Where To Start: Resident Evil (the Latest Games)
After 25 years of frights and frantic combat, it can be very easy for a game franchise like Resident Evil to become dense with games and complex lore. And with 25 years behind it, some might be intimidated, wondering what they need to play to enjoy the games or how to avoid getting confused by events and characters that they’ve never heard of. That’s why I am here to help, ready to tell you all what you should try to play (or watch a playthrough of) before giving the Resident Evil series’ latest titles a shot.
...If you want to play Resident Evil Village...
Then all you’ll really need to play is Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The title was envisioned as a sort of soft reboot for the series, bringing the survival horror franchise back to very well-executed, and frightening, basics after many of the more bombastic and globe-spanning titles. Moving from a third-person perspective to first-person, 7 acts as our introduction to Ethan Winters as he explores the Baker family house, looking for his missing wife. Playing it certainly does not require any knowledge of prior titles. Village, which finds Ethan looking for his daughter while surviving in and around Castle Dimitrescu, uses the same first-person perspective as 7 and acts as something of a continuation of the title. Other titles might not give you the same feeling as these two, so I would recommend starting here if you’re itching to play the latest and greatest. There are some references here and there to prior games, but nothing important should be out of your reach.
Two quick caveats though: First, Resident Evil Village is only a continuation of one of Resident Evil 7’s two endings. I won’t spoil things for you, but both the game’s DLC and Village will act as though you already know the ending in question. You might wind up confused if you only take the non-canonical route. Ultimately, the difference is only in one major choice towards the end of the title and, if you take a look at the synopses of either Village or the End of Zoe DLC for 7, you should be able to figure out which is Resident Evil’s official ending. Second, Village more prominently features Chris Redfield, a series mainstay that’s been with the franchise since the first game. This might come off as a little intimidating, but don’t worry. Chris makes an appearance in 7 as well and the free DLC pack, Not a Hero, acts as something of an official reintroduction of the character into the Ethan Winters saga. You shouldn’t need to look into any of the prior games to know what’s going on, though it might be fun to see how Chris changes over the course of the series.
...If you want to play Resident Evil 3 (2020)…
You are similarly in luck! While Resident Evil 3 (2020) is more connected to the rest of the series, it takes place fairly early on in the franchise’s overall plotline. That’s a remake for you. The way I see it, you have two options here. You can either play Resident Evil 2 (2019) first or you can play through Resident Evil (2002) and then 2 (2019).
Like Chris Redfield, 3 (2020)’s protagonist, Jill Valentine, originates from the series’ very first title, which was remade for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 and got an additional remaster on a plethora of modern consoles in 2015. However, while playing that first game would give you greater insight into Jill’s character in 3 (2020), the two titles play very differently from each other and Resident Evil (2002)’s tone is also ever-so-slightly goofier than 3 (2020)’s. Still, if you are going to play Resident Evil (2002), I would recommend you specifically find a copy of Resident Evil HD REMASTER. There’s not much of a functional difference, but the newer version looks nicer, is on more platforms, and won’t be as expensive a purchase.
Resident Evil 2 (2019), on the other hand, is another excellent jumping-on point for the series, acting as a perfect introduction to Raccoon City, a setting it shares with 3 (2020), and several of its inhabitants. The gameplay is also very similar between the two, both being third-person survival horror titles. In addition, both games take place roughly around the same time and, as such, much of 3 (2020) will reference events in 2 (2019). As an added bonus, 2 (2019) received a free update roughly around 3 (2020)’s release, adding an extra file and achievement setting up 3 (2020)’s events.
...If you want to play Resident Evil Re:Verse…
You’ll have to wait for a minute! The 25th-anniversary celebratory game was intended to ship alongside Resident Evil Village, but it has been delayed for a Summer 2021 release. The multiplayer deathmatch game will pit several of the series’ human characters, such as Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, or HUNK, against each other in a series of deathmatch battles. What makes Resident Evil Re:Verse unique is how, once a human character has been defeated, their player can respawn as one of the monsters the series is known for, including the Nemesis, Mr. X, or Resident Evil 7’s Jack Baker. Because of this, while playing prior games in the series isn’t strictly necessary, it might be good for you to play the titles that each character comes from. Luckily enough, most of these characters use their appearances from their most recent games, which means you’ll only really have to play Resident Evil 2 (2019), 3 (2020), Resident Evil 7, and possibly Resident Evil Village to recognize everyone. Of course, if you don’t mind not recognizing every character in Re:Verse there really isn’t any reason you can’t just play the game. As an online multiplayer title, Re:Verse shouldn’t be terribly connected to the rest of the franchise.
...If you want to play the whole Resident Evil franchise…
There are really a wide variety of great places to start. In this article’s Part Two, we’ll go over my recommendations for which order you should experience the whole series in, but for now, I can share a few quick starting points. The first Resident Evil and its prequel, Resident Evil 0, can be enjoyed concurrently or consecutively and both are great introductions, with Resident Evil being a solid introduction of the entire series and 0 acting as an excellent companion experience. In their most recent forms as remasters, they can easily be experienced on any major current console or on PC. If you’d rather go old school, you can experience Resident Evil in its original glory on the original PlayStation. The tank controls can be a slight bit more unwieldy, but Resident Evil (2002), which the HD Remaster is built off of, changed a fair amount, so it might be worth it to enjoy the original first.
I hope this has been helpful for you in figuring out what you need to play before picking up the Resident Evil series’ latest titles and I can’t wait for you to join me when we take a more in-depth look at a possible order to play through this amazingly frightening franchise.