Resident Evil is a series known for its convoluted and often downright silly lore. Only a few games in the series are direct sequels, and most can be played as-is without much knowledge of the wider backstory or universe. But it definitely helps to know what's going on. This is especially true with Resident Evil Village, which is a direct sequel of Resident Evil 7 and features a few of the same characters despite being in a wildly different setting.
If you never played Resident Evil 7 (you should, it's terrifying), that presents a bit of a problem. Sure, you could try and cram 12 hours of playtime in before starting Village, or you could just read this story primer. Here's everything you need to know about Resident Evil 7's story and characters.
A dark and lonely road
When Resident Evil 7 launched back in 2017, it was effectively a much-needed reboot for the series. It ditched the over-the-top, third-person action and returned to Resident Evil's roots in horror—only now in first person. Sure, you still shoot stuff occasionally, but you're also solving puzzles, exploring a creepy Louisianian farmstead, and running from a pack of horrifying hillbillies. Resident Evil Village expands on this, only instead of hillbillies you have werewolves and vampires and monsters far worse.
The protagonist for both games is the same: Ethan Winters. At the beginning of Resident Evil 7, Ethan is driving to a plantation in Dulvey, Louisiana looking for answers about his missing wife, Mia. In 2014, she mysteriously vanished while on a work trip and was presumed dead. Fast forward three years and Ethan suddenly gets a message from Mia with an address, asking him to meet her. So Ethan saddles up in his American hotrod as drives across the country to bring her home.
When Ethan arrives at the address, he finds a derelict plantation. A normal person would've gotten back in the car and left or maybe called the police, but not Ethan. He breaks into the place and sniffs around, finds a bloated corpse in the basement and decides 'this is fine, I'll keep exploring.' He eventually finds Mia, locked in a cage and delirious. Ethan tries to help Mia escape, but she's clearly very messed up. Before long, Mia goes from sedated and incoherent to aggressive and violent. She attacks Ethan with a knife, and he has no choice but to stick an axe in her torso.
Then the phone rings. On the other end is Zoe Baker, one of the residents of the household. She wants to help Ethan get out alive and gives him an escape route. Before Ethan can get free, however, Mia shows up alive and well and looking for revenge. She chops his arm clean off with a chainsaw. Ethan manages to get away and finds a gun. He shoots Mia a lot. Like 20 times. But just before he can escape the house, Ethan is captured by the head of the Baker family, Jack. As he knocks Ethan out, he mutters Resident Evil 7's most iconic line: "Welcome to the family, son."
Below: Video of Ethan's introduction to the Baker family.
To be clear, Ethan is not Jack Baker's son. At least not by blood, but the two do share a special bond. When Ethan wakes up, he's strapped to a chair at the Baker family table and his hand has mysteriously been reattached to its bloody stump. He's now surrounded by the deranged and horrifying Baker family: Jack, his son Lucas, mother Marguerite, and a silent, unnamed grandmother. It becomes pretty clear that the Bakers are psychotic. They're feasting on human remains, and when Lucas forgets his manners Jack saws his arm off. Lucas doesn't seem to mind all that much, and before long the family is pulled away from the table when a police officer arrives at the front door. It's a shocking and disturbing cutscene.
Ethan makes a break for it and tries to escape. Before long, Jack Baker is hot on his heels. In an entirely optional cutscene, it's possible for Jack to catch Ethan and chop his leg with a shovel (ew). Jack then offers Ethan a bottle of strange green liquid that Ethan uses to reattach his leg. This isn't all that important (yet), but it explains how Ethan is able to survive so much violence across Resident Evil 7 and Village.
Anyway, after getting his leg back Ethan manages to run into the police officer who is investigating multiple missing person reports, but before he can do much, Jack splits his head in two with a shovel. Ethan fights Jack in the garage and runs him over with his car repeatedly before setting him on fire. Thinking he's finally free, Ethan tries again to escape only to be grabbed by a gnarled, scorched Jack. Unexpectedly, Jack puts Ethan's gun in his mouth and blows his brains out. But, like Mia, it's only a matter of time before Jack is up and chasing after Ethan again. Somehow Mia and the Bakers are able to regenerate from fatal damage—and Ethan needs to figure out how.
Below: Video of Ethan's fight against Jack Baker.
Looking for a way out, Ethan is driven into the basement where he encounters disgusting black ooze that spawns terrifying sludge monsters. Shortly after the encounter, Ethan is again contacted by Zoe, who explains that she and the Baker family—and Mia—have been infected by this same black mold, which is driving them insane while also giving them superhuman powers. To escape, Ethan will first need to concoct a serum that will cure Mia and Zoe.
The next few hours of Resident Evil 7 don't hold much significance to the larger narrative. Ethan explores the Baker household searching for the serum ingredients (baby fetuses, in case you were wondering) and learns more about the family members and their twisted relationships. In an old greenhouse, Ethan encounters Marguerite and kills her. What's important to know is that a strange black mold is everywhere on the Baker property, and so are the creepy mold monsters Ethan encountered in the basement. Aside from occasionally running from Jack Baker, the mold and its different permutations are the primary enemy you encounter.
Eventually Ethan nabs the final ingredients, but before he can reunite with Zoe and finish the serum, she's captured by her brother Lucas. To free her, Ethan has to navigate a boobytrapped barn that Lucas designed as a kind of twisted series of games like the Saw film series. Ethan manages to survive the trials, causing Lucas to flee in terror. Ethan is finally reunited with Mia and meets Zoe in the boathouse and the three can finally escape, but Zoe first needs to create the serum and administer it to herself and Mia. Before that happens, Ol' Jack makes one last appearance.
Now transformed into a colossal, mutated demon, Jack attacks Ethan. His regenerative powers are so strong that despite pumping his eyeballs full of lead, Ethan is unable to kill Jack through normal means and is forced to inject him with one of the serum doses in order to cure him, thus removing his ability to regenerate. Jack dies, and Ethan joins Mia and Zoe on the dock but before they escape, Ethan has to make a hard choice: Who does he cure with the final dose?
If you actually play Resident Evil 7 this choice will lead to different endings for the story, but Resident Evil Village makes one of them canon, so we'll stick to that one. Ethan chooses to save Mia. Like, duh, it's his wife. The two hop on the boat and cruise out to the ocean toward freedom—except, wait, what's this giant tanker doing here?
Below: Video of Ethan's final fight against Jack.
As Ethan and Mia make their escape, they encounter a massive ship run aground along the coast. Before Ethan has a chance to ask about it, their dingy is capsized by giant tentacles and Ethan is knocked unconscious and taken prisoner by the monster controlling the mold. Here the game switches perspectives temporarily, and the player takes control of a now cured Mia as she searches the abandoned tanker looking for Ethan. As she fights back dangerous hordes of mold monsters, Mia is bombarded with flashbacks of a little girl named Eveline, who calls Mia her mother.
Eventually Mia finds enough documents aboard the ship to restore her lost memories from three years ago when she first disappeared. It turns out that Mia is actually an operative belonging to a secret corporation called The Connections that was creating bioweapons in the form of human children. One of those weapons, a little girl named Eveline, creates a noxious mold that spreads and infects everything it touches. If the mold infects a human, Eveline can force her way into their mind and take control of their body. Three years earlier, Mia was one of several operatives transporting Eveline to South America when the ship hit a storm and Eveline was able to break free, killing everyone aboard except Mia. The ship ran aground, where the Bakers discovered Mia and Eveline and tried to help them.
Ethan learns all of his through visions he has while unconscious. Eveline has imprisoned him in the mold, and while incapacitated he is visited by a normal Jack Baker who explains that the mold drove his family insane and Eveline's mind control turned them into murderous thralls against their will. Being a child bred from science, the one thing Eveline wants is a family, so she enslaved Mia and the Bakers. She also used Mia to lure Ethan out to Louisiana so he could be a part of her new family.
Below: Video of Mia saving Ethan, who is having hallucinations.
Ethan is rescued by Mia and the two make their way through the ship until Mia is again infected with the mold and has her body hijacked by Eveline. Unable to stop herself from killing Ethan, she locks herself inside the ship and gives Ethan a special drug he can use to kill Eveline so they can finally be free.
Ethan escapes the ship and finds an abandoned salt mine with a secret laboratory inside. He discovers that everything that has happened so far has been part of the plan of Mia's employer, The Connections. After the tanker ran aground, it was decided that they would study Eveline in secret as she hijacked the Baker family. Lucas, the son, was actually a double-agent who was feeding intel to The Connections in exchange for a serum that made him resistant to Eveline's mind control.
Now that Ethan knows the whole story, he has one final mission: Kill Eveline. He returns to the Baker house and is bombarded with psychic attacks from Eveline. In the attic, he finds her and manages to stab her with the drug Mia gave him. Eveline transforms back into the Baker grandma—surprise!—and dies. Or does she? Of course not, this is Resident Evil.
Below: Ethan's fight against Eveline.
The black mold that has infected nearly every corner of the Baker household congeals into a twisted monster with grandma Baker's face. Ethan shoots it a bunch and that only pisses it off more. It transforms into a colossal tentacle demon that destroys the entire Baker house and nearly kills Ethan, but at the last minute a supply cache falls from a circling helicopter. In it, Ethan finds a pistol loaded with special anti-fungal rounds (I'm dead serious) that kill Eveline once and for all.
As the game comes to an end, the circling helicopter lands and out jumps long-time Resident Evil cowboy Chris Redfield—a major character in Resident Evil 8. He helps Ethan aboard the chopper, where a cured Mia is waiting for him. The three of them fly off into the sunset and the credits roll. And that's Resident Evil 7 in a nutshell.
Resident Evil Village begins years later, with Mia and Ethan reunited and living a comfortable, anonymous life abroad with their new baby, Rosemary. That domestic bliss doesn't last long, however, when a familiar faces intrudes on their life.