We're ringing in a new Resident Evil this week, and by all accounts it's a good'un! To mark the occasion, this week we're going to battle it out and figure out our definitive staff list of the best Resident Evil games. We may lose eyes and friendships, but when it's all over we will have decided the best of the best.
10. Resident Evil Zero
Originally concieved as a Nintendo 64 title, Resident Evil Zero is a prequel to the original title starring everyone's favorite medic, Rebecca Chambers. I'm not a huge fan of Resident Evil Zero, as I see it as being completely unecessary and convoluted. As prequels so frequently do, RE Zero causes a lot of issues with both characters and the timeline of the original game, and just ends up falling flat in comparison to REmake, RE2, and RE3.
RE0 shows just how Rebecca got to the Spencer Mansion and the fate of S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team. I sorta wish it would have been through the eyes of Enrico Martinez instead of Rebecca, because the magnum toting warrior we see he as in Resident Evil Zero is not what we see in Resident Evil where she doesn't even have a weapon.
The new partner system was innovative for the series, but I found myself missing the item boxes as opposed to having to drop items on the ground. However, as a classic Resident Evil title it still works, just not as well as it could have. -Jason Faulkner
9. Resident Evil: Revelations
Resident Evil: Revelations was one of the first games I played on the Nintendo 3DS, though I was never able to pick up a Circle Pad Pro to fully enjoy it. That didn't keep me from tearing into it, nor the HD version that subsequently released for Xbox 360, Wii U, PS3, and PC. It was a striking return to classic Resident Evil form in terms of gameplay and characters, following Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield scouting the luxury liner Queen Zenobia and a smattering of other locales. It was excellent as a handheld title and only made better when it hit consoles. -Brittany Vincent
8. Resident Evil 5
As an RE game, RE5 suffered from an identity crisis. Guns, ammo, and healing items abound. Cutscenes are so bombastic as to make Michael Bay roll his eyes. Chris Redfield punches a boulder to move it along a path in the core of a volcano.
All that evidence and more points to RE5 positioning itself as a pure action game, yet the tank-style controls persist. Ignore "Resident Evil" in the title, work past the incongruity between the controls and content, and what remains is a fantastic co-op experience with multiple difficulties and droves of unlockables to keep you and a friend busy for months. (If you haven't played it yet, make sure to buy the Gold Edition so you can experience the excellent Lost in Nightmares DLC, which packed more survival horror into 60 minutes than RE5's 10-hour campaign.)
Just don't expect to be scared by anything other than Chris Redfield's steroid-enhanced arms. -David Craddock
7. Resident Evil: Outbreak 1 and 2 (Tie)
These two titles took the Resident Evil series in a new direction, and one it's never gone since. The two Outbreak games blended classic Resident Evil gameplay with online co-op to make a very special combination I think worked very well. Unfortunately, these two games were released around the time of the genesis of online console play, and not only were there many people still in the U.S. that didn't have access to broadband, but many PlayStation 2 owners didn't have the Network Adapter needed to connect and play online.
The Resident Evil Outbreak games are told over a series of loosely-connected scenarios instead of an overarching story. They feature an entirely different cast of characters, each with their own special abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Although Resident Evil Outbreak was originally planned as a single title, cutbacks during development led to a massive cutback on proposed scenarios, and instead of the over 18 that were originally planned only 10 were released over the span of the two Outbreak games.
I loved the Outbreak games because they put a unique spin on the classic Resident Evil formula that showed a possible new direction for the series. Though Capcom eventually decided to go with more action-oriented gameplay as evident by Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, perhaps they'll return to the online concept of survival horror that we saw in Resident Evil Outbreak. -Jason Faulkner
6. Resident Evil CODE: Veronica (X)
Everyone's played Code: Veronica, or at the very least Code: Veronica X, the later updated version of the original game. Claire and Chris Redfield served as memorable protagonists and Steve Burnside was a welcome addition as well, but what really set this game apart was its intelligent usage of familiar survival elements and some rather excellent body horror. It was a solid addition to the already-established series, and is still considered by many Resident Evil fans to be one of the best there are, hence its inclusion on this list. -Brittany Vincent
5. Resident Evil 3
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was the ultimate form of original Resident Evil gameplay on the PlayStation. It was set both before and after Resident Evil 2 and brought the stark urban panic of Raccoon City under siege of the dead to life. RE3 brought the classic Resident Evil gameplay style to its pinnacle. It featured new movements like dodging and quick turning and introduced environmental elements you could use to hard your enemies.
Nemesis himself is now an iconic monster, and I don't think Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is given enough credit for the sense of completeness we got to the plot of the Resident Evil original tetrad of RE0, RE, RE2, and RE3. While many questions are left unanswered in later entries, Jill's Adventure through Raccoon City ties up loose ends great and adds even more clarity to the wicked deeds of Umbrella. -Jason Faulkner
4. Resident Evil (1996)
The game that started it all, Resident Evil was a schlock-inspired adventure game that spawned an entire genre. Tight camera angles and slow-moving zombies gave a sense of dread more often than jump-scares, and keeping supplies scarce was tuned just-so to keep players on their toes. While its place in video game history was secured with its meme-ready dialogue, we shouldn't discount the accomplishment of setting the stage for the modern horror genre as a whole.
Other games have done it better, including some on this list, but you never forget your first zombie-dog jumping through the window right at your face. -Steve Watts
3. Resident Evil 2
Released to resounding fanfare and commercial success in 1998, Resident Evil 2 was an evolutionary step for the series and the videogame medium. The graphics were tighter, the monsters scarier, the RCPD labyrinthine, the delightfully puzzles absurd. It was more Resident Evil, but more refined—exactly what fans wanted.
RE2's trimmings were as impressive as the game itself—two discs packed with two playable characters whose campaigns changed depending on whether you played Claire or Leon first. Choices made in your first campaign affected the other character, such as taking or leaving certain supplies.
A PS1-era game it may be, but the story, puzzles, monsters, and choices have kept fans coming back to RE2 for 19 years and counting. -David Craddock
2. Resident Evil 4
Credited as the first Resident Evil to modernize the formula even as its tank controls began to get long in the tooth, RE4 is still widely regarded as one of the best of the series. Why? Because despite it becoming a more traditional third-person shooter, it never severed its roots. The setting was still moody and unsettling, with a usually quiet atmosphere that would be suddenly punctuated with moments of conflict. Zombies were still lumbering, but could dash at a moment's notice. Everything still felt deliberate and tense, even as the player was given a more intuitive control scheme.
Later games would add more polish to the third-person shooting and veer further into action, but Resident Evil 4 was the one that struck a perfect balance between its origins and the changing demands of the industry. -Steve Watts
1. Resident Evil "REmake" (2002)
Civilization creator Sid Meier describes games as a series of interesting choices. Piggybacking on that, I describe survival horror games as a series of interesting choices with life-or-death consequences. Within the Resident Evil series, and arguably within the genre as a whole, no game evokes the ethos of survival horror more proficiently or terrifyingly than Capcom's 2002 "REmake" of the 1996 original.
Shinji Mikami bulldozed the Spencer Estate and rebuilt it with photorealistic graphics that ooze dread, from lightning flashes that light up rooms cloaked in shadow to zombies leaning against windows, the moonlight painting their silhouette on adjacent walls. Moving through REmake's eerie grounds takes courage, and the addition of foes like the Crimson Head and Lisa will leave your hands sweaty and your thumbs paralyzed with fear over your controller's analog sticks.
Most importantly, REmake abounds with choices. Should you put down a zombie or two in the West Hall corridor, or thread your way through them? And if one grabs you? Do you use your last defensive items to escape without a scratch? And if you kill the zombie, can you expend the last few drops of kerosene in your flask to set the freshly killed corpse aflame, preventing it from rising again later as a Crimson?
Capcom announced its long-hoped-for remake of Resident Evil 2 back in 2015. While its original was incredible, the bar was set in 2002, and has yet to be dethroned. -David Craddock