I’m kind of on an apocalypse kick right now. I’ve been reading a book about it, going back to games like Fallout 3, and I’m gearing up for the next episode of The Walking Dead on XBLA. Needless to say, it’s been present in my mind lately, leaving me to question what I would do if the world ended and hordes of the rotting dead were coming after my brain. And what better way to experience it firsthand than through gaming?
So, for those of you who are considering the end of the world, I give you my top ten zombie games…or, at least, games with zombies playing a major role in them.
#10) Day Z
Day Z is an ARMA II mod that has been picked up recently by PC enthusiasts. It’s the hardest of hardcore for zombie apocalypse gaming fans, adopting a very The Road-like style and gameplay. Players can work together, steal from each other, and even kill each other as they traverse a world gone to hell and full of the walking dead. It’s more simulator than game, and with a host of scenarios that feel almost a little too real, it’s almost a psychological experiment in what drastic extremes people will go to in order to survive.
#9) Fallout 3
I know, I know…it’s not a zombie game. But let’s agree that the Feral Ghouls who plague subway tunnels and run around in the open are pretty creepy, only adding to the bleak and desperate feel that game has. They’re a fairly realistic idea as humans who have been altered by copious amounts of radiation, and it’s morbidly satisfying to take their heads off with a well-placed shot in VATS.
#8) Half-Life 2
Being the product of the parasitic head crabs, the zombies in Half-Life 2 play a major role in the game. Drenched in blood and screaming in agony underneath the alien controller, they’re also some of the most terrifying zombies I’ve ever encountered in a game. Zombies that lumber and moan are one thing; zombies who scream for help and emit human elements take things to a whole new level of eerie. And might I add, being trapped in Ravenholm was one of the most excrutiating experiences I’ve had as a gamer…I wanted to stop. I really did. But I had to keep going, had to find a way out of there. It was weird.
#7) House of the Dead
Anyone who’s ever set foot in an arcade has seen the large screens with garish zombies slashing at the screen. Using a plastic shotgun peripheral, players lay waste to the undead by spraying them with bullets and moving throughout the level in this on-rails shooter. There’s about a bazillion installments in the House of the Dead games, and it’s hard to deny that the shoot-em-up is a pretty satisfying zombie killing fest.
#6) Dead Rising
Not to be outdone by House of the Dead, Dead Rising is another killfest with its own perk: make your own weapons. As you make your way through a zombie-infested mall (which, I have to ask…where did they come from? Maybe I really do live in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve never seen a mall THAT FULL of people…), players can take a number of items from stores and craft them into armor and weapons to help them slaughter untold amounts of the dead. It’s a bit repetitive, but for some mindless zombie-killing action, the getting’s good.
#5) Call of Duty Black Ops: Zombies
Continuing the legacy of World at War, the Black Ops version of Zombies was a maddeningly challenging, yet uniquely fun game. Working best with co-op, players rush around a map and collect weapons as they board up entrances to prevent zombies from entering into their stronghold. With varying enemies and fast-paced gameplay, the replay value of Black Ops Zombies is much higher than the wave number you’ll strive to survive through.
#4) Left 4 Dead
It’s a zombie apocalypse game made by Valve Software. That’s all that needs to be said, really.
#3) Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Originally found on the SNES, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was one of the first unique zombie-shooters. It also threw a host of non-zombie enemies at the player, and like most games from the 90′s, reached an insane difficulty spike halfway through that warranted its fair share of rage quits.
#2) Plants vs. Zombies
I would be remiss to not include this on the list. Quite arguably one of the most popular puzzle games of the past few years, Plants vs. Zombies hit the sweet spot of addicting and unique gameplay head-on. Essentially a tower defense game, Plants vs. Zombies tasked the player with protecting their house using various plants with unique abilities as different types of zombies ate through your garden in waves. With a cute and friendly aesthetic, the game looks like an easy one. But with brilliant game design and a gradual difficulty scale, it’s a force to be reckoned with.
#1) Resident Evil
The great-grandaddy of zombie games, Resident Evil was the original zombie game that changed the face of survival horror games. With jump scares, tank controls, and brilliant sound design, it’s still considered one of the creepiest games to date, and with a sixth sequel on its way this fall, the franchise itself has burned a place in history as one of the greatest zombie apocalypse gaming series of all time.