I'm a Scottish law student. My interests include photography and music. I'm a tech geek and a lover of science.
We'd all hate it if it happened for real, but a zombie apocalypse in a game provides almost limitless fun. Who doesn't enjoy gunning down hordes of undead monsters?
Zombies might be the monster that's most ingrained in pop culture. Almost every possible iteration and variation on the theme has been explored at this point in films. And, happily, this is reflected in the world of gaming.
Whether you're a fan of fast zombies or slow zombies, shotguns or baseball bats, a gripping storyline or goofy fun, there's a zombie game out there for you.
5. Dead Rising 3
Following on from the immensely popular Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2, this is the first in the series to look like a "proper" zombie game. Not only does it benefit from the high-end graphics of the PS4 and Xbox One, but it also has a greater sense of scale (again, partly due to escaping the confinements of the previous generations game engines).
Now, I don't mean this in a bad way—the first two Dead Rising games were also brilliant, but 3 is a little less . . . goofy, for lack of a better word.
But, Dead Rising 3 is by no means boring. You still fight seemingly endless hordes of zombies, and you still create the most stupidly brilliant weapons I've ever seen in a video game . . .
The Elemental Staff is pretty much a traffic light on a pole. Naturally, this gives you the ability to shoot lightning, fire, and ice at the zombie hordes. It's stupid. It's brilliant. It's brilliantly stupid. I love it.
It's things like this that get Dead Rising 3 onto my list of the best zombie games.
4. Dead Island
Dead Island first drew attention with perhaps the most emotional video game trailer ever made. The game takes place on the island of Banoi, a beautiful, tropical resort destination off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The four main characters; rapper Sam B, Chinese spy Xian Mei, former football-star Logan Carter, and ex-police officer Purna, are awakened by a voice over the emergency intercom system instructing them to escape the hotel.
They quickly discover that most of the population has been overcome by disease, turning them into psychotic, flesh-eating zombies. The survivors are overcome and bitten by one of the infected, but they are rescued by a lifeguard, and the four survivors discover that they appear to be immune to the disease.
Melee weapons are this game's bread and butter. You won't get your first gun until you're a quarter of the way through the game. It doesn't matter though, because the melee combat in this game is incredibly satisfying.
Almost anything can be used as a weapon, from oars and hatstands, to sledgehammers and machetes. Not only that, but just about anything can be added to a weapon to create some fantastic custom weapons.
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It's not quite as off the wall as Dead Rising, but you can still build a shotgun that shoots poison bullets, or a samurai sword that electrocutes your foes.
Like so many games, Dead Island doesn't stick to just the one type of enemy. Most zombies or "walkers" are the slow, shambling, Romero variety.
But there are also 28 Days Later style "Infected", huge and deadly Rams, and more. You even fight a few (well-armed) humans from time to time.
One of the coolest features of the game is the co-op system. The game is playable in single-player, but if you so choose, other people can "drop-in" to the game. You do some missions, kill some zombies, and then they drop out again when it suits. It's a very fluid system, and apparently it's one that'll only be improved in Dead Island 2 (which is confusingly the third game in the series).
3. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is an action-adventure survival horror video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The player controls Joel as he escorts the young Ellie across a post-apocalyptic America. The player uses firearms, improvised weapons and stealth to defend against hostile humans and zombie-like creatures infected by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus.
Just to be clear, the Cordyceps causes the zombie apocalypse. The Cordyceps fungus is a real thing. Oh dear god . . .
The Last of Us received critical acclaim for its writing, voice acting, sound design, level design, and music.
I appreciate all these things. The Last of Us does them all brilliantly. But honestly, the first thing that impressed me about this game is that it's the most stunningly beautiful game I've ever seen. I started playing and thought to myself "I never want to stop looking at this. It's gorgeous."
The Last of Us uses a third-person perspective. The game involves gunfights, melee combat, and a cover system. To defeat opponents, players can employ limited-use melee weapons such as pipes and baseball bats. They can use a bow and arrows, or guns such as rifles, shotguns, pistols, and revolvers
Weapons can be upgraded by using collectable items, and equipment such as health kits and Molotov cocktails can be crafted from items including liquor, towels, and blades. True to life, the game doesn't pause while crafting or switching weapons, forcing the player to manage their time effectively in combat. There's nothing scarier than switching guns and expecting to be attacked at any moment.
There's another tense aspect to the crafting—what will you make? If you have, say, alcohol and rags, you could make either a Molotov or a health kit. The choice can be a hard one, since you have no idea what you'll need in five minutes, and resources are too scarce for you to have both.
For most of the game, the player controls Joel; Ellie and other companions are controlled by the AI. The player must traverse post-apocalyptic environments, fighting off infected and gangs of hostile human survivors. The player can attack enemies directly, or use stealth tactics to pass undetected.
I'm going to take a moment to talk about stealth, because it's very well done in this game, to the point where it's actually a more fun way to play than going in guns blazing.
The thing about stealth in this game is the incredible, uncomfortable realism you’re forced to endure each and every time you execute a silent kill. Seeing a survivor desperately swat at Joel’s arms as he strangles him to death is profoundly disturbing, as is silently stabbing a man in the neck and hearing gurgle his last breaths as dies.
The Last of Us does a spectacular job of making your enemy feel human. Each life you take is a struggle and each target feels unique and alive. There’s an emotional pang when you’re taking out thugs that look just like you, and I think it's nothing short of amazing that a video game managed to capture that.
The game also features periods without combat, often involving a conversation between the characters. Periods like this are what make the game for me—the chat between Ellie and Joel is great fun to listen to and one of the highlights of the game.
Joel and Ellie develop a wonderful (if somewhat dysfunctional) father-daughter relationship throughout the story, and, although Joel is the "main" character, rooting for Ellie is a given in The Last of Us. Success for Ellie means success for the player, and her tough exterior is the perfect complement to her utter ignorance of the world before the fungus overwhelmed it.
Being born into the post-apocalyptic era, Ellie is full of questions and wonder. She’ll flick through records in a music store, be fascinated by animals she’s never seen, and ask Joel an endless stream of questions about the past. As you play The Last of Us, you watch Ellie learn, grow, and gain meaning. I challenge anyone not to become attached to her.
For all these reasons and more, it was impossible not to include The Last of Us on my list of the best zombie games.
2. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is an episodic interactive drama, graphic adventure video game developed and published by Telltale Games. Based on Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series.
The game is an interesting one, in the sense that it's not really a game. It's more like an interactive story. That's not a bad thing though, because it's a truly fantastic story. Rarely have I played such a game with such a powerful, heart-wrenching storyline. If you play The Walking Dead and don't cry, there might just be something wrong with you.
The game takes place in the same fictional world as the comic. However, most of the characters are original to the game, which centres on university professor and convicted murderer Lee Everett.
Some characters from the original comic books and TV series also make in-game appearances.
The Walking Dead occurs simultaneously with the events of the comic, in which a zombie apocalypse overwhelms society. The zombies come to be called "walkers", due to their slow movement.
People who are bitten become infected, die, and then come back to "life" as walkers. Only by removing the head or damaging the brain can stop the reanimation.
The game opens with Lee on his way to prison after his conviction in Atlanta, Georgia. On the highway, the deputy's car he's in hits a walker and spins of the road. Lee eventually regains consciousness, and is promptly attacked by the officer, who has turned into a walker. Dispatching the zombie, Lee flees the scene and takes shelter in a nearby home, discovering a little girl named Clementine hiding in her tree house. Learning that she has become separated from her parents, Lee offers to protect Clementine, and help her find her family.
The game focuses almost exclusively on story and character development. The story is affected by both the dialogue choices of the player and their actions during quicktime events, which can often lead to, for example, certain characters being killed, or an adverse change in the disposition of a certain character or characters towards Lee.
The choices made by the player carry over from episode to episode, Mass Effect style. This opens up the potential for branching storylines, meaning your game can be completely different from your friends, or even you own if you play through again.
The Walking Dead has been received rave reviews, and been praised for the harsh emotional tone of the story and the emotional connection established between Lee and Clementine. More than one million players have purchased at least one episode from the series, and over 8.5 million individual episodes had been sold by the end of 2012. The success of The Walking Dead has been seen by some as a revival of the adventure game genre.
For being one of only two games that have ever made me shed a tear, The Walking Dead has earned it's place on this list.
1. Left 4 Dead 2
Left for Dead and its sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, are a couple of the best zombie games ever made. Hands down.
Left 4 Dead was an incredible game, but it did have a couple of issues. Valve themselves admitted that while they were very pleased with Left 4 Dead, they hadn't been able to include everything they wanted due to production time limits.
With Left 4 Dead 2 though, they were finally able to get every feature in they wanted—and the result is the best zombie game to date.
The way I tend to look at these games is not "One" and "Two", but as "Left for Dead 0.5" and "Left for Dead - The full Experience". As I've said, the original Left for Dead was incredible, but it did feel a little small, a little lacking. Left for Dead 2 has something . . . more. It felt complete. Left 4 Dead 2 added melee weapons (awesome, by the way), new guns, new special infected, and new multiplayer modes.
Left 4 Dead 2 puts you in control of four new survivors, gives you some guns and challenges you to get to the next safe room before the Infected overwhelm you. Not only do you have to deal with endless waves of "common" infected, but you also have to take out a number of "special" infected—including the creepy Witch, and the terrifying Tank.
It's interesting to note that this game is great because it doesn't have a story, not in spite of not having a story. There's no looking for answers. No "How did this happen?" No "Who's responsible?" It's all "Just get out. We're not gonna look at this, who cares about that. Just get the hell out." It's not only refreshing, but it also adds to the intensity of the game—you're not spending time worrying about plot arcs or backstory. All your attention is focussed on surviving the horde.
The game can be played in single-player, with the other survivors controlled by the AI, but I find that co-op provides a much more immersive and intense experience. It also makes it much easier when you're playing on higher difficulties, since your friends are (hopefully) more skilled than the AI survivors!
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