When it comes to the horror world, it’s fair to say that zombies are a very well tread topic. Between movies, TV shows, comics, and video games, zombies are somewhat of an easy go-to when you want an enemy you can use in massive overwhelming quantities, in small survival quantities, and simply as fodder. Whether they’re the traditional undead brain-eaters, some kind of parasitic slave, or even the result of a virulent biological weapon, zombies have come and gone in most forms for a good, long time.
That said, there’s something to be said for a game that uses zombies meaningfully. It doesn’t have to mean that zombies are the main focal point, but rather that their inclusion is an acceptable and well-executed outcome of an already good idea. Also, zombies are a good conduit for the gore effects that have capitalized the kind of shock terror we come to expect in over-the-top horror scenarios. Whether we’re dealing with zombies by the truck load or in small nerve wracking quantities, there’s certainly a wide variety of good games that employ them. Here are some of the best PC zombie video games.
Yes, there is definitely a lot of things going on in Call of Duty that have absolutely nothing to do with zombies and that’s fine and dandy, but then there’s Zombie Mode. Certainly, Zombie Mode was probably meant to be little more than a diversion to everything else going on in Black Ops. It is, after all, mostly just a co-op jaunt through level after level of increasingly aggressive and larger hordes of zombies, yet this mode and every addition to it stands out for being much more enjoyable than a simple mini-game.
In regular Zombie maps, such as the classic Kino Der Toten, players have seconds to make preparatins and make plans with their surroundings. This includes boarding up windows through which zombies will enter, buying weapons, upgrading those weapons, buying buffs such as extra health and resistance, and generally prepping for the onslaught. Just as well, there are plenty of Zombie maps, each with their own unique challenges and opportunities.
Zombie mode has become a fan favorite among Call of Duty fans for its continuing narrative of original characters, cameos by famous actors including zombie movie legend George Romero, and all around hectic fun. Not the first version, nor the most recent, the zombie mode in Black Ops still may be one of the most and varied versions of the mode. And hey, you get a good Call of Duty game on top of it, which is a nice bonus.
Following the commercial success of Dead Island Techland attempted to broach a few other goals in their next game: making zombies truly threatening again and making the game far more engaging in both single and multiplayer. Dead Island’s zombies, while gruesome, were largely repetitive fodder between players and their next quest objective. In Dying Light zombies are still quite manageable during the day, but when you get to the into the twilight hours of the time cycle, Volatiles come out and it’s time to watch your back.
Volatile zombies are almost invulnerable and will chase you if they see you until either you escape to a safe zone or they catch you and open you up. That said, actually threatening zombies are just one of the many things that make Dying Light good. Between a revamp of character skills and weapon customization, a fun and cool parkour system to navigate the urban terrain, and a slew of characters that are far more engaging than anything going on in Dead Island, Dying Light has a multitude of interesting facets to offer to players.
Co-op was one of the only parts of Dead Island that stood out as a fun venture. It returns in Dying Light offering players the option to take their friends on the run to survive. Furthermore, if you’d rather be the one ripping players apart, Dying Light offered Be the Zombie mode which allowed players to go head to head as humans and volatiles. Dead Island offered a good idea of what it wanted to be as an open-world zombie RPG. Dying Light actually delivered.
Project Zomboid is a novel answer to the often asked question. How would you, as a regular human being and not a TV hero, survive in an actual zombie apocalypse? Would you stay in the city and attempt to gather supplies as best as you could while trying to dodge the wealth of zombie activity or would you venture into the woods to try to build a settlement away from civilization in hopes of trying keep only a minimal and manageable threat of zombie infection?
The Indie Stone brings a lot of interesting concepts to the table with their open-world zombie survival game. Players will work mostly out of necessity as they try to balance food and water supplies with safety and sleep. Every forage brings the player into a slew of choices that could end up with them dying. The game factors in even the presence of running into zombies. Come up on one out the blue and your character could become panicked, severely limiting their accuracy and vision as you either choose quickly to fight or fly and/or die in the process.
The game features an active skill system where players must practice certain actions in order to become proficient in them. Players won’t just be good at handling blades right off the bat, but with some trial and hopefully little no error, they’ll be slicing and stabbing like a barbarian. Furthermore, the game allows players to join together and try to survive as they build their bastion of survival against the mad world around. Project Zombie is a humble game, but it offers a lot to the zombie survival concept with its enjoyable setup.
When it comes to zombie games, the original Resident Evil popularized them, pure and simple. With its approach to environmental exploration, puzzle solving, and brutal monsters, it was the game that coined the term “survival horror”. Unfortunately, the original edition of the game aged pretty horribly, but that’s where the HD remaster comes in. A port of the Game Cube remake, the HD Remaster brings a fantastic visual update to the game, making a fantastic revisit for series veterans and introducing new players to the beginning chapter of the sensational franchise.
Resident Evil HD Remaster tells the initial story of the S.T.A.R.S. police force investigation of bizarre murders and disappearances in Raccoon City which were traced to a mansion in the woods. Before Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine know it, circumstances get far out of hand and they must scrounge every bullet and medical herb to survive the labyrinthine Spencer Mansion.
The original Resident Evil was a breakthrough in immersive horror storytelling for video games and the HD Remaster suitably updates the experience for current machines, featuring a truly atmospheric and bone chilling adventure that has thrilled players time and time again. For the sake of seeing where the phenomena of survival horror began while avoiding a dated experience from 1996, the Resident Evil HD Remaster is an absolute must-have.
What initially started as an Unreal Tournament mod in 2005 has certainly come a long way. Tripwire Interactive has since built its humble mod into a beloved co-op survival shooter with a community as ravenous as its undead ZEDs. Killing Floor 2 might still be hunting after its own level of success, but it may also very well come of the high demand of it loyal fan base. The original Killing Floor is a bloody good time.
The first game takes place in London, England, where the experiments of a biotechnology company result in accidents that create a neverending wave of cloned and mutating creatures. England is quickly overrun and the government desperately scrapes together the remnants of solders and special police to try to fight back the mutated dead. In the vanilla game, you can engage in a game with up to six players as you attempt to fight off wave after wave of undead, eventually culminating in a fight with a boss-esque creature.
The game featured many elements of Call of Duty Zombie Mode, with players able to buy weapons and other perks to even the odds while also welding doors in order to dig into a given spot on the map. Additionally, players have access to perks that give them a sort of class, such as medics and sharpshooters. With each character providing a niche, teamwork is absolutely promoted in the game. Killing Floor had humble beginnings, but its fun and engaging mechanics have allowed the ZED-splattering co-op survival fest to spread its wings and soar.
In a landscape where sandbox survival has become quite a booming genre of video game development, 7 Days to Die sets itself apart as one of the best out there right now. As a somewhat usual framework, players begin in a world with relatively little and must forage and avoid zombies and other players with ill intent as they seek to either commandeer a standing settlement or put their own together for survival.
As stated, there are many games like this, even zombie games like DayZ, but 7 Days to Die sets itself apart with a very extensive crafting system. At the time of this writing, there are over 400 craftable items in the game that allow for a multitude of weapons, clothing, tools, and building blocks for housing that allow players to create an experience all their own. Cooperative players can build a community of defense while competitive players can seek to take away from those less than prepared for it.
7 Days to Die has gotten a lot of support from both fans and its development team and is constantly improving at a pace that not many other sandbox survival games can come close to. The game’s core experience nurtures creativity and ingenuity as players attempt to carve out a niche of survival in the zombie invested world. For your money, you have a hard time getting a more comprehensive and actively supported game of this type.
The Walking Dead is a franchise packed full of moral ambiguity. In a world where zombies have already ruined society as we know it, fringe groups have popped up all over the place, sometimes in the form of communities of survivors and often in the form of savages who will do, take, and kill anything to survive. As such, matters of trust, sacrifice, survival, and savagery “for the right reasons” are at the constant heart of the stories. There is perhaps no one more fit to portray this than Telltale Games in its Walking Dead adventure series.
With two seasons and a miniseries featuring TV and comic fan-favorite character Michonne under its belt, not to mention a third season on the way, Telltale brings undead life into an interactive Walking Dead experience as naturally as breathing. From the initial story of convict-turned-protector Lee Everett to the harsh growth of young Clementine, Telltale weaves a web of choices, consequences, and regret that is sure to twist the guts of the unprepared.
Each episode is sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure book with time limits on some seriously tense situations. Do you save the man that has the gun or the defenseless child? Will you kill a trusted friend’s infected loved one before their very eyes or attempt to save a doomed life for their friendship and sanity? Many of the choices are packed full of heavy implications and the characters involved will remember what you did, for better or for worse. Telltale has relied heavily on this framework for many of their adventure titles since, but the formula has remained quite tried and true, especially set against the backdrop of Robert Kirkman’s graphic universe.
Resident Evil revolutionized the horror genre in video games with puzzle solving, atmospheric fear, and shock gore, but after using the same core formula of gameplay for nine years and numerous numbered entries and spinoffs, it was starting to get stale. Then 2005 rolled along and Resident Evil 4, in turn, revolutionized the franchise and set the norm for most modern Resident Evil games going forward with its fresh take on the classic style.
Resident Evil 4 put the lens back on Leon Kennedy for the first time since Resident Evil 2. The resourceful former Raccoon Police moved into the position of government agent, answering directly to the President and aiding in affairs of biological terror defense. This ties in when a terrorist organization kidnaps the President’s daughter and Leon is dispatched to find and rescue her.
The game forgoes the staple of fixed camera angles in favor of an over-the-shoulder camera and drops the tank gunfire for a much more intuitive gun play mechanic where the player can carefully aim and place shots on enemy body parts and do more damage based on the part of the body hit. Resident Evil 4 made the gameplay so much more fast-paced and chaotic that the enemies became just as suitably more aggressive and dangerous. We still won’t ever get over the first time we ran into the bullet-sponging Dr. Salvador, otherwise known as the Chainsaw Man.
There’s a lot to be said for the Left 4 Dead series in general. Whether you want to talk about the level of cooperative concentration it brought to zombie games, the frightful “special” creatures it introduced, or the Director engine that ensures that zombie attacks will never happen the same way twice, the Left 4 Dead games offered a mechanic that is undeniably frantic fun with friends. That said, where Left 4 Dead set the scene, Left 4 Dead 2 fine-tuned it to near perfection.
Rather than try to revamp the good, Left 4 Dead 2 left everything players loved about the game (outside of the original characters) in and instead opted to add more meaningful content to an already good thing. The original six weapons get an addition of seven more firearms built to give players a wider array of defensive options while the zombies take their share of new special types that will stress your cooperative play far more than the original. Moreover, the conservative received a slew of new melee weapons to keep ammo conserved for real threats.
Left 4 Dead 2 brought the action down south with four new characters, but they aren’t any less interesting than the initial set. Coach, Ellis, Rochelle, and Nick bring their own backstories and banter to a slew of new stories that are as in tune to ‘80s horror zombie schlock as anything in the first game. Players can play for weeks on end and still not get the full extent of conversation out of every scenario that builds the world around these survivors. A lot of games try a myriad of new things to varying effects and some play it entirely safe. Left 4 Dead 2 is comfortable middle ground that doesn’t shirk the wonderful framework of the first game, but brings on just enough new content to keep it interesting.
Zombies come in many forms, even in the depths of space. Dead Space was a phenomenal sci-fi survival horror venture that introduced us to the terror of the Necromorphs for the first time. It was laden with claustrophobic hallways, flashing lights, and grotesque human and infected creatures that would do Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger proud. That said, the sequel is another rare example of a game that not only kept the absolute best of its original material, but supplied for arguably every opportunity lost in the first game.
Dead Space 2 sees us return to the role of mechanical engineer Isaac Clarke onboard a colonized space station known as the Sprawl. It isn’t long before Clarke once again finds himself embroiled in the tangle of government and religious conspiracy alongside a terrifying biological outbreak of Necromorphs that consume the Sprawl and its inhabitants. Dead Space 2 does more than give us the vast and varied environment of the Sprawl though. Isaac himself gets a fully voiced role in contrast to his part as a silent protagonist in the first game where his most emotional endeavor was either dying or shaking his in sadness.
Moreover, between the new types of Necromorph threats that inhabit the Sprawl in reaction to the more diverse population, Isaac also gets a new set of toys and weapons to rip enemies apart with. Dead Space 2 offered everything that should have been answered at the end of the first game and then some with visceral entertainment, a fantastic storyline, and some clever nods that would make fans pop at the end of the long and stressful journey. We’d like to go ahead and pretend the series ends with Dead Space 2 because Dead Space 3 is little more than a spit in the eye of everything Dead Space 2 accomplished.
Dead Rising was a step away from the Resident Evil formula in one of the most interesting of ways. Zombies in a mall or urban strip have been the focal point of many a movie, TV show, and comic, but Frank West was an almost altogether unlikeable shmuck with his invasive and abrasive paparazzi personality. Not only does Dead Rising 2 do well in ditching Frank for the much more emotionally sympathetic Chuck Greene, but it’s a much more complex and grand step up over its predecessor.
The story follows Chuck, a motorsports professional, as he competes in a zombie reality TV show in Las Vegas-inspired Fortune City only to be framed in the wake of an outbreak that sees the city overrun. Chuck must find Zombrex, a zombification deterrent, for his infected daughter while also finding a way to clear his name and escape Fortune City with everything that matters to him. Far more than just finding the truth behind the story as in the first game, Greene has a far more emotional edge to him hidden under a gruff exterior by which many of the game’s events move.
Even if story isn’t your jam, Dead Rising 2 offers another grand improvement in the form of weapon crafting. Chuck is a resourceful man and if you can find the components and a recipe card, Chuck can craft the most fantastical zombie slaying implements. The myriad of weapons in Dead Rising were always a plus, but the enjoyment of knives equipped on boxing gloves to make clawed gauntlets can’t be denied.
If ever there was the cutest zombie game that has ever existed, it must certainly be PopCap Games’ Plants vs. Zombies. Certainly not a game for those searching for the next step in either brutal gore, co-op questing, or sandbox survival, Plants vs. Zombies is a system of seemingly simply mechanics that will burrow into your soul and become an addiction like no other if you are unprepared to resist its charms and progression.
The story is silly to say the least. Zombies have invaded the neighborhood and the only thing that stands between the living dead and your lovely home is a sentient sunflower capable of arming your garden with a welfare of floral defenses. As wave after wave of increasing and varied undead invade your yard, you must build and maintain your defenses with the utmost care to keep the brain munchers at bay.
Plants vs. Zombies is a phenomenal game that has found fertile ground to plant its roots on numerous platforms. Whether it’s the several modes, the various plants and zombies, or the continuous and enjoyable actively puzzling challenge that the game provides, Plants vs. Zombies has become far more than the simple iOS game that it started out as.
Learning exercises and video games are always a risky endeavor, but when you take a belovedly ham-fisted zombie light gun shooter, replace all the guns with projectile firing keyboards and make a learning exercise into a fight for survival, it becomes a learning experience quite unlike any other. And as if Typing of the Dead weren’t amusing enough, the Overkill version of the game is a glorious tribute to over-the-top grindhouse cheese that has to be seen to be believed.
The story of the game picks up with regular series character Agent G meeting up with a hot-headed cop, Detective Washington. Together, these blatantly unlikely heroes take on the mad mastermind, Papa Caesar, to take down his terrifying zombie-infested operation. Everything from the game’s announcer to the events being portrayed to the main characters themselves is boiled down into one of the most self-aware B-movie setups imaginable, making for an enjoyable game to anyone who has ever watched the likes of Peter Jackson’s Braindead or Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.
On top of all this self-aware silliness is a rather decent game. Built originally as a light gun shooter, Typing of the Dead games have players typing words that appear on the screen attached to the incoming zombies instead. Mess up on a word or take too long and you’re zombie chow, but type swift and accurately and you’ll make it through each situation. Overkill proves once again that just because a zombie is coming to eat your brain doesn’t mean you can’t fill it will knowledge and skills.
That’s our list for now. Did you survive uninfected? We certainly hope you’ve still got a little bit of brain left after wading through this undead pit of carnivorous cadavers. If you do and you’ve got your own favorite video game venture involving the legions of the living dead, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments below. It may end up in this list sooner than later.