Apocalyptic tales may be as old as time, but post-apocalyptic flicks have never been rifer on the silver screen as much as in the gaming medium. The apocalypse theme plays out on our deepest existential fears.
But while end-of-the-world narratives explore the pitfalls of humanity, such stories often deal with redemption. And the immersive nature of video games makes it all the more cathartic to face the end of days.
Thus, gamers keep asking for more, and developers deliver. Several global hits have put their spin on the genre in the past few years. So, let’s dive into the best video games to embark on a post-apocalyptic journey.
1. The Last of Us (2013)
Zombie stories are nothing new in video games. Atari’s Entombed paved the way in 1982 before iconic franchises like Capcom’s Resident Evil gained even more traction worldwide. But in 2013, The Last of Us revived the genre with a story-driven approach that left an enduring mark on generations of gamers. Twenty years after a parasitic fungus decimated civilisation, survivors find a silver lining in a teenage girl appearing immune to the plague. Joel, a cynical smuggler, finds himself escorting Ellie across a wasted United States in hopes of developing a cure.
While shooting infected humans turned cannibalistic creatures might be fun, the meat of the story lies in its characters. Never shying away from the bleakness and brutality of crisis-stricken human beings, Naughty Dog’s action-adventure game tells a very human story, serviced by well-developed protagonists with a deep emotional connection to the player. Impeccable graphics also add much to the game’s harrowing atmosphere. And while the sequel proved polarising, fans can now enjoy the TV series.
2. Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
Horizon Zero Dawn, released in 2017 by Guerrilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment, plunges players into a post-apocalyptic world dominated by machines. Players navigate this vast, intricate world as Aloy, a huntress determined to unearth her history and rescue her world. The open-world terrain is segmented into varied regions, each posing distinct challenges. Aloy’s journey is either on foot or via her robotic mount, the Strider. Combat is distinctive, with Aloy employing an arsenal of weapons like bows, spears, and traps. She can leverage stealth, eliminating machines undetected. These machines are varied, each with unique vulnerabilities that Aloy must decipher and exploit. Celebrated for its breathtaking visuals, captivating narrative, and innovative gameplay, the game sold over 10 million copies globally and clinched the Game of the Year at the 2017 The Game Awards. With its fusion of rich graphics, a gripping storyline, and pioneering combat mechanics, “Horizon Zero Dawn” is an essential experience for action role-playing and open-world game enthusiasts.
3. The Long Dark (2017)
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Vancouver-based Hinterland Studio released The Long Dark in 2014. This indie title takes a more contemplative approach to the post-apocalyptic genre. Players take on the role of a crash-landed pilot left stranded in the Canadian wilderness by a geomagnetic storm.
No zombies are in sight. Thus, you only need to survive the biting cold and the ruthlessness of Mother Nature in snowy landscapes long devoid of any human presence. Players must manage the few resources they may find while dealing with the life-threatening lurking of wild wolves and bears. Designed to be a single-player experience, The Long Dark offers three game modes, including an open-world setting for gamers to enjoy the hauntingly beautiful environments of its dozens of regions.
4. Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
When Bethesda announced a spin-off of the Fallout franchise in 2010, fans responded with widespread scepticism. Little did they know this controversial entry would set the golden standard for post-apocalyptic RPGs. Despite early technical issues, Obsidian Entertainment’s take on the series significantly improved gameplay mechanics. But New Vegas shines the brightest with its expansive open world set against the scorched backdrop of the Mojave Desert. Not even a nuclear fallout could dampen Sin City’s appeal, though.
And in between gun fights against feuding factions, players have plenty of memorable casinos to visit along The Strip. Since then, casino minigames have grown into a staple of many hit franchises. Virtual gambling venues are particularly appealing for gamers living in countries with no brick-and-mortar casinos, like Thailand. Still, players may visit online platforms to enjoy classics like online poker. Top websites offer fan-favourites like Texas Hold’Em, alongside local variants like pai gow poker. Live dealer sessions even emulate the thrills of a land-based casino. And lofty bonuses are right there for the taking, from deposit bonuses to cashback deals.
5. Frostpunk (2018)
Frostpunk, a 2018 city-building survival game by 11 bit studios, places players in an alternate 19th-century setting, leading survivors in a frozen wasteland city centered around a massive generator. Players grapple with resource management, infrastructure development, and daunting choices, balancing individual needs with communal welfare. The game is distinctive for its moral dilemmas. Players might choose to ration food for all or prioritize productive workers, or debate establishing a hospital over a prison. Continuous challenges emerge, including blizzards, disease, and revolts. Resource management, including food and fuel, is pivotal, with the city’s survival hanging in the balance.
6. Death Standing (2019)
Death Stranding, a 2019 action-adventure game by Kojima Productions, directed by Hideo Kojima, plunges players into a post-apocalyptic U.S. as courier Sam Porter Bridges, portrayed by Norman Reedus. Tasked with reconnecting the nation, players navigate treacherous terrains, confronting invisible creatures called BTs, visible only to those carrying the vital mineral, Chirallium. The game introduces an innovative multiplayer mode, emphasizing cooperation to build infrastructure and assist in deliveries, allowing shared resources for mutual benefit. Celebrated for its pioneering gameplay, mesmerizing visuals, and profound narrative exploring connection and humanity, “Death Stranding” sold over 5 million copies and clinched the Best Artistic Direction at The Game Awards 2019. Offering a fresh gameplay perspective, it remains a compelling experience for those seeking a fusion of action, unique mechanics, and deep storytelling.
7. Metro Exodus (2019)
The Metro franchise is widely considered one of the best takes on the post-apocalyptic genre. The series comprises three mainline games based on the eponymous novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. All Metro stories, therefore, share a common setting in a post-apocalyptic Russia-turned wasteland after a nuclear war. Developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games, the franchise has also spawned interconnected novels for fans to delve deeper into the story.
As the conclusion of the trilogy, Metro Exodus may not be the best entry point for newcomers into the Metro lore. But Exodus remains a highlight as it steered the franchise into an innovative direction by introducing open areas. Standing out among fellow shooter games, Metro Exodus was one of the best games of 2019 by far.
8. Stray (2022)
Stray, a 2022 release by BlueTwelve Studio and Annapurna Interactive, offers players a unique perspective as a lost cat navigating a cyberpunk city filled with robots and mutants. With the aid of a drone named B-12, the player’s mission is to find a way back to the surface. Emulating authentic cat behavior, players interact with the environment in ways such as scratching, meowing, and engaging with other felines, even playing tag. A standout feature is the game’s atmospheric, intricately designed city, which, paired with its evocative soundtrack, deeply immerses players into the feline’s world. While “Stray” is a short experience, it’s rich in detail and emotion, creating a memorable journey that resonates especially with cat enthusiasts and fans of unique gaming narratives. The game’s blend of genuine cat behaviors, a beautifully rendered setting, and immersive music ensures it remains a captivating experience long after the final scene.
Post-apocalyptic games fall into an exciting genre full of excitement and action for gamers. These titles are sure to deliver the best experience.