I’m not exactly sure what happened in the mid-2000s, but zombies suddenly got really, really popular again. I guess I’d credit Danny Boyle’s excellent 28 Days Later with sparking the resurgence, because it was very swiftly followed by Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead, which was in turn followed by George Romero coming out of zombie retirement to make some films which, in my honest estimation, have done more to tarnish his legacy than bolster it. Be that as it may, zombies are really popular now, probably more than any other time in their history and more than any other monster, with the possible exception of vampires.
Look at ThinkGeek’s selection of zombie flavored items. Look at the Walking Dead franchise. Look at half of the mainstream horror games coming out these days. Even Resident Evil 6 brings zombies back for the first time in the main series since 2002’s Resident Evil 0. However, zombies have always been there. Hell, Bela Lugosi starred in White Zombie back in 1932 (though, to be fair, that film sticks much closer to the idea of the Voodoo zombie, not the flesh-eating kind).
The point is that though zombies weren’t exactly at the forefront of pop culture in 1993, but in spite of that Lucasarts teamed with Konami (and how weird is that?) to bring a slice of b-movie awesomeness to the SNES and Sega Genesis in the form of Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The beauty of the game being that it isn’t just zombies, of course. I mean, zombies are omnipresent in the game, but there are so many classic and modern (for the time) horror movie references, to list them all would take up the rest of this article and then some, but suffice it to say that from I Was a Teenage Werewolf to Child’s Play, from Plan 9 from Outer Space to Friday the 13th, there is no shortage of references in the game’s over fifty levels (including secret stages).
Of course, all of this would be useless if the gameplay was awful. Fortunately for us, it isn’t. It’s a top down actioner, with a deep arsenal, interesting level design, kickass boss fights and two-player simultaneous play. The controls are responsive, the weapons are a ton of fun to use (big fan of the soda bombs, myself), the enemies all have different behaviors, and even with fifty levels, there’s enough scenery between the neighborhood, the mall, the pyramids, the mad scientist labs, the toxic waste dumps and all the others to keep it fresh.
There are some subtle differences between the Genesis and SNES versions (more gore on the Genesis, an additional weapon on the SNES), but nothing that would fill out an episode of Same Name, Different Game. They’re pretty much the same, and either version gets the job done. The only possible complaint is that this game is HARD. It starts off pretty easy, but by the time you reach the 40th level and beyond, it’s tough as nails. Not unbeatable by any stretch, but a stiff challenge to be sure. Either way, physical copies are cheap and the SNES version is on the Wii Virtual Console, so check it out.
- Released: 1993
- System: Super NES/Sega Genesis
- Developer/Publisher: Lucasarts/Konami