I freakin’ love zombies. Not as a friend or anything, and I wouldn’t want to touch them with anything shorter than a ten-foot cattle prod, but as the best cannon fodder in video games that you can unload all your anxiety into and not feel guilty about afterwards? They’re fantastic stress balls that you can squeeze with bullets.
They’ve also been on the rise, getting on up out of their graves and terrorising many a video game throughout the 2010s. Thanks to the unmistakeable odour of death and their hunger for warm flesh, they’ve been right front and center in some of the best games of that decade. So let’s celebrate! Grab a cricket bat, check that your guns are loaded and let’s take a look at ten of the best zombie games from the decade!
World War Z
If anyone was going to carry the torch that Valve’s Left 4 Dead series had handed over, it was going to be Saber Interactive’s tight co-op survive ‘em up game that threw everything and the zombified kitchen sink at players. World War Z doesn’t push any boundaries when it comes to shooting anything on the screen with a lack of a functional dental plan, but hot damn does this gem manage to still have deliciously polished gameplay that’ll reignite any lingering muscle memory in your digits.
It’s main selling point isn’t just a grand ol’ time with friends though! Where World War Z excels, is at the sheer number of bodies that it throws at you in one of several showdown scenes, masses of virulent flesh hungry for your face and the only thing standing between you and some gnarly chompers being tight teamwork, a solid strategy and enough firepower to level a continent. Now that’s just damn good fun.
Coming off of Dead Island, developer Techland nailed a formula for first-person zombie action: A delicate balance of thrills and chills, their follow-up Dying Light was a magnificent spiritual sequel that deftly walked a tightrope of fun and crap your pants terror whenever the sun went down. ixed in with those intense night time escapes from deadlier mobs of savage zombies, was a game of incredible depth.
After all, why just be a survivor when you can treat zombie skulls like stepping stones that you can hop across so that you could reach a safe zone? Dying Light’s world was immense, and one that continues to grow some five years since it was released. It’s still tense and dangerous fun to this day, but it’s real triumph has been in how it managed to spin its unique parkour action mechanics into a game with enough content to last the ages. Even with a sequel seemingly caught up in development hell, there’s still enough content on Dying Light’s plate to keep you satisfied until the follow-up arrives.
The Last of Us
They may not be fun guys, but The Last of Us’s zombies still count in that horrid apocalypse. Whereas the superb sequel was more focused on people being bastards and how revenge can’t solve anything, the original game is still a masterpiece of tense survivalist themes in the face of ghastly horrors as you step into the flannel shirt of resident holy crap this dude is not a hero Joel.
Heart-breaking and emotional to the max, Joel and Ellie’s journey is still a benchmark of storytelling excellence that’ll have you questioning every gruesome decision you make to stay a step ahead in a world where mercy is in very short supply.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War
The beauty of the zombie genre, is that you can slot it into time period or other sub-genre, and you’ll get something grotesquely unique out of it. World War Two has been ample ground for the undead to run riot, usually thanks to Hitler throwing a hissy fit against the Allied advance and deciding to level the playing field by summoning the darkest forces that Hell can provide. Remember, demons are almost as bad as Nazis. Almost.
Rebellion’s Zombie Army 4 is still a fantastic exploration of that idea, building not only on the series but also making use of previous games from the developer to chart a brutally bonza path forward. Its got the headshots and divine gunplay of Sniper Elite mixed in with the squad mechanics of Strange Brigade, fusing the two together to create a chunky grinder of zombie-slaying action as you give the Axis forces a lead injection that’ll send Reich said Fritz back to the grave.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Having botched the landing with Resident Evil 6 (Well, Chris Redfield’s campaign was still superb), Capcom went back to the drawing board and unleashed a tour de force of quality within the franchise that bordered on ungodly. Resident Evil Revelations was a return to form, Resident Evil VII was a revelation but it was Resident Evil 2 Remake that showed just how much magic was still under the hood.
It would have been dead easy to take the original sequel, slap a new coat of paint on it and call it a day, but Capcom went the extra undead mile with this remake, truly living up to the expectations of its fanbase and then some. What followed was a glorious homage that still blazed its own path, some of the best visuals of the decade and a reminder just how good gaming can be when it focuses on the core basics instead of chasing a bandwagon of microtransactions and other predatory business ideas.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
If you’re talking about the best stories in the apocalypse, Telltale’s The Walking Dead series is the undisputed king of the undead hill. Not just a fantastic tale split across multiple games, seasons and characters, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a grand exploration of humanity and choices, ably using its medium to keep you on your toes with heart-pounding quick time events and decisions that would haunt you until the end credits.
In an era where Telltale’s regular output of narrative-driven games were considered the benchmark in intereactive storytelling before their untimely demise, The Walking Dead still shuffles along as the best of the best within that genre.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
A cowboy sandbox with zombies. That’s it, that’s the pitch right there. Taking the superb Red Dead Redemption and injecting it with some grim snake oil medicine, Rockstar’s fresh expansion wasn’t just a good ol’ return to te frontier. This was a new slice of Red Dead Redemption that was thoroughly transformed, boasting a pervasive sensation of dread and an unrelenting threat in the world around you.
It was harsh and dark, it had a ripper of a good story and seeing this alternate take on John Marston’s life in an unholy western was revelatory back when it first released. No one asked for Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, but hot damn were we happy to have it.
Call of Duty: Zombies
It feels like a cheat including a persistent slice of gameplay and its assorted DLC in this list, but shut up this isn’t a democracy. As long as there has been Call of Duty, there has been a semi-regular slice of first-person action that has been an absolute hoot to play. Less horror, more action and a whole lot more in your face with entire armies of the unstoppable undead, Call of Duty: Zombies never ceases to be good ol’ cathartic fun.
It’s also a splendid game of chance, luck and swearing at your teammates when zombie George Romero comes crashing through your defenses, but here’s the takeaway: No matter which Call of Duty it is that has a Zombies mode attached to it, you’re going to be in for a good time. Until you die horribly, that is.
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
Who says the zombie apocalypse has to be serious? EA’s Plants vs Zombies is damn good fun, a silly romp behind enemy vines as either the ankle-biters or the heroic veggies who’ll save the day from the zombie menace. A combination of Fortnite cartoony visuals, Overwatch heroics and solid multiplayer action, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville has surprisingly deep roots that’ll keep you hooked for hours. Say aloe, to my little friend.
State of Decay 2
On launch day, State of Decay 2 was very much like its inspiration: A shoddy collection of barely co-ordinated limbs, lurching forward and looking to grab a bite out of your attention. Fast forward a few months down the line, and Microsoft’s own life after the undead sandbox is fantastic stuff. Massive patches, incredibly deep retooling and a fantastic visual upgrade have resulted in a game being a cut above the rest within its genre.
Equally focused on the trauma and the dire options in front of you as it is on gun-happy action, State of Decay 2 got a shot of the right medicine and got right back into the fight with its leaner and meaner stab at zombie-slaying glory.
Last Updated: July 15, 2020