The zombie survival horror genre has been a mainstay in the gaming landscape ever since Resident Evil popularized it more than 25 years ago. With so many titles joining the mix since then, it can be a bit of a challenge to keep up with how many quality games there are to choose from.
A great indicator is through Metacritic ratings, as these are based on hundreds of reviewers across platforms. Unsurprisingly, critics have loved the Resident Evil series in particular, and quite a few titles have reached the top. However, certain other franchises have also ranked high, with these varying in terms of narrative techniques and gameplay styles.
UPDATE: 2022/10/27 00:15 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS
When Halloween season rolls around, there isn’t anything better for gamers than to pull out the best zombie survival games and start blasting the undead. While Resident Evil is the biggest name in videogames for zombie action, there is so much more available than just that one franchise. These games include shooters where players just run around and kill as many zombies as possible. They also include more cerebral zombie games with stories that match up to even the best zombie horror movies and TV shows, terrifying gamers with more than just blood and gore, many with stories that rival any other form of horror entertainment.
Dead Rising (2006) & Dead Rising 2 (2010) – 78/82
The first two games in the Dead Rising series remain beloved by fans of zombie survival horror games. Their rankings are only slightly apart, with the second game getting the higher score. One thing that keeps these games ranked so high is that they have extras making them re-playable.
The improvised weapons used to kill the zombies make this fun and always different. With the great stories and side missions, this is a game that offers hours upon hours of fun, and there is never a shortage of things to accomplish.
Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition (86)
Metacritic loves Dying Light: The Following, granting it a high 86 rating on the site. This is actually the Enhanced Edition of the game, with what is called improved visuals and significant gameplay enhancements. This game has a lot to love, especially since you can get into the dune buggy and run over zombies.
That is just part of the fun in this zombie horror survival game. This is a fast-moving first-person horror game using parkour travel and lots of cool weapons. However, the terror comes when nightfall arrives in the game, and that is when the real monsters come out to play.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (87)
Horror fans who loved the western game Red Dead Redemption got a special treat when Rockstar released the Undead Nightmare expansion pack. Critics loved it too, as it has a Metacritic score of 87. The expansion pack brings an entirely new experience to the already criticality acclaimed game.
In this twist on the original story, John Marston is back and this time his family has a plague that turns the infected into zombies. He then sets out to find the cure, but he has to fight his way through the zombie hoards. Rockstar didn’t just add the zombies, but the company enhanced the look of the game, both with the colors and lighting, making this a very different experience.
The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series (89)
The Walking Dead is a successful comic book and TV series, so it is no surprise that it is also a successful video game franchise as well. However, what is surprising is the quality of this game. While most video games based on other properties leave something to be desired, this one eclipses the source material.
The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series introduces brand-new characters in a new location to the world of TWD. Players are Lee Everett, a criminal who gets a second chance at life. It is the story that makes this zombie survival game so beloved, with a sad story that the gamer will help tell based on his decision-making.
Left 4 Dead (2008) – 89
The survival horror series had never truly empowered players prior to Left 4 Dead’s release, which is why its arrival was such a big deal. The game has four main characters onscreen, with the goal to survive zombie hordes until they can reach safe points.
Left 4 Dead’s first-person point of view really makes it feel as if players are right there in the middle of the storm. The shooter mechanics are very simplistic, so understanding them isn’t a problem, although that doesn’t mean the large swaths of zombies are any easier to fight off.
Left 4 Dead 2 (2009) – 89
The second installment came at a time when the first-person shooter landscape was at its peak in popularity. As such, critics and fans loved the fact that Left 4 Dead 2 brought back the same concept of the four-person ensemble along with similar controls as the first game.
The focus on co-op is greater this time around, with multiplayer matches richer with content to encourage players to engage with other participants. The game caused some controversy for the extreme brutality on display, but fans of Left 4 Dead 2 only appreciated the no-holds-barred atmosphere it brought.
Dead Space 2 (2011) – 90
This third-person shooter is set in space, specifically on a space station that revolves around a moon of Saturn. Here, players have to battle alien zombies known as Necromorphs, which have heightened senses and intelligence, requiring gamers to be quick on their feet.
The game received positive reviews for incorporating futuristic elements like the HUD’s ability to map out enemy movement, the skills of slowing down time, and removing obstacles without interacting with them. It’s also a genuinely scary title, even for players who don’t get scared, that puts players in a battle for survival.
Resident Evil (1996) – 91
Before there were so many Resident Evil movies coming out, the games ruled the roost. The first entry remains iconic for the way it essentially introduced survival horror, as players control Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine while they escape a mansion infested with zombies.
While the graphics might be outdated by now, the thrill of exploring the hallways while evading zombies remains as high-octane as ever. The intricate level design is such that players have to search for puzzle-solving clues to unlock new areas, all the while dealing with zombies that progressively become more powerful.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) – 91
Still considered among the very best Resident Evil survival horror games released to date, the third installment proves best what survival horror is meant to entail. As it is, Jill Valentine is relentlessly stalked by the massive Nemesis monster, with players having to escape its clutches while fighting the other zombies in Raccoon City.
Critics enjoyed Resident Evil 3’s tension-filled atmosphere, as Nemesis’ presence always keeps players worried over when he will turn up. A common criticism for this horror game has gone toward its short length, but many have also felt the fast-paced gameplay validates such a quick runtime since it’s what makes the experience so exhilarating.
Resident Evil 2 Remake (2019) – 93
There are some arguments over things Resident Evil 2’s remake does better or worse than the original, but critics have overall felt that the remake is better. It comes down to the more immersive style of the newer entry, as Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield’s harrowing time in Raccoon City is much more pronounced through a third-person camera.
A popular praise for the game is that there are two scenarios where Leon and Claire can switch their storylines, meaning two fresh playthroughs are available. The many surprises in store, in terms of what zombies to face and twists in the story, make it delightfully difficult to predict, and Resident Evil 2 is one for the ages.
The Last Of Us Part II (2020) – 93
It might never be possible to overlook the criticism this game received for the way former protagonist Joel was killed off, but The Last of Us also has characters that deserve their own spin-offs. The second entry has a grittier backdrop filled with morally ambiguous heroes and villains, with the combat style much more hard-hitting.
As much as the theme of hate was disliked by many fans, critics enjoyed that players have to step into the shoes of the protagonists doing things that villains normally would. The Last of Us 2 has creatively designed zombies that require a strategy to kill off, although it’s the gruesome fights with human enemies that most will remember.
Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (2000) – 94
At the time of the game’s release, it was uncommon to have real-time background graphics, and the inclusion of this aspect is why Resident Evil – Code: Veronica received such rave reviews. The gameplay is exactly like its predecessors with the added twist of switching controls from the agile Claire Redfield to the strong Chris Redfield halfway through.
The usage of real-time cutscenes and dynamic environments made critics feel that the action was far more authentic than before. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica also benefits from the chemistry between the brother-sister pair and is the culmination of the story that began with the first three games.
The Last Of Us (2013) – 95
It seemed as if the zombie horror genre didn’t have any more surprises to dole out until The Last of Us’ release. In a change from the norm, the game had more emphasis on the story than gameplay, with the dynamic between Joel and Ellie leading players to connect with their characters that hardly any title in the genre has done before.
Even within the playthrough, the levels were such that players had to take care of either Joel or Ellie, establishing the importance of both characters to the story. The zombies were made to appear like a true threat rather than an annoyance, as one-hit killers and massively durable zombies had gamers fight for survival.
Resident Evil 4 (2005) – 96
There’s no game in the horror genre as groundbreaking as Resident Evil 4. In fact, the third-person gaming landscape has to give credit to this entry for revolutionizing the industry. Resident Evil 4’s behind-the-shoulder perspective wasn’t something people were accustomed to, which is hard to comprehend these days since just about every third-person game incorporates this aspect.
Moreover, Resident Evil 4 was a survival horror game that made players feel in control, as Leon S. Kennedy has a wide variety of weapons to choose from and is no slouch in combat either. Critics also liked the creative spin on zombies, with the enemies here taking on the mannerisms of the undead because of the release of a virus.
NEXT: 9 Best Third-Person Horror Games Of All Time, Ranked