Free Games Like Plants vs Zombies

Updated on June 30, 2016
Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies | Source

Re-Create the Plants vs. Zombies Experience for Free in Your Browser

Unless you've been living under a rock (or a tombstone), you've probably heard of Plants vs. Zombies.

Plants vs. Zombies, or PvZ, is an accessible, addictive, real-time strategy tower defense game which has been ported to almost every platform you can imagine since its release by PopCap Games in 2009. It has won critical acclaim from both critics and players and has a fairly diverse fan base.

PvZ is easy to pick up and play and provides quite a bit of entertainment considering the simplicity of its design. This combination of accessible and addictive gameplay has made it a huge hit with casual gamers, and has led naturally to many imitators as small developers try to re-create the success of this immensely popular game.

In this hub, I'll take a look at some of the best 'clones' that I came across in my wanderings. All of the games listed in this hub were played in Firefox on my desktop and are completely free to play.

The object of the game is to place units strategically using the resources available.
The object of the game is to place units strategically using the resources available. | Source

Tower Defense

Games like PvZ which require you to place units to block a horde of on-rushing enemies are called 'tower defense' games even though they don't all share the same style, and don't all involve towers.

Placing units along a convoluted path that enemies have to march through, or facing down hordes of enemies as a single hero are also common variations on tower defense gameplay.

A Quick Overview of Plants vs. Zombies-Style Tower Defense

If you've played Plants vs. Zombies, then you'll already have a very good idea how the games in this hub are played. If you're not familiar with the original game (and I recommend you give it a try -- there is a free to play trial version of Plants vs. Zombies online at PopCap that allows you to play several levels in exchange for a barrage of ads) the basic premiss is simple: there is a wave of zombies converging on your home and you need to plant unusual and dangerous plants in their way to stop them.

Each level in PvZ consists of a small grid with your house ('tower') on one side of the 'board', and your enemies on the other: enemies advance toward you along the rows of the grid, and you place units ('plants') in columns in the squares between them and your house. Plants come in a variety of forms: some of them fire projectiles ('pea-shooters'), some of them serve as walls ('wall-nuts'), and others destroy groups of zombies like a grenade ('cherry bombs'). To plant a unit, you have to save up and expend energy in the form of sunlight. While sunlight falls naturally while you play (at least during the day), there are additional units ('sunflowers') that can be used to generate additional sunlight. Each unit has a recharge timer which has to wind down before you can plant another unit of that type. The goal of the game is to defeat the advancing hordes of zombies by generating sunlight, buying units, and placing them strategically on the map to provide the best offensive and defensive capabilities.

The zombies also come in a variety of forms: some of them wear protective devices, like buckets or cones, on their heads that deflect your attacks, and others, like the pole-vaulters, can jump over your defenses. Placing units the map that are most effective against different types of zombies becomes part of the challenge of the game. (PvZ also gives you a 'shovel', which allows you to remove plants if you want to replace them with something more effective.) Once you place the unit, it performs its function automatically so that you can focus on generating more sunlight and placing more units.

The challenge in PvZ comes from managing your resources: too much or too little of one unit, or not placing the right kind of unit in time, may leave you vulnerable to an attack that you are not prepared for. The 'recharge' timer on units adds an additional layer of complexity to the game because you can't immediately follow one unit with another unit of the same type, which can be a problem if you need two of the same unit in more than one spot on the map at the same time. As you advance through the levels, you gain access to new units with different strengths and weaknesses (and costs) but there is an upper limit to the number of different unit types you can use in each map. Part of the challenge of the game comes from deciding at the start of each level which units will be the most useful. Although you know ahead of time which zombies you will be facing (and therefore have some idea which units are going to be more effective), the order and location of the zombies is determined randomly each time you play a map, so you never know for sure the 'ideal' location to place your units.

Plants vs. Zombies Clones

This fairly detailed description of the PvZ formula can be applied to all of the games reviewed in this hub as they all follow the PvZ formula pretty carefully. While some of these clones are quite good, I never found any of them to be quite as good as the original. They all do some things differently, of course, and all have a distinctive visual style, but for the most part, they are fairly faithful copies of a very successful design. (That's not necessarily a bad thing; if you're a fan of the original game, it means you can hop right into these games for a very entertaining, if similar, experience.)

Here are the three best Plants vs. Zombies clones that I've come across in my wanderings:

Toys vs. Nightmares is a fairly faithful (if short) Plants vs. Zombies clone.
Toys vs. Nightmares is a fairly faithful (if short) Plants vs. Zombies clone. | Source
Toys vs. Nightmares shows you who you will be facing, and allows you to choose which units you will use at the start of each level.
Toys vs. Nightmares shows you who you will be facing, and allows you to choose which units you will use at the start of each level. | Source

Toys vs. Nightmares

Toys vs. Nightmare was developed by Xplored and follows the Plants vs. Zombies core mechanics pretty closely.

The basic premiss is that you are a young boy who has been sent to bed but can't sleep because he is plagued by nightmares. The 'nightmares' are conventional and campy creatures like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches and goblins. To defend yourself, you must use your arsenal of 'toys' which include things like Lego(TM) men, race cars, army men, teddy bears, and exploding dolls. To generate energy ('fantasy'), you read books. Clicking on the books makes the pages turn faster and generates energy more quickly, which replaces the sun-harvesting in PvZ. When you destroy enemies, you gain coins which you can store in your piggy bank to buy new units and unlock additional unit slots between levels.

Toys vs. Nightmares has a number of different enemy types with different kinds of immunities, so placing units strategically is quite important. (You can remove units by placing them in your toy box.) Some enemy units fly over walls and can only be hit by toys that can hit flying enemies; other units, like the ghosts, are impervious to ordinary attacks and can only be destroyed by a certain type of unit and blocked by a special type of wall. While the early levels of TvN are fairly easy, I found it to be, on the whole, quite a bit more challenging than PvZ.

Teelonians - Clan Wars uses PvZ game mechanics with a more traditional tower defense theme and can get quite hectic on higher levels.
Teelonians - Clan Wars uses PvZ game mechanics with a more traditional tower defense theme and can get quite hectic on higher levels. | Source
Clan Wars gives you a preview of what you can expect in an upcoming level. Try to remember these names, because you'll need to know them when picking your troops.
Clan Wars gives you a preview of what you can expect in an upcoming level. Try to remember these names, because you'll need to know them when picking your troops. | Source
Like most tower defense games, you earn points to invest in more powerful units and can choose which units will be available by reallocating spent points.
Like most tower defense games, you earn points to invest in more powerful units and can choose which units will be available by reallocating spent points. | Source

Teelonians - Clan Wars

Teelonians - Clan Wars, by Teelos Games, revolves around an invasion of primitive tribals attempting to overrun an island controlled by a slightly more advanced city state, somewhat reminiscent of the fall of Rome at the hands of barbarians.

Clan Wars has a more traditional tower defense theme than PvZ, with standard units like infantry, archers, pikemen, heavy shield bearing troops, and siege towers. It also includes a variety of spell-casters for heavy offensive attacks -- area of effect attacks, freezing to slow units, and summoned creatures to push enemy units back -- and healers, which provide some defensive advantages. Energy generating units (fruit stands) are an important gameplay element, as they are in PvZ and TvN, though you can also collect coins from fallen opponents. Unspent coins also carry over to new levels, so it's best to spend only as much as you need. Enemies run the gamut of weak cannon fodder, pole-vaulters, archers, shamans, heavy-duty cavalry, and war machines. Most units have particular vulnerabilities to opposing units (cavalry, for example, are vulnerable to pikemen), so, as in other PvZ tower defense games, it is important to match your units at the beginning of each level to the type of enemies that you will be facing. After each battle you receive additional research points which you can invest in recruiting new types of units. You can also disband existing units to free up research points for other units.

I found the difficulty in Clan Wars also to be somewhat higher than PvZ (which is, in my opinion, the easiest of these games); the initial levels are not too bad, but after several battles I reached a level that I simply could not beat: the number of enemies on the screen exceeded the recharge rates of my units, so I couldn't place units fast enough to counter the advancing hordes. Teelos Games did recently increase the difficulty of the game following complaints that the original game had been too easy, so hopefully they will take another look at the difficulty and tweak it a little for these higher levels (or maybe you won't suck as much as I did).

Probably the most serious complaint I have about the game is that it is very laggy; often, the game would crawl to a slideshow, which caused a delay when selecting things with the mouse. This sometimes caused me to position units in incorrect spots, leading to additional grief on the battlefield. Clan Wars does allow you to swap units and remove units from the map to make room for other units, so it's not a game-breaking bug, but it did sometimes cause me a bit of frustration.

You can play Teelonians - Clan Wars free at PlayHub.

PoT gives you a choice of captains, each with their own abilities.
PoT gives you a choice of captains, each with their own abilities. | Source
Pirates of Teelonians innovates on the PvZ formula in a number of interesting ways.
Pirates of Teelonians innovates on the PvZ formula in a number of interesting ways. | Source
You can select your units and purchase power ups between levels. Just don't spend all your gold!
You can select your units and purchase power ups between levels. Just don't spend all your gold! | Source
PoT also has 'canon defense' levels. Keep an eye on the radar screen at the bottom...many of the balloons travel above the top of the screen and can only be hit by targeting the red dots in the radar widget.
PoT also has 'canon defense' levels. Keep an eye on the radar screen at the bottom...many of the balloons travel above the top of the screen and can only be hit by targeting the red dots in the radar widget. | Source

Pirates of Teelonians

Pirates of Teelonians, also developed by Teelos Games, makes a number of changes to the PvZ formula. The most significant change is that, in addition to selecting units, you can also choose from one of three different pirate captains and interact directly with the map as a 'super' unit. As the captain, you can move from row to row to temporarily shore up offensive and defensive weaknesses like a combination movable wall/canon. Each of the captains also has additional weapons and abilities, like the ability to throw dynamite or summon undead champions, making your choice of captain a strategic decision. (Captain Bakuba, the voodoo pirate was my favorite.)

Energy generating units have also been removed from PoT, relieving you of the responsibility of deploying and defending units that take up precious space on the battlefield. The trade off is that all units now take time to set up: they don't begin working immediately, which forces you to think a little further ahead when preparing for onslaughts while your units are being built. In place of energy, you collect coins from fallen enemies, which can be frustratingly slow at times. Any coins that you don't spend during a battle may be carried over from one level to the next, so there is a definite advantage in conserving them and only using as much as you need to beat the level.

Perhaps in compensation for the slow rate of coin accumulation, enemies drop a number of different power ups which you can use to upgrade your units. Burning, poisoning, stunning or otherwise incapacitating your enemies can make the difference between winning and losing a battle and is an easy way to temporarily shore up a weak line of defense.

Like PvZ, Pirates of Teelonians also has alternate mini-games between some of the levels. These 'canon defense' levels require you to destroy on-rushing hordes with canon-fire. Many enemies fly overhead in air balloons and can't be seen except in the radar widget at the bottom of the screen. As long as you keep your eye on your radar and try to hit all the red dots with your canon, you should be okay.

Like Clan Wars, Pirates suffers at times from serious framerate lag which sometimes costs you the battle, and the hud sometimes interfered with the gameplay area: on several occasions I found my game obscured by a new window which I had opened accidentally by clicking on the PlayHub button when trying to move my captain to the bottom of the map or found my game interrupted by opening the options menu when I meant to fire at an enemy flying overhead during the canon mini-game. These are relatively minor issues, however, and for a free game the experience was, on the whole, very enjoyable.

You can play Pirates of Teelonians free at PlayHub.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • SimilarSam profile image

        Sam 

        3 years ago from Australia

        Huge PvZ addict and also a great fan of the free games you've listed here (played them before), all really capture the PvZ feel and highly recommended!

      • ilikegames profile image

        Sarah Forester 

        4 years ago from Australia

        Love this genre and the fact that there are free alternatives sounds like a win to me!

      • profile image

        Hanu Potgieter 

        5 years ago

        AAWWEESSOOMMEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! cool gamre

      • PurpleHubs profile image

        Arun Kumar 

        5 years ago from United Kingdom

        awesome juice. I found it very useful. Bookmarked it...

      • profile image

        BrainFood4u 

        6 years ago

        I like playing plants and zombies and also Warcraft 3.

      • Djaak profile image

        Djaak 

        6 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa

        Awesome article. I enjoy Tower defense games a lot. Stared playing them on the warcraft 3. Good work with the article, I think I am going to try the Teelonians Clan Wars one.

      • j-u-i-c-e profile imageAUTHOR

        j-u-i-c-e 

        6 years ago from Waterloo, On

        @JGG: Don't worry, JGG. I was jk. "IT'S EFFING PAC-MAN!" Best.Review.Ever. :D

      • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

        John Roberts 

        6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

        I really don't think I can review any of these unfortunately due to them being so similar to each other. I mean, it's like trying to review Pac-man - "IT'S EFFING PAC-MAN, THERE'S YOUR REVIEW!" is what I often say.

        I can try though, but I doubt it'd reach my minimum of 1000 words. ^^

      • j-u-i-c-e profile imageAUTHOR

        j-u-i-c-e 

        6 years ago from Waterloo, On

        @JGG: Thanks for the vote. I can't wait to hear your scathing reviews. ;)

      • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

        John Roberts 

        6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

        Some of these games look great and I might end up giving them a go! I remember playing this on WoW, in a quest called "zombies ate my grains!". If you win it, you get a singing sunflower companion - I always thought that was funny.

        I need something to play other than Warfare 1917 and other upgrade games, so I'll have to give these a shot. Voted up, useful and interesting ^^

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, levelskip.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://levelskip.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)