Zombies and video games are a match made in heaven. The hordes of undead trotting towards the player can make for some thrilling scares, adrenaline-pumped action, and plenty of targets to hit. Their soulless, mindless nature also allows makes for relatively easy enemy AI development.
A number of developers have taken advantage of this and have created some truly enthralling zombie fright-fests, which range from tried-and-true survival horrors and shooters to even more cinematic, open-world epics.
Still, the formula of fending off gaggles of zombies in dark, run-down environments has become a bit of a played-out trope, that can lack new ideas or well-crafted development. These conditions had led to some titles as dull and lifeless as the brain-eaters that populate their games.
So let's get post-apocalyptic as we take a look at the five greatest zombie games, and the five most horrifyingly bad.
10 Worst: Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
It would seem odd that any game bearing the name Resident Evil would find itself on a list dealing with the worst zombie games. And in fairness, this on-rails rendition of RE isn't awful, especially if you're into the lore of the series. But compared to its more fleshed-out (pun not intended) counterparts, this experience falls flat.
The game runs with the Wii's mid-2000s trend of utilizing pointer controls to provide at least at halfhearted arcade experience. Yet, the lightgun controls feel a bit wonky, and the repetitious, slow-paced nature of this on-rails shooter make for a pretty dull experience. Besides, the House of the Dead franchise does the lightgun zombie thing better, anyway.
9 Best: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Zombie games don't need to be decorated with modern graphical glitz to be fun or frightening, as proven by games like Plants Vs Zombies and this hidden gem by Konami, Zombies Ate My Neighbors. This wacky action shooter romp isn't just a fantastic zombie game, but possibly one of the best co-op experiences of the 16bit generation.
The game is as bonkers as its title indicates. Your mission is to scramble through the various neighborhood, dungeon, and other spooky settings as you wield meager weapons like Uzi water guns and weed-wackers in an attempt to save the oblivious neighbors. Of course, you'll also be taking out plenty of zombies and other monsters in the process. Cool themes and an even cooler soundtrack help paint the scene for a memorable undead retro thriller.
8 Worst: Dead Island
The idea of having a game set in the eerie isolation of a zombie-infested island sounds neat, but in the case of this Techland-developed action survival-horror, the execution falls pretty flat. The game certainly looks pretty, but the gameplay doesn't quite live up to the epic presentation. But even on that end, it drops the ball at times, with some pretty awkward Oblivion-esque facial movements and shoddy animations overall.
Dead Island is wrought with some dicey mechanics, technical snafus, repetitive grindy gameplay, and the ever-frustrating feature of breakable weapons.
7 Best: Dead Rising
As established by their classic Resident Evil series, Capcom knows their way around the zombie subgenre. But rather than relying on eerie, desolate environments and jumpscares, the Dead Rising series utilizes an almost comical abundance of undead flung at you for its thrills. And while the sequels brought new features - like adding wacky new items to the already vast arsenal of weapons - the original '06 breakout has yet to be matched in charm.
There's tons of arcade-style fun and insanity that Dead Rising nails during your escapade of being holed up in a mall as photojournalist Frank West. There's something uniquely satisfying about traipsing through endless stores while bashing waves of zombies with just about everything you can get your hands on - from battle axes to barbells.
6 Worst: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
No, this isn't the much more enduring Telltale story-based game, but rather, a mediocre FPS based off the same AMC series. Aside from some narrative bits and decent voice acting that stays pretty true to The Walking Dead TV series, there's little that's redeeming about this zombie shooting romp. It tries to hinge on its iconic name and memorable settings for staying power. Ultimately, though, the lackluster gameplay shines through - as it rings pretty shallow, stock, and uninspired.
Also... a zombie shooter with no co-op? Come on!
5 Best: Dying Light
There are few survival horror experiences that truly immerse you into the gameplay like this surprise hit from Techland, Dying Light. It's a wonder this is the same company that created the dud known as Dead Island. This game, with its sleek presentation and intense realistic-feel truly provide the sense of actually being stranded in this Middle-Eastern city of Harran.
This vast, open-world is brimming with detail and a variety of survival, stealth, and rescue-based missions. The zombies are both abundant and often tough to take down. This makes the experience all the more creepy as you venture through the city. Combat is immensely satisfying and chock full of cool zombie-slaying animations. And the game even contains a pretty solid multiplayer feature to boot.
4 Worst: Dead Alliance
This basically feels like a poor Call of Duty knockoff mixed with an even worse Left 4 Dead premise.
Beyond a few cool concepts in multiplayer - like using zombies as living weapons to take down your opponent - this is a pretty broken, bland game from top to bottom. Aside from awfully stock zombie designs and boring settings full of greys and browns, the game is riddled with bugs, glitches, and cheap-feeling mechanics. The campaign is little more than basic survival missions as you're forced to scramble to randomly-placed protective bubbles. Dead Alliance just feels unfinished, and as lifeless as the zombies that roam the empty environments.
3 Best: The Last Of Us
Naughty Dog rarely disappoints when it comes to flexing their developer chops on Sony's potent hardware, and this zombie masterpiece, The Last Of Us, is no exception. The game contains a gripping narrative from start to finish and a neat post-apocalyptic American setting. It dazzles with a tremendous presentation even by today's standards.
The game stresses glitz and captivating story elements over straight-up action, but make no mistake; there is plenty of thrilling survival horror gameplay to be had. The shooting mechanics feel tight, and there's a wealth of content and depth. The game's form of zombies, "The Infected" are some of the smartest and most horrifying zombies in games with how fast and powerful they are.
2 Worst: Land Of The Dead: Road To Fiddler's Green
Cross-pollination of game and movie franchises don't typically bode well. Case in point? This bland FPS based off the far more interesting '05 film, Land of the Dead by George A. Romero.
Just about every aspect of this shooter feels rushed - from the wonky mechanics and imprecise shooting, to the braindead AI (even for zombie standards) to the dull environments. The monotonous nature of firing at idiotic undead that waddle towards you gets olds pretty fast. It doesn't help that the game looks like a blocky N64 title despite being on the Xbox.
1 Best: Resident Evil (Remake)
Coming full circle with our list is another Resident Evil title; this time a far more memorable and well-crafted one. While Resident Evil 4 - arguably the series' peak - was a contender for this spot, the original was the breakout - and the PS2/GameCube remake refined the formula to perfection. Besides, RE4's foes were more "maniacal cultists" than zombies, anyway.
The creepy, isolated nature of the zombie-infested mansion Chris and Jill are stuck in is further enhanced by the slicker prerendered backgrounds and spruced-up aesthetics. In addition to the zombies and rabid dogs creeping about, this remake also adds the super terrifying "Crimson Heads." These zombies on roids had gamers jumping out of their seats in the dark the first time one emerged and dashed towards them. Wrought with clever puzzles and endless thrills and chills, the 2002 Resident Evil remake reigns as the best zombie game ever.