Ranking the Mainline Resident Evil Games - ArticleEvan Norris, posted on 01 February 2017 / 7,394 Views
With Resident Evil 7 out in the wild, it seems like a good time to revisit the mainline series — apologies to the Revelations and Outbreaks of the RE universe. The first RE game I played was Resident Evil 2 on N64 and I remember falling in love with the scary, creepy, violent, challenging, and, ultimately, rewarding world of Shinji Mikami and company. Since then I've played every series game I can find and have enjoyed almost all of them.
What follows is my personal ranking of the nine mainline RE games, Resident Evil 7 included.
Resident Evil 6
Of all the mainline Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 6 is the weakest. It's a testament to the maxim that bigger isn't always better. RE6 boasts three interlocking, globe-trotting campaigns, featuring series stalwarts and newcomers, but none is especially engaging. Marred by a troublesome camera, clumsy controls, and far, far too many quick-time events, RE6 never finds its voice. Instead it speaks in a weird mish-mash of incongruous elements, some drawn from military shooters, others from Hollywood blockbusters, others inspired by Japanese horror.
Resident Evil 5
Say what you will about Resident Evil 5 — that it turned its back on what made Resident Evil great, that it sacrificed the survival-horror roots of the franchise for a high-octane co-op shooter in the vein of Gears of War — but this is a game that's fun to play, especially with a human partner. Those who crave an atmospheric, tense horror game will be disappointed, no doubt, but folks looking for an entertaining, intense, and varied action feast with a friend in tow will leave satisfied.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Intended as a spin-off from the main series, Resident Evil 3 was re-branded to serve as the third mainline Resident Evil game. Tonally and mechanically, RE3 plays differently from the first two games in the franchise. Gone are the claustrophobic rooms of the mansion and police station from Resident Evil and its sequel, respectively. Replacing them are open urban spaces through which heroine Jill Valentine must escape Raccoon City. The game is also packed with more action and thus introduces dodging and quick turns.
The biggest draw in Resident Evil 3 is the titular villain, Nemesis, who stalks Jill throughout the game, and even across sequence breaks. It introduces a sense of paranoia that makes an otherwise unspectacular RE game unforgettable.
Resident Evil - Code: Veronica
Developed in tandem with Resident Evil 3, Code: Veronica was the first RE game on Sega's Dreamcast. It was also the first in the series to evolve in terms of gameplay and game design. Out the window went pre-rendered, static backgrounds. 3D polygons, fully textured, gave the grimy, ghastly world of Resident Evil never-before-seen depth and detail. Code: Veronica's camera moved with the player, allowing characters Chris and Claire to peek around corners. Graphics and animations were markedly improved and puzzles were more streamlined.
Resident Evil Zero
Previously playable only on the GameCube and Wii, Resident Evil Zero earned a HD face-lift in 2016 on several seventh and eighth gen systems. As a result, many new fans of the series had a chance to play perhaps the most underrated Resident Evil game. Although Zero plays very much like previous installments, it introduces a unique "partner zapping" feature that enhances gameplay. In contrast to earlier games in the canon that allowed players to choose one character at the beginning of the game, Zero asks that players control two characters from beginning to end.
Players manipulate escaped convict Billy Coen and police officer Rebecca Chambers, together or separately. They have the option to send one off to explore an area and leave the other behind. This partner system is fundamental to solving the game's many puzzles, as Rebecca has a mixing kit and Billy can move heavy objects. Billy and Rebecca can swap weapons and items, or leave them on the floor for later retrieval.
Resident Evil (2002)
The original Resident Evil lands here at number four, but it's really the 2002 "REmake" that steals the show. With new 3D models, a dynamic camera, and backgrounds enhanced with particle effects and full motion video, Resident Evil (2002) was a far cry from the static background and blocky models of the 1996 original. Still, it managed to channel the premiere game's sense of pervasive fear and b-movie sensibilities. After all, this is the game that popularized and codified the survival-horror genre, and inspired games like Dino Crisis and Silent Hill.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
At first glance, Resident Evil 7 might look like a copycat of Outlast or Alien: Isolation, but a deeper dive will reveal a game fiercely loyal to the mechanics and tropes established all the way back in 1996. After experimenting with third-person shooting and blockbuster action in Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, the developers at Capcom returned to the roots of Resident Evil with this seventh numbered installment, with a dash of hide-and-seek gameplay and western horror themes for good measure.
The result is a game that feels topical and old-fashioned at the same time, one that simultaneously honors the slow-burn survival-horror of the original RE series and modifies it for consumption by modern audiences.
Resident Evil 2
Directed by Hideki Kamiya and produced by Shinji Mikami, two legends in the field, Resident Evil 2 is the ultimate in old-school RE goodness. It built upon the foundation of the original game, adding more detailed environments, sharper graphics, and tighter controls. Its greatest attribute, however, is improved replay value, thanks to mini-games and four different scenarios. By starting A scenario with one of the playable characters, players can unlock B scenario for the second playable character, and vice versa. Actions taken in A will affect what happens in B.
Resident Evil 4
Depending on who you ask, Resident Evil 4 stands as either the triumphant moment the Resident Evil series broke free from its antiquated control scheme and molasses-slow pacing or the game that began the destruction and bastardization of the series. Others simply look at it as a brilliant example of strong level design, gameplay, sound, and presentation, its place in the Resident Evil canon notwithstanding.
By removing the fixed camera angled and "tank" controls associated with earlier games in the series and by focusing intently on gunplay, Capcom turned Resident Evil 4 into a third-person shooter and horror hybrid, something that worked majestically in 2005 but which proved deleterious in the years that followed. Despite its uneasy legacy, RE4 represents a high water mark for Resident Evil and for Capcom in general. It's a once-in-a-generation kind of game.
That's my list! What's yours?