Who doesn’t love a good zombie-bashing game? Especially one as bloody and gore-focused as Dead Island 2? The long-awaited sequel to Techland’s Dead Island promises quite the zombie slaying experience, but it’s far from the first and only to land in the industry. In fact, there are some that may suggest the zombie genre of gaming is a bit oversaturated, making it difficult to pinpoint worthwhile games like Dead Island 2.
This list of ten titles is more than just a breakdown of clones of Techland’s zombie romp. Many may look and feel similar, but others simply share the fundamental framework of Dead Island 2, be it an effective use of the undead, slow combat, or effective RPG elements. If you want to expand your library but keep it to games like Dead Island 2, you may consider taking a bite out of any of these games.
10. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Developer: Monolith Productions Publisher: Sega
Condemned was an Xbox 360 launch title that set the stage for the next generation of first-person shooters. Beautifully gloomy and morose, the game follows FBI agent Ethan Thomas, who’s investigating a rise in serial killers. It’s a fine enough story, but the real draw was the heavy-hitting combat. Though Ethan has access to firearms, he prefers to use his fists and objects pulled from the environment.
Condemned is a dreary experience that focuses on melee combat with the killers and vagrants turning the city into a playground for the wicked. Ethan takes a break here and there for some forensic work, but it’s always back to swinging punches and jump scares. Condemned feels like an early blueprint for games like Dead Island 2, its gameplay swapping out run ‘n gun shooting for calculated hand-to-hand combat.
Developer: 2K Boston Publisher: 2K Games
Like Banoi Island, Rapture is not the paradise it’s meant to be. Instead of shambling zombies, though, it’s demented Splicers, citizens that went mad from their addiction to the gene-altering ADAM. Players can use ADAM to their advantage, specifically by spending it to obtain new and powerful Plasmids. Obtaining ADAM, however, is where the game’s morality comes into play. Do you forcibly remove it from the innocent LIttle Sisters, thus gaining more, or take a more sympathetic approach for less?
While it may be difficult to immediately pinpoint some of the similarities between the series, it mostly falls on the RPG elements and clunkier combat of both. BioShock, like Dead Island, isn’t some run ‘n gun shooter. You have to plan your battles or succumb at the hands of the Splicers. There’s also the concept of a paradise gone that really carries across both games.
We’re making a leap from zombies to ghosts here, but some of the fundamentals of Dead Island are still intact. Ghostwire is a first-person shooter that uses a unique combat system to slay the spirits that have overtaken Tokyo. You can feel a touch of Dead Island influence in there, whether intentional or not, but the game does veer wildly onto its own enjoyable path.
Players take control of Akito, a young boy who finds himself alone amidst an invasion of malicious spirits. When a spirit possesses his right hand, he’s given the power needed to eradicate the new threat. Ghostwire’s combat is described by the game’s combat director Shinichiro Hara as “karate meets magic,” and that’s pretty accurate. Different hand movements cast different spells that weaken and eventually destroy ghosts. Imagine a proton pack at the tip of your fingers.
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier Publisher: Ubisoft
The year after Dead Island’s release, Wii U owners were treated to their own slow-paced zombie FPS that was later ported to other systems. ZombiU implemented a permadeath system to emphasize the survival aspect of living in a zombie apocalypse. Though far from a clone of Dead Island, ZombiU’s gameplay was definitely reminiscent of Techland’s undead outing.
While scavenging an overrun London, players use whatever weapons they can find, from cricket bats to firearms, to survive. It doesn’t take much to slip up and become zombie fodder, though, and when you do, all progress is lost. You can recover any items gathered as your next survivor but don’t expect the zombies to go easy on you.
6. Metro Exodus
Developer: 4A Games Publisher: Deep Silver
As the third entry in the acclaimed Metro series, Exodus is bigger than its predecessors, opening up the radioactive world for less linear exploration. New threats enter the fray as Artyom ventures out of Moscow in search of civilizations once thought eradicated.
Many of the mechanics from the series return, including the weapon-crafting system, but Exodus set out to increase the scope of Artyom’s adventure with a world that feels alive. Dynamic weather, a day-night cycle, and changing environments make you feel like you’re part of a bigger world, which is a big change from the series’ more claustrophobic environments.
While the human threat is still present, Artyom faces a rogue’s gallery of fiends. Combat remains true to the series, which has always had an intentionally sluggish feel that Dead Island was also known for to remove the often arcade feel of other shooters.
One of the best parts of Dead Island was customizing your character through skill tree upgrades. Each character had their own unique tree, which enhanced replayability. Though Killing Floor 2 is a bit more explosive and faster-paced than Dead Island, its expansive skill tree and makeshift weaponry feel like a call back to Techland’s zombie romp. With a few game-changing twists, of course.
In Killing Floor 2, players take on hordes of monstrosities using an assortment of fun and brutal weapons. Unfortunately, for every awesome weapon on the battlefield, there’s a much larger threat that makes it look puny. The fun of Killing Floor 2 is in its numbers, whether it’s the six-player co-op going up against massive hordes or 12 players going toe-to-toe in six on six, human-vs-monster PvP matches.
4. No More Room in Hell
Developer: No More Room in Hell Team Publisher: Lever Games
Sometimes, some of the best things are built off of something great. No More Room in Hell first came to light in 2003 as a Half-Life 2 mod and blossomed into a wonderful zombie survival shooter focused on teamwork and realism. Taking inspiration from George Romero’s of the Dead series, No More Room in Hell is heavy on the human element and the actual threat zombies impose. For example, all it takes is one bite to join the horde of undead. And if you are bitten, do you warn your team and risk them taking drastic action or secretly try to find the cure, hoping you don’t succumb?
The wave-based shooter includes base defense, a number of different ways to slay zombies, and different zombie types to keep things interesting. Each map is dynamic so it’s harder to memorize and strategize before the round starts and ammo is scarce, putting a bigger emphasis on the melee combat Dead Island fans enjoy.
The Walking Dead universe was primed and ready for a dramatic zombie shooter, and though several developers tried, they all fell short of what Skydance Interactive achieved with Saints & Sinners. Despite being a virtual reality game, Saints & Sinners avoids feeling gimmicky and really drives immersion through decision-making, stealthy zombie slaying, and scavenging.
The game runs on a day/night cycle, and with each day that passes, the undead horde continues to grow. To make matters worse, you’ll have human foe to go against, who tend to draw in more walkers than they can handle. You can make allies along the way, but once you leave the safety of their walls, it’s just you and the shambling undead. With ammo incredibly scarce and limited room for supplies, each trip into town needs to be carefully planned and meticulously executed. One slip-up and you’ll be zombie fodder. And being zombie fodder in a virtual reality headset is far more horrifying than you’d expect.
2. Left 4 Dead 2
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve
Are you surprised to see Left 4 Dead 2 on a list of zombie games? It’s really the go-to zombie experience, and despite its age, will continue to be until Valve transports us into another timeline where Left 4 Dead 3 exists. The co-op shooter is all about speed as a horde of generic and mutated zombies are always on your tail. There are no heroes, and trying to rush to the safe house alone (without using exploits) will guarantee your demise.
Left 4 Dead 2 is a classic zombie experience that puts the undead in the forefront. There is no human threat, save for your own team’s incompetence, and the lulls in the action serve only as a breather before the massive fight that lies ahead. While co-op and melee elements are really all that link Dead Island and Left 4 Dead 2, if you enjoy bashing zombies, the latter is a must play.
1. Dying Light 2
Developer: Techland Publisher: Techland
After finding success with Dead Island, Techland went on to create Dying Light, a similar zombie FPS that focused more on fast-paced traversal than the slower, lumbering movements that Dead Island was critiqued for. While Dying Light went a little more action-heavy, even introducing a more vicious and relentless threat, it still used the framework that worked for Dead Island.
Dying Light 2 improved upon some of its predecessor’s shortcomings but was largely the same experience. While it’s not available right from the start, the game does have a co-op mode that unlocks as the story progresses, and it’s arguably when Dying Light 2 really starts to shine. As both Dead Island and Dying Light proved, bashing zombies is really more fun with friends. If you haven’t played Dying Light 2 yet, definitely try to sneak it in before Dead Island 2’s release. If it’s too late, it’s a great zombie game to have on the back burner.
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