Resident Evil Village is one of the most talked-about new games of 2021, and it’s easy to see why; between towering mega-babe Lady Alcina Dimitrescu and the game’s intriguing Eastern European locale, fans couldn’t be more excited to get playing. But whether you’re new to the series or a longtime fan, one thing’s for certain: there are a lot of Resident Evil games. In fact, there are so many that they can be hard to keep track of! Don’t worry, though—with our helpful guide, we’ll have you fully brushed up on Resident Evil’s complicated backstory in no time!
Note: I’m skipping the remakes and stand alone games, because if I didn’t, we’d be here all day. Trust me.
RESIDENT EVIL (1996)
Welcome to Raccoon City, where the fog is soupy, the buildings are crumbly, and the people… might be zombie. The player character (either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine), an Alpha member of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (STARS), must investigate a string of murders that appear to involve cannibalism. Yuck! A series of shenanigans (a pack of vicious dogs kills one of the members of the Alpha Team, pilot runs off to who-knows-where) strands them on the outskirts of the city, forcing the remaining team members to take refuge in a creepy nearby mansion—one that happens to be infested with terrifying creatures.
Throughout the course of the game, the player character learns that biomedical company Umbrella Corporation has been secretly experimenting on mansion personnel, exposing them to the T-virus (a mutagenic biological agent) and transforming them into monsters. Later on, the player character finds a secret underground lab, chock-full of spooky Umbrella experiments—as well as Albert Wesker, one of the Alpha Team members, who reveals himself to be a double agent. He does a typical evil dude monologue, revealing his intentions to use the Tyrant (a terrifying humanoid supersoldier) to kill his former teammates. Of course, the player character puts a stop to this plan, defeating the Tyrant, killing Wesker (or so it would seem), and setting the lab to self-destruct. The game has multiple endings, but the best one has Chris, Jill, and one other STARS member escaping in a helicopter as the lab explodes dramatically behind them.
RESIDENT EVIL 2 (1998)
Two months after the events of Resident Evil, the bulk of Raccoon City’s residents have been zombified by the T-virus. Brand-new police officer Leon Kennedy, along with Claire Redfield (sister of Chris), discover that most of the city’s police force has been brutally killed. Chris (brother of Claire) has helpfully jetted off to Europe to investigate Umbrella HQ, leaving Leon and Claire to fight their way out of the city themselves, finding survivors where they can. While searching for an exit route, the pair happens upon a little girl, Sherry Birkin, and a woman named Ada Wong, who is looking for her boyfriend John. And—oh, yeah—John happens to be a researcher for Umbrella.
Corrupt police chief Brian Irons (a very challenging name to say) corruptly conceals Umbrella’s latest research: the G-virus, which is designed to turn a human body into a bioweapon. What could go wrong? Irons tries to kill Claire but is killed by a G-virus mutant himself, after which Claire and Sherry head into the sewers, but are separated. Ada splits from Leon and finds Sherry, as well as a mysterious gold pendant that Sherry lost during her escape. The pendant doesn’t remain a mystery for long—it contains a sample of the G-virus, courtesy of Sherry’s Umbrella scientist mom, Annette Birkin. Sherry’s dad, William Birkin, just so happened to create the G-virus; in order to protect his work, he injected himself with it, which went about as well as you’d expect. (He turned into a monster and is now hunting down his daughter, which probably won’t win him any Dad Of The Year awards anytime soon.)
Our heroes finally reunite and make their way through a spooky abandoned factory in order to reach yet another top-secret Umbrella lab. However, reaching the lab is no cake walk—William attacks, leaving Ada severely wounded. Leon searches the lab for some way to help her, but is interrupted by Annette, who reveals that Ada is a double agent. (Yes, they use the same twist twice. Just go with it.) Ada is actually a spy, on a mission to steal the G-virus for a mystery organization. The Tyrant shows up, scaring off Sherry’s mom, and Ada swoops in to save Leon. Though she is able to defeat the process, she appears to be mortally wounded, and Leon splits after she confesses her love to him. (Harsh, man!) Annette turns up again, only to be fatally wounded by her ex William; however, before she dies she tells Claire how to make a vaccine that will save Sherry from some weird embryo thing that her dad implanted in her. (Seriously, this guy is not great at being a dad.) Leon and Claire follow the instructions and inject Sherry with the vaccine, saving her life. Leon squares off against the mutated Super Tyrant, but Ada swoops in (again) to save the day (again). She escapes with the G-virus pendant, Leon escapes with Sherry, and Claire just… keeps looking for her brother. Don’t worry, Claire. I’m sure he’ll turn up.
RESIDENT EVIL 3: NEMESIS (1999)
Hey, remember Jill Valentine? She’s back—and she’s in third-person now! Resident Evil 3: Nemesis kicks off 24 hours before the events of Resident Evil 2. Jill’s attempting to escape Raccoon City, and, on her way out, bumps into former teammate Brad Vickers. The happy reunion doesn’t last long, though, as Brad is quickly killed by a new kind of monster—the Nemesis T-Type, a bio-organic weapon. Its mission? To find and kill all of the remaining STARS members. During Jill’s escape from Nemesis, she makes a few new friends: Carlos Oliveira, Mikhail Viktor, and Nikolai Zinoviev. The trio are former members of the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS), and they tell Jill that if they reach the city’s clock tower, they’ll be able to call a rescue helicopter. Sounds easy enough!
Thanks to Nemesis’s efforts, Jill is ultimately separated from her three besties, and must make her way to the clock tower alone. Once she arrives, she calls for the helicopter. However, the rescue effort is quickly thwarted by Nemesis, who destroys the helicopter (ouch) and infects Jill with the T-virus (double ouch). Jill defeats Nemesis (for now), but passes out, at which point Carlos makes his triumphant return, rescuing Jill and taking her to safety. Then, he one-ups himself by finding a vaccine for her at the nearby hospital. Heroic!
Once Jill is feeling all better, she makes her way to Raccoon Park and heads to the caretaker’s cabin. There, she bumps into Nikolai, who reveals… that he is a double agent. (Yeah. They did it again.) His mission? Gather combat data of Umbrella’s bioweapons. I’m sure he needs that data for nice reasons, though. Jill fights a big worm thing, then books it to a nearby abandoned factory, where she reunites with Carlos. Carlos has good news and bad news. The good news: the U.S. government has a plan to end Raccoon City’s zombie problem. The bad news: the plan is a nuclear missile—and it’s already on its way. After another confrontation with Nikolai (the specifics of which vary depending on the player’s choices), Jill must square off against Nemesis again. Once she defeats him, she meets up with Carlos once again. They escape Raccoon City in a helicopter, and not a moment too soon. As they fly away, the city explodes dramatically behind them.
Okay, we’re back to Claire now. Three months after her escape from Raccoon City, Claire is still trying to find her brother, Chris. She breaks into an Umbrella facility in Paris, where she is quickly discovered and captured by Umbrella security. She is imprisoned on Rockfort Island, an Umbrella-owned prison. Fortunately, a staff member releases her! Unfortunately, it’s because a T-virus outbreak has arrived on the island. Claire teams up with fellow inmate Steve Burnside, and they attempt to find an escape. The pair manage to commandeer a seaplane, but before they’re able to get to safety, the evil prison warden, Alfred Ashford, follows them and switches their plane to autopilot, sending it to an Umbrella facility in Antarctica.
Once they land in Antarctica, they discover that this facility has also been infected with T-virus. (What are the odds?) They fight with Alfred some more, fatally wounding him. However, before he dies, he frees his twin sister, Alexia, from cryogenic sleep, which she was in because she had injected herself with the experimental T-Veronica virus. It’s a whole thing. Anyway, she re-captures Claire and Steve.
Meanwhile, doing his best “ship in the night” impression, Chris arrives on Rockfort Island, and he’s looking for Claire. You just missed her, buddy! While he tries to figure out her new location, he bumps into Albert Wesker… a double agent! But, like, from the first game. He’s more of an independent contractor now, and he’s on the hunt for a sample of the T-Veronica virus. Both of them discover that Antarctica is the place to be, so they (separately) make their way over there. Chris locates his sister, but when the pair go looking for Steve, they discover that he’s been injected with the virus. He mutates and attempts to kill Claire, but manages to regain control of himself long enough to turn his murderous efforts onto Alexia. Unfortunately, she fatally wounds him. He tells Claire he loves her, and then dies. Chris and Wesker defeat Alexia, then escape Antarctica—Chris with his sister, and Wesker with Steve’s gross dead body. The facility explodes dramatically behind them.
RESIDENT EVIL ZERO (2002)
Resident Evil Zero is a direct prequel to the original Resident Evil—and when I say “direct,” I’m not kidding around. It takes place a whopping 24 hours before the events of the first game. The action kicks off on the worst train ride this side of Busan—the Umbrella-owned Ecliptic Express is swarmed by leeches, which attack the passengers and crew while a distant, mysterious figure watches. A couple hours later, the STARS Bravo team is sent to the Arklay Mountains. Their mission: investigate the string of cannibalistic murders from the first game. (You’ll be shocked to learn it doesn’t go well.) En route, the team’s helicopter crash-lands in the woods, where player character and Bravo Team member Rebecca Chambers discovers the now-stationary Express. Inside the train’s crunchy exterior is a particularly gooey center: a whole bunch of zombies. Rebecca explores the train with the help of the other player character, Billy Coen, who was supposed to be executed for murdering a bunch of people—of course, until the police van transporting him crashed, allowing him to conveniently escape.
While Rebecca and Billy investigate the train, a couple Umbrella soldiers take control of it and start it up again in the hopes of destroying it. Unfortunately for them, they’re killed by leeches before they can finish their task. The train does that thing where it goes super fast and is about to crash (you know, train stuff) but Rebecca and Billy take control and save the day. The pair manage to stop the train, then set out on foot to explore the area, presumably deciding that they’re done with trains for a while. They happen upon an abandoned Umbrella training facility, where they learn that Umbrella’s co-founder, Dr. James Marcus, discovered what he called the “Progenitor virus” way back in the ‘60s, and (being an evil scientist) combined it with leech DNA in order to transform it into a biological weapon. Way to go, James! It worked!
Meanwhile, Wesker (who’s kicking around in this game, too) decides he’s had it with Umbrella. He plans to join a rival corporation, and he wants World’s Best Dad William Birkin to come with. Birkin, too busy thinking of things for his daughter to talk about in future therapy sessions, refuses.
Okay, back to Billy and Rebecca. The two get separated in the facility, and Rebecca bumps into the captain of the Bravo Team, who tells her about a cool mansion that everyone’s meeting up at, where there are definitely no zombies, none whatsoever. Rebecca doesn’t want to leave Billy behind, though, so she opts to meet up with her Bravo friends later. When the captain leaves, Rebecca is attacked by the Tyrant, who is a lot less icky than the leeches, honestly. She defeats him and finds Billy. Yay!
The pair tracks down the mysterious figure who, apparently, is controlling the leeches—though he appears to be a young man, he is actually the Queen Leech, aka Dr. Marcus’s final experiment. It’s complicated, but basically—Marcus was assassinated by his co-founder, Oswell E. Spencer; the Queen Leech took over his body and reanimated it; and now he can shape-shift and control all the leeches. Billy and Rebecca defeat Queen Leech and escape the facility just as Birkin triggers the self-destruct feature that, apparently, all Umbrella buildings come equipped with. The building explodes dramatically behind them. Then, Rebecca heads off alone to the mansion to meet her team members, and, uh, it goes badly.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 (2005)
Hey, remember Leon? He’s back, and he’s more Leon than ever. His mission: rescue the President’s daughter, Ashley, who has been kidnapped by a spooky cult. He jets off to a quaint little village in Spain, which is quaintly full of quaint cult-worshipping villagers who are being mind-controlled by literal brain worms, known as Las Plagas. Leon is captured and injected with brain worms, but is able to team up with fellow captive Luis Sera, a former researcher for the cult. (This cult has an R&D department. Just go with it.)
They make their escape and part ways, with Leon heading off to rescue Ashley, who is being held in a nearby church. The pair get the heck out of there, but not before the cult’s berobed leader, Osmund Saddler, reveals his evil plan: he injected Ashley with brain worms, and plans to mind control her into injecting the President with even more brain worms. Leon and Ashley book it out of there, hiding in a big spooky castle, which happens to be owned by Ramon Salazar, another cult devotee. Thanks to Salazar’s wacky, Home Alone-style traps, Ashley and Leon are separated, which seems to be a thing that happens to a lot of Resident Evil protagonists. You’d think they’d be better at sticking together by now.
Meanwhile, Luis helpfully finds a brain worm sample and some pills that will slow Leon and Ashley’s infections. Unhelpfully, Saddler kills him and steals the sample—fortunately, though, Leon is able to get the pills in time. There’s a lot of fighting, Ada shows up for some reason, and then Leon kills Salazar.
Determined to reunite with Ashley, Leon heads over to an island research facility that happens to be nearby, which is very convenient. There, Leon rescues Ashley, and the pair successfully un-brain-worm themselves via a fancy radiotherapeutic contraption. Leon, with Ada’s help, kills Saddler, but Ada… is a double agent! She steals the brain worm sample and flies away in a helicopter. Leon and Ashley commandeer Ada’s jet-ski and escape from the island as it explodes dramatically behind them.
RESIDENT EVIL 5 (2009)
Five years after the events of Resident Evil 4, Chris Redfield is doing pretty well for himself. (Well, as well as you can do in a nightmare-fueled zombie-riddled dystopia.) He’s now an agent of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), and he’s been sent to the African city of Kijuju along with his partner, Sheva Alomar. Their mission: capture arms dealer Ricardo Irving before he can sell a particularly nasty bio organic weapon (BOW) on the black market. However, they bump into a familiar foe when they get there: brain worms! The BSAA Delta team swoops in to rescue our protagonists, but before they can apprehend Irving, he’s spirited away by a mysterious hooded figure. It’s okay, though—if they’d captured him, this would be a really short game.
Chris and Sheva follow a series of clues to a marsh where they hope to apprehend Irving. Unfortunately, it turns out that the whole thing was a distraction, and Irving has used the opportunity to kill the rest of the BSAA Delta Team with a BOW. Chris also learns that his old partner Jill Valentine (you know, from before) is presumed dead following an unfortunate encounter with Wesker. All in all, it’s a pretty rough day.
Rather than report to HQ, Chris and Sheva keep exploring the marsh. There, they find Sheva’s mentor, Captain Josh Stone, as well as Irving’s boat. Irving decides to inject himself with a cousin of the brain worms, which (obviously) transforms him into a big ol’ octopus monster. When he’s defeated, he points Chris and Sheva in the direction of a nearby cave. Deciding they might as well trust the big ol’ octopus monster, Chris and Sheva head over to the cave and discover… flowers. But not just any flowers! These flowers are used by Umbrella to make viruses. Chris and Sheva also happen upon a dank new strain: Uroboros. (The game does not clarify if it is indica or sativa.)
Bad news, though—it turns out that Tricell, the company that funds all of the BSAA’s activities, took over an underground Umbrella lab in order to continue Umbrella’s research.
It turns out that Tricell CEO Excella Gionne has been in cahoots with Wesker, and is planning to launch Uroboros missiles around the world in a devastating global bioterror attack. Though Chris and Sheva attempt to go after Gionne, they’re stopped by Wesker and the mysterious hooded figure from before… who turns out to be Jill Valentine! Jill Valentine is a double agent! Or is she? Don’t worry—Valentine is just being mind-controlled. Wesker escapes, but Chris and Sheva are able to get the mind control device off of Valentine.
Chris and Sheva then follow Wesker to a Tricell oil tanker, where they also find Gionne. Though Gionne manages to escape (again!), but drops a bunch of syringes in the process. Sheva, who is very smart, pockets a few of those bad boys. Chris and Sheva race to the main deck, only to discover that Wesker is a double agent! But, like, not in a helpful way. He betrays Gionne, dosing her with Uroboros and transforming her into a hideous monster.
Chris and Sheva defeat Gionne, at which point Valentine gives them a helpful tip: Wesker has been taking precise doses of the virus in order to enhance his strength and speed. If he messes up the dosage, the virus will poison him. Sheva, being smart, realizes that those syringes she got from Gionne contain doses of the virus. Our heroes pursue Wesker, following him to a bomber loaded up with Uroboros missiles. Wesker tries to use the bomber to escape, but Chris and Sheva poke him with a bunch of syringes and disable the plane. Wesker crash-lands in a convenient nearby volcano, where Chris and Sheva defeat him the old-fashioned way: by throwing him into lava. The pair is helicoptered out by Valentine and Stone. Weirdly, nothing explodes, even though there’s ample opportunity. Like, come on.
RESIDENT EVIL 6 (2012)
Albert Wesker has a son, his name is Jake Muller, and he and Sherry (from before) are in trouble. Sherry, who is an adult now, is attempting to extract him from a little Eastern European country in order to develop a vaccine for the C-virus. (Yes, there’s yet another new virus.) However, the pair is being hunted by Ustanak, a bioweapon and a real pain in the butt. At the same time, a BSAA strike team is deployed to help the country’s residents following a bioterror attack. Of course, Chris Redfield is leading the charge, along with his partner, Piers Nivans. Unfortunately, there’s a new bad guy in town: Neo-Umbrella, which is very much like Umbrella, but Neo-er. They are led by someone who claims to be our old pal Ada Wong. Ada injects everyone in the BSAA with the C-virus, turning them into monsters. (Everyone except Chris and Piers, of course.) Ada then rains on Sherry and Jake’s extraction parade, causing their plane to crash and capturing the duo.
Six months later, the President decides he needs to publicly reveal what happened to Raccoon City, because this will somehow prevent future bioterrorist attacks, or something. He is then immediately proven wrong when a bioterrorist attack hits the venue where he’s doing his little speech—the only survivors are our old pal Leon and Secret Service Agent Helena Harper. They bump into the real Ada Wong, who reveals that National Security Advisor Derek Simmons is actually… a double agent! Turns out, he’s a member of Neo Umbrella and orchestrated the whole attack. Leon and Helena do the next logical thing: fake their own deaths, then follow Simmons to Lanshiang, China. Coincidentally, Lanshiang happens to be where Jake and Sherry are being held captive! Well, were being held captive. (They escape)
Lanshiang is apparently The Place To Be, because Chris, Piers, and a new BSAA squad arrive shortly after Leon and Helena. Chris, Piers, and Leon team up chasing the Ada imposter to an aircraft carrier, where they destroy a bunch of C-virus missiles. Everyone meets up to go give Simmons what-for, but they’re too little, too late—Simmons has already been infected. Chris warns Leon and Helena that a missile was successfully launched, and then Leon, Helena, and Ada (the real Ada) kill Simmons. Meanwhile, Jake and Sherry are captured again, which stopped being cute a long time ago.
Chris and Piers find Jake and Sherry, freeing them, then prevent a massive attack from humanoid bioweapon Haos. In order to save Chris’s life, Piers injects himself with the C-virus, then pushes Chris into an escape pod and uses his fun new virus powers to destroy the base, sacrificing himself in the service of creating another dramatic explosion.
It turns out the Ada imposter was actually Carla Radames, a scientist who Simmons forced to transform into Ada. Carla injects herself with a big ol’ C-virus dose and attempts to attack the real Ada, but is killed before she gets the chance to do any real damage.
RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD (2017)
There’s a new kid on the Resident Evil block! His name is Ethan Winters, and he’s having a really bad day. Ethan gets a mysterious message from his wife, Mia, luring him out to the Baker ranch in Dulvey Parish, Louisiana. The message is particularly mysterious because Mia has been presumed dead since going missing three years prior. Mia, however, is super not dead—she’s just been imprisoned. Ethan frees her, but as they attempt their egress, Mia becomes violent and attacks her helpful husband, who has no choice but to kill her. Fortunately, a woman named Zoe Baker is able to lend a hand, miraculously reviving Mia. Unfortunately, when Mia comes to, she cuts Ethan’s hand off with a chainsaw. Ethan then has to kill Mia again, which is probably starting to be more annoying than tragic at this point.
A creepy older guy, Jack Baker, appears and takes Ethan hostage. Zoe—who, it turns out, is Jack’s daughter—is able to reattach Ethan’s hand, but Ethan is then chased all around the big spooky house by the rest of the Baker family. After this, Zoe shares a little bit of helpful wisdom: the Baker family (and also Mia) have been infected, which is why they have super-strong regenerative abilities. Fortunately, a cure exists—a special serum that will make everyone go back to normal. Unfortunately, Zoe and Mia are soon captured by Zoe’s brother, Lucas, and Ethan has to find his way through an annoyingly booby-trapped barn in order to rescue them.
Zoe is able to develop two doses of the magic serum, but Jack attacks before they can do anything with them. Ethan kills Jack with one of the doses, leaving the player with the choice to save either Mia or Zoe. If you save Zoe, bad stuff happens and you both wind up dying anyway. Don’t worry about it. It isn’t canon. If Ethan saves Mia, the two of them flee on a boat—or, at least, they try to. They wind up finding a crashed tanker and getting attacked by a scary sea monster, who knocks them both from their boat. Mia wakes up and searches the tanker for Ethan, but keeps being interrupted by visions of a spooky young girl named Eveline, who seems to think Mia is her mother. Eventually Mia has her memory restored—she’s a DOUBLE AGENT. Yes, Resident Evil has returned to its favorite well, and honestly you’ve just got to respect its commitment to the bit at this point.
Mia, apparently, was a covert operative for a big evil company that created Eveline, who is (it turns out) a bioweapon. Mia was supposed to escort Eveline on the tanker, but that didn’t exactly go as planned—Eveline freed herself and sank the ship, then infected Mia in the hopes of forcing Mia to become her mother.
Mia gives a vial of Eveline’s genetic material to Ethan, who uses it to synthesize a toxin capable of killing her once and for all. He injects her with the toxin and she transforms into a big scary monster, which Ethan kills with a convenient anti-bioweapon pistol. Chris Redfield then shows up and extracts Ethan and Mia… but what’s this? His helicopter has the Umbrella logo on it? Well, that can’t be good.
RESIDENT EVIL VILLAGE (2021)
Resident Evil Village hasn’t been released yet (it’s expected to be released May 7, 2021), so there aren’t a ton of details available re: the plot. All we know is that it takes place a few years after RE7, Ethan Winters is coming back, and something is up with Chris Redfield. Our former hero appears out of nowhere and kidnaps Ethan and Mia’s baby, which is definitely not very heroic of him. Now it’s up to Ethan to get his daughter back—but only time will tell how many double agents he’ll have to dispatch in order to do so.