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.