#Preamble is Ana Valens’ weekly column introducing new players and non-gamers to essential gaming franchises.
Fifteen years ago, Milla Jovovich dashed, flipped and shot her way into the pop culture landscape with the first Resident Evil movie. But the franchise had been synonymous with zombies since the mid-'90s, when the first video game was released on the Sony PlayStation and triumphantly brought the horror genre to gaming.
Since 1996, there has been a total of 27 Resident Evil games. That's an overwhelming number and they're not all great titles, which makes the process of sifting through the most important ones an arduous task for anyone keen to explore the games after watching the films.
Resident Evil falls into the genre of survival-horror video games, meaning you'll be using your skills and wits to fight, evade and outsmart every evil — whether zombie, mutated arachnid or nefarious human being. The series has a long history and some games are more beloved by the fandom than others, so here's what you need to know about this staple game series.
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Where It All Began
In the above clip, you can see the first ever Resident Evil zombie reveal. This is the inception, one of the most important moments in all of zombie history.
The Resident Evil franchise began with 1996's titular title for PlayStation. Also known as Biohazard in Japan, Resident Evil was intended as a reimagining of the late-'80s Capcom game Sweet Home. Built in 3D with pre-rendered backgrounds, the game drew inspiration from several films, including Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2.
This game introduced players to the Raccoon City Incident and the Umbrella Corporation, laying the foundation for the game's future installments.
Resident Evil became a hit on the Sony PlayStation and later the Sega Saturn, with the original quickly followed by Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil – Code: Veronica.
Resident Evil 4 landed on the GameCube in 2002, bringing third-person-shooter gameplay action into the mix. This evolution would become a staple in the future of the series, with Resident Evil 5 in 2009 relying heavily on shooter elements, followed by the similar Resident Evil 6 in 2012.
Not every fan liked this new direction, with some complaining that the franchise was losing its original hook. Capcom agreed. Even though Resident Evil 7: Biohazard went further into the realm of shooters with a first-person perspective, it's seen as an attempt to bring the franchise back to its roots. The seventh game has been highly praised for shifting the focus back to survival horror in a grotesque sea of mutants, cannibalism and disturbing body horror.
So Where Should You Start?
If you've seen the Resident Evil movies and want to play the games, there are plenty of options worthy of your time. Where you should start depends largely on what film in the series you've watched and how important chronological order is for your gameplay experience.
The live-action Resident Evil film series from writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson departs from the original games, but features scenes and plot points that mirror the first few titles in the game series. Since Anderson's films are driven by action sequences, the third-person shooter titles from the main game series — Resident Evil 4 through 6 — are great starting choices. They're very easy to jump into and navigate, even if you never played the first few Resident Evil games.
But If You Want To Play For The Story
On the other hand, if you're more familiar with the Japanese animated series starring fictional rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy, then the original games might offer a richer connection to this CG series. Released by Capcom, these films are well executed and fit in neatly between the series' later installments. They follow the aftermath of Resident Evil 4 and are also considered canon to the games.
For that reason, it's best to start with the original titles — Resident Evil or Resident Evil 2 — before working your way forward. Playing through the original story behind Raccoon City and learning more about Kennedy's role in Resident Evil 2 is rewarding if you've seen the films, and provides for plenty of context throughout the official series.
Or If You Like Survival Horror
Then there's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Featuring completely new characters and set in the Deep South of Louisiana, Biohazard takes the original Resident Evil survival-horror formula and updates it for 2017, with first-person exploration and action gameplay. Resident Evil 7 is scary, but it's unique from both film series in that it focuses more on horror than any other element.
Of course, there's very little continuity between both film series and Resident Evil 7. Rather, this game takes place in the general universe and links players back to the Umbrella Corporation, so Resident Evil 7 is best enjoyed as a traditional Resident Evil horror title more than anything else.
But 7 is new, entertaining and features amazing graphics. If you're looking for a fresh, modern title with which to jump into the series, then Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is where you'll want to kick things off.
Wrapping things up, here's where we suggest you start, based on your film preferences:
2015's Resident Evil HD Remaster
- Play if: You enjoyed the animated Capcom films and want to learn more about Leon S. Kennedy's story in chronological order.
2005's Resident Evil 4
- Play if: You loved the live-action Anderson films and want to experience action-based gameplay.
2017's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
- Play if: You enjoyed either film series' horror elements and want a dedicated title focused solely on survival horror.
- Also, play if: You want to enjoy the latest and most polished release in the series.
1996's Resident Evil
- Play if: You're interested in Resident Evil's gameplay origins and want to explore the series from its early days.
- But, generally: Stick to the HD Remaster, which has vastly improved graphics and is available on modern consoles.
Have any suggestions of your own? Tell us your thoughts about the Resident Evil franchise in the comments below.