Are you new to the Resident Evil series and want to know the best game to start with? Does the Resident Evil 4 remake look enticing to you and do you want to know if you can start with it? Look no further, as this guide will answer these questions. Be warned though, this might take a while since the Resident Evil franchise includes a very large amount of games. It can be overwhelming, but hopefully, you’ll have a clear idea of how to approach the series by the end of this guide.
Official Methods of Playing the Resident Evil Series in 2023
Resident Evil has been around since 1996, so while many games are easy to play, some are a bit more lost to time. For example, the first game in the series hasn’t had very many re-releases over the years, but there is a pretty big reason for that. There is a remake of the first game and it’s often considered the definitive way to play it. You can easily procure this, as it is available to purchase digitally pretty much everywhere. The same goes for many of the more recent titles in the series. It’s a franchise full of both easily accessible and obscure games.
The Classic Titles
For the sake of clarity, I will consider the first three Resident Evil games and arguably Code: Veronica as well as Zero to make up the “classic” titles in the series. These games feature fixed camera angles, tank controls, as well as a focus on exploration and inventory management. While these games can seem quite dated by modern standards, they can create a unique sense of tension that later games in the series do not replicate.
Resident Evil 2 would receive the most ports out of any classic game in the series. Outside of the PlayStation, the game would release on PC, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, GameCube, and curiously, the short-lived Games.com handheld. The most interesting of these is perhaps the Nintendo 64 version. Clever compression methods were needed to fit the entire game with its FMVs on one cartridge. It’s probably not the most ideal way to play, but an interesting historical curiosity nonetheless.
Unfortunately, these titles are a bit harder to get your hands on compared to the rest of the series. The first remake and Zero are still fairly easy to acquire, but you may have to try a bit harder to experience the other titles through official means. It’s also worth mentioning that the first Resident Evil game would eventually receive a “Director’s Cut”. You can download this version of the game for PS4 and PS5.
The “Action” Titles
The fourth game in the Resident Evil series would introduce a much larger focus on action instead of horror. While horror themes are still present, they are much less of a priority. This focus on action would continue until the sixth game in the series. Resident Evil 4 would popularize the use of an over-the-shoulder camera for third-person shooters. As such, the game’s influence on the industry can still be felt today. While the remake is looking great, the original is still very much worth playing today.
The next two Resident Evil games would attempt to capitalize on the fourth game’s success. Horror became even less of a priority, and action setpieces became the key focus. These games are somewhat divisive among fans but have a dedicated following. You may wish to try them out for yourself and form your own opinion of them. In addition, if you prefer action-packed gameplay, these are the best games for you.
Games from this era are quite easy to acquire. RE4, RE5, and RE6 are all available to purchase on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. If you own a PS5 or Series X|S, you can still play these games through backwards compatibility. Capcom obviously sees value in making sure these games remain easily playable to this day.
The Modern Titles
For these titles, I’ll group all the major releases that make use of the RE Engine. The first title to use this engine was Resident Evil 7, which shifted the series back to an increased focus on horror. Unlike the classic games, however, RE7 takes heavy inspiration from classic films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead for its style of horror. For some fans, this was too much of a departure from the rest of the series. Besides the different approach to horror, the game only features one returning character and a first-person perspective.
However, gameplay-wise, RE7 incorporates several aspects of classic Resident Evil games. There is a much greater emphasis on exploration, inventory management, and dense locations compared to the previous action-heavy games. While RE7‘s style of horror didn’t carry over to future titles, the survival horror gameplay would be expanded upon in the Resident Evil 2 remake. While there has been a gradual shift toward more action, the series still incorporates plenty of horror elements, even including the new Resident Evil 4 remake.
All of these games are very easy to purchase. If you own a modern console or PC, you can play any of the recent mainline titles. Although, Switch users should be aware that they will only be able to play these games through cloud streaming instead of a native port. So, you may want to consider using other hardware to play these games.
What Should You Play First?
Generally speaking, while many games in the series can be appreciated and understood by a newcomer, these games do share a continuity. References to the events of previous games are a common occurrence, so you may wish to experience everything in chronological order. A good place to start if you wish to experience the series in narrative order is the remake of the original Resident Evil game.
Release Order of the Mainline Resident Evil Series
- Resident Evil (1996, PlayStation, PC, Sega Saturn, Nintendo DS)
- Resident Evil 2 (1998, PlayStation, PC, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube Game.com)
- Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999, PlayStation, PC, Dreamcast, GameCube)
- Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (2000, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox 360, PS3)
- Resident Evil (2002, GameCube, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, a remake of the original Resident Evil)
- Resident Evil Zero (2002, GameCube, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, a prequel to the original Resident Evil)
- Resident Evil 4 (2005, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, Zeebo, Android, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Oculus Quest 2)
- Resident Evil 5 (2009, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nvidia Shield TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
- Resident Evil 6 (2012, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch Cloud Version, Stadia, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S)
- Resident Evil 2 (2019, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch Cloud Version, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, a remake of the original Resident Evil 2)
- Resident Evil 3 (2020, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch Cloud Version, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, a remake of the original Resident Evil 3)
- Resident Evil Village (2021, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch Cloud Version, Stadia, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, macOS)
- Resident Evil 4 (2023, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, a remake of the original Resident Evil 4)
As you can see, the mainline series is home to many ports, with Resident Evil 4 being a particularly notorious case. As you can imagine, the iOS, Android, and Zeebo ports of the game are going to be difficult to get your hands on. They are obviously not an ideal way to experience the game, but still a curiosity nonetheless. Interestingly, the VR version of the original Resident Evil 4 was released quite recently in 2021.
It should also be obvious that the Stadia versions of RE7 and Village are no longer available to play. The service shut down earlier this year on January 18, so these versions of the game will become lost to time. Overall, Capcom has done a pretty good job of making much of the mainline series available. Although, it would be nice to see some of the classic titles get remastered despite the remakes.
The Resident Evil series has seen numerous spin-off titles over the years. These are often not as easy to access as the mainline series, as they didn’t receive as many ports. There are some hidden gems here, but I don’t recommend most newcomers start with any of these titles. I will explain what you need to know about them anyways, in case they pique your interest later on. As the Resident Evil series is home to a few sub-series, I will split up the games accordingly.
The Survivor Series
- Resident Evil Survivor (2000, PlayStation, PC for Taiwan and China only)
- Resident Evil Survivor 2 – Code: Veronica (Japan-only Arcade release, PlayStation 2 for Japan and Europe only)
- Resident Evil: Dead Aim (2003, PlayStation 2)
So, there are technically four titles in this series, but I’m excluding the third game as it is a tie-in with Dino Crisis instead of the Resident Evil series. Also known as Gun Survivor, this series of spin-offs revolves around first-person combat. These games were designed with a light gun in mind but can be played with a controller (light gun compatibility for the first game was removed for the North American version). None of the games narratively connect, so it doesn’t really matter which order you play them in. Overall, they are a historical curiosity, but only really worth it if you are a die-hard fan of the series.
The Outbreak Series
- Resident Evil Outbreak (2003, PlayStation 2)
- Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 (2004, PlayStation 2)
These games are unique for featuring online cooperative play. Single-player is also possible, as the game will provide you with AI-controlled partners to help you out. The Outbreak games play much like other classic Resident Evil games, with fixed camera angles and more. While these games received a mixed reception at the time of release, they have gone on to gain a cult following over the years. Hopefully, we can see a modern interpretation of this series at some point.
The Revelations Series
- Resident Evil: Revelations (2012, Nintendo 3DS, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
- Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (2015, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
The Resident Evil: Revelations games are quite interesting. Originally a 3DS, exclusive, the first Revelations game shows the capabilities of the handheld, being one of the most visually impressive games on the platform. It follows Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as they board an abandoned cruise ship to investigate a bioterrorist organization. There was an increased focus on horror compared to the mainline series at the time, although the game is still heavy on action.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a bit of a different beast. While the increased focus on horror is still there, the game instead focuses on Claire Redfield and her spooky adventure. The game was also released episodically, although it should now be easy to purchase the game as a whole package.
Other Spin-Off Titles
- Resident Evil Gaiden (2001, Game Boy Color)
- Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (2007, Wii)
- Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (2009, Wii)
- Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (2011, Nintendo 3DS)
- Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (2012, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
- Umbrella Corps (2016, PC, PlayStation 4)
- Resident Evil: Resistance (2020, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
- Resident Evil Re:Verse (2022, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S)
Resident Evil Gaiden is a Game Boy Color exclusive that is widely considered to be non-canon. The game follows Leon S. Kennedy and Barry Burton as they explore a ship overrun with zombies. On the Wii, The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkside Chronicles are on-rails shooters that re-tell events from previous mainline games in the franchise. The Umbrella Chronicles covers events from the first remake, Zero, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Meanwhile, The Darkside Chronicles covers events from Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica. Both games also feature some original content as well.
The Mercenaries 3D is an attempt to make “The Mercenaries” game mode a standalone title. This game features various locations from RE4 and RE5 and several playable characters. Operation Raccoon City is a third-person shooter that takes place around the events of RE2 and RE3. Both this game and the competitive shooter Umbrella Corps received fairly negative reviews.
Resident Evil: Resistance is an online game that is bundled with the Resident Evil 3 remake, although Capcom ended its support for the game in 2020. Capcom would attempt to bundle another multiplayer game with Resident Evil Village in the form of Resident Evil Re:Verse. Unfortunately, the game came out well after a year of Village‘s release and was received poorly by fans.
Unofficial Methods of Playing the Resident Evil Series in 2023
If you want to play the classic games in the series on PC or other devices such as your phone, emulation is the best route to take. To do this legally, you must dump the necessary ROMs and/or BIOS files by yourself. This means that you cannot download these files from the internet. They must come from games and consoles you own. For PlayStation emulation, I recommend DuckStation. It is often considered to be one of the best PlayStation emulators and is available on PC and Android.
If you want an easy method of managing your emulation needs, RetroArch will get the job done. There are still reasons why you may wish to use a standalone emulator, but RetroArch will automatically provide you with several emulators to use. One thing to note is that the pre-rendered backgrounds in the classic games are going to look rough on an HD display, so you may want to use a CRT shader. There are also some fan-made projects out there that upscale these backgrounds so they can be more presentable on an HD display.
If you are playing the original Resident Evil 4 on PC, I highly recommend that you download the Resident Evil 4 HD Project mod if you have the storage space. This mod replaces all the original textures in the game with much higher-resolution textures. It does a great job of retaining the art direction of the game and also comes with a few bug fixes as well. This mod is essentially the definitive way to play the original game if you own a PC.
Start With a Mainline Title
While it may be wise to start with the original or its remake (I suggest the remake more) if you care about continuity, you can start with several of the mainline titles. Besides the original or its remake, my biggest recommendations would be the original RE4, RE7, and the RE2 remake. I believe these games will give some of the most positive first impressions of the franchise. I would also suggest steering clear of any spin-off titles until you are more familiar with the series.
If you’re interested in starting with the new RE4 remake, go ahead and enjoy it. You’ll likely understand most of the game’s plot and appreciate the gameplay. It’s looking to be a very solid game, so I don’t blame you if it’s the first game in the series you want to jump into. I recommend trying out the demo if you haven’t already. Be sure to stay tuned for more coverage on the Resident Evil 4 remake!