by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 21st February, 2019
Check out the best (and worst) Resident Evil games in case you're down for some survival horror action.
Resident Evil is the oldest and most fruitful survival horror series with more than 20 games under its belt. Full sequels alone make for seven games, more even if we count games like Code Veronica and the prequel (called simply Zero) and most of them are definitely worth playing.
Lots of games feature that classic Resident Evil feel characterized by constant tension and a strong feeling of dread that can simply deluge players at times , claustrophobic level design, (in)famous inventory management, green blue and red herbs, zombies that over years evolved into even more horrendous and wretched monsters found in newer Resident Evil games, rewarding exploration, and that blissful feeling when you find some ammo that can feel better than beating some games.
Most Resident Evil games feature most or all of the aforementioned qualities and I have to say that, when it comes to average quality of main games, Resident Evil is definitely one of the strongest active video game franchises. Almost every game from the main series is worth playing, and most of them are marvelous games representing a genre that didn't saw many masterpieces in decades since Alone in the Dark started the whole survival horror trend in gaming.
But, as it is with most other series, Resident Evil definitely has a couple of rotten eggs in its basket filled with piquant masterpieces. That's without even counting the often tepid spin-off games such as Umbrella Corps or those funny but shallow light gun shooters that came out for the Japanese market. Those aren't featured on this list.
The list includes games from the main series, accompanied by notable chapters such as Revelations titles and the phenomenal Code Veronica (which was, in fact, planned as a sequel to Resident Evil 2).
Before we begin I just want to say that every game on this list is definitely worth playing (well, all aside from Resident Evil 6, which is average at best) and most of those games are excellent examples of survival horror games done right. It's just that some games had to be placed lower than others, that's how these lists usually go.
Deciding which game should take the last place was easy because Resident Evil 6 is the only game in the main series that is just plain bad. The game ended up as a project that drowned in its own ambition.
Encouraged by the success of Resident Evil 4 and 5, both of which took a more action-oriented approach with lots of shooting and more enemies that were noticeably more aggressive than zombies seen in classic games, Capcom tried to create their own AAA action game. The premise sounded amazing - multiple protagonists most of which are long term fan favorites, over the top plot that includes locations from all over the world, bigger than life story about a possible end of the same world, and lots of shooting. It all sounded great in theory but in practice, the game got crushed under its own weight.
Playing with four different characters put the noticeable difference between the game's four campaigns, with only Leon's worthy of being called Resident Evil. Other three are lackluster action shooters with cover system and solid gunplay but they had nothing with old school Resi games. Instead of evolving into a superb action series, Resident Evil lost its charm and uniqueness, ending on the action shooter shelf accompanied by thousands of similar and uninspiring titles.
The story was the best part of the game but the way it unraveled was highly flawed, with four different things happening at the same time making the story as a whole unclear and too complex to fully enjoy it. At least the game offers superb graphics (for 2012) and lengthy campaign mode.
While the first Revelations ended as more than a solid chapter in the franchise the sequel didn't manage to repeat the success of the original. Sure, you had four playable characters, solid story, lots of creepy moments, and always excellent combat but the game lacked in other departments. This time the graphics were plain bad, with low detail character models and none of the excellent level design seen in the first game.
Next, we have the return of certain levels that were explored in the original, which left a sour taste. And finally, puzzles were lackluster and completely uninteresting.
But, the combat was amazing with superb boss battles, and the game played as classic survival horror. Next, plot twists were amazing and they really added to the quality of the story. And co-op gameplay really shined, in case you had someone to play with. Ultimately Revelations 2 didn't work as well as an episodic title as the first game and was suffering from high expectations put in front of it because the first game was one of the best games that ever came out for the 3DS.
After the massive success of Resident Evil 4, its sequel was massively hyped. Capcom decided to promote the game everywhere, to show off its impressive visuals and action gameplay and to let everyone know that this one will feature "the never seen before" co-op gameplay. And once it came out, Resident Evil 5 mostly lived up to its expectations but fans were a bit worried by the action-oriented gameplay that included plenty of deadly weapons, tons of ammo, and the general lack of dread and fear synonymous with Resident Evil games.
The game has an excellent story that perfectly continues the epic tale that began in the outskirts of Racoon City, and it was amazing to play again as Chris Redfield (who looked like some professional wrestler compared to Chris we play as in Resident Evil: Code Veronica). The co-op gameplay worked and shootouts were intense but the main problem with Resident Evil 5 is the fact that it simply wasn't a survival horror game.
There were no tense moments, you weren't soaked in dread while roaming through environments, and we even didn't see a single jump scare. While it worked as an action game, Resident Evil failed as a survival horror game.
The first Revelations game was a sleeper hit that went from being a 3DS exclusive to being released for every major gaming system. It features an excellent story and classic survival horror gameplay fans of the series yearned for ever since Resident Evil 4.
Episodic nature of the game worked because it allowed plenty of cliffhangers at the end of each episode but the constant shifting between characters and locations wasn't such a great idea. Since the game started as a 3DS exclusive designers had to work with many limitations of the handheld console which ultimately worked wonders for the game.
Its level design favors tight corridors and small rooms, perfect for awaking claustrophobic feeling that stays with players from the beginning to end. And the constant need for exploration in order to scavenge enough resources to stay alive brought the survival portion of the game to the front, another sure plus for long term fans of the series.
Revelations ended as a more than a solid chapter in the Resident Evil history that gave fans a taste of old school survival horror many of them favored over the action-packed gameplay found in Resident Evil 5 and 6.
The birth of the series wasn't a perfect game but Resident Evil placed a strong foundation for future entries with its fabulous visuals (the game was ahead of its time and simply incredibly beautiful back in 1996), labyrinthine level design that favored claustrophobic corridors and rooms, tense atmosphere that fed on player's feeling of dread, slow as snails zombies that were hard to kill, and the infamous Umbrella Corporation that would become one of the most recognizable names in video games in years to come.
The whole zombie craze that birthed numerous video games during the noughties actually tracks its origin back to the original Resident Evil. This game was the first blockbuster zombie game, a decade before the whole world got swallowed by the undead video games.
The first game was based on 1989 Sweet Home, a game that paved the way for future survival horror titles and 1992 Alone in the Dark from which the game borrowed its fixed camera style. The end result was excellent but rough around the edges. Combat was tense and exciting but it felt unfinished and imprecise.
The story was interesting from start to finish but the end left gamers with many questions that would be answered in future games, and while graphically it was a masterpiece its horrendous control system made a noticeable dent in its appeal. Nevertheless Resident Evil was a stepping stone towards establishing a true survival horror experience we saw in its sequel and future games in the series.
Resident Evil 3 started as a side project meant to be a sort of a spin-off to Resident Evil 2. The game should've shown the epilogue of the Raccoon City story arc while at the same time offering another dose of sweet RE branded survival horror gameplay.
But since Code Veronica became Dreamcast exclusive developers decided to slap 3 at the side of Nemesis and make it an official sequel to Resident Evil 2. And the game succeeded in its quest to provide a proper ending to the story that started in the Raccoon City Police station a year back. Here you play as Jill Valentine who has to find a way out of the doomed city while being chased by the improved version of the Tyrant found in RE 2.
The immense tension of knowing that indestructible enemy is always behind you, chasing you till the end of the world does wonders for the atmosphere and the incredible level of immersion the game offers. Instead of roaming through the offices and hallways Resident Evil 3 takes place on the streets of Raccoon City that are swarmed by zombies and other horrors.
The gunplay is excellent but a bit uneven, like in previous games. On the other hand, puzzles are excellent and the good old inventory management is as good and enjoyable as it ever was. The game is noticeably shorter than RE 2 (thanks to its origins as s spin-off and not a full sequel) and it doesn't add anything new to the story, its two main flaws along with awful tank controls. Everything else was excellent, especially those tense moments where you tried to escape from the Nemesis.
Resident Evil 6 was a complete failure so Capcom took their time and spent five years working on Resident Evil 7. And then at the beginning of 2017, we've got a game that was perceived as a kind of a soft reboot of the series that pivoted Resident Evil back towards its survival horror roots.
Claustrophobic environments, the constant tension and that sweet feeling of dread that is always present during the game, and lack of ammo that turns each enemy into a potentially deadly hazard. Inventory management that asks players to sacrifice some items in order to pick important stuff, phenomenal graphics (aside from texture work) that were made in a completely new engine.
These were all strengths that made fans and critics to fully embrace Resident Evil 7 and enjoy the game from start to finish.
The story was interesting, a cross-section between Rob Zombie hillbilly horror flicks and settings of modern horror games that focus on stealth. It started slow, not feeling like a Resident Evil story but then it opened new paths and ultimately placed events inside the established RE universe. And the last chapter (that was released as a free DLC pack) gave the story a proper ending while at the same time allowing players to lead Chris Redfield again, which was more than awesome.
The first person camera added to the tension and played a large role in establishing the whole horror setting and I hope we will see future RE games using the first person perspective. Ultimately Resident Evil 7 proved to be an excellent reboot for the series that shown fans their favorite horror series is again a proper survival horror experience.
Resident Evil 0 is a prequel to the original game and it takes place shortly before the events in Resident Evil. Players lead two characters, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen as the two try to survive the deadly training facility used for the training of Umbrella personnel. The game received many a praise, mostly because of its visuals that were, like in the original Resident Evil, ahead of its time.
Super detailed pre-rendered backgrounds now included subtle animations, characters were richer and more detailed than in any other game of the time, and sound and music were top notch. Another huge plus was the fact players could lead both characters at the same time. They could seamlessly switch between the two, and each character had different stats and abilities. Rebecca was a sort of support and healer while Billy was used for moving objects and killing zombies.
Puzzles were amazing because most required both characters to cooperate (but they were a bit too easy and simple), and the general atmosphere was creepy enough to raise every hair on your body despite the fact that you weren't playing alone like in previous games. The story explained some things that were left unattended in previous games and revealed events that led to the whole zombie outbreak in Raccoon City.
On the other hand, the game featured the same, awful controls and imprecise aiming system as well as a modified inventory system that wasn't as good as in previous games. Ultimately, Resident Evil Zero is an excellent prequel to the original and a game with unbeatable atmosphere and well-written story.
Code Veronica should've been called Resident Evil 3 but since it came out as a Dreamcast Exclusive Capcom decided to rename it and advertise as a spin-off even though it was a true sequel to Resident Evil 2.
As you may remember Claire discovers that her brother, Chris, is in Europe on a vacation. Well, in Resident Evil: Code Veronica you play as Claire, who is searching for her brother and as Chris, who tries to save Claire after she gets captured by Umbrella. The game left the Raccoon City and the whole American vibe for the European gothic horror atmosphere. It takes place in Europe and in a research facility in the Southern Ocean and while you play the game you can notice the change in the atmosphere but the good old survival horror gameplay remained one of the strongest parts of the game.
Code Veronica was the first RE title to feature real-time rendered backgrounds along with a dynamic camera and much-improved cutscenes. All this was enabled thanks to the powerful hardware found in Sega Dreamcast.
This makes the game feel even more sinister and spooky with enemies that featured extremely detailed animations and design. The campaign was amazing, with a story that unraveled at a perfect pace. The change of perspective between Chris and Claire was praised by critics. The only major failure was the decision to keep those aggravating controls, which hurt the game.
Version for the PS2, Xbox, and Game Cube brought a few more cutscenes but the awful controls ruined the fun. Still, Resident Evil: Code Veronica offered an amazing atmosphere, intricate story, well-written characters, chilling survival horror experience, and beautiful visuals. If you ask me, I would love to see Code Veronica receiving a remake treatment like in the case of Resident Evil 2.
Resident Evil 4 was basically a sort of a "next gen" Resident Evil game, the one that brought a bunch of improvements to the series and to video games as a whole. Despite coming out in 2005 development began in 1999 for the upcoming PlayStation 2.
The game ended as a Game Cube timed exclusive and was later brought to every major gaming system. The game had multiple developer versions and its long development cycle actually helped it reaching stellar praise from critics and fans. Its usage of "behind-the-shoulder" third-person camera was a cornerstone moment for the whole action genre.
Soon after Resident Evil introduced this new camera that gave a new, personal and intimate level of experience for gamers many developers copied it, making this new type of third person camera the new standard in third person shooters. But the fancy camera wasn't the only thing that made Resident Evil 4 so special.
The game introduced many other changes to the series, many of which hit the sweet spot and made Resident Evil 4 so enjoyable to play. You had the merchant who sold weapon upgrades and special items adding valuables to the list of items you could find scattered around the world.
This made exploration much more rewarding than before and even more addictive than in previous Resi games. Next, we got bigger environments, interconnected to build a wicked and putrid world inhabited by all kinds of horrors and instead of zombies we got these infected humans that turned into nightmares after you start filling them with lead.
And these enemies attacked in packs, creating more action that, while departing from the original survival horror formula, made the game more dynamic without shutting down its strengths such as oppressive atmosphere, excellent boss, battles, interesting story, and wickedly addictive exploration.
Yes, the story was amazing and its pace was pitch perfect, creating a game that relied on its story to immerse players and make them hooked to this bizarre world set somewhere in Spain that looked like a distressing version of our world.
This massively powerful combination of intense action, cinematic experience thanks to the new dynamic camera, excellent story and top-notch voiceover, rewarding exploration, powerful and kinetic gunplay, superb horror backdrop, and realistic world-building made Resident Evil 4 not only the best game in the series but also one of the best third-person action game of all times.
If we haven't gotten the magnificent reimagining of the classic Resident Evil 2 game, the original version would probably be tucked in between 0 and Code Veronica. But since the Remake is alive and kicking it deserves to be called the best Resident Evil game of all time.
The Resident Evil 2 Remake took an excellent game, reimagined it in a modern engine, fixed almost all of its weak spots, and added a bunch of improvements. The end result is a fantastic video game that proved that we still want to play quality single player experiences. It also proved that classic survival horror formula is not dead.
Quite the contrary, all of these modern horror titles that replaced weapons with stealth made us longing for the good old days where you had something to retaliate with and instead of hiding everywhere you could actually explore this world and enjoy its overbearing darkness.
Old levels received a breath of fresh air but the main idea of creating these oppressive, claustrophobic, and labyrinthine environments remained, creating amazing maps filled with dead ends but also containing hidden paths and plenty of secrets that shroud rewards from the fearless explorer. And the excellent gunplay combined with now already industry standard shoulder camera create a nerve-wrenching experience that is filled with fear but also filled with excitement.
The story is great and it's even better once you see it from both angles, and this double campaign story mode is another huge plus because of its originality and replayability. Visuals are better than ever before focusing on stellar lighting effects and artistically perfect use of light and shadow that create scenes of our worst nightmares.
And let's not forget the inclusion of the Tyrant, the popular Mr. X who wasn't there from the beginning in the original game but here he adds another layer of tension, just enough to make the game even more enjoyable.
And as the icing on the cake is the marvelous sound design focusing on surround effects that play tricks on your mind along with the best voiceover in any Resident Evil game. All those ingredients create a game that is a blast to play and that is as exciting to watch. Every moment of Resident Evil 2 Remake is pumped with tension and every fight is brimming with adrenaline.
The game is so good that it can mess up your time perception each time you play it and that's something only the best video games can achieve on a regular basis.