Games as far ranging as Pokémon Go and Overwatch have special Halloween updates that appear during October. Most games have some spooky elements to spotlight at this time of year, though not all of it feels right for the given game. Take the undead — more than a few series have seen the addition of unnecessary zombies.
Even before the dominance of The Walking Dead, zombies were one of the most consistent enemies in gaming. However, while you expect to see brain-chompers in horror games, undead are less expected on a tennis court or in the Old West. These are the handful of games that were doing just fine without shambling corpses. That’s not to say unnecessary zombies made a game worse, but they certainly weren’t needed to make these games fun.
Red Dead Redemption
Not that Red Dead Redemption can’t have funny moments, but it’s mainly a gritty look at the Old West. Once the dark endings and cruel revenge are complete, Rockstar flexed its funny bone in the DLC. Titled Undead Nightmare, the story of the last cowboy is replaced with a major zombie outbreak on the prairie. You’ll be blasting the hungry hordes all over the range, with the overall tone being much campier than in the primary campaign. Plus, the unnecessary zombies are just the start of it — the DLC also adds unicorns, sasquatches, and even beasts from Hell.
Sega Superstars Tennis
After Nintendo’s success with the Mario Tennis franchise, it was natural for Sega to give mascot sports a chance. In the mid-2000s, Sega brought together Sonic and its many other stars all onto the same tennis court to battle at the net. But including all the big Sega franchises meant adding M-rated gore to the colorful sports. Sega Superstars Tennis included some references to zombified franchise House of the Dead, and it lead to some oddball fun. The best is likely the above video of using tennis balls to knockback unnecessary zombies left and right. It finds a way to cutely add color to the grim setting of an undead-filled mansion.
Call of Duty: World at War
Gamers are so used to seeing zombies in the Call of Duty franchise that it’s easy to forget how unnecessary zombies felt when they debuted. Call of Duty: World at War was the series’ return to World War II and was pretty by the numbers until you unlocked its bonus mode. The Nacht der Untoten map featured zombies of the main campaign’s Nazi enemies. The seeming one-off Horde mode against Nazi Zombies proved so popular that it became the game’s selling point, appearing in every Treyarch-developed sequel and — for the first time this year — in the upcoming Infinity Ward-developed Infinite Warfare. What was once a modest bonus mode now feels big enough to sell on its own.
Yakuza: Dead Souls
The Yakuza series is huge in its native Japan but has never really caught on here. Each Yakuza game plays like a Grant Theft Auto clone based in authentic recreations of Tokyo, which earned it a dedicated cult audience. Yakuza: Dead Souls was Sega’s attempt to grow beyond that modest international audience by adding something they knew Americans love: unnecessary zombies! This time the protagonists were too busy blasting the undead to deal with petty squabbles over who owns what in Shibuya. The open-world action translated well to fighting zombies, but Dead Souls still wasn’t a huge seller, leading Sega to briefly suspend localization of Yakuza titles.
Playing a digital recreation of the board game Risk might sound a bit boring to some. Yet EA did a fantastic job of transforming the complex tabletop title into a fun, fast-paced strategy game. The turn-based action is reminiscent of Advance Wars, and Risk Factions is engrossing whether against a friend online, or the AI enemies. To increase the game’s personality, Risk Factions dropped the countries and colors theme, instead making each faction more random than the last. That included robots, yetis, and (you guessed it) unnecessary zombies. Watching zombie soldiers shoot at robot infantry is even more fun than it seems.
Reverse Honorable Mention: Typing of The Dead
Lastly, here’s an honorable mention for a zombie game that added something else unnecessary. The House of The Dead franchise is normally a light gun shooter in arcades, so it’s odd to see players trade in shotguns for typewriters. Typing of The Dead turns the on-rails shooting into a keyboard test on words per minute and spelling. Who needs a typing class when you can just blast walkers in the face with words and phrases?