Zombies have been shambling across our cinema and television screens for decades, but what about the legions of digital flesh eaters that infest our computers and consoles? Here’s our run-down of the very best videogames to feature the moaning, shuffling undead…
Resident Evil (PlayStation, GameCube, numerous other platforms)
RE4 may have rebooted the ageing franchise with a more action-oriented style of play and fast moving, pitchfork-wielding enemies, but for the ultimate exercise in gradually building suspense and shuffling legions of the undead, look no further than the original Resident Evil.
Laughably translated and ropey looking by modern standards, Resident Evil was nonetheless a seminal piece of work, popularising the entire survival horror genre almost single-handedly.
To experience Resident Evil at its best, head straight to the 2002 GameCube remake, which cleaned up the script, amended certain plot elements and updated the graphics with a genuine respect for the original. A classic.
The House Of The Dead: Overkill (Wii)
Sega’s zombified duck shoot headed to the Nintendo Wii in a stylish, murderously funny and surprisingly foul-mouthed outing in 2008. In spite of excellent production values, generally positive reviews and a spectacularly designed cover (which aped the graphic design of 70s exploitation horror movie posters), Overkill failed to make much of a splash in terms of sales.
Like all rail shooters, Overkill‘s thrills were inevitably short-lived, but its dark humour and loveably visceral graphics made it a riot to play through from start to finish. One of the best blasters available for the Wii, Overkill is well worth picking up if you missed it on its original release.
Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
One of the few games, other than Sega’s House Of The Dead: Overkill, to adequately capture the sly humour of George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, Capcom’s Dead Rising‘s protagonist Frank West fought against an ongoing zombie apocalypse with an ingenious array of improvised weapons, including a tennis ball cannon, the forearm of a shop dummy and a frying pan.
Memorable for its insane difficulty level and the mind-boggling number of zombies on screen at any one time (which frequently runs into the hundreds), Dead Rising‘s blend of third-person combat, sandbox exploration and survival horror makes it one of Capcom’s most memorable properties. The forthcoming sequel is awaited with twitchy thumbed enthusiasm.
Call Of Duty World At War: Nazi Zombies (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii)
A mode rather than a full-blown game, admittedly, but Nazi Zombies provided so much co-op multiplayer fun that it’s something you can return to long after you’ve played the rest of the FPS to death.
Shutting between one and four players in a WWII bunker, and simply throwing wave upon wave of undead Nazis at them until every human’s dead, Nazi Zombies is a hugely entertaining diversion from the comparative realism of World At War. Forcing players to work together to survive, the constant need to rush around hammering planks of wood on windows and doors while simultaneously blowing the heads off zombies provides an almost comically unrelenting rush of adrenaline.
I Made A Game With Zombies In It! (XBLA)
Top down shooters in the style of Robotron: 2084 may be ten a penny following the success of Bizarre Creations’ Geometry Wars, but Indie developer Ska Studios’ I Made A Game With Zombies In It! is executed with such style and humour that it more than holds its own against Bizarre’s neon drenched blaster.
Available to purchase for a piffling 80 Microsoft Points (about 65p in UK currency), I Made A Game… assaults the hapless player with wave upon wave of the undead, psychedelic graphics and a horrifyingly catchy theme tune.
Left 4 Dead 2
Valve’s cooperative FPS offers a nightmarishly violent experience, made no less terrifying even with the presence of a few friends on your team. Each playing a fairly stock horror movie character (a swindling anti-hero, a blue-collar worker, a football coach, a TV production assistant), players fight against a varied, relentless horde of zombies including the vomiting Boomers, the agile Hunter, the vast, seemingly unstoppable Tank, and the deadly Witch.
The game’s rendered even more scary in its Realism mode, which ramps up the challenge by making zombies more difficult to kill, and only allowing players to revive their comrades with defibrillator kits.
Ghosts ‘N Goblins (Arcade/numerous home systems)
Don’t let the cartoon-like graphics fool you. Capcom’s 80s platform shooter is one of the most relentlessly difficult games on this list. Admittedly, zombies only feature in the opening segment of the game, but the way they come rising out of the ground and stumble towards the player makes Ghosts ‘N Goblins too good not to mention here.
Bearded knight Arthur sprints through graveyards, villages and caves to rescue his beloved, the adorably named Prin-Prin. Its NES port was apparently the system’s biggest selling game. I shudder to think how many Nintendo controllers were demolished in frustration as Arthur was stripped to his underpants after yet another mistimed jump…
Zombie Revenge (Arcade/Dreamcast)
An underrated game on an underrated console, Zombie Revenge is a brilliantly playable spin-off from Sega’s own House Of The Dead series, and provides an entertaining blend of third-person shooter and brawler.
Featuring some nicely realised graphics for the time, Zombie Revenge took the accessible, pick-up-and-play fun of Sega’s 2D side scrollers such as Golden Axe and Altered Beast and dragged it into the third dimension, delivering an arcade experience rendered even more enjoyable in its two player co-op mode.
Rotting corpses aside, the game also displayed an engagingly surreal sense of humour, with some genuinely odd creatures (undead, axe wielding monkeys) and particularly unusual usage of the Dreamcast’s unique VMU controller, including a diverting zombie fishing mini-game.
Plants Vs Zombies
A game from PopCap that doesn’t have jewels in it, Plants Vs Zombies is one title that can be enjoyed by gamers of all types. Taking control of a particularly deadly garden of plants, it’s your task to take down the waves of zombies who come shambling across your lawn. Along the way, there are numerous power-ups to aid your struggle, including chillies that burn down entire rows of the undead, and magic mushrooms that turn the rotting abominations against each other.
Filled with style, wit and humour (the Michael Jackson zombie is a particularly amusing sight), Plants Vs Zombies is more likely to raise chuckles of glee than shivers of fear.
Dead Space (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
My cowardice knows no bounds where scary videogames are concerned, and Visceral’s Dead Space is one of those games that I have to play, controller in hand, from behind a cushion, or by peering childishly over the back of the sofa.
Deftly taking inspiration from movies such as Alien and The Thing, Dead Space sets its zombie slaughtering mayhem on board a spaceship, changes the undead’s collective name to the Necromorphs, and creates one of the most sweaty-palmed survival horror shooters of recent years.
Honourable mentions: Killing Floor (PC), Typing Of The Dead (Dreamcast), Zombi (Amiga/various), Zombie Zombie (ZX Spectrum), Stubbs The Zombie (Xbox, Mac OS X, Windows, Xbox 360).