hen it comes to horror video games, one franchise reigns supreme: Resident Evil. Developed by Capcom and originally titled Biohazard in Japan, Resident Evil helped to create the survival horror genre and was one of the first-ever scary video games. 

The series also has a lot of entries. There are eight mainline entries consisting of multiple remakes and remasters. But with this trusty guide by your side, you’ll have nothing to fear as I show you how and why you should get into the Resident Evil franchise.

Gameplay image from Resident Evil 2
Image Credit: Capcom

Why Should You Play Resident Evil?

  1. Resident Evil isn’t actually that scary. This statement is subjective, of course, but compared to other games, Resident Evil is mild. Some games aim to fill the player with so much dread and terror that they want to scream, run away, and never want to play the game again.  Resident Evil isn’t like that. There are moments where the player will get startled, but it’s scary in a way that a rollercoaster can be scary. You will go through stressful situations. But these games are more about the adrenaline rush and the thrill of overcoming tough and scary situations. In the process, you might feel like an awesome action hero, taking down some of the craziest foes ever.
  1. Resident Evil is actually funny. Intermixed with the spooky and intense moments are plenty of jokes and one-liners. Capcom knows that horror games can be overbearing. So, the developers put in many funny, bizarre, and outlandishly hilarious moments to undercut the tension and encourage the player to keep going. In fact, one of the most iconic entries in the series, Resident Evil 4, is also one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. Resident Evil walks on a razor’s edge, balancing the fine line between horror and humor, and it never cuts its feet in the process.
“Where’s everyone going? Bingo?!” - Leon S. Kennedy, Resident Evil 4
  1. Resident Evil features themes that aren’t heavy-handed. I’m not actually that big of a fan of horror movies or games. Part of this is because many entries in the horror genre feature weighty themes of religion, the occult, and the supernatural. I tend to shy away from these elements. Resident Evil does so as well. While Resident Evil is all about zombies, it never gets into the paranormal. Instead, the main bad guy of the franchise is an evil science company called Umbrella. Resident Evil’s main theme has always been about the dangers of unethical science and mega-corporations left unchecked, as Umbrella experiments with bio-weapons to disastrous ends. Pretty relevant if you ask me.
Gameplay image from Resident Evil 3.
Image Credit: Capcom
  1. Resident Evil features gameplay that is unique from many other video games. In this series, you must conserve ammo, learn to wisely manage your resources, solve intricate puzzles, and overcome towering enemies. Having to make every shot count has become a core tenet of many other survival horror games. But Resident Evil was one of the first games that popularized it. It’s far different from many other mainstream games that often give you abundant weapons and tools to make you feel powerful. In Resident Evil, you are often weak. This is a far cry from what many gamers are used to, and helps make these games so tense and worth checking out. 
  1. Resident Evil is beautiful. Even though horror often makes us recoil in fear, we also get a feeling of the sublime. Much like the art of H.R. Giger or the painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Casper David Friedrich, there’s something within us humans that makes us awe and wonder at the things that could kill us. Resident Evil understands this as well, as these games feature beautiful and surreal environments, locations, and music that are extraordinary. 
Gameplay image from Resident Evil Village
Image Credit: Capcom
  1. Resident Evil has lovable and amazing characters. These games have a wonderful cast of characters that constantly vary things up. There’s Jill Valentine, the combat-ready Sarah Connor-like action hero who doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone. There’s Leon S. Kennedy, the rookie cop turned secret service operative who loves his cheesy catchphrases. And there’s Chris Redfield, the tough, macho soldier who’s so muscular and brain-dead that he’ll punch a boulder just to get it moving. They are awesome, delightfully absurd, and also so cool. No wonder fans love them so much.

Original Resident Evil Games vs. the Remakes

As you get into this series, you will notice that many of the newer games are actually remakes of older titles. The most recent title, Resident Evil 4, is a remake of the 2005 game under the same name. 

This begs the question, “Should I play the original versions, or can I just play the newer remakes first?”

Gameplay image from the remake of Resident Evil 3.
Image Credit: Capcom

If you’re getting into the series for the first time, I recommend playing the remakes. Capcom has remade Resident Evils 1-4. The remakes are very faithful to the original games but change up the gameplay mechanics and controls to make them easier and more in line with modern gaming standards. Designers also tweaked many of the originals' frustrating elements to ensure newer audiences have smoother play sessions.

I’d still recommend playing the originals, but maybe after you get a sense of why this series is so special in the first place. The original games have unique design elements and mechanics that make them special. Elements like limited saving, fixed camera angles, and “tank controls” are all interesting and fun design choices that make these early games unique and different to play. For newer audiences, however, these design choices may distract from these games' other more important aspects.

Mainline Resident Evil Games

The Resident Evil series consists of eight mainline games. For simplicity, I’ll go through each of the games in chronological order. However, I don’t recommend playing the games in that order, especially if this is your first time in the series. Check out the section below, titled “Tips on Getting Started,” for which game I recommend starting with.

Image Credit: Capcom

Each Resident Evil game is unique. Although a relatively loose plot/storyline connects each game, what separates each game is its overall gameplay design. Some games play and feel radically different from one another. Some are more horror-focused, while others are more action-based.

It is possible to only play a select few of these games and still enjoy the franchise. Most will agree (including myself) that the series does vary in quality from game to game. But those who stick with it and play through every entry will be rewarded with an intriguing storyline that continues evolving and expanding with each title.

Here are the Resident Evil games starting from the very beginning:

Resident Evil

The original Resident Evil is a timeless classic for many reasons. It boasts an oppressive, gothic atmosphere surpassing any other horror game. It features thrilling scares that still cause players to jump in their seats. It has over-the-top characters and dialogue that keep it light-hearted and make this a fun haunted mansion joyride.

Cover of Resident Evil
Image Credit: Capcom

Released in 1996 on PlayStation 1, Resident Evil was later remade in 2002 for the GameCube. This is the version most widely known and available on modern consoles. It is available as the Resident Evil HD version.

The first Resident Evil game centers around a special forces group called S.T.A.R.S. The group consists of characters like Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker, many of whom became iconic within the annals of video games. This S.T.A.R.S. group investigates a string of bizarre murders outside of a fictional town called Raccoon City. What eventually transpires is a trudge through a spooky and deadly mansion filled with zombies, traps, giant snakes, and spiders.

“It’s a good thing I came when I did. You almost became a Jill-sandwich.” - Barry Burton to Jill Valentine after saving her from a collapsing room, Resident Evil

You can find many of the series' foundational pillars here. Limited inventory, corny characters and dialogue, extravagant puzzles, and labyrinthine mazes all eventually became part of the series' DNA. However, the game also features somewhat dated gameplay designs, such as fixed camera angles and “tank controls.” This means that the camera is at a fixed position and angle. Players control the character as if viewing them from a security camera.

The early Resident Evil games utilized this gameplay element. While it may seem disorientating for newer, modern gamers, it presents a different feeling and experience rarely replicated in newer games today. It provides a cinematic feeling as if there’s nothing much you can do but watch the horror unfold.

Resident Evil 2

After laying the foundations for what was to come, Resident Evil 2 improved upon every aspect of the original. It features a more robust and darker story. The shooting and puzzle-solving aspects are much more fleshed out. And the characters, environments, and enemies are much more nuanced. While Resident Evil is the beloved original that started it all, Resident Evil 2 is the game that burst the series forward.

Resident Evil 2 cover
Image Credit: Capcom

Originally created in 1998, a critically acclaimed remake followed in 2019. Players take on the roles of Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield (sister of Chris Redfield from the first game), who find themselves in a zombie outbreak in zombie-infested Raccoon City. Leon is the by-the-book rookie cop who pairs up with the secretive and seductive Ada Wong, who are both looking to uncover the origins of this great evil. Meanwhile, Claire is searching for her brother, Chris, who has gone missing. But she encounters and saves a young girl named Sherry, also caught up in the danger.

Resident Evil 2 is much scarier and more grim than the first. While the game still has a few laughs along the way, Resident Evil 2 is a tense thrill ride. Thanks to frightening enemies like the Lickers and the juggernaut-like foe, Mr. X, the game keeps you on the edge of your seats. The game is much more expansive as it moves into Raccoon City itself, where players will explore wider areas. The story and characters are also more complex, with characters and storylines that carry many secrets.

“Ada, WAIT!” - Leon S. Kennedy, Resident Evil 2

The game is also highly replayable. It will take two play-throughs to experience both Leon’s and Claire’s stories. I recommend starting as Leon, then going through the game again as Claire the second time. But, the game also features a different storyline for those who play as Claire first. In total, there are four different ways to play this game, making it so much fun to go back to again and again.

Resident Evil 3

If Resident Evil 2 is the Alien of the series, then Resident Evil 3 is Aliens. It is much more action-packed. It is flamboyant and resplendent compared to what’s come before. And for some, this is what makes Resident Evil 3 their favorite, even if it somewhat “plays it safe.”

Released in 1999 as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, a remake came out in 2020. Resident Evil is a series that loves switching protagonists between games. And it’s the same here as Resident Evil 3 returns to female action-hero Jill Valentine. Jill is much more hardened and much more combat-capable than she was in the first Resident Evil. In Resident Evil 3, she’s left her squad behind. Now she’s on the run as the titanic Umbrella-created monster Nemesis hunts her and her former S.T.A.R.S. members down. Along the way, Jill will also run up against Carlos Oliveira, an agent working for Umbrella. Even though he seems to be working for the bad guys, Carlos appears to be different and turns out to have a good heart.

Resident Evil 3 cover
Image Credit: Capcom

Resident Evil is known for changing its gameplay design between games. However, from Resident Evil 2 to 3, the gameplay isn’t that drastically different. In many ways, Resident Evil 3 is a bit more like a 2.5 version (it was even considered as such behind the scenes). The story provides a bit more context to the events of Resident Evil 2. Players are still shooting many of the same zombies and exploring similar areas. However, this time there are more zombies, the environments are more colorful, and you can dodge and set off environmental traps.

“You want S.T.A.R.S.; I’ll give you stars. *BANG*” - Jill Valentine, Resident Evil 3

While Resident Evil constantly evolves with each mainline entry,Resident Evil 3 doesn’t change the formula much from Resident Evil 2. In some ways, that’s why many people enjoy this game; it feels like an expansion to Resident Evil 2. Yet, even the game’s detractors agree that it features some amazing action sequences and one of the greatest one-liners of all time.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 is not only one of the best Resident Evil games there is, it’s also one of the best games ever made. Resident Evil 4 changed the gaming landscape by introducing the third-person, over-the-shoulder camera angle. This means that the camera is right behind the main character, and you see (and aim at and shoot at) whatever the character sees. It’s also a game that deftly combines action and horror, riding the line between both genres. This fusion of genres and its camera angle is what helped inspire future important titles like Bioshock, Dead Space, and The Last of Us.

Cover of Resident Evil 4
Image Credit: Capcom

Returning to Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 2, Leon is much older and now working as a special operations agent for the U.S. government. The President’s daughter has been kidnapped, and it's up to Leon to venture into a remote country in Europe to track her down. Along the way, he’ll reunite with a love from his past, Ada Wong, who’s just as secretive as she was before. But a lot’s changed for Leon. He, too, is more combat-capable and is also packing a lot more one-liners this time around.

“Perhaps you are disillusioned with overconfidence just because you killed my small-time subordinate?” “Saddler, YOU'RE small-time.” - Leon S. Kennedy to Osmund Saddler, Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 is both funny and scary, action-packed yet nerve-wracking, goofy yet serious. It’s a game that’ll make you laugh hysterically but also scream when enemies jump out at you. And that’s what makes it so great. The blending of genres and the camrea's point of view inspired other developers to combine genres and change perspectives as well. It inspired the developers of Bioshock to combine sci-fi with philosophy. It inspired Gears of War to create their own take on action and sci-fi horror. It inspired Dead Space to do horror in space. Two of these three games utilize third-person cameras.

There’s a reason why Resident Evil 4 is always placed highly on “best video games of all time” lists. It is the epitome of a non-stop roller coaster joyride. By balancing genres and opposing tones, Resident Evil 4 is an addictive and wild time that’s so much fun to play.

Resident Evil 5

Most fans will agree that the series slumps in quality after Resident Evil 4. While Resident Evil 5 and 6 still have fans, developer Capcom leaned heavily into the action side of the series . It’s only with Resident Evil 7 that the series becomes scary again. Resident Evil 5 is still fun, especially when played with a friend. However, it arguably loses some of the series's horror elements.

Cover of Resident Evil 5
Image Credit: Capcom

Resident Evil 5 features the return of Chris Redfield as the main character. Chris goes on a mission to West Africa, where he is joined by Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) partner, Sheva Alomar, to stop a parasitical threat. But Chris isn’t the only returning character, as Resident Evil 5 brings back fan-favorite characters such as Jill Valentine and comical bad guy Albert Wesker.

Resident Evil 5 is different in that it features cooperative play. That means someone else can pick up the controller and play as Chris or Sheva alongside you. This can make for some hilarious moments of hijinx and sabotage as both players perform ridiculous feats against unbelievable foes.

Again, however, Resident Evil 5 can be a bit too much for some fans. It’s very light on the scares. And the characters can be so absurd. Albert Wesker essentially becomes Agent Smith from The Matrix, dodging and teleporting away from bullets, all while keeping his shades on. Jill Valentine is very different from who we see in Resident Evil 3. And Chris Redfield is so much of a muscle-head that in order to move a boulder out of the way, he starts punching it. 

“Chris, millions will die.” “Well, yeah, BUT ...!” – Chris Redfield to Jill Valentine, Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 and 6 have not been remade yet. But if they do, these two games will probably receive the most changes. Resident Evil 5 can still be fun, but for the die-hard purists, Resident Evil 5 may swing towards the side of “too over-the-top.”

Resident Evil 6

Even though Resident Evil 6 is often labeled “the worst of the mainline entries,” the game still sold fairly well. Capcom found increasing popularity with its most recent Resident Evil titles as the series went more toward the action side. It’s true that by ditching its horror roots, more casual audiences were willing to give Resident Evil 6 a try. But while some may argue that Resident Evil 6 is not that bad of an action game, most everyone will agree that it's not a “Resident Evil game."

Cover of Resident Evil 6
Image Credit: Capcom

Resident Evil 6 features an eclectic gathering of the biggest characters in the series so far. Leon, Ada, and Chris are all here and get moments to interact with one another. However, Resident Evil 6 has a variety of new characters you can also control.

Part of what makes Resident Evil 6 less well-received is how convoluted it is. It features multiple storylines (four in total) of varying quality. It also features combat that feels out of place in Resident Evil. Before this, Resident Evil had characters punching and kicking zombies, but the main focus was still on shooting, which was relatively believable. In Resident Evil 6, characters perform gun kata as if they came out of Equilibrium, dual-wield pistols, have nearly unlimited ammo, and perform kung-fu-like moves.

Some say Resident Evil 6 is a fun action game, especially if you have someone to play and laugh with. But not everyone feels it's true to Resident Evil’s survival horror roots. When Capcom first announced this game, one of the first clips they showed was of Leon and his partner, Helena, running away from a tsunami of exploding cars on a highway. One car would explode, and then another one, until it was just a tsunami of explosions. I think that tells you all you need to know about the game.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

In Resident Evil 6, the pendulum swung far towards the action side of the series. In Resident Evil 7, the pendulum swung far back in the other direction towards the horror side. Five years after Resident Evil 6, developer Capcom was in a bad financial state as many of their famous franchises seemed dead. But Resident Evil 7 re-zombified (no pun intended) the series — and the company — back to life and brought the series back to its horror roots. Some criticize the game for being “too scary.” But I think that makes this game so unique and why it’s my second favorite in the series.

Cover of Resident Evil 7
Image Credit: Capcom

Even though the game has “Resident Evil” in its title, it is only loosely connected to the rest of the series. Serving as a sort of reboot, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard sees relative nobody, Ethan Winters, searching for his missing wife in a treacherous Louisiana bayou. Journeying into it, Ethan discovers a family residence full of frightening people. The story draws heavily from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other iconic horror titles like Saw and Candyman.

Resident Evil 7 also drew inspiration from other contemporary horror games that rose in the series’s absence. Inspired by games like Outlast and Amnesia, Resident Evil 7 switches from the third-person camera to a first-person camera. The player sees right through the eyes of Ethan Winters and gets up close and personal with the scares. 

And wow, is this scary! Each member of the Baker family possesses different horrific skills. From the constantly regenerating Jack Baker to the insect queen Marguerite Baker, each menacing foe will have your skin crawling.

Resident Evil 7 is definitely the scariest in the series. But if you can brave it, it’s also an amazing and gripping game that holds you from start to finish. Resident Evil 7 is a true celebration of the series and its roots. It will leave you breathless, right up until the haunting and beautiful rendition of the eerie folk song “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.”

Resident Evil: Village

Resident Evil: Village is the eighth and most recent entry in the Resident Evil series. Following the heels of Resident Evil 7, it continues the story of Ethan Winters and his wife, Mia. Their daughter has been taken captive by a demented religious group, and Ethan must trek to a snowy village to save her. The game also features even more twists on horror classics, including its own versions of werewolves, vampires, and haunted dolls.

Cover of Resident Evil Village
Image Credit: Capcom

Resident Evil: Village plays out a lot like its predecessors. The player, as Ethan Winters, has to take down members of another family to save a loved one. The game is more open this time, with even larger areas to explore and a shop to purchase and upgrade weapons. It’s also much less terrifying as the series shifts back to something more temperate and invokes more humor.

But the game still has its fair share of scares. Most notably, one section has Ethan battling through a haunted house filled with possessed dolls. The game also has iconic villains, the most famous being the sultry and domineering tall vampire Lady Dimitrescu. The internet couldn’t get enough of Lady Dimitrescu, and for good reason. Actress Maggie Robertson delivered an award-winning performance as this character.

“Lycans and gentlemen, we thank you for waiting! And now, let the games begin!” – Karl Heisenberg, Resident Evil Village

If you play this game, I highly recommend the additional story expansion, Resident Evil Village: Shadow of Rose. Set many years after the base game, the story expansion focuses on a much older Rose (Ethan’s daughter). Having grown up, she must return to the village to overcome her former demons. This expansion is also even scarier than the base game for all those who felt Resident Evil: Village wasn’t scary enough. Yet, it also has some of the most haunting and gothically beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen in any visual media. Shadow of Rose is an essential epilogue that wraps up the Winters storyline.

Getting Started With Resident Evil

  • Start with Resident Evil 2 (2019). The Resident Evil 2 remake is the best place to jump on board as it introduces many key characters like Leon S. Kennedy, Ada Wong, and Claire Redfield. It also preserves and updates many of the elements of the original that may seem “outdated.” Aspects like ammo preservation, limited carrying space, and elaborate puzzles are all here but tweaked slightly to preserve that same feeling from the original.
Ada from Resident Evil 2
Image Credit: Capcom
  • Play it in the dark. This might seem like a “no-brainer,” but it’s worth mentioning. Playing it during the daytime just doesn’t produce that same feeling. Resident Evil features some amazing lightwork that drenches some areas in the blackest of blacks. So, to truly appreciate and feel the tension and horror, playing it in the dark is an absolute must.

  • These games go on sale frequently. Fortunately, you can usually buy almost all these games at a discounted price. I’ve seen many available for $20 or even less. Try picking them up during these sales. I’ve also seen these games available on certain subscription libraries (like PlayStation Plus Extra), which is another way to play these. However, I recommend owning these games as doing so lets you download the next-gen updates that enhance the visuals for the newer systems. Playing these games off of subscription services might not guarantee this luxury.

  • Save your bullets; avoiding zombies is often better than confronting them. For some gamers, it’s natural instinct to open fire at the first sight of an enemy. But in Resident Evil, health and ammo come scarcely. And zombies often are bullet sponges, taking multiple shots to incapacitate. Even worse, you might take a hit in the process. Especially in the older titles, it’s best to avoid zombies or lure them away from important areas before slipping past them. If you have to confront them, either aim for the head or save a few bullets by aiming for the legs and slowing them down.
Resident Evil gameplay.
Image Credit: Capcom
  • Save your game often and create multiple different save files. While this doesn’t necessarily apply to the older titles where the game limits how often you can save, saving frequently in the newer titles is good practice. That’s because you will often die or miss an important item. When you save often, death isn’t as punishing as you won’t have lost much progress. And if you do miss an item, reloading a recent save means you won’t have to go back as far to retrieve it.

Resident Evil: Da Bomb of Horror Game Hot Sauce

I love buffalo wings. For me, the hotter the better. Whenever I order buffalo wings, I always order the hottest possible ones. I’ve even tried some of the sauces (including Da Bomb Beyond Insanity) used on the popular YouTube show Hot Ones, just for fun.

When I eat buffalo wings, I know I’m going to suffer. My mouth is going to burn. I’m going to sweat massive bullets. And I’m going to need lots of water. 

So why do I enjoy it? It’s an intense adrenaline rush that pushes my body out of my comfort zone. I get an intense joy rush from handling situations I’m not used to.

Image from Resident Evil 3
Image Credit: Capcom

And it’s the same with Resident Evil. I know I’m going to be in uncomfortable situations. I know I’ll face hordes of zombies and scary monsters. I know I’ll probably scream and die in-game a couple of times. But that’s the fun part! It’s being put in uncomfortable and challenging situations and finding elaborate and clever ways to get through them. It gets your heart pumping. And it’s thrilling.

Thankfully, Resident Evil is also not overbearing. There are moments when the game will encourage you and, thankfully, pick you back up with a laugh or a moment of respite. It helps you keep going. And I’m here to tell you to “keep going” as well, as the series is filled with amazing characters, storylines, laughs, corny dialogue, and, yes, scares that are so different from any other game series out there.