With the looming release of Resident Evil 7, I figured there was no better time than now to look at the previous entries in the series. Like everything else on the internet, it will be a look in rankings form. For the rankings, I wanted to stick to the proper story line and not let in any of the satellite games to make the list a bit more manageable. Honestly, aside from 1 or 2 of the side stories, none of the satellite games would have made a top list anyways. My rankings are certainly malleable and could change, which is why they are separated into tiers instead of a true numbering system. On a good day or from an argument from the right person, I could be convinced 5 is better than 6, but I could never be convinced either one of those are better than anything in the next ‘better’ tier.
The Handgun Tier
Strictly for the hardcore Resident Evil fans only
Resident Evil 5 (2009)
Resident Evil 5 is my least favorite of the main series. It focused on being a very ‘in the moment’ game by focusing on being a graphical powerhouse (at the time) and taking on many of the gaming trends of the 360/Ps3 generation. Since it’s two main selling points are essentially a time capsule to the year 2009, the 5th installment has not aged gracefully.
Shifted the genre to horror/action
This entry was the first to support co op in the Resident Evil series. A feature that was fun in practice, but stripped the game of any horror elements. Resident Evil 4 shifted the franchise into horror/action, and Resident Evil 5 effectively turned it into just action. The game also took place mostly in daylight. If co op made you feel safer, then the game’s daytime setting made you feel practically comfy.
The final 25% of Resident Evil 5 doesn’t do it any favors either, with the game diving headfirst into becoming a cover shooter. Heavily influenced by Gears of War, it never quite captures the fluidity of a Gears firefight and instead the final few hours feel like a chore to the equally as poor final boss battle.
…and then there is the Chris Redfield redesign. A character no one complained about or thought about needing to be visually overhauled. Skinny solider Chris bursts into the sunlight of Resident Evil 5 as a giant beefy super soldier. It sticks out even more when none of the other characters in the series received an overhaul for 5. Just Chris.
Resident Evil 6 (2012)
I don’t think Resident Evil 6 was anywhere near a good game, but I enjoyed it more than 5. The main aspect of 6 I appreciated was that it tried, with ok results, to bring in influences of previous Resident Evil games. The Leon chapters did their very best to bring back survival horror, and the Jake chapters really wanted to have The Nemesis feel of RE3. Even though those chapters managed to do something fun, the rest of the chapters were uninspired, Chris’s chapters continuing the trend of a mediocre Gears of War for example, causing a very uneven and inconsistent experience.
At this point in Resident Evil lore, the story begin to collapse in on itself. RE 6 is borderline nonsensical. There are so many new twists on old concepts (C virus, Neo-Umbrella, whatever was happening with Ada Wong) that it is tough to keep track of or care. Resident Evil 7 going into a fresh story is a blessing,rather than a curse, for the game because a continuation of these characters would have been rough.
With how the game was lining up with game play and story, it almost felt destined to fail. A refresh was much needed for the franchise.
The Grenade Launcher Tier
The good, but not great, iterations of Resident Evil
Resident Evil Zero (2002)
I don’t have too much to say about Zero. It had a forgettable cast of characters, starring Bravo team medic Rebecca Chambers and Felon Billy Coen, and mostly forgettable setting. Knowing the events of Resident Evil 1, it was a tough buy in to imagine Rebecca Chambers was doing THIS the hours before entering the mansion.
The partner swapping was a fun addition and what puts Resident Evil Zero into the middle tier of games in the franchise. It was a neat feature and was incorporated into a few puzzles. They also removed item boxes from the game and instead let you drop items anywhere to be picked up later. A really odd design choice since it created a ton of back tracking, but I liked them trying to break up the game play formula.
Resident Evil 3 (1999)
Resident Evil 3 felt very unnecessary. If it were to come out in this day and age, I imagine it would have been a main part of a season pass DLC to Resident Evil 2. It didn’t do much to move the needle for the franchise or create any new game play wrinkles. 3 managed to put a few more zombies on screen and clean up the character models, but nowhere near the jump of 1 to 2.
The main draw of the game, the always chasing monster The Nemesis, seemed influenced by Mr.X from Resident Evil 2. The game was a series of small upgrades from what Resident Evil 2 was.
Something the game did introduce was multiple branching paths during key moments of the game. That was a game play feature I had not yet seen in a game, and it was really fun (and stressful) making those decisions. Even though I was taking a jab at Nemesis in the previous paragraph with the Mr.X comparison, the Nemesis design is truly terrifying and a formidable foe during the entire game. The environments were fun to go through and more varied than other older Resident Evil games.
Also, I kid you not, one of the games main features was the new ability for zombies to walk up steps. It was a big deal at the time and the feature got a lot of magazine coverage. That’s just where we were at during the PS1 era.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000)
One of the stronger stories & casts of the franchise
I absolutely loved Code Veronica when I was growing up. I didn’t have a dreamcast at the time, so I was ESTATIC when they announced a Ps2 release (which included a Devil May Cry demo!). Code Veronica was the first Resident Evil game in the Ps2 generation and the difference from the previous generation to this one was massive. The zombies looked terrifying with more detail, the lighting was improved, and the backgrounds were 3d and not pre-rendered. While the pre-rendered backgrounds were impressive, having the characters flow seamlessly into the background made the entire experience much more immersive.
Code Veronica was one of the stronger stories and cast of the franchise. Chris and Claire Redfield are two of the better characters in the series and they are fun here. Steve Burnside, who accompanies Claire for most of her journey, has his moments and two really cool golden guns.
Alfred/Alexa makes for a weird and memorable villain arc throughout the game, and this is the first game where we have the new Wesker status quo. Code Veronica’s story is the last main story to be tight and compact. In it the universe still feels like it has a set of rules and a consistent theme is kept with the games previously in the franchise. Code Veronica builds off of the Resident Evil’s before it and fits in really nicely with the overall story.
As much as I thought it should go into the next top tier, there wasn’t enough to put it as a classic. When I looked at the game without my nostalgia goggles, it didn’t attempt to take any risks like Zero or 3. It played it safe on almost every facet of design.
The Rocket Launcher Tier
The cream of the crop in no specific order
Resident Evil (1996, 2002)
I am lumping together the ps1 classic, the directors cut, and the remake for the sake of the list.
Lets start with the ps1 classic. It is truly a classic. The setting is near perfect. Nothing is scarier than an abandoned mansion. The moments were memorable and terrifying. Everyone, even people who have never touched a Resident Evil game, can tell you about the first zombie dog encounter and the infamous zombie head turn.
The moments were memorable and terrifying
Resident Evil is a game built on limitations and getting around them. People say the best art is created when they are forced to open windows when doors close and not getting what they always want. The technology at the time created more than enough roadblocks that the team had to find a way past, such as the awkward controls due to 4 way input of dpads at the time. The feature made walking difficult, but accidentally thrilling. No longer can you run circles around enemies. Every dodge or run past a monster had to be carefully orchestrated. Forced camera angles, instead of full camera control, helped in creating a tension not seen in many video games before.
The original gave us a look into Japanese quirkiness and the fun of Japanese to English translations. While most of the journal entries you find in the game were extremely well written, the dialogue did not carry the same theme with now classic phrases like “Jill sandwich” and “the master of unlocking.”
And then there is the remake, the gorgeous, gorgeous remake. A product every gamer wanted and begged for. Naturally, everything great comes with a small ‘but’ because it was a Gamecube exclusive, a system that did not sell well. It would not see a non-nintendo release until it hit on Xbox360/Ps3/Xboxone/Ps4 a full 12 years later.
The remake introduced new layers to old enemies, new areas, and a reworked script. The environments looked almost photo realistic at the time and, it felt like the vision of the game was truly realized with the GC iteration.
Resident Evil 4 (2005)
The most interesting game on the list. What makes Resident Evil 4 so special is how it redefined the third person action genre. Third person games before Resident Evil 4 feel archaic and third person games after Resident Evil 4 feel like an iteration of what RE4 accomplished. To be able to draw a line in the sand with one title is extremely impressive for a developer. On top of ground breaking controls, the game was paced perfectly, had astounding graphics, and extremely fun creature design. The game is fun to play, which is the end goal of all video games. And it never stops being fun from beginning to end.
BUT, is it a great Resident Evil game? This is a debate that has been done ad nauseum, so I won’t throw my argument into the ocean of arguments. The series did change a few key aspects of the franchise, like adding a shop keep (WHATREYABUYIN) and the change of fixed angles to a more free roam 3D setting.
No worries if you never played it, because as of this writing Resident Evil 4 is now on every video game platform imaginable.
Resident Evil 2 (1998)
THE survival horror game of the Playstation generation. Resident Evil 2 took everything great about Resident Evil and turned it up to 11. The story of Resident Evil 2, which brought on Chris Redfield’s sister Claire and newcomer Leon Kennedy, was a great sequel to the story of one. It expanded the world of Raccoon City and still felt connected to the original story. I can still probably describe the entire opening CG sequence.
The way it drops you in immediate danger, surround by fire and zombies, after the opener creates a hectic feel right off the bat. There is just so much to love about Resident Evil 2. The bosses are better. The 1A/2B storylines are better. The side characters and dialogue are better. Its all just.. better.
When I look back and think of what survival horror is to me, I always think of Resident Evil 2. I feel like I could flip flop between 2 and 4 for best ever, but it is clear they are two amazingly put together packages that stand the test of time.
How does your list look like? Did I miss a key feature that could make one of these games change tiers? Let us know in the comment section!