Editor’s Note – This post originally appeared on the horror media blog Terrorphoria.com
I fired up my Wii Virtual Console yesterday and sat down to reacquaint myself with one of my favorite games from the 16-bit era. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a classic, and if you haven’t played it, you don’t know what you’re missing! I have fond memories of renting this from my local video store and having no clue what it was about, but thinking it had to be great because of the zombies on the box art. I miss the “pre-internet” days of gaming when you could still be surprised by something.
The premise takes cues from Gauntlet and casts you in the role of Zeke and/or Julie, who battle hordes of monsters through their neighborhood and various other locales while trying to save their neighbors from the evil beasts. You’ll fight all manner of creatures from classics like vampires and werewolves, to Martian invaders and blob monsters. You’ll even face off against Jason and Leatherface wannabes. What I loved about ZAMN was its sense of humor. It was offbeat and fun which differentiated it from darker horror games like Splatterhouse. It’s a love letter to the fun side of classic horror.
LucasArts (RIP) put a lot of passion into Zombies Ate My Neighbors, as they did with so many of their titles. You collect all sorts of wacky weapons and items in your travels, and they make logical sense to anyone who grew up watching horror films. Throwing silverware at a werewolf is an instant kill, as is using a crucifix against a vamp. Other creatures like blobs hate fire extinguishers. It’s this fan service and all the tiny extra details that serve to show the developers were creating an homage to the genre.
The attention to quality also shines in the excellent soundtrack. It conveys all the spookiness of a B-Movie through the buzzing Sega Genesis chipset. While the graphics aren’t anything phenomenal by early 1990’s standards, they definitely have an original and very colorful style to them. This has prompted plenty of amazing fan art from folks like Bones and was copied in the lackluster sequel Ghoul Patrol and Monster Madness:Battle for Suburbia that is considered a spiritual successor.
Although its solo play still holds up today, ZAMN is at its best when played co-op, and having a friend really helps tackle the challenge of its 55+ levels. Unless you’re a collector and want to snag a copy on eBay, you should definitely download it on your Wii and to try out. Every horror gaming fan should experience the pure elation of an extended Zombies Ate My Neighbors session. Have you played Zombies Ate My Neighbors? If so, let me know what you think about it!