For millions of people all over the world, this weekend is one for deep religious celebration. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for a very entertaining article, so instead we’re going to make light of other’s beliefs. So, since Easter is the day to celebrate the dead rising from their graves, let’s take a look at the top 5 games to celebrate International Zombie Day, aka Easter.
House/Pinball/Typing of the Dead
Now, technically there are lots of games in the …of the Dead series by Sega. The House of the Dead series started on the Sega Saturn as a light gun zombie blasting extravaganza. While there were plenty of shambling corpses to send back from whence they came, the games were plagued with terrible translations and appalling voice acting. This eventually became a point of self-aware mockery with House of the Dead: Overkill on the Wii, which incidentally holds the Guinness World Record for most swearing in a video game (189 fucks, and in a Wii game no less). The series also branched off with several spin offs.
The Gameboy Advance saw the release of Pinball of the Dead, which is exactly what it sounds like. Players would smack the old silver ball around a table in order to mow down reanimated corpses and score huge jackpots. Much like Metroid Prime Pinball, it takes the traditional coin op and adds a video game twist. Finally, perhaps my favorite in the series was 2001’s Typing of the Dead for the Sega Dreamcast. The game took advantage of the Dreamcast’s keyboard peripheral and served as a typing tutor program. This is no job for Mavis Beacon, however, as players would need to quickly type out words and letter accurately to riddle the undead with bullets. Typing of the Dead was basically a port of House of the Dead 2 where the light gun mechanic was replaced with a keyboard. If the concept sounds bizarre, then keep in mind that this is coming from the same Sega franchise that gave us gems like this or this.
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse
Way back in 2004 I remember receiving an issue of Game Informer magazine that had details on an upcoming zombie game. It piqued my interest thanks to its unique premise of making the main character the zombie. Rather than fighting against the zombie apocalypse, here was a game where you were attempting to wipe out the living in favor of a deceased populace. That game was Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. Obvious James Dean puns aside, Stubbs intrigued me for another reason. It was being developed by Wideload Games, an indie studio created by Alex Seropian. Seropian is best known as one of the co-founders of Bungie, and he and several other former Bungie staff members had opened their new studio to bring awesomeness to the world. Seeing as how I was completely immersed in Halo 2 in 2004, the thought of a game created by former Bungie devs where you got to recruit an army of mindless zombies was too much to resist.
Ed Stubblefield, affectionately known as Stubbs, was at one time a salesman during the Great Depression before being brutally murdered and buried in a ditch. Fast forward to the prosperous 50’s and the field where Stubbs was dumped is now home to the futuristic town of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania. After rising from his little patch of Earth, Stubbs decides it’s his turn for revenge and thanks in part to his cruel fate he has just the tools to do so. With the ability to infect the living and turn them into his mindless minions, Stubbs sets out to take over the town and take out his killer. Honestly, if you don’t see why this game is awesome then I don’t think there’s much else I can say.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Anyone who owned a Sega Genesis or a Super Nintendo back in the day has probably at least heard of Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The game is heavily influenced by the B movies of the 1950s, complete with a 3d glasses-clad protagonist. The concept of the game is described pretty accurately in the title. Zombies have overrun the neighborhood (and the rest of the world) and its up to our two teenage heroes to save whoever they can before its too late. Different types of neighbors, including perky cheerleaders, barbecue chefs, and even babies, are scattered around each level along with randomly spawning shamblers just waiting to eat their brains.
It’s up to you to find your way to all of the still-breathing residents of your town before the zombies do, with each level ending only when everyone has either been rescued or devoured. By the way, if you’re thinking, “Wait, did he say the zombies can eat babies?”, then the answer is yes, yes I did. And if you weren’t thinking that then you are clearly too desensitized to have a problem with zombies eating babies. While early levels have mostly the slow stupid stereotypical zombies, later levels have all kinds of horror-themed enemies, including mummies, pod people, an giant purple people eaters.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
While this one isn’t exactly a full game, the final expansion to Rockstar’s western-themed sandbox epic, Red Dead Redemption, is certainly worthy of mention on a list of zombie games. Adding a significant chunk of story to an already meaty experience, Undead Nightmare follows the story of John Marston after the zombie plague sweeps the American frontier and begins raising the dead from their graves. Since death isn’t exactly rare in the wild west and shallow graves are a more common than a full set of teeth, it’s clear that the people of the American Southwest are in some trouble. The storyline of Undead Nightmare revolves around Marston searching for a cure for the plague by following one of three leads which implicate varying parties of causing the apocalypse.
Even more awe-inspiring than the thought of a zombified wild west are the other inclusions this pack brought to Red Dead. Supernatural creatures like the big-footed Sasquatch, the goat-sucking Chupacabra, the seemingly out-of-place Unicorn, and the incredibly overpowered Four Horses of the Apocalypse can be found in Undead Nightmare, and the horses of War, Death, Famine, and Pestilence can even be broken and ridden by Marston (so can the Unicorn but who wants a rainbow-spreading wimp when Death’s own mount is readily available?).
While the necromorphs in Dead Space aren’t your typical zombies, they are still the reanimated flesh of the dead and in the words of Mills Lane, I’ll allow it. I was skeptical about Dead Space when it was first released because I generally don’t like horror films or games. It’s not that I don’t like being scared, I just never found that most modern horrors offered much more than loud noises and shaky cameras. I decided to try it out anyway and man am I glad I did. Not only was it absolutely terrifying, but it was also a really solid game with some fun mechanics. I found both the dismemberment and the zero gravity sections to be both fun and unique to the game.
To be fair, Dead Space doesn’t hold a chance against the supremely horrifying Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Most of the frightening moments are the typical loud noises and sudden scares that plague the horror movies I’ve never really enjoyed. The difference between those movies and this game is that Dead Space had something else going for it (fun gameplay) whereas House of Wax only has Paris Hilton (which isn’t really a positive aspect). The point is, Dead Space offered some really fun, and pretty unique, zombie shooting gameplay that didn’t just focus on headshots, and it managed to renew my hope in the horror genre. It also means that there are no more excuses for making a bad horror game. We’ve seen good ones now, so you can’t let us down anymore game devs. The bar has been set.
So that’s it. Those are my personal top 5 zombie games. While there are some other traditions I like to uphold during my secular Easter celebration, you can guarantee that most of these will grace my consoles at some point during the day. Try not to gorge yourself on so much chocolate and ham that you can’t manage to get in some zombie gaming, and let me know below what your favorite zombie games are. If the last 2,000 years have taught us anything, it’s that zombies are a thing to celebrate…with lots and lots of bullets.