The Resident Evil series is expansive and somewhat confusing. Although Resident Evil Village, the latest original game in the series is the eighth (if you trust the title stylings), it comes after a long, long line of remakes, remasters, spin-offs and internal sequels.

You might have even looked at the list on Wikipedia or the wiki ahead of the RE4 Remake launch, and came off confused and intimidated. Fret not, we’re here to make this thing a whole lot less overwhelming.

The Resident Evil series in a nutshell

Regardless of where on the series’ timeline you start, you can be sure of two things:

  1. You will be dealing with the results of weird science going incredibly wrong and growing way too many gruesome appendages
  2. You will have some weirdly charismatic or otherwise memorable villains to deal with
  3. The Umbrella Corporation is somehow involved

Play in order, or not at all?

With so many games in the series, there comes the obvious question: do you have to play all of them, and does it have to be in order?

The short answers are: “no, you don’t”, and “no it doesn’t… kind of”.

Technically, most of what you need to know is contained in the given game, but some of them can be seen as a contained arc. You can play these broader storylines in any order, but it’s advised to stick to order or release for games within a specific arc.

In other words: unless you absolutely can’t miss any references to anything, you can easily just stick to interconnected entries.

Fresh examples

If you want to see the franchise mainstays’ origins stories, play the broad Raccoon City Outbreak arc, contained in Resident Evils 1 to 3, all of which are helpfully remade and looking good.

The new Resident Evil 4 Remake is a completely new story which you don’t really need setup for, as it’s set a few years after the events of Raccoon City, but a few things will feel less out-of-place if you’ve played RE2.

Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Village are their own, almost completely separate stories. While the connections to Umbrella Corp are clear and important for the franchise as a whole, you don’t need to play earlier games to pick up what’s being put down.

Where does that leave you?

If there’s one conclusion to take out of this text, is that you don’t need to all the games in order to have fun with any single entry. The characters are great and vibrant enough to quickly give you a good impression of who they are, and gameplay doesn’t require story setup to be great.