Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 remake launches next week, so what better time to look back on the series’ history and chart the top-performing games in the premiere survival horror franchise?
Resident Evil has long been one of gaming’s most famous franchises, and it’s still going strong almost 30 years after first unleashing its viral zombies into the world, with the hotly anticipated Resident Evil 4 remake now mere days away. Between the mainline games and many spin-offs, remakes, and re-releases, the Resident Evil series has sold well over 110 million units in total to date, but how does that number break down and which have been the top performers in Capcom’s long-running survival horror series?
To find out, we pulled sales data from the handy list of Capcom’s platinum-selling games it keeps on its corporate site, which is accurate up to the end of 2022… this could mean that a few of these are a little lower than the actual figure if there were additional versions that didn’t break a million copies sold so didn’t make the list (as appears to be the case for things like the N64 port of Resi 2), but those shouldn’t move the needle too much in most cases. With that in mind, let’s kick things off with the biggest Resi game to date… and it might come as a bit of a surprise.
Resident Evil series sales figures: Which games did best?
1. Resident Evil 5 — 13.5 million
Capcom’s data puts Resident Evil 5 as the series’ third-best performer at 8.6 million units shifted, but that doesn’t take into account either the Xbox One re-release or the Gold edition, which add almost five million more between them and bump it comfortably into the top spot. What’s wild about this is that RE5 is arguably one of the weakest mainline games in the series, but with this sequel playing even more into the action slant of Resi 4 and bringing co-op to the party at the height of the Xbox 360 era, it was clearly the right game at the right time for a lot of players. For all its issues, Resi 5 did at least give us the opportunity to constantly ask our co-op buddy for an egg, as well as that scene where Chris goes absolutely ballistic on a boulder. That’s got to count for something.
2. Resident Evil 4 — 12.3 million
While it’s lauded as an all-time classic and one of the best games in the series, it’s pretty surprising that the original GameCube release of Resident Evil 4 only actually sold around 1.5 million copies. The myriad ports in the years that followed, however, all add up and with all versions accounted for, Resi 4 emerges as the second-best performer in the franchise. This was a major turning point for the series, leaning into a more action-heavy style of gameplay than the earlier games without completely moving away from its survival horror roots — Capcom struck a perfect balance here, as becomes increasingly clear when you see how a greater emphasis on action in the games that came after 4 actively weakened them and eventually led to the team painting itself into a corner and having to go back to the drawing board for Resi 7. And it looks like that paid off, because…
3. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard — 11.7 million
That’s right, first-person Resi reinvention Resident Evil 7: Biohazard rounds out the top three here, only a little way behind a game with a head start of over a decade, which isn’t bad going at all. Capcom lists Resi 7 as the best-selling game in the franchise going by just individual releases (the two games above here each had multiple different releases over the years, bumping their numbers up considerably), which is quite remarkable when you consider it’s a complete overhaul of the classic gameplay, although first-person horror is a tried-and-tested success story, so why wouldn’t one the genre’s leading names want a piece of the action? By pushing remakes with more traditional systems alongside this new first-person survival horror twist, we get the best of both worlds, with both new kinds of experiences as well as fresh takes on older ones.
4. Resident Evil 2 (2019) — 11.2 million
You might have expected the original Resident Evil remake that debuted on GameCube all the way back in 2002 to be the series’ top-performing remake, but the truth is that it actually comes in way behind Capcom’s stunning modern version of Resident Evil 2. Just as the team did with the first game, the remake keeps a lot of what made the original so special while layering on new and exciting things to freshen up the game, with a key one here being a new twist on RE3’s pursuer that sees the intimidating Mr. X doggedly chase Leon and Claire around the Raccoon City police station. After knocking it out of the park with REmake, Capcom was two for two in terms of quality remakes when RE2 launched in 2019 — a 100% track record which, depending on who you ask, it perhaps wouldn’t hold onto for very long.
5. Resident Evil 6 — 10.9 million
2012’s Resident Evil 6 is a perfect example of a series losing its way and trying to do too much in an attempt to find its identity anew. Cramming in multiple co-op campaigns each with slightly different gameplay (‘classic’ Resi for Leon, cover shooter for Chris, pure action with newcomer Jake, and stealthy puzzles with Ada), Resi 6 can’t help but feel like a total mess of incongruent ideas and features. Coming off the back of the series’ biggest game, it was always going to be a commercial smash despite not reviewing especially well, although it’s telling that this was the last mainline game before the perspective rework of Resi 7. Whatever your take on RE6, it marked the logical conclusion to where Capcom was taking this action-heavy path, and something had to change — after this scattershot approach, the team didn’t really leave themselves much of a thread to follow with a sequel, after all.
6. Resident Evil Village — 7.4 million
Resident Evil Village has some ground to make up if it plans on breaking into the top five, but as the most recent title on the list (at least for the next couple of weeks), we expect this already impressive number to rise further over the course of the year all the same. Village came as proof that RE7’s success was no accident, with the first-person adventure expanding the series’ bestiary to bring in occult and horror folklore classics like witches, vampires, werewolves, and all that fun stuff. The franchise has come a long way since its zombie-infested early years, now with the freedom to explore new ideas and threats under the banner of one of the leading horror brands on the market, so we can’t wait to see what creepy madness Capcom will cook up for the next game.
7. Resident Evil 3 (2020) — 6.4 million
With the remake of Resi 2 proving a huge commercial and critical success, a new version of the third game was inevitable, but for better or worse, it would be Capcom’s biggest change-up to date. So while those who didn’t really rate the original might be more interested in the 2020 rework of Resident Evil 3, fans of the PS1 version would somewhat lament the overhaul and the fact that RE3 didn’t really seem to get as much love as the two previous games did. It’s still a great game in its own right so it’s little surprise to see that it did well, nor that the superior Resi 2 remake shifted almost twice as many copies.
8. Resident Evil (1996) — 5.1 million
Lumping together all three versions of the original PlayStation Resident Evil (the initial release and the pair of Director’s Cut editions) puts the first entry in the series at a little over five million sales, and there’s a decent chance that the unmentioned PC, Saturn, and DS ports would add a fair bit onto that total if we had data for those, too. With its hammy acting and script, fixed camera angles, and stiff controls and combat, this classic survival horror game still has its cult appeal despite being iterated and improved upon with the 2002 remake and the sequels that followed. Where would the series be were it not for the endlessly quotable dialogue from the first game? It gave us the gifts of the Jill sandwich and ‘master of unlocking,’ which Capcom still riffs on to this day, not to mention introducing us to the legend that is Barry Burton. As mentioned, the series has mutated almost beyond recognition at this point, but you have to hand it to this wonderfully hokey 90s title for setting something truly special in motion.
9. Resident Evil (2002) — 5.05 million
Here’s that remake now, interestingly sitting at almost the exact same sales milestone as the original game. Most of this figure actually comes from later re-releases too, with the GameCube release only accounting for around 1.3 million… as with RE4, these really feel like they were much bigger games than they actually were back in the day, and it’s perhaps most telling of the underperformance of Nintendo’s adorable little lunchbox of a console that some of the biggest games on the system like these only actually managed to shift a little over one million units. Given how well this remake was received, it’s genuinely quite remarkable that it took Capcom the best part of two decades to give the second game the same treatment, but nevertheless, this stood for years as the gold standard of everything that a remake could and should be, expanding on the original with some awesome new content and concepts (Crimson Heads were a terrifying addition) that really helped it feel like a proper modernised reimagining.
10. Resident Evil 2 (1998) — 5 million
Closing out the top ten is the original PS1 edition of the second game, with data for the various ports once again not offered and likely to bump it up a few places here — the Tiger Game.com version must have done close to a million units, right? Capcom was onto a winner by having rookie cop Leon and Chris’ sister Claire deal with the aftermath of the Spencer mansion incident after the chaos flowed out into the streets of Raccoon City, and while Resi 2 still had that same kind of confined, claustrophobic horror in its key locations like the RCPD precinct, it also offered a much greater sense of scale and the accompanying dread that this was actually a much bigger problem that we wouldn’t feel close to suitably equipped to overcome. The first game showed that Resident Evil had the potential to grow into something big for Capcom; Resi 2 was the game that came good on that promise and proved that this franchise would be the genre’s new benchmark for years to come.
… and the rest
Looking at the games that didn’t break the five million mark, we see some expected names but also a few surprises. Resident Evil 0 falls just short at 4.95 million, then there’s a pretty big drop-off before we reach Resident Evil 3 Nemesis with 3.5 million after the PS1 trilogy closer landed shortly before the arrival of the PS2. Next, Capcom puts Resident Evil Revelations 2 at 3.1 million and the first game at 2.4 million, though with the Switch bundle adding an extra 1.3 million to each of these, the pair of spin-offs actually each outperformed Nemesis, which is kinda nuts. Speaking of spin-offs, Operation Raccoon City somehow managed to rack up 2.6 million sales despite being dreadful, while side story Code: Veronica only did 2.54 million across Dreamcast and PS2, although with no numbers given for the digital re-release on Xbox 360, the actual overall figure is likely a little higher. Elsewhere, we see PS2 online pioneer Resident Evil Outbreak at 1.45 million (in spite of the European release being gutted by the removal of online features), while fantastic Wii light gun shooter Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles rounds off the list with 1.3 million… anything missing from the list (like Game Boy Color novelty Resident Evil Gaiden or the PS1/2 light gun Survivor spin-offs) didn’t manage to break the one million threshold.
How do your favourite Resident Evil games stack up with the rest of the series? Where do you think the Resi 4 remake will slot into this list after it launches for Xbox Series X|S next week? Let us know!
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