It’s odd to think that the ‘zombie game’ has almost become a genre in its own right. You wouldn’t call an FPS a ‘Boring Generic-Ass Oh-Look-It’s-Terrorists-Again game,’ despite the fact that a lot of the enemies therein consist only of those guys. Is Gears of War a lumpen-freakish-man-freaks-trying-to-chew-on-my-plums game? Well, yes and no (and that’s just the average player you come up against online).
Anywho, yes. Zombies are different. Our festering friends have become an indelible part of pop culture, from movies and such, and now they seem to be a crucial part of the gaming industry as well. Are you an arcade shooter kind of guy/gal? No doubt you’ve mowed the shamblers down by the million. Survival horror fan? Naturally, there are undead-amundo around those parts as well. It’s kind of what zombies do best; shuffle slowly around corners to freak you out. If you enjoy open-world, collect and craft sorts of survival titles, a zombie apocalypse is just the setting for that sort of thing too.
These guys are freaking chameleons, is what I’m getting at here. They’re shoehorned in just about everywhere, like touchscreen functionality at the DS launch, and they always manage to be relevant. Fans of TV phenomenon The Walking Dead have a wealth of games to satisfy their undead urges, but some are horrifying in all the wrong ways. You’ve got to be choosey, and we’re here to help. Check out our picks for 15 Zombie Games That Are Obviously Better Than Resident Evil.
As the experienced gamers among us know, licensed titles don’t have a good rep. People look at the craptacular likes of Superman 64, or the horrendous video game movie adaptions by director Uwe ‘Boll-ocks’ Boll, and they mock. They mock like the mocking mocksters of mock that they are. Most of the time, they’re right to do so, but there are exceptions.
TV mega-hit The Walking Dead being one of them. Telltale Games’ episodic graphic adventure game treated the source material exceptionally well, and was critically acclaimed for it. Players praised the emotional tone of the game, the quality of its storytelling and its all-around faithful approach to the show it’s based on. It is one of the best licensed titles of recent memory — that’s for darn tooting.
Once again, The Last of Us needs no introduction. Naughty Dog, of Crash Bandicoot fame, have something truly special on their hands here. This survival-horror/action game stars Joel, a man charged with escorting his teenage protégé, Ellie, across a post-apocalyptic world full of… well, the sorts of things that would make Resident Evil’s horrific mutants look respectable enough to bring home to meet your mama.
The zombies of The Last of Us are a little different to the norm. These guys are dubbed The Infected, having been turned by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. There are a lot of the standard jump scare setpieces featuring these horrors, but the game is also so much deeper. The relationship between our two protagonists is truly touching in places.
Now, if you’ve seen a certain Romero movie, you’ll know that zombies aren’t always super slow shamblers. Some of these guys can really haul ass, and be chewing on your jugular before you can say, "oh crapdoodles!" (Which is apparently what you say when confronted by a zombie horde). They are popularly depicted shuffling along like a grandma in slippers en masse, though, which makes them perfect fodder for an arcade shooter.
If that’s what you’re looking for, Housemarque’s Dead Nation comes highly recommended. The game rose to stardom after being included in Sony’s Welcome Back package after the great PSN crapout of 2011. The game struck a chord with players for its great presentation, deceptively deep gameplay, subtle RPG elements, and replayability. Housemarque are truly masters of their twin-stick shooter craft, as the more recent Alienation continues to testify.
This one needs no introduction. Plants vs Zombies was originally released for the PC in 2009, and has since hit every fathomable device, from the Vita to certain brands of sentient Japanese toasters. It’s a tower defense title, as I’m sure you know, which tasks the player with distributing a whole range of different plants on their lawn to beat back the zombies attacking their house.
Management of your seed packets is key. The sunflower cannot fight directly, but produces sun, your currency with which to place more plants. The peashooter is your basic but effective unit. The walnut is also passive, but acts as a shield to slow the zombies’ assault. There are many different plants, and you can combine all sorts to suit your playstyle and create alternative strategies. Indeed, you must, as there are just as many different kinds of zombies coming to test your defenses.
If you’re in the market for a console-exclusive zombie game, which system would you think to check first? Would it be the Wii U? No, no it wouldn’t. Nintendo, being the family-friendly funsters they are, don’t tend to be big on that sort of thing. You might be surprised to hear, then, that they prepared just such a thing for the U’s launch: Ubisoft’s ZombiU.
An FPS/survival horror set in London, the game casts you as a random survivor of the zombie outbreak. You travel around the free-roam map, attacking the undead with your oh-so-British cricket bat, and the limited weaponry you manage to scavenge. Along the way, you'll complete tasks for the mysterious ‘Prepper.’ The game utilizes a permadeath system, seeing you instantly awaken as another randomly-generated survivor on being killed. ZombiU isn’t exclusive to the system anymore, but it’s an interesting curio for fans of this sort of thing.
If a Smash Bros. for mobile game characters ever became a thing, you can bet your sorry butt that Barry Steakfries would be a playable fighter. This studly little-bearded dude is the mascot of Halfbrick, developers of such mobile sensations as Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride. Steakfries, as players will know, was the star of the latter, but he’s also been the hero of a unique twin-stick shooter.
Age of Zombies, as the title suggests, features a neat little twist on the formula: wormholes. Poor old Steakfries is transported through a series of them over the course of the story, seeing him do arena battle against a horde of undead from various time periods. Gangster zombies in 1930s Chicago? Check. Mummy zombies in Ancient Egypt? Check. A zombie T-Rex in prehistoric times? Hell yes.
Now, how pernickety about the definition of the word ‘zombie’ are you feeling today? On that score, Dead Space has always seemed to be a bit of a grey area for me. I’m going to include it, just please promise not to get your torches and pitchforks and hunt me down for taking liberties with the word.
The enemies of this sci-fi survival-horror universe, in lore terms, are known as Necromorphs. These beings are, true enough, created from dead bodies, but whether they’re truly ‘undead’ is a difficult one to say. The insidious influence of the Marker changes them, mutates their dead flesh, into a form that closer resembles aliens than human bodies. They’re zombies in my eyes, but people can be sticklers for this sort of thing.
DayZ, huh? Day-freaking-Z. This is the big one, friends. The game that launched a thousand snarky Steam reviews. If you’ve ever killed a fellow player by forcing them to eat a rotten banana, you’ll know that this is the very pinnacle of gaming excellence right here. What more could we ask for? Nothing, that’s what.
For the uninitiated, DayZ is a look-ma-I’m-a-real-boy full game based on the mod of the same name. It’s in alpha at the moment, and gameplay is frequently shonky, but we can forgive that. The fun of scavenging, co-operating (or not), and generally surviving in DayZ’s zombie-ravaged world is far too much fun. Did I mention the banana incident? This one has a huge amount of potential, in a Dying Light sort of way.
Do you remember the Ouya? It really was a thing, wasn’t it? I didn’t dream it? The way the Kickstarter campaign told it, this little silver wonderbox would bridge the gap between console and mobile gaming; a kind of Android console that would be cheap to game on and cheap to develop for. It would unite us all together, and we would happily sing Ebony and Ivory together in a meadow somewhere, like a big hippy love in.
As you’ve probably noticed, none of this happened. The games it offered were simplistic, arcade-y affairs for the most part. There was one, though, that I remember super fondly. Zombies & Trains is a hilariously bizarre title that sees you wiping out marauding zombies by aiming trains at them across four lanes. Power-ups, armored zombies, and much addictive highscore-iness were had by all.
And now, a cult classic from back in the day. Games of the early nineties —as with movies of the era— are often so very, very nineties. SO 90s it's almost painful. The raw cool and edgy ‘tude of Sonic and the fashion sense of the Fresh Prince is strong with them. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is no exception.
This one hit both the SNES and the Genesis in 1993, a toon-tastic run and gunner that saw you defending your neighbors from all kinds of horror movie nasties. It’s not a straight mindless shooter, as you do have to retrieve said neighbors personally as well. The game was well received, and rightly so, as it’s not often you get to wipe out marauding zombies, werewolves and UFOs with explosive soda cans and a weedwhacker.
When it is a straight-up, balls-out shooter you want, zombie games can usually be trusted to deliver. Tripwire Interactive’s Killing Floor 2 is one example of a title with no fancy delusions about plotting and such. It has all the story of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and the same main objective too: Ridiculous carnage. Just go nuts.
In Killing Floor 2, you’re alone or with your buddies against waves of zombies (or Zeds, as they’re known, but that’s more than close enough to qualify in my book). Wipe out enough of them, and the hulking ghastly-ass boss appears. Destroy that too, and you move on. Hell, you know how this stuff works. Killing Floor 2 is arcade gunplay at its purest, goriest and greatest.
Once again, we’ve got some fairly controversial undead on our hands here. Left 4 Dead refers to its enemies as ‘zombies’ and/or The Infected, but they’re not truly zombies in the classic sense. We’re dealing with the victims of a mysterious ailment even more deadly than Man Flu (and we all know what a killer that can be): Green Flu. They come in all sizes and shapes, but share a lust for flesh and general disdain for personal hygiene.
Left 4 Dead 2 is an FPS from Valve, which was celebrated for its brilliantly enjoyable and multiplayer. It’s a similar deal to Killing Floor, in that a team of up to four survivors are pitted against waves of Infected. As with that title, cooperation is key, as it’s easy to get overrun.
We’ve already mentioned Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, but now let’s touch on another mobile mainstay: Angry Birds. When you’re being made into a damn movie, you know you’ve hit peak phenomenon, and that’s exactly what Angry Birds did a few years back (not the movie, that came more recently, just generally).
Where there’s a trend, obviously, our moldy buddies the zombies will never be far behind. The Stupid Zombies series of mobile titles is Angry Birds gameplay with a macabre twist: Instead of catapults, we’re talking shotguns. Instead of birds, it’s bullets. Instead of pigs, it’s the poor, squishy skulls of the undead. Yet another example of the zombies’ successful infiltration of just about everything pop culture related. The series has spawned a couple of sequels, and is good goofy fun if you’re all bird-ed out (like most of the planet at this point).
Speaking of goofy zombie fun, here comes Dead Rising. Usually, titles featuring our undead buddies will take one of two routes: they’ll either be super serious horror fests, or they’ll be utterly batcrap ridiculous, cartoony, full of jokes. Capcom’s survival horror beat em up series definitely falls into the latter camp. Nobody’s taking anything too seriously around these parts, that’s for damn sure.
The original Dead Rising took place in a mall in Colorado. You play as Frank West, an intrepid journalist, and photographer investing odd happenings in the town. Said happenings, naturally, consist of a zombie outbreak. Of course, this leaves Frank to put together impromptu weaponry and bring the fight to his foes. There are over 250 items in the game you can use in this fashion, the stupider the better.
Now, you may have played through Rockstar’s classic Western sandbox title and seen nary a zombie throughout. "Where the hell are these zombies you promised me!?" You might ask (and you’d be damn right to do so). If you’d stop playing damn poker, just for a minute, you’d notice that it’s the game’s expansion we’re talking about, Undead Nightmare.
The DLC adds a separate standalone story, along with new modes and a horror-themed motif to the game world. In this alternate timeline, protagonist John Marston is searching for a cure to the zombie infection that has affected his family. Undead Nightmare is a unique, original and brilliantly implemented take on these familiar themes, and was hailed as a recent example of DLC done right. How many of those do you see these days? Very few, that’s how many.