Resident Evil is a pillar in survival horror. However, with a two-decade history, nine mainline games, and countless spinoffs, it’s hard to know where to start. In this guide, we’ll run down the best Resident Evil games, ranked from best to worst.
We’re only looking at mainline Resident Evil titles, so games like The Umbrella Chronicles and Operation Raccoon City won’t be on the list (though they wouldn’t have rated highly anyway). Additionally, we’re counting Resident Evil 2 and its remake as separate games, as there’s enough of a difference between them mechanically for each to feel unique.
We aren’t giving the original Resident Evil and its respective remake the same treatment, however. Although the GameCube and eventual PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch releases come with a significant visual upgrade, the fixed camera and mechanics are similar enough that it feels like a remaster rather than a new game.
1. Resident Evil 4
Original release date: January 11, 2005
Platforms: GameCube, PS2, Windows, Wii, iOS, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Android, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
It’s tough to articulate how much of an impact Resident Evil 4 has had on gaming. Originally released on the GameCube in 2005, Resident Evil 4 has since been ported to countless other platforms, even mobile devices. No matter if you have the phone in your pocket or a tricked-out gaming PC, there’s a way to play Resident Evil 4.
And for good reason. Although Resident Evil 3 showed a massive leap forward in terms of graphics, it pushed the limits of the original PlayStation in 1999. With more powerful hardware in tow, Resident Evil 4 switched the fixed camera angle of the first three games to an over-the-shoulder perspective.
The tighter focus on action worked wonders back in 2005, though Capcom took it a little too far, as demonstrated by Resident Evil 5 and 6. Resident Evil 4 is a game teetering on the edge, perfecting the formula Capcom had been crafting for nearly a decade when the original game was released.
2. Resident Evil 2 Remake
Original release date: January 25, 2019
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
The Resident Evil 2 remake follows the same narrative as the 1998 release, but that’s about the only similarity between the two. Built from the ground up as a re-imagining of the original game, the Resident Evil 2 remake perfectly combines the cramped atmosphere of the 1998 release with modern sensibilities.
It’s an over-the-shoulder game in the vein of Resident Evil 4, though with less of a focus on action as that game and the titles that follow. The change in perspective brings with it an entirely new feel, restricting the player’s vision in ways the original title doesn’t.
That’s not to mention the graphical improvements. Of course, 20 years of graphics iteration will lead to a better-looking game. However, Resident Evil 2’s use of the RE engine brings with it advancements in smoke simulation and lighting, even furthering the creepiness of the original release. Tyrant’s character model is pure nightmare fuel, too.
Read our Resident Evil 2 review.
3. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Original release date: January 24, 2017
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch (cloud)
Resident Evil 7 isn’t really a Resident Evil game, switching the perspective to first-person and focusing on a much smaller story. Regardless, it’s a hell of a horror game. Returning to the horror roots of the original series after the sixth entry, Resident Evil 7 is dripping with terrifying ambiance.
Instead of controlling a STARS agent like in other titles, you play as Ethan Winters, who receives a letter from his wife who went missing three prior to the events of the game. She asks him to go to an abandoned plantation in Louisiana, where he uncovers multiple horrifying revelations concerning his wife and himself.
Resident Evil 7 is a departure for the series in terms of narrative and design. Its focus on a story within the larger Resident Evil story is a welcome change, and the difference in gameplay fits that change perfectly.
4. Resident Evil 2
Original release date: January 21, 1998
Platforms: PlayStation, Windows, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube
For many, ourselves included, Resident Evil 2 is the best of the first three games. Caught between the large scale action of Nemesis and the claustrophobic corridors of the original game, Resident Evil 2 balances a larger story with the same isolation as the 1996 release.
It’s Resident Evil, just a little better. Rather than changing up the formula entirely, Capcom built upon the precedents Resident Evil established with a unique narrative and fleshed out atmosphere. Furthermore, Resident Evil 2 introduces Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, with Kennedy following the series until the sixth entry.
5. Resident Evil
Original release date: March 22, 1996
Platforms: PlayStation, Windows, Sega Saturn, Nintendo DS
The game that started it all, 1996’s Resident Evil showed what it means to be a survival horror game. Now, however, more than 20 years later, it’s not as impressive as it was in days past. The atmosphere and story are solid, but the gameplay mechanics don’t feel as evolved as they do in the games that follow.
For fans of the series, Resident Evil is a great time, fit with the fixed camera, scarce resources, and isolated atmosphere seen in other titles. That said, it’s not the best Resident Evil game to start with. The second entry improves upon the first in almost every way, and the fourth comes with a complete overhaul to the gameplay.
6. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Original release date: September 22, 1999
Platforms: PlayStation, Windows, Dreamcast, GameCube
Resident Evil 3 takes place at the same time as the second entry in the series, following Jill Valentine as she tries to escape Raccoon City. The story starts a day before the events of Resident Evil 2. On her way to the police department, which has its own horrors going on inside, Jill encounters a genetically modified beast created to hunt surviving STARS members: Nemesis.
As on-the-nose as the name is, even by 1999 standards, Nemesis is a terrifying force in the game, eventually pursuing the player until the end credits roll, much like Resident Evil 2’s Tyrant. Like Resident Evil 7, which we’ll get to in a minute, Nemesis features a unique spin on a familiar story, building out the already terrifying story surrounding Raccoon City.
7. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica
Original release date: February 3, 2000
Platforms: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Resident Evil – Code: Veronica is the first “must play” in the series. Originally released on the Dreamcast in 2000, the game follows Claire Redfield after the events of Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis. It’s the first title in the series to feature real-time 3D environments, allowing the camera to move in ways it wasn’t able to before.
The Dreamcast’s poor sales fell back on Code: Veronica when it released, however. Although the game was eventually ported to PS2 and GameCube, the dated Dreamcast graphics felt outdated by the time it arrived. Today, however, Code: Veronica is still an excellent Resident Evil game and an absolute must-own for Dreamcast fans.
8. Resident Evil 5
Original release date: March 5, 2009
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Android, Nvidia Shield TV
Like Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil 5 is too heavily focused on action. Upon release, however, it didn’t feel as dated as its eventual sequel. Instead of returning to slow survival horror, Capcom laid into the formula that made Resident Evil 4 so successful, ditching the scares in favor of fast-paced action.
Although ammunition and item management are still an aspect of Resident Evil 5, combat is the clear focus. For that, Resident Evil 5 is a decent game. It has a few issues when it comes to the cover system and teammate A.I., but overall, the shooting is fun, the graphics are gorgeous, and the story is compelling.
9. Resident Evil Zero
Original release date: November 12, 2002
Platforms: GameCube, Wii, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Resident Evil Zero isn’t a bad game, just not a particularly good one. Although released as the fifth mainline title, Resident Evil Zero is a prequel to the original game. The game’s narrative, visuals, and sound design are compelling, especially for Resident Evil fans. However, it makes several changes to the Resident Evil formula.
Zero has you playing as two characters simultaneously instead of one. Although multiple perspectives has always been a focus for Resident Evil, Zero’s interpretation of that design feels clunky and unnecessary. Additionally, Zero lacks the signature item boxes seen in other Resident Evil titles, forcing players to drop unnecessary items and backtrack to them if needed.
10. Resident Evil 6
Original release date: October 2, 2012
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows
A critical flop but commercial success, Resident Evil 6 pushed too hard on the action, leaving the scarcity, loneliness, and horror the series is known for in the dust. Instead of focusing on a single narrative, Resident Evil 6 has four separate campaigns, each following a different character from the series.
Although intended as a way to add diversity to the game, the split campaigns ended up falling flat. None of them feel fleshed out, resulting in a tonally dissonant and mechanically sparse experience. That said, Resident Evil 6 is still a decent action game, with a solid story and gorgeous graphics, to boot.