Follow TV Tropes


Parasite Zombie

Go To

The Parasite Zombie is a subtrope of the Plague Zombie and of Parasitic Horror. These zombies are created specifically via exposure to a form of parasitic lifeform, be it the only stage or part of a series of life stages. Good for video games, as the advanced forms allow for advanced enemies and bosses to still be zombies. Also can be used to justify why the heroes are miraculously uninfected: It's generally easy to avoid the parasites that cause this type, once you know what they are.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Nightshift in Dawn Tsumetai Te, which take over a host's body and slowly eat it from the inside out.
  • Cells at Work!, being an Anthropomorphic Personification of the cells of the body, has quite possibly the most literal depiction of this trope—viruses, the most fundamentally basic parasite. They latch on to the heads of cells, causing the equivalent of a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Franken Fran:
  • One chapter in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service had a variation of Leucochloridiom paradoxum, a parasite that normally affects snails (more details in the Real Life folder). In this case, the parasite infects people, grossly distending their eyes and leading them to climb power poles and other tall structures so birds can feed on their eyes.

    Fan Works 

    Comic Books 
  • The creation of the Black Lantern Corps in the Blackest Night storyline sees wide swaths of DCU characters being transformed into zombies by Black Power Rings. They are nearly unkillable, vaporizing them proves to be only enough to stop them for a few seconds. Also, unlike most other kinds of zombies, these zombies are massive dicks who like to point out all the flaws and shortcomings of the people they are attacking while they are attacking them.
  • Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse is actually an extra-dimensional alien larva that can use human corpses as puppets. Unlike most examples, he's a fairly moral individual with no interest in reproducing himself in large numbers or attacking random humans.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Night of the Creeps features alien brain-invading slugs.
  • Shivers. Sex zombies as Squick rather than necessarily fetish appeal. The infection itself is caused by a worm-like parasite designed by a Mad Scientist that requires human bodies to procreate.
  • The "zombies" from Splinter are infested with a type of creature that resembles black spikes. The infection hijacks the host's circulatory system and uses the muscle tissue of the body to move around and infect others, typically breaking bones in the process. Horrifyingly, it leaves the nervous system alone, meaning the victim is both fully aware that their infected limb is no longer following orders, and in considerable pain from the grisly contortions of the invading organism. One poor bastard we see is infected all the way through, and is just alive enough to beg for death before his body attacks the person that found him.
  • In The Thing (1982), the moment Thing cells get inside a host, it's doomed. The Thing cells quickly kill and replace the host's cells, until nothing is left but a colony of Thing cells that still looks like the victim. Especially creepy because Things can access their victims' memories, allowing them to mimic them perfectly.
  • The Last Days on Mars (2013). An expedition discovers proof of life on Mars; unfortunately it's a fungus-like growth that infects the Dwindling Party and makes them act exactly like zombies.
  • Nightwish: Someone who was previously killed shows up again without explanation. It turns out that his body was taken over by alien parasites who need human bodies to hibernate their young.
  • Trench 11: The place is overrun by German soldiers infested with worm colonies that turn the infected into a mindless raging murderer.

  • Infected in Infected are infected by alien spores, which embed themselves in the skin and dig their roots into the bone (and eventually, to the brain), causing massive mental shifts (such as insanity and uncontrollable rage).
  • The Walkers in Joe Ledger's Patient Zero are humans that were infected with a combination of prions, parasites, and viruses that shuts down parts of the body while keeping other organs working.
  • Taken in Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series are created by the Vord sending small creatures to kill and take over hosts. They're faster and stronger than they were when alive and the Alerans can use furycrafting.
  • In Clark Ashton Smith's The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, the vortlup, an ancient Martian leech that consume brains and use the bodies for their own purposes.
  • In Mira Grant's Parasite the title parasite is a genetically engineered tapeworm used to keep people healthy that mutates and moves from the gut to the brain. Unfortunately when this starts happening millions of people across the world have them inside them.
  • In The Beyonders, the goma worms were created by an ancient wizard as revenge on any who dared violate his tomb. The worms are tiny creatures which drink blood. They can burrow into and infest a human body, turning it into a Plague Zombie who is compelled by the worms to drink blood, preferably human blood. To make matters worse, goma zombies are virtually indestructible, as the worms knit the bodies back together given time. Luckily for the world, they were specifically bred with certain weaknesses. They can't abide water, don't care for sunlight or extreme temperatures, and can be killed by fire.
  • The Bas-Lag Cycle has the Handlingers, magical disembodied hands that parasitise people and turn them into zombies.
  • In David Wong's This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It, Spiders from another dimension that are invisible to most people infect their human hosts by crawling into their mouth or... another cavity, and fuse with them. They then take over their bodies and morph them into monstrous forms.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort creates a variant by reanimating a corpse and leaving his serpentine familiar to occupy its insides and lay in wait for the heroes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Monster of the Week from the Doctor Who special "The Waters of Mars" is explicitly stated to be a water-borne parasite.
  • The pilot episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures involved the Bane, aliens who turned humans into zombies with a parasitic life form that took the form of a sports drink.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Yellow Musk Creepers are vines that create these by growing into their victims' skulls, digging out most of their brains, and implanting seeds in the empty space. The resulting yellow musk zombies are just intelligent enough to defend the parent plant, until the seed compels them to wander off somewhere for it to germinate.
    • Hell Wasps are intelligent wasp swarms that have the ability to reanimate the body of anything they kill as a zombie to serve them as a temporary mobile shelter. Upon killing the zombie, the wasps swarm out and attack.
    • The Dusanu from Mystara looks like a typical rotting skeleton, but in fact is a fungal colony that had taken over a corpse. The haunting blue lights coming from its eyes sockets are in fact caused by the waste fumes of the fungus.
  • The End of the World's Under the Skin scenario has an unusually dark variant of this, which is rife with Paranoia Fuel.

    Video Games 
  • Dark Souls II has Spider Drones, which are Hollows whose bodies have been taken over by the spiders that overran Brightstone Cove Tseldora. The spider legs are latched on to the backs of the Undead by their fangs and most of their legs, ripping away the skin on the stomach and chest, while one limb punctures the body through the back of the neck, dislocating the jaw so it can poke out from the mouth.
  • Bug Fables has in Snakemouth Labs the zombie bug enemies, the failed results of a group of Roaches that experimented with Cordyceps in an attempt to find eternal life without the Eternal Sapling. It also has a rare heroic example in Leif.
  • Fire Emblem: The Risen of Fire Emblem Awakening are revealed to be this in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia; they're corpses animated by swarms of natural parasitic bugs called Thanatophages that reside in their masks. The alchemist Forneus perfected the process which Grima and his minions use to make them into their armies.
  • Half-Life:
    • The various games in the series all have small creatures named Headcrabs that attach to people and turn them into "Headcrab Zombies". In this game, again, unless you immolate or seriously damage the body or kill the headcrab, the zombie keeps on going. If you hit the body wrong, you can kill the zombie but leave the headcrab alive, which has a long jump as well as a crawl. Or the zombie's body is cut in half, and the torso continues to crawl at you. There is also the Zombine, a Combine Overwatch Solider infected with a Headcrab, which is a fast armored zombie that has a grenade he can try to clobber you with, making him an unwitting suicide bomber.
    • The Poison Headcrab Zombie, bloated and swollen with toxins and carrying four venomous headcrabs, as well as the Fast Headcrab Zombie, which climbs up drainpipes to reach you on rooftops, can jump across streets and entire buildings as it hunts you, and pounces with a pants-wetting scream. Oh, and all its skin and most of its organs and muscles are missing, most probably self-inflicted. * Twitch* . * Tremble* .
    • The most terrifying part: well, at least normal zombies seem to keep awareness of their condition. That's right, those rotting, mutated, living bodies still house human minds. Which beg for mercy.
  • Resident Evil 4 has plague-bearing individuals with creepy crawlies in their heads who are certainly not zombies, despite having loads of zombie tendencies. The main difference between the Plagas-infected Ganados and the T-Virus zombies seen up to that point are their ability to work together and plan strategies other than "shamble forward and attack", as demonstrated near the start of the game when the player has to Hold the Line against a horde of them, where they start getting inventive on how to get at you. Compounded in Resident Evil 5, with improved Las Plagas, making them even more aggressive, and with a boost in strength and speed, to boot. Later on, they know how to wield assault rifles.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the spore carriers, which were once humans who were infected by a fungal disease. After the disease kills its host, the fungus takes over the body and causes it to attack people and spread more spores.
  • Halo, while Not Using the "Z" Word, has the Flood, an alien parasite who can use small squid-like 'infection forms' or airborne spores to turn dead or living bodies into highly-mutated zombies with Combat Tentacles. Once the infected are too damaged or decayed to fight, they begin to bloat and explode, releasing more parasites, which go on to infect other organisms and so on and so forth. After the Flood infect enough bodies, they form a Hive Mind known as a Gravemind, as well as a variety of other creatures and environments that is comprised of pure Flood biomass. They are highly adept, if somewhat suicidal, in their tactics and strategies, and are perfectly capable of utilizing all sorts of advanced technology, from plasma rifles to teleportation grids. The most recent Gravemind incarnation even enjoys speaking in trochaic heptameter. The only organic sentient beings that seem truly immune to direct infection are those lacking a central nervous system, though they can still be killed and converted to Flood biomass. To top it off, the Flood are revealed in The Forerunner Saga to be the malevolent remains of an ancient and highly-advanced species known simply as the Precursors.
  • Dead Space: Necromorphs. Shooting them in the head just annoys them. You have to shoot off a limb or three. This is because they "operate" due to a very virulent virus that animates and mutates its victims, however it only affects dead fleshnote . However it takes effect very quickly (as in: immediately) and a bite does have a high chance or turning a person into a Necromorph...not because of any sickness, but because said bite has probably taken the head off their shoulders.
  • System Shock 2: humans infected by The Many have been taken over by worm-like creatures known as annelids. The annelid controls the human body, but it's clear that the actual human is still alive and partially conscious, as many of the infected will actively shout at the player to run away from them, or beg to be killed. In later stages of infection the human host's mind appears to disappear completely as their body is mutated into first a "Rumbler" and finally a Psi-Reaver.
  • Dead Rising features a subversion: a group of mutated wasps lay their eggs in humans and deposit the zombification virus to ensure the host's immune system doesn't kill the egg, although the zombies themselves can still spread the virus through bites.
  • Metroid:
    • The X-Parasites in Metroid Fusion are something like this, consuming both the memories, appearance, and abilities of their hosts. Though instead of keeping the original form of the victim, they morph into a clone with whatever abilities the X want from them or previous victims.
    • In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, the first thing Samus goes to do is find the members of the Galactic Federation that went down in the area. She finds them dead... and they're still shooting at her. As it stands, the Ing have somehow infected them and turned them into meat puppets, but the Ing also run about the planet of Aether doing the same to living creatures as well and taking them over like puppets. At least any infected ones are always purple which makes them easy to spot.
  • The "Infected" from The Last of Us are hosts to a particularly virulent strain of the Cordyceps fungus. Note that while the fungus does exist in Real Life, it does not affect humans: the fungus in the game is a mutant variant that does.
  • Squirg Zombies from WildStar are dead critters who have mutated Squirg (mind-controlling octopi) latched onto their heads. If this sounds bizarre and silly, it's because it's intentional.
  • Zombies from Cold Fear have Exocell parasites nesting in their cranial cavity, which puppeteers their bodies about.
  • One Neurax Worm symptom from Plague Inc. has infectees show aggression towards healthy people.
  • Most of the monsters in Castle Red are people that have been infested with the resident Eldritch Abomination worms. They more or less behave like zombies, and become more deformed and damaged as the game progresses, eventually culminating in enemies who are less this and more examples of The Worm That Walks.
  • Bloodborne:
    • The aptly named Snake Parasites appear as headless bodies with multiple snakes sprouting from their open neck holes. The first one you see shows exactly how they get this way... with the snakes bursting horrifically from the head of a seemingly normal human,
    • There's also the Bloodletting Beast, which at first looks like a "normal" if huge werewolf-like beast. Every time you encounter it, however, the creature gets more and more visibly injured until it's finally missing its head completely. Once it takes enough damage in this state, a giant worm erupts from the stump to fight you.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has the SKULLS Parasite Unit. As the name implies, they're a group of soldiers infected by a parasite that shamble around like zombies... until they see you, then they reveal the powers the parasite gives them. One of their abilities is to turn any other soldiers in their vicinity into parasite puppets who they can command to attack Snake.
  • Some aliens an turn their victims into parasitic zombies in the XCOM series. They tend to be Demonic Spiders since the zombies can release more of them.
  • A rare heroic example in Dead Cells. The hero is a Slime fused to a beheaded human corpse at the neck.
    • In the Stilt Village, parasite zombies appear as enemies. They spawn a horde of worms on death.
  • Code Vein: The Revenants are animated by the BOR parasite in their hearts, which allows them to constantly regenerate despite the parasite technically making them walking dead. However, the parasite needs to be constantly fed with blood or else it will start to erode both their body and mind, causing them to become the mindlessly violent Lost, which are a more straight example of the trope.
  • Starcraft: Averted in the first game, where the Parasite ability only serves to give you permanent vision of an enemy unit. The second game has the Infestors, who mind-control units via a bif fleshy tentacle implanted in the target's brain (including, somehow, vehicles and spaceships).
  • MGCM: According to Kamisaman, Zombified Magical Girls a.k.a. heroines' Zombified Selves in Demon's Tower dungeon, are heroines' alternate selves who are infected by Earworms (a parasitic fungus from Demon Realm). Earworms infect the hosts' brains through their ears and gradually corrupt them into zombies, both physically and mentally.

  • Girl Genius has Revenants of varying forms. Depending on the generation of wasp creation they could be mindless servants to the Other (this is the type everyone knows the warning signs of) or they could be completely normal after infection, apparently a "sleeper agent" subject to the Voice of the Other.
  • The Thornback Clan in Goblins have been enslaved by a demonic plant called a Yellow Musk Creeper, which implants seedlings into the heads of living creatures; the seedling then compels the host to seek out other creatures, capture them and bring them back to the creeper's nest so it can continue to reproduce.
  • Piper form Intragalactic. She's actually a large, leech-like parasite driving around a woman's corpse. The parasite is completely sentient; and has a Guilt Complex from killing it's host.
  • In El Goonish Shive, "mutant mind control fungus" is mentioned as one of the possible ways a "zombie" could be created similar to the real life examples listed below.

    Real Life 
  • YES, Real Life! Scary as it sounds, there are certain parasites and other critters that can take over another critter, making them effectively their own personal zombie. Of particular note is Leucochloridiom paradoxum, which completely turns a snail into its slave. It first fills the snail's body cavities so it can't retract its antennae/tentacles, then forces it to move out into the open where birds can find it. Since the infection also makes the antennae look like tasty caterpillars instead of nasty snail bits, this ensures the bird eats said antennae - and then gets infected itself. Though not mind controlled, of course.
  • There are also fungi that make zombies. Cordyceps unilateralis is one that takes over ants and, after a short time, has them climb as high as they can so the fungus can germinate and spread its spores onto more ants. To comfort the paranoid (and players of The Last of Us), cordyceps has no such effect on human brains... indeed, certain variants of the fungus have very useful medicinal properties.
    • Another fungus nicknamed the "Insect Destroyer" does the same thing to flies.
    • In fact, there's fungi like this for most insect species. It's a major part of rainforest ecology.
  • There's also the nematomorph Gordius robustus which infects crickets as part of its lifecycle and mind controls them into jumping into water so the worm can lay its eggs (drowning the cricket). It's of particular note because the worm is actually several times longer than the cricket.
  • Too many parasites to list here cause dramatic behavioral shifts in their hosts that enable part of their lifecycle. Consider Rabies and Distemper: the only reason they aren't a zombie plague is that the infected animals don't die.
  • Zombie ladybirds, controlled by a parasitic wasp. Around 25% of victims can actually survive the experience—which is unusual, as most parasitic wasps inevitably kill their victims.
    • There's another species of wasp that does this to caterpillars. Some of the wasps larvae eat the poor thing from the inside-out, while others control its brain. The caterpillar attacks anything nearby by violently flailing at them with its own body. When the wasp larvae exit and pupate, the caterpillar spins webbing around them, and then dies.
  • Toxoplasm is a parasite that has a lifecycle that involves moving from mice to cats and back again. Cats are infected when they eat infected mice. The mice have their minds warped by the parasite so that they are attracted to cats. This decreases their life expectancy considerably. There's a theory that this is the reason the Crazy Cat Lady exists. It is unproven if the parasite is capable of affecting human behavior to any large extent, but if it does, the supposed changes to behavior the parasite causes in humans (surrounding themselves with cats) increases the likelihood that they will be eaten by cats when they die.


Video Example(s):


Mold Zombies

Any human who eats any of the mold is turned into a walking husk.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / ParasiteZombie

Media sources:

Main / ParasiteZombie