Zombies Ate My Story: Why Do So Many Horror Games Love the Zed?

There are countless games that have zombies in them. But is that a good thing, or are zombies outdated?

Flesh-eating, groaning and moaning, limping, and of course coming in hoards -- zombies! Reanimated dead bodies that will do everything possible to kill the living and eat their insides. But, in how many games are these monstrosities present? The simple answer is, too many, particularly horror games since that is where zombies fit in the most!

Games like the Resident Evil (duh!) series, Call of Duty series, Dying Light, Dead Island series, and many more count on zombies to give gamers a good scare. But, are zombies ultimately being overused, and are they becoming a cliche?

With Telltale's The Walking Dead Season 3 coming out, let's look at why so many horror games use zombies for their scares, and what it might be that makes this particular kind of creature such common fodder for horror gaming.

The Beauty is in the Simplicity!

Zombies are like you and me...only "dead," really.

Sure, zombies were once humans, who under a spell/virus/another zombie bite turned into one, but humans nonetheless. Your character is basically fighting an enemy who used to be a human. In a way, that creates a psychological aspect. Can you pull the trigger on a fellow man in a horror game?

Fighting a zombie than any other creature is a completely different experience. With another creature, you're fighting...well, another creature! As a result of that, the design must be completely different, both, physical and the non-physical (by non physical, we are referring to the creature's other characteristics such as attacks, behavior, etc.). 

Sometimes, less is more, which can be a good thing. Having a non-complex design certainly benefits zombies since they still present the same threat, yet remain human (well, sort of...). So in a way, you are combating fellow humans who, though they don't have emotions and feelings anymore, are still trying to kill you.

If you were to fight a different creature like some sort of life-form with giant tentacles, claws, or multiple heads, where is the fear aspect? Instead, you'd be playing some sort of fantasy, or sci-fi game instead of a horror game.

Combat Matters 

Zombies are kinda tricky to kill!

Did you ever notice how, unlike when they were humans, their zombie versions are a bit more difficult to kill? For instance, they'll  take more bullets before they are officially dead. Of course, the classic rule of, "shoot 'em in the head" definitely applies here. Not only does shooting them in the head take less ammo, it'll also kill them faster. But, the most important aspect is that you'll get better at it! 

In an effort to conserve ammo, and get rid off the problem as soon as possible, most games with zombies in them advise you to shoot them in the head. However, the fact that zombies are slow also plays in your favor. In return, that allows you to carefully place your shots, and get the kill. Shooting zombies in the torso, stomach, or any other part of the body cripples your chances of survival (especially in horror games) because you are basically wasting ammo and ammo is often limited.

The best thing that you can also get out of the entire experience is the knowledge for future games. Who knows? Maybe your aim will improve for other games that don't necessarily have zombies in them. Or maybe, they will have zombies, and you'll be forced to shoot them only in the head. 

It's all in the Numbers...

By all means, go ahead and count all the zombies. Take your time.

 With zombies, you usually have hoards. That is a tremendous fear aspect in itself since you are facing many threats at the same time. If it was one or three zombies, fine -- you'd solve the problem with ease. But when you have roughly 30+ coming at you, all at once, it is best to reassess the situation. The situation can become even more grim if it's a horror game, and you have very little (or no) weapons to defend yourself. Simply put, that can be a scary situation.

What other horror creatures do you know attack in hoards? Not many. If you have some sort of weird sci-fi creatures, you can't put them in a hoard because they have to be different! And by different we mean, different from zombies: different attacks, different behavior patterns, different movement systems, and more aspects. With zombies, you can place as many as you want and become terrified since you're clearly outnumbered. 


Having zombies is perfectly normal!

The beauty of zombies lies in the simplicity. Ever since Romero's Night of the Living Dead, zombies have become a horror classic. They are scary, due to being ex-humans, terrifying, and have grizzly intentions. Their strength lies in numbers and in the ability to turn others into zombies through bites. However, they are slow, which causes them to become easy target practice. Nonetheless, they fit perfectly into horror games, because that is their kingdom.


What do you think about zombies in horror games? Do they fit? Are they boring and outdated? Feel free to comment down below. 



Long time gamer (15 years+). Most favorite title is either Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask. Prefer single player games to multiplayer games, but occasionally play them as well. Proud owner of N64 and Nintendo SNES.

Published Dec. 20th 2016

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