Introduction to Zombie Game Listology
Brains: who needs them? According to the basic survival instincts of your stereotypical zombie, the answer is no-one, since your brains and your flesh in general are both perfect snacks for pretty much all the zombies in the games mentioned below. Oh, did I forget to tell you? Below is a cheeky list of what are in my opinion the ten greatest zombie games to ever grace both the world and my life, as well as force me to shed the occasional tear at the death of a main character. The presence of some games will surprise you and others will be entirely expected, though remember that this is my list and therefore my hopes and dreams laid out for the world to read. Tread lightly, for you tread on my dreams.
1. Resident Evil 2
That’s right, I’m one for kicking it old school, and by old school I mean old-school, not your ridiculous resident evil titles of the past ten or so years (I mean, Resident Evil 6: Revelations – what the hell is this rubbish?). I challenge you to find a scene more spine-chillingly atmospheric and soul-crushingly eerie than the locked police station where the Licker first makes an appearance.
Bang, right in the memories: Claire and Leon browse the police station to pass a bit of time between puzzle solving and avoiding confrontation with the licker
Considering the limitations of the hardware at the time, Resident Evil 2 made full use of said hardware’s capabilities and hit us up with unreasonable quantities of gore, a range of weapons for which you truly had to work to acquire (we’ll sweep the terrible inventory system under the rug for the sake of my argument), a chilling soundtrack, and most of all, the unbelievable amount of tension present throughout pretty much the entire game. This game built upon the original’s puzzle-solving format and intermittent zombie combat to come up with an adventure that was genuinely terrifying to play through, and assuming control of different protagonists whose paths all eventually cross is simply the icing on the cake of greatness that this game truly is. How on Earth I ever made it to umbrella labs without suffering several heart attacks I do not know, but this unending fear (which is still present to this day) is testament to the game’s incredible ability to deeply affect all who played it.
2. The Last of Us
There’s simply no way that I could rightfully call myself a gamer or even live with the omission on my conscience (which is basically your moral CV) if I didn’t insert this glorious package of zombie magnificence into the list, and damned high up as well. As an overly-vocal first-person shooter fan (Half Life, Counter Strike, and Duke Nukem 3D were my staples when growing up), I can forgive the third person nature of this Naughty Dog game firstly because of the stunning scenery and generally incredible graphics across post-apocalyptic America as you try and escape the ever-deadly quarantine zone. Sure its structure is linear, but I haven’t been treated to a story this brilliant since the award-winning Max Payne that was essentially narrated entirely through lyrical poetry.
Beauty in despair: The Last of Us gives us constant glimmers of scenic hope juxtaposed with brutal, yet necessary violence
Throughout the experience, you don’t just take control of protagonists Joel, you actually live through the experience with him and 14-year old Ellie whom you rescue. When people in the future will say “zombie games aren’t like they used to be”, this is one of the games that will have the precedent for how they actually used to be.
3. The House Of The Dead
Axe Surprised: Two-axe man is a tad shy, hiding his face from the oncoming bullets like his death isn’t imminent. Adorable.
Now this title really goes without saying, and yes, I’m talking about the Dreamcast version so you can gauge both my age and geekiness level from this fact. This list needed a light-gun game, and as the best zombie-based rail shooter I’ve played, The House of the Dead deserves a place on this list not only because of its format but the non-linear storyline that changes at crucial points depending on the actions you take. This game takes me back, and if it takes you back to days where the Dreamcast failed spectacularly at achieving commercial success, then I am a fan of you.
4. Day Z
Whether you play the mod or the upcoming standalone version due for release in the near future, this follow on from the 2009 masterpiece known as Arma 2 became immensely popular mainly due to its format which placed you in an open, free-to-roam world that will show you the true meaning of survival. Aside from some incredible combat, the game engages and challenges you with a hyper-realistic survival situation where animals must be hunted for food, your body temperature must be regulated, and a complex health system that encompasses the risk of breaking your bones and bleeding to death. Arma 2 never really took off due to its incredibly detailed and realistic nature, but it is a source of mild amusement that this hyper-realistic gameplay fits in so very perfectly with the zombie survival genre, the desire for which is perhaps a direct result of zombie shows such as the Walking Dead.
I prefer goat’s milk, actually: Open world + wild animals = a gamer’s dream. Hilarity ensues.
5. Dead Island
Set in the fictional tourist trap of Banoi in Papua New Guinea, Dead Island is another one of these “trouble in paradise” games, though the trouble in question is about ten times more troublesome and forty times more entertaining than anyone thought trouble ever could be. Open World? Check. Deadly Zombie Virus Outbreak? Check. Non-linear progression based on the acquisition of various quests from other survivors? Check. Damn, it’s like this fictional checklist I have is purposely tailored to back up my argument of this game being one of the absolute best zombie games that there ever was. Either way, you’ve got a whole load of firearms based action but an even heavier emphasis on the art of melee combat, which is exactly the kind of combat you wish to avoid if you are in a real-life zombie crisis but probably the most challenging and entertaining method if you’re playing a terrifying game that wants to get you close enough to the zombies for them to go through the finer points of their zombie manifesto which involve mainly stumbling slowly and also gnawing your cheekbone until satisfied.
6. Call of Duty Black Ops: Zombies
Those undead national socialists really don’t know when to give up, do they?
Is there any list that at least one Call of Duty game isn’t in? Not any lists worth talking about, that’s for sure, and while Call of Duty Black Ops: Zombies is only a mode within a large game that isn’t about zombies, its defend-the-safe house format and ridiculously relentless pace as you cycle through tens of weapon types is unrivalled, with the multiplayer aspect giving it more of an edge than many other full-scale zombie games.
7. Left 4 Dead 2
If we were left for dead in the original, does the existence of the sequel mean we were actually left for alive? Actual answers discouraged
While I’m not a fan of people that substitute letters for numbers (it doesn’t save typing type and no, it really isn’t cool in the slightest), Left 4 Dead and what is effectively its glorified expansion pack, Left 4 Dead 2, hold a dear place in my blood-spattered, powder-burned heart. Is it the wonderful choice of guns available for blasting the brains out of the zombies? Perhaps. Is it the fact that first-person shooters, no matter what the content, are my one true love of the gaming world? Probably. Or perhaps it is mixture of the two that draws me to Left 4 Dead 2 as well as the new maps, characters, weapons, and ridiculous quantity of zombies that makes it feel like The Walking Dead on methamphetamine. Also, the fact that the mighty Valve are responsible for this game also makes it that much more attractive to me.
8. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
We all know how extensive and inescapable the hype that surrounded the original Red Dead Redemption was, and though this extension wasn’t met with the same reception, fans no doubt ate it up like a zombie eats faces. Its campaign is about discovering the origin of the zombie-making virus (as all good zombie games are) and it is another open-world extravaganza. You’ve seen Cowboys vs Aliens, so how about Cowboys vs Zombies? You can’t go wrong.
Spot of cricket, chaps?
We had to include a WiiU title in here somewhere, partly out of pity for a console that really isn’t taken seriously by many but mainly because of a sort of positive discrimination or an affirmative action program of the gaming world if you will. To be fair to the game, there most definitely is a gap in the gaming market for a London-based zombie game, and the fact that death in the game means actual death which requires you to create a new character to continue is somewhat of a novelty even in the zombie game world. You can’t really beat a game that allows you to assemble (to an extent) your own weapons as well, its just a shame that the poor sales of the WiiU essentially cast this title into gaming darkness where it will likely remain in the shadows indefinitely.
10. Dead State
Rather than an all-out Zombie-slaying fest as is the case with most games, Dead State will be more of a tactical title where survival is the key and turn-based RPG is the medium through which you will stay alive. Fortify your safe house, gather resources, and lead your group to safety in a game that isn’t afraid to differ from the zombie-format norm, or at least it won’t be when it is released later this year.