Do the presence of zombies make a game a horror game?


Community Contributor
Every now and then I annoy the writers at Rely on Horror by declaring unequivocally that the presence of zombies doesn't automatically put a game into the horror genre. What do you all think?

Just as an example, Casper the Ghost (old cartoon) isn't a horror show even though the concept of ghosts can be scary. Now some games do have some horror elements to them and blur the line, for instance the crying woman in Left 4 Dead scared the crap out of me, but does one scary element put it into the horror category? Because I never really thought of Left 4 Dead as a horror game. Same thing for Dying Light, even though those things that chased you at night were scary at least the first few times. Sure, things are trying to kill you, but that's the case in most games.

Maybe I'm just desensitized to zombies and other people still find them horrifying.
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That would make it too easy to slot games into any category if all it takes is one thing to do it. Has guns, must be a first person shooter... gives you stats to assign to character, must be a rpg. If you only need one thing to make it X, then everything can be X.

Still waiting for the Mario first person shooter though... probably exists out there somewhere.
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Jan 22, 2020
Zombies are such a pop-culture trope now that even media which subverts the 'zombie' genre isn't all that original anymore. Look at Stubbs The Zombie, Shawn Of The Dead, Zombieland etc. All packed with zombies and the accompanying traditional horror beats, but all played for laughs or pure entertainment. Hell, even the Dead Rising series has always played it fairly tongue-in-cheek, and the Resident Evil movies are far more action than horror. I'd say you're completely correct, and have been for about two decades.

Still waiting for the Mario first person shooter though... probably exists out there somewhere.

Well, Doom has been turned into Mario 64 with a mod. And also, somehow, vice versa.
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Jun 8, 2021
Dead rising had zombies but feels more like a action comedy. What defines it as a horror are your circumstances. If you have 5 bullets left and you are roaming around a dark mansion hoping that cannibal corpse isn't behind the next door ( resident evil), then it's a horror. But if you can beat 5 of them up at once with a beach umbrella like you are lubu in dynasty warriors or just ride a lawn mower over a horde of them then I would not really consider that to be a horror based game.