Zombies have been a fixture in video games since their first gaming appearance in Quicksilva’s game Zombie Zombie. Over the years there have been hordes of zombie games. In some, you play as the undead while in others you get to strategically dismember them. In that mix, there are just as many failures as there are successes.
So, what makes a zombie game successful? Well, there should be zombies or the undead. Whether they’re flesh-eating or not doesn’t matter too much. But they should be creepy and unsettling. If killing them is an option within the confines of the game, it should be fun and satisfying. Bring on the gore, the guts, and the blood. It’s all in good fun!
Zombies come to be through a variety of means. Some from a manmade virus, others from a parasitic fungus, and some are just the good ole fashion rambling dead with little known about how they came to be that way. No matter how they became rotting, animated corpses, zombies are here to stay as fixtures in gaming.
What better way to celebrate death than to round up some of the best zombie games ever made.
Back 4 Blood
Back 4 Blood, a spiritual successor to the famously popular Left 4 Dead games, changes up the survival horror first-person genre with its deck-building mechanic for various buffs and abilities. Killing zombies is satisfying, and there’s a whole host of undead baddies besides the classic zombies to change things up. While it does borrow quite a lot from Left 4 Dead, it’s good enough on its own.
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Zombies
Somewhere along the way, Call of Duty had the great idea to include a zombie mode with various storylines and characters. It is a fun and welcome spin-off in a game that, at times, can be a bit generic and casual. It’s somewhat ironic that the zombie parts of the games have more life to them than the main game. If you need to pop some heads without thinking too much, this is a good game to pick up.
It’s not often you get to see children as zombies in games, but Days Gone features an enemy called Newts that are territorial and vicious adolescent zombies. Besides that, the zombies in this zombie game are pretty run of the mill. What really shines is the artificial intelligence of the enemies and the game’s open world and getting to explore it on a motorcycle.
DayZ is another zombie game where the goal is to survive. No matter what. You’ll scavenge for food, water, and weapons. Besides dealing with zombies, you’ll also have to survive violence from other players. It is also a bit brutal because if you get eaten by a zombie or killed in another way, all your progress is gone. So be really careful!
Dead Island is a damn fun time. It has action, role-playing, and survival elements, and the best part is being able to hack and slash your way through hundreds of undead in the first person. Best of all, it’s set in a bright, tropical paradise. It’s a great way to kill a few hours. While the story isn’t anything special and the gameplay can sometimes become stale, it still offers a lot of fun with its zombie-killing.
The Dead Rising series does a few interesting things with the zombie game genre. It features a story element in which characters can take a daily pill to prevent an infection from turning them into the undead. The game also allows you to use almost anything as a melee weapon which results in some very fun combat. Wanna throw a bag of bread crumbs at a zombie? Go for it! Smash them in the face with a mascot head? All yours!
Dead Space’s creatures aren’t at all like your typical zombies. They’re large, deformed, and grotesque thanks to an extraterrestrial infection that mutilates their bodies. Despite that, they’re still very much a corpse reawakened. One of the best parts of Dead Space is getting to dismember the creatures with the Plasma Cutter. Enemies must have their limbs strategically cut off to be defeated, and it’s a truly iconic way to defeat enemies.
Doom is one of those games where the undead come about for reasons other than a virus or some other mutation. Instead, they are humans corrupted by Hell and deceived by its power. Across the series, they range from the Romero-type with a signature slow gait to a zombie, called Bernie, who is on fire. Doom and its many iterations and sequels perfect the fast-paced gameplay that is its signature.
Dying Light is an open-world, survival horror game with an immersive and innovative day and night cycle. In the daytime, zombies shamble and move slowly. At night, however, they become more intelligent and can even sprint. The game also features a really fun parkour system that allows you to climb up and on most anything. It’s a great skill to have when you’re trying not to be chomped on.
The Evil Within
The Haunted, The Evil Within’s version of a zombie, share a hankering for human brains like the classic zombie trope. They do, however, have some semblance of intelligence. Some are able to talk and communicate, albeit in short phrases and they’re also able to use a range of weapons, ranging from melee weapons to firearms.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Ghosts ‘n Goblins is most known for its high level of difficulty. It is an 80s run and gun platform game in which you must fight through hordes of the undead to save a princess. It was initially released in arcades, but over the years it has found its way to a variety of platforms.
The House of the Dead
If you’ve been to an arcade, you’ve likely played or come across The House of the Dead. While it’s also been released on PC, the arcade version is the definitive way to play. Horror-obsessed journalist Kim Newman even pointed to The House of the Dead and Resident Evil as reasons why zombies become more popular in culture in the late 90s.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is an emotional rollercoaster. It takes players on a ride as you play as Joel and Ellie surviving in a world where a Cordyceps brain infection has wiped out much of the world’s population. It’s a fun take on the zombie genre with the enemy design that is especially gruesome. Fungal growths are often all over bodies and come out of people’s heads and the eyes of their victims.
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead and its sequel Left 4 Dead 2 didn’t do anything super unique with the variety of zombie types in-game, but it did help popularize it. Regular zombies are fast and agile, and then there are the stronger “infected” ranging from the Boomers that spew bile to the deadly Witch that will murder you with her long claws if alerted to your presence.
This action-adventure game, originally released on the PlayStation in 1998, features a variety of creepy-crawly enemies including zombies. In the game, you play Sir Daniel Fortesque, an undead skeleton fighter. He is known as a hero despite having been killed first in a battle with an arrow to his head.
Ten or so years after its official release, Minecraft remains a global phenomenon still full of things to do, build, and explore. While technically it’s really not a “zombie game,” one of the main enemies in the game is a zombie, and it’s become a fairly iconic creature in video game pop culture. Pairing that with how iconic Minecraft is, it’s hard not to add it to the list.
Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies was one of the first major mobile games to be released to critical acclaim. If you gamed on Android or iOS around 2009, you knew about this tower defense game. In it, you employ a variety of plants with various capabilities to protect your home from the brain-eating dead. It has a surprising amount of depth for a mobile game, and it has had a lot of spin-offs to varying success. It’s also very funny and does not take itself seriously one bit.
Indie zombie games are very hit or miss, but thankfully Project Zomboid is a fun jaunt through the genre. In it, you’re tasked with surviving as long as you can in this sandbox take on the zombie genre. You’re able to craft, manage things like hunger and even loneliness, and play with friends online. Isn’t killing zombies with friends better than doing so alone?
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Who woulda guessed the undead and the Wild Wild West would pair so perfectly? In Undead Nightmare, you play as John Marston as he tried to find a cure for the infection that’s plaguing the world and his family. It’s a fun twist that makes the world of Red Dead Redemption into a bonafide zombie game. Let’s hope it is revisited in Red Dead Redemption 2!
Resident Evil is the beginning of the survival horror genre. The first entry in the series and its eventual remake have some of the most memorable living dead in a zombie game. From the first zombie you meet in the hallway off the dining room to the zombie dogs, it is apparent Capcom knew what they were doing.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 somehow made the series even better thanks to a larger setting in Racoon City, more zombies and creatures, and two leads you can’t help but root to survive. The zombies in the remake bring the gore into glorious HD and killing them is very satisfying, plus the scares are even scarier.
Resident Evil 4
There are some series that fail at reinvention. The Resident Evil series is not one of them. The fourth entry follows Leon Kennedy and turns the series on its head with action-packed gameplay and no more fixed camera angles. The series also changed zombies up by making them people infected by a parasitic arthropod that turns them into mindless killing machines.
State of Decay
After a rocky launch, State of Decay became a lot more enjoyable as additional content and patches were released. The game focuses on building outposts, recruiting, survivors and trying not to die. Zombies in this universe are of the fast variety, and they can be killed or stealthily snuck past. If you’re looking for a world that might closely resemble what life would be like if this happened in real life, give State of Decay a try.
Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 1
The Walking Dead is one series that just won’t die. While the television series started off strong, it’s recently become a tiring slog. The games, based on the comic book, are quite the opposite. The only thing brain-dead in them are the zombies. Often regarded as one of the best zombie games, Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 1 follows Lee Everett as he tries to survive the zombie apocalypse with Clementine, a young girl he rescues, in tow. The narrative-based, choice-heavy game was released in episodes and had several follow-ups.
They Are Billions
There aren’t a lot of (or really any other) games that blend steampunk and zombies, but They Are Billions does just that. It’s a real-time strategy and survival game. In it, you’re tasked with building a base to protect yourself from hordes of zombies. You’re also juggling resources like food, oil, and water. Of course, you’re also able to fend them off with turrets, towers, and traps.
The Typing of the Dead
Who knew typing could be so deadly? The Typing of the Dead, a modification of the light gun arcade hit The House of the Dead, has players typing out phrases and words to harm advancing zombies and creatures. Despite a somewhat silly premise, the game received favorable reviews. If you’ve ever wanted to hastily type worlds like “Snapdragon” or “Daffodil” as means to kill a zombie, this might be the zombie game for you.
World War Z
World War Z is set in the same universe as the 2013 book adaptation. In it, you play as a survivor who specializes in a specific class ranging from an explosive-based Hellraiser to a melee-based Slasher. Like the books, the zombies in this game come in droves of up to 1000 at a time and can climb on top of each other to reach players. Gameplay can be fun and explosive when the hordes come in.
Originally released on the WiiU as ZombiU, this game takes survivors on an interesting trip. In the game, you play until you die, and then you start over again. This time, as a new survivor. You’re able to go and get all the gear and items you picked up on your journey if you can find your body, which more often than not, has been zombified!