The end of civilisation as we know it may be a terrifying prospect, but it sure makes for awesome entertainment.
While it’s probably been overdone, movies, books, comics, and video games set in post-apocalyptic worlds have a real morbid appeal. By taking away the rules and structure of modern society, these stories can examine human behaviour in many different ways, exploring how far we’ll go to survive.
Over the decades, developers have exploited this setting to great effect, whether in deep, hard-hitting role-players or zombie-filled first-person shooters.
With that in mind, let’s check out our top 10 …
The Last of Us
Naughty Dog Studios hit a home run with The Last of Us.
Playing as an everyman named Joel, you’re tasked with keeping the young Ellie alive as you make your way through what remains of the United States, all the while fending off the attacks of cannibalistic zombie-like enemies.
It’s an atmospheric, gripping experience with real emotional weight. The lush visuals also mean the end of the world has rarely looked so gorgeous.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
You might have heard of The Walking Dead. The comic-book series has sold an issue or two, and the TV adaptation has the odd fan here or there.
One of the strongest offshoots of the franchise is Telltale’s games.
Telling an original tale in the gritty, blood-soaked universe of Robert Kirkman’s mega-hit, The Walking Dead follows the misfortunes of Lee and Clementine. The long-running story sees you encounter other survivors, make difficult moral choices, and take down the odd Walker.
The distinctive visuals and great design make this a must-play for fans of post-apocalyptic games.
The Fallout series is the ultimate in post-apocalyptic gaming. While Fallout 3 rocked (we’ll get to that shortly), Fallout 4 took it to another level.
Once again, you play as a lone wanderer trekking across the wasteland that was once America. The gameplay’s a mix of RPG character-building, exploration, and bloody combat, though Bethesda introduced genius new elements.
Being able to mod your weapons added new depth to the Fallout experience, enhancing the feel of having your survival in your own hands. The settlement-building aspect is great too, putting a whole new spin on the series’ gameplay.
We know we’ve already included a Fallout game on the list, but there’s no way we could leave Fallout 3 out.
While there’s less to see and do than in Fallout 4, the third main game in the series is unforgettable. Remember deciding whether or not to let Megaton explode? Remember kicking ass with Fawkes at your side? Remember how desperate you were to get your hands on some power armour for the first time?
Fallout 3 gave us vampires, sentient zombies, giant fire-breathing ants, and so much other good stuff. If you haven’t played it in a while, it might be time to revisit it.
Gears of War
The Gears of War series is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and while subsequent games tweaked and refined the core gameplay, the first remains an absolute classic.
After all, this was our first encounter with Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad, the Locusts, the chainsaw bayonet, the Hammer of Dawn, and more. It also delivered a hugely-influential cover system that’s been emulated many a time since.
Metro Redux is an updated package featuring Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. The original game was based on a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, and takes place in Moscow’s leftovers after those pesky nukes start falling.
With its creepy atmosphere, realistic use of a gas mask (if it takes too much damage, you need to replace it before you, you know, die), and subtle moral choices, Metro 2033’s a great post-apocalyptic game. The sequel, Last Light, is more of the same with refined mechanics and stronger combat.
Left 4 Dead 2
With a cinematic style and team-based gameplay, Left 4 Dead 2 is a great post-apocalyptic zombie-shooter. This sequel improved on the original in various ways, such as new weapons, better campaigns, and different enemies.
Seeing hordes of zombies running at you is pretty scary, and the fast, frantic action keeps you on your toes. It’s a chance to live out your gory, zombie-slaying dreams with chainsaws, frying pans, and even cricket bats.
Mad Max is the daddy of post-apocalyptic survivors. After watching the character in four films, we were finally given the chance to step into the dusty boots of George Miller’s road warrior in this 2015 video game.
First of all, the environments are stunning, and tearing along deserted roads is a blast, capturing a real sense of speed and vast openness. There’s an extensive customisation aspect too, with Max’s car and appearance both upgradeable.
Most importantly, Avalanche Studios nailed the vehicular combat, delivering the ferocious action the franchise is known for.
Beneath a Steel Sky
This post-apocalyptic point-and-click adventure is set in a futuristic Australia, and sees you guiding hero Robert and his robotic pal Joey (able to jump from one form to another) through Union City.
Developed by the team behind Broken Sword, Beneath a Steel Sky boasts one of the coolest titles ever as well as some brilliant design. Legendary comic-book genius Dave Gibbons worked on the game, creating the backgrounds and sprites.
This is a clever, fun, atmospheric game with plenty of depth. Definitely one to try if you’ve never played it before.
This belated sequel to the 1988 classic, Wasteland, is set decades after a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the USA. You take control of a team of seven as you explore Arizona and Los Angeles, with role-playing and combat gameplay elements coming together beautifully.
Wasteland 2 is nicely-written, putting choices in your path with weighty consequences. A director’s cut edition was released on consoles later, which featured new voice-acting, upgraded graphics, and tweaked gameplay.
What are your favourite post-apocalyptic video games? Let us know!