An Unexpected Trend: What are the Best Virus Outbreak Games Ever?

Outbreaks of deadly viruses that sweep the world and cause chaos have been a regular theme in popular culture, especially in the video game industry. Players just can’t seem to get enough of imagining the world ending in the most horrible and gruesome ways. Zombie plague themes are continuously successful in games like Resident Evil, but there have also been more unique ideas, such as the smallpox epidemic which was circulated via contaminated banknotes in Tom Clancy’s The Division.

Here we take a look at viruses in the gaming world, from the fun-filled pleasurable games, to the serious titles that make you feel like doomsday prepping.

Games That Have Upped the Ante

Lots of players seem to want to get sucked into the feeling that the world has ended and they have to do anything it takes to survive. For those people, there are plenty of console offerings that can help provide the vital training required for the time when mad scientists one day create a supervirus that turns the world’s population into vicious undead killers. A good place to get started in that respect is 2013’s The Last of Us from Naughty Dog, which is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time and has sold over 6 million copies.

Players have to traverse an apocalyptic landscape after the world has been ravaged by an outbreak of a mutant Cordyceps fungus, which transforms human hosts into cannibalistic monsters. This isn’t your average zombie nightmare, as players need to use their wit and cunning to sneak around and outsmart the horrifically disfigured undead.

For those who like their undead enemies a bit more brain-hungry, the Resident Evil franchise from Capcom has grossed over $5.2 billion and has enjoyed continued success over the years due to its simple zombie outbreak model. The most recent instalment of the series which has been going since 1996, was Resident Evil: Biohazard.

The game that was released in January of 2017 focused more on survival horror than action, and centred on the protagonist Ethan, who is kidnapped by the sadistic Baker family and the “Molded”, which is a humanoid form of bacteria. For those who prefer plain zombie killing, 1998’s Resident Evil 2 is considered by many gamers as the best entry in the franchise.

Gamers who fancy something a little more realistic can check out Tom Clancy’s The Division, which depicts what would happen if there was a major outbreak of smallpox that swept the nation and killed a vast amount of the population. Players are tasked with helping to rebuild a community in Manhattan and combatting criminal activity in the wake of the outbreak.

Virus Games that Keep it Friendly

So let’s start with some light-hearted examples. Disease outbreaks don’t have to be all about desperately fighting for your life or having to fight the infected for the greater good. In fact, some games have decided to tackle multiplying viruses head on.

In Dr Mario, for instance, players had to destroy incoming germs using coloured capsules that Dr Mario tossed into the game area. This simple idea led the 1990 title to go on to be listed as one of the best Nintendo games of all time, and also paved the way for some of the puzzle games we know today, like Candy Crush Saga which has led King Digital Entertainment to be valued at $7 billion. In terms of more recent creations, there is even an online slot title Germinator, an interesting twist on dealing with a virus epidemic.

In the title from online casino software giant Microgaming, when matching germs appear on one of the paylines, they explode and new germs drop down. Other accessible mobile games include Zombie Smasher, where players have to use their fingers to squash waves of zombies until the level is clear, and Plants vs. Zombies, in which players have to set up garden decorations that can also shoot fire and suchlike. The title from PopCap games is hugely popular, and was considered one of the best games of 2009. Its sequel, Plants vs Zombies 2 was at nearly 25 million downloads in its first two weeks.

The Most Harrowing Outbreak in a Game?

In terms of virus outbreaks in a game, it doesn’t get much more harrowing than the epidemic in Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. Soon after rescuing the mysterious Codetalker and taking him back to Mother Base, Snake is informed that there has been an outbreak of a deadly vocal cord parasite on one of the command stations. Snake returns to base where the whole area is quarantined, and has to explore the area searching for people who are infected with the virus.

Those who are infected can’t be helped, and Snake has to murder them in cold blood because he can’t risk them getting out and spreading the virus. What makes it so brutal is the fact that just before players kill the affected soldiers, they beg for mercy and plead with Snake. In the story, they are part of his crew and considered his friends, but players are forced to systematically put each and every one of them down. When the mission is over, there is a cutscene commemorating the losses, but it doesn’t make up for the horrific deed that players had to perform prior to that.

It seems that aside from the fun puzzle and mobile games that treat germs in more of a fun way, the game world is showing us just how horrible a major virus outbreak would be. Those who don’t feel like imagining the world ending in this way should opt to stick to more pleasant titles, like Farm Simulator 17, for instance.

the author

He’s a cat. He likes to play video games. He often has a hard time with this since he’s a gamer cat living in a gamer human world, but he gets by.