The best zombie games on PC | PCGamesN

The best zombie games on PC

Looking for the best zombie games? Lurch right this way - we’ve got plenty of undead treasures, from Left 4 Dead to Dying Light

Best zombie games on PC

What are the best zombie games on PC? You can hardly take a step on Steam without zombie games clutching at your ankle, so it’s a valid question. Don’t dismiss the entire genre just because there’s a load of brainless clones, though – below we have some of the best zombie games to shuffle their way onto PC.

Zombie games range from survival simulation to Lovecraftian co-op period pieces, and if you like, you can even take a shambling detour through tower defence and post-apocalypse parkour. By the end of this list of the best zombie games you will know which to invite into your safe house and which to axe off at the wrist.

This list of zombie games has everything an undead enthusiast could ask for. We have the harrowing moral quandaries posed by The Walking Dead, the high-octane FPS action of Black Ops 3, and the traumatising horror of Resident Evil. Whatever you decayed taste, these are the best zombie games on PC.

The best zombie games are:

DayZ

DayZ

Despite an arguable abuse of the concept of Early Access stretching backer patience to breaking point, there is more than enough to standalone DayZ to remind you why the mod garnered all that goodwill.

You will still endure that nervy survival phase, flitting from greenhouse to gas station in an effort to gather gear and avoid conflict – DayZ is one of those zombie games where the ravenous undead are the not what haunts your every step. You will still have those Cormac McCarthy moments on the road, scanning a stranger for clues as to their intentions. Once you are subsisting on soda and scraps, however, DayZ opens up. That greenhouse becomes a proper farming plot. It is enough to keep you and passing traders alive.

At this stage, banditry is no longer DayZ’s default – there is potential for trading centres, large-scale farms, and stable villages. Unfortunately, we are a few updates away from the post-societal civilised dream, and over time the bugs and performance issues can chomp away at your enthusiasm. But DayZ is not just a survival sim any more – it’s also a living sim.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil

No list of zombie games would be complete without Resident Evil. You might have been scared out of your wits by Resident Evil 7 in VR, or found yourself repeatedly returning to the action-packed classic that is Resi 4, but you will still find plenty of frights in the game where it all started. Without the unnecessary complications tacked on to future sequels, Resident Evil is one of the best horror games around.

Trapped in the famously labyrinthine Spencer Mansion, as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, ravenous zombies and dangerous mutations lie behind every corner in Resident Evil, often obscured or blocked by inventive environmental puzzles. Fixed camera angles intensify the sensation of claustrophobia and your limited inventory keeps you feeling vulnerable.

If that is not scary enough, you can always grab the remastered version released in 2015 on Steam. This is a remake of a remake, however, which adds new environments, scenarios, and surprises to ensure Resident Evil is every bit as scary as you remember it.

Resident Evil 2 Remake

Resident Evil 2 Remake

While the first Resident Evil game delivers the bulk of its terror through its haunted house setting, the stunning remake of Resident Evil 2 makes the zombies the stars of the show. These are the most horrifying undead shufflers the series has produced so far, with each one’s warped, bloody face telling a story of how they got infected. Like in all the best zombie games, Resident Evil 2’s lurching horrors move unpredictably, snatching and swiping at you while you miss shot after shot in panic.

Shooting them in the head will only stun them for a second or two, allowing you to slip past, but you’ll need to shoot them a few more times until their cranium explodes to guarantee they won’t get back up. Alternatively, you can go for the limbs: a couple of pistol shots is enough to snap off an ankle, making them a lot less mobile and allowing you to carefully skirt around them. Scuff a shot and it will still tear a chunk of flesh off your target, adding some gory gravitas to every spent cartridge. Oh, and if you’re looking for some help with ammo, check out our guide to Resident Evil 2 locker codes for some freebies.

Fighting standard zombies quickly gets old in some of the Resident Evil games, but they remain a constant menace throughout the campaign of the Resident Evil 2 Remake and taking them down always feels squelchy and satisfying in equal measure. As Chris wrote in our Resident Evil 2 Remake review, this is a bloodbath to relish.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Honestly, you could elect any of Treyarch’s Call of Duty games to this list, because their zombie horde modes are the best around. However, the reason we’ve singled out Black Ops 4 in particular is because it offers players three zombie maps free of charge, as well as a haul of increasingly ridiculous undead-infested locales as DLC.

With the three launch maps taking place in a Roman gladiator arena, the RMS Titanic, and Alcatraz prison – each one littered with secrets to uncover ranging from light-hearted easter eggs and powerful weapons to boss fights and ending cutscenes – no Call of Duty studio has as much fun with the zombie horde mode as Treyarch.

Project Zomboid

Project Zomboid

“This is how you died,” Project Zomboid tells you as you walk gingerly into the overrun American countryside for the first time. This is not going to end well. But you can drag out the inevitable for some time – eking out an isometric existence through the shrewd scavenging, food sourcing, and first aid skills you will have honed well from the best survival games.

The entire map is open and guidance is minimal – only good preparation and a tab open to the Zomboid wiki can save you. Once you have established a domestic base, the game becomes a matter of tense smash and grabs, weighing up potential loot against the chance of zombie encounters. Long-term survival means rebuilding rural America – constructing and maintaining farms and adopting a defensive playstyle.

Where most zombie games are about hitting the dead with something weighty before moving onto heavier artillery, Zomboid is about avoidance, careful management, and slow-burn strategy.

Speaking of slow burn, Zomboid has been in open development for nearly half a decade – so see what we make of it in our Project Zomboid Early Access review. But do not be put off by the Early Access tag: this is one of the richest zombie games in existence.

State of Decay 2

State of Decay 2

If you’re looking for story then you’ll be best served by the original State of Decay, however, the sequel does an admirable job of fleshing out the systems of the first game to make for a more satisfying open-world survival experience.

Playing like an RPG, State of Decay 2 is an online zombie game that initially surprises with its permadeath. You will pick a protagonist from your community of survivors and take them out into the wild to find the necessary food, fuel, or drugs to keep the rest alive. Once they collapse into bed back home – or under the blows of the undead – you can take control of another character from your base with their own background, personality, and combat abilities.

Read more: Check out our list of the best RPGs on PC

Whenever you choose to let another stranger into your growing base, you are letting in another playable character; another new story to write a middle and an end to.

Killing Floor 2

Killing Floor 2

One of the best co-op games and zombie games on PC – that is not Left 4 Dead 2 – Killing Floor 2 is a chaotic, frantic rush as you blow out undead brains to rambunctious heavy metal.

Zombies of all shapes and sizes come at you thick and fast, making Killing Floor 2 an excellent pick-up-and-play co-op title. But as you devote more time to indulging in a spot of zombie bashing, Killing Floor 2 becomes a zombie game with an engrossing tactical element: do you spend your blood-soaked resources now, or save them for a tougher future confrontation?

Killing Floor 2’s gameplay, most importantly, feels great to play as a wonderfully gory shooter with friends – its best mechanic only just made it in at the last minute, too.

Dead Island

Dead Island

It is not an especially pretty or polished game, but Dead Island remains one of the best zombie games on PC. With its first-person shuffler bashing and four-player co-op, it is tempting to compare Techland’s first zombie game outing to Left 4 Dead 2 – but it is what Dead Island borrows from Fallout 3 that makes it compelling.

The ‘Island’ in question is a small one off the coast of Papua New Guinea, and its undead denizens are hungry to scupper your hard-earned holiday. Any narrative interest begins and ends here, but – after you have waded through a dull first hour – this little Oceanian island opens up to reveal a world of impressive scale.

Still, a large world is meaningless if the zombies are not fun to mutilate. Thankfully, combat and RPG-lite progression are engaging enough to keep you going: you will start with melee-based weapons, but later you will happen upon throwable knives and machetes allowing for satisfying one-hit kills.

Despite Dead Island and quasi-sequel Riptide getting the remastered treatment in Dead Island: Definitive Edition, some bugs are still buried away, left over from the original release. And don’t hold your breath waiting for the sequel, either: Dead Island 2’s development has been troubled to say the least.

Dying Light

Dying Light

Techland built on the runaway – shuffle-away? – success of Dead Island with another open-world zombie game kitted out with customisable melee weapons and four-player co-op. And to begin with they appear to be cut from the same cloth, offering directed busywork for the first hour. Then Dying Light takes that cloth, stuffs it into a bottle, sets it on fire, and hurls it from a great height into a pack of undead.

Like its survivors in a post-outbreak world, Dying Light is a scavenger. Its map icons and diversions are ripped from the Ubisoft formula. The parkour is nicked from Mirror’s Edge. But the clambering informs every other aspect of the game, turning this into an explorative, emergent adventure. For best results, ignore the more repetitive missions and take to the rooftops of Harran, built with vertical meandering in mind.

They may have been working with borrowed parts, but Techland put together one of the best zombie games in Dying Light, which is why we’re so excited for the follow-up. With a story penned by the legendary Chris Avellone, the narrative complexity promised by Dying Light 2’s factions system is exciting.

Organ Trail

Organ Trail

This zombie game homage to the most famous educational game of all time is tough as nails. Organ Trail tasks you with guiding a station wagon of survivors on a journey out west and like all zombie survival games your primary concerns are keeping a good stock of food, medicine, and ammo, not to mention avoiding roaming packs of flesh-eating undead.

Related: Here are the best old games on PC

The real star of Organ Trail are the random events encounters, which will continue to catch you off guard hours into the game with everything from zombie boss fights and gangs of raiders, to your survivors contracting diseases or receiving curious jobs from strangers. In Organ Trail you’re always on the back foot, managing your party’s gradual descent into illness and hysteria one horrific encounter at a time, but every fight you manage to scrape through feels like a herculean accomplishment, and it’s that feeling that drives your feeble station wagon onward.

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2

It has been eight years, but Left 4 Dead 2 always looked economical in the way Valve shooters are. That means that unlike many zombie games, it has aged well – despite the lack of any fancy, physically-based rendering or global illumination. It is a zombie game that certainly has not been bettered, even when compared to differently-themed siblings Vermintide and the two Payday games.

Arguably, Left 4 Dead lost some of the exquisite balance of its tiny armoury by expanding it for the sequel – filling the world with impromptu melee weapons and special ammo types. But, nevertheless, Left 4 Dead 2 and the original are still the best co-op games around.

While some post-apocalyptic scenarios default to a familiar version of zombie-dom we have long been desensitised to, Left 4 Dead 2 presents a world in which normality is all too recent. Though cities have emptied out after waves of evacuations, humanity feels close enough to touch thanks to the messages scrawled on the walls of safe houses. There is a unique warmth here, too: the cultural influence of New Orleans and its environs seeps from the swamps to the streets and into the soundtrack.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. A conversation system tied to a timer, inspired by social anxiety. A sense of interpersonal warmth framed by overarching gloom, like a campfire on a cold night. There is a tendency to disarm you with humour and half an hour of respite before swiping cruelly at the characters you have come to care about in a way that only the best adventure games on PC can. Those evil geniuses.

It is something we would like to see from more zombie games: The Walking Dead is not really about the walkers. They are merely the backdrop for a series of stories about human nature. The key characters here are capable of both great kindnesses and unforgivable evils in the name of protecting their own. The only reassurance is found at the end of each episode, when you get to see what percentage of fellow players made the same terrible compromises as you. You’ll have plenty such agonising decisions to make by the time it comes round to finale, but The Walking Dead: The Final season is the series at its best.

Zombie Night Terror

Zombie Night Terror

In some zombie fiction the horde are not mindless, not exactly, but guided in their pursuit for brains by one bigger brain. Here, you are the hivemind, directing the pandemic from behind your keyboard. Developers NoClip argue: “the only way to survive the zombie apocalypse is to BE the apocalypse!”

For those who found the cause of Lemmings too noble, Zombie Night Terror is a zombie games twist on that puzzler’s format. You are offered a sidelong view of the black-and-white action and given ways to influence it, guiding your unthinking chargers over the booby traps they would otherwise fall blindly into.

Pesky humans will pick away at your numbers with buzzsaws, shotguns, and repurposed snow trucks – but you can bolster the ranks with a few would-be survivors. What’s more, the undead can be altered into mutated beings that riff on Left 4 Dead – blowing themselves to bits and taking the living with them, or spitting globules of green acid which bubble away in stark contrast to the grey backdrops. The colourless world of this zombie game is just waiting to be covered in bright red blood.

Atom Zombie Smasher

Atom Zombie Smasher

Atom Zombie Smasher is one of very few zombie games going for the big picture. It puts you in charge of the city of Nuevo Aires’ defence forces and tasks you with saving as many citizens as you can. From your top-down perspective you call in rescue helicopters, direct sniper teams, and make monstrous sacrifices to achieve your goal.

Your goal for most maps is simple: airvac as many citizens as possible. You tell your helicopters where to land, place your marine teams, and set up explosives. Then, when you hit start, zombies flood in from different entrances around the level. If a zombie reaches a civilian they are instantly infected, and all too quickly a city block can become swamped with undead.

Sometimes you have to cut your losses. Every time you put up a game-saving blockade, you are inevitably trapping some of your charges on the wrong side. The distanced top-down perspective – which casts yellow dots as civvies and pink ones as zombs – encourages distanced utilitarianism. You are not Francis, Bill, Zoey, or Louis this time – you are the military dropping bombs on their heads.

Buddy up: The best multiplayer games on PC

There you have it, the best zombie games on PC. Whether you’re all about trying to rebuild society against constant waves of shufflers with your fellow survivors, or you just want to run as fast as you can away from the undead, there’s a zombie game here for you. If you’ve finished up all of these then be sure to check out our thoughts on the Dying Light: Bad Blood battle royale or read our State of Decay 2 PC review to find out why we chose the original for this list. For now, though, we’d better take a better look at that bite we suffered earlier. It’s probably fine.