Update: In recognition of the release of the 2023 Resident Evil 4 remake, we’ve updated our ranking to take into account Leon S. Kennedy’s parasite-filled trip through the Spanish countryside. To see how the remake fares against the rest of the series—including its source game—click on through and see where Capcom’s latest ultimately lands.
Although 1996's Resident Evil wasn’t the first big entry in the annals of video game horror—co-creator Tokuro Fujiwara lifted plenty of elements from his own 1989 Famicom game Sweet Home, and designers like Infocom, Human Entertainment, and more had been mining the gaming potential of fear for years—it has proven to be its most prolific, and probably its most influential. Because while you can argue that, say, Konami’s Silent Hill franchise has had higher highs, or that individual games like Amnesia or Alien: Isolation have produced more potent scares, no gaming franchise has covered a wider gamut of the horror experience than Capcom’s zombie/Ganado/creepy moss monster-slaying series.
From first-person haunted house games to action-heavy run-and-gunners and light gun shooters, the roughly 30 games in the Resident Evil canon have varied wildly, in both focus and, to be frank, quality, over the past two-and-a-half decades. And thus the genesis for this ranking, which tackles the 12 main series titles and their various remakes (along with one Dreamcast-centric also-ran as an honorable mention), asking which games came the closest to living up to Resident Evil’s true potential. Are the remakes better than the originals? Can Resident Evil 4's hyper-influential action gameplay win out over more traditional scares? And which game is worse: Resident Evil 5 or Resident Evil 6?
Step up to that spooky door, let the creepy loading animation play … and let’s find out.