It’s October and that means it’s Horror Month at Grimdark Magazine. As such, we’re going to do some wonderful articles about our favorite frightful subjects. For this article, I’m going to share what are my top five favorite zombie video games.
Zombies are one of the most beloved staples of video games due to the fact that they are an easily killable enemy that, nevertheless, keeps on coming. They are without souls and can be shot without remorse, something that only a few other video game opponents (like Nazis) offer. However, that doesn’t get rid of the terrifying power of the mindless undead. Their sheer numbers and disquieting reminder that all of us are mortal will invade even the most jaded gamer’s nightmares.
To keep things fair, I’m only going to select one video game from a single franchise. That way there’s a level of diversity to my article that might otherwise just be me picking out my Top Five Favorite Resident Evil games. I’ve played all of the video games, duh, and am ranking them by a combination of playability as well as storytelling.
Dead Rising 2
The Dead Rising series is the comedic counterpart to Resident Evil and pretty much always zigs where the other zags. Resident Evil games are usually claustrophic, action-focused, and full of puzzles that tease the mind. Resident Evil also makes use of a limited number of zombies who might always be around the next corner. Dead Rising, by contrast, is a game series that is full of wide-open spaces packed to the rim with hundreds of zombies. While Resident Evil can be cheesy, Dead Rising takes that to the point of absurdity with the options for comic abuse of the undead reaching maximum ridiculousness.
I choose Dead Rising 2 as the best of the games despite how much I enjoyed the original because Chuck Greene is a more likable than Frank West. Everything he does is to protect his daughter, Katie, and get her the zombrex that prevents her from turning. While there’s plenty of fictional dads in zombie fiction, a number in this list, Chuck is still my favorite. The satire of American consumerism in the faux Las Vegas of Fortune City also works extremely well.
Dead Space was a tough call because I didn’t know where to rank it on my list and also whether I should put it or Dead Space 2 on it. In the end, I decided to go with the original Dead Space because it was the superior game in terms of atmosphere as well as wicked ending. In a very real way, Dead Space is “just” Resident Evil in space but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The world is extremeley well-developed with the Unitology cult as well as humanity having exhausted all of its resources in its relentless consumption. Even by the time they find the mysterious “markers”, humanity is on its last legs. It’s a depressing and claustrophobic game with some solid monsters made from the flesh of human corpses.
I think I like this game so much because the puzzles are nicely incorporated into the gameplay. Isaac Clarke isn’t playing around with keys and switches but trying to repair the ship he’s floating around in. He’s also got the very simple motivation of trying to rescue his ex-girlfriend. Not even his girlfriend, somebody who dumped him in the past. I’d rank it higher but the game is not very subtle. It’s monsters run up to you and scream like children, so they’re not that scary.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
My saddest recommendation for Telltale’s The Walking Dead is that you should probably play the first game (maybe the second) and stop. It is a game franchise that Telltale squeezed dry as part of its attempts to stave off bankruptcy. The diminishing quality of each game until the series finished is a sad fact of life. However, it started off as something amazing and is one of the best stories I’ve ever played.
Lee is an escaped prisoner who has been convicted of murder. Lee joins up with a group of survivors holed up in a drugstore as they proceed to have a series of incredibly taxing adventures. Despite their best efforts, the ranks of the group slowly dwindle and each survivor loses a bit more of their soul as the story goes on. It’s an impressive bit of storytelling and while your choice don’t matter much, they matter enough.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Choosing which video game to recommend out of the entire Resident Evil catalog was a tough one. Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 4 were both candidates as well as the remastered version of the original game. In the end, I chose to go with the relatively recent Resident Evil 2 remake. Why? Because Resident Evil 2‘s remake is one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life.
Claire and Leon Kennedy have a fantastic adventure that combines zombies, an unkillable Jason Voorhees-esque stalker, mystery, secret agents, and mad science that all makes perfect sense. It also has excellent replay value. The zombies are also incredibly tough, more like unkillable living dead monsters than typical “shoot em in the head” zombies. I also love the additions to the story like the various costumes and noir mode.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is an easy choice for this list. Widely considered to be the best video game of all time in many circles, it is an emotional and fascinating journey. It’s also very much a zombie game, specifically a FUNGUS zombie game. Part of this is just do to the spectacular movie-like animation and gut-wrenching storytelling. Still, it captures all of the best of The Walking Dead and mixes it with a plausible post-apocalypse society.
The Last of Us’ weakest part is its gameplay, which is mostly just a mixture of crafting, stealth, and combat. It’s not bad, though, and allows you to travel from scene to scene. The heart of the game remains Joel and Ellie, who are fantastic characters and well-acted by their VAs. The writing is top notch too.