Zombies. In the ranks of videogame enemies, they sit right at the top alongside WW2 Nazi soldiers and demons from hell. They can either be mown down in their hundreds using spectacular weapons and be a source of gleeful fun for players. Or alternatively, they can provide genuine terror and tension in a horror game setting. Either way, they are a gamer’s greatest nemesis and remain an endearing part of gaming and pop culture history. And it goes without saying that many, many games have used them to such great affect down the years.
Compiling this list down to just ten was almost impossible. But just like surviving the zombie enemies in these games, we did the dirty work and battled our way out the other side. Grab your shotguns, chainsaws and whatever other weapons you have to hand. It’s time to count down the best zombie games ever.
Best Zombie Games Ever: Left for Dead
Let’s start by making a very uncontroversial statement: Left for Dead is awesome.
Valve’s first L4D game laid the groundwork in great fashion, establishing the formula. Four-player online co-op gameplay, four unique characters, and hordes upon hordes of infected undead. Simple, right? That’s where The Director comes in. An omnipotent force who can control many elements of a level, it’s up to him where and when enemies, health and weapons spawn. Teamwork is essential in this game; trying to go it alone only results in the player meeting a grizzly demise that much faster.
And thanks to the eccentric whims of The Director, there’s endless challenge and tension. He has a knack of plonking down a swarm of zombies right as you think you’ve made it out of a level alive…
Throw in the ability for eliminated players to respawn as zombies and turn the tables on their former teammates, and you have a timeless classic.
Best Zombie Games Ever: Return To Castle Wolfenstein
Remember in the intro when I said zombies and WW2 Nazis are both common videogame enemies? Why not have a game where BOTH get mown down by the player at the same time?
That’s exactly the idea Id Software had with their first reboot of the classic Wolfenstein franchise back in 2001. Way before the Wolfenstein games took on an alternate history/sci-fi setting, this game dumped the player straight into regular old WW2 – but with a twist. ‘Nazis mess with the Occult and undead knights to create super-soldiers’ is straight out of a low-budget B-movie, but it works absolutely perfectly. Period weapons and locations quickly give way to flamethrowers, lightning bolt guns and epic castle settings. And a nice quirk of the undead enemies in this game is that they don’t discriminate – they attack the player AND Nazi soldiers equally. I mean, for a zombie does a brain taste any different based on what human it’s come from?
Regardless, this game is an absolute riot.
Best Zombie Games Ever: Resident Evil 4
Any one of three Resident Evil games could easily be on this list – the original and RE2 laid the foundations for the entire franchise. However, twelve years before RE7 would reinvent the franchise for a new generation, RE4 would do exactly the same.
Resetting the timeline, the game focuses on RE2 protagonist Leon S. Kennedy. He’s on a mission to rescue the president’s daughter – by blasting his way through hoardes of Spanish farmer zombies, of course. Much praise has been heaped on various mechanics in the game, such as the attache case inventory. But in particular the zombies themselves have a tonne of great characteristics. Known as Los Ganados (translated from Spanish as ‘the cattle’), they will work together, dodge player attacks and fling melee weapons at you. Because what a tense shootout with hordes of zombies needs is a flying axe to lighten the mood, right?
For all these reasons and more, RE4 is deservedly on our list. But we won’t disagree if you chose RE1 or 2 instead.
Best Zombie Games Ever: Half-Life 2
Like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Half-Life 2 isn’t exclusively a zombie shooter. However, there’s a very good reason it earns a place on our list. What is arguably the most notorious level in the entire game? Ravenholm. What is Ravenholm packed full of? ZOMBIES.
Throughout the game, you stumble across scary little things called headcrabs; creatures heavily based off the Facehuggers from the Aliens movies. Upon leaping on a human and grabbing their skull, they infect the host and turn them into – you guessed it – a zombie. And whilst headcrab zombies are a fairly common enemy no matter where you are in the game world, it all comes to a terrifying head in Ravenholm. An abandoned mining town entirely infested with headcrabs, the player has all sorts of monstrosities to deal with. Alongside regular zombies there are traps and fast zombies waiting to ambush you.
And then there’s the terrifying moment you first encounter a poison headcrab zombie. It lumbers into view, moaning and screaming in agony from all the venom coursing through its undead veins. Multiple poison headcrabs sit on its shoulders, which the zombie proceeds to start THROWING AT THE PLAYER one by one. And when it dies, listen to the sound it makes – it’s laughing at being put out of its misery.
Not only is that absolutely horrifying, it’s the reason why Half-Life 2 deserves a place on our list.