Where most zombie games are about hitting the dead with something weighty before moving onto heavier artillery, Zombie is about avoidance, careful management, and slow-burn strategy. Seeing as we’re still no closer to a Left 4 Dead 3 release date, a new game that rigidly follows the formula of co-op zombie slaying that the L4D series popularized will have to suffice.
World War Z doesn’t offer anything revolutionary of its own to that formula, but it’s still heaps of fun when playing through its gauntlet-style campaign missions with friends, upgrading your kit over time, and watching rotting corpses explode under heavy machine gun fire. Despite an arguable abuse of the concept of Early Access stretching backer patience to breaking point, there is more than enough to standalone Day to remind you why the mod garnered all that goodwill.
You might have been scared out of your wits by Resident Evil 7 in VR, or found yourself repeatedly returning to the action-packed classic that is Rest 4, but you will still find plenty of frights in the game where it all started. Trapped in the famously labyrinthine Spencer Mansion, as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, ravenous zombies and dangerous mutations lie behind every corner in Resident Evil, often obscured or blocked by inventive environmental puzzles.
Fixed camera angles intensify the sensation of claustrophobia and your limited inventory keeps you feeling vulnerable. These are the most horrifying undead shufflers the series has produced so far, with each one’s warped, bloody face telling a story of how they got infected.
Alternatively, you can go for the limbs: a couple of pistol shots is enough to snap off an ankle, making them a lot less mobile and allowing you to carefully skirt around them. Scuff a shot, and it will still tear a chunk of flesh off your target, adding some gory gravitas to every spent cartridge.
If you’re looking for story then you’ll be best served by the original State of Decay, however, the sequel does an admirable job of fleshing out the systems of the first game to make for a more satisfying open-world survival experience. You will pick a protagonist from your community of survivors and take them out into the wild to find the necessary food, fuel, or drugs to keep the rest alive.
Then Dying Light takes that cloth, stuffs it into a bottle, sets it on fire, and hurls it from a great height into a pack of undead. For best results, ignore the more repetitive missions and take to the rooftops of Harlan, built with vertical meandering in mind.
With a story penned by the legendary Chris Alone, the narrative complexity promised by Dying Light 2’s factions system is exciting. Organ Trail tasks you with guiding a station wagon of survivors on a journey out west and like all zombie survival games your primary concerns are keeping a good stock of food, medicine, and ammo, not to mention avoiding roaming packs of flesh-eating undead.
While some post-apocalyptic scenarios default to a familiar version of zombie Odom we have long been desensitized to, Left 4 Dead 2 presents a world in which normality is all too recent. Though cities have emptied out after waves of evacuations, humanity feels close enough to touch thanks to the messages scrawled on the walls of safe houses.
There is a tendency to disarm you with humor and half an hour of respite before swiping cruelly at the characters you have come to care about in a way that only the best adventure games on PC can. From your top-down perspective you call in rescue helicopters, direct sniper teams, and make monstrous sacrifices to achieve your goal.
The game goes hard on the camp, gratuitous fun of guiltless gore, and the testicle-busting X-Ray kill cam makes sniping your foes as satisfying as mashing them with a hammer. After all, these are not only undead abominations, but also Nazis; even the gentlest pacifist can enjoy blowing them up like a barrel of melons and watching the juices fly.
You can even modify and upgrade your guns to shoot flames or spew out lightning, and create a custom skill build to mow down the zombies with brutal efficiency. Whether you’re all about trying to rebuild society against constant waves of shufflers with your fellow survivors, or you just want to run as fast as you can away from the undead, there’s a zombie game here for you.
If you’ve finished up all of these then be sure to check out our thoughts on the Dying Light: Bad Blood battle royale or read our State of Decay 2 PC review to find out why we chose the original for this list. Yet despite the constant declarations from gamers that zombies are long past their expiration date, developers keep putting them in games, consumers keep buying them, and I can't stop playing them.
That question was lodged in my brain last night as I finished up a session of Dead Island with my co-worker Tim Turn. A week ago I had served as his co-op partner while he was playing the game for review, and since then we started a second play through just for fun.
In all seriousness, however, it would be foolish to overlook the importance that sales potential has on a developer or publisher when creating a game. It requires paying massive amounts of money upfront in hopes that your idea will prove popular with your consumers.
There's been no shortage of successful zombie -themed video games in the past decade, and even games like Call of Duty: World at War and Red Dead Redemption have enjoyed increased attention by shoehorning in modes featuring the undead. I'm sure somewhere in the world there's an analyst who could tell you just how much more money you could expect to make by adding zombies to your game, and there aren't many developers who can afford the luxury of turning down a sure thing.
ZombieGames Feature InnovationZombie haters may scoff at the above statement, citing the clichéd nature of zombies as the primary reason behind their hatred. Left 4 Dead introduced FPS fans to a new era in co-op gaming, with level design and gameplay mechanics that force players to work together.
The Dead Rising series has given horror fans two huge open cities to explore, along with a deep weapon-crafting system and a gonzo sense of humor. The Zombies modes in Trey arch's Call of Duty titles provide a refreshing co-op alternative to a franchise that has always focused on competitive multiplayer.
Plants vs. Zombies reinvigorated the tower defense genre, while making gamers laugh. The Resident Evil series has defined and redefined the survival horror genre for a decade and a half.
AI hiccups that would be unforgivable for an elite enemy soldier seem natural for a walking corpse. Whether you're slicing off limbs, curb-stomping their melons, or shotgunning them to pieces like that terrifying scene in RoboCop, slaughtering zombies is a raucous, guilt-free affair.
Know Your Zombie History For decades writers and filmmakers have tapped into a multitude of phobias dealing with the undead. The zombie apocalypse is a rich format for telling stories, one that's already well established and highly conducive to gaming.
Even though most video games fail to tap into any of these elements, the ideas have already been planted in the player's mind through other media. All developers have to do is apply the template to a new location (such as a tropical island resort or Las Vegas knockoff) or era (like the Wild West or World War II), and gamers have something that feels fresh and familiar at the same time.
Before the journey is over you’ll battle space bugs, save cheerleaders, leap on trampolines, and fight a giant baby. Since the main thrust of each level is rescuing civilians rather than defeating enemies, it also requires a lot more thought to finish than your average arcade style game, a design innovation that adds a great deal to the challenge and replayability.
The State of Decay series, introduced as an Xbox Live Arcade game in 2013, trades in the genre's typical fast-paced brain-bashing for a slower paced focus on survival and community building. The 2018 sequel built on this zombie -sandbox premise, expanding and adding four-player co-op while maintaining the tenseness that accompanies the threat of permanent.
You only have a few action points a day to issue commands, after which you have to simply wait to move again, and the tension of anticipating another turn becomes almost unbearable as you start to consider all the awful things that might be happening while you’re asleep. Nazis have long been identified with occultism, (both in reality and popular fiction) and Trey arch’s decision to go all-in on the campy grind house aesthetic changed the face of multiplayer shooters.
Zombies helped lighten the mood in a series that was increasingly mired in its own self-importance, reminding players, critics, and creators that it is all a game. Following the success of its Resident Evil series, Cap com introduced a new, lighthearted take on the zombie genre with Dead Rising.
The survival genre owes a great debt to Day, which began life as a mod for military simulator ARM AII. Day contrasted the surrealism of a zombie infestation with the hyperrealism of exposure, infection, hunger, and the degeneration of human nature in the face of disaster.
Just how much fun can playing as a cowering, nearly powerless victim in a world full of lumbering AI zombies and ruthless human scavengers really be? Everything from Fortnite to Rust owes Day a tremendous debt for its willingness to throw unarmed players into a hostile land with of their fellow humans and see what happens next.
It’s an RPG about being immortal, crammed with more undead than you can shake a severed limb at, including zombies assigned to alternately sad and hilarious purposes. The necrotic atmosphere permeates every moment in the game: you start the story laying on a slab, your best friend is a disembodied skull, and there are so many dead things running around that there’s a special ability dedicated just to talking with them.
The original Plants vs. Zombies blended solid, approachable tower defense gameplay with whimsical charm, leading to its mass appeal; it became a hit among both the hardcore and casual audiences, on PC, consoles, and mobile alike. Its addictive, wave-based loop spawned a number of official follow-ups and countless other imitators, making this family friendly take on the undead worthy of a spot on our list.
Resident Evil 2 is a triumph of survival horror, a sprawling, weirdly compelling epic that somehow managed to overcome its famously lackluster controls. And with those control issues remedied in the 2019 remake, alongside vastly improved graphics and various other tweaks, RE2 has only gotten better with time.RE2 allowed you to experience a single terrifying night through the unique perspective of two victims, their occasionally overlapping paths both snaking toward horrific discoveries in a city torn apart by an unleashed bioweapon.
It’s a tremendously moody and atmospheric game with great pacing, a growing sense of dread, nice monster design, frequent jump scares, and just enough resource scarcity to keep things tense through the end. The writing and delivery are minimal and masterful, with the bulk of the effort spent creating flawed characters we love or loathe and then stripping them away from us one by one.
The original Resident Evil doesn’t boast quite the scope of its sprawling sequel, but the tighter, almost claustrophobic design of the mansion often works to heighten the horror. The constant threat of the fearsome double-reanimated Crimson Heads in areas you’ve previously cleared fuels a compounding sense of dread that you’re in continual zombie danger no matter how heavily armed you become.
The legendary cheesy dialogue is icing on the cake. Also, if you finish the game in under three hours, you can blow up zombies with a bottomless rocket launcher. Around the same time Trey arch was bringing Zombies into World at War, Valve was introducing us all to their own cooperative take on battling the forces of death.
Left 4 Dead pitted teams of four allies against mobs of zombies ruled by an invisible enemy: the innovative AI director, a carefully constructed protocol designed to dynamically influence the game as it unfolded. The result was a ridiculously repayable zombie shooter. Only a year later, Valve brought us Left 4 Dead 2, building upon that successful formula with a familiar yet greatly enhanced team-based shooter.