Ranking The Entire Resident Evil Series

by Tim Turi on Oct 27, 2014 at 09:00 AM

Resident Evil is one of the most important and successful series in all of video games. From the first Resident Evil, which effectively launched the horror genre to the upcoming suspense-driven Resident Evil Revelations 2 (check out our cover story reveal here), the series is filled with ups and downs as dramatic as its cheesy, fun story. The horror franchise has transcended different genres, from overhead Game Boy Advance games to a light gun adventure, offering a huge variety to its fans. I became a lifelong fan of the series at age 11 after a nerve-jangling play session with the 1996 original. Since then I've played and beaten practically every game the series has to offer. As part of our month-long celebration of the Resident Evil series, I've ranked all 20 main releases in the zombie-riddled franchise according to my own tastes.

20. Resident Evil Survivor (2000 - PlayStation)

Light gun shooters were having a heyday in the late '90s, and classics like Time Crisis made their way into fans' homes on the PlayStation. With Namco's Guncon peripheral readily available for consumers, Capcom went to work on a light gun game based on the Resident Evil franchise. While it sounds like a no-brainer combination, something terribly wrong happened along the way. For whatever unholy reason, Capcom dropped light gun peripheral support for the on-rails first-person shooter during development. Fans were left to fend off the recycled Resident Evil monsters using the clunky d-pad or DualShock controls instead.

19. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (2012 - PS3, 360, PC)

Upon early inspection, Operation Raccoon City looked like an awesome twist for the series. Playing as Umbrella operatives, fans would blast zombies with a multitude of weapons via a modern third-person shooter formula. The skilled agents could seamlessly switch to melee combat to thin out the crowds. Sadly, the final package was a letdown thanks to developer SlantSix's uninspired mission design and game-breaking bugs.

18. Resident Evil Gaiden (2001 - Game Boy Color)

What this portable spin-off isn't necessarily fun, but it is original. Transposing the moody, tense world of Resident Evil to the Game Boy Color couldn't have been an easy task (Capcom canceled a GBC port of the 1996 original, which is telling). Gaiden's non-canonical story features series Leon S. Kennedy and Barry Burton aboard a zombie-infested cruise ship. Unfortunately, the mismatched combat involves a timed button press minigame that would more at home in an NES golf game. The "gunplay" is so rough that it's the reason Gaiden is the only game in the series I haven't beaten.

17. Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (2006 - Nintendo DS)

As a port of the original 1996 Resident Evil, Deadly Silence succeeds. It even allows players to manually reload their weapons without accessing the inventory screen. Unfortunately, the core new features involve awkward new first-person knife fights and brainless puzzles using the DS's touchscreen. Why would Jill or Chris want to ignore using all their hard-won ammo to fight a pack of deadly Hunters using a blade with all the stopping power of butter knife? Your guess is good as mine.

16. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries (2011 - 3DS)

The quality of the games covered on this list makes a dramatic upswing starting with this 3DS title. Packaged as a standalone game featuring Resident Evil 5's addictive Mercenaries mode, this early 3DS game's combat felt impressively close to its larger console counterpart. The stop-and-shoot gunplay fit the 3DS's single circle pad perfectly, though the choppy enemy animations detracted from the experience. It also offered a cool first-person mode to give players a closer view of the battlefield.

15. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (2009 - Wii, PS3)

This follow-up to Umbrella Chronicles - the Wii's on-rails Resident Evil anthology game - retells the stories of Resident Evil 2 and RE Code: Veronica with some new story morsels. Stitching together the Wii remote shooting gallery is a narrative that tells the backstory of Leon on Krauser hinted at in RE 4. The dysfunctional duo's South American exploits are a good time, but the game's annoying shaky cam-style gameplay makes it a worse experience than its predecessor.

14. Resident Evil: Dead Aim (2003 - PS2)

Dead Aim is one of the series' most unique and underappreciated titles. The game makes use of a light gun with a d-pad where a real pistol's hammer would be. This allows players to run around an undead-infested shift in third person, then switch to a first-person light gun aiming mode. This unique control set up allowed players to dial in headshots for the first time in the series. It wasn't a particularly noteworthy game outside of the core gameplay, but watching a zombie fly back into a wall after a messy headshot felt great.

13. Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 (2004 - PS2)

This sequel to Resident Evil's foray into online gaming delivered some excellent environments. Players could team up with random strangers to fight through a T-virus infected zoo (complete with an undead elephant) and a return to Resident Evil 2's underground Umbrella lab. It was a fun return to four-player co-op for the series, but lacked the impact of the original Outbreak. Sadly, the official servers were deactivated years ago, so any planned vacations to Raccoon City will need to be solo trips.

12. Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (2007 - Wii, PS3)

Around the same time Capcom released RE 4 for the Wii, the company released an on-rails shooter that would retrace the series' past and catch newcomers up on the story. The result was a simple but fun new perspective on major games in the series like Resident Evil Zero, the GameCube remake, and Resident Evil 3. Unlocking and upgrading guns added a necessary layer of progression to the otherwise linear levels, and alternate perspectives on important events like Wesker's take on the Mansion Incident. The two-player local co-op helps push it over the edge as a solid game to play for any Wii owner.

11. Resident Evil 6 (2012 - PS3, 360, PC)

One of the most polarizing entries in the entire series also happens to be one I unabashedly enjoyed playing. I adore the franchise's darker, more intense entries, but I also appreciate how over-the-top insane RE 6 is. The gameplay is all over the place, from wonky stealth sequences to intense motorcycle chases. These aren't the core reasons fans fell in love the series, but playing through the chaos with a friend is a blast. Even better, Jake's furious melee moves make him a worthy heir to Wesker's bloodline.

10. Resident Evil Outbreak (2003 - PS2)

Some horror fans insist that co-op games can't be scary, but RE Outbreak offers a great example of how they can succeed. Outbreak takes place in Raccoon City as the zombie outbreak begins - the first time the series offered that particular perspective. Players team up with strangers online and band together to fight monsters, solve puzzles, and escape each scenario. The opening sequence concludes with players detonating an entire city block wired with explosives, causing a tidal wave of zombies to explode into the air. The constant tension and potential for untrustworthy teammates made Outbreak a treat of an ordeal.

9. Resident Evil Revelations (2012 - 3DS, PS3, 360, PC)

Preceding the mixed reception of RE 6 was the launch of an ambitious 3DS title filling in gaps in Jill and Chris' stories. Unlike the blockbuster action movie vibe of RE 5 and 6, Revelations focused the scope more on moody environments and bread and butter gunplay. The single-player campaign felt closer to RE 4 than anything that followed it, and the TV episode-style narrative kept the surrounding tale engaging. Revelations became even better with the HD release on consoles and addition of a second analog stick. It's a worthy addition to the top 10 RE games ever, and we're excited for the new sequel to hit next year.

8. Resident Evil Code: Veronica (2000 - Dreamcast, PS2, PS3, 360, PC)

Rumor has it that RE's Dreamcast debut was destined to be "Resident Evil 3", but, due to contractual obligations, RE 3: Nemesis became the third official sequel, making Code: Veronica the side-step. The Redfield family's Dreamcast outing has all the elements of a big step forward for the franchise: fully polygonal 3D environments, new weapons with first-person aiming, and one of the longest campaigns in the series. It's also hard as hell with a big gut-check boss fight that truly tests whether you're a thorough enough scavenger. Code: Veronica's punishing difficulty and impressive length secures its place in RE history.

7. Resident Evil Zero (2002 - GameCube)

One of the last entries in the classic RE formula is also one of the best. RE 0 takes place before the 1996 original, telling the tale of Bravo Team's Rebecca Chambers as she explores an abandoned train, Umbrella facility, and eventually ends up at the infamous Spencer Estate. The gorgeous GameCube pre-rendered backgrounds and unique multi-protagonist gameplay make this a unique treat for the series. Swapping between Rebecca and her fugitive ally, Billy, opened up new possibilities for puzzles and sharing resources. Speaking of, RE 0 did away with the series' iconic item boxes and allowed characters to place any item anywhere.

6. Resident Evil 5 (2009 - PS3, 360, PC)

Last generation was a renaissance for co-op games, with everything from Gears of War to Left 4 Dead to keep players busy. The Resident Evil series made its first triple-A foray into two-player adventure with RE 5, which takes the core of RE 4's gunplay, ratchets up the action, and lets you blast tons of monsters with a friend. The game suffers greatly without a co-op buddy - due to useless A.I. - but when played with a friend, it's one of the best co-op games ever. From suppressing hordes of deadly Majini in an African village to facing off with Wesker in a volcano, RE 5 is Capcom's best-selling game and one of the RE series' most entertaining entries.

5. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999 - PlayStation)

Jill Valentine's second outing is both a prequel to RE 2 and a sequel. The story begins with Jill's escape from an infected Raccoon City. The S.T.A.R.S. veteran and Mansion Incident survivor is more than capable of fending off regular flesh-eaters, but things get complicated when Nemesis appears. Biologically engineered to hunt down former S.T.A.R.S. members with sensitive information about Umbrella's dirty deeds, Nemesis stalks players throughout the entire game. Being perpetually chased by one of gaming's most difficult bosses is a stressful experience to say the least. Add on the invention of the addicting Mercenaries mode, a memorable story, and you've got one of the best games in the series.

4. Resident Evil (1996 - PlayStation)

The game that started it all is still one of the best in the series. The original Resident Evil's simple premise, gameplay, and story make it a piece of interactive horror history that's fun to continually return to. The opening FMV sequence sets up a campy tone to the hilariously bad voice acting, but the moment-to-moment gameplay can still be remarkably tense. Opening a door and hearing the oppressive ticking of a clock filing the empty air of a huge dining room still gives me chills. On top of this, the sparse resources, deadly enemies, and trap-filled mansion continue to make me doubt my survival every time I visit the mansion.

3. Resident Evil 2 (1998 - PlayStation)

RE 2 is everything a sequel should be. The scope is broadened from a spooky mansion in the woods to the much larger Raccoon City, which has been overrun with the undead. The monsters are more varied and more grotesque, the environments look better, and the gameplay itself feels markedly smoother than its predecessor. Zombies react to each bullet, sometimes flying backwards to give players respite to weave through the walking dead. Even better, the game shipped on two discs - one for Claire and one for Leon. Players can play through as Leon, then again as Claire (or vice versa) to experience the differing tales and encounters weaved together to create a larger story. RE 2 is one of the best examples of the original RE formula and one of the greatest, scariest PlayStation games ever.

2. Resident Evil 4 (2005 - GameCube, PS2, Wii, PS3, 360, PC)

Series creator Shinji Mikami reinvented the wheel with this fourth numbered entry in the franchise. Leon S. Kennedy returns with a new over-the-shoulder third-person aiming system that reinvigorated the genre. Aiming the laser sight of Leon's vast, upgradeable arsenal (Red 9 for life!) felt immediately liberating, and blasting Ganados' heads clean off with well-placed shots is viscerally satisfying. The then innovative quick time events also added a sense of suspense to the gorgeous cinematics, instilling a fear that you were never truly safe to put down the controller. Resident Evil's best is also one of the most universally loved games in the entire medium.

1. Resident Evil (2002 - GameCube, Wii)

The original Resident Evil looked good when it released on PlayStation in 1996, but the overhaul it received the following generation via the 2002 GameCube remake surprised everyone. The basic premise of the original remains intact, along with the same clunky core gameplay with some subtle but important improvements. Self-defense items like daggers and tasers allow Jill and Chris to automatically save themselves from a monster's clutches. Things get grimmer with Crimson Heads - faster, more aggressive zombies that rise again after players initially down them. These terrifying additions change the way the game is played, forcing players to burn the fallen or flee in terror down hallways. These improvements, along with the dramatically improved voice acting, make this the most sterling example of what the beloved horror franchise is all about. Even better, this classic is being updated in high-definition so a new generation of players can appreciate the best the series has to offer.