Every Mainline Resident Evil Game, Ranked By Difficulty

When Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine fought for their lives against Umbrella and its horrific creations in the original Resident Evil, it epitomized survival horror video games, and practically invented the genre at the same time. The series has always been marked by its difficulty curve, requiring players to keep their wits, conserve ammo, and know when to retreat when things get too dicey. Careless playing results in a number of gruesome deaths.

RELATED: 10 Horror Games With A Better Story Than Resident Evil 2

Not all Resident Evil games are built alike in terms of difficulty, however. Some punish the player with lopsided challenges, while others use difficulty as an actual game mechanic in order to force players to stay on the move. Whichever game in the franchise is brought up, there’s bound to be plenty of tense moments and sweaty palms.

Updated on September 19th, 2021 by Derek Draven: With the recent release of Resident Evil Village, the total number of mainline franchise titles is now up to 10. That’s a lot of horror to survive with a story that spans decades at this point. Resident Evil continues to be the source of survival horror games as they are known today, and the series has come full circle back to its own roots. The result is a focus on high tension, incredible scares, and difficulty curves that vary in strength.

Depending on which title is being played, the challenge may be moderate, or incredibly severe. The truly masochistic will appreciate the most unrelenting and punishing chapters in the franchise.

10 Resident Evil 6 (2012)

Leon Kennedy kicks a zombie in Resident Evil 6

While Resident Evil 6 is considered the worst of the saga, it does have certain difficult moments. The shift in focus from survival horror to third-person action shooter robbed this entry of its core foundation, making it far too easy to stay alive and thrive.

Though the fight against Derek Simmons is one of the hardest boss battles of the entire Resident Evil franchise, it’s not enough to offset the forgiving nature of the rest of the game. Resident Evil 6 was more about cinematic narrative than challenge, which wasn’t what longtime fans of the series’ challenges were hoping for.

9 Resident Evil (1996)

Chris Redfield sneaks up behind a zombie in Resident Evil

If anything made the first Resident Evil game difficult, it was a mixture of game mechanics, the camera system, and the novelty of the genre at the time. By today’s standards, it’s a rather easy game to beat, especially for gamers who’ve already played through it from start to finish.

The main challenges came from the puzzles, rather than battles against zombies and mutated monsters. With some careful stepping, some analyzing of attack patterns, and a balanced approach to inventory management, Resident Evil is rather vanilla in terms of difficulty. It did, however, sport one of the scariest moments of the entire Resident Evil franchise, and helped kick off a pop culture phenomenon.

8 Resident Evil 2 (1998)

Claire Redfield evades zombies on a street in Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 built on the success of the seminal original by expanding the scope of the game. The environments were larger and more varied, the story was far more complex, and the monsters more unique and dangerous. This amped up the difficulty, even if it wasn’t as noticeable as later games in the franchise.

The 2019 remake of RE2 was a completely different kind of game, with its own difficulty curve thrown in. The original release, however, was more about continuing the story and building on the lore, as opposed to offering a nail-biting challenge.

7 Resident Evil 4 (2005)

Leon Kennedy fights a snake-tongued monster in Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 was the first in the series to completely abandon the rigid camera system of the original games, and it was a welcome change for longtime fans. Capcom took the opportunity to swap out the perspective and environmental modeling, which allowed them to ratchet up the tension at the same time.

RELATED: 5 Things The Resident Evil 4 Remake Needs To Change (& 5 That Should Stay The Same)

This chapter forced players into a whole new level of discomfort. Sitting still was not an option, as hordes of Las Plagas infected would quickly overwhelm and kill them in short order. The need to stay on the move during major firefights was incredibly nerve-wracking, and that made RE4 a much more difficult game from its predecessors.

6 Resident Evil Village (2021)

Battling Alcina with her long fingernails in Resident Evil Village

Capcom’s newest entry in the Resident Evil franchise takes a lot of its cues from the previous chapter, duplicating the same first-person feel, with a focus on Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style tension and inventive, excellent new characters. In terms of difficulty, however, it’s a bit more forgiving than others.

Village is most difficult at the beginning of the game while players get accustomed to the weapons, the controls and the pacing. If they can survive the initial onslaught, the rest of the game provides a manageable enough challenge on Normal, with options to ratchet up the curve on a second playthrough.

5 Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)

Jill Valentine battles zombies in a back alely in Resident Evil 3

Nemesis managed to switch up the established formula of the first two games by introducing an element into the equation that left players in a constant state of fear and paranoia. The Nemesis creature itself was hulking, monstrous and relentless, chasing the player throughout Raccoon City at breakneck speed.

The constant feeling of dread was a stroke of genius on Capcom’s part. While the base game wasn’t all that different from Resident Evil 2, the difficulty was another matter. Nemesis continues to be one of the most iconic and defining elements of the Resident Evil franchise, and a showcase for how it can scare the life out of players.

4 Resident Evil VII (2017)

Ethan battles an evil face in a boss fight in Resident Evil VII

Resident Evil 7, though a later installment to the franchise, is actually highly regarded for going back to the series’ survival horror roots and stripping out a lot of the superfluous action mechanics. The result is a robust, streamlined exercise in psychological video game terror.

RELATED: 10 Best Characters In Resident Evil VII, Ranked

The game is also the first in the mainline series to be set in a first-person perspective, adding a new level of immersion that the previous games didn’t have. Visually, this was a paradigm shift, offering new ways to scare the pants off gamers, in the vein of survival horror games like Alien Isolation. 

3 Resident Evil Zero (2002)

Rebecca Chambers battles a zombie on a train in Resident Evil Zero

Though Resident Evil Zero wasn’t as well received as previous entries in the franchise, it was one of the most difficult. This becomes apparent right at the start of the game when players are challenged straight out of the gate. It’s an unusual switch-up from the slow, tense buildup of previous titles.

New monsters like zombie leeches and a punishing inventory system gave Zero a bit of a bad rap. For survival horror purists, it was probably a blessing in disguise, but for more casual Resident Evil fans, it was something of a nightmare.

2 Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000)

Claire Redfield battles Tyrant on board an airplane in Resident Evil: Code Veronica

Resident Evil: Code Veronica is not a difficult game on its own, but some questionable design choices made it much harder than it needed to be. There are some memorable battles in the game, including the plane battle against Tyrant, one of the most powerful monsters in Resident Evil history.

However, the biggest difficulty curve comes courtesy of the narrative. Players begin as Claire Redfield, and tend to gobble up every item, weapon and ammo pack around. When the game switches to Chris as the lead protagonist, most gamers were shocked to learn that they’d be left with an empty pantry as a result of earlier hoarding habits. Overcoming this challenge could be a monstrous undertaking.

1 Resident Evil 5 (2009)

Chris Redfield battles Las Plagas infected in Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 bears the distinction of being one of the hardest titles in the fracnhise, but for all the wrong reasons. While this installment was built on the same forced run and gun premise of Resident Evil 4, the introduction of a buddy system actually made things a lot worse in terms of the challenge factor.

With ammo already being scarce, single players were forced to contend with Sheva Alomar, a computer controlled partner with terrible aim, who chewed through ammo reserves and first-aid items in no time. This created plenty of headaches, especially since it was also the player’s job to prevent Sheva from getting killed, under penalty of “Game Over.”

NEXT: Which Resident Evil Boss Are You, Based On Your Zodiac?

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