How to watch The Walking Dead franchise in order (release and chronological)

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead
(Image credit: AMC)

Over the last 12 years, The Walking Dead has gone from a solo series to a multi-title franchise – and while its original show is set to conclude very soon, with three spin-offs centered on its most beloved characters in development, it’s not looking to slow down any time soon. It's a treat to have so much content to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also a little overwhelming when trying to decipher how exactly to watch the Walking Dead shows in order. 

With the long-running flagship wrapping up, some will likely want to revisit all things The Walking Dead. Others, perhaps, might want to tackle the series for the first time, safe in the knowledge that they won’t have to wait months for more chapters. So, we've broken down how to tackle the series with all its spin-offs. While we've not included the webisodes – a set of difficult-to-find one-shots – we have included the main series, its prequel Fear the Walking Dead, and more. 

We first go through the series in release order, which we recommend for first-timers, and then go into chronological order, for anyone who wants to witness the zombie apocalypse kick off (and worsen) before meeting Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). There's also a little explanation of why each series is in that order. Here's how to watch the Walking Dead in order – release and chronological.

How to watch the Walking Dead in release order 

Recommended for: newcomers to the Walking Dead franchise.

If you're starting out your Walking Dead journey, then there's no better place than to watch the epic undead series in release order. However, considering how many spin-offs there are, doing so is not exactly simple and you're going to want to eventually watch Fear the Walking Dead, as the series features important characters and crossovers with other series. Here's The Walking Dead in release order.

  • The Walking Dead seasons 1 – 5
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 1
  • The Walking Dead season 6
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 2
  • The Walking Dead season 7
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 3
  • The Walking Dead season 8
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 4
  • The Walking Dead season 9
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 5
  • The Walking Dead season 10 episodes 1 – 16
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 6
  • The Walking Dead season 10 episodes 16 – 22
  • The Walking Dead season 11 episodes 1 – 8
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 7 episodes 1 – 8
  • The Walking Dead season 11 episodes 9 – 16
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 7 episodes 9 – 16
  • Tales of the Walking Dead season 1
  • The Walking Dead season 11 episodes 17 – 24

The main Walking Dead series is available on AMC (which you can also watch AMC through FuboTV and Sling (opens in new tab)) in the US, and Disney Plus (opens in new tab) in the UK.

How to watch the Walking Dead in chronological order

Negan and Maggie in The Walking Dead season 11

(Image credit: AMC)

Recommended for: returning Walking Dead viewers.

So, you're aware of the Walking Dead world. You've seen the main series perhaps and want a different way of tackling the show. Or you're simply just curious to see how the spin-offs fit in with the main show. We're here to help. Below, we have a list of the chronological order of The Walking Dead, followed by a deeper dive into why everything sits where it sits. Prepare yourselves – it gets a little complicated.

  • Fear the Walking Dead seasons 1 – 3
  • The Walking Dead seasons 1 – 8
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 4
  • Tales of the Walking Dead season 1
  • The Walking Dead season 9
  • Fear the Walking Dead season 5
  • The Walking Dead season 10
  • The Walking Dead: The World Beyond seasons 1 – 2
  • The Walking Dead season 11
  • Fear the Walking Dead seasons 6 – 7

Wondering why that order's so different to release? Fear not, let's go into a beat-by-beat explanation of the Walking Dead watch order.

Fear the Walking Dead seasons 1 – 3

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Colman Domingo as Victor Strand in Fear the Walking Dead season 2

(Image credit: AMC)

Fear the Walking Dead might have premiered five years after The Walking Dead, but the events of its earlier seasons take place first. Where the main Walking Dead series starts with Rick Grimes waking up with the world already overrun by zombies, Fear the Walking Dead takes place during the beginnings of the apocalypse.  

The first three seasons unfold in both Los Angeles and Mexico, as high school counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her family try to navigate the start of the zombie outbreak. Initial confusion leads to violent hysteria and dwindling resources. The group has to adjust to a new world order and learn how to survive. All the while, tensions between Madison and her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and son Nick (Frank Dillane) as he wrestles with his drug addiction. Elsewhere, Madison's fiancé Travis (Cliff Curtis) finds himself torn between his new family and his son, Chris. Euphoria's Colman Domingo plays a calculating conman-turned-businessman Victor Strand.

The Walking Dead seasons 1 – 8

The Walking Dead season 3

(Image credit: AMC)

After stumbling out of the hospital after regaining consciousness following a coma, Rick encounters Morgan Jones (Lennie James), kills a bunch of walkers, and reunites with his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) as the trio join forces with a ragtag team of survivors. Said team includes Glenn (Steven Yeun), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Daryl (Norman Reedus). 

The second season sees the gang try to settle down on the Greene Farm – where they meet Maggie (Lauren Cohan) – followed by a stay in an abandoned prison. The third season blows that dream up with the introduction of David Morrisey's villainous community leader The Governor. The following installments see several characters come (Michonne!) and go (sob!) as Rick and the gang navigate the apocalypse, and face very-much-alive antagonists too, including Jeffrey Dean Morgan's baseball bat-swinging baddie Negan.

Note: We suggest you seek out season 10, episode 22 (titled 'Here's Negan') before pressing play on season 6, episode 16 for the full chronological experience. The self-contained episode does work best when you're familiar with the man Negan went on to become, but it is set before Rick meets him.

Fear the Walking Dead season 4

Lennie James as Morgan Jones in Fear the Walking Dead season 4

(Image credit: AMC)

Fear the Walking Dead reinvents itself in season 4 with The Walking Dead's Morgan joining the cast and, for reasons we won't go into, immediately becoming one of its leads. Given the events of The Walking Dead season 8, and the fact that Rick, Carol, and Jesus (Tom Payne) appear in the pilot looking no different, we can estimate that we're about three years into the apocalypse by Fear the Walking Dead season 4's opener. The crossover also cements the fact that the spin-off is no longer a prequel, its storyline running concurrently with The Walking Dead. For now, at least.

Several new characters are introduced as Morgan finds himself up against the antagonistic Vultures: video journalist Althea (Maggie Grace), police officer John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), and nurse June (Jenna Elfman), to name a few.

Tales of the Walking Dead season 1

Tales of The Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

Tales of the Walking Dead is an anthology series, and working out where each individual episode lands in the Walking Dead timeline is almost impossible, especially given the time travel and supernatural elements of some stories. However, most of the episodes take place after the US has been devastated by zombies.

So, why here, exactly? One of the episodes centers on Samantha Morton's Alpha – or Dee as she's known here. In it, the future villain gets jealous when her daughter Lydia (Scarlett Blum) strikes up a motherly bond with fellow survivor Brooke (Lauren Glazier). The final moments of the episode set up Alpha's arc on The Walking Dead, as she and Lydia are found by the Whisperers. The events of the episode occur around here – hence why the season's placement on the timeline.

The Walking Dead season 9

Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

By The Walking Dead season 9 opener, the characters are around three and a half years into the zombie apocalypse. Partway through the chapter, though, the story leaps forward six years, with the most significant change being – outside of major spoilers, anyway – that Rick's daughter Judith is now a katana-wielding ten-year-old.

As expected, new characters are introduced, and the most notable new additions this time round are Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), Magna (Nadia Hilker), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Kelly (Angel Theory), and Luke (Dan Fogler). Towards the end of the season, our survivors stumble across one of their most formidable foes yet; the Whisperers, a group that wears walkers' faces to blend in with the undead. It's creepy stuff and worlds away from Negan's villainous showboating. 

Note: 'Find Me', the 18th episode of The Walking Dead season 10, is set across two of the six years in the time jump, and sees Daryl strike up a romance with a mysterious character called Leah (Lynn Collins). If you're doing a deep chronological dive, then you want to watch that episode right after season 9, episode 5.

Fear the Walking Dead season 5

Maggie Grace as Al in Fear the Walking Dead season 5

(Image credit: AMC)

Fear the Walking Dead season 5 sees Morgan, Alicia, and the rest strive to help other survivors who are struggling as a way to atone for their past wrongdoings. Of course, there are a couple of character introductions, including former power plant worker Grace (Karen David), and welcomes back a familiar face, too. It also sees Dwight (Austin Amelio), one of Negan's ex-cronies from The Walking Dead, cross over into the show. As if walkers were enough of a danger, the group soon learns that much of the land they use is causing people to get radiation sickness, which majorly interrupts their Samaritan missions.

The Walking Dead season 10

Samantha Morton as Alpha in The Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

The Walking Dead season 10 explores Daryl, Carol, and the gang's conflict with Alpha and the Whisperers, as the residents of Hilltop, Alexandria, and the Kingdom band together to fight them. In true Walking Dead fashion, no one person can decide how best to deal with their enemies, which creates plenty of tension within camps as well as between them. The show introduces yet another community: the Commonwealth.

The Walking Dead: The World Beyond seasons 1 and 2

The Walking Dead: World Beyond

(Image credit: AMC)

In October 2020, AMC released another spin-off titled The Walking Dead: World Beyond, which centers on a bunch of Nebraska-based kids who have grown up in a world where the undead roam the Earth. Like Fear the Walking Dead, it features a crossover character in Jadis – also known as Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh), the former Junkyard community leader who threatened Rick and Michonne before eventually joining their team in the flagship show.

In World Beyond, the Civic Republic Military are properly introduced, the mysterious army-like organization that has previously made contact with Fear the Walking Dead's Althea and The Walking Dead's Rick. It also has links to the upcoming Daryl Dixon series. World Beyond ended with a scene in which a French doctor (Carey Van Driest) was seen listening back to old transmissions from virologist Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich), the CDC guy that Rick and co. ran into back in the first season of The Walking Dead. The scientist notes that there are super fast "variants" of walkers that have been spotted in the vicinity and are potentially man-made – which is something Daryl will find himself discovering in his Paris-set outing.

The Walking Dead season 11

The Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

The gang "settle into" new roles within the Commonwealth and question its leader Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) and her shady right-hand man Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton). As the earlier seasons proved, Rick's group isn't the best at accepting new authority figures but the main source of drama is due to Maggie's complicated relationship with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The duo will also appear in a spin-off series The Walking Dead: Dead City.

Fear the Walking Dead seasons 6 and 7

Kim Dickens in Fear The Walking Dead

(Image credit: LAUREN 'LO' SMITH/AMC)

Fear the Walking Dead season 6 follows Morgan as he tries to catch up with the rest of his group having been left for dead by the villainous Virginia (Colby Minifie). Elsewhere, the separated survivors try their best to make it through each day, and plot to either escape or accept their place within Virginia's Pioneer-run settlements. There are a few flashbacks and time jumps – as well as a nuclear explosion – but nothing significant enough to disrupt the watch order. Season 7 deals with the fallout of the devastating blast, the return of a fan favorite character, and more. Be warned, it gets very emotional.

That's how to watch the Walking Dead in order, both release and chronological. there's a lot to take in, but hopefully this has been helpful in your first watch/rewatch. For more TV recommendations, check out our list of the best TV shows of all time for some inspiration. (Spoiler: The Walking Dead is at #80.)

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.