There was a time in the distant, mist-shrouded past when would have to look underneath stacks of AOL CD-ROMS to find anything that had to do with zombies. While the shambling hordes of the undead are on the brink of overstaying their pop culture welcome, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was once the greatest zombie game of all time. Playing as Zeke or Julie, hopefully in the 2-player co-op mode, it is up to the players to save their neighbors from various monsters during the course of 48 top-downish levels. There is no plot to speak of, no deep character motivations and nothing but constant references to trashy B-movies. I’m ashamed to admit how much time I spent playing this game as a kid, ignoring other “classic” titles like Super Metroid, Super Ghouls and Ghosts or Sonic Spinball.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors was a great game to play with my then 7 year old younger brother. The weapons are varied, strange and actually have different properties against different monsters. You start with a water pistol, which is nearly useless, then can progress to plates, silverware (super effective against werewolves!), an uzi, a chainsaw, an alien ray gun, a crucifix (the blood of Christ is super effective against Vampires!), soda cans and my favorite, the bazooka. Resources are surprisingly scarce and enemies abundant making the later levels particularly nerve-wracking. Sure, the first twenty or so levels are easy, but once you encounter the Sand Worm for the first time, you realize just how mean this game becomes towards the end.
Not only can the Sand Worms take a ton of ammo to defeat, but some of the other enemies, such as the hockey mask wearing chainsaw maniac, giant babies and Frankenstein’s Monster are not only exceptionally tough but they will hunt you down and kill you. As a 10 year old, I got around the sudden difficulty jump by employing my favorite weapon: The Game Genie! The Game Genie was an adapter that plugged into the console (SNES or Genesis, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was for both, but better for the SNES as it included the flamethrower weapon) with the game cartridge plugged in on top of the Game Genie. When you booted the game up, there was a screen asking for codes to be inputted, which would alter the game. I actually subscribed to the Game Genie updates which sent monthly books covering more games with different codes. This is what life was like before the internet.
Anyways, the best codes for Zombies Ate My Neighbors? Infinite life and infinite ammo. The game was still on the hard side as you needed to actually rescue your neighbors still and with only 10 per level, you’d think it would be easy. Nope! You needed to rescue at least 1 and in later levels, they will either die or turn into werewolves if you didn’t find them fast enough. The power of the Game Genie made it possible for 10 year old me to actually finish this game. Without it, I doubt I’d ever have made it past level 23.
Amazingly, you’ll be hearing more of Zombies Ate My Neighbors soon, as just last year it was optioned by LucasFilms (as the game was developed by LucasArts) to become a feature length movie with a script penned by the writer of Insidious. Considering how awesome Insidious was, this is nothing but good news! As for the console game, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a forgotten classic of old school design philosophy, music and graphic design. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to partake of some bath salts.