Virtually all entertainment mediums are inundated with zombies, video games included. There’s something about the reanimated corpses, the sense of isolation and fear these flesh-eating beings invoke, that makes for riveting in-game experiences.
While the zombie renaissance may be behind us, we’ve had the pleasure of playing many different spins on zombies over the years. Days Gone and The Last of Us Part II will bring new zombie-infused adventures into the fold, too. Let’s look back on the best zombie games ever made. From storied franchises to remarkable DLC to unsung greats, these are our favorite zombie games.
1. The Last of Us
The Infected in The Last of Us aren’t technically zombies since they haven’t died and risen again, but let’s face it, they share the same basic traits. They have a hunger for flesh and move at Joel and Ellie with the same voracious intensity seen in other zombie games. They’re frightening, especially in Clicker form, with their disgusting fungus limbs and mushroom heads.
The Last of Us excels in every imaginable facet, from its methodical third-person action gameplay to its stunning presentation to the delivery of its sterling story. Even if you are completely sick of zombie games, The Last of Us is a must play. The Infected are far better developed than most traditional zombies, and the overarching story is one of the best the medium has seen.
The Last of Us is available on PS3 and PS4 (remastered version).
Read our full The Last of Us review
2. Dying Light
Dying Light mixes parkour, resource management, and crafting to create a game that you probably either love or hate. Playing as an undercover agent in a quarantined area, Dying Light forces you to scavenge for materials to survive. The strong emphasis on scavenging and crafting may be a turn off for some, but if the loop clicks, it really clicks.
In the daylight, zombies are easy to avoid with gadgets that allow you to practice parkour. At night, however, the zombies can run and are a major threat to your survival. To complicate matters further, the vast majority of the tools at your disposal are melee weapons. So Dying Light promotes, by nature, lots of close quarter, tense conflicts. Dying Light winds up as one of the best, most complex open world zombie games around.
A sequel, Dying Light 2, is currently in development. Dying Light is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Read our full Dying Light review
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
The cooperative zombies mode has been a Call of Duty fan favorite since its debut in Call of Duty: World at War. The horde-style mode tasks players with eliminating waves of zombies while repairing structures, gaining access to new areas, and unlocking new weapons and gear.
While we think all of the zombie modes in CoD have their merits, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 stands out the most. Along with its own excellent maps and new wrinkles to the tense Zombies formula, the Zombies Chronicles edition included remastered versions of maps from World at War, Black Ops, and Black Ops 2. Did we mention that Jeff Goldblum stars in the Black Ops 3‘s zombies story?
Black Ops 3 is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Read our full Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 review
5. Dead Rising 3
The Dead Rising series from Capcom is a more lighthearted take on zombies. Filled with comedic dialogue and wacky weapons, Dead Rising 3 shined as one of the Xbox One’s launch games back in 2013.
Unlike the first two games, Dead Rising 3 was set in a true open world. With this came bigger environments and more opportunities for massive standoffs with the undead. Areas are often flooded with zombies, with dozens upon dozens on screen at once.
While most could be mowed down easily, the strength that came with staggering numbers forced you to make use of the fairly deep crafting system. Dead Rising 3 felt like a B-movie zombie apocalypse simulator, and we say that as a compliment. An argument could be made that Dead Rising 4 upped the ante, considering the increase in zombies and all, but we prefer 3’s environments and progression.
Dead Rising 3 is available on Xbox One and PC.
Read our full Dead Rising 3 review
6. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
Resident Evil 2 is one of the greatest survival horror games of all time. The original’s tank controls and camera perspectives created much of its frights. Somehow, though, Capcom recreated Leon and Claire’s adventure in Raccoon City to be even more terrifying with modern control systems.
Playing like a less action-packed version of Resident Evil 4, RE2 has some of the most spine tingling zombie encounters we’ve experienced. From the crunch of a ravenous zombie chomping on your neck, to the sheer fear of Mr. X stomping down the hall, Resident Evil 2 is a nerve-wracking romp from start to finish. And then you have to play it again as the other hero to see the real ending.
Resident Evil 2 is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Read our full Resident Evil 2 review
7. Resident Evil 4
While we tried to only include one game from each franchise on this list, we’d be remiss not to feature Resident Evil 4, one of the greatest action games of all time. Capcom’s turn to an action-oriented Resident Evil was somewhat controversial, but wow, did it deliver.
Leon Kennedy’s solo adventure to rescue the president’s daughter from a rural area in Europe overrun by villagers turned to zombies was simply memorizing. Ammo was more plentiful and true scares were somewhat subdued, but the zombies themselves were better designed than ever before.
Resident Evil 4 ushered the iconic franchise into a new era emphasizing more frequent firefights against larger groups of zombies. Sure, we’re happy the franchise returned to its roots with Resident Evil 7, but RE4 remains a high point of the series.
Resident Evil 4 is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and will soon launch on Nintendo Switch.
8. The Walking Dead: Season One
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season One offered a different type of zombie experience. Using Telltale’s patented brand of interactive storytelling, The Walking Dead was light on mechanics, reserving them for dialogue decisions, quick time events, and other button prompts.
More interactive fiction than anything else, The Walking Dead relied heavily on its story. And the beginning of Lee’s and Clementine’s adventure was breathtaking. The episodic format split the impressive narrative into five chunks, each more consequential and revealing than the last.
The Walking Dead: Season One is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile, and numerous legacy consoles.
9. Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies from PopCap Games is a colorful, cartoony game about protecting your garden from zombies. It’s decidedly less bloody and gory than most of the other games on this list, and the zombies are actually kind of cute?
Designed as a tower defense game, you place various plant-based protectors along your garden grid to stave off the invading zombies. It’s not the most complex tower defense game around, but it is certainly one of the most charming and addictive.
A sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2, and a big budget spinoff series, Garden Warfare, are also available. All of the Plants vs. Zombies games are worth your time, but nothing beats the sublime simplicity and joy of the original.
Plants vs. Zombies is available on PC and mobile.
10. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare came out of nowhere. Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption was one of the most serious open world games we’d ever played, and then the storied developer went and turned the western world into a zombie apocalypse. Yes, it was strange, and maybe it even undercut the serious nature of the original story, but it sure was a good time.
Undead Nightmare is one of the best expansions ever made, and we’d love to see a proverbial sequel in Red Dead Redemption 2, a game that impressed us even more than the already impressive original.
Undead Nightmare is available on PS3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One through backwards compatibility.
11. Left 4 Dead 2
Valve’s own take on cooperative zombies proved to be a worthy alternative to Call of Duty’s. This was in large part due to the nuance added by the AI Director, the puppeteer who dynamically influenced each run through the game to make sure tension remained high throughout.
The cooperative campaign was the best part, but Left 4 Dead 2 also had an innovative versus mode that pitted infected players versus survivors. It’s been almost ten years since Left 4 Dead 2 launched, but we still think about how its marked impact on cooperative and versus modes today.
Left 4 Dead 2 is available on PC and Xbox 360.
ZombiU is one of the most underrated games of the last decade. Originally a Wii U exclusive (probably didn’t help), Ubisoft took us to London for a survival horror experience unlike any other. With a focus on scavenging and a surprisingly neat story, ZombiU had an eery atmosphere filled with cool weapons and stellar frights.
By far the best part of ZombiU was how it played with permadeath. You could die rather easily, and once your character died, they were dead for good. You’d step into the shoes of a new character while your previous body would resurrect as a zombie. To take back your items, you’d have to kill zombie you (ZombiU, get it!?).
ZombiU is now available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. You should play it.
13. State of Decay
State of Decay from Undead Labs made surviving a zombie invasion a job, but in a fun way. The ambitious open world game melded numerous genres together. There was outpost and base building similar to city management games, along with resource management seen in modern RPGs. The encounters with zombies could be faced head on like action games or more methodically like stealth games.
State of Decay worked because it made you feel like you were actually in the heart of a zombie takeover. Though the sequel added cooperative play, it suffered from a litany of bugs and failed to tell an interesting story like its predecessor.