Look, we all know it's going to happen. Eventually, a meteor is going to strike the Earth or a secret defense department experiment is going to go awry and the dead will rise. It's really only a question of "when."
Just because we're all doomed to join the ranks of the living dead doesn't mean you have to go down without a fight. There are plenty of ways that you can ready yourself for the dark days ahead. It doesn't all have to be "doom and gloom" either. Planning to drive a sharp object through the skulls of your family can be fun too!
With that in mind, I present to you a list of ten games you should play before we're all up to our necks in hordes of the undead. Be aware that these are not necessarily "zombie" games (though some of them are) but games which impart a lesson you will find useful when actual zombies come.
Hit the jump to see a list that could very well save your life.
Dead Rising (Xbox 360, Wii)
The most obvious entry on the list. Trapped in a mall for 72 hours with your wits and anything you can grab as a weapon, this can teach you some of the basics of zombie and human behavior in the early stages of an outbreak. Be careful in what you take away from the experience, however. Direct confrontation with a grouping of zombies is highly inadvisable unless necessary.
There is a far more important lesson to be learned from Dead Rising than how to kill a zombie: Don't go to the mall. Where there are (or were) a lot of people, there are a lot of zombies. In addition to the threat they pose, frightened humans are equally dangerous. Avoid any locations where large groups of people congregate.
Team Fortress 2 (PC, PS3, XBox 360)
Valve's incredibly popular FPS game has been lauded left and right by just about everyone. Even the 360 version is stellar for a console-based shooter (although, yes, PC is really the only way to go if you have the option). The play-balance is superb and it allows for both careful strategic planning and twitch gaming. It's also a vital tool when preparing yourself for a zombie attack.
Just as it is nigh impossible to win a round of TF2 on your own, your survival will very likely be dependent on those around you. Find a small group of people with whom you share common ground, determine what your individual skills are and learn to work together as a team. If you can do this, you just live to see another sunrise.
Trauma Center (Nintendo DS, Wii)
This series of medical games is both fun and educational.1 Options for control opened up by capabilities of the DS and Wii both suit the style of the games exceptionally well. The drama is over-the-top, but the frantic pace and challenge of the Trauma Center games offer a lot of fun.
When the flesh-eating monsters come, knowledge of basic first-aid or more complex medical procedures will become vital. Hospitals will be a breeding ground for the zombie plague and without our modern medical conveniences, even minor injuries can become life-threatening. Make sure you know how to suture, set broken limbs and properly disinfect wounds at the very least.
Thief Series (PC, XBox)
The adventures of former Keeper apprentice turned master thief, Garrett, offer some of the most interesting stealth games ever devised. Along with its steampunk setting and dramatic storytelling, it helped to pioneer new gameplay elements in the genre, such as light levels.
Obviously, stealth can be important when dealing with the undead. Why choose Thief over other, more popular titles that emphasize stealth gameplay? In part, this is on the list because of the missions themselves. Early missions in the games relate better to real-world scenarios, such as breaking into residences. You will probably need to raid abandoned homes in your area for supplies at some point, and knowing how to plan a break-in (and, more importantly, an escape route) can be very handy.
Desert Bus (Sega CD)
Desert Bus is legendary. Conceived by magic/comedy team Penn & Teller, the game has you driving a tour bus from Tucson to Las Vegas. The vehicle maintains a constant pace of 45 mph, meaning that the trip will require (real-time) 8 hours. Since the bus also drifts a little to the left, you cannot remove your hand from the wheel, as driving off the road will result in being towed back to Tucson (also real-time). Upon arrival in Las Vegas, you score a single point and are given the option to make the return trip.
The deadliest killer during an outbreak is not the zombies themselves but boredom. People who feel they have nothing to do often wind up doing foolish or dangerous things to entertain. Learning to achieve the sort of zen calm required to play Desert Bus, likely the most boring game ever made, will help you to remain calm when entertainment options aren't readily available.
Lost in Blue (Nintendo DS)
A boy and a girl are trapped on a deserted island and must work together to survive long enough for rescue. That's the premise of Lost in Blue for the DS. Players will have to gather food and water, build shelter and defend against the elements while seeking a means to escape.
In contrast to the plot of the game, you may want to consider moving your base of operations to an island. A small island can be easily defended against from zombie incursion, provided that the resources present are capable of sustaining human life. This game will help you to prepare for the realities of a simplistic island existence.
Even if you aren't going to be living in the middle of the ocean, Lost in Blue still has value in terms of basic wilderness survival skills. Should you need to travel to a new location, you may find this game's teachings to be highly useful.
Harvest Moon (SNES, N64, GC, PSX, GBA, DS)
Natsume's adorable series of farm simulations have been bringing joy to people for over a decade now and show no signs of slowing down. As the new owner of a farm, players must go through the various stages of crop planting and harvesting, as well as raising livestock, all while tyring to find time to claim a wife. To become truly skilled at the games requires careful planning and budgeting of time to achieve the highest yields.
If the location where you plan to protect yourself can support it, growing your own crops is one of the best things you can do. Not only will you have a greater variety of food to choose from, it will allow you to maintain supplies of canned goods in the event that food stores start to dwindle. While the Harvest Moon games do not always depict the most realistic of farming circumstances, it can be very handy for learning what crops are in season when and the organizational skills required to play it never hurt anybody.
Dark Cloud (PS2)
In this action/RPG, an ancient and evil genie has escaped his imprisonment and seeks to bring about the end of the world. The only thing standing in his way is a plucky but novice inventor. Both games in the Dark Cloud series are great dungeon-crawling brawlers mixed with a deep and satisfying item crafting system.
An important aspect of this title that extends to a real-world concern is maintenance. In the game, your weapons and armor will wear down over time and eventually break. There is nothing worse than being surrounded by a mass of creatures bent on your destruction and having your equipment fail. Always make sure that your tools are kept in fine working order, that guns are oiled and bladed weapons are sharpened.
This is an excellent, Zelda-style action/RPG. In the game, the titular character washes up on the beach outside a town whose inhabitants have been suffering from deadly nightmares. Alundra must make use of his mystical ability to enter the dreams of others to find the source of the plague and destroy it. It's a great game with some ingenious puzzles and an epic story, one I would recommend even if we weren't facing an undead assault.
At the risk of spoiling an aspect of the plot, the most useful bit of experience you'll take from playing Alundra is that your friends are very likely going to die. They'll probably do it right in front of you too. Get used to it.
Sim City (PC/Mac, SNES)
Everybody should be familiar with Sim City. We've been playing this simulation for a very, very long time so I'll just cut to the chase.
Eventually, there may come a time when humanity has fought back the growing tide of darkness. What then? Time to rebuild. From roads to power, residential to industrial, Sim City will give you some of the tools you need to help build a self-sufficient, happy civilization to rise from the ashes of a war-torn world.
There you have it. With the help of these ten games, you too can be ready for a zombie outbreak of just about any size.
1Destructoid does not recommend or condone the use of Trauma Center as a training tool in medical procedures.