The Resident Evil Series has long stood as the pinnacle of survival horror. With the introduction of the first game in 1996 came a slew of horror-hungry gamers desperate for scares and good ole zombie-killing fun.
Over the years the series has evolved from a tank-controlled, fixed camera scare-fest to a more fast-paced, action-oriented romp through European and African Villages. Nowadays, the series is tuned back to its survival horror roots in Resident Evil 7 and Village. In between, there have been a few duds like Resident Evil: Survivor and the dreadfully awful Umbrella Corps.
Despite a few blemishes, Capcom has kept the mainline series on a solid trajectory. It continues to surprise and terrify survival horror enthusiasts with new additions and remasters.
Here’s our mainline Resident Evil game rankings from worst to best.
Resident Evil 6
On paper, Resident Evil 6 sounds great. There are four campaigns featuring fan favorites like Leon Kennedy, Chris, Redfield, Ada Wong, and Sherry Birkin. Each campaign is distinct in gameplay and tone and characters have unique abilities.
Unfortunately, bloat bogs things down and a lot of it seems inconsistent. With the exception of Leon’s campaign, there isn’t a ton of horror throughout. Enemy designs are delightfully gross and scary at least.
Though it’s often considered to be the worst in the series, it’s not an awful game and has a little something for everyone if you can make it through some of the slower parts.
Resident Evil 5
After the success of Resident Evil 4, the fifth entry in the series had a lot to live up to. While the game was fun and well-received, it relied too heavily on action-oriented gameplay and less on the horror aspect. Many consider it to be a departure for the series. It does allow for concurrent co-op gameplay with the game’s two lead characters, Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar.
Over the course of the game, you encounter and battle a brainwashed Jill Valentine, Chris’s former partner.
Despite its critiques, the game is still a fun time, especially if you enjoyed four.
Resident Evil Zero
Resident Evil Zero was released in 2002 on the Gamecube, and stars the young medic from STARS Bravo team, Rebecca Chambers, and convict Billy Coen.
As they search through an abandoned Umbrella training facility the gameplay is similar to the Gamecube remake of the original game. It does, however, feature a zap system that lets you swap between Rebecca and Billy and play as them both within the same playthrough.
The game also allowed for item swapping and dropping and eliminated the item box inventory management system.
Resident Evil 3 (2020)
The remake of Resident Evil 3 is stunning. It is, however, missing a number of environments and plot points and doesn’t completely scratch the nostalgia itch that the remake of Resident Evil 2 did.
The remake does carry over a slightly more action-oriented feel and the dodge mechanic makes gameplay a little more frantic and varied.
It’s a shame that the game is shorter thanks to the number of cuts made from the original, but there continue to be whispers of a more fully realized version that may become available at a later time.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis runs fairly concurrently with the events taking place in Resident Evil 2. The game follows Jill as she’s hunted down by a creature called Nemesis dispatched to kill any remaining survivors in Raccoon City from the Spencer Mansion incident.
It was the first game to implement choices in dangerous moments and an evade mechanic.
It’s a great game, and it’s a testament to the strength of the series that it ranks this far down on the list.
Resident Evil – Code: Veronica
Code: Veronica, originally out on the Dreamcast, continues Claire’s story as she looks for her brother Chris.
It initially was developed to be the original Resident Evil 3, with Jill’s story going to be a side game. Code: Veronica lets you play as both Claire and later Chris.
This entry took a step away from pre-rendered background and instead features 3D environments. Its eventual Playstation 2 release featured additional cutscenes that extended the story, and it eventually found its way to Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in a high-definition remastered version.
Resident Evil (1996)
It would be amiss to create a ranking and not mention the original survival horror game – the first Resident Evil.
It has not aged well and there are entire chunks of the script that are laughably bad. Despite that, there’s a sense of nostalgia associated with the game, and getting told by Barry Burton you were almost a Jill Sandwich is priceless.
Plus, the moment at the beginning where the dogs jump through the window as you run down the hallway is still gonna make you jump.
Resident Evil 2 (1998)
The original Resident Evil 2 was touted as “the most anticipated gaming event of 1998” and with good reason. With the success of their first game, Capcom needed a game that would show up and impress.
Not only does Resident Evil 2 do that, but it surpasses the original in every way. There is an even more thrilling storyline, better gameplay, more to explore, and characters like Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield that are still present in the series today.
Resident Evil Village
Village, the newest entry in the series, continues Ethan’s story. In it, he has moved to Romania with Mia to raise their daughter, Rose. But much to his surprise, Mia gets murdered and Rose gets taken. Once again, Ethan sets out into a world of horrors.
Village continues the fear and creepiness of Resident Evil 7, but this time the monsters are even creepier and some are hairier.
Gameplay is also a bit more open with a central hub area for most of the game, and a more fully fleshed-out weapon upgrade is back along with a shop.
Resident Evil 7
After bouldering in Africa in Resident Evil 5 and a disappointing, disjointed jaunt in Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil 7 took the series back to a familiar and frightening place.
With the introduction of the Bakers, the series returned to its horror and filth roots. In 7, you play as Ethan Winters who is searching for his wife, Mia. There aren’t zombies, but there are a whole host of terrifying creatures lurking in basements and bayous.
It also introduced a first-person exploration and combat perspective to keep things fresh.
Resident Evil (2002)
There is no denying that the original Resident Evil created the genre of survival horror. It was its remake years later, however, that showed how horrific it could be with a little more polish.
The remake of Resident Evil for Gamecube includes more backstory (hello, Lisa Trevor!), upgraded visuals, more fluid controls, and gameplay. Plus, it is even more fun than the original.
In all honesty, the remastered version of the remake still holds up today on PS4 and PS5.
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 was the first major departure for the series, and it is also its best-reviewed entry. Its introduction as a more action-based title and the now-standard over-the-shoulder, third-person vantage point created an industry-standard that many games follow now.
Besides that, the more fast-paced gunplay and enemies presented a challenge that was thus far unseen in a Resident Evil game.
While it didn’t have as many scares as games before it, the level and enemy design still brought forth enough dread to keep things tense.
Resident Evil 2 (2019)
The original Resident Evil 2 was already a great game, but the remake improves upon it in every possible way. Visuals are top-notch, and the horror streams through via visceral gore, creepy-ass monsters, and audio design.
There is also a heightened sense of dread thanks to the addition of Mr. X’s foreboding figure chasing after you through much of the Raccoon City Police Department.
Performances are also great, and getting to see and meet favorites like Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy in stunning 4K just feels so right.