Whether we like it or not zombies are part of popular culture and are here to stay. After appearing in horror movies, television series, comic books and literature, it was only natural that video games started having zombies in them. And it’s easy to see why zombies started a trend and a sub-genre of their own: the undead are an easy enemy to hate, nobody will complain about shooting zombies in the head, their motivations are simple (eat brains) and if anyone asks, blame it on a virus. The undead have been in video games since pretty much the beginning of the medium and they have appeared in light gun, survival horror, first-person shooters and even strategy games. The games included on this list are all titles were zombies were central to the experience, so while you could argue that games like Half-Life, Doom or Blood have zombies in them, they aren’t the most iconic parts of their games. Here are some of the best zombie video games ever made.
10. Plants vs Zombies
PopCap’s tower defense game took a different approach with zombies, making the experience lighthearted and family friendly. In the game, you defend your house by strategically placing plants in your garden, backyard or roof, since your plants will attack the incoming zombie horde with everything they’ve got (read: seeds and peas.) Although the premise sounds simple enough, there’s real strategy involved and you’d be surprised how entertaining Plants vs Zombies can be.
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Zombies Mode)
Call of Duty: World at War might have been the game that introduced millions of players to the now immensely popular Zombies Mode, but Black Ops grabbed that concept and took it to an extreme, allowing you to play coop with four players online or two players split screen. This time around, there’s a story set in various eras of time and you can assume the role of different captains, sergeants, corporals and captains. One of the most compelling maps, called Five, lets you play as world leaders, John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro. On the other hand, “Call of the Dead” features celebrities such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Danny Trejo and George A. Romero.
8. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
At some point, someone at Rockstar Games games was thinking: Dead Red Redemption is a fantastic open-world action game, but it’s missing zombies in it. Soon after that, the famous developer released Undead Nightmare, a DLC pack that showed what the American Old West would be like if it took place in the zombie apocalypse. Apart from being a creative take on and already established world, Undead Nightmare had some gameplay changes, such as the fact that you had to shoot all the undead in the head to kill them. There are also zombie animals, mythical beasts like the Chupacabra or Sasquatch, a Dead Eye mechanic where time slows down and you can shoot multiple targets and some new multiplayer modes.
7. State of Decay
Few zombie games manage to capture the exasperation and dread proper of the zombie pandemic. Undead Labs’ open-world survival-horror game offers that experience by putting emphasis on limited resources, base defense and protecting other people’s lives. Unlike most of the games on this list, Sate of Decay isn’t about murdering as many zombies as you can, but protecting the lives of your friends because once they are gone, they’ll never come back.
6. Dead Island
Dead Island is a technically uneven game, but it offers an experience that a lot of people were more than interested in playing: this is a three-dimensional, open-world first-person shooter that emulates the feeling of being the middle of a zombie pandemic. One of the game’s most compelling features is the possibility of improvising weapons as you progress and the role-playing elements will keep you hooked for hours and hours, especially if you have a couple of friends to play with.
5. Dead Rising
Back when it came out, Dead Rising was about putting as many zombies on-screen as possible and about letting you combine pretty much anything in its world to craft weapons and kill those creatures. In the game, you play as photojournalist Frank West as he tries to find out what started the zombie outbreak. But he only has 72 hours to do so (this time-limit encourages several playthroughs) and there are thousands of zombies standing in your way. Limited ammo, a time-limit and countless zombies make Dead Rising a challenging game, but also a playground where there’s a lot of fun to be had.
4. The Walking Dead
Although most zombie games are about shooting the infected in the head or crafting creative weapons to rip their limbs off, this point-and-click adventure tells the harrowing story of the people who find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak. In the game, you take on the role of Lee Everett, an escaped convict who’s now taking care of an orphan called Clementine. As Lee, you’ll need to make some harrowing decisions that will affect the outcome of the story and this usually translates into some impactful and memorable moments.
3. Left 4 Dead 2
As far as playing cooperatively with other people in the zombie apocalypse, it doesn’t get better than in Left 4 Dead 2. The game grabs the formula from the first game (cooperate with your friends or bots to make it from safehouse to safehouse) and expands upon it in some meaningful ways. The most important addition comes in the form of new zombies, which include Charger, Jocker and Spitter which also mean coordinating new strategies with your buddies. There are also new survivors, campaigns, melee weapons and a mode called AI Director 2.0 which procedurally generated everything in the level.
2. The Last of Us
This action adventure survival game took one of the most overused genres of the past few years and made it feel fresh again. In the game, you go on a cross-country journey of the United States trying to survive not only the zombie apocalypse, but also the hostile human survivors. But the best part about The Last of Us is seeing protagonists Joel and Ellie interact with each other. This is a tense, action-packed and emotionally powerful zombie game.
1. Resident Evil 4
Although Resident Evil 4 makes more emphasis on action, this survival horror game made some welcome changes to the Resident Evil formula, mainly because it got rid of the fixed camera perspective and the tank controls. Apart from that, there’s a terrific story that puts you in the shoes of Leon S. Kennedy as he tries to rescue the president’s daughter in a European village that was overrun by the undead. Oh, and there’s a creepy vendor who sells you ammunition and weapons in between missions.
Other zombie games that you should play include: The Typing of the Dead, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, DayZ, Dying Light, ZombiU, Dead Space, Killing Floor and The House of the Dead.