Resident Evil – Top VIII Characters
With the month of May drawing to a close, it’s time to reveal the final entry in our Resident Evil roundtable feature, where we celebrate everything that makes the series so dear to us, and to gamers all around the globe.
Resident Evil wouldn’t have had close to the same success without a great cast of characters that players could really connect with, and we’ve been treated to some great ones over the past 25 years. And so, without further ado, we’ve collated the official, not to be argued with, absolutely 100% accurate list of the Top VIII Characters in Resident Evil franchise history. Thank you to everyone who’s read and interacted with these columns the past few weeks – we’ve had an absolute blast putting them together!
VIII. James Marcus (First appearance: Resident Evil Zero – 2002)
“Obedience breeds discipline. Discipline breeds unity. Unity breeds power. Power is life.” This is the Umbrella Inc.company motto that James Marcus blares out in Resident Evil Zero, and it tells you a lot about drive and single-mindedness that sums up Marcus as a character. He is one of the founding members of the Umbrella Corporation and is ultimately responsible for all of the horrors they unleashed on the world, especially considering he educated both William Birkin and Albert Wesker. While he was ousted from the company long before any of the games take place, Marcus and his various experiments are brought to light during the events of Resident Evil Zero, where his own DNA is mixed with the T-Virus and a healthy dose of leeches that combine into a horrific and memorable final boss. The grandfather of Umbrella Inc., we have to give a nod to the man who started it all.
VII. William Birkin (First appearance: Resident Evil 2 – 1998)
Capcom has a long running theme of idealistic scientists becoming too ambitious with their plans for the T-Virus and failing miserably. William Birkin was the first such scientist, appearing first in Resident Evil 2 as the man responsible for developing the G-Virus. Once Capcom retconned the backstory in the Resident Evil remake, Birkin was tasked with working at the Arklay Laboratory after Marcus’ presumed death, leading to he and Wesker conducting experiments on Lisa Trevor. When Wesker left to infiltrate S.T.A.R.S, Birkin took his experiments of the G-Virus one step too far, ultimately becoming one of the Tyrants you have to face off against. While not the most significant boss, Birkin is certainly an interesting character; always seeking perfection for the Golgotha virus, going so far as to even test on children, much to the outrage of Umbrella. Yes, apparently Umbrella had limits.
VI. Claire Redfield (First appearance: Resident Evil 2 – 1998)
Just because Claire Redfield is lower down on the list it’s not to say that she’s an insignificant character. Oh no. To begin with, Claire isn’t part of some huge task force whose job it is to investigate Umbrella – sure, she can shoot and take out hordes of the undead, but this is the result of her being forced into those situations. What makes Claire Redfield unique on this list are the stories that she’s a part of. She came to Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2 to look for her brother Chris; things went south along the way and she had to survive, but rather than care for herself, she never wavered in her mission of finding her brother. She brings a decidedly more human value to the series – more so than most people on this list. While others might be concerned about saving the world, Claire is content in helping those close to her. This is evident in later games too, whether it’s finding Chris in Code Veronica X, or keeping Barry’s children safe in Resident Evil Revelations 2. She is the true mother figure of the series and we love her for it.
V. Merchant (First appearance: Resident Evil 4 – 2005)
How can a non-playable character who appears in only one entry of the franchise possibly crack the Top VIII Characters list, you ask? Quite simply, the Merchant from Resident Evil 4 makes such an impression in the short time you’re exposed to him that he made himself absolutely impossible to leave off the list. As the first entry in the franchise to use a shop and upgrade system, the Merchant quickly becomes a friend to the player, offering both respite from the Ganado and the opportunity to bolster your arsenal with some extra firepower. Not much is known about the Merchant, but you’ve got to respect a man who’s out there hustling for a few extra pesetas in a village filled with mutated nutcases! What absolutely cemented his inclusion on the list was his voice acting, with the lines “Whaddya buyin’?” and “Whaddya sellin’?” seeing the Merchant breakout as a global meme. We reached out to the Merchant to congratulate him on making this list and his response was simply, “Heh heh heh… Thank you!” What a guy.
IV. Leon S. Kennedy (First appearance: Resident Evil 2 – 1998)
Any man who tells you his middle initial when he introduces himself has got something about him, and Leon S. Kennedy is no different. First introduced to us in Resident Evil 2, we meet Leon on his first day as a member of the Raccoon City Police Department, where he’s met with a ruined city filled with the undead. He cemented himself as a fan favourite when he reappeared in Resident Evil 4, having been sent to a rural Spanish village as a lone operative in order to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley. Armed with a much extended script that showed off his feisty character and with allusions to a murky history in the special forces, Leon is upgraded from a stereotypical golden boy into a well-rounded character who steals the show.
III. Jill Valentine (First appearance: Resident Evil – 1996)
The original and best heroine from the series, Jill Valentine, picks the lock of our list and lets herself in at number 3. Making her debut in the very first game, Jill has been a favourite from the very start – not least because she offers plenty of gameplay benefits over Chris in the original Resident Evil, like the lockpick and access to the grenade launcher. But it’s her level-headed approach, good heart and playful manner that shines through and really endeared her to the fanbase. Jill is also the first recurring playable character in the franchise, returning to battle her way across Raccoon CIty in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, successfully fighting off the freak with the rocket launcher before taking a well earned hiatus from the carnage. In a bit of shock, she pops up as a reluctant villain in Resident Evil 5, but we can’t hold that against her – Jill’s always been one of the good guys, and it was a very cool moment to see her make her reappearance. Last but not least, she gets bonus points for having the bravery to wear a beret to work – you can’t hate on a girl with that kind of confidence.
II. Albert Wesker (First appearance: Resident Evil – 1996)
Arguably one of the greatest videogame antagonists of all time, the blonde baddie himself, Albert Wesker, swaggers onto the stage in the runner-up spot. We should have known from his ‘too cool for school’ look in the original Resident Evil that something wasn’t right about Wesker, but our tender young minds were looking elsewhere for the villain and the double-cross-reveal came as a massive surprise on the first play through. Wesker is the ultimate do-it-all bad guy – having worked as a lead scientist on the T-Virus before officially leaving Umbrella Inc. to work as a covert operative, leading to his infiltration of the S.T.A.R.S team. Presumed dead after the Spencer Mansion explosion, Wesker pops up in various files and photographs that weave him into the fabric of Umbrella Inc. and the lore of the series as a whole, before becoming a much more apparent B.O.W. threat in Resident Evil Zero and 4. His deep backstory and nefarious tactics build a complicated love-hate relationship between Wesker and the players, and we were equally elated and saddened when he met his Terminator 2-inspired ending in that volcano in Resident Evil 5.
I. Barry Burton (First appearance: Resident Evil – 1996)
“Barry… Where is Barry?”
For us, the top ranked character could not be anyone but Barry Burton. Jill’s sidekick has been a favourite of ours since we first discovered Resident Evil, and gloriously wooden lines like “It might be handy if you, the Master of Unlocking, take it with you”, will forever be etched in our memories. But underneath the shoddy voice work lies a complicated and tormented character that totally contrasts his hulking frame and oafish exterior. Through the events of Resident Evil it’s revealed that Barry is being coerced into helping Wesker bring down S.T.A.R.S and cover up the outbreak at Umbrella’s Spencer Mansion. We’re not sure why Burton didn’t just press that massive hand cannon between Wesker’s eyes and pull the trigger, but who are we to question the logic of our man Barry B? While he appears at various points in the series, it wasn’t until Resident Evil Revelations 2 that Barry was handed a full-blown story and players finally got the chance to shoot that oversized magnum, and what a moment it was! As a man who has proven time and again that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep his family safe, Barry Burton can give himself a pat on the back knowing he’s the number one Resident Evil character of all time, at least in our humble opinion.
- Tofu (First appearance: Resident Evil 2 – 1998)
Unlocked after completing Resident Evil 2 on the hardest difficulty setting, Tofu is infamous for being, well, a giant block of tofu. We’re not sure whether it’s true or not but he was supposedly created to test the game’s hit detection, and somehow squirmed his way into a bonus playable mode. Ultimately what we have here is a human sized block of coagulated soy milk and bean curd goodness, wearing a RCPD hat and wielding an AK-47. That’s totally enough explanation for us and we absolutely love it.
- Hunk (First appearance: Resident Evil 2 – 1998)
Another unlockable character from Resident Evil 2, Hunk, for us, is one of the most intriguing characters in the entire franchise. Sent by Umbrella to retrieve the G-Virus sample from the chaos of Raccoon City, it’s the first time we learn of the lengths that the company would go to in order to protect their assets. The idea of Umbrella having their own special forces was incredibly cool when Resident Evil 2 was released and Capcom allowing you to play a bonus mission as Hunk opened up a realm of possibilities for side missions and storylines for years to come.
- Chris Redfield (Resident Evil – 1996)
We know we’re going to catch some flak for having Chris Redfield relegated to the Honourable Mentions list, but the list is just too crowded to fit everyone up there. Chris is one of the OG’s – making his debut in Resident Evil, his scenario is the more challenging of the between he and Jill. Much like Leon, Chris’ popularity really caught fire at the second bite of the cherry; he became a full blown badass in Resident Evil 5 and gained a lot of shine by virtue of Sheva being so thoroughly maligned by the fanbase. Sporting some sizable biceps and squeezed into a schmedium sized shirt, Chris has to make this list for the boulder punch at the end of Resident Evil 5 if absolutely nothing else.
- Rebecca/Billy (First appearance: Resident Evil Zero – 2002)
On their own, Rebecca and Billy wouldn’t have scratched the list at all. Rebecca is brutally undervalued outside of Resident Evil Zero, sitting firmly in the “Chris needs a medic” camp throughout the series and Billy has been missing since the train incident in RE0. However, together we felt they needed at least an honourable mention. They are the only characters in the series to be controlled simultaneously. Their dynamic growns from prisoner & medic to two people looking out for each other culminating in Rebecca covering up Billy’s survival. It’s a shame Capcom hasn’t explored the duality system in more detail, nor followed up on Billy’s story.
- Richard Aiken (Resident Evil – 1996)
Stumbling upon the heavily wounded Richard Aiken in one of the corridors of the Spencer Mansion is a stand out moment in the original Resident Evil. He’s the first living member that you encounter from Bravo Team, making you think that the mission wasn’t entirely lost, despite the mansion being overrun with zombies.His character model is one of the more graphic in the game, and really makes you wonder at what could possibly have done so much damage. As with every character from the original game, his script is ropey and his voice acting not much better, but his mention of the “terrible demons” in the house was a very memorable moment.
Feel like we missed somebody, or not happy at where your favourite character was ranked? Let us know in the comments section here or on our socials!