Is the zombie genre dead?

Pardon the zombie pun.

We were at EGX Rezzed last weekend. Something I noticed, other than all the awesome indie games, was how few zombie titles were there. And by few, I mean literally none. Not a sausage.

In the last few years we’ve seen a glut of zombie based games. From Telltale’s The Walking Dead to How To Survive. But this year, there seems to have been an exodus from the genre.

Granted, Telltale are still churning out TWD – to a fairly high standard. We’ve also got Days Gone on the PS4 and State of Decay 2 on the Xbox One to look forward to. But nothing compared to the myriad of zombie based games that we’ve been used to, year in, year out – pretty much since The Walking Dead became a thing in mass-poplar culture. Way back in 2010.

Over 50 zombie games since 2010

According to Wikipedia, between 1982 – 2010 there were around 80 zombie related games released. Since 2010 there’s been over 50. Their list seems to omit quite a few smaller indie titles – but I think the proportions add up.

So why are we seeing less zombie games, all of a sudden? Are people tired of the genre? Are we lacking in unique zombie based games?

We’ve seen it with The Walking Dead. The show’s losing popularity. The episodes aren’t as highly rated as they initially were – despite technically being ‘better’, in some respects. Personally, I think the genre’s peaked.

Treated to some fantastic zombie games

We were treated to some fantastic zombie games. We’ve had The Last of Us (if you consider that a zombie game). State of Decay. The Telltale series. Plants vs Zombies. Day Z. But I think that interested is waiving – people have had enough.

Perhaps a few disappointing titles have put us off. Maybe games like H1Z1 have rocked the genre a little. Or maybe we’re just seeing too many samey zombie games. Day Z, H1Z1, 7 Days to Die, How to Survive – all similar in concept and execution.

Or maybe the genre just needs something to inject some life back into it. Maybe that’ll be The Last of Us 2. Or the State of Decay sequel. Maybe even Days Gone. Or it could be none of them – and we might be waiting a good few years for the revival.

Story’s more important than genre

I myself am slowly moving away from buying my games based on the genre. Initially, I’d only opt for RPGs, FPSs and the occasional sports games. Then I started branching out (or back into) platformers. Since then, I realised that it was the story that made a good game – not the type of game or the setting, itself.

Pretty obvious statement, I guess. But what I’m getting at is just because a game is about zombies – it doesn’t mean that it’ll be a good game. If anything, if a game about the undead wants to be great, the zombies should be secondary.

Games like The Last of Us, Telltale’s The Walking Dead and State of Decay have a strong narrative and great mechanics / features. The zombies are just there to get in the way. Or set the scene.

Not dead. But dying.

I don’t think that the zombie genre is quite done yet. But it’s not in good shape. We’ll probably see fewer zombie games coming out over the next few years. As I think that the genre, as a whole, is in decline.

I’m not sure what the next big genre will be. Often, it follows the themes that concern the general population at the time. This zombie revival came around the same time that people were terrified of bird flu, swine flu and Ebola. Perhaps the next genre will be based around the climate, or invasion, or themes of immigration?

I think there’s also a rising popularity in the distopian future / collapsed civilization genre. Perhaps games like Horizon Zero Dawn and TV shows like The 100 will bear that torch for a while.

But what do you think? Are you sick and tired of the zombie genre? Or are you still looking for your perfect zombie game? Let me know in the comments below!