Zombies in video games at this point have reached the point of overkill. It seems like every third game has some variation of the undead running amok and we have to survive them. It is all very tiresome. But back in the old times of the 1990s, there was one game that featured the shambling hordes that stood above them all: Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors was released for the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis in 1993 to little fanfare. My mother got it for my brother and myself that fall, when it was already in discount bins. We had no idea what we were in for when we first popped the cartridge into the top of the system and turned it on.
What we got was a game that we would play endlessly for years and years. Developed by LucasArts and released by Konami, as monster kids we felt like the game was made for us. You take control of either the boy character Zeke (with his dumb 3D glasses), or the girl character Julie, who we fought over being.
The gameplay was simple: rescue the neighborhood idiots from the zombies and monsters. Those monsters included vampires, werewolves, huge demonic babies, squidmen, evil dolls, aliens, UFOs, giant ants, blobs, giant worms, and, of course, zombies.
The fact that we could play this game with all of our favorite monsters in one place was something our little brains could not handle. And the weapons! Throwing popsicles and tomatoes at chainsaw-wielding maniacs never got old. The monster designs were both oddly endearing and creepy at the same time. I mean — look at that giant baby.
As a noted Chucky hater (that doll terrifies me to this day), the levels with the crazy dolls coming to life and their over-the-top laughs still creeps me out. And the levels were all puns and callbacks to classic horror and sci-fi, amazing title cards and all. It was everything these monster kids could have ever wanted.
Arguably, the best part of Zombies was the music. Composed by Joseph McDermott, it remains one of my all-time favorite game scores. Combining classic, campy horror themes with catchy melodies, this is a favorite to play around the house in October. A personal favorite of mine is the theme from the mall level (Level 3) that is just a frantic chase theme on a loop. The gothic spooky castle music is also a standout. It really gets the blood flowing. Just absolute perfection. Someone please release this as an ultra-cool vinyl — those are all the rage these days! I will buy two!
For monster fans, horror fans, sci-fi fans, or anyone who enjoys classic 16-bit action, this game is a must. It is a ’90s classic, and better than any survival-horror game I can think of. If you google hard enough (or not hard at all, really), you can find ways to play this. It was also released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2011. If you grab a working SNES, the game can be had for about $20 on eBay, as well. Worth every penny.