Ranking the Resident Evil series worst to best all mainline video games / Resident Evil 2 RE2

Ranking the Resident Evil Series

The Resident Evil series has evolved and developed over several decades and redefined what it meant to be a horror game with each new release, even going so far as to serve as a barometer of the general health of the genre. When Resident Evil does well, horror games do well. Even when removed from the horror genre, the franchise has plenty of great games that would be considered some of the greatest games of all time. However, there are also a fair amount of games in the series that are bland, forgettable, or just plain bad. We’re going to be ranking every mainline series Resident Evil game from worst to best, focusing on numbered titles and Code Veronica, which was at one point intended to be a numbered title.

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Ranking All of the Mainline Resident Evil Series Games

14) Resident Evil 0 (2002)

Something had to go at the bottom, and it has to be Resident Evil 0. As the last installment for the franchise to use the classic fixed-point camera angle, by the time it was released that style was definitely feeling outdated. Nowadays, what makes the game feel outdated is the absurd amount of backtracking and poor level design that sees you switch between the two main characters, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen. It’s incredibly clunky managing both characters, made even worse by the removal of item boxes, meaning your limited inventory, something that was a staple in previous games, feels even more unnecessarily restrictive. Add on an absolutely nothing story that barely ties into anything from the first game, and you have a prequel that feels uninspired and has no right to exist other than to milk RE fans of their money.

13) Resident Evil 6 (2012)

Yes, the logo looks like a man is pleasuring a giraffe, but that’s the least of the game’s problems. Resident Evil 6 goes all in on action, which isn’t inherently a bad thing given the success of Resident Evil 4 and 5, but the game was aggressively mediocre in nearly all aspects of gameplay. The split campaign was a novel idea, allowing players to take on four different playable characters and see the story from multiple perspectives, but the problem is the story isn’t good. Resident Evil 6’s plot feels like an incoherent mess.

Yes, there is a ton of content present in the game to keep players engaged and a solid Mercenaries mode, but it isn’t enough to excuse the other poor elements present. Its shooting mechanics felt tired and dated even in 2012. As far as Resident Evil games go, it’s a bloated mess whose only saving grace is that it’s not actively tedious and annoying like 0 was.

Ranking the Resident Evil series worst to best all mainline video games / Resident Evil 6 RE6

12) Resident Evil (1996)

For its time, Resident Evil was an excellent survival horror game that put the genre on the map, featuring a wonderful setting and elements that would define the series like resource management, tank controls, and a fixed camera angle. Unfortunately, those are elements that a lot of gamers nowadays cannot stand. Nonetheless, Resident Evil was the standard of excellence back when. Enemies were tough, and you had to plan your fights accordingly. There were plenty of engaging puzzles to solve and an atmosphere that was positively dripping with tension thanks to the setting, the foreboding Spencer Mansion.

Its placement towards the bottom of this ranking of the Resident Evil series is strictly because of how dated it feels compared to its sequels. The voice acting, while entertainingly bad, is still bad, and depending on which soundtrack you’re listening to, you’ll either be greeted with some wonderfully ambient pieces or the sound of your waking up in the middle of the night because you have the Taco Bell runs. Plus, with a far superior remake that exists, unless you’re nostalgic for this version of the game or want to play it in more of a historical sense, there’s no need to return to this entry.

11) Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (2000)

Code: Veronica has a devout portion of the fanbase clamoring for a remake, and it’s not hard to see why. The game was originally intended to be the true Resident Evil 3 before corporate politics got in the way. Code: Veronica ditched the prerendered backgrounds and has a more dynamic camera angle that is still fixed to a point but allowed more movement opportunities within it.

However, a lot of the little details really dampen the game’s enjoyment. The environments feel unnaturally dark, and Rockfort Prison is a somewhat dull location to explore that’s harder to get a good layout of compared to other settings. The story has potential with some interesting parallels established between the Redfield siblings and the villainous Ashford siblings, yet you’re paired with the constantly grating and frustrating Steve for a majority of the game. If there was any game that deserved a remake in order to iron out some of the problems of the original game, it would be Code: Veronica.

10) Resident Evil 3 (2020)

I wouldn’t call the remake of Resident Evil 3 a bad game, but it is most certainly a disappointment. Made in the same vein as the Resident Evil 2 remake, this game was meant to serve as a modern retelling of the original game with a whole lot of enhancements. Sadly, most of those enhancements felt like they were taking a step back. The key element is Nemesis, the antagonist who hunted you down and could appear at any moment and attack you. Here, Nemesis feels incredibly predictable and only appears at certain scripted moments. A lot of the decision-making from the original game has been removed, now a linear and straightforward experience. The action is solid and the moment-to-moment gameplay is just as good as it was in the previous remake, but it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed when you compare this game to the original release and what the Resident Evil 2 remake accomplished.

9) Resident Evil 5 (2009)

After the success of Resident Evil 4, the franchise leaned way harder into the action than ever before, with Resident Evil 5 taking a lot of the scale and spectacle of the series to even grander heights. Some of it worked, like with the fantastic opening chapter, and sometimes it became a bit of a joke, like with Chris Redfield punching a boulder continuously. As an action game, it gets the job done, but where the game comes alive is with its co-op. If you’re able to sit alongside a friend to play through Resident Evil 5, you’ll have a great time going through its fairly decently sized adventure. If you’re playing solo and have to work with the wonky AI for your partner Sheva, you may not think of the game so highly. Due to the wild variation in player experience, placing it toward the middle of the list seems like the fairest compromise.

8) Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)

Originally intended as a spinoff, Resident Evil 3 doesn’t do much to improve upon the formula that was refined in Resident Evil 2, but the little tweaks that it added helped to make Resident Evil 3 feel a bit quicker and more fluid. Combat was refined with a counter and a 180-degree turn, plus a generally more aggressive play style was encouraged since there were fewer puzzles to worry about. Plus, once you completed the game, you were introduced to The Mercenaries mode, which has become a staple for the series ever since.

But really, what makes the game stand out is Nemesis. He was an infamous monster who hunted you at every turn in the game, and you were encouraged to run at every opportunity. If you decided to stay and fight him it would be a grueling encounter, but you could walk away with some amazing supplies. Most of the time though, he was an indestructible force of nature that made you flee for your life. People complain that when Resident Evil became more action-focused it lost a lot of its horror, but there’s nothing quite as terrifying as suddenly hearing Nemesis grunt “STARS” when you least suspect it.

7) Resident Evil Village (2021)

Resident Evil Village is a melting pot not only of classic horror tropes but of everything that makes Resident Evil the franchise it is today. There’s puzzle-solving your way through a gigantic mansion, being chased by an unkillable monster in a horrific sequence, abandoned rural towns, gigantic action sequences, corrupt drug corporations, and so on and so forth. The game seems like a celebration of everything the franchise is with homages to numerous sequences from the franchise’s past, albeit never really excelling at any one area. Because of this, Village at times feels a bit overstuffed, but by the time the credits roll you’ll want to hop right back in thanks to the sheer variety of sequences present that never made the game grow stale to play.

6) Resident Evil 2 (1998)

A true classic in many definitions of the word, Resident Evil 2 took a lot of the clunky framework established by the first game and polished it. The atmosphere of the Raccoon City Police Department is wonderful, laced with some excellent music and sequences that stick in players’ minds, like the reveal of the Lickers or the various mutations of William Birkin. Not only that, but the game did a fantastic job at justifying multiple playthroughs thanks to two different protagonists that will have different puzzles based on which campaign you tackled first and noticeable differences to make it feel like more than a simple retread. Special mention also needs to be made to the Nintendo 64 version, which somehow crammed an entire PlayStation 1 game into a dinky cart with little compromises.

5) Resident Evil 4 (2023)

Following up one of the best games of all time is a tall order, but for the most part, the remake of Resident Evil 4 does a commendable job. The game feels more like a remix of the original game, taking beloved sequences and upgrading them for a modern generation. The action and the set pieces are still wonderful, and the customization given to you encourages you to play the game how you see fit. It’s not perfect, mind you, as a lot of the charm from the original is gone and replaced with a much more dour and serious tone in line with the new games. That B-movie cheese was central to the identity of the original, and its presence is missed. But ultimately, this remake is of course still fun to play.

4) Resident Evil (2002)

How good is the 2002 remake of Resident Evil? It made the original game completely obsolete. Everything that worked so well in the original game, like the fixed camera angles, limited inventory, and the claustrophobic atmosphere, is all present and accounted for here, but better. Even then, enough elements have been added where it isn’t a one-to-one remake, and those new elements will keep fans on edge, like the various encounters with Crimson Heads and your time with Lisa Trevor.

There’s also a certain weight that’s given to the plot. The series has never been known to shy away from campy delights, but the first game’s plot was hard to take seriously due to the terrible voice acting. There’s a bit of gravitas given now to those scenes, and it actually allows players to become much more easily invested in the world of Resident Evil. The scares were there and much more effective than in the first game. It’s just everything that you could want from a classic Resident Evil game.

Ranking the Resident Evil series worst to best all mainline video games / Resident Evil 7 RE7

3) Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017)

With Resident Evil 6 tarnishing the reputation of the franchise, Resident Evil 7 hit the reset switch and tried something completely different, shifting the focus to a first-person survival horror game in the bayous of Louisiana. To some, this may seem like Resident Evil was trying to ape the success of titles like Outlast. However, the terror that Resident Evil 7 inspired was genuine and makes it probably the scariest game in the series.

Your time spent on the Baker Ranch is harrowing, whether it be your many encounters with Jack Baker, frequently seeing a creepy granny in a wheelchair just be present, or the monstrous mold creatures that inhabit the area. Every moment feels tense and well deserved and puts the survival back in survival horror. I always felt like I just made it through scenarios by the skin of my teeth and was greeted with a story that was removed from all of the clutter from the previous games. It was a simplistic step back, but it was a necessary step to reorient the franchise and create one of the best horror games of its generation.

2) Resident Evil 4 (2005)

Resident Evil 4 stands as one of the best games of its generation and defined the third-person over-the-shoulder action game. The gameplay was incredibly engrossing and fun as you galavanted across the European countryside looking for the president’s daughter. Along the way, you fought against massive bosses and partook in some of the cheesiest dialogue in the entire franchise, which is not a light statement, and fans savored every single moment of it.

Everything that Resident Evil 4 attempts to do is so well executed that it’s hard to think of any genuine criticisms that the game does have. Sure, the quick-time events in cutscenes can be annoying, and the last third of the game is somewhat weaker when compared to the first two-thirds, but that’s it. That’s all of the criticism you can lobby at the game. The gunplay is fast and fun, the challenge is fair throughout, the inventory management is a revelation when compared to earlier installments, and it’s just plain fun to play through. Pure, unadulterated, fun.

1) Resident Evil 2 (2019)

It is not easy to be better than one of the best video games of all time, but that’s exactly what the remake of Resident Evil 2 is. Take an already excellent game and just make it better with more fluid combat, better graphics, tighter and smoother controls, and redesign the game from the ground up to function with a new camera system. The remake also grounds a lot of the story with far more serious voice acting and a much more tense tone that makes you feel like this is an actual zombie apocalypse and you’re fighting for survival.

Surviving isn’t going to be easy given that the game is a fair bit more challenging compared to the original game, mostly thanks to the towering behemoth that is Mr. X. One of the reasons why the Resident Evil 3 remake was so disappointing was because Nemesis just couldn’t live up to the heights of Mr. X, an invincible monster who stalked you down and inspired only terror with the sound of his boots. Regardless, it was close, but the remake of Resident Evil 2 is the best game in the series.

That is our full ranking of the mainline series Resident Evil games.

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Jesse Lab
Jesse Lab is a freelance writer for The Escapist and has been a part of the site since 2019. He currently writes the Frame Jump column, where he looks at and analyzes major anime releases. He also writes for the film website Flixist.com. Jesse has been a gamer since he first played Pokémon Snap on the N64 and will talk to you at any time about RPGs, platformers, horror, and action games. He can also never stop talking about the latest movies and anime, so never be afraid to ask him about recommendations on what's in theaters and what new anime is airing each season.