The Infection: Ranking the Top 10 ‘Resident Evil’ Titles
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Have we really been blasting apart zombies and surviving a myriad of over-sized animals and bioweapons for two decades now? You might not believe it, but it’s true: Resident Evil is indeed on the cusp of it’s 20th birthday. If that makes you feel old, then you’re in good company as more than a few of us here at Quad Nine are old enough to have actually played the original all the way back in 1996.
The Resident Evil series has had a long and sometimes bumpy road since it debuted all those years ago, and today finds the franchise at possibly its most questionable and uneven status to date. With the Revelations titles underselling, RE6 seen as mostly a failure, and the spin-offs getting steamrolled by critics, Capcom has settled on re-making another of the earlier titles while they figure out what the hell Resident Evil 7 is even going to be.
Luckily we’re here to remind Capcom what made these games great (or not so great) to begin with, where they succeeded and where they failed. Welcome back to Racoon City folks; you can start celebrating the 20th anniversary of undead mayhem right here with our list of the Top 10 Resident Evil titles.
10) Resident Evil 6
Okay, so here’s the thing: no one is ever going to be heard calling Resident Evil 6 a masterpiece. In fact, most people would struggle to even call it a good game, and there’s a lot of solid reasoning behind that. The only way a game like this could be labeled a success would be if the player happened to fall into a niche demographic that could manage to enjoy all four of the very different campaigns that make up the plot of RE6. For my part, I liked the Jake/Sherry section and the Ada section but was bored stiff with the Leon and Chris stuff. Conversely, I’ve roundly heard from a host of folks who would say that the Leon section is the only part worth playing, so, really, it’s all down to personal preference.
The point remains, though, that even half of a good game does not make for a win in Capcom’s court, and this title more than any other signifies just how lost the RE franchise is at the moment. Still, if Capcom can dial down on some of the smart ideas they did utilize here (branching campaigns, large-scale stories, lots of gameplay variety), they could find themselves with a solid game plan for RE7. However, that’s a pretty big if at this point. Here’s hoping they can still get this baby back on the tracks before it’s smashed to bits. (Mike Worby)
9) Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 is a really hard game to love and an even harder one to recommend. There are great moments, but they’re few, and the space between them is filled with terrible things. For every step forward RE5 makes, it seems to take a leap backward and it ends up feeling like a checklist of ideas copy-pasted from RE4 without ever feeling like something new and fresh. For every genuinely interesting moment or exciting combat encounter, there’s two or three boring or annoying fights and some of the banalest bosses in the entire series.
The entire experience is further soured by the god-awful partner AI in the single player campaign, the somehow worse than RE4 AI in all the enemies, and cumbersome controls that no longer feed into the horror but instead hold back from the action. It’s a game completely confused about what it wants to be, trying so hard to be an action shooter while also trying to be survival horror, and failing miserably to do either one very well. It’s not the worst in the Resident Evil series, not by a long shot, but it’s so forgettable against the better games that it just gets tossed by the wayside, sort of where it belongs. (Andrew Vandersteen)
8) Resident Evil Revelations
For those who wanted Resident Evil to go back to its scary roots after RE5, this game is for you. Well, most of it anyway. What parts of the game take place on the Queen Zenobia, a doomed cruise liner that makes for a great stand-in for a creepy mansion, are as dark, mysterious, and downright creepy as fans could hope after an entry spent in the sunlight. For Revelations, Capcom returned to a world of opulence contrasted with monstrous decay, and once again it works. Wandering the gently rocking ship’s labyrinthine hallways, creaking doors opening to musty staterooms, communications decks, and even a casino, feels like coming home again, or at least haunted home. Sound once again plays a large part, letting imagination do some of the work. Slithering enemies wiggle through metal vents, a chilling call of “mayday” echoes out from the silence, and the deformed mutation of a former colleague whispers from the shadows, possibly lurking around any corner. Tension is palpable and the atmosphere is thick; who could ask for anything else? Unfortunately, Capcom decided to be generous without anyone asking and also included side missions that break up the anxiety with some good old fashioned trigger-pulling. Cutaway missions involving Chris and his sweet-assed partner or two of the biggest idiots ever seen in the franchise only serve to distract from the killer vibe the main game has going on, and are a slight misstep, though they by no means ruin the overall experience.
Is there cheesy dialogue? Of course; what RE game would be complete without some? Cheap jump scares? You betcha. But Resident Evil Revelations also knows how to earn its scares, and it does so well enough to remind players just how fun this series can be when it sticks to what it does best. (Patrick Murphy)
7) Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 0 finds itself at a bit of a strange place in the RE canon in that it follows up one of the best games in the series (the REmake) and is mainly seen as a solid entry but also finds itself at the stalling point right before RE4, when the old formula had been taxed pretty much to the limit. With that in mind, RE0 is still executed very well: the atmosphere is fantastic, the graphics are phenomenal, both of the protagonists are likable, and the plot hits all the b-movie camp bases you’d expect from a Resident Evil game.
RE0 also fills in a lot of the gaps in the mythology, and as its title might suggest it explains a lot of where this whole thing got started. You won’t find many people telling you that this is an essential title, but if you’re a fan of the series, it’s certainly worth going back to, especially with the HD port now available. I mean where else can you find a guy made of leeches chasing around a couple of 20-something heartthrobs? (Mike Worby)
6) Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
When the name of the antagonist makes the cover and the title, you better believe he will be a large part of the game. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis offers little reservations to having the newest addition of the Tyrant strain from Umbrella Corp. run wild to hunt and kill every S.T.A.R.S. member.
RE3 makes little changes to the series except for offering the ability to turn a full 180, a few choice-based actions, and the inclusion of the aforementioned villain Nemesis. The series returns the spotlight to RE heroine Jill Valentine as she makes her final stand and leaves Raccoon City for good, and also introduces Carlos Oliveira, an Umbrella Corps. mercenary who learns the error of his ways and aids Jill along the way.
The story and characters fall short from its predecessors but the game certainly makes up for it in gameplay, intensity and jump scares, courtesy of Nemesis. There are very rarely places or times when you feel safe, as he does seem to appear whenever he so pleases – though, after a second run of the game, you will know precisely when to expect him, as these points of the game do repeat themselves.
RE3 may not be the high point of the series, with characters who were not as memorable as RE2 and an environment that, though large, was not as intimate or terrifying as those of the Arklay Mountains. However, it certainly does excel at one thing, and that’s making one of the most unique and unrelenting monsters of the series in the form of the Nemesis. (Aaron Santos)
5) Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Code Veronica is Resident Evil in a transitional period. The game was a technical leap forward in that it was the first in the series to feature a movable camera and fully rendered 3D backgrounds, but the game played almost identically to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, warts and all. It wouldn’t be until RE4 that the series would see a true overhaul in the gameplay department and so Code Veronica sits in a weird middle ground between the old and the new. It also holds the dubious honor of being the moment in the chronology when the story all became, well, a bit much.
Previous Resident Evil games had told stories that all centred around a singular viral outbreak, with that story wrapping up when Raccoon City was decimated by atom bombs at the end of Nemesis. They weren’t going to win any prizes, but they were inoffensively camp fun. Code Veronica is where the story breaks out into the wider world and the deep rooted conspiracy of the Umbrella Corporation, an inexplicably evil pharmaceutical company, starts to become more and more implausible and the twists all the more head scratching. The three primary antagonists of the game are the returning Albert Wesker (a surprise since we last saw him getting stabbed to death in the first game), and the twins Alfred and Alexia Ashford. Later in the game, it turns out that Alexia Ashford has been in cryosleep during the entire game, and every time we’ve seen her it’s actual been Alfred in makeup and a dress doing his best Psycho impression for the benefit of nobody. Enough said, really. (John Cal McCormick)
4) Resident Evil
Resident Evil is credited with bringing the survival horror genre to the masses and ushering in a golden age of truly terrifying video games. Originally conceived as a remake of Capcom’s earlier horror-themed game Sweet Home, Shinji Mikami, took gameplay design cues from Alone in the Dark and established a formula that has proven a success time and time again.
The eponymous first game in the series may seem dated but the simple premise and duplicitous puzzle box mansion hold up incredibly well, twenty years later. For those who love the series’ puzzle elements, the original is unparalleled. The opening sequence sets up a campy tone with unintentionally hilarious voice acting, but once your knee deep in the mansion, things become unbearably tense. Resident Evil requires patience, and what makes the game so good is the slow burn. It’s punishing at times, so proceed with caution. (Ricky da Conceicao)
3) Resident Evil/REmake
There is no doubt of the original Resident Evil’s impact on the gaming industry as a whole, but the fact of the matter is, time hasn’t been kind to Spencer Mansion and its inhabitants. Released at a time when 3D gaming was still in its infancy, these days the PlayStation classic can simply be described as ugly and unappealing to those who didn’t play it two decades ago. Thankfully, Capcom remade the game for Nintendo’s GameCube; dubbed the “REmake” by fans, not only was Capcom successful in bringing Resident Evil to a new generation, but they also created the gold standard for all video game remakes going forward.
Upon its release, the REmake was a technical marvel, and to this day it’s a feast for the eyes. Each corner of the mansion looks phenomenal, and enemies are genuinely grotesque. Utilizing the GameCube’s hardware, Capcom was able to add fantastic lighting effects, which drastically bolstered the game’s ominous tone, and improved upon the already phenomenal atmosphere. Other minor additions, like enhanced shadows, environmental effects, and improved audio all successfully deepen player immersion while significantly upping the tension. None of the additions or changes harm the creators’ original vision, but instead serve to enhance it.
The technological leap from the original to the remake is especially astounding when you consider that the REmake came out a mere 6 years after the PS1 version. Since 2002, the REmake has been re-released several times, including in 2015 for 8th generation consoles. Lauded by both critics and fans alike, the REmake is seen by many as the definitive version of Resident Evil. (Matt De Azevedo)
2) Resident Evil 2
If we’re talking the older style, survival-horror roots of the Resident Evil franchise, you won’t find a single game in the series that can match Resident Evil 2. RE2 is still considered by some to be the best game to ever bear the Resident Evil name and regularly finds itself in the top 5 survival-horror games of all time. It’s not hard to see why the game made such a big splash as it improves upon the original in nearly every conceivable way imaginable. The main thing worth noting is just how different its campaign is depending on who you select at the beginning. Claire and Leon take radically different routes to the end game, even meeting and interacting with completely different characters from one another, and battling alternate bosses to boot.
The use of the A/B scenario system here is a masterstroke that cannot be overstated, as it makes for four different campaigns to play through, each with its own revelations and plot twists to discover. It also helps that the dark elements are expanded and the mythology takes on a conspiratorial tone which suggests a much more menacing set of antagonists pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Finally, you have more diverse environments, better production values (read: no god-awful live action scenes) and the introduction of the indestructible stalker trope that remains an essential part of the series to this day. A classic in every sense of the word, if you dig survival-horror, you owe it to yourself to seek out RE2. (Mike Worby)
1) Resident Evil 4
Series creator Shinji Mikami reinvented the wheel with the fourth installment of Capcom’s pivotal survival horror series. The over-the-shoulder third-person aiming system reinvigorated the genre and the innovative quick time events added an extra layer of suspense to the proceedings. Coupled with gorgeous cinematics – a vast, upgradeable arsenal – some of the most memorable boss fights in any game and an oppressive atmosphere – it’s easy to see why Resident Evil 4 is usually cited as the best entry in the series.
Resident Evil 4 is a near-flawless game – and it paved the way for hundreds of others like it such as Uncharted, Gears of War and Dead Space to name a few. Resident Evil 4 did for the action-horror genre what Super Mario 64 did for 3D platformers. It changed the industry moving forward and like all great games, it stands the test of time. (Ricky da Conceicao)