Videogames (much like the wider media) have been making great use of the undead for years. They always seem to spawn great new ways to play, whether it be a tense single player horror game, or a chaotic multiplayer shooter.
Quick side note before we get going: The Last of Us and Resident Evil 4 (while amazing) won’t be making an appearance, because they’re not what I’d class as your common or garden zombie. Sorry guys.
Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead 2 is the ultimate cooperative zombie survival experience. If you try and run off in an attempt to be a cool lone wolf type, you will be set upon by a horde of undead bastards and they will swiftly remove your face.
Teamwork is absolutely key, as you try to get as many of your friends from A to B without incident. Of course, with so many zombies around that isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially when some of those zombies are player controlled super freaks, including the Charger, Jockey, and Spitter. When these guys work together, it’s easy to make short work of the puny humans.
Purists may scoff at the sprinting zombies seen in Left 4 Dead 2, but the fact remains that they are infinitely more terrifying than their slow moving brethren – especially when dozens of them are speeding their way towards you. Frequently fun, and packed with tense (yet hilarious) moments, Left 4 Dead 2 is a definitive zombie title, and a fantastic multiplayer game.
You can argue that the most important thing in a zombie game, should be how satisfying it feels to take out one of the scabby fuckers, and Dead Island just nails it in that respect. Trapped on an island, this first person adventure encourages you to get in close and jam as many weapons into zombie brains as you can – it’s glorious.
In true survival horror fashion, your weapons will break after continued use, so constant upgrading and changing is key, which also helps keeps the gameplay fresh, while everything else around you rots.
At its core, Dead Island is an RPG, and there’s a great sense of progression as you manage to cobble together increasingly powerful weapons from parts you scavenge across the island.
Resident Evil 2
Sorry Resident Evil 4. You’re arguably the better game, but as far as the Resi franchise goes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better zombie experience than Resident Evil 2.
Resident Evil 2 is a sequel done in spectacular fashion. After the cramped, claustrophobic mansion seen in the original game, Resi 2 throws open the doors and sends players hurtling into Racoon City – in the midst of a zombie outbreak. It’s bigger, better, harder, and much scarier than its predecessor.
Safety is rarer than a zombie with clean teeth, and newcomers to the game will constantly find themselves on edge. It’s little wonder than fans have been clamouring for a remake – Resident Evil 2 is easily one of the best survival horror games of all time.
The Walking Dead
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is the thinking man’s zombie game. Rather than shoot, maim, or sprint your way out of danger, this point and click tale takes its cues from the comic book and TV series it’s based on.
If you’re familiar with the franchise at all, then you’ll know it’s pretty fucking harrowing.
Make no mistake: you’re faced with some messed up choices that will likely all lead to shitty consequences down the line for you and your not so merry band of survivors.
It’s not an action packed game by any means, but the drama (and excellent acting) is more than enough to keep you enthralled throughout the game’s many grim twists and turns. Telltale are gonna be working on a Batman game next, and based on The Walking Dead, you should be pretty stoked.
Back in 2006, the ridiculous amount of enemies Dead Rising could throw up onscreen at any one time was absolutely incredible. It was the first videogame that really allowed players to run wild in a vast sea of undead – finally able to live out their mass zombie killing fantasies (weird fantasies but whatever).
Set in a shopping mall, Dead Rising opened up a raft of exciting possibilities for even the most seasoned zombie slayers. Basically one giant, gory sandbox, you could run around collecting a variety of ridiculous weapons, from frying pans to lawnmowers.
Luckily, there were always a few dozen zombies just waiting around the corner for you test out whichever mental tool you managed to get your mitts on next.
A survival horror game that incorporates parkour and crazy free-running zombies. It’s certainly not something I’d have thought of, even if you’d given me a thousand years in which my sole job was devising a unique zombie game, but Techland managed it – and absolutely nailed it.
Dying Light is set in a huge open world, with hundreds of different weapons and a myriad of ways in which to escape the zombies (or smash their stupid heads in). It’s very rare that you’ll be doing the same thing twice, and variety is key in videogame land.
There’s also a great day/night cycle. During the day, zombies are slow and generally a bit shit. This is the perfect time to find supplies, save survivors, and set traps to make your life a little easier when the sun goes down. See, when night falls, the zombies basically become crazy ninjas and are able to chase you anywhere you go.
Survive through the night, plan your next moves throughout the day, sprint and jump around like a boss whenever you want – Dying Light is an action packed game that really makes you think about the game world around you.
House Of The Dead Overkill
House of the Dead Overkill is outrageous. It’s full of liberal swearing, gore, and some truly shocking moments that are bound to offend more than a few folk (the last scene especially). Consider the fact that it was initially an exclusive for the Nintendo Wii, and you’ll wonder how it ever saw the light of day. If Quentin Tarantino ever made a videogame, it’d probably look like this.
You’ve probably played a House of the Dead game in some arcade or other, but where the original titles embraced a cheesy B movie horror vibe, Overkill decided to mash together a 70’s buddy cop show with pretty much any horror trope it fancied. The results were hilariously over the top, and infinitely fun to play again and again.
The arcade style on rails shooting is as fun as it always is, with the zombies and various monsters looking better than they’ve ever looked in a HotD title. If you’ve never played it, I implore you pick it up (you could probably get this game and a Wii for about £50). You won’t regret the hours of bizzarre fun you’ll have with friends, popping caps in ‘dem zombie asses.
Zombies Ate My Neighbours
Who says zombie games need to be gory and gritty? Zombies Ate My Neighbors is fantastic, colourful, light-hearted fun.
Released for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis way back in 1993, you could go alone or play with a mate across 55 stages (none of which were paid DLC).
There wasn’t much in the way of story – you were simply tasked with rescuing your neighbors from zombies, vampires, werewolves and more, in a range of locations from pyramids to haunted castles. What the neighbors were doing in these places remains unclear.
It was challenging, the power-ups were awesome (the bazooka was the shit), and it maintained a great sense of humour throughout. Plowing your way through a series of grisly zombie adventures is all well and good, but if you ever want something a little easier to digest, pick up Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
ZombiiU was a launch title for the Nintendo Wii U – so there’s a very good chance you’ve never played it before (although it was recently re-released for the PS4 and Xbox One).
It has its faults, certainly, but there’s a lot of good ideas going on in ZombiiU. Death actually means something, which is always welcome in a videogame, and even more so in a game where survival is meant to be key.
See, if you snuff it while exploring the zombie filled streets of London town, that’s it for your character. You’ll simply start back at a safe house as someone different, which means all of the gear and weapons your previous character managed to find are gone forever. That’s unless you can track down your zombiefied predecessor, smash their brains in, and get your stuff back.
This (kind of) permadeath means you’ll be weighing up decisions where in other games you might have ran in guns blazing. Is it worth picking a fight with so many undead nasties when you’ve gathered up so much great gear?
The longer you keep one character alive, the tenser the fight for survival gets, and the worse it feels when they inevitably snuff it. It’s awesome.
Typing Of The Dead
Typing of the Dead needs to be played to be believed. Basically a modification of House of the Dead 2 (there’s also a sequel based on Overkill), your trusty light gun is replaced by a keyboard. Seriously.
As you can probably imagine, it’s still an on rails shooter like every House of the Dead, but instead of shooting your troubles away, each zombie comes with a word attached, which must be swiftly typed before they can take a bite out of you.
Naturally, the further you get, the more complex the words and phrases become. By the end of the game you’ll be an ace typist (although it’s place on my CV has yet to get me a job). Typing of the Dead deserves to be here because it’s insane, and dares to swap out the most fundamental form of zombie defence in favour of words.
The power of words, guys. Strong stuff.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.