Through its (near-)consistent excellence, innovation, and longevity, Resident Evil games has earned its crown as the king of survival of horror. Capcom debuted its world of mutants and mercenaries in 1996 and has since grown Resident Evil into a multimedia franchise that spans over two dozen console games, six films, two recent Netflix series, novels, comics, and even stage plays.
It can be an exciting franchise to explore given the amount of content it houses, though for the same reason, it can be an equally daunting series to approach. This article focuses exclusively on video games and cuts out the convolution by presenting two ways to play only the most narratively significant and accessible Resident Evil games in order.
How Many Resident Evil Games Are There?
There are 10 core Resident Evil games: RE 0-7, Village, and Code: Veronica. However, the total number of Resident Evil console games — including spinoffs and remakes — sits around 30. That number rises near 60 when accounting for mobile and pachinko games.
How to Play the Resident Evil Games in Chronological Order
For this list, we’re focusing on 12 Resident Evil games: all 10 core entries and the two Revelations spinoffs. While many others are considered canon, this is not an exhaustive chronology, but rather an approachable guide to entering and enjoying the world of Resident Evil video games.
Missing from this list are mobile and pachinko games, light gun and Wii shooters (Resident Evil Survivor, Survivor 2, Dead Aim, Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside Chronicles), and non-canonical/non-consequential/difficult to access spinoffs (Resident Evil Gaiden, Outbreak, Outbreak: File #2, Mercenaries 3D, Operation Raccoon City, Resistance, Umbrella Corps, Re:Verse)
With series newcomers in mind, the brief plot synopses below contain only mild spoilers such as broad plot points and character introductions.
1. Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 0 is the fifth game released in the series but the first chronologically. It takes place just before the events of Resident Evil, with Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) medic Rebecca Chambers and former marine Billy Coen discovering a train full of zombies in the Arklay Mountains (home to the Spencer Mansion). Billy and Rebecca uncover valuable information related to series villains Albert Wesker and William Birkin. We also learn more about the origins of the sinister Umbrella Corporation and its deadly T-Virus. The game wraps with Rebecca headed toward the mansion, where she’d serve as a supporting character in RE 1.
2. Resident Evil
The first Resident Evil came to PlayStation in 1996, though for those coming to the franchise in 2022, you’ll want to play the 2002 remake (or its more recent HD remaster), as it improves gameplay and expands on the story.
RE 1 picks up right after RE 0. You play as one of two S.T.A.R.S. agents — Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine — who come to the Spencer Mansion while investigating a series of murders in the woodlands outside of Raccoon City. Chris/Jill encounters the murderous, mutated victims of the T-Virus and uncovers key information about Umbrella and its biological experimentation.
3. Resident Evil 2
Taking place two months after RE 0 and 1, Resident Evil 2 introduces two new protagonists — rookie cop Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield (Chris’s sister) — each with their own connected yet distinct campaign. RE 2 also introduces the recurring character Ada Wong and the iconic Tyrant enemy.
We learn more about William Birkin and his work on an even more threatening virus called the G-virus. Leon/Claire uncover more disturbing details about the clandestine work of Umbrella, as well as its ties to the Raccoon Police Department.
4. Resident Evil 3
The chronology gets dicey with Resident Evil 3, but for the sake of simplicity, we recommend playing it after 2. The first part of RE 3 takes place before the events of RE 2; the second part takes place after. You could play halfway through 3, pause, play through 2, then return for the second half of 3. However, playing RE 3 after 2 won’t detract from the experience or your understanding of the story. We chose to place it fourth on this list seeing as its conclusion progresses the overall narrative beyond RE 2.
You begin RE 3 as Jill Valentine, still coping with her experience from RE 1, trying to escape from an overrun Raccoon City. For part of the game, while Jill is indisposed, control shifts to her mercenary ally Carlos Oliviera. RE 3 also introduces Nemesis and reveals the fate of Raccoon City.
5. Resident Evil: Code – Veronica
Resident Evil: Code – Veronica advances the timeline by a couple of months and sees Claire Redfield continue the search for her brother Chris that began in RE 2. This time Claire’s search takes her to an Umbrella facility in France, where she escapes captivity and follows the trail to the southmost region of Earth.
Chris Redfield, one of the protagonists from the original game, returns as a second playable character in Code Veronica. Chris, like Claire, is looking for his sibling, and the search results in a meeting with series antagonist Albert Wesker.
6. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4, arguably the series’ most beloved entry, puts players back in the shoes of Leon Kennedy six years after his time in Racoon City during RE 2. Leon travels to a rural village in Spain on a mission to rescue the U.S. president’s daughter.
There, Leon encounters a cult and explores its ties to a mind-controlling parasite. The story that unfolds weaves together the narratives of two characters from Resident Evil’s past: Albery Wesker and Ada Wong.
A Resident Evil 4 remake is due out on March 24, 2023.
7. Resident Evil Revelations
Resident Evil Revelations is set between the events of RE 4 and 5. It explores another consequence of Umbrella’s bioweapon development and introduces players to the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA).
Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield are now BSAA agents, with Jill serving as the game’s primary protagonist. The duo head to the Mediterranean to combat the use of T-Abyss, a new variant of the T-Virus.
8. Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 is set five years after RE 4. Chris Redfield, as part of the BSAA, flies to Africa with his partner Sheva Alomar to prevent the black market sale of a bioweapon. The people of Kijuju, however, have already been infected with an enhanced version of the mind-controlling parasite seen in RE 4.
It’s a larger-scale story than past Resident Evils, though Chris also embarks on the more personal mission of finding his long-lost partner, Jill Valentine. We also learn of Albert Wesker’s latest nefarious plot.
Unlike past games in the series, RE 5 can be played cooperatively; the second player controls Sheva.
9. Resident Evil Revelations 2
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is set between RE 5 and 6. It brings Claire Redfield back into the spotlight for the first time since Code Veronica. The game is split into four episodes, with each episode divided into two parts: a past sequence with Clarie and Moira Burton and a present sequence with Barry Burton (Moira’s father) attempting to locate them. The story introduces another antagonistic Wesker.
10. Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil 6 is an action-heavy adventure that tells an even more sprawling (and convoluted) tale than that of RE 5. It weaves together four campaigns starring Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Ada Wong, and a mercenary named Jake Muller.
The BSAA introduced in Revelations plays an important role in 6, as the quartet of protagonists work to squash the bioterrorist group Neo-Umbrella and prevent the spread of yet another mutant-creating virus (the C-Virus).
11. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
With Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Capcom reinvented the franchise in several ways: It’s RE’s return to mass acclaim and fandom following the largely disappointing fifth and sixth entries, it introduces a new protagonist in Ethan Winters, and most notably it switches the series’ longrunning perspective from third-person to first-person.
Despite all these changes, RE 7 still exists on the series canonical timeline, presumably taking place in the modern-day sometime after RE 6. The game is set in rural Louisiana, with the first part taking place in the home of the wonderfully insane Baker family. Its ties to past RE games are rather loose, though many of the series staples are here: clandestine human experimentation, bioweapons, and toward the end, a familiar face.
12. Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village is a continuation (and the conclusion) of Ethan Winters’s story, set three years after the events of RE 7. Biohazard and Village stand on their own as a duology of games. Though Village includes a few more ties to the series’ past, including a more prominent role for the aforementioned “familiar face” and further information about the origins of Umbrella.
A post-credits scene extends the timeline even further. We’ll save the details, but those curious can read on to the next section for a bit more context.
Bonus: Shadows of Rose DLC
Picking up shortly after Village’s post-credits scene (16 years after the main story of Village), Shadows of Rose progresses the Resident Evil timeline further than any game before it. Assuming the events of Village take place in 2021, Shadows of Rose brings the franchise into the near future of 2037.
The 3-4 hour DLC stars Ethan’s daughter Rose, who attempts to rid herself of the unwanted powers inherited from her father.
How to Play the Resident Evil Games by Release Date
- Resident Evil (1996)*
- Resident Evil 2 (1998)*
- Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)*
- Resident Evil: Code – Veronica (2000)*
- Resident Evil 0 (2002)*
- Residet Evil 4 (2005)*
- Resident Evil 5 (2009)*
- Resident Evil: Revelations (2012)
- Resident Evil 6 (2012)*
- Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (2015)
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017)*
- Resident Evil Village/Shadow or Rose (2021/2022)*
*Mainline Resident Evil games
For more be sure to check out our similar breakdown of the Resident Evil moves in order.