The first recorded instance of the term ‘zombie’ was in 1810 by historian Robert Southey, referring to a West African deity, and has since become perhaps the most iconic type of monster in film, television, books and of course, video games.
The brain hungry, undead version of a zombie first appeared in the video game world in 1984, in the Quicksilva title Zombie Zombie. Today, much like an endless zombie horde, there are too many titles to count, and it is a slow week when the undead (in one form or another) don’t feature in a game title.
Compared to other forms of popular culture, the origins of the undead in video games is perhaps the most diverse, and may be a result of a viral outbreak (at times not even being technically zombies), scientific experimentation, ancient Egyptian curse (although mummies could be classed as genre of their own) or the summoning of a mad necromancer; or at least one who isn’t having a particularly good day. Most commonly, the undead feature as targets to splatter in a shooting game, or in a survival horror title that typically contains role playing elements to discover the hows and whys of a zombie apocalypse.
This being said, the undead shuffle into pretty much every game genre imaginable, and it looks as though brains will continue to be the flavour of the month for quite some time to come. Here are but a few of the most popular and anticipated zombie titles to tide you over until the next apocalypse.
Perhaps leading the charge in the zombie genre over the past 20 years, this successful series of games follows a story that began with the notorious Umbrella Corporation releasing the zombie-causing T-virus in the Arklay Mountains and Raccoon City. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom) is the next instalment of the series to be released in January 2017, and if the series so far wasn’t scary enough, the PS4 version will include full PlayStation VR support.
The Walking Dead
The hugely successful and popular TV show needs little introduction, and several games have been released based on the series and the comic book that inspired the phenomena. November 2016 will see the release of the third season of the Telltale series called The Walking Dead: A Telltale Series – A New Frontier, and for those who wish to relive the TV series (not that many end up living) should get a hold of The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land (Next Games) for mobile devices that features season 7 content.
Plants vs Zombies
The quirkiness of a story where plants need to defend their garden against a zombie horde will draw you in, but the gameplay will certainly keep you addicted in this third person shooter. The sequel to their 2009 hit, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was released earlier this year with great reviews, perfect if you wish for some multiplayer zombie action that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Dead Rising is the videogame equivalent of the Boxing Day sales: you are in a shopping centre and must fight against a never-ending horde with everything you see being a potential weapon. This popular series recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a triple pack re-release and Dead Rising 4 will be available in time for some last-minute Christmas shopping and zombie slaughter.
Be the Zombie
Ever wanted to experience being a postgraduate student? There have been many titles over the years where you can control the undead, such as a selectable character (eg. Lord Raptor – Darkstalkers, Sion – League of Legends) or summoning them to do your bidding (eg. Lords of Magic, Warcraft/World of Warcraft/any D&D inspired game). And you can even turn your favourite Sim into a zombie, if you so wish. One game to have included gameplay modes to control the undead, Left 4 Dead, has fans eagerly awaiting the next instalment, Left 4 Dead 3 with Valve yet to announce a release date that will most probably be sometime in 2017.
Zombies are an incredibly popular choice for indie developers with 498 zombie indie titles currently available to play on Steam. For those wishing a retro flavour to their zombie shooting may wish to check out Zombie Party which was released in June this year (Peach Pie Productions), a fast-paced and zany game with elements that reminded me of one of my favourite SNES games, Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
The future of the zombie genre – Virtual Reality
The zombie genre is perhaps one of the most appropriate choices for a horror VR game, with the potential to provide both suspense and in-your-face action. For those wishing to experience virtual undead realness, but without the fear, may wish to check out Dead Hungry, a hilarious looking title where you hold back an incoming horde with sandwiches (clearly gluten is not an issue for the undead). Those who are more game may wish to check out titles such as the aforementioned Resident Evil 7, and the much-anticipated title Arizona Sunshine, which promises to place you amidst a zombie apocalypse.
Check out the teaser for Arizona Sunshine below to satisfy your undead dystopian fantasies!