Don't use the Z word
As you've probably noticed, the zombie trend is alive and well. Or, err, dead and well? Let's say it's shambling along at great speed with no sign of stopping before it crumbles in a heap by the side of the road. There's so many zombie-related games and movies and comic books on the market today that you'll never go hungry for
brains this undead scourge. In fact, theres such an abundance of zomedia you might get the sickness--as in, sick of anything to do with zombie hordes.
But don't curl up in a corner of your boarded-up apartment and weep for the injustice of the world just yet. There are plenty of games out there featuring decomposing, dead-eyed creatures that are in no way zombies. That fact that they're never called zombies is proof enough, but these games go even deeper, clearly showing that the Z word in no way describes their shuffling undead. To honor their accomplishments, here you can find a list of the Top 7 undead creatures that are totally not zombies, so you know where to go to escape the post-human masses. Metaphorically, I mean. Sorry if I got your hopes up.
7. The Infected (The Last of Us)
You know Plants vs. Zombies, but who ever heard of Plants + Zombies? No one, that's who! Which is exactly why the Infected from The Last of Us are in a class all their own. That's not to say they aren't frightening, since they are the result of a crazy fungus from South America taking over people's brains for the purpose of spreading its spores to additional hosts. Plus, the Clickers' signature sound effect may be one of the most bone-chilling tones to ever grace human ears (despite sounding like the noise a pig would make if it tried to imitate a popcorn machine). But don't fret, because...
Why they aren't zombies: Like I said, plants. The Infected may be soulless shells, but they're all flora and no Romero. If all it takes to be a zombie is a mushroom growing out of your cranial region, does that make Toad one too? I think not.
6. Necromorphs (Dead Space)
I feel like this is how Salvador Dali would envision the undead. Created when some folks stood too close to evil alien sonar devices, the Necromorphs are post-human abominations whose anatomy has been rearranged in a highly inefficient manner. These bad mofos are super aggressive and will attack anything with a pulse, because they really need that pulse to go away before they can turn the surrounding flesh into a proper Necromorph brother. There's a purpose to all that mind-rending violence though, because the Necromorphs' ultimate goal is to join into a giant ball of fleshy goo called Brethren Moon that's intent on consuming all organic matter in the galaxy. Brains just aren't enough, it seems.
Why they aren't zombies: First off, whoever heard of zombies in space? That's just silly. But if you want to get technical, the Necromorphs become an intelligent being in their mass joining, which is more than any zombies can say. Plus, they can only be killed if you destroy their limbs, and everyone knows you have to take off a zombie's head to end their shuffling for good. I mean, duh.
5. Majini (Resident Evil 5)
And you thought tapeworms were bad. The unfortunate NCPs of Resident Evil 5 have to deal with nasty leech-like critters called the plaga, who will attach to the central nervous system of a human host and turn them into a Majini. While Majini maintain all the useful abilities of their former selves (communication, tool use, not crumbling into a pile of rotted meat in a strong breeze), they lose all their higher functioning think-y bits, so they become the parasites' mindless slaves. The whole process also only takes a matter of moments, so there's no moment when you try to decide whether to cap the guy who got bitten or not. You see a plaga go down someone's throat, you head for the hills, because they're about ten seconds away from shooting you in the back.
Why they aren't zombies: Technically, these folks are still alive. Sure, the parts of their brain that made up who they are have been violently destroyed, and they're now vicious meatsacks for their leech-y masters. Still, since they never died they can't be undead, and they maintain an almost human level of intelligence in some capacities. Unfortunate yes, zombie no.
4. Hollows (Dark Souls)
I've said it once and I'll say it again: undead is not synonymous with zombie. Nobody knows that better than the Chosen Undead from Dark Souls, who would certainly take offense to the suggestion that s/he is a flesh-munching not-corpse. Though s/he might be more convincingly zombie-like as a Hollow (the terminal stage of an undead that looks like a human crossed with years old raisin), there's still no need for that kind of insensitive talk. Sure, Hollows might be physically deteriorated husks of humanity distinctly lacking in free will. But seriously, there's no need to name-call, because
Why they aren't zombies: They can come back to life. Not on a whim, mind you, and it takes sacrificing a good deal of humanity at a bonfire to reconstitute that shriveled flesh. Yet it can be done, returning a Hollow to a freer and less-dead state if they so choose. Plus, there are already zombies in Dark Souls, and you know what they're called? Zombies. I think the devs might be trying to clue us in here.
3. Husks (Mass Effect)
War isn't all about blowing your enemies into 1000 tiny giblets, because resources are finite and the other guy is trying to do the exact same thing to you. Nobody has had as much time to figure that out as the Reapers, and they came up with one hell of a solution: the Husks, shells of once-organic creatures turned synthetic via impaling on a giant spike. Goddamn! Relieved of all emotion, personality and mental faculties by Reaper stabification, the Husks are mindless husks that turn on their former comrades without a second thought. Or a first one. While their impromptu lobotomies certainly compromised their higher skill sets, just the sight of your brother-in-arms turned into a soulless shell of their former self is enough to mess with anyone's head
Why they aren't zombies: What do you generally call a thing made out of wires, metal and electric bits? A machine, which according to my sci-fi field manual is the exact opposite of a zombie. Yep, says so right there. You might have a case if the Husks were still organic beings, but as it stands these post-human creatures fall outside the parameters of zombanity. So close, but no e-cigar.
2. Mercenary soldiers (Metal Gear Solid 4)
Leave it to Hideo Kojima to take a story focused on international military operations and espionage and insert shambling hordes into the mix. That's pulled off using the SOP system, a network employed by basically every paramilitary contractor that suppresses the emotions of soldiers via nanomachines injected into their brains. That definitely sounds like a bulletproof system that could in no way be hijacked by a vengeful clone psychopa--oh shit. In a move that could never have been foreseen, Liquid Ocelot flips the whole thing off, and the soldiers are so overwhelmed by the resulting onslaught of emotions that their brains basically implode. What's left are barely mobile, non-sentient rinds of humanity with only their lizard brains left to guide them. Well, that and years of combat training ingrained into muscle memory. Fuuuuuun.
Why they aren't zombies: Like the Majini, these poor sods--or the fleshbags that used to be them--aren't dead. Though their mental faculties are shot, their basic biological functions never ceased, so their bodies are still firmly planted in the mortal plane. You won't see these guys chowing down on Snake's flesh anytime soon--or I hope not, anyway. Eew.
1. Walkers (The Walking Dead)
Here we have it, the ultimate in not-zombieness. The walking dead you keep hearing about in what's that game called again? Anyway, Walkers are the result of an epidemic that has infected the entire human population, and it's only a matter of time before it takes everyone out. Man, what a downer. At first they seem to have all the important zombie traits down. There's the infectious zombie virus (ding) spread by bites from the undead (ding) which kills the host (ding), destroys their mind (DING) leaving behind only violent impulses (DING!) and causing them to hunger for human flesh (DING!!!) as they horrifically decompose before the eyes of their living prey (DINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDI--!). However, there is a critical distinction to be made here!
Why they aren't zombies: uh. Well, nobody calls them zombies, for starters. That's important, because if they were zombies as we know them, why would the characters never refer to them that way even once? And second--err. Okay, gimme a minute here
You're dead wrong
I hope you've learned a little something about cryptozoology today, and understand why these soulless beings that hunger for tender human flesh are in no way zombies. Are there any more not-zombies you want to note? Do you take issue with my irrefutable zomb-arguments? Tired of me mushing zombie together with other words in barely appropriate places? Sound off in the comments below, but not too loud. They might hear you.
Still suffering a bizarre and persistent hunger for all things undead? Try to sait it with the Top 7 best zombie games, the best zombies in video game history, and What games have taught us about surviving a zombie apocalypse. Maybe study up on why you can't quit zombies. And stay away from me. Back, monster, back!