10 Best Post-Apocalyptic Games
I don’t know what is it, but we sure do love a good post-apocalyptic video games these days. There’s just something about exploring the narrative of such a bleak environment, often times there is no hope left for the post apocalyptic world, and it enriches the actions of those still struggling for a purpose. Be it zombie, nuclear or anything else, most of the classics have been done to some degree, so does that make it harder to find fresh ideas? Often yes, but most of the post apocalyptic games on this list either make it work with their own twist, or practically started the trend. Let’s take a look at some of the best post-apocalyptic games.
Set in an alternate version of events where a second nuclear disaster occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the player finds themselves surviving the grim and strange landscapes of a much more warped Russia. This might not be truly post-apocalyptic, but it may as well be for the area the game takes place in. Strange and creepy, the second nuclear disaster has caused some pretty freaky things to happen to the surrounding Chernobyl area, and while there is a story present within the game, it often becomes more about exploring and survive the rather unforgiving world at your own pace, opposed to a narrow focus of progression. One of the earlier games to really nail the bleak and harsh post-apocalypse feel in the cold Russian setting, S.T.A.L.K.E.R is often fondly remembered as one of the game genre’s best.
9. Metro 2033
The bleak world of Metro 2033 takes the nuclear post-apocalyptic setting and takes it underground into the Russian subway of Moscow. It’s cold, grim, full of mutated monsters and even worse down in the darkness, but it was certainly one hell of a world to explore. What followed was the tale of Artyom and his struggle against the unknown forces of the Dark Ones, as you set out through the metro tunnels and across the surface to reach help for your home before it’s too late. The world was brutal and resources were scarce, with plenty of little touches that really brought the Metro world to life as you struggled through it. Be it maintaining gas masks and radiation levels to survive the surface, charging your own batteries or having to trade your bullet ammo for currency, Metro 2033 was a game that forced you to manage resources and equipment in order to survive. You never know how valuable a currency is until you it doubles as the ammunition you need to survive the cold Russian outside. Metro 2033 is one of the best post-apocalypse games out there, and as a game that started from a book series, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.
8. Left 4 Dead
Valve’s track record of amazing releases extended to its multiplayer zombie apocalypse shooter, a team based fight for survival across different levels and maps that pitted you against hordes of the undead. Zombie post-apocalyptic games are pretty dime a dozen though, so why was this any different? More than anything it was just some of that Valve charm really. The characters were fun and has personality, the maps were varied and encounters were both exciting and a source of major panic. While not as fleshed out as the story telling we’ve come to expect from their single player titles, L4D had an ongoing narrative threaded through the chaos that strung the world together, and made the game feel cohesive and fun to experience again and again with a group of friends. It also managed to achieve a very competent post-apocalyptic world in a multiplayer cooperative setting, where few others manage to.
7. Mad Max
Motorised mayhem has never looked so good in this savage Australian post-apocalyptic petrol chasing, vehicle fighting and fist brawling post-apocalyptic game adventure across the outback. While it sadly got less attention they it deserved, a horrible release date did not help, Mad Max is actually quite a good open world adventure across the remains of Australia. The premise? Make the best damn car in the wasteland. Pretty simple right. It’s not exactly the most story driven goal out there, but there’s something so very Mad Max about that. While there is certainly a story going on here, this is a pure and simple adventure of surviving, scavenging and scrapping together whatever junk you can find to craft, fight and drive your way to see another day. It’s never really clear what made the post-apocalyptic Australia the way it is, but this isn’t a story of saving the world, just living another day, and it’s worth picking up. Plus, it’s a game actually set in Australia, that makes what, a full handful? Bonus points in my book.
6. Telltale: The Walking Dead
Fan of the long running series or not, Telltale first hit it big when they took the world of the popular The Walking Dead, and made their own tale in the universe, taking the gaming world by storm in the process. What followed was a depressing and heart wrenching series of choices and consequences that made you question just what you would do in a zombie apocalypse. Split into five episodic tales across the season, The Walking Dead put life and death choices into your hands and asked you just how cold you were inside. Do you risk everything to save a friend, or could you watch them die to stay safe? Is it better to look after your crew, or watch your own back above all else? Some choices had no happy ending, just miserable self-inspection.
Unlike many of the genre, Walking Dead has no illusions of saving the world or looking to make you the great hero, you simply try your very best to get by each day, and deal with problems as they come. It’s one of the better story driven adventures you can pick up, and you absolutely should. Just prepare to face consequences for your actions, and realise that not every story ends happily.
5. Half-Life 2
While not exactly the empty wastelands and daily struggle to survive that most apocalypses tend to produce, Half Life 2 shows us a different kind of defeat for humanity, the more Orwellian kind we’re probably headed towards. With humanity enslaved by a powerful alien force known as the combine, the world of Half Life changed forever after the events of the first game as the human race now lives controlled, carefully monitored lives under their new overlord’s watchful gaze. Flying camera drone patrol the skies, merciless soldiers control the public, cities are stripped of identity and numbered, all while the Citadel looms overhead keeping in control of all it sees, visible across the city. Not to mention the three legged mechs and gunships patrolling the streets while the local population is controlled via alien technology.
City 17 has security and something resembling a lifestyle to lead, but it’s certainly the result of Earth falling to a much more well maintained kind of apocalypse. If city life isn’t for you though, you could always travel outside and live on the outskirts. You’d only have to deal with ants the size of cars, head crabs, zombie like monsters and anything else the portal between dimensions spat out. I hear Ravenholm is nice this time of year though.
4. Dark Souls
Almost as bleak and depressing as humanities growing existential dread, the Dark Souls series has a lore as vast of it is confusing, but one thing we know are sure is just how bad of a state the world is in. Be it the curse of the undead plaguing the main character through most of the series, the complete lack of safe havens for those left to survive, or simply the soul crushingly hard enemies that fill the world, I don’t think the world actually offers hope to recovery. No matter how hard you struggle to reach the end of the games, you never feel like you’ve done anything to help the situation much, if anything you tend to just prolong an inevitable cycle until the end really comes for us all.
It’s a dark medieval fantasy setting at its best, one that few other games have come close to replicating. Whether or not it’s truly post apocalypse is probably up for debate, but it certainly fits the bill for my list of best post apocalypse games. Unlike many titles, Dark Souls simply makes you accept that this is life, and there is no happy ending. You just struggle along until that very last “You Died”.
3. Legacy of Kain
Another forgotten great, and one I will mention anytime the chance presents itself. Set in the post-apocalyptic world of Nosgoth, Legacy of Kain is a story of…well, Kains Legacy I guess. After choosing to live instead of sacrificing himself for the greater good, the world becomes forever doomed to ruin and decay, and you spent the rest of the series paying for those actions. With the blackened skies and decimated human race all but defeated, the world of Nosgoth is a gothic tale of vampires and demons, elder gods and decay. One sadly left behind in today’s gaming landscape.
The bulk of the series puts you in control the soul wraith Raziel, forced into a losing struggle against a fate that can’t be won, and a world that can’t be saved. It really puts an interesting twist on the genre to actually break the world yourself as Kain himself, only to change characters to experience the full impact of the fallout. It was an intriguing and confusing tale of time travel and inescapable destinies as it followed two very different protagonists, using that word very loosing, and it’s certainly one of the greats.
2. The Last of Us
No doubt most of you would have been expecting to see this one in the top 10’s of best post-apocalypse games, and for good reason. The Last of Us was a gripping tale that followed the grizzled Joel and headstrong Ellie which will stay with us for many years to come. Set years after a fungal outbreak began spreading worldwide, turning humans into zombie-like fungus creatures, humanity is either restricted with strictly quarantined cities for protection, or doing the best they can in what’s left of the world, often easy prey for the creatures, or worse, humans. This isn’t a fight against a man-made virus or some kind of sinister plot however, the true horror behind this floral apocalypse is simply that, it’s just nature taking back the planet. Be it entire cities swallowed up by the encroaching plant life or the certainty of how quickly human lost control, The Last of Us is simply the world running its course, and that’s probably the worst thing a species could face.
Our reluctant duo takes us on a journey through the world humanity left behind on a quest to try and create one final chance against the fungal infection sweeping the world. Their efforts largely take a backseat though, as The Last of Us quickly becomes a tale about the two characters and their hardships together, being more about the journey than the destination. While the zombie-ish setting might not be the most original despite its own twists on the genre, The Last of Us is a beautiful and sombre video game with a story that’s truly hard to forget. It’s a tale anyone out there needs to give a go, especially with a sequel on the way.
When it comes to the best post-apocalyptic games, the Fallout series is probably the first thought that pops into your head. Everything about it is just such a staple of the post-apocalyptic genre, from barren wastelands and an irradiated landscape to mutant creatures. If nothing else, it’s hard to forget for the sheer time you’ll find yourself putting into the series as per the Bethesda template. You could explore and quest across any title and probably still have things to do for just as long. There are so many stories hidden within that dying wasteland, so many strange characters and challenging enemies, it really sucks you in and feels like you are exploring every inch of that huge map.
Each Fallout game tends to set you loose upon this new horrible world as a previous vault dweller, part of a group of people living safely in underground vaults before the bombs fell, making the experience as fresh to you as the character. The Fallout universe always has something going on in the background, be it memorable characters, the interesting stories of Vault-Tec, hard choices to make or twisting and turn plot developments. How you choose to handle everything, is part of the adventure.