The Best and Worst of Resident Evil

The Best and Worst of Resident Evil
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Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2, one of the most beloved titles in the Resident Evil franchise, is set for launch on Friday, January 25. After playing the 1-Shot Demo, we cannot wait to once again guide Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy through the mad streets of Raccoon City crawling with the unfortunate victims of the T-Virus.

Until then, let’s take a look back at the best and worst of the principal Resident Evil titles released over the last 23 years as they compare to one another.

Best 5 Main Resident Evil Games:

resident evil code veronica
The opening sequence of Code Veronica was incredibly impressive for the time, and remains one of the most action-packed openings of the franchise.

5. Resident Evil: Code Veronica

Long before Leon Kennedy became a Ganado-killing badass in Resident Evil 4, there was battle-hardened Claire Redfield fresh from her escape from Raccoon City. Resident Evil Code: Veronica begins with Claire infiltrating a secret Umbrella Corporation facility in Paris while searching for her brother, Chris. After arguably the most action-packed opening CGI sequence the series has to offer, she ends up released on a solitary prison island following a T-Virus outbreak.  

Though Code: Veronica sticks heavily to the series’ early roots, it was the first to use fully-rendered 3D backgrounds, allowing for more cinematic camera angles. The puzzles also fit into the environment more logically than, say, having to use a Unicorn Medallion in a police station to locate a key, like in Resident Evil 2. The game also fully embraces the high strangeness of the series, complete with a new and improved Wesker with Matrix-like superpowers. We also get to learn some of the history of the Ashford family, co-founders of Umbrella and poster children for creepy aristocrats. Sure, Claire’s new sidekick Steve Burnside might be a bit annoying at times, but the story remains thrilling and still holds up as one of the better adventures the series has to offer.   

resident evil 2
Resident Evil 2 first introduced us to rookie cop Leon Kennedy on his first day at work, and college student Claire Redfield, sister of Chris Redfield from the first game. Leon was designed to become a series favorite.

4. Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 took everything good about the original RE and amped it up to 11. You thought fighting the Tyrant at the end of the original game was epic? Well, how about a giant alligator in the sewer? RE2 brought us boss battles with hulking behemoths, a new variety of mutated abominations, and perhaps one of the creepiest specimens in the series, the Licker. With more weapons than ever before, two complete intertwining campaigns, and just the right amount of tense moments to intense action, Resident Evil 2 is not only one of the very best in the series, but one of the most noteworthy.

Let us also not forget Resident Evil 2 introduced us to rookie cop Leon Kennedy. While he hadn’t yet developed into the wise-cracking action hero we meet in RE4, Leon quickly distinguished himself as a memorable character. We also see the first in-game appearance of femme-fatale and corporate spy Ada Wong as she ends up momentarily teaming up with Leon in her attempt to gather information about Umbrella’s bioweapons.

Resident Evil 4
Leon has come a long way from the rookie starting his career at the Raccoon City Police Department on perhaps the worst day possible. Resident Evil 4‘s Leon is a wise-cracking, confident combatant, making him well-prepared for the series’ first foray into more action-heavy horror.

3. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 moved the series from Survival Horror more into the action genre. Suddenly there was no real need for ammo conservation like in the original games. The tension found in the long hallways of the Arklay Mountains mansion and the dark alleys of Raccoon City was exchanged for intense battles with hordes of parasite-controlled villagers. But, Leon never became powerful enough to remove a basic sense of vulnerability, thus keeping battles engaging and making encounters with more resilient monsters like the Regenerador consistently nerve-wracking.

As far as characters go, you did, unfortunately, have to deal with the whiny attitude and consistently disappointing A.I. of Ashley Graham, the President’s daughter, and your current charge. But, Leon’s one-liners make it all worthwhile. They aren’t comedy gold by any stretch but offer a delightful element of campy cringe. And oh, does RE4 offer up the campiness in satisfying heaps, including perhaps one of the most absurd villains in the series even compared to Albert Wesker.   

The over-the-shoulder third-person perspective was a first for the series and set a standard for other titles released afterward. Between the vastly improved combat, intensified boss battles, grand standoffs with hordes of infected, and a newly heightened level of the absurdity that makes the Resident Evil series so beloved makes RE4 an addition to the series that still holds up incredibly well even almost 14 years after its initial release.

resident evil 7
Resident Evil 7 is the reboot the series desperately needed; taking the heart of the original, combined with a new engine and a more contemporary horror feel.

2. Resident Evil 7

Resident Evil 7 is a bit difficult to place because though it is a part of Resident Evil canon, it feels so different from the other main titles. While the story of the Baker family certainly borders on the absurdity found in much of the series, it lacks a lot of the campier elements and introduces new, unfamiliar characters to the long-running series. In many ways, it feels much more like newer iterations of the horror genre, pulling strongly from the vibes of P.T., the playable trailer for the defunct Silent Hills.

RE7 served as Capcom’s revamping of the series after the failure of Resident Evil 6. Capcom wanted to bring the series back to its horror roots which it had lost as the series moved more toward large-scale action. In many ways, RE7 accomplishes this. The intimate spaces of the Baker family home, moments of calm only to be shattered by the arrival of one of the family members as they continue their relentless pursuit, harken back to the first time we found ourselves sneaking through the hallways of the mansion in RE1. The time between action and exploration is well-balanced, and everything from combat to the story is well-executed. RE7 benefits from the best of the original series’ titles and the combat improvements made with Resident Evil 4.

RE7 demonstrates Capcom learned from their mistakes. I, for one, miss the campier elements and hope to see them again in some form in future titles. However, RE7 is a testament to all that is good about the series and a powerful beginning for a new direction.

resident evil hd
Resident Evil HD is the original game as it was meant to be presented, including new story elements that demonstrate you can improve on a classic.

1. Resident Evil HD (REmake)

They say you can’t improve on a classic, but Resident Evil HD (alternately referred to as REmake), proves anything can be made better. RE HD got rid of the tank controls (though you had the option of using them if you wanted the experience) and the memorably laughable voice acting of the original. It was also a complete rebuild of the original game, not just an HD upgrade. This meant the mansion environments look gorgeous and, with the added realism, even more sinister. But, Capcom didn’t stop there.

RE HD managed to enhance the original story. The most powerful addition is the disturbing tale of Lisa Trevor, a little girl transformed into a depraved monster through Umbrella’s experimentation. Your interactions with her serve as some of the more harrowing moments and also the most emotionally impactful.

New areas and fresh surprises await those familiar with the original. And perhaps as the final kicker, Capcom added an extra element of difficulty. After you kill a zombie, you have to make certain it stays dead. If you fail to burn the body, the recently felled zombie will return as a Crimson Head: a fast, super-powered zombie with long claws and a really bad attitude. I remember the first time I saw what I thought was now a truly lifeless corpse rise up and give chase. I don’t think I have ever felt more panicked.

Resident Evil HD is what the original Resident Evil was meant to be, and a testament to the series’ lasting hold on the imagination.

Worst 5 Main Resident Evil Titles:

resident evil 5
Resident Evil 5 is by no means a bad game. In fact, it can be rather fun, particularly when played in co-op. But, the main characters and story simply cannot stack up to other more memorable titles in the series, particularly against its predecessor Resident Evil 4.

5. Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 follows Chris Redfield and his partner Sheva Alomar in a remote part of Africa. The pair has been sent to prevent the sale of a Bioweapon on the black market. Unbeknownst to them, however, the citizenry has already fallen victim to the Las Plagas, the same parasite that leads to the crazed villagers and other mutants Leon came across in Europe five years prior to Chris and Sheva’s arrival.

Even more so than RE4, RE5 leans heavily on boss battles, quick-time sequences, and large-scale combat events instead of than traditional scares. While far from its roots, it is fun, particularly when it comes to co-op. In fact, co-op is where RE5 really shines. Playing alone presents an issue as well. Much like Ashley Graham in RE4, Sheva’s A.I. can be hit or miss. She does ok in combat, but there were too many times I had to go back for her because she had gotten herself stuck on something in the environment. If you are in a hurry, this caused more than just a passing nuisance.

Chris also lacks the distinguishing charisma of RE4’s Leon Kennedy, leaving him often feeling more like a random soldier pulled out of a Call of Duty title than a longstanding part of the Resident Evil universe. Perhaps, when you drill down to it, Leon is just as much of a cliche, but at least he’s amusing. Sheva and Chris’ chemistry as partners is believable, but neither make a lasting impression.

RE5 is a worthy action title, and co-op play is especially fun. But, Sheva’s untrustworthy A.I., Chris’s forgettable personality, and the fact it feels a bit like a less interesting RE4 makes it first on the list of the worst RE games.

resident evil 3
Resident Evil 3 offers a wider variety of enemies than previous titles, and like most RE games, it is fun to play. But even as a main title, it feels too much like a Resident Evil 2 DLC.

4. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis follows Jill Valentine, Resident Evil alum and member of Raccoon City Police Department’s S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) team as she attempts to escape the city after the T-Virus outbreak.

RE3 isn’t a bad game. It did offer more enemies than previous titles, and the ending changed slightly based choices made during gameplay. The only reason it is on the worse end of RE titles is that it fails to deliver a more memorable story. It was originally meant to be a spinoff of RE2, and though we ended up with a main character from the timeline as our protagonist instead of an unknown, it feels very much more like an accessory to RE2 than its own title.

The Nemesis is both a blessing and a curse. At first, when you hear his low, guttural intonation of “S.T.A.R.S.” your blood runs cold. The Nemesis is relentless in his pursuit to take you down as one of the few surviving members of the original “Mansion Incident.” He is almost entirely unstoppable, and even with a rocket launcher handy, it is almost always best just to run. But, what initially added to the tension eventually becomes a source of frustration. Having to drop everything and run, often only to have to come back to where you were, is frustrating to say the least.

In the end, RE3: Nemesis, though it has its moments, is a bit too forgettable to rise to the top of the series other, more noteworthy adventures.

Resident Evil: Revelations boasted a return to the survival horror elements of the original series. But, in practice, large sections of the game drag. The story is also similarly uninteresting.

3. Resident Evil: Revelations

Revelations is Capcom’s first attempt at bringing the series back to its roots after it had strayed too far into the action genre, and particularly following the release of RE6. Released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS, Revelations was touted as having a better balance between action and survival horror elements. You play part of the time as Jill Valentine and her partner Parker Luciani searching for the missing Chris Redfield aboard the ill-fated cruise ship Queen Zenobia. The other half follows Chris Redfield and his partner Jessica Sherawat.

Rather than weaving together the more action-packed moments with traditional Resident Evil elements throughout the game, Capcom chose to divide up gameplay elements based on which character you were controlling at the time. Chris’ encountered larger-scale battles while Jill faced smaller numbers of enemies and had more downtime. This leads to long, dull stretches of gameplay particularly since Jill encounters mostly slow-moving enemy types. The story, as well, lags far too often and even for a Resident Evil plot, strays too far into cliche. How many secretive bioterrorist organizations secretly planning to infect the world can there be at this point?

A new scanning feature was added to the game, largely to take advantage of the 3DS. At first, this feature felt novel, but after having to scan literally everything, over, and over, and over, the novelty wore off. The best part of Resident Evil: Revelations is probably Jessica Sherawat who turns out to be rather likeable, but even she can’t save this ship from sinking.  

Resident Evil 0 offers much of the same as other original RE titles, save for a partner system that allows you to switch between the two main characters. Unfortunately, this mechanic wasn’t enough to distract from the monotonous environments.

2. Resident Evil 0

Set before the original Resident Evil, RE0 follows officer Rebecca Chambers as she explores an Umbrella training facility. At her side is convicted criminal Billy Coen. Each character has a unique set of abilities. Billy has better strength and higher defense, while Rebecca has the ability to mix herbs, but is more vulnerable to attack. To get through the game, you have to switch between the two.

While Rebecca and Billy’s camaraderie is actually fairly delightful, the need to switch them back and forth never quite added more than superficial depth to the environmental puzzles. Otherwise, the gameplay doesn’t diverge much from the original titles

Where RE0 lacks the most is in the environments themselves. Exploring monotonous train cars and similar looking laboratories wears on you after a while.

Oh, and the leeches. So. Many. Leeches.

Let’s move on.

While most Resident Evil games, even those on the worse end of the list by comparison to some of the best, are worth a play through, Resident Evil 6 is the closest the series comes to an utter disaster. Aside from feeling incredibly muddled, it finally strayed so far from what made a Resident Evil game it lead to the backlash that gave us, thankfully, Resident Evil 7.

1. Resident Evil 6

Resident Evil 6 was the last straw for many long-time fans of the series. After moving further and further into action-oriented plotlines as opposed to the traditional survival horror, Capcom went all out. Attempting to squish four separate stories into one experience, RE6 is a game that never quite figured out what it was supposed to be. In addition, the over-the-top narratives regarding international espionage and bioterror organizations that had become standard by this time in the series reached a fever pitch.

Gameplay is similarly ridiculous. In what feels like an attempt to turn Resident Evil into Rainbow Six, we are too often thrust into firefights with militarized units, sometimes including tanks. Elaborate escape sequences become the norm rather than a point of impact. Gone almost completely is the heart of the series. Resident Evil, even when not in the quiet, cloistered confines of a mansion, operates on a sense of dread. Not just that you yourself are vulnerable, but that you might be alone in your plight. Or, at least, almost alone.

RE6 finally moved so far from its roots that it lost all but a surface-level resemblance to its predecessors. And the game we got was muddled and even what it did well was overshadowed by a lack of direction, making RE6 the shambling corpse of a once great series.

What are some of your favorite Resident Evil games? Let us know in the comments below. For more zombie-filled horrors, keep it locked to Mammoth Gamers.

Alisa Hail

Lifetime gamer, professional nerd, and amateur cosplayer. Owns a working copy of Duck Hunt (with the light gun). Has never hunted real ducks. Loves horror games but is also afraid of the dark. Journalist, game reviewer, and marketer by trade.