Throughout its 20-year history, Resident Evil has retained an endearing quality. Like the campy B-movies it cribs from, even when it’s bad it’s kind of good. It’s not the most consistent series, but it frequently shows enough flashes of brilliance that you can’t help but follow along with it, trying to figure out just how this whole virus thing started and why Albert Wesker is such a jerk. I may not always like the games themselves, but I will always root for the series as a whole. And that’s because whether it’s as a thrill ride or a trainwreck, you usually get something out of playing a Resident Evil game.
Between all the zombies, viruses, Nemeses, evil corporations and right hands that come off, there’s a lot of Resident Evil to wade through, but we managed to rank every game in the franchise from worst to best.
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21. Resident Evil Gaiden (GBC, 2002): Despite starring Leon S. Kennedy, this weird spin-off for the Game Boy Color feels nothing like a Resident Evil game. With its top-down view, it looks like a classic Capcom game for the NES with a Resident Evil overlay, and although that might sound exciting, it's ruined by some of the worst and most inexplicable combat you'll ever find in a game. Instead of letting you dispatch zombies from that overhead angle, the game cuts to a static first-person view, where you have to time a button press with a meter that darts back and forth on the bottom of the screen. It's a total slog.
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20. Resident Evil: Survivor (PS, PC, 2000): Survivor tried to ride the coattails of the hottest videogame craze of the late '90s, repurposing familiar enemies from the first two Resident Evil games in a first-person shooter. Although designed for a light gun peripheral, the version released in the States removed that option due to fears over game violence in the wake of Columbine, resulting in a game that was sluggish and hard to play. There was a sequel a year later that spun out of Code Veronica, and Survivor's reception was so negative in the States that the follow-up was never released over here.
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19. Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (DS, 2006): As a handheld port of the original game, Deadly Silence is fine. It fails to bring anything interesting to the table, though, despite trying hard to do so. It introduces a few new wrinkles and concepts built around the peculiar capabilities of the DS, but all they do is unnecessarily complicate a classic.
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18. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PS3, 360, PC, 2012): Not a great game by any means, this multiplayer mess is an action-oriented third-person shooter that puts you and partners in control of a squad of Umbrella Corporation mercenaries during the initial Raccoon City outbreak. So you're the bad guys in a barebones action game that feels like a thinly veiled cash-in. With the right team Operation Raccoon City could be fun, but mostly it's worth skipping.
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17. Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 (PS2, 2005): An expansion for the online-focused Outbreak, Outbreak: File #2 suffers only because it feels like more of the same. With the same playable characters possessing the same basic skills as the first game, these five new missions are basically a DLC pack printed on a disc and sold separately due to the limitations of the day. If this came out even a year later for the Xbox 360, it would be a downloadable expansion and not a disc. Like Outbreak, it's surprisingly fun, but not particularly memorable.
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16. Resident Evil: Dead Aim (PS2, 2003): A cut above the earlier light gun shooters based on Resident Evil, Dead Aim combines third-person motion with first-person shooting for a weird hybrid experience. It's an odd little aside, but not as fun or fully formed as the later light gun games for the Wii.
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15. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (3DS, 2011): The Mercenaries turns a popular minigame from Resident Evil 4 and 5 into its own handheld experience, one where you have to kill as many zombies as possible within a set time limit. It's another spin-off that borrows the look and feel of Resident Evil for a limited, specific and different type of game, but at least it's a concept that's already familiar to Evil fans.
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14. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii, PS3, 2009): The second on-rails shooter for the Wii catches players up on two of the earlier Resident Evil games, offering both expanded takes on previous scenes as well as new perspectives from other characters. It's a fun and simple shoot-'em-up that loses a lot of the creepiness inherent to these games, but if you miss old-school arcade light gun shooters, or just want to experience as much of that Resident Evil atmosphere as possible, you'll probably enjoy it.
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13. Resident Evil 6 (PS3, 360, PC, 2012): Resident Evil 6 was an inflated, boisterous monster of a game. Crammed with fan service for every kind of Resident Evil game from the original to Resident Evil 4, it ran for over 30 hours across four campaigns, which intertwined with each other on occasion. It had an impressive control scheme that gave its combat a surprising amount of depth, and its graphics are still some of the most impressive of the last generation. But all the fan service and control nuance was wasted on levels designed so poorly, combat encounters so frustrating and a story so insipid that finishing it became an absolute slog. It had everything I could have wanted from a Resident Evil, and it still ended up breaking my heart. It's not the worst game in the series, but it's definitely its most grandiose failure.
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12. Resident Evil Outbreak (PS2, 2004): The first Resident Evil game that could go online, Outbreak brought co-op to survival horror. Placing you and your partners at the start of the zombie scourge, Outbreak offered a novel spin on a formula that was already well-defined by then. Instead of watching your friend struggle through Raccoon City, you could now pick up a controller and help out—as long as you had a broadband connection.