The first Resident Evil game hit stores in 1996 and it is still considered to be one of the most influential releases in the survival horror genre’s history. Capcom’s 1996 game inspired tons of critically acclaimed titles like Silent Hill, Parasite Eve, and of course, the numerous Resident Evil games that were to follow.
Unlike many 90s franchises that struggled to adapt to the gaming industry’s advancements in the 2000s, the Resident Evil series was able to reinvent itself in 2005 with Resident Evil 4. The fourth major installment inspired many excellent titles like Dead Space and Alan Wake, and it is still recognized today as one of the greatest games of all time. After a few lackluster releases that struggled to recapture the magic of Resident Evil 4, Capcom again decided to switch up their gameplay formula with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
Despite the multiple changes in direction and gameplay style, there is one thread that connects every game in the franchise: horror. Although the games differ in how much they succeed in scaring players, every game has at least one or two moments that will have most gamers reaching for their pillow.
10 Resident Evil 5
As alluded to before, Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 struggled to live up to the extremely high expectations that were placed onto its shoulder long-before the game was even announced. Resident Evil 5 is certainly not a bad game though, exemplified by its impressive Metascore of 86 on PC.
In terms of the game’s fear factor, it’s not a particularly scary game though it does have its scary moments; such as the section in Chapter 3 – 1, where players must traverse crocodile-infested water.
9 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica
Resident Evil: Code Veronica was the first main series Resident Evil game to release after the original trilogy. The game was notable for its visuals, which were a significant improvement from the game’s predecessors.
The visuals were considered to be movie-like at the time of the game’s release, which made the game all-the-more frightening as audiences hadn’t seen such realistic horror-visuals in a video game before.
8 Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was the first game in the franchise to release after the iconic Resident Evil 4. This puts a ton of pressure on the on-rails shooter, which failed to live up to the hype, scoring a lackluster 75 on Metacritic.
Much like Resident Evil 5, the amount of hype around Umbrella Chronicles was more of a curse than a gift in many ways, as the initial disappointment clouded what was a solid on-rails shooter that made excellent use of the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls. The on-rail mechanic is what grants Umbrella Chronicles a spot on this list, as players have no choice but to follow their characters who are constantly heading directly into danger.
7 Resident Evil: Zero
The Resident Evil series’ fifth main installment was released in 2002. The game didn’t perform badly with critics, though it was seen as a drop in form from the incredible run of games that Capcom was on leading up to its release. Criticisms were predominantly directed at the game’s lack of innovation, particularly in terms of its fixed camera which seemed outdated at the time.
Resident Evil: Zero earns a spot on this list for its atmosphere. The improved hardware of the GameCube allowed Capcom’s developers to create more meticulously detailed environments than ever before, which greatly helped the game’s unsettling elements pop.
6 Resident Evil: Revelations
The Nintendo 3DS doesn’t seem like the most natural place for an action-horror title, but Capcom were able to make it work with Resident Evil: Revelations. The game performed particularly well with critics, exemplified by its impressive 82 Metascore and Best 3DS/DS award from Pocket Gamer.
Resident Evil: Revelations offers a unique horror experience thanks to the Nintendo 3Ds’ capabilities. The 3D functionality made the game’s scariest moments far more tense and made the horror feel closer than ever.
5 Resident Evil 4
As mentioned previously, Capcom made the bold decision of reinventing their iconic Resident Evil franchise with the sixth main series iteration. The risk certainly paid off, as Resident Evil 4 breathed new life into the series and it quickly became recognized as one of the best games of all time.
The game sacrificed some of the series’ iconic horror in favor of more action-packed gameplay, though there are still a few frightening moments. Such moments include the fight against Del Lago, the first encounter with a Regenerator, and the fight against Verdugo.
4 Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil (2002) marks a significant increase in the fear factor of this list’s entries. Whereas most of the games weren’t too scary but did have scary moments, Resident Evil (2002) is a genuinely unsettling experience throughout.
The 2002 remake of 1996’s Resident Evil wonderfully recaptured the essence of the original’s horror, while making the experience uncomfortably immersive with the improved visuals.
3 Resident Evil 2 (2019)
The highly-anticipated remake of Resident Evil 2 was released in 2019 and unlike some games on this list, it didn’t disappoint. In fact, the game exceeded expectations in the eyes of many, as few would have predicted the game to win the Golden Joystick Awards’ top prize of Ultimate Game of the Year.
Anyone who has completed either the 2019 remake or the original 1998 game, will likely remember two specific moments as being the most terrifying: the first encounter with Mr. X and the first encounter with a Licker.
2 Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)
The success of the Resident Evil 2 remake unsurprisingly led to a remake of Resident Evil 3 just one year later; the game would have benefited from a longer development cycle though, as it struggled to emulate the success of its predecessor.
Disappointment over the remake shouldn’t detract from the original game, however, as the 1999 title is not only one of the franchise’s best entries, but it’s also one of the scariest over 20 years after its initial release; largely thanks to the infamous Nemesis.
1 Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
In terms of the numbered titles, it seems that Capcom is separating their Resident Evil games into groups of three. The first three games centered around combat, survival, and puzzle-solving with a fixed-perspective. Resident Evil 4 then leaned into the series’ action elements and put the camera over the protagonist’s shoulder. The recent Resident Evil 7: Biohazard again implemented a perspective change while also ramping up the level of horror, inspired by titles like Outlast and Amnesia.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard tops this list by a fairly large margin, particularly due to the first half of the game when the player has very little weaponry at their disposal. Early signs point to Resident Evil: Village continuing the direction of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, with a new set of charismatic villains set to frighten players once more.