Well, COVID-19 is upon us, and with it come quarantining and self-isolation. At least while we wait for the situation to improve, there’s lots of time on everyone’s hands to play games, right? And what better type of games to play during a pandemic than infection games? I think it’s definitely a nice distraction from everything going on in the world. At least that’s why I play games -- I’m not joking, someone check on me.
The meme, the myth, the internet legend, and the OG game to rule all infection games. Plague Inc. is the legendary pandemic simulator where you control a new deadly virus looking to destroy all of humanity. If that seems a little on the nose for our little predicament, worry not -- the game is entirely fictional. I mean, Greenland already has COVID-19, so this game CAN’T be real.
Jokes aside, this may very well be a perfect distraction for anyone who likes micromanagement games. Plague Inc. lets you evolve and control different aspects of your plague in order to resist human influence. Development and progression are made a lot easier in order for a streamlined experience. A few clicks and your virus is unstoppable, unlike the real world where mutation takes time. So no need to panic… right?
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Everyone knows and loves Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and everyone hates the ending. It features zombies, heart-wrenching choices, enough tension to snap a steel rod, and one hell of a gut-punch ending.
TWD is set right at the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse. America -- and presumably the world -- have been overrun by zombies, and nobody knows why, but everyone is just trying to survive. It’s safe to assume some kind of virus is the cause, but finding out is really nobody’s priority. Luckily, it’s a bit of a far off scenario -- the living dead roaming the streets, looking for people to eat. Though, I suppose I shouldn’t speak too soon.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
My favorite go-to game for the apocalypse -- The Division 2 is set in Washington, D.C 7 months after the initial outbreak of “The Dollar Flu” or “Green Poison”. This infection destroyed America from the inside-out, prompting the titular Division agents to finally rise and take order back from the various factions that have risen up in the wake of governmental collapse.
The virus is still active across America, consolidating in certain areas called “Dark Zones” as well as some buildings that can be explored with the right equipment. Symptoms mirror those of the common flu, much like COVID-19 -- but the main difference is that the “Green Poison” was a weaponized virus. Thankfully our coronavirus is a lot less threatening in comparison.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
I mean, it’s in the name really. A Plague Tale is about -- surprise, surprise -- The Black Death sweeping through France in 1349. Think of it as a medieval version of The Last of Us except Joel is instead Amicia, and Ellie is actually her brother Hugo, and the clickers are rats. Except Hugo isn’t as foul mouthed as Ellie, and Amicia is a lot younger than Joel.
A Plague Tale follows the story of their trek across France, avoiding a group called the Inquisition as well as the infected rats swarming Europe. The game is equal parts beautiful and horrifying in story and gameplay alike, all the while remaining a smooth experience. That is, unless you have a phobia of rats, in which case it will be anxiety-inducing the whole way through.
And speaking of The Last of Us…
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is about the aforementioned Joel and Ellie, and their turbulent journey through a world ravaged by a mutagenic infection. The cause of the outbreak is loosely based on a real life organism, which can take over insects and control them for a period of time. You may have heard of the Cordyceps, and because of TLOU you may have developed a very real worry about them.
Luckily, the Cordyceps don’t function the exact same way in real life, and they can’t affect humans -- as far as we know. The game itself shines with the signature polish of a Naughty Dog game -- having the perfect balance between intensity, drama and action. There’s a reason the game and its upcoming sequel received so much hype. If you haven’t yet had a chance to play the original, I recommend doing so now, just in time for TLOU 2 in May.
Left 4 Dead
I know what you’re thinking -- “Another zombie game? Real original, gimme a break”. Well shut up. I’ve included games from multiple genres, all with different styles of gameplay. Plus, TLOU wasn’t even technically about zombies -- it was about Clickers™. Left 4 Dead and its aptly named sequel Left 4 Dead 2 are about survivors trying to make their way to safety in the zombie apocalypse. It’s a plain and simple concept that players have enjoyed over and over since the game’s release in 2008.
It’s a straightforward point A to point B action survival game, with shooting, booming and admittedly lots of death. Left 4 Dead I believe -- and correct me if I’m wrong -- was one of the first games to establish the zombie archetypes we know today. The Tank, Boomer, Spitter, Hunter, Charger and Jockey are all iconic zombie types now, and they are done best in this franchise. Their designs were good enough to inspire analogues in other cooperative PvE games. If you’re looking for a classic run and gun zombie game, L4D is the game for you.
Infection games honorable mentions
Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare and Sunset Overdrive are gems in their own right. Undead Nightmare is a surprisingly awesome take on the zombie genre -- set in all the same familiar towns one would explore in the base RDR. It has lots of the classic zombie archetypes you’re used to, as well as a bevy of new mini-games, items and features to explore and find. Also -- there is a Unicorn.
Sunset Overdrive is my personal favorite pick out of the whole list, because if you know me you know I love games with constant mayhem and hectic gameplay. Sunset Overdrive is made even better by the fact that it was made by the same team as the Ratchet and Clank games -- one of my all time favorite Playstation games. It’s got parkour, wacky guns and a good sense of humor -- as well as energy drink-fueled zombies.
Aaaaand yeah, if you’re feeling scared in regards to COVID-19, I guess you could play these games to somehow avoid thinking about the infection? Though I’m not sure if playing games about infection is the best way to get your mind off infection. In any case, try these games if you haven’t already, and enjoy!
And wash your damn hands <3