A History of Zombies in Video Games
- September 28, 2010 05:00 AM PT
In light of Capcom's Dead Rising 2 releasing this week for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, we look back at notable video games featuring the undead over the past 25 years, including absolute trainwrecks like Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green and ground-breaking horror games like Resident Evil.
Zombies are some of the most common -- some would even say generic -- enemies in video games. And while "zombie themed" games didn't really exist until 1996's landmark horror title Resident Evil, the undead have been shambling around in games since the ZX Spectrum. In view of Dead Rising 2's release, we've put together the following timeline that examines the most important titles depicting zombies from the last 25 years
- 1984: Zombie Zombie
- The First Zombie Game
Quicksilva's redundantly titled Zombie Zombie releases on the ZX Spectrum. It's considered the very first zombie video game. Featuring a disclaimer by Designer Sandy White that reads "Due to strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this game in no way endorses a belief in the occult," Zombie Zombie drops players in the middle of a city overrun by the walking dead. Instead of using axes or shotguns to dispatch zombie hordes, players knock enemies back with bursts of air from a rifle.
- 1988: Super Mario Bros. 3
- Dry Bones
Though never referred to as "zombies," Super Mario Bros. 3's unintimidating skeleton turtles (aka Dry Bones) feature zombie-like characteristics. They're fleshless, and like traditional zombies, they're nearly impossible to kill -- Dry Bones resurrect themselves a few seconds after Mario or Luigi stomps on them.
- 1992: Wolfenstein 3D
- Undead Soldiers
While not considered a "zombie game," id Software's Wolfenstein 3D introduces players to a memorable zombified enemy, the undead guard. Created by Dr. Schabbs, these Frankenstein's monster lookalikes have a gun surgically grafted into their chest. A year after Wolfenstein 3D's release, id's Doom shows off a similar enemy, the zombieman, which is the weakest enemy in the game.
- 1993: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
- A Cult Classic Is Born
LucasArts releases Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the Sega Master System, Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. It puts players in the roles of teenagers Zeke and Julie, who must save their neighbors from flesh-eating zombies and a host of other enemies including a giant demonic baby. Censors target Zombies Ate My Neighbors, ordering blood to be changed to purple goo in the U.S. and chain saw-wielding maniacs to appear as lumberjacks with axes in Europe.
- 1996: Resident Evil
- The Rise of Zombie Games
Capcom's tremendously influential Resident Evil releases on the original Sony PlayStation. Game Director Shinji Mikami sets out to create a game in the vein of Capcom's horror-themed RPG from 1989, Sweet Home. Besides taking place in an old mansion crawling with creatures, the games share little in common. In Resident Evil, Raccoon City's STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) investigates reports of cannibalism and the disappearance of Bravo Team. During the next 14 years after its release, Resident Evil becomes one of the biggest horror franchises of all time with 16 games and expanding into films, comics, novels, and action figures.
- 1996: The House of the Dead
- More Zombie Slaying, Less Bullet Rationing
The same year Resident Evil hits PlayStation, Sega's light-gun game The House of the Dead releases in arcades. While Resident Evil emphasizes suspense and survival, The House of the Dead focuses on action as it's presented as an on-rails shooter where players frantically unload clip after clip on swarms of the living dead. The game's followed by three sequels and several spin-offs including The Typing of the Dead, which teaches you how to type as you mow down zombies.