5 video games with the best zombies
Video games are always looking for ways to emulate popular culture, and in recent years the trend seems to be an obsession with the resurrected undead. That said, it isn’t as if zombies haven’t been a part of video games before, as some of the oldest game series have portrayed their likes as antagonists.
Different games have different takes on the living-dead, as some tend to take a more traditional route with them depicted as slow-moving corpses that shamble towards the player at a leisurely pace. Other games give the infected much more agency and make them a force to be reckoned with.
As each video game has its own rules for portraying the undead, each iteration can vary in quality and either manage to be scary or come off as just another enemy in the game.
Let's look at five video games where zombies were depicted in the best (or worse?) possible way.
Note: This article is subjective and reflects the writer's opinion.
5 video games that had the best zombie representation
1) Resident Evil remakes
The Resident Evil video game series has been about zombies since its inception back in 1996. While the technology at the time only mainly allowed polygonal models to be used in games, the zombies were still a formidable bunch to deal with. With proper use of timing and the element of surprise, Resident Evil games managed to scare players even then.
However, the recent remakes of the older games have considerably stepped up the horror element with the implementation of the new RE Engine. Disregarding the enhanced enemies in the game, even basic zombies look downright horrifying and can be effective in even the cheapest jumpscares.
However, the mutant zombies scattered about in these games are great examples of body horror at the best of times. The Lickers seen in the Resident Evil 2 remake are some of the scariest enemies in recent franchise history. The Hunters from the Resident Evil 3 remake are enough to cause even the most capable players to sweat.
2) Dying Light 2 Stay Human
The latest installment in the Dying Light video game series is Dying Light 2, which was released on February 4, 2022. The game is a new story set around the world seen in previous titles, this time occurring in the fictional city of Villedor. The protagonist is an individual known as Aiden, who heads to the sprawling city in search of his lost sister, Mia.
Zombies in Dying Light have always been diverse, with numerous variations that feature specific abilities. Some examples include the Spitter, which can fire poisonous projectiles from their mouths, Bombers, which act by exploding near the player, and the Banshee, which is a fast variant that attacks with its long claws.
One of the characteristic traits of Dying Light 2 is how zombies react to sunlight. Nearly all zombies are weaker and slower when they’re out in the sun, which has been a part of the lore since the first game. In contrast, traversing the city at nighttime is more dangerous, as almost all zombies are more active and stronger in the absence of sunlight.
3) The Last of Us series
The Last of Us series from developer Naughty Dog is an iconic tale of loss and heartbreak, set to the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world. The video game series takes a different route with its zombies, though, by making them a result of a fungal infection rather than a virus.
While the distinction might seem like a minor change to zombie fiction, as players go through the game and meet various enemies, it will become evident why switching to a different pathogen is essential. The mutated Cordyceps fungus that infects humans transforms them on a cellular level, with different stages of mutation seeming like the next step in an unnatural evolutionary cycle.
The infection kills the host sometime after exposure, and the fungus utilizes the lifeless carcass as a spore-producing mechanism. As the infection spreads, so does the body change horribly, losing sight as fungal structures grow out of the face and over the body. In some rare cases, more than one body may get attached, leading to a humanoid rat king, which is as gross as it sounds.
4) Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead was a cooperative first-person shooter survival horror video game series that was developed by Valve. The series consisted of two consecutive titles and was once very popular for its cooperative play and unique take on the zombie shooter genre. While its spiritual successor, Back 4 Blood, was developed by some people who worked on the Left 4 Dead series, it couldn’t live up to the same standards.
In L4D games, the zombies comprise people who have been infected by the Green Flu virus. This infection causes a tremendous increase in aggression and loss of higher brain function. However, the infection may lead to certain other brain functions developing, resulting in different types of zombies. In the game's lore, these are broadly classified as Common, Uncommon, and Special Infected.
While Common Infected is the typical shambling zombie that audiences are generally used to, Uncommon Infected has additional special abilities. However, the most dangerous is the Special Infected, which has a higher brain function specifically developed for attacking. These zombies come in many forms, although Left 4 Dead players will note that none are quite as harrowing as the entity known as The Witch.
5) World War Z
Despite sharing a name with the 2013 movie, the video game World War Z takes only the setting of the movie and tells five different stories across the globe. It is a third-person shooter that can be played solo or in a multiplayer co-op, where players must navigate across zombie-infested areas to complete objectives.
The highlight of the video game, as it was in the movie, is the depiction of the zombie hordes as they amass and occasionally rush towards the player. The sheer volume of undead creatures heading towards the player can sometimes be intimidating, especially when the best course of action seems to run the other way.
Up to a thousand enemies can spawn into the game simultaneously at a given moment, indicating just how large the zombie hordes can get. Zombies can work together by climbing on top of each other to scale walls and reach high surfaces, another aspect that was lifted directly from the movie.