A History of Zombies in Video Games

  • by Patrick Shaw
  • 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 .

A History of Zombies in Video Games

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.

A History of Zombies in Video Games

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.

A History of Zombies in Video Games

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.

A History of Zombies in Video Games

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.

A History of Zombies in Video 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.

A History of Zombies in Video Games

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.

Comments [15]

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I think Zombies much like FPS need a rest ! send them on VC for a little while . Time for something new .


nodanaonlyzuul wrote:


I know it makes sense to list the first one as it's the beginning of the series, but the actual zombies kind of fell of the RE series radar after a while. For that reason, I choose RE2 for being the best in the series. The story, the gore, the puzzles, the 2 disc game playable in either direction, everything about it made for a fantastic zombie gaming experience.

I'll never forget the day that I first played RE2. The first ''scare'' I got when the dogs jumped out of the windows on the corridor. And how even though I knew it was coming...I always got the same scare every time I replayed it.



here's to why Necromorphs can't be zombies. for one, they're smart, able to climb walls, leap through gravity to land where you are, they don't even have to open doors, they just push on through, and they use the vents for quick transportation to sneak up on you. normally, you decapitate a zombie and they're dead for good. but not some of these necromorphs. you decapitate them and they still come forther. Necromorphs are also capable having a host attach itself to a parasite, and they are also capable of spawning pods onto the ground that shoot projectiles at you. they're a necromorph that regenerates lost limps, there's a necromorph that can basically commit suicide by ripping its stomach open and releasing smaller enemies that can latch onto you. and even one that can divide into pieces and attack as a smaller group of enemies than just one tall enemy.

i don't think that sounds anything like what a zombie can do.


Gixman wrote:

Yeah...why wasn't Castlevania put on this list? nearly every game had some form of zombies in it. heck even next's weeks release of lords of shadow will have zombies in it (hopefully)

Castlevania's another game I debated on whether or not to include. Its zombies are definitely memorable, but I tried to focus on zombie games/zombies in games that were presented in a way that was somehow different. That said, Castlevania as a series defintiely introduced a wide variety of zombies... like zombie pirates and the zombie from Symphony of the Night that splits in half, which causes his upper half to fly around and his legs to stick to the ground.


I have played almost every zombie game in existence, except that first one mentioned here. Shall I go through the trouble to procure and emulate that... probably not. Not all zombie games are worth playing. Land of the Dead was a mess. The engine would hiccup every time a zombie was generated, even if it was around the corner, supposed to surprise you. Really a letdown.

Folks have been kind enough to point out the omission of Stubbs the Zombie, which really does stand as an oversight, even though these list articles end up being bait for that kind of reply. Really the criteria for includion seems to rest on the definition of zombie you are using. Arguably them one could include Onimusha, Half-Life, and number of thers. Stubbs was a blast, and let you eat the brains of victims and set them loose as your own zombie henchmen. It fits even the most traditional definition of zombie.

Another I would suggest that fits the traditional definition is Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. It featured Elder Gods and plenty of other enemies, but moaning, shambling, rotting, animated corpses were definitely among them. Plus, that game was just full of awesome.


Yeah...why wasn't Castlevania put on this list? nearly every game had some form of zombies in it. heck even next's weeks release of lords of shadow will have zombies in it (hopefully)


Train_of_Thought wrote:

i wouldn't list Dead Space as a zombie game. they're more of an alien hybrid.

i agree...and Some one said suttin bout Stubbs the Zombie place em lol .Dead Space for Stubbs

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