Zombies have become so entrenched in our culture that it’s hard to imagine a horror genre deprived of reanimated corpses, hauled down from their perpetual sleep with the help of some mysterious virus or dark magic. In every medium, from comic books to video games, zombies have earned their own special place, and keep reappearing from time to time as humans try and imagine what it would be like, if the zombie apocalypse really happened.
The video games have a lot of catching up to do, but that’s just because cinema has a lot more decades on the gaming industry. There are enough titles in gaming, however, that already did zombies justice with their slow walk, gurgling moans, and terrifying thirst for brains and live flesh.
While movies explore human stories and personal tragedies, games often focus, as they do, on the actions and logistics of things. Many a time, it’s how to kill a few zombies at once, but there are others that dig deeper into the survival theme.
These 15 zombie video games are the best the genre has to offer thanks to their rich gameplay that can make one feel what it’s really like to lose someone they care about to a horde of walking dead or simply run out of food and die of hunger.
15. Zombie Night Terror
Zombie Night Terror is a simple platform for strategic action that reverses the roles, for once, turning a player into an instrument of zombie creation, a zombie apocalypse itself if you will. Starting with a handful of people, the player’s goal is to infect one or two humans that would spread the virus from victim to victim, and eventually wipe out the humanity.
It’s not as easy as it may sound, though, as the game proposes challenges in which a player has to prevent losing zombified victims to the armed humans, who also defend from the moving dead with various traps.
Thankfully, a player is given a few extra tools to help spread the virus more efficiently, and defeat the fighting human survivors. Certain mutations help solve additional problems that the zombies may have with the environment (closed doors, inaccessible places), and get to every human in sight.
Deadlight is an action adventure platform game and the best downloadable title, according to Eurogamer. It takes place in ’80s Seattle, and unlike many other zombie games, focuses more on running, climbing, and outsmarting the zombies (or shadows as they are called in the game) rather than killing them in droves.
The game looks a lot like Prince of Persia with its extensive parkour and environmental puzzles. Often, to find a way through another building, a player has to move and rearrange the surrounding heavy objects. Jumping makes up a bulk of the game as the older parts of the city infrastructure become dangerously derelict, creating gaps on the path.
Although there are few instruments for killing zombies, which often outnumber the protagonist, an axe can help get rid of one or two of them, while spots of exposed electrical wires can take care of more than a few, if they can be persuaded to step on them.
13. Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army
Sniper Elite is a game series about ‘stealthing’ your way through the enemy territory during World War II, killing high value targets from the best sniping positions. It is based on precision and ability to use the environment to disguise your presence. The Nazi Zombie Army is a standalone expansion for the game with a co-op campaign for 1 to 4 players that replaces enemies with masses of the undead.
The co-op characters comprise people from all sides of the war, including a German officer and a Russian soldier. The only allied forces are now those with a pulse against the supernatural forces that are characterized by undead suicide infantry and occult leaders.
Prototype isn’t a typical zombie game so much as a game about a stranded survivor equipped with the contents of his toolbox. In this respect, it may not even be a game for zombie fans because the walkers here are incidental and serve no other purpose than being tossed into larger mutants or slid on like snowboards.
Gifted with the shape-shifting powers and ability to absorb information through DNA, the game’s protagonist, Alex Mercer, tries to find out what happened to the city when someone released an unknown virus by following an entangled conspiracy involving the government.
Aside from being able to take form of any soldier patrolling the city, players can climb the highest buildings, jump incredible heights, and throw heavy objects at the enemy targets. And zombies? Well, they may just be the least of your problems.
11. Resident Evil 4
The Resident Evil series is one of those rare game franchises that got a movie adaptation that turned into entire series of its own. The game’s fourth installment is, however, the better one of the bunch. A critically acclaimed third-person shooter focuses on one of the game series’ six protagonists Leon S. Kennedy, a police officer sent to rescue the daughter of the U.S. President kidnapped by a group of cultists who look a lot like zombies.
Aside from these zombified devotees, Leon, who is equipped with guns and a knife, encounters various monsters and creatures hell-bent on killing him. The good thing is that he can shoot them in the limbs to slow them down or maybe make them drop their weapons.
10. Dead Rising
Dead Rising is a survival beat’em up game series whose first installment follows a charismatic freelance photographer and photojournalist Frank West, who in a search for a big news story, comes across a strange event involving zombies in Willamette, Colorado.
Set up in a barricaded mall, the game allows players to use their surroundings to kill swarms of endless undead that fill the shopping center.
While mall goods can be used as weapons (think golf clubs and lawnmowers), mall foods can be chowed down to restore health. Other surviving NPCs help provide clues to solving the zombie mystery as well as move around the mall. And more importantly, Frank West’s photojournalistic skills can be used for documenting every detail of the story in a form of a modern selfie portrait.
9. Killing Floor 2
A 6-player co-op, Killing Floor 2 started as a fun fast-paced shooter game that is pure fun. Players battle ‘zeds’ in waves that end with a boss fight to test the team’s cooperative and primitive tactical skills.
Just like in Left 4 Dead, it has a few special zombies and minor bosses that make the wave-killing more interesting. Now, the game also has a versus mode, where six survivors fight against six zombie players.
This is the game that requires a healthy dose of teamwork, especially on higher difficulties. Weapons usually depend on the class of choice, but can be bought and changed in a store in between the waves. The more zeds they kill, the more cash the players have to spend to buy armor and ammo.
8. Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead is one of Valve’s rare game series comprising 2 first-person co-operative shooters about a group of four survivors trying to escape the city overrun with hordes of zombies, mutated killer species, and occasional monstrous giants.
The key to survival is to stay close and shoot right on target, as ammo is scarce and special zombies are faster and deadlier than the regulars.
Both games have exactly the same gameplay, but the characters and the setting are different, with the second game set in Deep South. Fighting off waves of zombies and helping friends survive is the only thing anyone can do, so the best survival tactics is to keep close and be on guard.
7. Dead Island
Set in a paradise-like resort with water bungalows and a luxurious hotel, Dead Island’s dreamy environment quickly turns into a nightmare riddled with corpses and monsters that only those unaffected by virus can walk through.
The combat-heavy gameplay focuses on melee weapon upgrades, blueprints which can be obtained through completing multiple quests that often involve helping people find someone or something as well as search for a way off the island. Firearms are available in lesser quantities, and can attract way too many zombies. A team of four should be able to deal with relatively big hordes, but it’s always a better idea to stay on the quieter side.
The story isn’t as interesting as the gameplay and weapon mechanics, but the paradisiacal setting creates a cool contrast with the half-rotten guests that stalk each and every corner of that beautiful place.
6. Dying Light
Dying Light by the Polish developer Techland, is very similar to Dead Island with the exception of the first-person parkour mechanic, on which the game relies heavily for its dynamic gameplay.
Set in the quarantined city of Harran, the game follows agent Kyle Crane sent by the Global Relief Effort (GRE) to find out more about the viral outbreak that turned the majority of the city’s population into zombies.
Just like in Dead Island, the quests take players out of the safety of a stronghold to obtain supplies and medicine for the injured and bitten. You also have to fight your way through not only zombie hordes but also bandits, so you better be prepared to run.
5. Stubbs the Zombie in “Rebel without a Pulse”
Stubbs the Zombie is an unlikely love story that, again, reverses roles and puts the players in the shoes of the undead. In this case, it’s a certain zombie named Stubbs who used to be a poor travelling salesman during the Great Depression. After getting done-in and turning green, Stubbs develops a taste for brains, and comes back to ‘life’ to haunt the city of Punchbowl, turning everyone in his way into a part of his zombie army.
Like in Zombie Night Terror, the player’s goal is to turn humans into zombies through combat or a simple technique of brain-eating, but there isn’t an ultimate goal of wiping out humanity.
Beside eating brains, Stubbs can wield makeshift weapons and drive vehicles as well as use severed limbs for various purposes. He can also guide his army by whistling and use them as a shield against an enemy armed with ranged weapons.
4. 7 Days to Die (PC Version)
7 Days to Die is something of a survival Minecraft that grew into a game of its own since its alpha release on Steam in 2013. It changed immensely throughout its development, improving the crafting and looting systems, and keeps seeing updates as recent as June. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for the game’s console version that is reportedly buggy as hell.
Just like in Minecraft, the player is dropped in the middle of a map with nothing more than a pair of his own hands, where there are all the required resources for building a shelter (or a bunker, whichever is preferred), catching or growing food, and even making clothes.
It only sounds cozy, though. In fact, the world is filled with zombies that could bring death to anyone who stays out for the night or allows a big crowd of zombies near. Although they are pretty slow, it can be very hard to survive when they’re surrounding you from all sides. And if that’s not enough, the rabid zombie dogs are fast enough to catch up and maul you to death.
3. DayZ ARMA mod
DayZ isn’t like any other survival game. It was the game that gave rise to those clone zombie titles and other survival titles back in 2013. Started as a mod for Armed Assault II, it offered realistic mechanics of the original ARMA game combined with unpredictably moving zombies (on account of the game’s engine) along with survival elements like food and water consumption and blood transfusion.
Another aspect of the game that gave it quite an edge was PVP, which made other players as unpredictable and no less dangerous than the zombies.
After it went into a standalone development, PVP remained the only feature of the game for years, but the creators also added changing weather conditions and clothes that affect the players.
Although it didn’t have all the survival mechanics, DayZ mod had that crushing atmosphere of Chernarus infested with zombies, which were hauntingly fast and whose irregular movement patterns were able to terrify grown people.
2. State of Decay
State of Decay is one of the best survival zombie games on the market. It’s not only deep gameplay-wise, but also has characters that evoke genuine care for their well-being and happiness; all things considered.
It allows you to change between characters as they tire or get injured, adding more and more people as the survivors meet and come together to increase their chances of survival.
The goal is to find a good place that can be defended and house more people to wait the apocalypse out. But the main idea is to be careful and not overwork the characters that might get bitten just because they were tired or under-equipped.
1. Project Zomboid
Project Zomboid is the game of all zombie video games because none of the others deal with the zombie apocalypse as well as this one does. The logistics of survival are much more complicated than most of the games or even TV shows make them out to be, but Zomboid recognizes this well.
The game allows players to write their own story with each generated character, and shape their personality with a list of optional and the pre-determined traits.
It simulates the reality so incredibly well, it’s not hard to get past the top-down pixelated look. Immersion is achieved through such real life dangers as hunger, disease, injuries, and lesser inconveniences like cold weather, boredom, and depression. In Zomboid, you can feel like the world itself got impacted by hordes of zombies, neglect, and lack of organization. As water and electricity run out, survival is just a matter of how well you prepared during that borrowed time.