Resident Evil Timeline in Chronological Order

What order should you play the Resident Evil games in? Here's how to make sense of the series' bizarre timeline.

Resident Evil
Photo: Capcom

The reveal of Resident Evil Village‘s release date and gameplay brings us that much closer to another entry into one of the more complicated (and sometimes confusing) timelines in video game history. 

Granted, the Resident Evil timeline doesn’t stray too far from the release order of the games themselves, but subtle shifts in the storyline created by the occasional odd entry mean that it’s easy to lose track of how we got here. That’s why we’re going to try to help chart the Resident Evil timeline as it stands today.

For the purposes of this discussion, please note that we’re only talking about the Resident Evil games and not the live-action or animated movies. Furthermore, we’ve included some spinoffs but are ignoring games that are either largely irrelevant to the timeline (such as Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D) or have been removed from or avoided in the canon (Resident Evil Gaiden). That said, let us know if we missed any important entries in the comments below. 

Resident Evil Zero 

Release Year: 2002

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Timeline Date: July, 1998

While Resident Evil’s naming conventions create plenty of chronological confusion, the appropriately named Resident Evil Zero is where you want to start if you want to play through the major Resident Evil games in order. 

Released six years after the first Resident Evil game, Resident Evil Zero tells the story of officer Rebecca Chambers and a criminal named Billy Coen who battle through the aftermath of a train wreck that helped kick off Racoon City’s zombie problems. 

While it’s nice that this game tells us a little more about Rebecca, the highlight of this story is undoubtedly how it sets up Albert Wesker, William Birkin, and other key members of the Umbrella Corporation. Zero directly leads into the first Resident Evil game and its revelations about Umbrella would echo throughout the rest of the franchise. 

Resident Evil

Release Year: 1996

Timeline Date: July, 1998

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The first Resident Evil game is thankfully located fairly close to the beginning of the Resident Evil timeline. Honestly, it’s surprising Capcom hasn’t made more Resident Evil games that occur before this one. 

Regardless, you probably know what Resident Evil is all about by this point. As the story of S.T.A.R.S. officers forced to investigate the Spencer Mansion following several attacks/disappearances, Resident Evil brilliantly set-up this series’ grander mythology while telling a compelling standalone story. 

If you’re working your way through the Resident Evil series in chronological order, be sure to play the all-time great remake of the original Resident Evil that was first released for GameCube. 

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (First Half)

Release Year: 1999

Timeline Date: September, 1998

Ok, here’s where the timeline is going to get weird. 

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Resident Evil 3’s opening sequences occur 24 hours before the start of Resident Evil 2. While there are some obvious plotline ties to Resident Evil 2 in those early segments, much of the beginning of this game is really a side story designed to shed some light on what happened to Jill Valentine after Resident Evil

Its spot on this list is largely a technicality, but for the sake of accuracy, Resident Evil 3 does technically help bridge the first and second games. 

Resident Evil 2

Release Year: 1998

Timeline Date: September, 1998

The legendary Resident Evil 2 elevated the Resident Evil franchise and set up many of the narrative pieces that would come into play later on.

This is the game that introduced us to Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Sherry Birkin, Racoon City, and so much more. It’s also the game that told us a little more about Umbrella, their various viruses, and the zombie outbreak, which really helped explain this universe a bit more clearly before Resident Evil Zero filled in more of the missing pieces. 

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Most importantly, Resident Evil 2’s ending helps set-up the extent of Umbrella’s mistakes/intentions and how they will turn what started near Racoon City into a series of events that would affect multiple parts of the world. 

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (Second Half)

Release Year: 1999

Timeline Date: October, 1998

The second half of Resident Evil 3 takes place two days after the events of Resident Evil 2, which technically necessitates the somewhat strange split on this timeline.

By and large, though, the most important takeaways from the second half of Resident Evil 3 from a chronological standpoint are the destruction of Racoon City and the fate of Jill Valentine who would go on to play an important role in upcoming series events.

The original game also featured some still-frame ending sequences that revealed a little more about what happened to characters such as HUNK, Ada Wong, and Barry Burton, but Resident Evil 3 was designed as something of a side story and it largely serves as a side story to this day. 

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Resident Evil Survivor

Release Year: 2000

Timeline Date: November, 1998

The largely forgettable light gun shooter Resident Evil Survivor manages to work its way into the Resident Evil timeline by virtue of how it somewhat helps answer questions left by the previous games.

Resident Evil Survivor takes place after the destruction of Racoon City at the end of Resident Evil 3. While it takes place on a small island that hosts an Umbrella facility, the game served as an early indication that Umbrella’s experiments absolutely could not be contained regardless of the extreme measures that were enacted to do so. 

More importantly, this game introduced us to Ark Thompson: an associate of Leon Kennedy whose presence verifies that Kennedy has continued to investigate and combat Umbrella following the end of Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Release Year: 2000

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Timeline Date: December, 1998

While Code: Veronica’s strange name and Dreamcast exclusive release have long made it something of an oddity, it does fit into the Resident Evil timeline fairly cleanly. 

This is the game that finally reunited Claire Redfield with her brother Chris. For that matter, it’s also the game that finally showed us what Chris Redfield was up to following the events of the first title. It even establishes a professional dynamic between Chris, Claire, and Leon that would come into play later as the trio settled into their future careers.

More importantly, this is the game that brought Albert Wesker back into play and confirmed that he has acquired superhuman abilities. His decision to take Steve Burnside’s corpse at the end of the game would also affect what comes next.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles

Release Year: 2009

Timeline Date: 2002

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This somewhat obscure Nintendo Wii game would have been easy to leave off the timeline (it even retells events of the previous games) were it not for one interesting way that it helps tie Veronica to Resident Evil 4

The game’s early “Operation Javier” scenario takes place four years after Resident Evil 2 and sees Leon Kennedy enter a South American village in search of a powerful drug lord named Javier Hidalgo. Try not to be surprised, but it turns out the village is overrun by zombies. 

It also turns out that Hidalgo actually purchased a sample of the virus that Wesker took from Steve Burnside’s corpse and used it to save his dying daughter. It’s a small plot beat, but again, it does help connect Veronica to Resident Evil 4, Leon Kennedy, and the rest of the franchise.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles

Release Year: 2007

Timeline Date: February, 2003

While much of what happens in Umbrella Chronicles largely recaps the events of previous games, this title’s final scenario does feature a few new plot points.

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Most notably, the game ends with Albert Wesker infiltrating a secret Umbrella facility and stealing classified files. From there, we learn that the evidence in these files is enough to convince the U.S. government to aggressively pursue legal recourse against Umbrella and its executives. 

Wesker’s actions in this moment would create a power vacuum that helped influence many events to come. 

Resident Evil 4

Release Year: 2005

Timeline Date: 2004

It’s one of the scariest, most important, and greatest games of all-time, but when Resident Evil 4 was promoted, most people just wanted to know how this game fit into the previously established Resident Evil mythology. 

Early in the game, we learn that Leon Kennedy has been sent to a village in Spain to rescue the President of the United States’ daughter. More importantly, we learn that the zombie-like residents of this village are infected with a previously unknown virus known as Las Plagas.

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Las Plagas is interesting in its own right, but from a chronological standpoint, its biggest immediate impact was the way it helped reintroduce Ada Wong following her debut in Resident Evil 2 and tied Wong to legendary series villain Albert Wesker. That relationship (and their interest in acquiring Las Plagas) would set up much of what comes next. 

Resident Evil: Revelations

Release Year: 2012

Timeline Date: 2004/2005

It’s not generally considered part of the “main” Resident Evil series, but Resident Evil: Revelations does a tremendous job of showcasing some of the changes that were only referenced in Resident Evil 5.

The big revelation in this game (I know, I know) is that a new group called the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) has been formed in response to an increase in bioterrorism across the globe. Both Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield have joined the group as agents. 

While some of the events featured in Revelations weren’t expanded upon in a meaningful way, seeing the earlier days of BSAA (as well as Chris and Jill’s involvement with the organization) does help to add a little weight to what happens in Resident Evil 5.

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Revelations also makes it a little easier to process some of the global intrigue surrounding the creation and distribution of the multiple viruses that will become a much bigger part of the next few games in the series. 

Resident Evil 5

Release Year: 2009

Timeline Date: 2006/2009

Perhaps rightfully criticized for trying to do too much with the Resident Evil mythology, Resident Evil 5 does make a little more sense if you play it in chronological order along with some of the supplementary releases. 

In short, Resident Evil 5 sees BSAA member Chris Redfield pursue a bioterrorist named Ricardo Irving. A strange series of events results in Chris discovering that Tricell (the company that funds the BSAA) is not only advancing Umbrella’s research but has partnered with Albert Wesker in the hopes of utilizing his expertise on the viruses. Speaking of Wesker, we also learn that he is actually an Umbrella creation who is trying to spread viruses as a means of wiping out humans not “strong enough” to survive. 

This game offers a lot to take in, but it essentially wraps up the main part of the Wesker plotline (for now), ties Plagas into the Umbrella mythos a little more cleanly, and furthers the global growth of the chronology’s core concepts. 

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Resident Evil: Revelations 2

Release Year: 2015

Timeline Date: 2011

The somewhat underrated Revelations series comes through yet again by helping to cleanly connect major Resident Evil titles. 

The game’s biggest contribution is the way that it reintroduces Claire into the franchise after she spent quite a few years away from the spotlight. We learn that she’s working with the biohazard prevention agency TerraSave and that she’s even in contact with Barry Burton and his family. 

Granted, the standalone storytelling in this game is more substantial than the chronological connections, but it’s nice to have an idea of what Claire has been up to after all these years. 

Umbrella Corps 

Release Year: 2016

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Timeline Date: 2012

It’s nearly impossible to recommend Umbrella Corps on the basis of its gameplay, but as a piece of the Resident Evil canon, Resident Evil answers some important questions. 

Some of this game’s plot details are heavily disputed, but Umbrella Corps essentially reveals that Umbrella was reformed/reworked over the years following the events of the original games. They’re now more focused on cleaning up the mess that Umbrella helped create, and they’re even working with organizations like the BSAA in pursuit of that goal. 

While this game also heavily implies that Albert Wesker is still alive, certain questions regarding how much of this title is going to carry over into future installments remain something of a mystery. It’s also worth noting that the game’s multiplayer mode takes place after Resident Evil 6, but again, questions remain regarding its long-term impact.

Resident Evil 6

Release Year: 2012

Timeline Date: 2012/2013

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We’ve spoken before about Resident Evil 6’s gameplay shortcomings and other bad decisions, but it’s worth noting again that Resident Evil 6’s often convoluted plot has long confused players who didn’t keep up with every timeline development up until this point. 

As a globetrotting story that features most of the major Resident Evil characters (except, strangely, Claire) in prominent roles, Resident Evil 6 focuses on the C-Virus and the various attempts to spread and stop it. 

There’s, quite a lot that happens, but from a timeline standpoint the most important takeaways are that Chris Redfield stays with the BSAA in charge of a new squad, Jake Muller (son of Albert Wesker) has become an operative, and characters such as Leon Kennedy, Sherry Birkin, and Ada Wong are all alive and operational. How much of that will be used in subsequent Resident Evil games remains to be seen. 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Release Year: 2017

Timeline Date: 2017

While serious questions remain regarding Resident Evil 7’s role in the series, all evidence suggests that it does take place after the events of Resident Evil 6 and that even some of its seemingly unrelated events connect to the series’ bigger timeline. 

The biggest tie-in to the rest of the franchise, though, has to be the appearance of Chris Redfield at the end of the game. Even though he looks different (which Capcom says is a result of new technology they use to scan actors), Redfield’s presence, the appearance of a Blue Umbrella helicopter, and hidden references to the BSAA all strongly suggest that Resident Evil 7 is at least honoring most of the major events that occurred until this point. 

What remains to be seen is whether some other loose threads from previous games are addressed. 

Resident Evil Village

Release Year: 2021

Timeline Date: 2020 (?)

Capcom continues to conceal the finer points of Resident Evil Village‘s plot, but we can at least confirm that it takes place after the events of Resident Evil 7.

The continuing adventures of Ethan Winters are exciting enough, but we’d be lying if we told you we weren’t curious to see if other major Resident Evil characters and events will appear in the game. We’re also waiting to see whether or not the creatures we’ve seen in early trailers are still the product of some bioengineered threat or if Capcom is starting to dive deeper into the supernatural.

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