I’m a sucker for nostalgia. So when Nintendo ported one of my all-time favorite Super Nintendo Games, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, to the Switch, I had to grab it.
I used to play Zombies Ate My Neighbors with my brother and sister when I was in grade school. We adored the shopping mall level, where we had to run up the “down” escalator to save a baby, so much that we tried to recreate it every time we saw an escalator in real life, much to our parents’ consternation. You can absolutely blame this game for all the children who tried going the wrong way on public escalators!
Unfortunately, my SNES stopped working a long time ago, and I don’t even remember what happened to all the games I had for it. Over the years, I considered finding a way to play Zombies again. I even downloaded an emulator recently to try playing it on my PC! Unfortunately, the emulator gameplay was a bit wonky, and you’re not supposed to stream emulated games, so I gave up.
Original Release of Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Zombies at my Neighbors was originally released in 1993 by Konami. It was available for both the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the Sega Genesis System.
The sequel, Ghoul Patrol, was released a year later in 1994. It was developed by Lucas Films and not originally intended to be a sequel.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors Ported to the Switch
You can only imagine how ecstatic I was when I read the news that one of my favorite childhood games was being ported to the Switch! I immediately texted my siblings, and my sister was just as excited as I was! In fact, she decided to buy Nintendo Switch just to get this game!
As a bonus, the sequel to the game, Ghoul Patrol, was included in the port. You can grab both games in one package in the Nintendo Switch Online Store for only fifteen bucks! That was a small price to pay to re-live some of my favorite childhood moments.
Zombies Ate my Neighbors is a top-down arcade-style game. You can play as either Zeke or Julie, kids on a mission to save their neighborhoods from zombies, werewolves, chainsaw-wielding fiends, and a wide variety of other undead creatures of the night.
As you roam through the various levels, including neighborhoods, malls, pyramids, crypts, castles, vaults, and other exotic locales, you have to rescue people who are randomly wandering about in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
The good news is that they stay put, and you can use the L button to open a radar that will help you find them. The bad news is that they seem to be completely oblivious to the danger around them, and they are easy targets for creatures roaming the streets. If a monster gets to them before you do, they die, letting out a ghastly cry and showing an image of an angel ascending.
If all of your neighbors from a given level perish, the game is over. You only need to rescue one to advance to the next level, but you will be stuck until they are all either rescued or killed.
The game features a two-player option; a fun shared screen experience that often does more harm than good, as you can easily get stuck in a monster’s grasp if your partner isn’t paying attention.
The wide array of weapons available makes Zombies both fun and a little more difficult. Who knew that squirt guns were better suited for killing zombies but that pop cans killed murderous dolls? You can find many household items to use as weapons, from popsicles to silverware, and big guns like bazookas as well!
Most of these weapons are designed to fight specific enemies, so be careful not to blow all of your ammo on the easy guys. You wouldn’t want to show up to the giant baby level without any fire left to shrink it back down to size!
Zombies Ate My Neighbors was ahead of its time in regards to weapons and special items. Most games of the era gave you a choice of weapons (like Contra), but there weren’t any special items. Zombies had both. You could collect and toggle through things like first aid kits, decoys, and special potions in addition to the weapons.
This was new technology, as the Super Nintendo system was the first to have four easily accessible gameplay buttons. Now, it’s common for games to have all sorts of items, weapons, gear, and even mounts that you can toggle through and select, but back in 1993, it was rare for a game to have this much depth.
I’m not going to lie to you. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is hard! Although I played it all the time as a child, I never got past level 11, Some Assembly Required, on my own. This level has hundreds of those little murderous dolls popping out of boxes all over the factory, just waiting to stab you with their tiny little knives. If you get stuck in a corridor with one (or a few), it’s game over.
Because this game was made before save points and memory cards were created, the only way you can start at a later level is with a passcode. You receive a new passcode after every four levels. The limitation is that you start with just the basic weapon and one first aid kit whenever you use the passcode.
When I was a kid, we bought this game used, and the cartridge included the instruction manual where the previous owner had written down a bunch of passcodes. The one furthest in the game was in the thirties, and it was a level with giant ants that we could never beat. I don’t even know how many levels are actually in the game.
Still Hard, but Still Fun
Now that I’ve gone and replayed as an adult, I can assure you that it’s just as difficult. I think retro games, although simpler in gameplay and concept, can be more challenging than modern games because they lack easy access to saving options. Having to restart from the beginning is a huge pain in the butt!
Despite that, the gameplay still holds up. It’s still fun to wander through the levels, fight the baddies, and save the neighbors. Part of it may be nostalgia, but part of it is a solid game design as well.
I Want to Play Zombies Ate My Neighbors!
Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and its sequel, Ghoul Patrol, is available on all major consoles. At this time, it is only available as a digital download.
If you want to play the original game, you will have to find one of the classic consoles like a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. You can usually find them, along with the game cartridge, on Amazon or eBay. However, if you already have a newer console, it’s cheaper to download the digital version.
The Best Retro Games
Although I wouldn’t call Zombies Ate my Neighbors the best retro video game, it’s solidly in the second tier. That top tier is reserved for retro classics like Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, Mortal Combat, and The Legend of Zelda Franchise. Those games are iconic, and their franchises will live on as long as gaming is a key part of our culture.
But the tier two games are the best games for those who want to dive deeper into gaming culture. This is where the Punch-outs, Bubble Bobbles, Ninja Turtles, and Castlevania games live. These are all classics and worthy of giving a second and third look, even if they aren’t iconic enough to become household names.
Retro Gaming for the Win!
Maybe it’s because I’m nostalgic, but I prefer retro games to new games. I love replaying my old favorites, and it always brightens my day to find a new digital release of a classic video game that I loved in the 90s.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors fits the bill perfectly. It was one of my favorite Super NES games as a child, and I’m thrilled that the next generation of gamers gets to experience it as well!
This post originally appeared on Gamer Investments