When you become a game designer, you are handed a big book of antagonists to use as guilt-free bullet fodder. First among them is the reliable, stinky zombie. (Also found in this repertoire are Nazis and Slimes. They are beyond the scope of this listicle.) The zombie is a preternaturally killable being. It has already experienced mortality once, so this creature more than anyone is ready to suffer the ignominy of death. It has practice, it knows what's coming. Being a zombie is like having two degrees. You're extra qualified, and you probably groan a lot.
Here's a list of the best zombies in PC games.
Zombie dogs - Resident Evil
You knew they were coming. Every trembling adult who first experienced the terror of the canine undead leaping through a window in the original Resident Evil decades ago understands the raw power of a jump scare. Yet even when you know they're about to do their glass-smashing thing, it's still unnerving. Rabid dogs are frightening enough even without half their face dripping off like hot wax. These bitey barkers return in the HD remake, shattering your sense of calm at a totally different moment than you remember, as if the zombies you now have to burn to ensure they do not reanimate a third time are not bad enough.
Smoker - Left 4 Dead
The special zombies in Valve's much-mimicked co-op shooter were designed to split players up and force dramatic rescues or shameful abandonments (sorry Steve). The Smoker is physically the weakest of the bunch. He dissolves into a puff of corpse dust with a few bullets. But his long, disgusting tongue can drag distant players over cliffsides, or pull them back into a hospital operating room swarming with regular zombos. It's a clingy, threatening role that doesn't have a true analogue in modern follow-up Back 4 Blood. If I had to pick a dead fella that encapsulates an entire subgenre's design principles, it's Tommy Twenty-Packs-a-Day here.
Countless horde - They Are Billions
For SEO purposes I am unable to headline this article "the best uncountable billions of zombies in games" but rest assured, that is what I would desire.
Zombini - Plants Vs Zombies
I could have picked any number of wacky dorks from the garden defence game. The dolphin riding zombie, the bungee roping zombie, the dancing zombie, which was originally skinned as Michael Jackson and then changed after he died when the singer's estate complained about it. Any of them would do, really. But "zombini" is a fun portmanteau word, so let's go with this green guy who uses his non-brand-affiliated and legally distinct ice resurfacer to turn your fresh lawn into a sheet of slippiness. A traditional zombie jape.
Screeching leaper lads - Half-Life 2
I go to Ravenholm all the time, I don't know what all the fuss is about. These somewhat disquieting young men with crabs for a head are very athletic. They jump from rooftop to rooftop, they gallop at you like a skinny, upset horse. They ragdoll into a pile of lanky bones when you blast them with a shotgun. If the measure of a good zombie attack lies in how "last-second" you fire your weapon, these vigourous freaks deliver.
Zombified players - Urban Dead
Urban Dead is an old browser-based MMO where you try to survive a zombie apocalypse. The twist: you can become a zombie. Once undead, you go from navigating rooftops and barricading pubs to roaming the streets looking for unlucky human players. You have a completely different zombie skill tree now, and typing anything in the chat is put through a "zombie language filter", meaning other players will just see you saying stuff like "ggrraghh mmrgh ffghh!". Even so, people built up a tolerance for some non-hostile zombies. It was common for a gang of players to bring a zombified friend inside their fortified home and spraypaint a message on the wall saying: "Don't kill LoudLarry99! He is a friend!" A message almost always ignored by any passing trigger happy visitor.
Mr X - Resident Evil 2
Broke: A zombie who bites. Woke: A zombie who follows you around with the conspicuous aura of a security guard in a department store.
Zombie - Quake
Broke: A zombie who bites. Woke: A zombie who follows you around like a security guard. Bespoke: A zombie who rips off a chunk of their own decayed flesh and yeets it at you from across the room. Yes, I have twice now used a Twitter meme format to describe a video game enemy, completely contrary to the RPS style guide. I await my disciplinary hearing with glee. Anyway, let's give it to our putrefying pals from 1996 who tear off handfuls of their own browning muscle mass just to have something to chuck at you.
[Because Brendy doesn't work here any more I have instructed HR to start the paperwork necessary to hire him again, so he can be fired for this outrage. - ed.]
Zombie Majima - Yakuza Kiwami
What a shock, when your old buddy and murderous rival Goro Majima reveals himself to have been zombified in this otherwise entirely realistic and serious drama about crime families in Tokyo. Just shatters your world, it does.
Flood carrier - Halo
Is the Flood, Halo's third act nemesis and fan of iambic heptameter, classifiable as a collection of zombies? Sure. Sure, why not. And the best of them is the slow but lovable carrier form. A bloated bag of pus-coloured flesh who wants to kill you and bursts open like a piñata, releasing lots of adorable baby fleshbags.
The babies also want you dead.
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