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Welcome to day five of The Games That Define Us! You’re in for a treat this week, as we’ve got some absolute beasts in the writing realms presenting some outstanding contributions.
Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.
And the award for most fun to design goes to… this one! At least for now. What is it about quirky zombie books, films, and video games that can always be counted on to capture our collective imaginations?
Today we’re joined by The3rdPlayer from 3PStart for a very surprising pick: Zombies Ate My Neighbors. I remember playing this 16-bit cult classic a while back, and it just oozes with quirky undead charm.
Here are a couple of 3PStart pieces you should absolutely pick up after finishing here. Also, kudos to those awesome blog post titles:
- An Eerie Echo of Time and Place – PC – Perception – 2017
- A Grotesque and Beautiful Love Letter – Friday the 13th’s Virtual Cabin and Challenges
- Simple Deeds and Sufferings of Light – PC – Layers of Fear – 2016
All right, enough from me. We hope your braaaaaain enjoys this chapter of The Games The Define Us!
– Matthew, Normal Happenings
Well, at least we managed to work in one Zombies Ate Me Neighbors remix into the playlist. After that things began to get a little crazy.
The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so.
The3rdPlayer @ 3PStart
For the neighbors!
Game: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: July 19, 1993
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is satisfying candy. It’s a game that I can pop in to start the distraction that will lead to me feeling better. While it’s a fantastic game, there is no story to speak of that will snap me back to reality.
It would be an understatement to say that the early 1990s forged my pop culture tastes. I was preoccupied with horror movies and finding the next great game to play. When I came across Zombies Ate My Neighbors at the tender young age of 10, I only knew two things — the cover looked like a cheesy black-and-white horror flick and the back sounded goofy and entertaining. After convincing my mother to buy it for me, I went home and popped the game into my Genesis, eyes wide and white knuckles on my controller.
Needless to say, my mind was blown.
Around this time in my adolescence, I was still playing at games in the backyard over at my best friend’s house. If we were playing a game that would normally involve guns, it was Super Soakers or Nerf guns in lieu of the real thing. Shields were inner tubes or plastic garbage can lids. If we were using magic or superpowers, we found a dodgeball or something less damaging than rocks to lob at one another as spells. While 1993 was the time when reality was setting in inch-by-inch during our hangouts, we still incorporated things like squirt guns and other props into our more frivolous moments.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a crucial element and persistent reminder of those definitive times for a number of reasons. In a very straightforward way, it was a go-to game for me whenever I had someone to play it with. Whether it was my best friend or my mother, it was a bonding experience laced with the frustrations and joys of cooperative gaming. Growing up as an only child, it was one of the first games I really played with friends rather than alternating one controller, spawning my love for couch co-op and eventually online gaming with friends. There’s so much more to how this game really defines me, though.
I’ve told a few folks, if they want to get to know me as a gamer and a person, play Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Plenty of gamers have a specific game or two that they resonate with; it truly feels like the game was made for them. It reminds me of a prominent concept that people talk about with music — if you listen to their favorite song, you’ll understand them better. This game — from the case, to the manual, to the actual game experience — has always felt like my game in that sense. Heck, growing up, I’ve spent two Halloweens as Zeke from both the original game and the sometimes maligned sequel, Ghoul Patrol.
Above everything else, the game is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The only real direction that you get outside of the instructions comes in the form of level introductions, all of which are some play on pop culture from all over entertainment history. Fighting giant babies, tourists-turned-werewolves, and chainsaw wielding stalkers with soda can grenades and silverware felt reminiscent of movies like Monster Squad and The Goonies where kids had adventures full of danger and resourceful solutions. While there was the fear of Game Over screens, the horror always felt light and tongue-in-cheek. Rather than the game feeling like it was punishing me, I felt like it was there to entertain and challenge me. Much like the films I mentioned, it also gave me the desire to go outside and be active — in between gaming sessions, of course.
I also learned how important having interesting game design is. At the base of everything, you’re doing the same thing over and over again. The undeniable allure for me comes from the touches that are so easily overlooked. I still remember finding all kinds of secret passages in the pyramid levels and tripping across the secret lair of the questionably named Dr. Tongue in a solid nod to Frankenstein’s monster. I remember getting lost in the hedge mazes strewn throughout a couple of levels, but never being so frustrated that I gave up trying to navigate them. Even the scope of the levels felt different with neighborhoods always feeling like sprawling fields compared to office buildings and cave systems that appropriately felt claustrophobic and a little tougher to navigate but easier to strategize around. Among plenty of other examples, these pushed my interest in game design and intention. Each level just feels custom-made to give a great experience, once again prioritizing my experience as a player rather than a need to pad out the game to justify a price tag. The construction of these levels and small touches cultivated my opinions on what makes a great game so great.
On the deeper personal side of things, Zombies Ate My Neighbors has always been my failproof mental health enhancer. As a huge fan of RPGs growing up, I have plenty of games to go back to for that warm and familiar feeling that bring me back into the positives when my mood is low. Those games, though, have beautiful stories with conflict, self-discovery, and grandiose adventure. They also tend to bring up reminders of the issues that have gotten me into the negative place I’m in, so there can be fluctuation as to whether they can be a positive influence on me as the experience goes on. During a the few devastating events in my life involving relationships and family, I could only get so much mileage out of returning to games I love like Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana.
Zombies is satisfying candy in this sense. It’s a game that I can pop in to start the distraction that will lead to me feeling better. While it’s a fantastic game, there is no story to speak of that will snap me back to reality. Levels are short so there is always some sense of achievement and the game really is just goofy fun laced with exploration and reflexive interaction. There are more than a handful of specific memories that I have of racing around as a teenager, straining to make sure I took all of the right precautions to swoop in a retrieve that last cheerleader before some axe-throwing killer doll could, all while I felt like my life was coming down around me half an hour before.
Like me, this game is nostalgic, quirky, full of esoteric trivia and references, and just a little bit long-winded. Much like an important part of my own philosophies, it also feels like, despite its difficulty, it wants everyone involved to have a good time; developers, programmers, designers, and most importantly, the players. LucasArts has always felt that way, as anyone who has played Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle or any of the Monkey Island titles can tell you. The fact that this game is my go-to for hard times is completely incidental, but I’m glad it has been. Zombies Ate My Neighbors suits me and my tastes to a near-perfect T from the humor to the references and everything else that it has to offer.
- 0 | Adventure Map
- 1 | Mr. Backlog · Mr. Backlog | The Bard’s Tale
- 2 | GG · Hungrygoriya | Faxanadu
- 3 | Kim · Later Levels | The Secret of Monkey Island
- 4 | Matt · Normal Happenings | Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- 5 | The3rdPlayer · 3PStart | Zombies Ate My Neighbors
*YOU ARE HERE*
- 6 | Amanda · Imaginating Life | Myst
- 7 | Justin · TWOTALL4UFOOL | Donkey Kong Country
- 8 | The Well-Red Mage · The Well-Red Mage | Breath of Fire II
- 9 | Shauna · HideNGoShauna | NIGHTS Into Dreams
- 10 | Murr · geeksleeprinserepeat | Pokemon Red/Blue
- 11 | The Gaming Diaries · The Gaming Diaries | Crash Bandicoot
- 12 | Ryan · Games With Coffee | Final Fantasy VII
- 13 | Luke · Hundstrasse | Resident Evil 2
- 14 | Ellen · LividLightning | Banjo Kazooie
- 15 | Megan · A Geeky Gal | Spyro the Dragon
- 16 | Victor · The Modern Gafa | Digimon World
- 17 | Alex · The Purple Prose Mage | Warcraft III
- 18 | Jan · The Life of Jan | World of Warcraft
- 19 | Heather · Just Geeking By | World of Warcraft
- 20 | Nikki · Normal Happenings | Animal Crossing
- 21 | Chris · OverthinkerY | Kingdom Hearts
- 22 | Ian · Adventure Rules | Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
- 23 | Pix1001 · Shoot the Rookie | Guitar Hero
- 24 | Michael · Git Gud at Life | BioShock
- 25 | KT · Wintendo 64 | Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
- 26 | Kathy · Krysanthe | Wizard 101
- 27 | Khinjarsi · Upon Completion | Fallout 3
- 28 | Ruubin · FTWRuubin | Borderlands
- 29 | Will · geeksleeprinserepeat | DayZ
- 30 | Alyssa · Nerd Side of Life | The Sims 4
- 1 | Zerathulu · The Zerathulu View | Starcraft
- 2 | Imtiaz · Power Bomb Attack | Super Metroid
- 3 | Teri Mae · Sheikah Plate | Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- 4 | Skylar-Mei · gamergal.exe | Guild Wars 2
- 5 | ??? · ??? | It’s a Secret to Everybody
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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!