It’s time to dodge the undead and race to the bunker with your supplies – as we check out the best zombie survival games!
Zombies have infested horror and FPS/third person games over the last three decades, with the undead proving to be very potent antagonists for both scares and more action-oriented experiences.
However, they’ve also made their presence felt in games where your character can struggle to survive as night falls; often relying on the gathering of supplies and using resources to craft shelters, perhaps even recruiting followers to help stave off the ever present threat of the undead hordes.
There’s lots of games that fall into this latter category – plenty of titles which fit into the zombie survival games genre.
Which are the best though?
Let’s find out, as we check out the best zombie survival games!
10. How to Survive (PS3/Wii U/Xbox 360/PC, 2013)
Though it does feel a bit like an isometric shooter, How to Survive does feature a robust crafting system and definitely has its roots in survival mechanics, with food, water and shelter needed in order for your character to stay alive.
It does, however, start off a little unsatisfyingly – with your character stranded on a boring first island.
Once you start to get your head around the game’s mechanics and move on to a more challenging and deeper experience, it’s a much more enjoyable game.
Oh – and it also throws armoured zombies at you too.
As if standard zombies aren’t scary or threatening enough!
A skill tree and the chance to craft improved weaponry should soon see you bettering your ability to survive the hordes of undead antagonists, however.
How to Survive is a slow burner but definitely a better game than its initial critical reception would have you believe. It spawned a sequel too, which you’ll read more about as you make your way through the best zombie survival games list!
9. 7 Days to Die (PS4/Xbox One/PC, 2014)
Another game that met with a harsh critical reception, 7 Days to Die offers an open world, sandbox experience in which your player – and anyone you happen to be playing with, given that it supports splitscreen and online multiplayer options – is hunted by hordes of zombies!
You begin the game with nothing of use – everything you need will have to be found and crafted, including clothing, weapons, food and shelter.
The first person action in 7 Days to Die does look a bit dated these days, but its gameplay is really satisfying – at least once you understand its deep and varied resource management (and crafting!) options.
It’s not particularly well optimised for console controllers, but 7 Days to Die has a real old school, unforgiving feel that’s well worth experiencing for the hardcore zombie survivalists out there!
8. DayZ (PS4/Xbox One/PC, 2019)
Beginning life as a mod for tactical military FPS Arma 2, DayZ was hugely popular in its initial incarnation.
It’s a shame that the standalone game wasn’t more polished – because the open world, massively multiplayer action in DayZ is superb as soon as you encounter other players.
Much like Rare’s Sea of Thieves, you never quite know whether or not other players will be friendly or hostile; even players who do initially join up with you can – and usually do – betray you at any time they feel like it.
This makes for an extraordinarily tense experience – you’re always watching your back and the zombies in the massive open world are, frankly, the least of your worries!
Though negatively received by critics, the fairly barebones experience means that the emergent gameplay – provided by those aforementioned, unexpected and unpredictable interactions with other players – is what truly makes DayZ shine.
7. How to Survive 2 (PS4/Xbox One/PC, 2017)
This second title in the How to Survive series is a big improvement over the original game.
Set in New Orleans, the setting gives How to Survive 2 a unique and unusual ambience, even compared to its predecessor.
With support for up to four players – online or local – it doesn’t need to be a solitary experience either.
How to Survive 2 leans more towards its action RPG elements than the first game did too, with some great community-building mechanics built in too.
Additionally, there’s much more depth to character progression, allowing for players to diverge and specialise in different areas in order to have a wide variety of skills on hand.
Though clearly still an indie game – it does have a few issues that would perhaps have been smoothed out with a larger budget and more development time – How to Survive 2 is a decent zombie survival game, particularly if you want to team up with family, friends or complete strangers to try and outlast the zombie hordes!
6. Project Zomboid (PC/Mac, 2011)
Set in the fictional Knox County, Kentucky, Project Zomboid is another isometric zombie survival game.
Originally released on Steam in 2011 – in Early Access form – development continues on Project Zomboid even now, with the latest update to the game having been released as recently as December 2021.
Project Zomboid is an extremely ambitious game considering its small, independent development team.
Players are survivors of a zombie apocalypse, trapped in Knox County thanks to the undead hordes.
As well as foraging for food and water – to stave off the ever present threat of hunger and dehydration – players must be careful not to be scratched or bitten by a zombie, as this will lead to zombification or death!
Safe houses can be created and barricaded to provide respite from the zombies – yet electricity and water services can eventually fail, necessitating jaunts outside of the player’s base.
Players can make use of skills such as farming and fishing to help them survive too.
A sandbox mode – where players can customise various parameters that make up the world, is also available in order to adjust the level of challenge.
Project Zomboid may look visually basic, but it’s a highly detailed and very well made game – still going strong after more than a decade since it first burst onto our screens!
5. The Last Stand: Aftermath (PS4/PS5/Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X/PC, 2020)
The very first game in The Last Stand series was a browser game, released in 2007.
Since then, numerous sequels have been released – but The Last Stand: Aftermath marks the first time that the zombie survival series has appeared on consoles!
Interestingly, in The Last Stand: Aftermath, you play as an average citizen of a city overrun by the undead – yet you’re already infected with the zombie virus when you start!
As you’re already infected, the clock is ticking for your character – so they’ve volunteered to head out and gather as many supplies as they can before their time runs out.
Naturally, death – or perhaps undeath – is of course inevitable for the player’s character, so when they perish it’s time to take control of an entirely different, yet still tragically infected, survivor.
Taking a new persona into the twin stick shooting, isometric nightmare does get easier however – because each new character has some of the perks that the recently deceased human had unlocked, as well as their gear.
There’s a huge balancing of risk/reward to be done by the player when pushing forward into the world, as well as a really flexible approach to combat – items and weapons can be thrown and used to distract, but there’s also plenty of ways to use stealth too.
The Last Stand: Aftermath is an underappreciated and overlooked gem, but definitely gets our vote as one of the best zombie survival games!
4. Dying Light (PS4/Xbox One/PC, 2014)
Who knew that parkour and zombies would be such an effective combination?
Well, we here at Retro Dodo definitely did – because we’ve recommended Dying Light at least a few times before; you’ll also find it on our list of the best Xbox One zombie games and our best zombie games on PS4 list too!
In Dying Light, players are cast as an undercover agent, posing as a courier – trying to find the cure for a zombie outbreak that has a Middle Eastern city completely under siege.
Venturing beyond the safe zone of the home base – in order to find supplies and complete missions – is a seriously tense experience, but the vertically-designed open world provides lots of opportunity to avoid the hordes of zombies you’ll encounter in the wrecked urban environment.
When night falls, zombies become even stronger – so, in order to survive your jaunts beyond the safety of your base, you’ll truly have to use the environment like a brilliantly designed playground!
It’s a superb game that’s been supported with numerous DLC packs – one of which, Be A Zombie, does exactly what it says in the name: yes, it allows you to become one of the undead, helping your fellow, rotting brothers and sisters to raid other players!
3. Minecraft (PS3/PS4/Switch/Wii U/Xbox Series S/X/Xbox One/PC, 2011)
Wait, where are you going? Hear me out!
Though Minecraft is most closely associated with the unbelievable inventiveness made possible by its Creative mode – as an example, one player remade the entirety of Pokemon Red in a Minecraft world, on a working Game Boy, using only Minecraft blocks – it does also feature a Survival mode.
With elements such as hunger, thirst and – yes – zombies, Minecraft’s Survival mode is actually a tense game of crafting items and making sure you have a safe place to hide when night falls.
When it does, the game is genuinely scary – you certainly won’t be thinking about how creative you can be with the blocks once you’re left in the dark and can hear the moans of hungry zombies approaching!
Now, you can even recreate the terror of being pursued by zombies in real life – check out our best Minecraft Lego sets list for more on that!
Over the years, many more terrifying and deadly creatures have been added into Minecraft, but it’s amazing how much its Survival mode really does feel like the scariest survival horror game despite the basic, blocky visuals.
Which is why Minecraft most definitely earns its high ranking on the best zombie survival games list!
2. Dying Light 2: Stay Human (PS5/Xbox Series S/X/Xbox One/PC, 2022)
More parkour and zombies?
Dying Light 2: Stay Human takes what was great in the original game – the tense jaunts out into the city, the deadly fall of night and of course, the possibilities for creative traversal – and dials it up to eleven.
Though – like its predecessor – this is a first person action game first and foremost, its overall feel, crafting system and open world environment certainly makes it fit the survival criteria of this list very well indeed.
Of course, the vertiginous design of the open world setting makes the parkour incredibly satisfying and endlessly enjoyable, just as it did in the original.
With stats and skills to improve your character, as well as a crafting system, it definitely feels like an action oriented survival experience.
We liked Dying Light 2: Stay Human so much that it even made it onto our list of the best PS5 horror games!
Just try not to leave the safe zone after the sun goes down – unless you have to!
1. State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition (Xbox One, 2018)
Another game that we here at Retro Dodo feel is unfairly overlooked, State of Decay 2 is a zombie survival game that ticks absolutely all of the boxes that you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic, action/adventure/strategy game.
You control a community of survivors, rather than just one – and you can recruit more as you explore the world. Taking care of each survivor’s physical and mental health is also important, as well as providing sufficient facilities for them at your chosen base of operations.
Multiple zombie types (including the horrific, titular cover star – the Juggernaut) and even disgusting plague hearts – which create tough, disease spreading zombies – roam the massive open world beyond the walls of your safe zone, as well as other survivors who may or may not be friendly.
Managing relationships with other communities and picking up on distress signals becomes part of day to day survival in State of Decay 2, which also has a brilliant resource management system.
Specific resources are located in logical places; need fuel? Well then, better find a garage or petrol station. How about medicine? Try finding a pharmacy. Food supplies waning? Get yourself to a store or restaurant.
There’s an incredible level of detail in State of Decay 2’s open world action – and it’s really satisfying to build up a community of people, whose skills and abilities all advance the more they use certain items or engage in different activities.
It’s heartbreaking to lose even one of your residents, however, especially as each one is randomly generated, feels like a completely unique individual – and they’re permanently gone once they’re dead.
State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition even features horde-based multiplayer modes – or, if you’re feeling brave, you can invite other players into your open world adventure too.
All of this adds up to make State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition our clear choice for the top of the best zombie survival games list!
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.