If you were to compile a list of the major horror games — that we know of — coming out over the next year, roughly half of them star the hungry undead in some capacity. In case you missed it, I actually just did that (you can find the links at the end of this article) and we’re at about a 50/50 split. That’s a lot of zombie games, and while I’m usually not one to complain, it does make me wonder. How many zombies does it take before the genre is too popular, and if that number exists, are we about to reach it?
I’m a fan of the genre, always have been. Zombies have had a starring role in my life since I first watched the original Dawn of the Dead at the ripe old age of six. Since then I’ve gorged myself on all the undead entertainment I can find. I’m always searching for my next fix, whether that’s through television, movies, video games, books, comics, haunted houses, zombie walks, whatever. Zombies haven’t always been so popular. In fact, this is a relatively new thing. The undead hordes are no stranger to the virtual realm of video games, having been a facet of this glorious industry for the last three decades. So why are they so popular now? What is it that makes a zombie so fascinating? Let’s find out.
I asked a few of my friends, mostly the ones I felt I could trust during a real zombie outbreak, what they thought of zombies, and specifically, their role in video games. Since a majority of my friends are gamers, the most common answer I received was that they enjoy zombie games because they’re fun to kill.
Fun to kill. I like that.
It’s true, zombies are incredibly fun to kill. Part of their appeal is how simple they are. The classic zombie hasn’t really changed since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. A bullet to the brain will work nicely, and if you’re in a pinch or you’d rather get up close and personal then severing the spinal column or jabbing something sharp into their head works great too.
Obviously, there are a few exceptions. Left 4 Dead was brimming with the fast, “infected” zombies and Resident Evil and Cold Fear have been all about the semi-intelligent, parasite or neurotoxin zombies. You could even say the Necromorphs from Dead Space are zombie-like, in that they’re murderous, reanimated creatures who were once human. The genre is constantly evolving, keeping things interested for those of us who have stuck with it for so long.
When I asked people what they thought of the genre, those who aren’t necessarily interested in zombies genuinely didn’t seem to understand their appeal. Someone even went so far as to tell me it’s a validation of murder, and before I could offer a rebuttal, I realized that’s totally right. Zombies are a way for us to kill people without the consequences. Shooting them in the head is justified, even if they used to be human, because if you don’t then they’re going to cause you or other people harm. They’re recognizable too, usually businessmen and women, teachers, construction workers, police officers, etc.
I’m not saying zombie fans are one step away from embracing their inner psychopaths, but I do wonder if I’d still enjoy shooting zombies if they didn’t look like humans.
Personally, my favorite thing about this genre is the drama. To me, the zombies are a part of the setting. They’re important, sure, but for the most part, they aren’t the main threat. Take The Walking Dead for example, where most of the horrors come from your fellow humans. In a zombie apocalypse, the best and most often, the absolute worst aspects of humanity tend to reveal themselves. I love that. As a nerd who hates confrontation and will go out of my way to get people to like me, people’s “dark sides” interest me.
With the recent surge in popularity of more survival-centric zombie games (like Minecraft, Day Z, or the upcoming The War Z) it’s understandable that a few people would tell me their favorite thing about the zombie genre is surviving against all odds. That’s essentially the core of all things zombie. When the shit hits the proverbial fan, it’s every man for himself. Surviving in a harsh world that’s a polar opposite of most of our current living situations is fascinating. It’s like when I used to go camping with my dad, and I’d have to struggle to survive against seemingly endless hordes of mosquitos, the omnipresent fear of a bear attack, and the horrors of fishing.
The zombie genre is one that’s ripe with opportunities. Most often, these games tend to revolve around survival horror, where you’re outnumbered and resources are scarce. There are also plenty of games that take the more humorous approach — games like Dead Rising, where your sole mission is to kill as many zombies as you can, as creatively as possible. This genre is always changing, and that’s important when we have over a dozen releasing in the next year.
I honestly don’t care how it happens. A rogue virus can be unleashed, a fungus can mutate, parasites can crawl into our ears, or Hell can get overbooked — so long as I have my zombie games, I’m going to be a happy camper. Or I’ll at least I’ll be happy, because camping sucks.
Missed a day? Check out the rest of the 13 Days of Horror:
Day 1: The 12 Best Weapons In Horror Games, Part 1
Day 2: The 12 Best Weapons In Horror Games, Part 2
Day 3: Our Premature Evaluation Of Black Ops II Zombies
Day 4: Why 2012 Has Been The Best (And Worst) Year For Horror
Day 5: 12 Horror Games To Look Forward To Next Year, Part 1
Day 6: 12 Horror Games To Look Forward To Next Year, Part 2
Day 7: Eight Games You Should Play This Halloween
Day 8: Dear Capcom, This Is What I Want In Resident Evil 7
Day 9: 12 Upcoming Zombie Games To Be Excited About, Part 1
Day 10: 12 Upcoming Zombie Games To Be Excited About, Part 2
Day 12: Comment To Win A Copy Of Resident Evil 6 And Other Awesome Swag
Day 13: Don’t Be Scared, It’s Just A Dead Pixels Halloween Podcast