Genre Mash-Up: Creating The Ultimate Zombie Game

Busy cooking up Thanksgiving dinner? Why not bake the ultimate zombie-slaying video game while you're at it.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris


There are a lot of zombie games on the market these days.  Some are good and others, well, not so much.  With that in mind, I decided to create a little mash-up recipe to craft the best possible zombie game ever.  With that in mind, this is my recipe for The Ultimate Zombie Game!

  • 3 Cups of Dead Rising
  • 3 Cups of Left 4 Dead
  • 1 Cup of Plants vs. Zombies
  • ½ Cup of Resident Evil 5
  • 1 Tablespoon of Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone
  • 1 Teaspoon of Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  • A pinch of Zombies Ate My Neighbors

First take three cups of Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead.  Mix together vigorously.  The goal here is eliminate the problematic areas of each game and to leave behind a healthy base to work from.  I am looking to keep the never-ending zombie hordes and fun setting of Dead Rising and losing its obnoxious story system, dependence on psychopath boss battles, and repetitive mission structure.

From Left 4 Dead, I am looking to keep the tremendous co-operative experience, technical genius of Valve, and end-of-the-world vibe. Hopefully, if the mix is stirred vigorously enough, lost will be the Witches and the Tanks that, while they have their place in Left 4 Dead push a bit beyond what we all know is the core of good zombie games.

A bonus that I’d hope to distill from this mix concoction would be the successful multiplayer support for Left 4 Dead.  Everyone hates buying a game whose focus is on cooperative multiplayer to realize that there is no one online to play with (try playing one of the Zombie Apocalypse games).  When mixing these two games together be sure to try your damnedest to get as much out of Left 4 Dead that you can.


After creating a base with these two games, our next goal is to add some flavoring with some other games.  First in the mix is one cup of Plants vs. Zombies.  This addictive fun game is meant to add two major components to our new game: a light sense of humor and a smattering of tower defense gameplay.  Notice we’re not using a ton of Plants vs. Zombies in this recipe.  Just enough to take advantage of PopCap’s great characterizations and the variation of a tower defense game.

While the final gameplay should remain a core first-person shooter, it would be nice to include a few missions that can borrow from the tower defense model.  Left 4 Dead already has some stages similar to this and using Plants vs. Zombies will only strengthen that flavor.  Plus, maybe if we’re lucky, this dose of Plants. vs. Zombies will bring in the much-desired casual gamers.

Next is a small inclusion of Resident Evil 5.  While this series is the basis of the cultural resurgence of zombie entertainment, it hasn’t aged as well for what I’d like to see.  Had this recipe been in the works five years ago, Resident Evil 4 would have been a core element of this brew.  Unfortunately, time hasn’t been nice to this series and it is only included to add a dose of nice graphics and old timey flavoring.  At least its flavor notes will remind us of what was once a fantastic game.

After adding Resident Evil to the mix, I’d throw in some Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone and Return to Castle Wolfenstein for good measure.  Zombie Apocalypse adds some scrappy creativity because the game is only available for digital download.  Plus, it provides four-player co-operative gameplay on the same console or over the web (something that Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising are lacking).  Hopefully, this game’s lack of community is not a residual effect in our mix.


Return to Castle Wolfenstein is added to ensure that somewhere in this game a nazi-themed level or enemy will appear.  Every recipe can be made better by the opportunity to kill undead nazis and a nice diversion is always appreciated. Just ask the Call of Duty games!

Finally, I am calling for a pinch of Zombies Ate My Neighbors to add a final zing to each and every taste of this recipe.  While time has passed by this Genesis and SNES classic, it would add a nice spicy first bite for those new to the world of zombie games.  Preparers be careful, because adding too much of this game will make this recipe too old school and would lose the benefits of our core ingredients.

If the ingredients are well mixed, you’ll be left with the tastiest of results: The Ultimate Zombie Game that delivers a great gameplay experience, mixed with some fantastic multiplayer support and several variations that keeps the game fresh without being too risky. For professional preparers, consult with several outside sources like The Walking Dead, World War Z, and, of course, Night of the Living Dead.