Plants vs. Zombies, first released in May of 2009, is a beloved zombie zapping tower defense game. Players familiar with the game will fondly remember assembling lines of plants to repel an endless stream of zombies intent on eating the ‘homeowners’ brains. Only clever play and well placed plants and fungi keep the players’ brains safely intact.
Combining simple mechanics with an infinite number of playing styles, Plants vs. Zombies lent itself to repeat play throughs and created an addictive playing experience. But like all games, eventually that addiction begins to fade. But fear not, there are other games like Plants vs. Zombies worth checking out! A number of tower defense games released in the wake of Plants vs. Zombies success have earned a solid reputation and committed fan base in their own right.
Released concurrent to Plants vs. Zombies, Defense Grid: the Awakening also utilizes a tower defense gameplay structure. In Defense Grid: the Awakening, players defend military installations against waves of aggressive and increasingly powerful aliens. Much like Plants vs. Zombies, Defense Grid: the Awakening asks the player to construct their defenses against an onslaught of enemies intent on destroying the player.
Players are provided ten different tower types, each with their own unique capabilities, to choose from in designing their defenses. These towers cannot be attacked by the invading aliens but their placement is limited to certain platforms on the map. The players aim is to ensure that the towers are able to sufficiently damage the aliens such that they are unable to traverse the entire map to the power cores situated in the military installations the player is meant to protect. Good tower placement is the essential core strategy of the game. Placing the right type of tower in the right locations is critical towards advancement from one level to the next. Towers have unique features like line of sight limitations, ballistic trajectories and reduced or enhanced damage against certain enemies. The complexity in tower type exceeds Plants vs. Zombies resulting in a far more tactical game.
Through the course of the game, the player battles fifteen different types of enemies and like with Plants vs. Zombies, these enemies sport various different capabilities and features. Some have higher hit points, others increased speed and some even have flight. The foundational structure of Defense Grid: the Awakening is nearly identical to Plants vs. Zombies, but their execution allows for a fresh feeling experience that utilizes a greater degree of strategy and tactical thinking. Defense Grid: the Awakening, will especially appeal to gamers who wanted a more refined and serious tower defense game. It lacks the charm of Plants vs. Zombies, but in its place is a gritty game that values strategic command of the games mechanics. This is one of the best games like Plants vs Zombies to check out.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
More recently, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a tower defense game released in April of 2011. The game is set in the near future during an alien invasion of major cities throughout the world. The 14th platoon, an armor battalion is sent to stop the alien invaders and the player takes on the role of commander of the platoon.
Like Plants vs. Zombies and all tower defense games, Anomaly: Warzone Earth involves two sides, the defenders and invaders. But unlike Plants vs. Zombies, Anomaly: Warzone Earth flips the familiar model on its head as the player takes on the role of attackers as they control a convoy of vehicles sent to investigate the anomalies associated with the alien incursion. While the player does not directly control the vehicles, they do set the paths for the vehicles to follow. Alien defensive structures are placed along the pathways set on destroying the player’s convoy of vehicles.
The player must destroy these defensive structures on their way to a downed alien spacecraft. Anomaly: Warzone Earth diverges even more in that the player also is given the opportunity to actively support the convoy with power ups and items. This game takes Plants vs. Zombies and turns it on its head creating a surprisingly deep game with a ton of replay value. Tactically it requires a similar degree of attention as Plants vs. Zombies, but the role reversal provides a fresh take on the tower defense genre. The game itself is available most commonly as an Android App.
Ninjatown certainly doesn’t have the same name recognition as Plants vs. Zombies, but it’s every bit as fun! Much like Plants vs. Zombies, Ninjatown employs a cartoonish design that appeals to both kids and adults alike. They both have fun graphics and are a blast to watch unfold on screen.
Gameplay wise, Ninjatown is a tower defense strategy game. It takes place in a town full of ninjas (who could have guessed it?) attacked by some evil somethings. While the villains’ identity is somewhat unclear, all you need to know is they are bad. And you have ninjas to take them out. Just like Plants vs. Zombies, the player is given the ability to place various defensive units to repel the waves of enemies.
In Ninjatown, the player places ninja huts that house different classes of ninjas. Each type of ninja comes with its own set of unique capabilities that make them suited to defending against certain classes of evil doers. Each hut costs a certain number of ninja star cookies (the currency of ninjatown, conversion to USD unknown) which are earned by defeating enemies. These cookies can also be used to upgraded and enhance the abilities of existing ninjas, much like in Plants vs. Zombies the homeowner can upgrade his/her plants and fungi. Ninjatown also introduces a twist that Plants vs. Zombies lacks. While in Plants vs. Zombies, the ‘homeowner’ only plays a passive role in gameplay. In Ninjatown, however, the player takes on the role of Ol’ Master Ninja. And Ol’ Master Ninja can brush the dust off his nun chucks and jump into the fray.
As the game progresses, Ol’ Master Ninja remembers more and more of his ninja powers and is able to unleash powerful ninja moves that can greatly assist the defensive effort. Ninjatown also has certain special ninjas that can only be summoned using tokens earned at the end of each level. Their effects are short-lived but can often turn the tide in a hotly contested battle. These added elements allow Ninjatown to excel in its own right and it stands up well against the standards set by Plants vs. Zombies.
Even before Plants vs. Zombies, there was Fieldrunners. Fieldrunners was one of the original tower defense games, released in 2008. Unlike many tower defense games, turrets are able to be placed anywhere on the map. Turrets are indestructible and are not attacked by the waves of enemy invaders. This results in a unique tactical opportunity. Not only are turrets used to attack invaders, they also functionally work as blockades that dictate the movement pattern of the enemy invaders. This allows the player to create complex paths that lengthen the time it takes the fieldrunners to traverse the map and thereby provides the turrets additional time to inflict damage. Just like Plants vs. Zombies, each tower/turret possesses a unique ability.
Depending on the mode of gameplay, more towers are enabled increasing the complexity and nuance of the underlying game. In Fieldrunners, there are three maps from which to choose: Dry lands, Crossroads and Grasslands. Each comes with its own set of environmental parameters that impact the game play. Plants vs. Zombies has far more variety in its maps, but a new update has increased the total maps available in Fieldrunners to six. Additionally, three new tower types were added to the game.
Graphically, Fieldrunners is a far cry from the endearing cartoonish graphics of Plants vs. Zombies. Still, the gameplay is rewarding and the added depth created by the mazing of turrets makes Fieldrunners a thrilling addition to the field of tower defense games. Even five years later, Fieldrunners remains a popular choice in the tower defense genre. Fieldrunners is available for Android devices.
While Plants vs. Zombies may be the gold standard in the tower defense genre, these games are all worth playing. Each takes the familiar mechanics of Plants vs. Zombies and does something unique with that platform, creating a unique and fresh playing experience. While any veteran of Plants vs. Zombies will be able to pick up the basics of each game, it takes time to master the nuance and complexity involved in many of these tower defense games. So if you love the genre, don’t be discouraged if you’ve grown bored of Plants vs. Zombies. Pick up one of the great games like Plants vs Zombies above and get tower building!