With the exception of cult films like Blade Runner (despite its disappointing sequel) and the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, our obsession with the end of the world has, in the past, been relatively low-key. Now, with games like Fallout and arguably the unstable climate we’re currently living in, even those who aren’t seriously prepping for the apocalypse are getting in on the action.
Here are five of the best games for the end of the world. Each plays a different apocalyptic scenario – the worst has already happened: now, survive.
This is arguably the king of apocalypse games, spawning memes and in-jokes while actually being good. The franchise has even had an effect on the strict rules of postapocalyptic themed festivals- many of which now allow Fallout-themed outfits which were frowned on in the past.
Fallout 3 and New Vegas are the most-acclaimed, set in open-world environments made from familiar but ruined cities in which players can spend hundreds of hours questing. The game follows an alternate timeline of atomic technology gone wrong. The vintage American 40’s soundtrack and Nuka-Cola references are recognised even by people unfamiliar with the games.
Fallout 3 had its share of fan backlash due to the different direction it had taken from previous instalments- switching to first-person gameplay with considerable ‘artistic license’ given to elements of a postapocalyptic world, like food still edible after 200 years- and though Fallout 76 is highly anticipated, that concern is sounding again. The online multiplayer aspect may put off those of us just wanting to enjoy the end of the world in peace, but only time will tell…
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In this first-person shooter, your lone soldier character emerges from an underground bunker in the aftermath of an asteroid hit and finds himself a wanted man- and superhuman. While it takes place in a similar wasteland landscape to the Fallout series and is made by the same publisher, Rage is more about firepower and gore than the dark moral dilemmas which Fallout throws at you. The weaponry, vehicular modifications and graphics were praised, but Rage was let down (at least in my opinion) by long ‘fetch’ missions. Rage 2 (announced earlier this year) promises to amp things up in the wasteland- with more colour, more power and vehicular combat! The trailer looks promising, fun, badass… and catchy.
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#3 The Last of Us.
A third-person adventure game which was as heartrending as it was praised. The voice acting, writing, directing, characters and gameplay itself are outstanding. Your character, Joel, is the survivor of an apocalypse brought about by a cordyceps fungus (which exists in real life and is terrifying) and must fight both infected mutants and dangerous survivors, scavenge and solve puzzles to escort Ellie, a teenage girl, across the ravaged United States. There’s more horror here, shown in the far superior and more realistically bleak storyline than in other postapocalyptic games concerning crashing cars and killing mutants, and a constant tension from the limited amount of survival items you can carry. In The Last Of Us, you have no superpowers or insane battle bots- you’re painfully human, and of all the end-of-days games out there, this one is almost certainly the most ‘real’. Last year, the sequel, “The Last Of Us Part II” was awarded “Most Anticipated Game of the Year” by PlayStation blog.
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The zombie apocalypse has been done to death (gettit?), but DayZ is genuinely terrifying in its realism. Not only will the situation have an impact on your characters’ body- fractures, thirst, hunger and internal temperature- but as this is a multiplayer online game, other humans will act like humans; killing each other for no reason, for example. This element of chaos has frustrated some but been fascinating for other players- and journalists- to watch. In the same way, the Walking Dead franchise examines human nature within the confines of the screen, DayZ elaborates on this. It is essentially a simple third-person shooter- kill hostile things, find supplies, survive- but the innovation and insight it gives has made it into a force of its own. Originally an expansion to ARMA 2, hundreds of thousands of people bought and played ARMA 2 to get DayZ. The standalone version is scheduled for release this year.
#5 Lone Survivor.
Deceptively cute, comparatively short and haunting many hours after you finish the game, Lone Survivor is an 8-bit inspired horror/adventure game set in a post-plague world. Your character wears a flimsy surgical mask and t-shirt, talks to various cats he finds and spends as long as possible in his tiny apartment before venturing out into the postapocalyptic world. I relate…
The gameplay is deceptively simple; scavenge food and batteries for when your torch drains, kill mutants with scarce ammunition, hide in the shadows and sleep to regain energy- except that your character is slightly mad and prone to hallucinations. The scares rely more on psychological tension than special effects and the constant creeping around keeps you on edge throughout until your character returns to the safe place that is home for sleep and sanity. Though it is a short game, you achieve different endings based on the decisions you make while playing. Not only can you replay to experience the alternate endings but as it is genuinely creepy, you may not be able to help replaying it in your head!
About the author
Faith Roswell is a writer, explorer and lover of the apocalypse. Sci-fi action and coffee are her drugs of choice and she writes about her world as “the living Lara Croft” here: www.lifeoutthere.co.uk.
Creative Commons image credits: Peter Sigel for “Post-apocalyptic City”.