What are ya playin’, stranger?
The remake of Resident Evil 4 is nearly here, and if you’re like me, the release of a new entry in a storied franchise always gives you the urge to seek out context. Sure, you could just play Resident Evil 4—it’ll probably stand on its own just fine—but why not dig into some earlier series entries to gain a fuller appreciation of what Resident Evil 4 represents?
Of course, nobody expects you to burn through every Resident Evil game over the next couple of days. Frankly, most of them won’t do very much in relation to RE4 (it is, oddly, one of the more self-contained adventures in the Resident Evil franchise). But if you want to fully understand where RE4 stands, both in the Resident Evil universe and in our own, there are a few titles you should at least take a look at.
Keep in mind here that I haven’t played the remake of Resident Evil 4 yet. This is not an expert opinion as much as it is an outline of games that you should play to see where Resident Evil and Leon Kennedy have been lately.
There are two games that are decidedly necessary in order to fully “get” any remake of Resident Evil 4. Those games are, of course, the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 and the original Resident Evil 4, released in 2005 and rereleased seemingly every day for the last eighteen years.
I don’t think I need to explain why you ought to play these games. Resident Evil 2 tells the story of Leon Kennedy’s first zombie-bashing adventure, and it also establishes a baseline design language for the REmake series. You can probably skip the Claire Redfield route for now, since Claire is off toiling in Code Veronica land around the time of RE4, but if you’ve never played it, you should get around to that route eventually. For now, you can just take a quick peek around the Raccoon City Police Department in Leon Kennedy’s shoes to see how he went from rookie cop to gloomy action hero and to get a sense of how the REmake series currently functions.
As for Resident Evil 4…well, it’s Resident Evil 4. And the new game is also Resident Evil 4. I find that a remake is almost always more satisfying when it’s accompanied by an intimate understanding of the original work. I’ll admit to being an occasional hypocrite on this point (I love Resident Evil 2 (2019) and have never played Resident Evil 2 (1998)), but the original RE4 is readily accessible on modern platforms and it holds up stunningly well. You should give it a shot!
You can pretty safely skip the rest of the Resident Evil series and get a robust enough understanding of where the RE4 remake is coming from. But if you’ve already blazed through the first two games listed above and are still hungry for more, why not play the two most recent Resident Evil games?
Resident Evil 3 (2020) is a much better game than most people give it credit for, and if RE4 is as action-heavy as it seems to be, then RE3 will also serve as a nice bridging of the gap. Leon’s not in this one, and it probably won’t have a profound impact on the RE4 story, but it might be worth playing just to gauge the level of mechanical continuity we’re getting between these games.
I also think there’s some merit to playing Resident Evil Village for similar reasons. Between its rural European setting, its attache case inventory system, and its mysteriously friendly merchant, Village shares a lot of DNA with the original RE4. It feels, in a lot of ways, like Capcom’s first pass at a Resident Evil 4 remake, and while I’m not sure how large the crossover is between the specific creative teams, I think there’s value in seeing two executions on a similar idea.
If you really want to, I won’t stop you from playing all the other Resident Evil games, too. Most of them rock.