Back in 2019, I undertook the daunting task to rank every single mainline Resident Evil entry. It wasn’t easy. Going through my memories of each game and assigning it with a specific number was a challenge, all the more so because I love most of them so much.
But while my preferences fluctuate based on specific memories that occasionally recur, I think that most entries ended up roughly where they’re supposed to be. Since then, however, I’ve wondered – what about spin-offs? These are the games that don’t have a glaring number next to the title to indicate their importance. Believe it or not, some of these titles are good enough to be considered part of the main series.
Fast-forward to 2020 when the whole world is literally on lockdown. Is there a better time to cover a virus outbreak series? And so I determined to do just that – I shortlisted 5 of the best best Resident Evil spin-offs and ranked them from the worst to the best.
Dead Aim was released in 2003 exclusively for the PlayStation 2 and is seemingly one of the less prominent spin-offs in the series. Albeit it’s more or less your typical Resident Evil game during exploration, it switches to a first-person perspective when engaging in combat. As such, it was meant to be played with a light gun, but is perfectly playable (and enjoyable) with a regular controller.
Plot-wise, Dead Aim follows U.S. agent Bruce McGivern, who’s tasked with preventing a terrorist going by the name of Morpheus Duvall from unleashing the t-Virus upon the world. Dead Aim is a product of its time, with cheesy dialogue, an abundance of dramatic slow-motion set pieces and a one-dimensional villain who looks like a hybrid of Liquid Snake and Sephiroth. Bruce is no more than your typical pretty-boy hero who always saves the day, and his mandatory love interest, a Chinese agent by the name of Fong Ling, may as well just be Ada’s twin sister. As far as I know, none of these characters were featured in any other entries, and for evidently good reasons.
Taking all of that into account, you could argue that Dead Aim is on this list only because of the lack of choices. But as mediocre as it is in comparison to the other entries, it still has its upsides. For one, the game took place on a cruise ship environment which was surprisingly atmospheric, and the game had one of the better save room themes in the series. It wasn’t received too well by critics and is by no means an essential Resident Evil experience, but if you’re looking to delve into some of the spin-offs, Dead Aim is a good place to start.
By starting the Revelations spin-off series, Capcom found an opportunity to experiment with the franchise without potentially marring the canon plotline. Revelations 2, in particular, brought back fan-favourite Claire Redfield who made her first appearance ever since Code Veronica. Speaking of Claire, am I the only one who thinks her nose looks off in this game? First world problems.
In an even more surprising turn of events, it also featured Mr Magnum himself, Barry Burton, who was pretty much M.I.A. ever since the first game. Both characters were playable in separate campaigns, giving you two perspectives on the whole story. And to its credit, Revelations 2 has an overall strong premise. Both Claire and Barry’s daughter, Moira, are abducted, taken to a remote island and fitted with bracelets which, if triggered by a specific sensation, will essentially kill them.
This prompts them to cooperate and attempt to escape the hellhole they’re stuck in. Sounds like something from a Saw movie, right? It’s by no means a bad thing and this narrative is among the more unique in the series. Unlike its predecessor, however, Revelations 2 shifted from horror back to the more action-focused gameplay of Resident Evil 5, which didn’t work in its favour.
With the addition of online and local multiplayer, it certainly added depth to the gameplay. And the improved customization and upgrade system was still fun and fitting for this particular spin-off. But overall, it’s not the continuation that the Revelations name deserved and doesn’t stand as a particularly vivid entry. To put it simply, too much shooty-shooty and not enough scary-scary.
A lot happened during the Raccoon City outbreak; certainly much more than Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 3 could hope to tell in their stories. Citizens of the city were fighting their own little fight for survival, and hence Outbreak allowed us to experience the escape of eight survivors. Eight regular people, including a waitress and a plumber. Not the most inspiring cast of characters now, is it?
What made Outbreak stand out was its online component. Thanks to the power of the future, you could play with other people via a thing called the Internet. Whoa. Players could choose and take control of individual survivors, help each other out and even exchange items.
Outbreak was a comparatively difficult entry. In many cases, you were on an invisible timer with zombies inching their way forward and even breaking down doors to get you. Resources were scarce and cooperating with other people to survive was almost integral, especially more so because of the subpar AI of computer-controlled companions. However, playing online required a modem and having a strong connection was not yet a commodity. And so, most of us were stuck with exactly that: subpar computer-controlled companions.
Among its highlights, Outbreak took place at various stages of the virus outbreak, allowing you to visit familiar landmarks like the hospital, and practice teamwork by fighting off cool bosses. There’s a good reason why many fans hold it in fond memory, even despite some of its flaws. It simply came out a few years too early to take full advantage of online multiplayer. But the bronze medal rightfully goes to Outbreak, because even as a single-player experience it’s a memorable Resident Evil game.
It’s possible that, just like myself, Capcom wasn’t entirely disappointed with Dead Aim because Revelations took us on another romantic cruise ride. I’m not going to be the first to say that Revelations surprised me when I first played it on a home console. I couldn’t believe that a 3DS game (on which it originally came out on) could look this good. And truth be told, after RE5 and RE6, I didn’t expect the Resident Evil series to go back to horror. While it’s not exactly the same experience that we all love, it’s still an admirable effort.
First and foremost this is because it made the series scary once again, and featured Jill Valentine as the protagonist. Through various stages of the game, you could take control of other characters, including Chris as well as Jill’s partner Parker. Standard monsters were reminiscent of the regenerators from Resident Evil 4 and, even though they weren’t zombies, they were all kinds of creepy. Further to it, Revelations featured a novel weapon customization system which added a welcome RPG component to the game.
I loved the cruise ship setting, the new enemies were fun and varied, and even the multiplayer mode was fairly enjoyable. I was one of those annoying guys who constantly spammed the “I’ll buy you lunch” emote when playing as Parker.
Its story was presented in a novel TV show manner and each chapter started with a “previously in Revelations” intro. It fell slightly apart with convoluted writing and a few ridiculously exaggerated and even redundant characters. But if you look past some of its mishaps, Revelations offers a fresh Resident Evil experience while remaining largely true to the core formula.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Code: Veronica is the best spin-off in the series and my personal favourite overall. Code: Veronica picks up soon after the events in RE2 and follows the story of Claire, who’s still searching for her brother. Her detective work doesn’t end well and she’s sent to a remote prison island owned by Umbrella. Of course, the island gets attacked, unleashing a virus which turns all of its inhabitants into zombies, prompting Claire’s unlikely escape.
While exploring the island, Claire encounters one of the most bizarre pairs of villains in the series, as well as the transformed S.T.A.R.S. captain Albert Wesker. It teeters on the edge of ridiculous when it comes to plot and I recognize some of its shortcomings. But as a whole, it’s an excellent survival horror experience and one of the last to use classic tank-based controls.
Two distinct environments – a prison island and a base in Antarctica – change based on which character you’re exploring with. This, along with multiple playable characters, allows you to experience the aftermath of the other characters’ actions. Code: Veronica challenges you with distinct boss battles: you fight a Tyrant on an airborne cargo plane and the frightening Nosferatu on a helipad during a snowstorm!
There’s plenty of optional content and items you might forego by not performing certain actions, and with Code: Veronica Capcom perfected the classic Resident Evil gameplay without resorting to a full remake. It has an exceptional atmosphere and setting, the most soothing save room theme, one of the lengthiest and most challenging campaigns and the most badass version of Wesker. It’s a game I revisit once every year; it’s a game that makes me wanna have a door which unlocks by inserting a pair of Golden Lugers into it.
These are my choices people, so make your own. Do you agree with my selection? No? By all means, tell me why Survivor and Gaiden should be on the list instead.