror series. (The Japanese title is Biohazard 7: Resident Evil.) Instead of focusing on Chris, Jill, Leon, Claire, or any familiar characters, Resident Evil 7 is about Ethan Winters, a man who is lost in the despair of losing his wife. When he receives a message from his dead partner, telling him to come to a Louisiana farmhouse, he does. This very bad decision lands him in the clutches of the crazed and mutated Baker clan.
The biggest change in Resident Evil 7 is the switch to a first-person viewpoint. But when you step back from that, the rest of the game is remarkably similar to previous Resident Evils. Ethan is alone in the house, with a few weapons, the ability craft healing items, and a host of odd puzzles to solve. While the camera recalls modern horror games like Outlast, Amnesia, and P.T., Resident Evil 7 showed that Capcom didn't forget what made the originals so exciting. The horror of running from one of the Bakers, or faceless Molded, is enhanced because you're directly put into Ethan's viewpoint. And the Bakers themselves are probably some of the most memorable villains of the franchise, at least within the confines of a single game. (Wesker needed time to ramp up.)
Not only that, but Resident Evil 7 is probably one of the best VR games around. You can play the entire game from start to finish in VR, and it's a fantastic experience. That's only enabled because of the shift to first-person. There's nothing like seeing Ethan's supposedly dead wife Mia coming directly at you out of the darkness in VR. I almost freaked out and threw off the PlayStation VR headset multiple times.
If Resident Evil 7 is the third era of the franchise, it's off to an amazing start. And I hope Capcom sticks with it, given that the remake games can only carry the torch of the first era. —Mike Williams
2. Resident Evil 4
Everyone goes back to the town when talking about Resident Evil 4. It's one of the most unnerving scenes in gaming history; a terrifying chase sequence backed by the rusty growl of a chainsaw. I could write a whole article about how perfect these opening moments are, and how they so expertly establish Resident Evil 4's premise and stakes. The townsfolk aren't zombies, sure, but there's something even more terrifying about the dead-eyed way they shuffle toward you with torches, pitchforks, and power tools. It confronts you with an immediate mystery: What the hell happened to these people?
Diehard fans like to complain about Resident Evil 4's emphasis on action over horror, but that opening sequence alone makes Resident Evil 4 as creepy as anything in the entire series. And there are plenty of genuinely freaky moments that follow, including the first time you discover that headshots aren't always the best method for dealing with Resident Evil 4's myriad foes. Remember the Regenerator? I still shudder when I envision that weirdly featureless and alien horror shuffling toward me, its torso packed with Plaga. As someone who's more than a little squeamish about body horror, I'm honestly amazed I made it all the way through Resident Evil 4 without tapping out.
But I guess it was just that good, ultimately. We tend to forget in light of Resident Evil 4's clunky third-person controls and dated graphics, but it was amazing when it arrived on GameCube in 2005. It was one of the best-looking games of its generation, and a massive step up from virtually every other action game of the era. It portended the explosion in popularity of third-person action games in the generation to follow, particularly Naughty Dog's Uncharted series; and it revived the flagging fortunes of the Resident Evil series at large, which had begun to seem dated with its fixed camera and archaic tank controls.
Fifteen years later, Resident Evil 4 remains as popular and influential as ever—the standard by which every new entry is judged. Who needs zombies anyway? —Kat Bailey
1. Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
There's an idea that a game needs time before it can be truly appreciated. But Resident Evil 2 arrived with such conviction and sense of self that time will only make Resident Evil 2's triumphs more apparent. Every Resident Evil game before it, including Resident Evil 4, had some kind of growing pains. In an effort to modernize the way Resident Evil plays, feels, or looks, something else ends up failing to click all the way. Every Resident Evil game up until Resident Evil 2 had some kind of caveat.
Resident Evil 2 feels effortless from beginning to end. Resident Evil 2 finds that elusive sweet spot between horror and action better than any game in the series before it. Not only that, but the liberties Capcom took with the Resident Evil 2 remake demonstrates a confidence in vision that other Resident Evil games lacked.
The gunplay, already perfected by Resident Evil 4's over-the-shoulder style shooting, makes a welcome return. But the real treat is how Leon and Claire interact with the environment. Despite the difference in perspective, the tactile nature of the world could only be possible after Capcom's excursions into first-person and VR with Resident Evil 7.
Rather than give Resident Evil 2 a simple facelift, Capcom seemed driven to capture a vision of Resident Evil games as they were always meant to look and feel. Playing the remake, you get a feeling that the powder blue hue of the night, the oppressive wetness of the rain was always supposed to be there. The only reason they weren't there in the original was because of a lack of technology. But that technology is here now, and combined with all the right lessons learned from the original Resident Evil remake, 4, and 7, Capcom showed the world what a true Resident Evil game is supposed to be. —Matt Kim