Dead Island 2 is almost here after an incredibly long and difficult period of development, but if the wait is too great, we sympathise. With HBO’s The Last of Us now in the rear view mirror, and DI2 on the horizon, maybe you’ve got zombie games on your (delicious, consumable) mind. Maybe you’ve got the bug — T-Virus, cordyceps, it’s not important — and now you’ve just gotta take the scalps off some digital zombies, expensive sequel be damned.
Friends, we’re here to help. Below you’ll find a few of our favourite zombie titles from the last few years. Have you played them all?
Updated 19/4/23 — David
Dead Island 1 (PC, PS4, XBO)
This might seem like an obvious pick in a list of zombie games to play before Dead Island 2, but it may be a helpful one! The original Dead Island came out all the way back in 2011, and became a cult hit for its off-kilter sense of humour and dedication to letting you hit zombies with increasingly heavy things. This general focus on melee combat over firearms was one of the things that set Dead Island apart — most zombie games embrace the Shoot Them In The Head rule and lean on it. Dead Island understands that rule but says, “wouldn’t it be more fun to build your own convoluted skull bonker and hit ’em for six?” Like its sequel, the game endured a protracted development period, first announced at E3 in 2006 and suffering multiple delays.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human (PS5, XSX, PC, NS, PS4, XBO)
One of the more recent titles on this list, Dying Light 2 is another zombie game that works hard to include more interesting mechanics than “shoot in head, move on.” The original Dying Light‘s main innovation was that it introduced a complex, enjoyable parkour system. It made the act of running from zombies as much fun as mowing them down. Working hand-in-hand with a solid crafting system for traps and gadgets, it became another cult hit. The sequel doubles down on the things that made the original so much fun, and expands its storyline to a much grander scale.
- Xbox: Amazon Australia ($49) | Kogan ($59) | Sanity ($49.99)
- PS4: Amazon Australia ($49) | Kogan ($59) | Sanity ($49.99)
- PS5: Amazon Australia ($49) | Kogan ($59) | Sanity ($49.99)
Days Gone (PS5, PS4)
Days Gone is the rare PlayStation Studios exclusive that wasn’t an instant, worldwide smash hit. A game of humble ambitions and well-worn mechanics, it’s best enjoyed with expectations set slightly lower than your typical PlayStation drop. Deacon St John, an outlaw-turned-drifter, discovers his wife, thought to have perished during a global zombie outbreak, may be alive after all. Off he goes to find her, into the kind of AAA open-world, action adventure RPG genre hybrid that Sony is so good at. Days Gone‘s hook is its zombie swarms, giant heaving waves of rotting humanity that surge toward the player if you put a foot wrong. You also get to hoon around on an upgradeable motorcycle, which is its own reward.
To save our American readers a trip to the comments, hoon is an Australianism that means “driving a vehicle in a manner the constabulary typically frown upon”.
Though Days Gone wasn’t the hit Sony had hoped for on release, it has since built a small, vocal fanbase that regularly calls for a sequel thanks to programs like the PlayStation Plus Collection (may it rest in peace). It’s not an innovative game, nor is it terribly original. But it is the kind of game you can while away a weekend on, and as long as your expectations are properly managed, it can be very enjoyable in a “this is rock solid but also a bit unremarkable” kind of way.
Find it on the PlayStation Store or through these retailers:
The Last of Us Part I/II (PS5, PS4)
I know, I know, there’s been a bit of Last of Us fever going around lately, thanks to the HBO show. But maybe you’re in the mood to play through it again or, if the show was your entry point to the series, play it for the first time. The Last of Us Part I and II are best thought of as companion pieces, a connected story in which the consequences of the former play out dramatically in the latter. Co-creator Neil Druckmann has said that The Last of Us Part II in particular was designed to evoke The Godfather Part II, a bigger, meaner, thornier sequel to a story that was already fairly large, mean, and thorny to begin with.
These are games not just about survival but about what you choose to live for. What are the things that remind why life is worth living? And why is it, so often, the special people in your life? Despite being created by the studio behind rollercoasters like Uncharted, The Last of Us is instead a game of long quiet moments punctuated by sudden, desperate violence.
Also, yes, it’s true, the deadly foes in The Last of Us, though infected, are not zombies. They are plant-based gargle people with terrible balance and a frankly disconcerting neck chewing habit. Nevertheless, if you shoot them enough, they go down all the same.
- Part I (PS5): Amazon Australia ($94.95) | Dick Smith ($101.95) | Kogan ($98)
- Part I (PC): Fanatical ($85.45) | Green Man Gaming ($85.46) | Steam ($94.95)
- Part II: Amazon Australia ($42.95) | Big W ($49) | Catch ($48.95)
State of Decay 2 (XSX, PC, XBO)
If what you’re craving is a full, doomsday-prepper level of zombie apocalypse survivalism, look no further than State of Decay 2. Not only are you in charge of building a base for people to live in, defending that base, and upgrading its fortifications against wandering zombie hordes, you also have to venture out into the big, wide, heavily overgrown world in search of fresh supplies. State of Decay 2 combines a solid mix of genres, from online MMOs to third-person shooters, to survival games and open-world exploration. You’ll need to root out nearby zombie nests and shut them down to keep your base safe. Doing so is often far harder than you first expect.
State of Decay 2 is best played with friends, though you can play solo. Think of it as being a bit like Destiny 2 for apocalypse preppers. If you don’t want to shell out for a copy, you can always give it a try on Game Pass for Xbox and PC.
Resident Evil 2 (PS5, XSX, PC, PS4, XBO)
Capcom has been on a bit of a tear of late with its remakes of the classic Resident Evil catalogue. Resident Evil 4, the frequent fan favourite, is out next week! But it’s the ground-up rebuild of Resident Evil 2 that’s become a modern favourite among Resi appreciators. Considered the best of the PS1 era’s original trilogy, Resident Evil 2 introduces Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop in the right place at the wrong time, and partners him up with Jill Valentine as they navigate Raccoon City’s zombie-infested police precinct. Still as striking and atmospheric as it ever was, the remaster pops with updated visuals and a switch to an over-the-shoulder third-person camera. The old stationary camera system of the original was great, and remains iconic, but the change to third-person is exactly the kind of modern touch the game needed.
Also, look out for Mr. X as he stomps around, eight-feet of WWE muscle in an oversize trenchcoat, constantly in search of a Leon to crush.
Left 4 Dead 2 (PC)
I would have liked to recommend Back 4 Blood, Turtle Rock Studios’ spiritual successor to Valve’s Left 4 Dead series of multiplayer games, but that’s harder to do now that support for the game has ended. You can still play it on Game Pass if you’re keen, but Turtle Rock has confirmed that no new content is on the way.
So, that puts us back to the original series, and specifically Left 4 Dead 2. L4D2 was Valve’s sequel to its surprise hit multiplayer title, in which four hero characters attempt to survive a series of movie-themed levels. Though the design of each level does not change run-to-run, the enemy spawns do. This meant that even if you know your way around each of the game’s maps, you can’t ever be completely sure what will be lurking around the next corner. This makes communication between players incredibly important. You need to know how to tackle anything the game throws at you, and you need to know how to do it quickly.
Stick together. Talk it out. Stay alive. Get to the choppah.
Find it on PC.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War
If you’re familiar with Rebellion Developments’ Sniper Elite series, I have pitch for you: That, but you’re sniping a million zombies. Sure, you could argue that the Zombie Army Trilogy trilogy is an asset flip with a top sheet of shlock horror aesthetic thrown over it, but here’s the thing: it’s really fun to shoot zombies with a sniper rifle and watch the bullet scream through the air to find its target. This is a game where shooting the zumbos in the noggin is the focus, and sets itself apart by making the act of doing so feel really, really satisfying no matter how many times you do it.
Dead Rising 4
Some may come after me for this in the comments, but I don’t care. Dead Rising 4 is, in my opinion, the best entry in Capcom’s extremely silly series of zombie murder games. Not only are you free to build any number of ridiculous implements for zombie mulching, it’s also a rare video game set right before Christmas. This makes it, in many ways, the perfect Christmas game. Infuriated by Christmas shopping and navigating the thronging crowds? Now you can take it out on some zombies, which have all crowded helpfully into the food court, ready to be turned into a find red mist.
It’s hilariously stupid, and, if you don’t mind a few boss fights where the difficulty level spikes dramatically, you’ll find a game that understands what drove the great Romero to set Dawn of the Dead in a mall — that retail is hell.
Those are our picks! What are yours? Drop your fave zombie games in the comments below and help your fellow brains-hunters out!