As early as 1982, gamers have faced off against rotting hordes of the living dead. Though many games in the 80s and early 90s threw zombified enemies our way, the “zombie” genre didn’t really pick up considerable speed until the mid-90s. In 1996, Capcom introduced horror fans to the scandals and biological monstrosities of the Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil. Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster of duds that need to return to the grave and unforgettable titles that really sink their teeth into you.
Seeing as how we’re entering the season of the undead, it seems fitting to revisit some of the best zombie video games ever released. If it’s good, wholesome, brain-eating fun you’re looking for, you should definitely find it in the following titles.
Resident Evil (Gamecube)
There is nothing more difficult than having to decide which of the three original Resident Evil games is the best. Nothing. Especially since Capcom decided to go ahead and remake the first two in incredible form. As much as the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 astounded and the original trilogy provides hours of nostalgic zombie love, it’s the 2002 Resident Evil remake that shines above them all.
Not only did Resident Evil 2 (2019) miss a few beats that could have excelled it ahead of the GameCube remake, the Spencer Mansion happens to be a better environment for zombie horror. The first time you encounter a Crimson Head or find yourself wading in waters filled with Neptunes, you’ll understand how Resident Evil (2002) snuck ahead of the wildly successful and more advanced 2019 zombie frightfest.
The House of the Dead 2 (Arcade)
So it’s not easy finding a working The House of the Dead 2 cabinet and the console ports don’t do the game any justice. That, however, doesn’t take away from the experience of those that have played it. When you do find the purest way to play – with two half-working lightguns and a cabinet caked with pizza grease – it’s a classic zombie light gun romp that can’t be topped. A decent roster of (mostly) undead cretins offers plenty of variety, so you don’t grow tired of dismembering the same zombies over and over.
Much like with the original Resident Evil, the corny voice acting and ridiculous plot only further enhance your playthrough. Later sequels in the series failed to capture the same atmosphere and feel of the 1998 release, making The House of the Dead 2 an unforgettable entry in zombie gaming.
Left 4 Dead 2 (Mac, PC, Xbox 360)
Up until the Left 4 Dead series, zombies traveled in small groups and were relatively slow on their feet. Then the hordes of this multiplayer zombie experience rushed onto the screen, reminding us that there was something scarier than George Romero’s classic undead.
Left 4 Dead 2 improves upon the multiplayer formula introduced in its predecessor. With a bigger arsenal of ranged and melee weapons, an improved AI director, new zombie types, and additional gameplay modes, Left 4 Dead 2 is a step ahead of not just the original, but of any zombie multiplayer game.
Playing solo or with other players changes the experience, but there is no wrong way to play Left 4 Dead 2. If anything, tackling the increasingly difficult campaign on your own amplifies the horror of being rushed by an undead horde. Unlike the zombie games we grew up with, there is no relief as wave upon wave of blood-thirsty monsters spawn and respawn to tear you to pieces.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES)
Imagine the camp of 1950s sci-fi and horror movies translated into a run and gun title for the SNES. The result is Zombies Ate My Neighbors, a classic that pits players against zombies, space zombies, werewolves, mimics, mummies, and a host of other horrifying baddies. There’s really nothing scary about Zombies Ate My Neighbors, save for the difficulty of navigating the puzzle-like levels to rescue stranded victims, but that doesn’t stop it from appealing to the horror crowd.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a colorful and whimsical zombie game with fun creature design and quirky levels to explore. Though you’ll square off against more than shambling corpses, the iconic enemies are in abundance and are a grave nuisance when stronger enemies start to fill the map.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (PS3, Xbox 360)
Is it cheating that this is DLC for a much larger game? Considering its own size and scope, absolutely not!
Red Dead Redemption did so much right and was a worthy follow-up to the often forgotten Red Dead Revolver. Undead Nightmare merely built upon the successes of Rockstar’s return to the Wild West by throwing in a horror subplot. For a game that wasn’t developed to be scary, the Redemption DLC really showed that Rockstar was capable of crossing into the horror genre.
Undead Nightmare ties the zombie outbreak nicely into the world already established in the main game, utilizing locations and characters we’ve grown to know and love (or hate). The Wild West setting further amplifies the terror as you realize few things are scarier than being chased by a horde, even if you’re riding horseback.
Redemption’s zombified DLC works as a standalone game, with a story that doesn’t come across as rushed or second rate. If you’re looking to pop off headshots galore on some antagonizing zombies, John Marston is the man for the job.
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse (Mac, PC, Xbox)
Have you ever stopped to think about a zombie’s feelings? You may assume they don’t have any and their only instinct is to eat brains and maim the living, but Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse proves differently. As the titular undead salesman, players shamble through a technologically advanced 1950s Pennsylvanian town on a vengeful quest. Killed before he could find happiness with his true love, Stubbs wants nothing more than to slaughter those that wronged him.Along the way, players guide Stubbs by amassing a small army of zombies, using any number of undead skills, and chewing on the brains of the living. It’s a classic zombie love story that is as wonky as it sounds. Stubbs the Zombie doesn’t take itself seriously at all, though the blood, gore, and mayhem is everything you could want from the genre.