Happy spooky season, Game Savvy readers! It’s almost Halloween, and everyone is getting in the spirit with scary games. I’m not a big horror game fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m left out. There is one type of game that fits perfectly into the theme of Halloween – zombies. Here are my favourite zombie games, with a bit of insight into why I think they’re so great.
Dead Rising 3
The third game in the Dead Rising series makes my list of favourites not necessarily because it’s a great zombie game, but more because of how memorable the game is in general. Parts of it genuinely disturbed me, while other parts had me howling with laughter (I’m talking about you, Lust Canon). The game takes a very Mad Max approach to the zombie apocalypse, with the total breakdown of society leading to people just losing their shit. It works well for me as a game about societal breakdown. My other favourite part has to be the ability to create crazy weapons. It makes the gameplay a bit more involved, and while the weapons are certainly insane, the idea of using what you find in a resourceful way makes the game feel more realistically like how surviving an apocalypse would be. The only reason the game isn’t ranked higher for me is that this is about zombie games, and my favourite parts really have nothing to do with zombies.
Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare
Undead Nightmare is the only zombie themed piece of media that has actually given me zombie nightmares. Zombies don’t normally scare me in any capacity, but I think what scared me about the Red Dead zombies was the game pacing. It isn’t endless hordes coming around every corner, which I usually want, but that wouldn’t quite fit with the game style here. What it does have is a great story. The game has a story line that the zombies feel natural in, where it is genuinely frightening when they appear and start attacking you. It’s also the Old West, so it’s not like I can rely on automatic weapons to cut them all down. A zombie horde is more challenging in this game than any other I’ve played. Am I going to find zombies in the shack on the side of the road? I won’t know until I check. It’s a big game, there’s a LOT to do, and in the midst of all that there’s the suspense of potential zombie attack.
House of the Dead Series
The House of the Dead games are way outside the game style I typically enjoy (RPGs), so the fact that HotD is ahead of the previous two games is a testament to what good zombie games they are. House of the Dead is a rail shooter arcade game, with each game eventually porting to other systems. The gameplay all comes down to aim and timing. Because it’s an arcade shooter, a wrong move is the end of the line. The adrenaline that comes from needing to make your shot, the jump scares, and the inevitability of the rail shooter style where you aren’t in control of your movement, does make the game pretty intense. To be good takes practice, but the game plots are interesting enough to make you not want to give up. I particularly like HotD 3, with the creepy research facility of Dr. Curien. and his motivations for causing the outbreak. A facility originally used for unethical purposes full of zombies and other abominations is the perfect spooky rail shooter setting. Zombies created by evil scientists is also kind of a campy plot that works well with the aesthetic of the games. The total unbelievability of some of the plot points, like the machine preserving Curien’s body called the Wheel of Fate, or even the crazy monsters balances out the more scary aspects of the game style.
Left 4 Dead 2
What’s the best part of zombie games? I think it’s playing with other people. Left 4 Dead 2 is an experience built for co-op play. It lacks a solid plot, but it makes up for it in all around fun. I had friends come over and play it for hours at a time without getting bored. It’s the opposite of Undead Nightmare, where the drama and interesting story with the fear of the zombies mixed in is replaced by unending hordes of zombies you fight off using any means necessary. It isn’t all aimless, however. The goal is to make it to the rescue helicopter. You are fighting for survival, and any friends who don’t make it are actually left behind. That’s why it’s best in the game to stick together. You rely on one another to get to the safe areas, and ultimately to your rescue. You also rely on them for medical assistance. If you take too much damage, your teammate can use their first aid kit to help you out. The final thing I would say about the game is how great melee weapons are. There is a variety of weird objects that can be used effectively for zombie bludgeoning, like shovels and electric guitars. It doesn’t make much sense that the world is strewn with weaponry, but beating zombies with a guitar is pretty sweet.
Call of Duty Zombies
The Call of Duty zombie games have everything I want in a zombie shooter. They are the culmination of everything I have said I liked about the games above. Endless waves of zombies? Check. Best when played with friends? Check. Practice required to truly excel? Check. Interesting plot? It’s crazy confusing, but check. Back in the day, date nights with my now spouse consisted of endless hours of Zombies. Surviving as long as possible is fun, but there are also large map areas to explore and heaps of Easter Eggs to unlock. There are so many maps at this point that you can’t get bored with it. That being said, the original map Nacht der Untoten is still my favourite. Over the last 10 years I’ve become attached to Dempsey, Richtofen, Nikolai, and Takeo, the 4 original characters (excluding unnamed ones). The theme music takes me back to playing the first four maps for hours on end on the weekends when I was in high school. When I think of what zombies should act like, they’re making that awful yelling noise and busting through window barriers. In the last couple of weeks since Black Ops 4 was released, I have been putting obsessive amounts of time into Blood of the Dead, because it is everything about CoD Zombies that I love. For a little bonus mode stuck on a first person shooter, Zombie mode has both come a long way while simultaneously not losing what makes it fun…just killing a whole lot of zombies.
Now that I’ve spent so much time writing about zombie games, I think it’s time to go play some! Have a Savvy Halloween, and if you play any good zombie games this week tell me about them in the comments!