Resident Evil games that play nothing like Resident Evil

Long have they been quarantined

It's a good time to be a Resident Evil diehard. RE HD terrified you in 2015, Resident Evil 0 HD just dropped, and Resident Evil 2 HD is currently in development. But even if you've fought back against hordes of zombies, freakish Bio Organic Weapons, and the dastardly plots of Albert Wesker and co., there's a large swath of RE/Biohazard games you probably weren't aware existed at all. Just as we did for another storied Capcom series, Street Fighter, we'd like to take you through the farthest reaches of RE spinoff territory and unearth some of the franchise's wildest, most unknown entries. Maybe you missed them the first time - or more likely, you don't own a cellphone on a Japanese data plan.

Resident Evil: The Deck Building Game

Resident Evil caught fire just a little too late to spawn those really bizarre '90s commercial cash-grabs (Where's my Resident Evil breakfast cereal?) but Capcom still managed to spin a card game from this undead yarn. Players roll up a random Resident Evil mainstay - such as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine - and take turns drawing and buying new items and exploring the mansion for enemies. When one player kills enough enemies they're allowed to leave the mansion and the game ends, however other game modes and numerous expansions build upon this basic setup. The second expansion in particular has Infection, a new mechanic that lets dead characters return as zombies and harass the remaining players, which is the perfect consolation prize.

BIOHAZARD Team Survive

This Japan-exclusive mobile game is an absolute treasure. Oh sure, the gameplay is a F2P structure you've seen countless times before: collect randomly distributed cards to build up and strengthen a team of heroes who dole out damage with the tap of the screen. But it's the character art for the cards that makes Team Survive (or Team Survivor, depending on the translation) so incredible. We're talking officially sanctioned assets depicting Albert Wesker dressed up as a priest for Christmas, Leon with an iPod, Ashley Graham done up like Cupid, and Claire in a maid suit paired with Steve Burnside as a butler. It's the kind of gloriously non-canon imagery you'd expect from DeviantArt, but it's real! IT'S REALLY REAL! The only thing greater would be a full-blown RE game that put all these absurd costumes into context during the most fantastical T-Virus outbreak of all time.

Resident Evil Gaiden

If you've ever hit the links in Hot Shots Golf and thought, "Where are all the zombies?" they're in Resident Evil Gaiden. This is the series' first foray onto handheld devices, and the transition is handled surprisingly well. Playing as Leon S. Kennedy, fresh from the Raccoon City beat, you investigate a zombie-filled cruise ship - the "Starlight" - from a third-person perspective that looks better than it should on the Game Boy Color. But things take a turn for the weird when you enter combat. The game switches to a first-person perspective, and you gun down zombies by lining up a sliding, Hot Shots-style reticle at the bottom of the screen. Land it dead center and it's a hole-in-one, or, in this case, a headshot.

BIOHAZARD Survival Door

The animation of a door being slowly, methodically opened into darkness is one of the mainstays of early Resident Evil games, given how effective it is at building up tension. And somehow, that door-opening animation alone was deemed worthy of its own dedicated experience: Survival Door, a Japanese mobile spin-off. It offers a strange, game-show-esque scenario where players must choose from three randomly assigned doors, which may reveal an in-your-face zombie or a bunch of points and another series of doors. The weirdest bit: even though your score is entirely dependent on luck, there was still a leaderboard. That's like implementing an online leaderboard for 'most Heads in a row while flipping a coin'.

Resident Evil: Uprising

If there's one thing Resident Evil never skimps on, it's story. Even in Resident Evil: Uprising, released for the freaking BlackBerry of all things. This super-simplified, 2D Resident Evil has you marching Leon around a grid, gunning down zombies via a shallow minigame. To help curb the onset of carpal tunnel from using the BlackBerry's itty bitty keyboard, Uprising features a deluge of character dialogue, collectible documents, and other storytelling snippets. Considering mobile games like this are played in bite-sized chunks on a whim, it's baffling to think someone would want to spend their entire session reading about yet another T-Virus outbreak.


Another Japanese-exclusive mobile game, A.T.N. (which, in a deplorable missed opportunity, does not take place in the ATL) has one of the most unique takes on RE visuals ever seen in an official, Capcom-developed title. The format is the kind of simple FPS combat you saw all the time during the bygone days of early phone games, but the aesthetics are out-and-out cartoony, with a bright color palette and highly stylized caricatures of those familiar zombies and lickers. It's probably more fun to look at than to actually play, but that's quite a compliment when it comes to mobile gaming circa 2002.

Resident Evil Confidential Report

In 2003, Capcom released Onimusha Tactics for the Game Boy Advance, deftly distilling the fast-paced action of Onimusha into a turn-based tactics games. That same year, Capcom also released Resident Evil Confidential Report on mobile phones. It uses a similar turn-based style, but misses the mark by a mile. Players control one of two characters - rookie RPD officer Tyler or FBI agent Naomi - and uncover a plot that's basically a remix of Resident Evil 2. You and the AI take turns shuffling characters around each room, pausing to attack each other if the other gets too close. It's a rudimentary game, and a poor realization of a Resident Evil tactics game.

Image credit: Pandemonium

BIOHAZARD ZombieBuster

If only those zombies and mutated monstrosities had the courtesy to gather in an orderly fashion and arrange themselves in a simple-to-shoot lineup. The only RE universe where that actually happens is the Japanese mobile game ZombieBuster, which features Space Invaders-style gameplay where you fend off some adorably miniaturized zombie sprites as either Leon or Claire. The 2011 remake looks infinitely better than the 2001 original, from the on-point character portraits to the presence of an actual floor texture instead of a red-and-pink void. It's even got the cutest little trenchcoat-wearing Tyrant as a boss fight!

Resident Evil: Degeneration

Made as a tie-in to the full CG Resident Evil film of the same name, Degeneration was originally released for the Nokia N-Gage before Capcom came to its senses and swiftly ported the game straight to iOS. Though the movie stars Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, Leon's the only playable character here, viewed from a similar behind-the-back perspective as in RE4. That turns Degeneration into an incredibly odd portmanteau of RE new and old, where the action-oriented camera angle inherent to the later games in the series blends with the kind of choppy framerates and somewhat crude character models that recall the PS1 era (albeit with smoother textures). It's still being sold for $5 on the App Store if you're curious, though its 2009 coding could be a crapshoot of hellacious bugginess on modern firmware.

Resident Evil Survivor

This was intended to be a more action-paced rendition of Resident Evil, complete with light gun peripheral support, but here in the West the whole light gun aspect was... dropped. Instead, when you want to shoot an enemy you must first hit a button on the controller and then manually draw the crosshair across the screen. Combine that with already sluggish controls, and playing Survivor feels like wading through a waist-high tub of molasses. Thankfully, this shooter formula was refined across multiple sequels and Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles on Wii. Umbrella in particular was a fantastic remake of the RE's original trilogy, with extra scenes and snippets added from the expanded universe.

Resident Evil Outbreak

You've probably heard of RE: Operation Raccoon City, the 2012 spin-off for PS3/360 with a heavy focus on four-player online co-op and zero regard for ammo conservation or suspense in general. Alas, the action-heavy, Gears of War Lite gameplay wasn't too well received - and the concept had already been done better with Resident Evil: Outbreak and its expansion-like sequel on PS2, which pioneered cooperative zombie-killing back when online multiplayer for consoles was still in its infancy. Similar to Left 4 Dead, the Outbreak games have an episodic format with distinct scenarios and setpieces, including a tussle with an undead elephant in the Raccoon City Zoo. While the official servers are long gone, Outbreak lives after death thanks to private servers run by the games' most passionate fans in Japan.

Sweet Home

It may not have the words 'BIOHAZARD' or 'Resident Evil' in the title, but Sweet Home is as much a part of this survival horror series' DNA as any other game on this list. Developed by Capcom and released in 1989 on the Famicom, Sweet Home is a survival horror roleplaying game that helped codify the survival horror genre. Think of it as a horror-filled version of Dragon Quest whose creepy atmosphere, mansion setting, and grotesques monsters all served as inspirations for the first Resident Evil. In fact, that first RE game started out as a remake of Sweet Home, which sadly to this day has not seen a re-release or official English translation.

Image credit: FRGCB

Maxwell McGee
Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.