The Resident Evil series has been going for literal decades at this point. Having started in 1996, soon it’ll be celebrating its 30th birthday.

That’s a lot of history, both in-game and out of it, and it gets a bit convoluted, so on the occasion of Resident Evil 4 Remake coming out, let’s untangle the thread a little bit and see what the fuss is all about!

The Method

Covering the ENTIRE Resident Evil storyline would be a cyclopean task which, while worthy, is unfeasible for a short article.

So, we’re going to do the next best thing and cover the plot premise of the numbered entries only. So, let’s get to it, shall we?

GameRelease YearIn-Game Timeline DateLeading Character(s)
Resident Evil 0 2002 July 23–24, 1998 Rebecca Chambers & Billy Coen
Resident Evil 1998 July 24–25, 1998 Chris Redfield & Jill Valentine
Resident Evil 2 1998 September 29–30, 1998 Leon S. Kennedy & Claire Redfield
Resident Evil 3 1999 September 26–28, 1998; October 1, 1998 Jill Valentine
Resident Evil – Code: Veronica 2000 December, 1998 Claire Redfield & Chris Redfield
Resident Evil 4 2005 Autumn, 2004 Leon S. Kennedy
Resident Evil 5 2009 March, 2009 Chris Redfield & Sheva Alomar
Resident Evil 6 2012 December 24–25, 2012 Multiple (Leon, Chris, Jake Muller, etc.)
RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard 2017 July, 2017 Ethan Winters
Resident Evil 8: Village 2021 February 8–10, 2021 Ethan Winters

Resident Evil timeline in chronological order

Resident Evil 0

Canonical date: July 23-24, 1998
Leading characters: Rebecca Chambers, Billy Coen

Before the horrifying events at the Spencer Mansion, the prequel, RE0, traces the events leading up to the iconic mansion incident. Rookie S.T.A.R.S. member Rebecca Chambers teams up with former Marine convict Billy Coen as they discover the truth behind the mysterious Ecliptic Express train overrun by mutants and the sinister origins tied to the Umbrella Corporation.

Resident Evil

Canonical date: July 24–25, 1998
Leading characters: Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine

RE1 follows a special forces unit sent to investigate some weird and grisly murders in the Arklay Mountains. They find a mysterious mansion, roamed by mutants and housing a laboratory used for some very obviously illegal experiments conducted by the Umbrella Corporation. Add to this a double agent, and fellow officers in trouble to get a tense story setting up future troubles.

Resident Evil 3

Canonical date: September 26–28, 1998; October 1, 1998
Leading characters: Jill Valentine

RE3 follows a Special Tactics and Rescue Service (STAR) member Jill Valentine as she’s trying to escape Raccoon City. There’s a bad case of a zombie outbreak in there, and Jill gets infected herself, by a terrifying mutant known as Nemesis. To make things worse, there’s a scheduled drastic crisis response and a mole among her allies, if things weren’t bad enough!

Resident Evil 2

Canonical date: September 29–30, 1998
Leading characters: Leon S. Kennedy, Claire Redfield

24 hours after the first part of Jill’s story, Leon S. Kennedy has the worst first day on duty ever, as he and a college student Claire Redfield (Chris’ sister) find themselves in Racoon City overrun by zombies. They decide to make the best of this unfortunate setup and try to find and save as many survivors as they can, which puts them on track to uncover some nasty family business.

Resident Evil 4

Canonical date: Autumn 2004
Leading characters: Leon S. Kennedy

It’s been six years since Leon’s terrible, no good, very bad first day at work. Thanks to an excellent track record, he is tasked with rescuing the kidnapped daughter of the US. President, taken by a weird cult in rural Spain. Of course, it’s a Resident Evil game, so Leon confronts people controlled by weird, mutated parasites, and encounters a nefarious plot involving his old acquaintances and a series’ mainstay bad guy.

RE4 is more or less a whole new story, largely unconnected to the prior three, so you’re in the clear if you want to play this remake right away, without going through the previous ones.

Resident Evil 5

Canonical date: March 2009 (and August 2006 in DLC)
Leading characters: Chris Redfield, Sheva Alomar

Resident Evil 5 takes place five years after RE4, and this time brings back Chris Redfield, sent to West Africa with his partner Sheva Alomar to prevent the sale of a bio-organic weapon.

Unfortunately, not only has the local population been infected with the same mind-controlling parasite Leon had to deal with in 4, but there are clear signs of Umbrella Corporation meddling. There are also substantial appearances from faces known from the Raccoon City saga.

Resident Evil 6

Canonical date: December 24–25, 2012; June 26–28, 2013; June 29 – July 1, 2013;
Leading characters: Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Jake Muller, Ada Wong

Resident Evil 6 takes place three years after RE5, and offers four interconnected scenarios, revolving around a bio-terrorist attack and Albert Wesker’s son, Jake Muller.

There’s also prominent involvement from Ada Wong, opposed by series posterboys Chris and Leon. A part of the story involves US officials planning to reveal the truth behind the events of Raccoon City, something both heroes have a strong connection to.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Canonical date: October 2014
Leading characters: Ethan Winters

RE7 brought in a new character, Ethan Winters, who travels to Louisiana to find his missing wife. He traced the last message to a sprawling house owned by the Baker family…unfortunately, the Bakers are clearly deranged and visibly…twisted.

Discovering the secrets of the family and looking for his wife takes more courage and determination than Ethan was ready for, and the consequences will follow him for years, right into the sequel.

Resident Evil Village

Canonical date: February 8–10, 2021 (2037 in DLC)
Leading characters: Ethan Winters

Seven years later, Ethan was living peacefully with his wife and their daughter Rose… And then Resident Evil plot crashed back into their life.

With Mia shot by Chris Redfield and their daughter, Rose, kidnapped to a remote European village, Ethan has another festival of monsters to get through. This installment also presents a bunch of interesting lore which might change the future of the series.

Who knows where things go from there

This concludes our brief overview of what’s kicking off each game’s rollercoaster of mutations, weird science, and betrayals. Obviously, we wouldn’t spoil the plots, as discovering the reversals, appearances, and twists is a crucial part of enjoying the Resident Evil series, but our quick premise list should give you a good idea which mainlines games to play to follow the life path of your favorite characters.