The Top 5 Greatest Zombie Franchises

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We love zombie games. The idea of a zombie apocalypse, as well as the circumstances around it, incite the perfect balance of fear, action, and violence that we as a gaming community just love. Indeed, what’s not to love? Even the most casual gamers get hooked on zombie games, and there’s been at least one zombie game made for almost every gaming platform in the last thirty years. But there are some zombie titles that really do stick out. These zombie games have defined a genre, have been applauded by critics, and can stand the trials of time with ease. These, my friends, are the Top 5 Zombie franchises in video-game history.

 Number 5: Call of Duty’s “Nazi Zombies” (Xbox, PS3, PC)

Don’t try to bite me, Stumpy! 

Call of Duty. You either love it or you hate it. But regardless of what people think of the shooter’s main features, we’re here for the real fun. “Nazi Zombies” mode was released back in 2008 alongside Call of Duty: World At War, and was a hit among players everywhere. The amazing franchise even managed to return in Call of Duty: Black Ops, with a total of eleven maps, including High-Definition remakes of the originals.  It uses a simple, but effective idea, and elaborates on this concept: You (and up to three other fellows) are trapped in a locale that appears to be set in a mid-1940′s  horror movie. You have no escape, and eventually you will die. However, before that happens, you decide to take out every last zombie with you. The zombies, of course, spawn in waves, and the players are allowed time to upgrade/purchase weapons, abilities, and other neat things to keep them alive for a longer period of time. Take this plot, add things like a “B movie” plot, four humorously odd characters from the WWII era (including a mad German scientist!), and even guest appearances from the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Michael Rooker, Danny Trejo, even the godfather of zombie culture himself, Mr. George Romero. What do you get? I’ll tell you what you get. You get one hell of a zombie franchise.

Number 4: The House of the Dead (Arcade, Console, PC)

Arcade Fever. One of the defining periods of gaming in the 80′s and 90′s, it wasn’t unusual to see prospective players lined up at the local joint, ready to spend the night in a clash of big buttons and joysticks. The House of the Dead was one of those amazing games that came with the period of a time when SEGA was actually relevant, and didn’t milk the high-heaven out of the Sonic franchise. Though it was ported for PC and the SEGA Saturn, the most enjoyable experience was most definitely spent in the arcade. This light gun rail shooter had players running through an action-packed story of two agents who must stop a mad scientist from creating more undead creatures. In  order to do this though, you first have to blow every single zombie’s head off in a grand test of eye-hand coordination and reflex. Amazingly, The House of the Dead has been so well-received that it led to the creation of more than eight games in the series, ports for most of the major consoles, and even two major motion films (both of which were so bad that they were actually hilarious to watch). All in all, the major reason why we picked this as a top zombie game was due to the amount of sheer fun players had enjoying the game. That, my friends, was the type of fun that made you totally not care about asking for the week’s allowance in quarters or getting grounded for coming home at midnight. If you haven’t played this one yet, go ask your mom for some coins.

 Number 3: Left 4 Dead (Xbox, PC)

What happens when you take a cinematic experience, add gameplay, and throw in a chilling story that captivates gamers? You get Left 4 Dead. The critically acclaimed first-person zombie shooter places you in the shoes of four “survivors”, members of society who were immune to the pathogen that has resulted in a scenario where most of the world’s population have now become terrible hordes of the undead. Not to mention special infected that can range from the dreaded tank to even worse, the witch. In addition to featuring amazing graphics and the tried-and-true Source Engine mechanics, the critically-acclaimed title also innovated with something that is simply known as “The Director”. Of course, “The Director” is not the science-fiction villain you would expect with a name like that, but rather a complex system of artificial intelligence that not only creates the most dramatic situations based on your gameplay, it also uses algorithms to make the infected AI adjust to your pace and delivers competent friendly bots, so that you don’t have to scream in frustration about Zoey getting stuck between a door, or Bill shooting at a car and alerting hordes of undead fiends. Having been awarded five “Best Multiplayer Game of 2008″ awards and “PC Game of the Year” by three organizations, it’s safe to say that with the replay value, multiplayer fun, and sequel that featured more of the stuff you love, the Left 4 Dead franchise will live on for years to come.

Number 2: DayZ (PC)

It seems like everyone is talking about this one nowadays, and I think it’s safe to say that it has hit the gaming community like a train. Although DayZ has only been out for a mere three months, in that time period the title has amassed over one million unique players and now has over three thousand servers for it. Of course, DayZ is not your conventional zombie title. Featuring a giant open world built around a military simulator, vehicles, scavenging, and player vs. player action, the survival-horror MMO manages to deliver a truly unique experience around the simple, yet horrifyingly difficult concept of surviving in a zombie apocalypse. Not only that, but you’re also in the middle of a post-soviet state, surrounded by undead creatures that look like Farmer John and Jamie Hyneman from MythBusters. Let’s not forget the fact that it’s still in open alpha testing phase, but there are rumours abound of a standalone game being produced. We truly do have to give it up for the mod that managed to turn a rusty old combat sim into the best-selling game on Steam. It would’ve made number one on our list, but we would be forgetting a very important franchise.

And the winner is…

Number 1: Resident Evil (Xbox, Playstation, PC)

There are few titles in the history of gaming that manage to deliver the entertainment value that Resident Evil has brought us in the past sixteen years. Even less have done so whilst becoming one of the most profitable franchises in the past decade, with 50 million units sold. Nevertheless, Resident Evil is one of them. The popular franchise, known as BioHazard back in Japan, features the traditional survival-horror idea of limited health, movement, and reaction-based gameplay, but it also brings in the concept of puzzles, mazes, and backtracking to find things that can help you progress in the game. Over the years, the story has changed, with each game usually featuring different protagonists, but the plot always features a crazy organization attempting to take over the world by instigating a zombie apocalypse. The series has performed so well, in fact, that CAPCOM has successfully created comics, book, dramas, CGI/Live-Action movies, and basically created a sub-culture out of it. Resident Evil gets our number one spot for the sheer legacy it has built, including the Devil May Cry series and the upcoming Resident Evil 6. Here’s to you, RE. You get our cookies, and may we find ourselves buying your delicious goods for many years to come!

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Author: J.C. View all posts by
Born and raised in Asgård, young J.C. quickly became renowned as a bard, a man of many voices, and writer of many things. Then he became a gamer, and thus, was thrown in the great chasm of journalism. Also, games, tech, and such.

2 Comments on "The Top 5 Greatest Zombie Franchises"

  1. Xeigrich
    Xeigrich August 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm -

    And my favorite zombie game (with co-op even!!) will never make lists like this…. it’s Zombies Ate My Neighbors on SNES. Great list, though. Looking forward to DayZ as a stand-alone game.

  2. Fuzz August 23, 2012 at 10:36 am -

    There are so too many zombie games, too bad many good ones do not see sequel because of not selling enough units.

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