When people ask me what it’s like to have children and I actually decide to be honest, I usually tell them it’s a bit like having a zombie as a pet. You constantly need to keep your zombie entertained out of fear of it seeing you as food and attacking you, so regular amounts of food and water keep it in check. Whenever there is a lack of food, a panic comes over you. Simple trips to the shops with the zombie can be somewhat problematic. Who will he try to eat or attack today? Will it all end in tears? No one bothers to tell you zombies don’t play well with other zombies. There will be a lot of screaming and biting when they meet another zombie. In short, having a zombie can be hard.
But my God do we love zombies in games. To be clear, I am now discussing zombies and no longer my children, that reference died 23 words ago now. Go on, count them back, I dare you. You may be sat there wondering how long have zombies been in video games for? Well fear no more because my job today is to take you back through history to chart the rise of zombies in video games, picking out a few key titles along the way.
Zombie Zombie, 1984 (ZX Spectrum)
The first zombie based game was actually called the rather unimaginative Zombie Zombie released for the ZX Spectrum in 1984. Zombie Zombie was inspired by the Zombie flicks of George Romero. The goal of Zombie Zombie is to rid the city of its Zombie infestation. Don’t be fooled by the lame name, this game was well ahead of its time. It was created as a sequel to the very popular Ant Attack and was considered to be the first truly 3D isometric video game. Zombie Zombie was only released in Europe and was nowhere near as successful as Ant Attack but is now regarded as the very first Zombie video game.
Sweet Home, 1989 (NES)
Also worth more than a nod at this point would be a more obscure titled called Sweet Home released in 1989 on the Family Computer or NES to those outside of Japan. Those outside of Japan would also be forgiven for not having heard of this title before as it didn’t see a release outside of Japan due to its “horrific use of imagery”. Sweet Home heavily influenced Resident Evil and is considered to be one of the first survival horror games. It was also based on a film of the same name. The game features randomly encountered battles which the character or party of characters must fight or run away from. The five characters have a specific skill that is necessary to complete the game, and depending who lives and dies the player can receive multiple endings.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors, 1993 (SNES, Sega Genesis)
LOOK AT THIS COVER ART! Go on, just take a look at it. This huge headed freak must have seemed pretty cool back in the day, rocking those turn ups with his imitation Chuck Taylors and bad boy RayBans. The haircut in itself deserves merit. This wonderful cover is the Mexican variant and is collectible. Z.A.M.N was a good overall game focusing on clearing the local neighborhood of b-movie monsters which also included, you guessed it… ZOMBIES. There wasn’t much progression on-screen for the zombies though, they were still seen as a bit of a joke and not fully utilized as the fear inducing shuffling blood thirsty horde we now see today, which brings me to our next title.
What can be said about Resident Evil that hasn’t been said before? So far we have reached the first serious game to feature zombies, and gosh was it serious. Did you know Resident Evil was meant to be full of ghosts and not zombies? Not surprising as there had been no great digital presence of zombies before. The original Resident Evil team was concerned that people wouldn’t find them as scary as ghosts. Well they didn’t need to worry about that! When I was younger my brother who was seven years older than me was lucky enough to get a PlayStation as soon as they came out. I remember sitting in his room scared to death watching as he played. Nightmares ensued and I didn’t personally play the title until I was the ripe old age of 10 with Resident Evil: Nemesis. I will never forget the feeling you had as he chased you down a corridor. Resident Evil for me will always hold a special place as the first title to really live up to the “Survival Horror” genre.
That’s all for now folks. Join us for part two next week as we chart the explosive rise of zombie games and find out if they really live up to the hype. I’m off to watch Dawn of the Dead.