The recent sad passing of the grandfather of the zombie genre, George A Romero, prompted a network-wide debate about the best games starring the undead here at Gamereactor. After much deliberation about which games are the most important, and which ones warranted a place on this list, we settled on the ten zombie games that we felt warranted a mention above all others. Let us know in the comments below if your favourite didn't make the list.
The Last of Us / Naughty Dog - Technically, the creatures you kill in The Last of Us aren't zombies, we know. But c'mon, it's obvious they were used as a template to construct the enemies in the post-apocalyptic world from Naughty Dog. Where the Uncharted series has an aloof, carefree vibe most of the time, The Last of Us hits you with one emotional scene after another, strung together by countless terrifying encounters with the zombie-like Infected. Playing The Last of Us feels like living in a world after a zombie invasion - it's one we wouldn't want to live in, but the game is all the better for it.
Zombi U / Ubisoft - Zombi U was a launch title for the Wii U and instantly showed the (in other games horribly underused) potential of the GamePad. You see your inventory on the GamePad screen, where you're trying to place items in such a way that gives you the maximum amount of space. But take your eyes from the television screen and you can be attacked by zombies at any moment. The result is a very tense game, with - unique for zombie games - permadeath. Die in this game and you start with an entirely new character. There never was a zombie game that put so much emphasis on the fragility of life.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - Zombie Chronicles / Treyarch - Zombies has been a fan-favourite game mode on Call of Duty ever since its inclusion in 2008's World at War, and Zombie Chronicles rounded up the best maps of the last nine years and put them all into one DLC, including maps from World at War, Black Ops, and Black Ops II. This was a greatest hits package of zombie survival, then, updating the mechanics and adding new weapons to tried-and-tested maps, taking Zombies back to basics yet again.
Left 4 Dead 2 / Turtle Rock Studios - Building on the formula of the first game, this four-player zombie shooter from Turtle Rock and Valve took things to a whole new level of frantic survival. The AI director does a great job of keeping things tense, and the various types of undead beasties hot on your communal tail require teamwork if you're to survive. Running between safehouses, up to four players must sneak and blast their way through hordes of the walking dead, with ammo and health packs at an absolute premium. Both games are brilliant, but the second one just edges it if we have to choose, and any action-focused zombie fans should check it out if they haven't already.
State of Decay - Undead Labs - People aren't only attracted to the visceral violence of the zombie apocalypse. They want to see the remaining humans pushed to the brink of their wit's end, and see them make tough choices to stay alive, and that's what State of Decay does so brilliantly. Despite a rough technical state at the offset, Undead Labs' strategic third-person action game put you in the shoes of the leader of a group of survivors, and tasked you with the scavenging, securing a home base and getting food and clean water. With a sequel looming next year, now's the time to visit or revisit this hidden zombie gem.
Dead Rising / Capcom - Dead Rising was a stunning game when it was released, not so much because of the amazing details, but because of the ridiculous amounts of zombies that roamed the Willamette shopping mall. This horde was also the lovely foundation of the game, with unlimited numbers of walking dead meat to kill off in spectacular ways. Why not ram a park bench into a zombie's skull while wearing a clown outfit with a Victorian top hat on your head. Sure, there was a story as well, but Dead Rising was always about having fun while killing the undead, and while it had its fair share of annoying problems (like forcing you to rush through it since the adventure had a time limit) it still stands out as a true zombie masterpiece that everyone should play.
Killing Floor 2 / Tripwire Interactive - Killing Floor 2 is another sequel built upon solid foundations, a game that took the classic zombie blasting formula of its forebear and expanded on it in a variety of visceral ways. Tripwire makes great shooters, with some of the best gunplay in the business, and in this area Killing Floor 2 is pretty much untouchable. Zeds come from all angles in increasingly deadly waves, as parties of survivors struggle through a variety of strange and twisted locales, fighting off the enemy, lining up headshots, and waiting until the big boss battle to come at the end and settle things. It's grim, it's violent, it's dark and aggressive, but it's also bloody brilliant co-op fun.
The Walking Dead / Telltale Games - Telltale has its collective fingers in a lot of pies at the moment, but you can chart the moment the studio went from mid-sized developer to worldwide sensation, and that's when they launched The Walking Dead, the first episodic series based on the graphic novels of the same name. People angsted over the decisions, mashed buttons during QTEs, and endured an emotional rollercoaster that took them to some pretty dark places. The zombies might have formed the backdrop to this epic series, but it was the people, the treachery, the heartbreak, and the occasional moments of joy that makes this one of the finest zombie games ever made.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard / Capcom - You could argue that the first game in the Resident Evil series deserved a place on this list, because it still stands as one of the most important games in the genre. You could also argue that the step-change introduced in Resident Evil 4 also warrants a mention, as it not only inspired subsequent entries in the series but also the excellent Dead Space. But we're rolling with the latest entry in the series because Resident Evil 7 was more than just a cracking zombie game; it resurrected the series and put it back at the top table of gaming. After increasingly pushing the series towards action-horror, fans welcomed the return to something simpler, something more threatening, and having the option to play it in VR was the cherry on top.
Dying Light / Techland - Following on from Techland's open-world success with Dead Island (which narrowly missed out on a place on this list, such is its popularity among some of the team), Dying Light saw them taking what made Dead Island strong and improving it, with the most notable addition being free-running. Now you could move from rooftop to rooftop effortlessly, and your task to help the people of Harran was made much easier. Combine that with an extensive skill tree, impressive crafting system, and all the fun of slaying zombies, and you have yourself a winning formula.
There were plenty of other games up for discussion. Were they zombies in Dead Space? Did the terror of those first emergent stories from DayZ, back when it was still a mod, warrant a top ten place? Was the foray into the undead in Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare as good as the game it was built upon? Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a great game no doubt, but are those zombies just a bit too lighthearted to be included here? With that in mind, we did what we could, and listed those games that we think were simultaneously the biggest, the best, and the most important. If your favourite didn't make the top ten, don't mince your words, aim for the head and let us know in the comments why we're wrong.