What does the landscape of upcoming zombie games in 2017 look like? We’ve had a squint ahead at the shambling figures coming over the hill, and a decent number of them resemble genuinely terrifying, violent and/or harrowing experiences in our future.
Fan of the genre? These are some of the best PC zombie games of all time.
If that sounds like something you’d be up for, feel free to join us in chewing over the specifics. While some of these zombie games are set for release in 2017, others are existing threats that have simply grown so large they can no longer be ignored.
State of Decay 2
The original State of Decay was a juddering technical mess that didn’t so much run properly as lurch unsteadily onwards. But it was worth the rigmarole, because what lay beneath was a fantastic anecdote engine - one that allowed you to pick up control of several survivors and follow their individual threads until they inevitably unravelled in fatal ways.
State of Decay 2 promises a more stable environment in which to enjoy the same dangerous game of thrills and consequences, plus a more substantial open-world and support for four-player co-op.
Undead Labs describe scenarios like splitting up into pairs to scavenge for desperately-needed medicine - before making a racket and accidentally bringing down the dead on a fellow player, killing their favoured character permanently. There’s post-apocalyptic consequence for you.
Resident Evil 2 Remastered
Though the ‘Remastered’ tag suggests a light-touch HD re-release, Capcom are getting their hands bloody with this remake of a zombie gaming classic. The publishers have promised a “ground up” do-over of 1998’s finest, where previous Resi updates have merely tweaked controls, resolution and aspect ratios.
As you might well remember, Resident Evil 2 followed Claire Redfield on the hunt for her missing brother Chris, as well as a certain greenhorn cop named Leon S. Kennedy. It’ll be nice to see some of the spikier polygons of Raccoon City smoothed off, but Capcom would do well not to shave away all of Resident Evil 2’s edges. Those awkward controls have come in for a lot of criticism over the years, but a more modern solution would leave us with a different game. More dynamic, perhaps, but less distinctly Resi.
With no release date announced, Capcom have given themselves plenty of time to work out the more challenging design quandaries.
In a sense, Capcom are responsible for two of the games on this list. Invader Studios were hard at work on their own unofficial Resident Evil 2 remake before Cap called and asked them to stop - prompting the Italian indies to switch their efforts over to their own Daymare universe instead.
The name may have changed, but as the subtitle might indicate, Daymare is very much still modelled after the defining survival horror games of the late ‘90s. Expect eerie midwestern towns, half-melted monsters that might once have been human, and billboards advertising out-of-date operating systems.
The team are drawing from the 2010 remake of George Romero’s The Crazies, plus the concept art of Satoshi Nakai, who worked on the enemies of two Resident Evils - Zero and Code: Veronica.
The nostalgia stops short of tank controls, thankfully - Invader Studios have opted for a more contemporary over-the-shoulder camera.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 3
Telltale’s episodic helpings of despair continue from a new perspective. Just as Lee passed the baton to Clementine in Season 2, we’ll see the deteriorating world from another set of eyes this time around - those of a newcomer named Javier.
It’s far from a clean break, though. The Walking Dead: Season 3 acknowledges previous (invariably terrible) events, and we’ll still control Clementine through some of its story. Telltale have told us to ready ourselves for a “horrific” drama that finds beloved characters confronting a brutal new justice system built by fellow survivors.
As ever, the monsters here are merely the backdrop precipitating real horror at the hands of fellow humans. Who are the real Walking Dead, etc etc. The challenge for Telltale is to keep those decaying themes fresh, where the comics and TV series have arguably failed before them.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead
You’ll know Overkill from their stellar work on the Payday games - Left 4 Dead-style shooters that made zombies of police and security services. Now they’re working with the real thing, converting Robert Kirkman’s unendingly popular license into another zombie FPS to play with friends.
Like Payday, Overkill’s Walking Dead will play with stealth - but for the purpose of survival horror rather than vault-raiding. Players take on the role of survivors in Washington DC, and the studio promise an element of “role-playing” to proceedings. Whether that’ll involve levelling up or amateur dramatics at the end of the world remains to be seen.
As you can probably tell, there’s not a lot we know for sure about this latest Walking Dead adaptation. But it’s due for release sometime in 2017, and given the pedigree of its developers, we daren’t tear our eyes away.
Metal Gear Survive
Metal Gear Survive drew a lot of sneers when it was announced, coming as it did after the unceremonial ousting of Hideo Kojima from Konami. In that context it was easy to characterise Survive as the reanimated corpse of the Metal Gear series, familiar in form but vacant of ideas.
Viewed from the boarded-up building that is zombie genre, though, Survive is filled with promise. A co-op survival horror game about creeping and distraction? One that builds on the exquisite engine and compelling nonsense of MGS 5? Smells like a must-play.
Konami have found a way to put the fear back into the undead, too, with bizarre, crumbling zombies covered in jutting, crystalline shards. The plot of Survive finds the inhabitants of Mother Base flipped into an alternate universe overrun by these ‘creatures’, and the player’s goal is to find enough materials to keep going and get home. Although, frankly, we’re inclined to stick around.
If the zombies in The Walking Dead are called ‘walkers’, should we be calling the shamblers in Miscreated ‘miscreants’? Nobody knows, because they’re too busy building shelter, sourcing water and thwacking away at intruders in a mutant-enhanced update of pre-societal life.
There are plenty of survival-focused zombie games available in Steam Early Access these days, but Miscreated is among the prettier and most-played out there. While players stumbled in one by one during the first two years of the CryEngine game’s existence, they’d become a horde by the end of 2016. We’d guess they were swayed by responsive developers, zippy vehicles and the potential for inventive sadism on a level with Rust and DayZ.
Unusually for the genre, it looks as if Miscreated might actually leave Early Access at some point too. Studio Entrada plan to spend 2017 working out important features like base-building before heading into beta.
7 Days to Die
Where Miscreated has some of the look and class of a more expensively-developed game, 7 Dies to Die does nothing to dissuade the shonky reputation of the Early Access zombie genre. Those manky mattresses, monsters and crafted fireplaces never quite coalesce into something you could call an art style, and the gun models look straight outta 2008. And yet.
There’s something about 7 Days’ survival systems that captures the quintessential zombie experience. In this game it never rains but it pours, and the ever-looming possibility of an encroaching horde means you must be wary at all times. But it’s never the shuffling dead responsible for your deaths so much as your own risk-taking and poor preparation.
7 Days has been knocking around on Steam for years now - but its popularity has yet to peak, and the game keeps finding its way into Steam’s top sellers list thanks to regular updates.
Want more? Here's our 7 Days to Die review.
Spotted any other major threats beyond the barricades? Let us know in the comments.