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.
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. However, the reason we’ve singled out Black Ops 4 in particular is because it offers players three zombie maps free of charge, as well as a haul of increasingly ridiculous undead-infested locales as DLC.
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. Sometime in the late ‘90s a dark force unearthed ancient relics and imbued life back into a genre that had already seen its golden age… or so we thought.
The same beasts that once struck fear into the hearts of thousands in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead now walked among us again, fueling a media revolution. Most of us are familiar with the classic House of the Dead rail shooter since it could be found in almost every single arcade through the ‘90s, and even the early 2000s.
Developed by Headstrong Games for the Nintendo Wii, The House of the Dead: Overkill is a non-canonical prequel to the original. It captures the art-style and feel of the classic shooter title, but features much better graphics, an absurd plot, and memorable characters with a bizarre sense of humor.
In the virtual cities of Urban Dead, all survivors and zombies are controlled by real players, leaving the game completely free of NPCs. Each participant can make decisions, level up, manage their inventory and perform all kinds of actions, all through a text-based interface.
The original State of Decay tries to deliver a co-op multiplayer experience rooted in survival, rather than just killing as many zombies as possible. As did interest in the genre, until Bohemia Interactive decided to make it a standalone title which released in 2018 for Windows, Xbox One and PS4.
It takes place in the fictional post-soviet Republic of Cerberus, now overrun with “infected”, after a deadly virus devastated the land. As an immune survivor, you’re forced to team up and or compete against other scavenger groups, fighting over resources like bullets and medicine.
Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture for the PS3 and XBOX 360, Lollipop Chainsaw is what happens when you take Suda51, known for his work in Killer 7 and No More Heroes, and ask him to design a b-movie starring a sexy cheerleader. Accompanied by the talking head of her boyfriend Nick, zombie hunter Juliet Starling must hack and slash her way through hordes of combined former classmates to find the source of the outbreak and stop it.
If you like the concept of sexy ladies cutting down zombies but don’t really dig comedy, consider Tam soft’s Onechanbara Z2 released in 2015 for PS4 and PC. Onechanbara Z2 is just the last in a long line of titles about cuties using their demonic powers, and some over-the-top moves to mow down hordes of zombies for… some reason I can’t quite recall.
If you haven’t played Poplar’s Plants vs. Zombies, you’ve probably inhabited the underside of a rock for far too long. It’s the origin story of thousands of casual gamers, but even the more hardcore crowd was in love with the title back when anyone with an iPhone had it installed.
Originally released for the Wii back in 2012, Zombie is Ubisoft’s first foray into the world of zombie survival, with some interesting roguelike mechanics that make it worth a try. This TPS follows different groups of survivors in cities like Moscow, New York, and Tokyo as they traverse scenarios inspired in a 2006 novel of the same name, as well as Paramount Pictures’ film adaptation.
The fast-paced and exciting gameplay is pretty similar to Left 4 Dead, with satisfying shooting mechanics and amazing visuals being World War Z’s strongest selling points. The gameplay is just what you’d expect from a top-down dual-stick shooter, but thanks to exciting power-ups, a great ambiance and amazing effects, blowing zombies up had never felt as satisfying.
Developed by SHE Bend Studio for the PS4 and released in 2019, Days Gone is an open-world TPS focused on exploration and resource management. Put simply, this title is a first-person survival horror with a great focus on melee combat and exploration.
The best part about this game is its weapon mod system which lets you make your AK47 shoot fire-rounds, or turn your throwing knives into tasers. Inspired by old-school B-movies and some newer ones like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Zombies Ate My Neighbors on the SNES and SEGA Genesis is a love letter to campy horror as a genre.
This top-down run-and-gun follows teenagers Zeke and Julie as they attempt to rescue their surviving neighbors after a horde of zombies, werewolves, vampires and the like plunge their town into chaos. The original follows Frank West, a photojournalist who’s trapped in a shopping mall in Willamette during an outbreak.
They’re all pretty solid games, but I’d suggest you go for Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop on the Wii and work your way up from there. On the other side of the stylistic spectrum we find Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, which does away with any pretensions of lightheartedness tell a heart-wrenching tale of pain and loss.
Members Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as they work their way through the Spencer Mansion, surviving zombie attacks and trying to decipher the truth behind the surrounding horrors. To achieve this you’ll have to carefully handle limited supplies, solve complex puzzles, and try not to die of a heart attack when zombie dogs break through the windows.
If the classic survival horror gameplay proves too stressful for your modern self, consider the Resident Evil Chronicles rail shooter series. It parades you through some of the most iconic moments in RE history along with some new scenarios while you worry about pumping enemies full of bullets and finding every collectible you can.
And it would be a disservice to the horror genre as a whole if I didn’t include this absolute masterpiece, which is one of the few games in this list that’s actually scary. You know that at any point you’re liable to be jump-scared to death by a Mesomorph, and every single step you take is an act of bravery and faith.
It’s always amazing to see a mod or an expansion take the groundwork laid out by a game and build something entirely new on top. This DLC turns the entire open world of Red Dead Redemption into a zombie -infested wasteland where John Mars ton must look for a cure to save his now-zombified family.
Undead Nightmare is a full-fledged game with its own mechanics like liberating towns overrun by zombies, and plenty of side-quests and storylines to follow, just like the regular Red Dead Redemption. While the squad-based zombie survival craze began with the first game, Left 4 Dead 2 polished the formula further.
I’m referencing the whole slew of Call of Duty Zombies modes that have been included in Trey arch’s Cod games ever since World at War. Wacky weapons, wackier characters, and the hedonistic pleasure of blowing up zombie brains by the hundreds.
The fourth installment in the well-loved RE franchise was a turning point for the series, bringing with it a much-needed change in gameplay and a higher focus on intense action than ever before. It follows Leon S. Kennedy, known from his main role in RE2, as he ventures into rural Spain to find the US President’s daughter.
This was the first RE to feature an over-the-shoulder perspective and real shooter mechanics, but what really made it such a good game was how much care was put into retaining survival horror elements like inventory management. But thanks to a fluid parkour system, mostly melee-based combat, and an increased focus on running away to find shelter when things get hairy, all have helped it set itself apart from the chaff.
It’s hard to say whether it’s unfortunate or extremely appropriate that the 2020 remake of the classic Resident Evil 3: Nemesis came out in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Especially considering the game opens with live-action footage of a reporter talking about “the fastest spread of a virus in human history”.
Be that as it may, it doesn’t change the fact that RE3 is an incredible horror game that finds the precise middle ground between being a shooter and a resource-managing survival experience. The updated release changes gameplay and graphics heavily while preserving the general setting and story of the original.
This title’s greatest achievement was bringing this story back to life and modernizing it without losing the survival horror feeling. It had been years since I’d actually felt scared by a horror game when I picked up Resident Evil 7, which I did almost out of responsibility as a fan considering how little I’d enjoyed RE6.
My expectations were blown completely out of the water by one of the scariest horror games released in the past few years. But the constant danger, precarious inventory management, and the ominous feeling that your enemies are vastly more powerful than you all came together in this truly terrifying experience.
What I love about the zombie genre is how good of a vehicle it can be to provide gaming experiences and tell engaging stories. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is an incredibly polished experience that’s an emotional rollercoaster, an exercise in beautiful level design, and a tense strategic take on the survival horror genre.
From the intricate cordyceps-infested enemy design to the way it handles themes of societal collapse and interpersonal relationships in times of great strife, all wonderfully wrapped by Gustavo Santaolalla’s melancholic musical score.