The Resident Evil series is arguably the most successful and popular video game horror franchise of all time. It’s spawned more movies, spin-offs, and comics than I can count, and has easily cemented itself in mainstream pop culture as “those zombie games with dogs.” But not all Resident Evil games are amazing. So the time has come to grab our shotguns, green herbs, and typewriter ink ribbons and rank all of the games in the main series from worst to best.
So, ground rules. For this list, we’re only focusing on the main games in the series, so spin-offs like Revelations and Dead Aim get a stay of execution. We’re also only judging the original releases. So while I love the remake of Resident Evil 2, I won’t be raving about it here today. Finally, we’re staying away from multiplayer and handheld titles too. This is a list purely about the numbered games (with two exceptions that fans can probably predict).
With that all out of the way, let’s begin with the worst mainline Resident Evil game.
Resident Evil 6 – 2012
Shocking nobody, RE6 winds up last on our list. This is the worst game in the main series. That’s not a hugely controversial opinion, though I know some folks have started to come around on the sixth numbered entry more in recent years. I always thought it was a fun, dumb action game with workmanlike co-op and tiny bits of horror sprinkled throughout. It’s not the worst game ever made, not even close. But compared to past RE titles it’s a misfire. (That said Leon’s campaign is good. I’ll stand by that!)
Resident Evil 1 – 1996
Please direct all angry comments and tweets to me. I’m sorry. I know some of you reading this list will super disagree with the original game ranking this low. But it’s a hard game to go back to. It’s not because of tank controls, though they don’t help. It’s more that a lot of what makes this game clunky and rough would get cleaned up in the following games. While it’s historically important and has its charms, it ultimately hasn’t aged as well as most of the rest of the series.
Resident Evil 5 – 2009
RE5 takes what RE4 introduced — a new camera angle and improved shooting — and adds a lot more action, plus some co-op. But it adds too much, and the end result is a messy, sometimes fun, and totally bonkers Resident Evil adventure. RE5 also contains some neat callbacks to the franchise’s past and introduces Sheva, a character who totally needs to come back. None of this erases its often racist and shitty depiction of African people, which still leaves a sour taste in my mouth over a decade later.
Resident Evil 0 – 2002
The problem with ranking Resident Evil games is that pretty quickly you start having to rank some good stuff lower than the even better stuff and then all of that rank lower than the downright great games. In other words, it’s not easy! RE0 is where this feels most troubling, as the game featured gorgeous visuals and some genuinely terrifying moments. The segments set on a claustrophobic train are tense even today. But it ends up down here because its narrative goes off the rails toward the end, and the companion AI can often be annoying.
Resident Evil 3 – 1999
RE3 started life as a spin-off but after some shake-ups at Capcom, it was promoted to be the next main entry on the original PlayStation. Even with this strange origin and its atypical development cycle, RE3 ended up being a solid take on what we now see as the classic RE formula. It also gave players new insight into the events of Resident Evil 2, introduced the iconic Nemesis enemy, and brought back fan-favourite Jill Valentine as the protag. Not bad for a game that was planned to be a spin-off.
Resident Evil Code Veronica – 2000
For some fans of the series, this is the real sequel to Resident Evil 2. Code Veronica, first released on the Dreamcast, takes place after the events of RE2, and improves the controls, visuals, and overall gameplay of the past titles in a big way. (Jumping to a new console will do that!) Sadly, it seems like Capcom has mostly forgotten about this classic entry in the series, with no official news of a remake. Nevertheless, Alexandra wants me to mention that Steve Burnside is one of the worst characters Capcom ever came up with.
Resident Evil Village – 2021
The most recent new game in the series is also one of its best. Building off the success of Resident Evil 7’s shift to first-person, Village pulls an RE4 and adds more action and gunplay to the formula. And like RE4, it mostly works out. This might not be as scary or moody as Resident Evil 7, but Village gave us Lady Dimitrescu and that’s a special gift that I can’t ignore. Plus it was just a solid horror shooter that I expect I’ll replay a few times over the next few years.
Resident Evil 2 – 1998
Some sequels build only slightly on what came before. Other follow-ups, like RE2, take everything and improve it the whole shebang in one giant leap forward. Almost every part of this sequel is an improvement over the first. Visually more impressive, it also features more scares, better puzzles, and more diverse areas to explore. Not to mention the changing scenarios that you can play through, giving the game a ton of replayability. There are very good reasons this classic was a huge hit at the time.
Resident Evil 7 – 2017
Some of you will be surprised that one of the FPS-era Resident Evil games made it up this high, but here’s the thing: RE7 rules. It is one of the scariest games in the series, feels like a clean break from the overbearing lore of the past games, and introduces a whole new style of RE gameplay. This is a franchise that has always evolved over time, maybe more so than any other popular series. So it made sense that Capcom would shake things up after the lacklustre reaction to Resident Evil 6. This is the game that brought me back into the series, and one that I love to replay whenever I need a good scare.
Resident Evil 4 – 2005
Yeah, contain your shock at Resident Evil 4 ending up at the top of my list. For old-school purists, this is an outrage. But for the rest of us, RE4 was such a perfect mix of horror, combat, and puzzles that it still feels good to play in 2021. The game has so many memorable moments, from the first time you meet the “chainsaw dude” to the boss fight on the lake or the creepy nighttime levels that ramp up the scares and tension.
Yes, Ashley is annoying, and having to worry about her the whole time isn’t great. But the atmosphere, music, and combat more than help me get over having to escort the President’s daughter. Oh, and let’s not forget the attaché case. How many games can say that even managing the inventory is wonderful? Very few. There’s a reason I keep buying this game, and it’s simply that I can’t stop playing Resident Evil 4. In fact, writing all these words about it has me in the mood to have at it once more. Now to figure out which console to play it on…