Top 10 Zombie Games of All TimeBy Dustin Mendel | October 5, 2011 | Editorials | 9 comments | Share
Whether you’re fending off waves of the undead on your iPad, teaming up with three friends in an attempt to escape Dead Island or scouring the internet for news on Resident Evil 6, zombies continue to be one of the most popular targets of aggression in video games. It may seem like zombies are a fairly new craze in gaming, but they’ve been shuffling aimlessly through games for decades now, and some of their greatest appearances can be found in games that likely came out before some of you were born. With that in mind, let’s take a look at my picks for the ten best zombie games ever released:
10. Dead Rising 2
In the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse, it’s safe to assume that people would react in a variety of different ways, depending on the type of person they are. Some would arm themselves and fight back against waves of the undead in search of a solution or a way out. Others would huddle in a dark basement with their loved ones, awaiting the inevitable. And then there are the people who would hole up in a Burger King, wearing nothing but a motorcycle helmet and a pair of high heels, endlessly making margaritas. Dead Rising 2 was made with this third group in mind, setting you loose in an enormous Sin City with hundreds of makeshift weapons at your disposal, from fire axes to cans of whipped cream.
The game is entertaining on its own, rounding up survivors and taking down bosses, but the real fun comes from spending hours sticking dinosaur heads on zombies or standing on the roof of a casino, pelting the walking dead with footballs. The forthcoming Dead Rising 2: Off the Record will also include a free roam mode, giving you the ultimate zombie sandbox experience without the burden of having to do nice things for people.
9. Project Zomboid
You might not have heard of this little independent game, but if your zombie tastes are more akin to The Walking Dead than Zombieland, you might want to consider Project Zomboid. Typically, zombies serve as little more than target practice in games, but in Project Zomboid, they represent a relentless, inescapable wave of death. The game’s developers make it very clear that you will die in this game; there is no cure, no escape, and no salvation.
What you do between the start of the game and your gruesome death is entirely up to you, however, and this is why Project Zomboid is so much fun. From the moment you create your character, the game’s story is entirely as you make it. Zombies are the biggest black cloud hovering over your character, but you’ll also contend with hunger, sickness, even depression and madness as you find new safe houses and gather supplies. If you ever wondered what it would be like if Cormac McCarthy had created The Sims, this is probably pretty close. The game’s constantly updating nature means that your game world will continue to evolve as the game progresses, if you manage to stay alive long enough to see it, but take my word for it, things don’t get any better.
8. The House of the Dead
Having grown up in the 90’s, one of my most vivid video game memories is of being hustled past the open doors of a grimy, smoke-filled arcade by my parents, peeking in just in time to see glimpses of a game where hordes of zombies lurched at the player, clawing bloody gashes into the screen. Until that moment, gaming had been cartoon hedgehogs and Bayou Billy, but The House of the Dead was my first glimpse of how violent, frightening and awesome video games could be.
The original House may show its age now, but at the time when you could find it in every arcade, movie theater and corner store, it was the epitome of light gun shooters. Success required the precision aiming and quick reloading of both you and a partner, and failure meant watching as you were slowly dragged down by an army of the undead. Fifteen years after its release, light gun arcades, and the arcades themselves, have considerably faded in popularity, but House of the Dead continues to pop up at every opportunity, including the Wii, on smart-phones and in a movie bad enough to be considered a crime against humanity. Games like Modern Warfare 3 may be the co-op shooter of choice now, but House of the Dead remains the grandfather of hardcore zombie shooters.
7. Call of Duty: World at War
After the massive success of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, developer Treyarch went from being one half of the ultra-successful Call of Duty franchise to being the mute, cross-eyed, red-headed stepchild of the family. They desperately needed something that would differentiate their upcoming title, yet another tour of World War II, from the juggernaut that was Modern Warfare, and that thing was zombies. The resulting Nazi Zombies mode remains one of the most addictive, talked about features in the history of the franchise.
Nazi Zombies mode is deceptively straightforward, but far from easy. The game will test your squad’s (you’re going to need to bring three friends if you want to get very far) ability to communicate, plan and work together as you board up windows, headshot zombies and make your way deeper into the bunker, unlocking new weapons as you go. And of course, you’ll be fighting Nazi zombies, as the name suggests, which is officially the greatest combination since snakes on a plane.
6. Zombies Ate My Neighbours
Long before Chuck Greene and Frank West started pummelling zombies with hobby horses and hockey sticks in the Dead Rising series, Zeke and Julie were defending the suburbs with weed whackers in Zombies Ate My Neighbours. Developed by Lucasarts, arguably the greatest adventure game developer of the 1990’s, the game was a two-player co-op rampage through dozens of levels as you scrambled to save your neighbours before they eaten by anything from your traditional shuffling zombie to an axe swinging lumberjack zombie.
The game also included other Halloween monstrosities like werewolves and vampires, which provided some of the coolest moments in the game. The weapon system steered away from the traditional and instead played by the kinds of rules you wished video games would as a kid. Werewolves were vulnerable to silverware, locked doors could be blown apart with a bazooka if you chose to forego looking for the key, and inflatable clowns could be used as decoys. If you missed out on this old school gem, it’s on the Wii’s Virtual Console now, or you can wait for the film version that was recently announced, which hopefully is a cross between Home Alone and 28 Days Later.
5. Dead Island
Leapfrogging onto this list after only being out for a month, Dead Island has succeeded where so many new IPs fail, even in the face of years of delays and a disastrous release. After blowing everyone away with a brilliant debut trailer, Dead Island managed to hang on to the world’s attention with a zombified twist of the open world RPG that games like Fallout 3 made famous. The game places you in an exotic island resort which has recently become chock full of some of the most vicious zombies you’ll find in a game. Seeing a pack of screaming zombies sprint through a decimated hotel lobby is the kind of unsettling image that made 28 Days Later so effective, and it’s even more so when you’re the one who has to choose whether to run for your life or engage them with whatever weapon you’ve managed to salvage.
The game allows you to craft and repair items, but it’s done in a way that never feels as ridiculous as some of the creations in Dead Rising, allowing you to stay in the moment as you battle across the island of Banoi. With most of the game’s more severe technical issues now patched up, Dead Island is a great time, especially with three friends at your side.
4. Left 4 Dead 2
Speaking of zombies running full speed and kicking the merciful hell out of you, here’s Left 4 Dead 2. Valve’s take on the zombie genre is a white-knuckle nightmare that borderlines on the impossible without a solid team backing you. The FPS giant has done everything in its path to make L4D2 a challenging experience; you’re given one main weapon and a melee or backup gun for the entire mission, and you’ll spend a huge chunk of your time babysitting your partners, as players get slower as they get injured. The coolest and most innovative part of the game is the AI Director, which tweaks each game based on the players’ performance and behaviour, making each playthrough unique and as hard as the game chooses to make it.
The biggest criticism the game received was that it perhaps shouldn’t have been a game at all, but rather an expansion for the original Left 4 Dead. To remedy this, Valve has begun releasing the original game’s campaigns as DLC, eventually making Left 4 Dead 2 the ultimate experience, which is awesome for everyone who didn’t buy the first game.
3. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Red Dead Redemption is the best game Rockstar has ever made, and Undead Nightmare is the best expansion of a game, ever. After the polarizing GTA IV, Rockstar showed the world what a next-gen sandbox game truly is, offering an engrossing story, varied gameplay and a main character gamers actually cared about. Undead Nightmare built off of all of that, and added zombies, instantly doubling the game’s awesomeness. By offering an alternate, zombified version of Red Dead’s story, Rockstar was able ramp up the game’s humour and violence, somehow creating a narrative that was almost as entertaining to play through as the original game. So assuming there was a secondary character in Red Dead that you didn’t care for, there’s a very good chance you’ll get to see his or her face chewed off by zombies at some point. If that wasn’t enough, in true Rockstar fashion, you’ll be able to take a detour to go Sasquatch hunting or find yourself a unicorn to break in and ride.
If you happen upon Undead Nightmare as a standalone disc, you can also add every DLC pack that Rockstar has released for Red Dead Redemption to the list of reasons why the expansion is awesome.
2. Plants vs. Zombies
It may seem borderline blasphemous to place an iPad game above Left 4 Dead 2 and Undead Nightmare, but Plants vs. Zombies deserves all the credit it gets. Only Angry Birds has managed to achieve this much mainstream popularity in such short time, with appearances on HBO shows, merchandise and Halloween costumes already under PvZ’s belt.
Don’t think that the cutesy characters are the sole reason for the game’s success though, as developer Popcap has come up with an accessible yet challenging tower defence game that will test even hardcore gamers’ skills. Zombies of a dozen different varieties lurch across your lawn, and it takes careful planning and conservation of the game’s currency to stop them from eating your brains. The game is an incredible time sink, and there are plenty of in game rewards and unlockables to work towards as you rack up your zombie body count.
1. Resident Evil
The Resident Evil series might be about battling giant leech-people and the guy from The Matrix now, but once upon a time, Resident Evil was a zombie game, and a damn good one at that. Everything about the original Resident Evil is iconic; the laughably bad dialogue, every puzzle and every room of the mansion is memorable in some way. When I first played the game, and found the keys needed to unlock the gate to where Lisa Trevor had been hiding, I could barely will myself to enter her lair, and once I did, I’ve never wanted to leave a room in a video game so quickly. I don’t need to explain how big Resident Evilhas become as a franchise, but the original game alone has seen over a half dozen releases on its own, the best of which is easily the Gamecube version, which fixed the tank-like controls and added a ton of gameplay improvements.
Now, one could make the argument that Resident Evil 4 should be at the top of this list, rather than the original, and you could just as easily make the case that RE4 is all around a better game. Resident Evil 4 is a lot of things, one of them being a fantastic game, but it just isn’t a zombie game. Things got a little too weird somewhere along the line for Umbrella and the gang, and while Tyrant’s appearance in Resident Evil suffers from this as well, he was still the product of a virus that created zombies, which in turn created dozens of games in the years that followed Resident Evil’s release.