The Resident Evil franchise has been the marquee name in horror gaming since the first title in the series was released for PlayStation way back in 1996. Yet, despite the fact the Resident Evil franchise is the most influential, important, and successful franchise in all of horror gaming, there’s always been a debate about how “scary” the Resident Evil games are.
Different things scare different people, but there’s always been this idea that part of Resident Evil‘s blockbuster success can be attributed to the fact that it’s not as intimidating as the Silent Hill franchise or some of the other scariest games ever made. While there is some truth to that idea, the fact of the matter is that some Resident Evil games are significantly scarier than others. Interestingly enough, some of the best-selling Resident Evil games to date are also among the franchise’s scariest installments.
Before we dive into that, though, here are a few points to consider:
- As noted above, everyone is scared by different things, which makes any ranking of the “scariest” things obviously subjective. Generally speaking, though, this list was constructed with the average gamer in mind. Hardcore horror fans are rarely scared by anything, so the Resident Evil games that are more likely to intimidate the average player rank higher on this list.
- A few Resident Evil games aren’t on this list for the simple reason that they are not particularly scary and that there isn’t much to say about them for the purposes of this article.
- For those Resident Evil games with remakes, only the original or the remake could make this list (not both). In most cases, the original and remake would have ranked fairly close to each other, so there wasn’t much point in including both.
With that out of the way, here are the scariest Resident Evil games ever made.
15. Resident Evil 6
Even if you succumb and subscribe to Resident Evil 6’s guilty pleasure qualities, it’s hard to argue that the game is actually scary. In fact, there are really only a few parts of this game that are trying to be scary, and few of those parts succeed in being anything more than mildly creepy.
Much of the rest of this game consists of cinematic “hallway shooter” segments that are way too controlled and sanitary to possibly be scary. This was Capcom’s attempt at seeing if they could turn Resident Evil into a more broadly popular action/adventure series, and it shows. The scariest thing in this game is having to participate in yet another QTE sequence.
14. Resident Evil Survivor
Light gun shooter Resident Evil Survivor has always been a little better than it gets credit for. In fact, this game’s moments of exploration and atmosphere-building make it far scarier than the (undeniably fun) House of the Dead franchise.
That’s about as far as my praise of Survivor’s horror elements goes, though. Yes, the emphasis on action hurts this game’s scares, but the thing that really knocks this one down a few notches is the “quality” of the enemy character models. Even the scariest PS1-era Resident Evil monsters just didn’t really work in this format.
13. Resident Evil Outbreak
It’s a shame that so few people got the chance to play Resident Evil Outbreak. Not only was this online multiplayer Resident Evil game way ahead of its time, but the game is so much scarier than it often gets credit for.
Granted, a lot of this game’s scariest moments come from the way the online title emphasizes the series’ survival elements (resources are scarce, which makes combat and exploration much tenser), but there are a few genuinely good scares scattered throughout. It’s nowhere near as scary as some of the major Resident Evil titles, but it’s creepier than you might think.
12. Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 was more of a misstep than a failure. It didn’t come close to living up to its immediate predecessor (and parts of the game’s story and setting are certainly questionable), but it’s easy enough to see how this title was a few tweaks away from being a much better game. Unfortunately, it would have taken a lot more work to make Resident Evil 5 genuinely scary.
Unlike Resident Evil 6, it’s clear that Resident Evil 5 was still meant to be a horror game. Actually, the game’s opening features some genuinely effective bits of horror that really help set the stage nicely. Unfortunately, it all falls apart from there. Between this game’s prolonged action segments and cinematic-heavy storytelling, you never really feel that sense of helplessness that the scariest Resident Evil titles rely on.
11. Resident Evil Dead Aim
That “other” Resident Evil light gun-style shooter fares a little better than Survivor in the scares department. Because Dead Aim utilizes third-person navigation sequences that help break up the first-person combat sections, the game does a much better job of building an effective horror environment. The first half of this game (the part that takes place on the ship) honestly feels closer to a Silent Hill game than a Resident Evil title in terms of its dark, unsettling mood and grimy visuals.
While Dead Aim’s first-person combat sections are much better than Survivor’s, they still fail to invoke that “Oh shit, oh shit” sense of panic that the scariest survival horror games rely on. The later parts of this game also fail to replicate that wonderful horror atmosphere that makes the early ship sections so surprisingly unnerving.
10. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
I have a feeling this is going to be a contentious pick.
To be fair, I love Code Veronica and consider it to be the “real” Resident Evil 3 in a lot of ways. This is one of the many games that were cruelly overlooked in its day due to the Dreamcast’s demise, and it’s worth seeking out to this day. In many ways, it’s the peak of classic Resident Evil gameplay.
However, this game’s actual scares are few and far between. There are some creepy implications in this game’s story (the entire Alexander and Alexia relationship is certainly disturbing), but this game spends a little too much time treading on what was quickly becoming familiar ground. Much of it is closer to “eerie” than “scary.” This game borrows heavily from the Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 playbook, which means that it’s obviously creepy at times but rarely feels surprising enough to be genuinely scary for more than a few moments.
9. Resident Evil Revelations
The generally underrated Revelations games looked to offer a slightly scarier Resident Evil experience at a time when the mainline titles were pivoting toward the action genre. While Revelations is still pretty action-heavy (much more so than the earlier RE games), it still tries to scare and intimidate players much more than RE 5 and 6 did.
Revelations is at its best when it finds that balance between action and old-school survival horror. The game’s ship setting (a weirdly recurring setting for some of these spin-offs) offers a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere as well as an excuse for the designer to construct some truly twisted deep sea creature designs. While Revelations starts to depend a little too much on its action sequences toward the end, there are too many genuinely effective bits of horror in this game to ignore.
8. Resident Evil Revelations 2
Honestly, the Resident Evil Revelations games are roughly equally scary. Both try to balance horror and action, and both struggle to maintain that balance for the entirety of the experience. Unlike Revelations, though, Revelations 2 features several sections that are genuinely terrifying rather than “somewhat scary given the circumstances.”
In fact, the opening half of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is so good that I kind of wish Capcom would go back and find a way to turn that section into an entirely new game. Revelations 2‘s early island setting results in these kinds of Evil Dead meets The Descent moments of classic genre terror that will leave you wondering why more people don’t talk about this game. The uneven second half of this game will answer most of those questions, but this title’s shortcomings don’t entirely wash away the brilliance of its best moments.
7. Resident Evil 4
The idea that Resident Evil 4 isn’t scary has taken on an unfair life of its own in recent years. To be fair, there is some truth to that assertion. This is the point in the franchise when Capcom started emphasizing action over survival horror scares. Furthermore, Resident Evil 4 isn’t nearly as scary as some of the RE 4 clones that would follow (most notably Dead Space).
This game is still scarier than it often gets credit for, though. Resident Evil 4’s opening is one of the franchise’s scariest hours, and unlike Resident Evil 5, this game knows how to spice up its more cinematic moments with a well-placed scare. This game isn’t as consistently scary as some others, but it’s filled with memorable horror moments.
6. Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 0 should honestly be scarier than it actually is. The game’s train setting is the perfect location for creepy claustrophobic moments, and the title utilizes the same engine that helped make the Resident Evil remake so brilliant. Yet, there are so many parts of this game that tragically feel so forgettable.
However, it must be said that Resident Evil 0 features some of the best creature designs in franchise history. There’s nothing like finding yourself trapped in a room with one of this game’s leech-like horrors and realizing that you’ve either got to figure it out or “GTFO.” This is also one of the more difficult Resident Evil games out there, which really just makes those encounters against those enemies that much more terrifying.
5. Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village is undoubtedly the hardest game to rank for this list. After all. There are scenes and moments in this game that are significantly scarier than anything else in Resident Evil history. The entire House Beneviento was really just the team’s way of showing that they could make a significantly more terrifying Resident Evil game if they ever chose to go that route. This game is just frightening in ways that few other RE games are.
Unfortunately, Village’s back half lacks that overwhelming sense of terror that the first half of the game so proudly flaunted. While it’s a little disappointing that this game couldn’t stick the landing, those lesser moments can’t completely erase the memories of running away from a giant fetus monster trying to chase you in a tight hallway. Nothing can erase that memory.
4. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
This is the only original Resident Evil game to make the list over its remake, and the competition wasn’t even close. The Resident Evil 3 remake is fine, but it loses or alters too many of the original game’s more interesting or frightening moments. More importantly, it fails to properly update the terror of the Nemesis for the modern age.
In the original version of Resident Evil 3, the Nemesis was basically a walking survival horror cheat code. He was tough, he was heavily armed, and he could go through doors and other barriers meant to serve as some of your only real protection. Trying to fight him with few tools available to you was terrifying, and running from him was somehow even worse. This game is still underrated by too many people.
3. Resident Evil Remake
It’s truly amazing that the Resident Evil remake is so good that there’s really no reason to ever revisit the groundbreaking original game in its PS1 form ever again. This remake looks better, plays better, includes way more content, and, most importantly for our current purposes, is way scarier.
Resident Evil’s haunted house atmosphere and limited combat options always made it scarier than many subsequent titles in the series. Well, this remake ups the ante through the introduction of the terrifying Crimson Heads enemies who just might be the most intimidating “regular” foes in franchise history. This game’s stunning graphics also make its incredible atmosphere much more haunting.
2. Resident Evil 2 Remake
Resident Evil 2 is that rare remake that captures what makes the original material so special while still carving its own legacy. While each version of Resident Evil 2 has its own strengths and weaknesses, Resident Evil 2’s remake is almost certainly the scarier of the two titles.
This is easily the scariest “over-the-shoulder” Resident Evil game ever made. This title does such a remarkable job of giving you more control without ever making you feel as if you’re in control. The only thing worse than the tense combat scenarios are those quieter moments when you’re just waiting for something to emerge from a foreboding shadow. The only thing worse than those moments is every single encounter with Mr. X.
1. Resident Evil 7
A lot of people were angry (or at least worried) about Capcom’s decision to make a first-person entry in the Resident Evil franchise. It was clear to most that the Resident Evil franchise needed some kind of reboot following Resident Evil 6, but there were simply those out there who liked Resident Evil games and didn’t like first-person horror games. Others worried that Capcom was chasing horror trends with a series that should be setting them.
Well, I can’t tell you that Resident Evil 7 is so good that it will make you overcome your hatred of first-person horror, and I can’t even tell you that Resident Evil 7 is the best first-person horror game ever. What I can tell you is that Resident Evil 7 is the scariest Resident Evil game, and it’s not even particularly close.
Resident Evil 7 could have worked as a third-person game. This title’s wonderful Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque setting and traditional survival horror mechanics are the primary sources of many of this game’s greatest scares. Yet, this game is enhanced by the unique limitations that first-person perspective imposes in ways that make it one of the only (arguably the only) Resident Evil games that is simply too scary for a lot of gamers to enjoy. In fact, Resident Evil 7 in VR is one of the scariest horror experiences in recent memory.