It’s way more than just zombie shooters (but also zombie shooters)
There are so many games with zombies out there, but the best zombie games remain a rare treat. There all kinds of approaches they can take – video games have long appreciated zombies for more than just their horror value – but they all take care to not just use zombies as another form of cannon fodder. Whether there’s just one banging on the door or a hundred shambling down a city street, there’s something special about the undead… and about returning them to their proper “dead” status. So let’s take a look through the 10 best zombie games you can play right now and see what keeps them all lurching back onto our screens.
10. Project Zomboid
Available on: PC
If Project Zomboid wasn’t still in early access despite first being put up for sale way back in 2011, it would definitely be higher on this list. Zomboid’s old-school isometric pixel graphics belie what may be the most ambitious zombie apocalypse simulation ever created. And don’t be fooled, this really is meant to be a simulation of what would happen to most folks if people started turning into zombies: they’d die.
There’s no evac helicopter coming if you can survive long enough, or any other formal objectives (at least not in the main mode): your death is inevitable and what you do until then is up to you. But if you want to live more than a few days, I’d suggest building yourself a nice little fort and maybe getting a little farm going. You can only scavenge for so long before the food – or your luck – runs out. Project Zomboid is great to play alone or in multiplayer now, and I can only imagine how gripping it will be if the developers ever manage to complete their vision.
9. Dead Rising 4
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
The sheer number of walking dead shown on-screen in the original Dead Rising blew our minds. Tech improvements make Dead Rising 4’s expansive crowds less of a big deal, but it still manages to be one of the best zombie-bashing experiences you can get.
Photojournalist (and protagonist) Frank West is back, packing an impressive arsenal of over-the-top weapons, amongst them a nitrogen-laced machete. It doesn’t have the colourful bosses that the original boasted, which is a shame, but the dizzying variety of weapons available make wading through the guts and gore totally worth it.
8. Dying Light: The Following
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Running over zombies was never so much fun. As the DLC for the main game, Dying Light: The Following cuts out most of the parkour from the original and instead puts you behind the steering wheel in a swathe of almost-spotless countryside. Splatter zombies into chunks of gore as you speed across the fields and leave tyre-tracks in their guts as you take on daring jumps. Just be careful you don’t get a zombie head trapped in your windscreen wipers.
We don’t really have a zombie-driving game around at the moment, and The Following plugs this niche perfectly. There’s even a new, evolved (and much more deadly) version of the Volatiles, who are instant death if you encounter one either whilst in your buggy or sneaking around at night. Regardless, you’ll have to dodge them as you drive around investigating a cult who seem to be immune to the zombie virus. The responsive steering makes careering down roads a delight, but beware: the more you swerve out of the way of zombies, the bigger the horde following you will get. Not that it’s an issue, because as soon as you take your foot off the brake, sit back, and slam that gas pedal, in no time you’ll understand why we love The Following.
7. Urban Dead
Available on: PC
Wait, one of the best zombie games you can play right now looks like an AngelFire website that still has a Y2K countdown clock? Yep. Urban Dead is a browser-based zombie MMORPG that has been running since 2005, hosting an endless war between desperate survivors and roving hordes of undead. Don’t let the looks fool you – this game runs in real time, there’s quite a lot to it, and it is intense.
Every in-game action depletes your pool of stamina (no, there aren’t microtransactions that let you buy more), so survivors have to balance traveling, foraging, and barricading to make sure they’re always holed up somewhere safe when they tire out. Zombies who run out of stamina far from a horde are just as quick to be cut down. Hopefully Urban Dead’s brilliant take on survival and social dynamics in the apocalypse will keep rolling for another few decades to come.
6. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Available on: Xbox One, Xbox 360
What would happen if zombies infested the wild, wild West? Undead Nightmare, that’s what. The Red Dead Redemption DLC has all the characteristics that made the main storyline so great, only now almost everything you encounter is a walking bag of rotting flesh. You’ll meet up with the same familiar characters from the standard campaign, who will probably be getting chewed on by brain-eaters. There are new weapons and quests to find, towns to defend, and mythological horses missing their neck meat to be tamed. It’s plenty to keep you occupied well beyond the six-hour story campaign.
The Undead Nightmare DLC is just about big enough to be considered its own game. The transformed environment brings a completely new feel to the early 1900s open-world. With so much to do, a Western territory to explore, and zombies to blow apart with your brand new blunderbuss, Undead Nightmare is worthy of consideration even if you’re not typically a cowboy kinda person.
5. State of Decay 2
Available on: PC, Xbox One
State of Decay 2 doesn’t fix all of the flaws of its predecessor, but it does expand its strengths. What those are, if you aren’t already familiar, are all about helping you tell your own unique tale of survival in a zombie apocalypse via a set map dotted with resources and a continual trickle of procedurally generated survivors to befriend and play as (or ignore and take their stuff when they die). Where Project Zomboid leans hard into the notion of being an average person in an unwinnable situation, the State of Decay series tries to make sure you’re having a good time with picturesque midwestern scenes and gorey fun combat, even as your food runs out and zombies beat down your gate.
The coolest new thing in State of Decay 2, though, is easily the long-awaited addition of multiplayer. Inviting friends in to help defend and scavenge for your settlement exponentially expands the possibilities of procedurally generated storytelling. And it finally gives you a chance to test out all those zombie apocalypse survival plans you’ve spent way too long hashing out with buddies.
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 – Zombies
Available on: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
There are more recent Call of Duty games with their own Zombies modes, but none have topped the endless undead-slaying fun of Black Ops 3. It’s no surprise – Black Ops lead studio Treyarch originated the sub-series way back in Call of Duty: World at War, and it “completed” the strange, time-traveling story in Black Ops 3. And thanks to the Zombies Chronicles DLC, Black Ops 3 is the definitive place to play through all of the key moments in the campy quest to avert the Nazi Zombie apocalypse, with 15 maps in all.
Aside from its significance as the culmination of Treyarch’s zombie tale, Black Ops 3’s Zombies mode also introduces key changes like the ability-enhancing Gobble Gums as well as Prestige for veteran Zombies players. Perhaps Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will finally dethrone it, but until then, Black Ops 3 remains the king of Call of Duty Zombies.
3. Left 4 Dead 2
Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
The Left 4 Dead series is the ultimate co-op zombie survival experience. If you like to go out on your own and try to be Rambo, you’re as good as dead. It’s all about trying to get as many of your team members from point A to point B in one piece, and that requires teamwork. Standing in your way is a horde of zombies – though they aren’t the typical slow moving stumblers. The standard zombies are quick on their feet, and sprint towards you at full speed, which is absolutely horrifying.
But the standard zombies are only the tip of the iceberg. The real threats are the special, player-controlled super infected, like the original game’s Hunter, Boomer, and Smoker. In the sequel, things get even more hectic with the addition of the Charger, Jockey, and Spitter. Alone each zombie type isn’t much of a threat to a coordinated survivor team. But when the super zombies work together, it could mean instant death for the heavily armed humans. If you’re looking for a zombie title that lets you cooperate with or decimate your friends, Left 4 Dead 2 can’t be beat.
2. The Walking Dead
Available on: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, Android
It would be a grave sin not to include Telltale’s The Walking Dead as one of the best zombie games of all time. While other zombie titles would have you endlessly chopping off heads, or blowing undead brains to bits with a shotgun, this point-and-click adventure explores the human side of the zombie apocalypse. Instead of testing your aim, this adaptation tests your social decision-making and your nerves–because damn, there’s some messed up stuff that happens in this game.
You play as Lee Everett, a convicted murderer who finds himself as the protector of an orphaned little girl named Clementine. As you encounter other survivors, you’ll end up making decisions down the line that have dire repercussions for your group members. But the worst part (yet simultaneously the best) is that you develop a connection with the characters in your party. So, when those bad things start to happen, you’ll feel like it was your friend that you just saw get eaten alive rather than a mere video game character. People will die, the unexpected will happen, and decisions will need to be made. And you’ll just have to live with the consequences.
1. The Last of Us
Available on: PS4, PS3
Not only is The Last of Us our Game of the Year for 2013, it’s also the most intense, enthralling, and engrossing gaming experience involving undead flesh eaters. It takes you through a dangerous cross-country journey through the infected United States which has been completely overrun by plant life. In addition to mushroom-brained zombies that are waiting to rip your jugular out with their teeth, the world is filled with desperate gun-toting humans, a repressive government, and psychotic villains standing in the way of your destination. And best of all, you get to do the whole thing with a snarky teenage girl alternately making fun of you and saving your life.
Joel and Ellie’s quest is as dark as it is tense. The dilapidated, creepy environments set the perfect tone for the stealth/survival gameplay that cranks up the suspense to almost unbearable levels. This isn’t your typical go-in-guns-blazing zombie game. You’ll have to sneak past stronger foes, conserve your ammo, and scavenge for supplies. The action-packed moments let you feel every bone-crushing, face-smashing blow, and the dramatic scenes are just as emotionally engaging. If you’re looking for the ultimate zombie survival experience, The Last of Us is by far the best you’re going to get.