Recently, Capcom officially announced that the Resident Evil 2 Remake project has been given the green light. After the success of the recent release of the HD remaster of the original Resident Evil, a project to give Resident Evil 2 the same treatment seemed like a no brainer. Capcom finally listened to fans and answered their demands with the start of this new project. However, the announcement got me thinking about the classic and best games of the Resident Evil franchise, before the franchise sort of entered a decline in later years. Then, a close friend told me that he would rather play remakes of the classic original Resident Evil games instead of the later ones. So I decided to compile a personal list of what I believe are the top five classic Resident Evil games.
Before I get started, let me explain my criteria for the list. My definition of the classic Resident Evil games means that the game must be the original version. Specifically, not one of the later ports, remakes or HD upgrades. In addition, I am only counting the games released in the 90s and early 2000s for the franchise. In other words, I am starting with Resident Evil in 1996 and stopping with Resident Evil 4 in 2005 — before the franchise started entering its waning and declining years. Here are the top Resident Evil games in history.
5. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Nemesis marked the last main Resident Evil game for the PSX. This was the franchise that helped bring the PSX to prominence and put it on the map. Likewise, it was amazing to experience these games on the PSX to see the potential of 3D and 64-bit titles. Resident Evil 3 was really more like a spin-off title, or more like Resident Evil 1.5. However, it ended up getting re-titled as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. I like this game a lot because it brings back Jill Valentine from the first game, and it shows the breakdown of Raccoon City that we only saw glimpses of in Resident Evil 2. It was interesting to show how certain events in Resident Evil 2 ended up happening. Personally, while I like the game, and it belongs on the best classic list, it just was not as amazing or genre-defining as the other classic entries in the franchise.
4. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Resident Evil: Code Veronica always played more like what should have been the true sequel to Resident Evil 2. It may not be called Resident Evil 3, but this plays much more like what you think a Resident Evil 3 should have been. This game was originally released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, and it was a great title. Believe it or not, the Sega Dreamcast did have some great games for a while. Code Veronica had one of the best overall stories of any of the Resident Evil games. The story had a natural progression to the previous installments. Claire Redfield returned and was captured by Umbrella. Chris Redfield comes back into the fold to help his sister. Not to mention, Albert Wesker made his dramatic return and was established as a major villain for the heroes. This game did not just nail the story, but the fantastic atmosphere as well. The introductions of the monsters and creatures like the Nosferatu were legitimately terrifying. Code Veronica quite possibly had some of the best and most interesting monsters in the entire series. It was symbolic of how deep and terrible Umbrella’s influence had taken root.
3. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is not where things went wrong for the franchise. It actually reinvented the franchise in a fantastic way and gave it a great shot in the arm. Unfortunately, later producers were not able to properly follow its example. The gameplay and style was changed to various degrees for Resident Evil 4. Leon Kennedy was back, and he was put in a new scenario with new villains. The controls were tweaked, and the game was given a new, visceral and unique over-the-shoulder, third-person shooter style. It was amazingly effective. Once again, Mikami created a tense tone and atmosphere. It harkened back to the terrifying isolation of the original Resident Evil, but with a twist of sorts, since Leon was stuck in a remote Spanish village overrun by a terrifying plague. Resident Evil 4 did incorporate Quicktime Events, but it used them in a fashion that made sense and enhanced the gameplay. This was before QTEs became an overused and silly gimmick. The campaign constantly offered some variety among the environments and different boss battles. Resident Evil 4 belongs as one of the examples of classic installments of the franchise before things started going badly.
2. Resident Evil
There is nothing quite like the original. It might be controversial that I went with this one as No. 2, but it was just by the closest of margins. Resident Evil was a game changer, and it remains an early classic for the PSX. The game has certainly aged, and it was not without its flaws. However, experiencing this game at the time when it first came out in 1996 was a unique experience. 3D games like Resident Evil for game consoles was still a fairly new thing. However, more than anything, the game is credited for introducing the genre of “survival horror” games to the masses and making it accessible. You are a character who is isolated, with few weapons and resources, in a mansion filled with unimaginable resources. As either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, players had to fight their way out of the madness that was the Spencer Mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City. Besides unique gameplay, Mikami and his team created a very tense tone, with beautiful, minimal music. It really underscored the terrifying nature of the situation. There was a feeling that at any moment, something could come out of nowhere to try and devour you. Resident Evil started something. It is a classic because so many games try to emulate and mimic what it essentially created.
1. Resident Evil 2
This is why I am so excited and elated for the Resident Evil 2 remake. Resident Evil 2 is quite possibly one of my favorite games of all time. In addition, it is the game that made me a bonafide Sony console fanatic. Resident Evil was an amazing, terrifying experience, and Resident Evil 2 raised the stakes. Resident Evil 2 offered new twists and wrinkles to the Resident Evil world. The new monsters and boss fights were intuitive. I loved that players could make an alligator swallow an oxygen tank and then shoot that tank, causing it to explode like the shark in Jaws. However, the game still does not get enough credit for its Zapping System. Resident Evil 2 basically offered players four different single-player campaigns. There were two discs were packed for the release. One disc was to play as Leon Kennedy. The other disc was to play as Claire Redfield. However, the Zapping System let you continue the game as the other character and let you experience a parallel storyline. There are parts in Resident Evil 2 where Claire and Leon meet and then separate. The Zapping System allows players to experience the story through the eyes of both characters and from their point of view. Then, when you start the next disc, it changes the format by offering the storyline with the roles of both characters reversed. Keep in mind that this feature was for a game way back on the PSX in 1998. That’s 17 years ago. It is indicative that major publishers and developers just do not make games like they used to.