Ever since George Romero introduced audiences to the utter terror of zombies with his movie Night of the Living Dead, the undead have infiltrated every area of pop culture and entertainment, and they show no signs of going away.
Following and expanding on Romero’s model, there are thousands of movies about zombies. AMC’s very successful show The Walking Dead has also made zombies incredibly popular in television. It even has its own talk show! And of course there is the graphic novel that the show is based on, which is just one of many pieces of literature about the living dead.
Another type of entertainment that has had immense success in the area of the undead is the video game. Video games about zombies are great for many reasons. Zombies are more monster than human and already dead, meaning there is no guilt or culture-conflict over killing life-like human beings. Zombies have a rich history, so even if you’ve never played a particular game before you have an idea of what you’re getting into (making the game immediately relatable). Zombies make for fun side quests and mini games, as seen in the Call of Duty franchise’s popular Zombie Mode. And finally, zombies are downright terrifying. Whether they are moving fast or slow, playing a character low on ammo and surrounded by a horde of snarling dead people is enough to create suspense for even the most hardened gamer.
It is safe to say zombies aren’t going to die out any time soon. So take advantage of the fact and check out these ten great zombie-themed games!
- Left 4 Dead (2008)Killing zombies alone is fun, but developer Valve set out to show you that killing with friends can be just as rewarding (and just as nerve-wracking). The basic plot puts four “survivors” together who must try and make it to various objectives while surviving relentless zombie hordes. Never before has teamwork been so crucial to survival, as you must fight back to back with your teammates against thousands of zombies, including the iconic Boomers, Hunters, and Tanks. The game is also guaranteed to be a slightly different experience each time you play it, as the artificial intelligence changes everything (monsters, difficulty, weapons, etc) based on the team’s performance. This game-changing experience, the diversity of maps, the realistic characters, and the good dose of black humor that permeates the game make Left 4 Dead a must-have for zombie lovers.
- Killing Floor (2009)This game follows the co-op survival plot by putting you and up to five more friends in various locations where your goal is to cleanse the area of failed military experimentations. Basically you must work together as a team to survive continues waves of zombie attackers. In between waves you have a chance to find the Trader to buy guns and ammo, and at the end of every level there is a boss battle. There are ten different types of zombies that come against you, and you have over 33 various weapons to fend them off. The levels are open and non-linear, meaning you can run all over the map and choose when and where to make your stand. The Zombie Modes in the Call of Duty games are very similar in concept, but Killing Floor was first (and arguably best).
- Dead Rising 2 (2010)There might be buckets of blood and gore, but Dead Rising 2 is more comedy than straight edge-of-the-seat horror. And there is nothing wrong with that. You play as Chuck Greene, a former motocross champion who must make his way across the giant casino-like Fortune City to try and save his daughter. Like the Dead Rising that came before it, DR2 has you fashioning weapons in a MacGyver-like manner to survive the city of the undead. A kayak paddle with chainsaws on either end, a hand grenade duct taped to a football, and a large moose head are just a few of the many bizarre weapons you can create to slaughter zombies. Up to 7,000 zombies can be seen onscreen at one time as you journey about the city, killing zombies and competing in sick game shows. Though downright ridiculous at moments, DR2 is one of the more entertaining and creative zombie games on the market.
- Resident Evil (1996)There are many who argue that the Resident Evil series are not actually about zombies. It’s the whole zombies vs. infected argument that pertains to games where a virus or plague infects and mutates enemies. But regardless of whether it is actually a reanimated corpse or a virus that takes over the body and mutates it, the idea is that what makes the characters human has been destroyed, and thus they are (or are like) zombies. With that out of the way, let’s talk about one of the greatest zombie games of all time. This game popularized the survival horror genre almost single-handedly. A fresh face from all of the action-heavy, violent shooters, Resident Evil is more about gradually built suspense and taut, nervous tension. The game’s puzzles, eerie settings, and long moments of nail-biting silence gave gamers something different, and made this one of the best zombie video games.
- Resident Evil 4 (2005)Whereas the first Resident Evil is famous for creating the survival horror genre, Resident Evil 4 is known as one of its best representations. It’s heavy on narrative and atmosphere, and a perfect blend of action, story, and horror. It also features intuitive controls and an over-the-shoulder camera (a revelation for its time), breathtaking graphics even for the PS2, and a huge variety of terrifying and monstrous bosses and enemies. You play as the returning character Leon, whose mission to find out who kidnapped the president’s daughter takes him deep in the woods and castles of Spain. The shuffling slow zombies of the first game have been replaced with undead that can sprint and chase. The availability of ammo is also kept at a minimum, making the game creepy and stressful because you know creatures are lurking around every corner.
- Dead Island (2011)As zombies continue to be popular in entertainment, video games seek for creative ways to change the experience. Stepping away from the crowded streets, spooky basements, and dense forests of other games, Dead Island puts the player on the picturesque island of Banoi in the South Pacific. The whole island, including the Royal Palms Resort where you were staying, has become overrun by zombies. Your main goals are to protect the other survivors and find a way off of the island before it is too late. Apart from the gorgeous sea-side location, another factor that makes Dead Island different is its blending of survival horror with first-person-shooter (FPS) and role-paying-game (RPG) elements. You gain experience, enhance your skills, and level up your character to change from terrified survivor to unique zombie-slayer. The massive tropical island is also open for exploration and filled with objectives and things to do, allowing for a completely different experience each time you replay it. To top off all of this gloriousness, Dead Island also features a weapon customization system that allows the player to craft thousands of weapons to kill zombies with.
- The Walking Dead (2012)Capitalizing on the popularity of the graphic novel and television show of the same name, The Walking Dead is an incredible realistic and intriguing entry in the zombie-game genre. Like the comic and the show, this game is more character driven than other zombie games. Action takes a backseat to heavy character interaction and suspense (but when there is action it is intense and very life like). The game is full of instances where your character must make a decision, and whatever choice you make will affect how the story plays out across the five episodes. The decisions are not only difficult to make, but a lot of the time you will have to make a split second move while the undead are bringing down your door. The comic book style of the artwork is very cool, and the graphics are superb. This game is a great entry into the genre, and hopefully there are sequels to follow.
- The House of the Dead: Overkill (2009)This game may have been overlooked by most Wii users because it is completely against the Wii’s family-friendly reputation. It’s grindhouse movie meets classic arcade shooter, with extreme violence and foul language galore. You play as either Agent G or Agent Washington, sending bloody chunks of zombie flying as you make your way around Louisiana to discover the truth behind some mysterious disappearances. This game is definitely not for kids, as the violence is non-stop, in your face, and over the top gruesome (it’s also one of the most profane games ever). The motion-sensitive Wii controls make this game like a much gorier version of Duck Hunt (but with zombies), and are a lot of fun to use.
- Dead Nation (2010)Available for download on the Playstation Network, Dead Nation is top-down shoot ‘em up game set in a zombie apocalypse. The plot is cliché and the characters are paper-thin, but the game is fun, violent, and heavy on the action. The body count rises to epic proportions are you mow down the oncoming hordes. Despite how easily the zombies fall, there are always more to fight. The small restricted levels make the game intense, but even worse is the threat of running out of ammo. Some of the guns may do massive damage, but they run out of ammo very quickly and available refills are few and far between. The game is entertaining and takes the top-down shooter style in a new and exciting direction.
- Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (2010)This game may be a spinoff of the first Red Dead Redemption, but that doesn’t make it any less fun and engaging. John Marston returns to the world of the original game that, in a supernatural twist to the previous story arc, has been overrun by an apocalyptic plague. The game is done in the open-world style, and features more zombie-related elements in its atmosphere and environment than almost any other game on the market. You interact with and destroy hundreds of different types of zombie characters, you fight and skin zombie animals, and you can even harvest zombie body parts to use with your weapons. In a twist on the typical zombie game, mythical creatures are hidden across the map and you can harness the power of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse to help annihilate your zombie foes. This game definitely features everything you could want in a zombie game and more!
Though these are ten of the best zombie games on the market, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others. Over the years many different zombie-themed titles have been released across the gaming platforms.
If you have favorites that weren’t mentioned in this list, feel free to post about them in the comment section below!