7 Games Like Plants Vs Zombies

Image credit: PopCap Games

It’s easy for games in the tower defense genre to feel stale – the linear gameplay progression means that a game’s design and story have a lot of heavy lifting to do if the whole experience is to feel fresh.

And that’s exactly what makes Plants vs Zombies such an original game – a ridiculous yet innovative premise, coupled with some light-hearted humor and more than enough gameplay variety. All in all, it’s a winning combination – but what happens when you want a rest from defending your home from endless zombie hordes whose only weakness is the local flora?

Luckily, the success of this game led to plenty of other tower defense titles trying something new with their visuals and story – which is why we have more than enough games like Plants vs Zombies to recommend!

Orcs Must Die 2

Orcs Must Die is one of the most interesting tower defense series of the 21st century. Its premise is simple – you’re supposed to stop a horde of orcs from making their way to the end of each level. And you do so by using a wide array of interesting and original traps.

The point is to strategically place all of this place over the terrain and make the best of your environment – and you’ve got everything from explosive barrels to spiked floors and arrow shooters at your disposal. Plus, you can upgrade all of the traps as you progress through the game.

While the first Orcs Must Die game is a gem in the rough, the second one is where the game truly shines as a mainstream success. Also, the series’ second outing comes with a well-designed co-op mode, where you take on the ravaging orc hordes with a buddy.

In the second game, you can reach an entirely new level of orc-stopping tactics through teamwork. You and your co-op teammate can play as the War Mage or the Sorceress; as you may have predicted, both characters have unique skill sets. 

The game’s progression is also more pronounced this time around, as your performance in each level directly impacts the number of skill points you’ll receive. These points, in turn, are the currency you spend to improve your defenses and traps.

While the game is noticeably more action-heavy compared to the original, the core tower defense gameplay is still very much alive and kicking – and it’s just waiting for you to give it a go.

Tiny Defense 2

Any tower defense aficionado who enjoyed Plants vs Zombies has probably also heard of the first Tiny Defense – it’s very much a game in the same vein. Here, you’re tasked with defending a cartoonish yet steampunk world from a constant onslaught of enemy fighters.

Predictably, the main barrier to the enemies who want to ravage your homeland is an assortment of units and towers, which you’ll place around a 2D side-scrolling map. And if you’re wondering whether this game manages to replicate the fun of its predecessor, don’t worry – this one is just as much of a mobile gaming hit.

The forces at your disposal consist primarily of mini-robots – this is the army with which you’re supposed to defend against a machine horde of rogue robots. Yes, the story is nothing to write home about, and the premise is nowhere as original as the one that spawned Plants vs Zombies.

And yet, the cartoonish graphics are charming enough to keep you interested – along with a well-designed gameplay loop. Again, it’s nothing groundbreaking; you’re strategically placing units and towers in a way that deals maximum damage to the opposition.

However, each of your robots has unique strengths and weaknesses – which complement nicely with those of your enemies. Figuring out which units to use when and against whom is the whole point of Tiny Defense 2, and the game is balanced enough to keep you playing for ages.

Cards and Castles

Cards And Castles is mostly about, well, cards and castles.

Don’t worry – we’ll elaborate further.

The game sees you building up the defenses of your castle in the face of an imminent invasion. However, this time around, the tower defense gameplay is neatly combined with card game mechanics.

Predictably, different cards represent a variety of buildings, units, and spells. You’ll need to (ha-ha) play your cards right to withstand the barrage of your opponents and defeat their armies.

Of course, the deck-building element means that there’s plenty of luck involved in every victory – however, there’s a lot to be said for the thrill of defeating a tough foe despite being dealt a miserable hand. Once you know what you’re working with, you quickly need to plan out your next few moves to have any hope of success.

Unlike many other games that tried to copy elements of what made Plants vs Zombies so great, Cards and Castles manages to maintain a distinct art style and a gameplay loop that’s just unique enough to make it memorable.

Also, it’s made even more original by the fact that it isn’t purely a defensive game – while defending yourself, you also need to rush the enemy castle. This dynamic and excellent design and balance make for equally challenging and fun gameplay.

Besides the skirmish mode that remains the quickest way to enjoy everything this title has to offer, the also comes with a lengthy campaign mode. In it, you’ll get the opportunity to learn all of the game’s mechanics with a flatter learning curve, as they’re introduced while you progress throughout the increasingly harder levels.

Winged Sakura: Mindy’s Arcane Adventure

Winged Sakura is a fine choice if you want a great tower defense game with a distinctly anime visual style. Over the course of the game, you’ll play as Mindy – a girl whose village is in danger from a monster onslaught. Naturally, as per the classic tower defense formula, your job is to stop the invasion.

The task will take all of the strategic planning and tactical wits you have. And in practice, it’ll mean building an assortment of traps and towers which will destroy your enemies before they can do the same to your village.

Arguably, the biggest strength of Winged Sakura is its length; the game gives you 50 (increasingly more challenging) tower defense levels to go through. In the process, you’ll have a wide range of creatures and allies that you can summon to your aid – from youthful bowmen to fox spirits of the forest.

The story isn’t particularly engaging, but it serves its purpose – and it’s further complicated by the fact that Mindy has amnesia and has to regain her lost memories while on a quest to save the village.

There’s also an additional strategic layer compared to games like Plants vs Zombies, created by the fact that your creatures can’t stay in battle indefinitely; after their limited time runs out, they have to recharge before you can use them again.

While the battles themselves don’t have a time limit, this introduces the urgency most tower defense games have – but more organically and interestingly.

The Creeps!

Among all of the games we’ve decided to showcase here, The Creeps is perhaps most similar to the titular Plants vs Zombies – especially in terms of its gameplay and art style. And while the game switches out plants for more traditional towers, the game still sees you battling creeps that are suspiciously remindful of the zombies from PvZ.

In almost every other aspect, the game is pretty much a classic tower defense title. Your goal is to use towers and other stationary units, place them in strategic locations, and use them to defend against the enemy Creeps.

Naturally, different units do great in a battle against specific creeps and are particularly vulnerable to others. So, you need to carefully place units to maximize damage against the oncoming hordes of creeps while also taking the least amount of damage yourself.

While all of this sounds like the standard tower defense fare, a couple of things separate The Creeps! from the rest of its pack. Most notably, there’s the fact that the environment plays a much larger part in your strategic plans than in most other similar games.

The paths that creeps will take towards you will differ on each level, and your placement of units and towers needs to be in line with that. Also, you’ve got an assortment of objects which you can use to slow down the enemy and hinder them in their progress.

Furthermore, some of the towers you can construct are amusingly original – apart from a standard gun tower, for instance, you’ve also got a zombie tower that spawns creep-killing zombies that come to your aid.

Lumberwhack: Defend the Wild

Sure, we’ve all spent plenty of time helping plants defend their home turf against a zombie invasion – but how about a scenario where an alliance of animals defends its forest against an evil, careless lumberjack, and his tree-cutting minions?

That’s precisely the topic that Lumberwhack tackles! In it, you’ll take on the mantle of Koko Kornelious – a fearless koala who will use all the strength and wits he has to save his homeland from the human invaders.

In this noble quest, you’ll have 10 different animals to call upon for aid – all with unique skills and characteristics. To send for help, you’ll need the game’s primary resource: leaves. You earn these by destroying the lumberjack’s buildings or defeating his employees.

It’s not the most innovative title regarding tower defense mechanics, but it does extract a lot from its silly theme. Don’t expect the level of comedy you found in Plants vs Zombies, but you’ll still get a decent couple of chuckles from the inexplicably monstrous lumberjack and your animal allies.

Farm For Your Life

Ever wondered what a game that combined Plants vs Zombies and Farmville would look like? After all, someone’s got to plant all of those plants before they can fight zombies, right?

Well, Farm For Your Life tries to answer that very question. The game’s story sees you defending your farm from, you guessed it, a bunch of zombies. However, you can fight the undead by raising your animals, growing your crops, and putting up towers, fences, and other structures that will slow them down.

Interestingly enough, this is by far the most innovative game on our list. For one, it ditches the strictly linear nature of most tower defense video games and opts for a limited but still interesting open-world approach.

We say “limited” because the world is quite tiny, consisting of the nearby village and its surroundings (which include your farm) – but it’s still more than most similar games usually give us.

The zombies only attack at night, giving you the entire day to prepare for the next invasion. You do this in a gameplay loop that includes resource management, a simplified dash of the Sims, and classic tower defense construction.

Also, the game gives you several different modes, depending on which of its aspects you enjoy the most. Apart from the default gameplay mode that combines all the activities described above, there’s also an endless mode that removes zombies and simply leaves you to tend to your farm in peace.

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