For over 25 years, the Resident Evil franchise has been the premier name in horror gaming. Across that time, the series has delivered scares, thrills, and a series of stories that have gradually formed one of the most complicated and bizarre mythologies in all of gaming.
While there are a few somewhat forgettable Resident Evil stories, I find that the average Resident Evil story tends to be either bafflingly bad or the kind of narrative that helped to redefine the genre. Furthermore, you can easily lose your mind trying to keep up with the Resident Evil franchise’s ever-expanding lore and the various ways the many games in the franchise connect to each other. If you’ve ever lost yourself in that twisted timeline, you may even discover that it can be difficult to properly separate one Resident Evil story from another and judge them on their own merits.
However, that’s what we’re going to try to do today. Before we dive into this list, though, there are a few important rules to consider.
- This list only includes the Resident Evil games. That means movies, TV shows, and any other multimedia spin-offs were not eligible.
- While I typically like to only include canonical games in these kinds of articles, the Resident Evil canon is…a giant mess. As such, I’ve decided to embrace a looser definition of the canon that includes a longer list of games. If it’s any consolation, canonical bubble candidates (Resident Evil Survivor 2 and Umbrella Corps) which are not on this list would have been ranked at or near the bottom of it.
- I tried to judge each Resident Evil story based on its own merits rather than what it contributes to (or how it contradicts) the franchise mythology. That means that separately released supplementary material related to certain games was not accounted for in these rankings and that the standalone quality of a game’s story was ultimately the most important factor.
- Finally, original games and their remakes/remasters are grouped together for the purposes of this list. While some of those remakes/remasters feature expanded or altered story elements, I ultimately felt that none of those expanded and altered elements were significant enough to justify wildly different rankings.
With that out of the way, here is every Resident Evil video game story ranked worst to best.
18. Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Umbrella Chronicles is one of those games that almost didn’t make the list. After all, three of the four scenarios in this light gun shooter essentially re-tell the events of previous Resident Evil games. However, the significance of the game’s one original scenario (which sees Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker infiltrate a secret Umbrella facility) does arguably earn this a spot in this particular conversation.
While that scenario actually helps fill a couple of gaps in RE lore by showing the events that led to the global exposure of Umbrella’s secrets, the whole thing is a mess. I used to refer to the quality of the scenario’s writing as “second-grade fan fiction,” but to be honest with you, most second-grade fan fiction ends up being more charming than this game’s only original scenario. Even those who enjoy that over-the-top, sci-fi-fuelled style of Resident Evil storytelling will struggle to find any joy in this one.
17. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Much like The Umbrella Chronicles, The Darkside Chronicles is a light gun shooter that largely retells the events of previous Resident Evil games and concludes with an original scenario. Generally speaking, I feel like The Darkside Chronicles does a better job of handling those repurposed scenarios and making them feel a little more “fun.” More importantly, I think that this game’s original scenario is slightly more interesting and general better told than the one seen in The Umbrella Chronicles.
While The Darkside Chronicle’s final scenario (which follows Jack Krauser and Leon Kennedy as they infiltrate Javier Hidalgo’s headquarters) is short and relatively simple, it does a decent job of expanding Krauser’s role in the RE mythology while making him feel like more of an actual character. Again, it’s not brilliant by any means, but if we’re splitting hairs for the purposes of these rankings, this one gets the slight nod.
16. Resident Evil Outbreak
Generally speaking, Resident Evil Outbreak doesn’t get enough love. Sure, it was rough around the edges, but what do you expect from an online multiplayer Resident Evil game that was trying to make the most out of the PlayStation 2’s notoriously underwhelming online technology?
Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t have much of a story to talk about. It basically features the relatively simple adventures of a group of survivors just trying to escape Racoon City. While I genuinely enjoy elements of this game’s basic narrative compared to the insanity that would follow in future Resident Evil games, this title’s plot is closer to a series of events rather than the kind of narrative that makes you wonder what will happen next.
15. Resident Evil Outbreak File #2
Much like its predecessor, Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 focuses on a group of survivors just trying to escape a nightmare scenario. Unlike its predecessor, File #2 actually offers a story that you might remember after you’ve finally put the game down.
While this online game’s overarching narrative is still pretty weak, it’s the quality of this game’s individual scenarios that stands out all these years later. Each section of this game does a respectable job of offering a setting or series of events that feel distinct from the rest of the adventure (the zombified zoo section is an especially notable highlight). Again, there’s a lot of wasted potential in this game’s storytelling, but the potential is certainly there.
14. Resident Evil: Dead Aim
This 2002 light gun shooter tells the story of a special task force that must infiltrate an ocean liner that has been overrun by T-Virus monstrosities. While this game shares a surprising number of connections with the numerical Resident Evil games, it largely functions as a standalone story that soon proves to be much more substantial than what you’d probably expect to find in a light gun Resident Evil game.
I really struggled with how to rank this one. While I actually think Dead Aim is generally underrated, I’d be lying if I said that this shooter’s story is the thing that elevates it. I love the sections on the ship, and some of the new characters and plot twists are certainly interesting, but this game ultimately struggles to make the most out of its intriguing set-up. This game’s plot just runs out of gas before it ever finds its identity.
13. Resident Evil: Revelations
This is where the ranking start to get tough.
Revelations follows BSAA agents Jill Valentine and Parker Luciani as they investigate the ruins of a city that was previously attacked by the bioterrorist organization, Il Veltro. Along the way, they’ll encounter some old friends, new enemies, and a twisting plot that can most generally be described as…complicated.
I respect this game’s attempts at an intrigue-filled espionage adventure, but the sad fact of the matter is that this whole thing ends up being an example of convoluted, global-scale, geopolitical RE storytelling at its worst. Even if you’re able to look past the game’s most gaping plot holes (which include most aspects of its central premise), you’ll be left with a story that is more interested in “twists” than it is in making sense of even its most basic plot points. This is an ambitious mess, but it’s still a mess.
12. Resident Evil 6
Speaking of convoluted messes…
In all seriousness, I know that Resident Evil 6 has its fans, and I can genuinely see why. This is a truly wild game that functions as the Resident Evil franchise’s great “epic.” It not only combines several styles of Resident Evil gameplay (as well as some gameplay ideas borrowed from other popular games at the time) but even attempts to combine nearly every Resident Evil protagonist up until that point as well as their respective and shared plotlines.
Look beyond this game’s ambition and many meme moments, and you’ll likely find a story that proves to be both surprisingly pedestrian and truly confounding. This game’s story should have served as the culmination of the franchise’s lore up until that point. Instead, it haphazardly wraps previous plot elements around last-minute narrative revelations that were clearly shoehorned in to get everything under control but fail to do just that. As a bit of “WTF?” storytelling that will give lore hounds plenty to unpack, Resident Evil 6 is certainly interesting. As a story that you’re meant to play through and enjoy, it falls short of nearly all of its goals.
11. Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Revelations 2’s ambitious story is actually split across two timelines. The first, which takes place in the relative past, follows Claire Redfield and Moira Burton as they navigate the aftermath of a bizarre kidnapping. The second timeline sees Barry Burton trying to figure out what happened to his daughter after an unconscious Claire is found floating in the ocean.
While Moira soon proves to be a fairly annoying character and Claire doesn’t quite get the adventure she deserves, Revelations 2’s story still manages to be surprisingly effective. It’s clear that the writers love Barry as much as some RE fans do, and his attempts to rescue his daughter offer the kind of emotional and fundamentally human plotline that is often missing in other RE games. Granted, the whole thing is still built upon the bad dialog and questionable twists that this franchise is known for, but there really is something special underneath this game’s obvious narrative shortcomings.
10. Resident Evil Zero
The appropriately named Resident Evil essentially serves as a prequel/side story to the original Resident Evil. It follows Rebecca Chambers and a convict named Billy Coen as they navigate a stalled train owned by the Umbrella Corporation. As they go along, they uncover some horrifying information that helps set up the events of the first Resident Evil and the rest of the franchise.
Resident Evil Zero really does belong near the middle of this list. As a prequel, it was always going to struggle with the fact that we essentially know where this story is eventually going to end up. Even then, the game does itself no favors in terms of the more standalone plot points it tries to introduce. Billy soon proves to be a somewhat forgettable character, and the game’s villains feel like the afterthought that the rest of the franchise pretty much treats them as.
Still, there are quite a few aspects of this game’s narrative that work surprisingly well as you’re experiencing them. Rebecca’s story is pretty good, some of the Umbrella mythology this game reveals is genuinely interesting, and there are a lot of memorable smaller moments along the way. This game’s story rarely does more than “work,” but it often does that.
9. Resident Evil 5
Set five years after the events of Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5 follows new BSAA agent Chris Redfield as he navigates the African village of Kijuju in an attempt to capture a dangerous bio-weapon dealer. Soon, though, Chris finds himself dealing with some old threats and new threats as he gradually learns that he’s a small part of a global plot.
Resident Evil 5 falls short in a lot of areas, but the game’s story is genuinely fascinating. Honestly, I think that this is the closest Resident Evil ever came to figuring out how to turn its globe-spanning story of political intrigue and faction conflicts into something genuinely compelling. Even if you’re not enamored with that part of the franchise’s lore, you’ll likely find yourself drawn into the way this game turns an isolated nightmare into a story that touches upon nearly every aspect of the RE universe.
The big problem with this game’s story is that it barely even tries to tap into the franchise’s horror roots. RE 5 offers a pretty good story for what is essentially an action game, but its strange refusal to embrace more traditional horror elements means that it falls sadly short of its true potential.
8. Resident Evil Survivor
Not long after the destruction of Raccoon City, a pilot crashes his helicopter on a strange island owned by the Umbrella Corporation. With no memory of who he is, where he is, or what is going on, the pilot must find a way to escape the island and fight off the waves of undead that now inhabit it.
Survivor’s off-rails light gun gameplay didn’t exactly win a lot of fans when this game was released in 2000, but this spin-off’s story is truly fascinating. Get past the tired amnesia trope, and you’ll find that this game’s story is filled with genuinely surprising twists that expertly connect it to the main Resident Evil games. Even better, this game’s branching paths let you alter the progression of that plot in ways that even larger RE games haven’t attempted.
While there are other Resident Evil games that ultimately have more story to offer than this game provides, Survivor deserves a lot more love than it usually gets.
7. Resident Evil Village
The latest Resident Evil game picks up about three years after the events of Resident Evil 7. Mia and Ethan are enjoying a seemingly peaceful life that is dramatically interrupted when Chris Redfield and his team invade their house, kill Mia, and kidnap Ethan and his daughter, Rosemary. Soon, Ethan finds himself in the middle of a small village overseen by ancient houses ruled over by monstrous figures. Can he find his daughter and figure out what the hell is going on?
Resident Evil Village may feature the best set-up in Resident Evil history. The events involving Mia and Rosemary are obviously shocking, but your first hour or so in the game’s titular village soon steals the show. Fans of gothic horror will instantly recognize and appreciate the design inspiration and themes of the village, while everyone can appreciate the effectiveness of the game’s earliest scares, shocks, and story beats. It’s an incredible premise that plays with our expectations of what kind of horror a Resident Evil game can deliver.
Sadly, Village just can’t maintain its early momentum. While the trip through Lady Dimitrescu’s castle is undeniably compelling, Village’s plot soon limps towards an underwhelming finale. While there are some interesting lore tidbits spread throughout the game for those willing to find them, Village ultimately treads too much familiar ground, tries some late-in-the-game tonal shifts that just don’t land, and generally fails to make the most out of a promising set-up that hinted at a Resident Evil game like no other.
6. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4’s memorable opening sees Leon Kennedy escorted into an unidentified village in Spain in order to rescue the president’s daughter from a deadly cult. Try not to be surprised, but he soon discovers that even that perilous situation is not quite what it seems.
Story-wise, there are some fans who feel that Resident Evil 4 marks the moment when the franchise’s lore started to go off the rails. Even some of this game’s supporters feel that Resident Evil 4 struggles to balance its various tones as well as find a proper home for its various new characters and concepts. I think those are all valid criticism.
However, I also think that some of those criticisms ignore or downplay how thrilling Resident Evil 4’s story is as you’re experiencing it. You can poke holes in this game’s plot in retrospect, but on a moment-to-moment basis, Resident Evil 4’s narrative offers some of the most thrilling, shocking, and genuinely engaging moments in the franchise’s history. Plus, I personally think that this game finds a nice balance between “cheese” and genuine engaging drama and mystery.
5. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis(1999)/Resident Evil 3 (2020)
Resident Evil 3’s odd plot takes place before, during, and after the events of Resident Evil 2. It’s basically a side story that follows Jill Valentine as she tries to escape Racoon City while avoiding the Nemesis: a deadly new Umbrella creation designed to hunt and kill the members of the S.T.A.R.S. team.
As you can probably tell from its place on this list, I love Resident Evil 3’s story. Call it simple or small compared to some of the other Resident Evil games (it is), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the context of a franchise that has historically struggled to contain its ever-growing narrative, there’s something to be said for the intimacy of Resident Evil 3’s story and how it makes the most out of a few characters, a few locations, and the simple goal of getting the hell out of town.
Of course, the star of the show is the Nemesis. The feeling of constantly being hunted by the Nemesis in this game is never less than terrifying, and that creature’s presence lends this game an almost slasher movie-like vibe that feels truly special. This is just an exceptional pure horror narrative.
4. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica
Following the events of Resident Evil 2, Claire Redfield invades an Umbrella facility in Paris as part of her ongoing search for her brother, Chris. She’s eventually caught and sent to a high-security prison located on Rockfort Island. There, she soon discovers that an outbreak of the T-virus has turned the island into a warzone. As she tries to escape, she stumbles upon a new companion (Steve Burnside) and elements of Umbrella’s history that were perhaps better left in the dark.
Veronica may be the most divisive Resident Evil game in terms of its story. Some fans can’t get past its terrible voice acting (even if it is wonderfully bad at times) and others feel that this is the game that really leaned into the corniness of the previous Resident Evil games and aimed to go as far over-the-top as possible. For me, though, I actually think this game forms a fascinating bridge between two eras of Resident Evil storytelling.
Nearly every enjoyably absurd moment in Code Veronica is balanced by genuinely compelling lore reveals, some surprisingly emotional character moments, and even just some fantastic callbacks to the previous games in the franchise. Look beyond this game’s obvious production value problems, and you’ll find one of the RE franchise’s most ambitious and successful attempts to tell a story that is outlandish, heartfelt, and, at times, genuinely creepy.
3. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
One day, Ethan Winters receives a letter from his wife, Mia, who has actually been missing for the last three years. Due to presumably having never played any of the Silent Hill games, Ethan decides to venture deep into the Louisana bayou in search of the love of his life. Instead, he finds a family that is all-too-eager to welcome him.
Resident Evil 7 didn’t just bring the RE franchise back to its horror roots; it offered a fascinating somewhat standalone horror story that drew clear (and welcome) inspirations from films like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While there isn’t a lot of plot in the opening hours of this game, this is one of those instances where the storytelling matters more than the size or scope of the narrative itself. You will be compelled to see what happens to Ethan next even if you’re too scared to see what is around the next corner.
While Resident Evil 7’s ending sadly fails to make the most of its incredible opening hours, you could genuinely argue that the first three-quarters of this game offers the scariest, most compelling, and best-told story in Resident Evil history.
2. Resident Evil (1996)/Resident Evil (2002)
The Alpha Team of the Raccoon City Police Department’s elite S.T.A.R.S. unit is sent to investigate a mysterious series of occurrences on the outskirts of town as well as the disappearance of their Bravo team members. What they find instead forces them to take refuge in a nearby mansion. There, they will discover horror and revelations the likes of which they could never imagine.
For as much as I enjoy some of Resident Evil’s most ridiculous moments on some level, I truly believe the series is at its storytelling best when the Resident Evil writers are keeping things relatively simple. The original Resident Evil was really the story of a mysterious mansion in the woods and the horrible things that happen to the elite group of operatives who enter it. It’s a classic horror set-up forged by love and executed to perfection.
More importantly, the game uses that simple set-up as the basis for some surprisingly complex lore and shocking twists. Resident Evil happens to feature some of the deepest and most fascinating pieces of mythology in the entire franchise, but it never beats you over the head with it. That’s a big part of the reason why it’s such an exceptional early example of horror storytelling that stands up to this day.
1. Resident Evil 2 (1998)/Resident Evil 2 (2019)
Just two months after the events of Resident Evil, Raccoon City has become a zombie-infested warzone. In the midst of the madness are rookie cop Leon Kennedy and future franchise favorite, Claire Redfield. As they try to escape the city and complete their individual quests, they will soon discover that what is lurking just below the surface is so much worse than the monsters that roam the city’s streets.
Like so many great sequels, Resident Evil 2’s story is certainly bigger than its predecessor’s. However, the brilliance of this game’s storytelling goes so far beyond simply being bigger. Indeed, the thing that makes Resident Evil 2’s story so good is the fact that it always feels so intimate and character-driven despite the fact that it’s actually a pretty epic tale that features diverging paths, a ton of new characters, and a lot more information than the previous game ever dared to offer.
It’s the way this game manages to make such a grand adventure still feel like a well-told horror story that elevates it over so many other Resident Evil games. Despite the many times this series would eventually revisit Resident Evil 2 for ideas, the franchise struggled to “go bigger” nearly as well as Resident Evil 2 did. From a narrative perspective, this is the game the franchise is still chasing (or at least should be chasing).