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The evolution of videogame zombies

As seen in: Zombi (1989)

Disposition: Inscrutable

Back in the days before Ubisoft was a household name, the publisher put out this obscure little gem, a damn-near unplayable adventure game clearly modeled after the film Dawn of the Dead. Four survivors were trapped in a mall, and were forced to explore it to look for supplies while battling the ghouls who’d wandered into the place. The zombies themselves aren’t always visible – a little icon pops up to tell you when they’re near, at which point it’s up to you to find them before they gnaw you open – but it’s not like they’re much to look at anyway. When there are no more clothes in hell, the naked shall walk the department stores, we guess.

Above: The last thing you ever want to/will see

Zombie that Sucks

As seen in: Friday the 13th (1989)

Disposition: Annoying

Trying to create a Nintendo game around a single, nigh-indestructible baddie is no mean feat, especially when you’re working at late-‘80s grindhouse publisher LJN. Because just wandering Camp Crystal Lake with the threat of Jason Voorhees showing up at any time apparently wasn’t spooky enough, the game’s designers decided he needed disposable zombie helpers to even the score. And so these things would rise out of the ground every few seconds to walk in straight lines as you threw rocks at them. They were also really easy to avoid. Cutting them out entirely probably would have improved the game significantly, thereby debunking the long-held theory that zombies automatically make everything better.

Zombie with Guns

As seen in: Beast Busters (1989)

Disposition: Armed

Ho ho, your nerdgasmic zombie apocalypse doesn’t look so appealing when the zombies can shoot back, does it? By 1989, zombie technology had reached the point where they surpassed simple tool use and were able to comprehend and use firearms effectively. Chalk it up to radiation in the brain supply, or maybe to game developers who wanted to make a zombie-themed rail shooter, but then found out that it was a lot cheaper to animate dudes shooting at you than it was to just have them attack up close, the way zombies are “supposed” to. Whatever the reason, seeing dozens of zombies file past you with necks bent, legs stooped and firearms raised with perfect aim is kind of hilarious.

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.