As a species we’ve been familiar with the idea of the undead long before anyone even considered coining the phrase “popular culture”. Vampires, ghosts, people asking the dead for advice, and, indeed, reanimated, usually mindless corpses me tend to define zombies as. In 1978 George A. Romero releases his genre-defining movie Dawn of the Dead, releasing swarm of zombies into what’s known as popculture.
Since then we’ve seen the zeds in all forms, including some that aren’t quite dead, just “infected” with some form of pandemic virus, bacteria, or fungus that typically transmits via a bite. Sometimes zombies are failed clones, or the opposite: a result of successful experiment of some deranged scientist. Regardless of the origin, we can rely of a zombie to be nearly mindless, aggressively hungry for flesh (or brains), and safe to kill without remorse.
Each game will have their own specific take on the zombie threat and how the living deal with it, and there are enough games with zombies for anyone to find something that suits their gaming preferences. So, without more generalisation, let’s take a look at just under 20 games with zombies you can play on your PC.
7 Days to Die
|Developer:||The Fun Pimps|
7 Days to Die would have you believe that the key to surviving during a zombie outbreak is sequestering oneself in a remote part of Arizona and spending daylight hours building bases.
It might not be the best advice, but it does certainly make for an entertaining gameplay, as many people have discovered since the 2013 initial release. It’s definitely one of the genre’s fundamental titles.
Each day you have to gather resources and use them to build a house, fortify it as well as it is possible, and prepare for the night. After that you just have to hope that when the zombies come, they’ll crash against your defences rather than crashing through them. Thankfully, the long you survive, the more tool are at your disposal, including automated turrets and various traps.
Arizona Sunshine (VR)
There must be something about Arizona that makes it vulnerable to zombie outbreaks. After we got just 7 Days to Die in one Arizona county, Arizona Sunshine brings us back there again.
This one is quite unique, however, because instead of just being a shooter, it’s a shooter… in Virtual Reality. There’s nothing quite like getting face-to-face with a rotten corpse reanimated by unclear forces.
The story is based on a simple premise, with your character waking up in a cave only to see the state of the world has gone south and there are zombies everywhere. The only thing to give the PC hope is a radio picking up signal from some nearby facility. It’s time for fighting off hordes of zombies in VR for the best balance of immersion and risk to the player’s health. Good luck in Arizona, Sunshine.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
The Call of Duty series’ Zombies cooperative mode is so unlike any of the games’ core campaign, that it’s staggering.
It usually has the energy of an enthusiastic B-movie, dealing with dimensions, time travel, primordial conflicts and vivid archetypes as the playable characters. CoD Zombies modes are strictly co-operative affairs, gleefully taking players from one cheesy locale to another on a wild adventure.
In Black Ops IV there are even two stories to play, the Chaos Story and the Aether story, both quite entertaining, especially since all playable characters are dubbed by experienced actors. If you have up to three friends willing to kill zombies across history and dimensions, you’re bound to have a good, cheesy time. The zombies themselves fit weirdly well in every set piece you blaze your way through.
DayZ is the seminal multiplayer survival game. Set in a fictional country of Chernarus affected by a deadly virus with disturbing effects.
Those who’d survived got really into survivalism, those who hadn’t got really into brains. Although these two things can’t reconcile with benefit to both parties involved, they make for a great premise for a survival game with roaming undead menace.
DayZ allows up to 60 players on the server, but you’re free to try to make in your own instead of making tenuous alliances of convenience. Together you’re more likely to resist the infected, but resources won’t multiply. Can you trust the other player to share with you the food if you trade them some ammo? Can you trust the others to stay unseen when you do? It’s up to you.
Dead Effect 2
|Developer:||BadFly Interactive, a.s.|
The Dead Effect series began its life on smartphones but turned out to be so solid and satisfying that it got ported over to stronger hardware.
When Dead Effect 2 landed on Steam, it boasted not only co-operative multiplayer, but also a dose of PvP to round things out with the most dangerous game instead of shambling dead. There is even character and equipment progression!
The storyline continues right after the first one, and takes place on a huge spaceship which alongside cyborgs and mutants also apparently transports zombies, letting you shoot away without intrusive second thoughts. And you’ll have plenty of implements of destruction for slicing them up and shooting holes through them. AND you can get it for a smartphone, so you can shoot zombies on the go.
Dead Island was Techland’s first attempt at making a game focused on fighting zombies, and it was a good one.
To this day Dead island is very fun to play and has laid the foundations for what became Dying Light in 2015. If you want to destroy some zombies to the backdrop of a tropical party island, Dead Island has several things that might convince you to give it a fair shot.
Dead island gives you a choice of four characters, each with backstory, personality, and specialties. Your task, which you can accomplish in singleplayer or in co-op, is ultimately to escape the deadly island you found yourself trapped on. The zombies are, as they often are, a result of a mysterious plague, which means they could theoretically be cure, if only you had the proper medicine.
Death Road to Canada
Death Road to Canada has a solid pitch: a Randomly Generated Road Trip Simulator.
As you take the road north to Canada in your car you’ll encounter hordes upon hordes of zombies, plenty of ridiculous events, and you’ll do things other games don’t dare to dream about, including driving the dog car from Dumb and Dumber, or making one of the character a gun-toting dog. Truly wonders never end.
The game boasts that even five hundred zombies can crowd on the screen at a time, and it isn’t unlikely, especially given the game’s almost family friendly appearance, abstracting the horror and the violence into unthreatening pixels. The game doesn’t take itself seriously at all, evoking more Shaun of the Dead than Dawn of the Dead, but it doesn’t mean zombies are not a credible threat.
|Developer:||Capcom Game Studio Vancouver, Inc.|
Capcom’s Dead Rising series find an odd balance between ridiculous and desperate settings pushing people to the brink of sanity.
The series has had several protagonists so far, but probably the one that pops up the most often is Frank West, a bold photojournalist with a penchant for McGyvering absurd contraptions to get him through the zombie hordes in supermarkets.
The storylines feature corporate antagonist which produces the only medicine preventing zombification, provided it’s taken daily. This requirement is essential, since the games track time and certain events happen at specific hours. This is especially important in Dead Rising 2, when the protagonist Chuck Greene needs to keep his daughter unzombified.
A spiritual successor to Dead Island, Dying Light features extremely fun parkour, a tightly packed urban setting, and punchy melee combat taking precedence over shooting.
The quarantined city of Harran provides a solid backdrop to hacking, slashing, and dropkicking zombies (of the “infected-with-a-virus” variety), and there is a pleasant day-night cycle changing substantially what you’re doing..
The night is the time when the infected are the strongest: faster and less passive, but also rewarding the player with more experience points which translate into skill points to spend on upgrades and unlocks. The storyline is quite decent, and it takes a turn for the better in the expansion, The Following, where both your character’s and the city’s fate is going to be decided.
Killing Floor (1&2)
Both instalments of Killing Floor have the zombie horde mode survival down pat, but KF2 is undoubtedly better, with more polished gameplay.
Probably the most essential new feature implemented in Killing Floor 2 is the shared bullet time that might trigger when you, or other players, score a headshot on one of the zombies. The slow down doesn’t last long, but benefits everyone.
There’s also a story, which involves a corporation’s attempts at making a batch of military clones, something that never goes well. In the second game the outbreak has spread outside of Europe, making it a global crisis that can only be solved with overwhelming firepower from a few dedicated individuals. During the waves you’ll collect experience, which translate into new skills.
Left 4 Dead 2
Valve-made Left 4 Dead 2 perfected the already impressive job the Turtle Rock Studios did making the original Left 4 Dead.
A character-focused co-operative first-person shooter throwing the players against hordes of generic zombies as well a few specialised specimens that have their own way of dealing with your ammo and your hitpoints. All under supervision of AI Director 2.0.
The AI Director is in charge of making sure that you always get just the right kind of challenge for the performance during the mission. If you start doing really well, the Director will pour more zombies at you to make things difficult again. On the other hand, if you’re getting wrecked by the zeds too hard, it will try to lower the challenge a bit, just enough to make things dramatic, but not prohibitive.
Plants vs. Zombies
There aren’t many comedic and oddly upbeat games about zombies, and most of them seemingly are various instalments of the Plants vs. Zombies series.
It all dates back to this game, the cheerful and sunny tower defence game featuring shambling zombies shuffling along a garden against a relentless bombardment from seemingly sentient and weaponised plants. It’s silly, but it’s very fun.
The zombies come in variations you’re unlikely to see anywhere else, such as zombies riding in a bobsled, for some reason. Or zombies floating in inflatable floats across a pond. The series on the whole is completely unconcerned with being serious or realistic, but thanks to a very entertaining gameplay it not only doesn’t work to the game’s detriment, but makes this tower defence much better, instead.
|Developer:||The Indie Stone|
Project Zomboid poses an essential question: How will you survive during a zombie apocalypse.
And, oddly enough, actually lets you test out your theories in a fairly realistic way, albeit one abstracted via its use of isometric camera. Project Zomboid has a clear, easily readable style that puts more emphasis on the solution you try out rather than on the physics or visual extravaganza.
Project Zomboid is very much playable in multiplayer, both as a split-screen for up to four players, and online on persistent servers. You won’t be playing an action hero, Chris Redfield isn’t available at the moment, you’re just a person in a city. Nothing special about the character, there’s even boredom and other psychological complications. It certainly more realistic than other games on this list.
Resident Evil series
|Developer:||CAPCOM CO., LTD.|
In 2015 RE1 was launched, but it was a remaster. Meanwhile Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 should be considered full remakes, giving the classis stories a third-person rather than a fixed camera.
Resident Evil 2 Remake, for example, did a really great job turning Mr. X into a looming, inexorable force that will come at you through walls, doors, and a hail of bullets if need be. The games look fantastic, with excellent engine making the familiar character look better than ever, and the unfortunate victims of the Umbrella Corps. Experiment look appropriately disgusting and dangerous.
RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard / BIOHAZARD 7
|Developer:||CAPCOM CO., LTD.|
We’ve covered the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, but one should forget that there was also a brand-new Resident Evil game launched in 2017.
On first glance it didn’t look like RE, but its legacy quickly became clear, not least because of the odd puzzles, and the fact that the Umbrella corporation is clearly to blame for what’s going on in this corner of Lousiana.
RE7 is the first FPP game in the mainline Resident Evil game, and it works amazingly well, and sell the claustrophobic nature of the mansion your character finds himself in. An essential difference from games such as Amnesia, is that your protagonist can, and will, defend himself with a usually deadly effect. After all RE isn’t a series about being helpless in the face of adversity, after all.
State of Decay 1&2
The first State of Decay game (launched in 2013) was a strictly singleplayer experience, tasking the player with taking care of a group of survivors amid a zombie apocalypse in full swing.
The second SoD (from 2018) introduced cooperative multiplayer for up to four players total, but otherwise didn’t really change the core gameplay of the first one, other than to add more options and content.
The interesting thing about either State of Decay is that you don’t really play as a single distinct character. Instead you have a number of NPC with procedurally assigned perks, flaws, appearance etc. and you can take control of any of them, leaving the others for AI to manage. Together you’ll set up and maintain a base that has a chance of resisting even the Juggernaut zombies…for a time.
They Are Billions
They Are Billions doesn’t literally live up to the promise of its title within a single scenario, but it isn’t too far outside of realm of possibility during your entire prolonged fun with the game.
The premise is simple, but evocative. Your task is to establish solid defences around a time, including strong walls and turrets, and then helping the city weather an onslaught of a massive zombie horde.
The hordes assaulting your walls and your soldiers in mechanised suits can number in thousands. The seething mass of zombies looks great, and it’s very satisfying to watch your carefully prepared defences repel the attack with minimal losses. If just surviving against undead hordes isn’t enough, there also The New Empire story campaign letting you experience the setting to a greater degree.
The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series
The Walking Dead games were the core product of the Telltale Series, despite several other great titles such as A Wolf Among Us.
In their TWD adaptations Telltale captured the human side of a zombie apocalypse, something there is rarely time for in the action-packed games. The very first season follows a convict Lee Everett, who rescued a young Girl and their travel through the Walker-infested USA.
Telltale’s games are always full of dramatic decisions for the player to make with a very short time to thinks, and the choices influence the way the story plays out. Some characters will die while other survive, some will die in different circumstances later down the line. It feels dramatic, cinematic, and many decisions carry over to other games in the series, giving you a great sense of continuity.
World War Z
World War Z takes more from the 2013 film adaptation rather than Max Brooks’ original book from 2006. The movie set the style and the tone that’s useful for a game to follow.
The zombies of this franchise aren’t the slow shambling zeds, or rare, but threatening silhouettes on the border of the draw distance. These zombies will swarm you like it’s They Are Billions except you don’t have a wall.
The game is the best when you’re playing it in co-operative multiplayer, but a singleplayer mode is just as viable. There are several large-scale missions, taking place in several places all over the world, including Jerusalem and Moscow. WWZ includes the AI Director just like Left 4 Dead (2), and it works quite well, keeping the zombies a constant, engaging threat that always ALMOST overwhelms you.
Aim for the head
So ends the zombie apocalypse…at least as far as this list is concerned. Hopefully we’ve helped you discover some title that makes popping zombie head with a bullet sound like your kind of fun.