How Dead Island Created It's Own Video Game Genre

Dead Island is a popular video game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver in 2011. It is an action role-playing game with survival horror elements, set on an open-world tropical island overrun by zombies. The game received mixed reviews upon release, but it quickly gained a cult following and became a commercial success. One of the reasons for the game’s popularity was its unique take on the zombie genre, which led to the creation of a new sub-genre of video games. In this article, we’ll explore how Dead Island created its own video game genre and what makes it stand out from other zombie games.

Now that Dead Island 2 is officially out, this is a good time for a retrospective on the original.

The Emergence of Dead Island:

Before the release of Dead Island, most zombie games followed a similar formula. The player would be placed in a closed environment, such as a mansion, a laboratory, or a shopping mall, and tasked with surviving against waves of zombies. The gameplay would be focused on shooting, melee combat, and scavenging for resources, with little emphasis on exploration or story. While these games were popular, they tended to become repetitive and lacked variety.

Dead Island changed all that by introducing an open-world environment that players could explore freely. The game was set on the fictional island of Banoi, a tropical paradise that had been overrun by a mysterious virus that turned people into zombies. Players could wander around the island, complete quests, interact with non-playable characters, and scavenge for weapons and supplies. The game also had a day-night cycle, which affected the behavior of the zombies. During the day, zombies were slow and easy to avoid, but at night they became more aggressive and harder to kill.

What Makes Dead Island Different:

One of the key features that set Dead Island apart from other zombie games was its focus on melee combat. While guns were available in the game, they were scarce and noisy, which could attract more zombies. Players were encouraged to use weapons such as baseball bats, machetes, and knives, which could be upgraded and modified to increase their effectiveness. This gave the game a visceral feel and made the combat more engaging.

Another feature that made Dead Island stand out was its emphasis on cooperative play. The game could be played solo, but it was designed to be played with up to three other players online. Players could join each other’s games, help each other complete quests, and share resources. This added a social aspect to the game and made it more fun to play with friends.

The game’s story was also more complex than most zombie games. While the main objective was to survive and escape the island, the game had a deep lore that explained the origins of the virus and the motives of the various factions on the island. The game also had a cast of memorable characters, each with their own backstory and personality.

Impact of Dead Island:

Dead Island was a commercial success, selling over five million copies worldwide. Its success led to the creation of a new sub-genre of video games, the open-world zombie game. Games such as Dying Light, State of Decay, and Days Gone have all followed in Dead Island’s footsteps, offering players a similar experience of exploring an open-world environment and fighting zombies with melee weapons.


Dead Island created its own video game genre by introducing an open-world environment, melee combat, cooperative play, and a deep story to the zombie genre. Its success led to the creation of a new sub-genre of video games and inspired many developers to take a fresh approach to the zombie theme. While the game had its flaws, such as clunky controls and repetitive quests, it remains a cult classic that will be remembered as a game-changer in the world of video games.