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Video Game / House of the Dead

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They've come for brains. You'll give them... bullets.

A series of arcade light gun games starring finely dressed federal agents mowing down armies of zombies. Every game's story boils down to:

1) Zombies are being untidy and making an administrative burden of themselves.
2) Sharp-dressed agents of the AMS arrive and resolve to stop the crisis.
3) The villain will mention something about the threat of a Malthusian catastrophe (and the first doesn't even bother with that).
4) But it doesn't matter to the protagonists 'cause they're suffused with the strength to forge on, no matter what! Yeah!

However, if you still feel more intricate details are needed, we've a page for that.

The House of the Dead series is known for its fast-paced gameplay, Multiple Endings, branching paths through levels, high difficulty, and laughable voice acting. Unlike most depictions, the zombies here are fast, wield weapons and supernatural powers, drive cars, or are very fat. Bosses often take the form of some freakish abomination.


You're in for a blood-soaked ride...just don't expect a gripping story, nuanced characters, or some kind of social message.

The main games in the series are as followed:

  • The House of the Dead: (1996) A mansion that was the base of an experimental operation comes under seige from said experiments. One of the researchers named Sophie manages to call for help to her AMS friends, G and Rogan. They arrive and begin making their way through the mansion to help any researchers they can and put a stop to the mastermind who started it, Curien.

  • The House of the Dead 2: (1998) Set in Venice (or at least a town like it, it's not really clear). A city comes under attack by zombies and monsters. AMS agents James and Gary, later backed up by Amy and Harry, are sent in to help save the citizens and find out who is behind the outbreak.

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  • The House of the Dead III: (2002) Set 19 years after the second game, the world has been ruined by a zombie outbreak but former agent Rogan has found the source coming from a factory complex. However he and his team of mercenaries go missing when infiltrating the compound. A few weeks later, Rogan's daughter, Lisa, and his former partner, G, manage track him to the factory and invade the building themselves in the hopes of finding him.

  • The House of the Dead 4: (2005) An interquel set between 2 and III. Set in 2003, James gets the nagging feeling that the events from the second games aren't over and decides to investigate along with fellow AMS agent, Kate. While visiting one of their European branches, an earthquake traps them underground. After waiting days for rescue, they find they're suddenly besieged by zombies. The two blast their way out and set about trying to find out what's going on.

  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL (2009): A prequel set in 1991, following rookie agent G and foul-mouthed detective Isaac Washington's investigation of a mutant outbreak in Bayou City, Louisiana, battling against crime lord Papa Caesar. Unlike the last three games, this one was made by London developer, Headstrong Games. Initially a Wii-exclusive title, Overkill fuses the series' notoriously-bad voice acting with a B-Movie grindhouse-style presentation. An Updated Re-release, House of the Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut, was later released for the PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move support. A PC port of the Extended Cut followed just in time for Halloween 2013.

  • House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn (2018): An interquel set between 4 and III. Set in 2006, it follows Kate, who is assigned with Ryan, James' younger brother, to attend a reception at Scarecrow Manor. When a zombie outbreak abruptly crashes the partygoers, they have to fight their way out and learn what happened. Uzis return as the main weapon, but the game offers other weapons and equipment for purchase and use.

There are likewise spin-off games as well:

  • Zombie Revenge: (1999) A Beat 'em Up spinoff that was released to arcades and the Sega Dreamcast, featuring new characters as well as references to the main series.
  • The Typing of the Dead: (1999) Same as 2, except you're killing zombies by typing words and phrases on your keyboard. In 2004, it was released for the PlayStation 2 as Typing of the Dead: Zombie Panic, but only in Japan. The game was followed by two sequels, which rehashed III and Overkill (Look, don't knock until you've tried it, okay?).
  • The Pinball of the Dead: (2002) A Pinball Spinoff for the Game Boy Advance, featuring elements from 2.
  • The House of the Dead 4 Special (2006): A motion simulator-type attraction serving as a continuation of 4; was previously arcade-exclusive before being included in the PlayStation 3 version of 4.
  • English of the Dead (2008) for the Nintendo DS. A Japan-only release designed to help Japanese speakers improve their English language skills. Like Typing of the Dead, it uses the story and setting of 2.
  • The House of the Dead EX (a.k.a Loving Deads: House of the Dead EX) (2009): A Point Blank-style mini-game compilation. It concerns Zobio and Zobiko, a runaway undead couple who face obstacles that threaten to separate them. Sadly, the game never saw a release outside of Japan...legally. note 
  • The Sega Superstars series features House of the Dead cameos, the most prominent being Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, which includes three Curien Mansion-themed tracks and Zobio and Zobiko from EX as playable racers. The sequel, Sega All Star Racing Transformed, only features one track and dropped the two from the roster.
  • Zombie Revenge's Rikuya makes an appearance in the crossover game Project X Zone, with a stage set in the Curien Mansion.

The series has had ports over its run; the original game was ported over to Sega Saturn; 2 got ported to the Sega Dreamcast, and III was ported on the original Xbox. All three of these games also had ports on Windows PC. The second and third games in the series later got a Compilation Re Release in 2008 for the Wii in The House of Dead 2 & 3 Return while III and 4 got re-released as downloadable games on the Play Station Network in 2012.

How could anyone do this?

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  • 1-Up: All games in the series have life pickups hidden under certain objects. In the original two games, rescuing certain civilians will grant you an extra life, and you can gain more at the end of the stage depending on how many of them you've saved. In III, extra lives are earned by rescuing the other player and getting good grades. In 4, because there are no rescue opportunities, your only non-item source of lives is getting B grades and higher. Overkill goes for a more traditional health bar, where you start each chapter with a full bar and can only replenish lost sections by shooting medkits hidden throughout the levels.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: 4 was released in 2005 but is set in 2003. Overkill was released in 2009 but is set in 1991. The newest title, Scarlet Dawn, was released in 2018 but is set in 2006.
  • Achilles' Heel: All bosses (even monsters with supposedly "unknown" weaknesses) have these. Usually some form of note would appear to highlight the weakness, although the exact nature of the clue varies from game to game: the first two games make use of research notes, while 4 and Scarlet Dawn have a PDA scan. III and Overkill don't even come up with an excuse for what's giving the heroes a hint.
    • The Chariot, the first boss in the first game, has a bloody crevice on its chest armor. Once it sheds off the armor, you can shoot it anywhere.
    • The hideous, aquatic reptilian Hierophant, appearing in 2, has his rib cage frequently open for an easy potshot at its heart.
    • While each game's final boss will always have an "Unknown" weakness, one glance at them pretty much gives away where you must plug it with bullets. The Magician's weak points are especially obvious; you don't exactly need a guide on how to shoot the massive unarmored, pulsing-red parts of its flesh.
  • Action Girl: Lisa Rogan in III, and Kate Green in 4 and Scarlet Dawn. Overkill adds Varla Guns and Candi Stryper, although they are more of Action Survivor.
  • Actionized Sequel:
    • 4 features hordes of zombies, trading the handguns and shotguns from the previous entries for Uzi submachine guns and grenades.
    • Also applies to Overkill, which offers a plethora of weapons to be used, up to a minigun.
    • Scarlet Dawn ups the ante, featuring bigger swarms of zombies and more weapons, including grenade launchers.
  • Adjustable Censorship: On both the arcade and console versions, you can typically change the blood color from red to green. The Saturn port of the first game also offers blue and violet blood.
  • Always Night:
    • The first game takes place during the course of a single night.
    • Overkill is also mostly night, until the final boss battle.
    • Scarlet Dawn is mostly set within the night of December 6, 2006. The opening of Chapter 1 has a short flashback to the morning of that day, while the ending is set on the morning of December 7.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • In 4, a quick puff of blue/orange flame bursts from each enemy and blackens them the instant they're killed, so even if a zombie is still standing while it goes through its death flops, the player knows to stop wasting time shooting at it and immediately start targeting the next threat. Considering the sheer number of simultaneous enemies this installment throws at you, it's easy to see why this feature is extremely helpful.
    • EX has several:
      • If you're playing two players and one side manages to complete the objective before the other, they're allowed to keep going to help the other side out and win the minigame.
      • Failing a mini-game and re-trying it will give you an additional bonus such as lower difficulty or the goal being closer to reach.
      • Fail the game but choose to continue will allow you a mini-game where you can earn an extra life.
  • Artifact Title: The original game is more like "Ridiculously-Huge Mansion of the Dead". 2 and 4 take place in cities and both conclude in a large office-building. III occurs in a gigantic skyscraper. Overkill takes place in numerous locations, such as a carnival, the Louisiana swamps, and a prison. Scarlet Dawn takes place in another large mansion.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Averted in the first two games and Scarlet Dawn; although tending to appear in your line of fire, civilians are either in danger (being attacked by a zombies or hanging from a railing) or fleeing from zombies. The only ones who aren't are actively trapped.
  • An Axe to Grind: Every game has at least one type of zombie duel-wielding axes, often in a cross position to deflect bullets (with the exception of the first game and Overkill). Players can blast their legs and chest to make them keel over, thus exposing the zombies' heads.
  • Badass Normal: All of the main protagonists in the series are normal people battling legions of undead monstrosities to save humanity. Lampshaded in Overkill a ton.
    Detective Isaac Washington: Well, I'm not a hundred percent sure but... I think they've found us."The G stands fo' GENOCIDE, muthafucka!"
  • Big Bad:
    • Dr. Roy Curien in the original game, as well as III, resurrected as the Wheel of Fate.
    • DBR Corporation CEO and Curien's research financier Caleb Goldman in 2 and (posthumously) 4. His zombie outbreaks were to punish humanity for abusing nature, hoping to revert them to their "natural state."
    • Thornheart in Scarlet Dawn, who was previously implied to be the Greater-Scope Villain in the previous two entries. Thought to be dead after suffering a terminal disease, he unleashes "Noah's Ark" in order to completely exterminate the human race, believing that the human mind is far too corrupted by the Seven Deadly Sins, and wishes to usher in a new human evolution. He survives the events of Scarlet Dawn and III, and is set to be the next main antagonist of the series.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • Averted in the first three games and Overkill, in which zombies are bloodied and dismembered when shot. Played straight in 4 and Scarlet Dawn, with zombies simply disintegrating and erupting in flames, respectively, upon death.
    • The civilians in the first two games also play this straight, shedding not a drop of blood when killed (either by zombies or accidentally by a player).
  • Bond One-Liner: With the exception of the first game, characters often do this after boss fights. Some examples:
    • From 2:
    James/Gary: (after defeating a revived Judgment) "Remember, there's no such thing as a second chance."
    James: (after defeating the Magician) "Only man himself can control its [sic] fate. You're nothing!"
    • From III:
    Lisa: (after defeating the Sun) "I never was any good at gardening."
    Lisa: (after defeating Death) "When a lady says no, she means it!"
    • From 4:
    James: (after defeating the Empress) "Looks like you missed your stop!"
    Kate: (after defeating Temperance) "How do you like my low fat, all lead diet?"
    Kate: (after defeating the Star) "Looks like you're the one who failed the test!"
    • From The House of the Dead 4 Special:
    G: (after defeating the Magician) "I'll put you out of your misery!"
    • From Scarlet Dawn:
    Kate: (after defeating Chariot) "I hate a clingy guy!"
    Ryan: (after defeating Priestess) "You fall down—not us!"
  • Boom, Headshot!: The best way to kill the zombies. Emphasized in 4 with bonuses for nailing consecutive headshots. In order, the bonuses are "GOOD" (1 hit), "GREAT" (2 hits), "AMAZING!" (3 hits), and "PERFECT!" (4 or more hits).
  • Boss Rush:
    • In the first game, you're forced to re-fight the Chariot and Hangedman in the final chapter before fighting the Magician.
    • During the last levels of 2, you'll have to face a revived Judgment, Hierophant, Magician, and Tower before dealing with the final boss.
  • Boss Subtitles: Each boss fight is prefaced with a profile of the boss with its weak points highlighted.
  • Boss Warning Siren: Every boss in the first four games as their names and weakpoints are noted. A heartbeat in the first two, a dull beeping in 3, and the protagonists' PDA beeping as it scans the boss in 4 and Scarlet Dawn.
  • Chainsaw Good: Ironically for a zombie work, this trope is put to use by the undead; most entries of the series have at least one type of zombie wielding a chainsaw with intent. Even the bosses get to have some fun, notably Strength and The Empress in 2 and 4, respectively.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure:
    • Instead a fixed progression, III and Scarlet Dawn allow you to choose which stage out of three you want to play after each one ends. Subverted in that you have to go through all of them if you want to access the final stage, so the only thing changed is the order.
    • 4 introduces an actual decision-making type of this trope. For example, Chapter 1 has you choose between the Corridor and Open Area paths; once you pick one, you can't go to the other within the same playthrough. This makes it a glorified Story Branching.
  • City of Canals: A natural consequence of 2 and 4 being set in Venice.
  • Classic Cheat Code: From 2 onwards, the score display code is in the format of x, x, y, y, x, y, x. For example, on 2 and 3, x refers to the player 1 gun trigger and y refers to player 2's, and in 4 you use the trigger and grenade buttons, respectively, for the code.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Nearly every single boss and every single protagonist. Characters in 4 and Scarlet Dawn at least tend to gripe when their health is low.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • You will find those (either civilians or your partner) who will need rescue throughout your mission. Saving them nets you a life bonus most of the time. Subverted in III, in which it's your partner that you rescue, and even then, they're only in trouble for a few seconds, retreating back to you regardless of whether you succeed or fail. On top of that, Thomas Rogan is the one in distress, and it's his Action Girl daughter to the rescue (along with his old AMS buddy, G). Avoided outright in 4, in which there's nobody to rescue. Scarlet Dawn, on the other hand, brings back both the civilian version of 1 and 2, and the partner version of III.
    • In-story, the plot of the first game kicks in because Thomas wants to rescue his fiancee. In the third, Thomas himself becomes the one in distress, and his daughter has to come rescue him.
  • David vs. Goliath: There's always at least one giant-sized boss.
  • Dead Weight: Fat zombies are the earliest kind of Giant Mook, taking a few more body shots than normal enemies. The manual explains that a mutant's health is directly proportionate to its mass. They're also fast. Taken Up to Eleven with the morbidly obese boss Temperance, who runs around and can turn himself into a bowling ball of undead fat. And is completely bulletproof.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Hanged Man from the first game (twice), Caleb Goldman from 2, the Sloth from III, and the Lovers from 4.
  • Dual Boss:
  • Dull Surprise:
    • The voice acting of the earlier installments ranges from bad to abysmal; in 2 the heroes don't sound the least bit fazed by the fact that they're literally standing in the middle of a citywide zombie outbreak; James in particular dishes out some of the most jarring and out-of-context lines in the game. Goldman himself falls under this, with some of his lines muddled so badly it sounds as if he's speaking through a broken voice recorder. Even the later installments have their moments (other than general narminess, which is a characteristic of the series).
    • 4 averts this. It's still narmy, yes, but the characters emote like how they would in real life. James and Kate's dialogue before the former sacrifices himself to kill the World is particularly well-acted. The consensus is that is has the best voice acting in the series.
  • Dynamic Difficulty:
    • Playing with a second player makes the games MUCH harder. So if you don't want to die twice as often, don't play with a second player unless said player is just as competent as you (and heavens help you should you start a two-player game in order to dual-wield on the arcade machine).
    • Also, the better you play in a stage, the faster the boss will be. It's not very clear how it works, because sometimes he'll slow down when you fail to survive an attack. It's most notable with the Magician, whose movement aura is a different color based on whether it's in "easy" or "hard" mode.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Roy Curien from the first game and Caleb Goldman from 2 and 4. Scarlet Dawn adds Thornheart, who is apparently their leader.
  • Fat Bastard: Temperance and the Lobber. Also the fat zombies from the third game.
  • Fire/Ice/Lightning: The final bosses of the first, third, and fourth games; The Magician manipulates fire, The Wheel of Fate manipulates lightning, and The World manipulates ice. The final boss of the second game is a crystalline humanoid, similar to The World.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Thanks to III moving the period to a post-apocalyptic 2019, everything the protagonists do to stop the global zombie outbreak in the games released after but set before III are doomed to fail. This is especially prevalant in Scarlet Dawn; although the AMS agents finally confront the "Mystery Man", Thornheart, at the end of the game, anyone who knows about his appearance in III won't be surprised to learn that, unlike Curien and Goldman, he gets away scot-free.
  • Friendly Fireproof: In III and Scarlet Dawn, there are segments where one player must rescue the other from a zombie attack (in lieu of rescuing civilians). Shooting your partner in distress not only does not take away your lives, it doesn't even damage them! The console ports even point this out in their strategy demos.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • In the final chapter of III, Daniel takes over as the new Player 2 character partway through. For whatever reason, he inherits G's remaining lives.
    • At the end of the fifth chapter of 4, James is struck by one of The Star's finishing attacks, and he's shown visibly limping throughout the next chapter. Not only does Life Meter not reflect this in the subsequent chapter, he is able to shoot as well as he did before.
  • Gameplay Grading: The first two games give you a rank at the end of the game based on your performance. In III, 4, and Scarlet Dawn, you also get grades at the end of every chapter; getting a high enough grade on a given chapter will earn you an extra life or two.
  • Giant Spider:
    • The third stage of the first game introduces large green spiders. The third boss, Hermit, is also one, but much bigger and with organic armor.
    • The Lovers from 4 are two huge tarantulas (a small male one atop a larger female) who constantly spawn spiderlings.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The AMS, which almost every protagonist and heroic supporting character works for. It's never explained precisely what they do beyond shoot zombies and mutants.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Thornheart from Scarlet Dawn is revealed to be the mastermind and benefactor of Curien and Goldman's experiments.
  • Hostage Spirit Link: In 1 and 2, shooting a civilian takes off one life. Averted in III, where shooting your partner in a rescue scene does nothing. 4 has no one for you to rescue. Scarlet Dawn brings back both the civilian and partner situation to the table, with the same effects.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The typical appearance for the end bosses. Also, the Star, who has uncanny abilities.
  • Injured Player Character Stage: Subverted in 4. James gets injured at the end of Chapter 5 by a last-ditch attack by The Star, and he has to be physically assisted by Kate in the next chapter. However, this has no bearing gameplay-wise, and he doesn't even lose a life from the cutscene attack.
  • Kevlard:
    • Temperance (a morbidly obese zombie) from House of the Dead 4. Even though you could actually stop him from attacking you by shooting his head, it was impossible to do any real damage to him via your bullets. You had to drop a clock on his head to beat him.
    • Obese enemies in the second and third game also tank in more damage. A headshot was needed or they'd ram you.
  • Kill 'em All:
    Goldman: "I do not wish to kill all humans. I only wish to revert to them to their natural state."
    • This is, however, played straight with Thornheart from Scarlet Dawn, who intends to kill all humans and replace them with his creations, a plan aptly called "Noah's Ark".
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • In The Typing of the Dead, the story of the games still play out as normal, but the keyboard and foam weaponry, not to mention some of the phrases they make you type pretty much offset the mood. The endings subvert Goldman's ambiguous suicide in comedic ways, either by triggering an explosion (implying that whatever he was up to failed), Goldman being attached to a bungee cord and coming back up with a burp, or flying off into the sky with a fart.
    • EX takes a more comical approch to the series. Heck the tone is more of a love story then a horror motif.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: In every game. Also subverted in the same game with bosses: normal mutants will blow up into gooey pools of blood and flesh, but the bosses (even those who seem quite prone to explode into pus like the Lobber and Mother) simply fall down.
  • Mad Scientist: "Yes! ...These are the kinds of breakthrough results that are possible when experiments are carried out scientifically, without undue mushy sentiment for the Human test [subjects] or other ridiculous ethical qualms..." (Journal Entry). Dr. Curien speaking of some of his zombie creations from the PC version of the first game's manual. He got even worse, as the flashbacks to before the incident in HOTD 3 show, complete with mad laughter.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory:
    • The titular house from the first game is actually a gigantic laboratory under a residential facade. There is a reason that Curien's experiment went unnoticed until it's too late. While the first and second chapters take place in the outer mansion, the third and fourth have you scour the lab itself.
    • Some sectors of Goldman's building, the setting of the final chapter of 2, are used for laboratory experiments.
    • III is set entirely within Curien's abandoned lab/skyscraper.
    • The appropriately named "Lab" level of Scarlet Dawn takes place in Thornheart's underground laboratory.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Pandora's Box" of course refers to a box that contains unforeseen evils, in this case energy beings with supernatural powers.
    • "Noah's Ark" from Scarlet Dawn. In the Bible, it was used as a refuge for select people to survive a global catastrophe, which killed all unrepentant humans. Thornheart wants to decimate the entirety of humanity, whom he considers unrepentant, and replace them with his creations.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender:
    • Played straight to an extent in the first two games. Both protagonists you can play as are male, although there is at least one female who acts as a supporting character (Sophie and Amy). Averted from the third game onward, where both Player Character teams consist of a male and a female (Lisa Rogan in 3 and Kate Green in 4 and Scarlet Dawn). Overkill seemingly reverses the change, but the Director's Cut edition compensates this by adding a campaign where the only characters selectable are women.
    • Played straight with the zombies in the first four games. With the possible exception of The Empress boss, whose name and body structure implies that it is a female, the zombies are exclusively male or at least have masculine body structures. Unambiguously female zombies are finally introduced in Overkill.
  • Monstrosity Equals Weakness: Almost every boss in any given game will be some form of mutant freak, but the final boss will look like a shiny humanoid. The exceptions are the original game's Magician, Overkill's Mother and Scarlet Dawn's Moon.
  • Mook Chivalry: Some zombies will wait until you kill the largest threat (like axe-wielding zeds or barrel-throwing fatties). Only one zombie can typically be in attacking range at once, so it's possible to disable one, quickly reload, then finish it off with the rest of the new mag used for the ones behind it.
  • Multiple Endings: Every game has a few: one which is canon, a few which aren't, and one which is possibly canon but also extremely confusing.
    • From the first game:
      • The Normal ending is simply a shot of the mansion from afar.
      • The Good ending zooms the camera into the main hall, revealing Sophie's survival.
      • The Bad ending is like the Good ending, except Sophie is revealed to have been turned into zombie.
    • From 2:
      • The Normal ending shows AMS agents congratulating you.
      • The Good ending has you meet Rogan.
      • The Bad ending has you meet a zombified Goldman.
    • From III:
      • The Normal ending simply ends with Daniel's speech about his father.
      • The Good ending is comical; a zombie hijacks Lisa's van, forcing her and Daniel to chase it.
      • The Bad ending reveals Daniel's zombification and Lisa's horrified reaction to it.
      • The Secret ending introduces the Mystery Man, later revealed in Scarlet Dawn to be Thornheart. He said something about "him" (possibly Curien) not understanding "its" true purpose.
    • From 4:
      • The Normal ending shows Goldman advising Kate to travel north in search of survivors.
      • The Good ending shows G, foreshadowing the events of 4 Special.
      • The Bad ending is like the Normal ending, except Goldman reveals that he has turned into a zombie.
      • The Secret ending shows Thornheart talking about the existence of more than one Pandora's Box.
    • From 4 Special:
      • The Normal ending has Kate and G successfully destroy the Magician, then continuing to the north in search of survivors.
      • The Bad ending has them fail to stop the Magician, thereby dooming themselves (and possibly the world).
      • The Secret ending once again shows Thornheart, this time boasting that "the Wheel of Fate cannot be stopped".
    • From Scarlet Dawn:
      • The first ending has Kate and Ryan discussing James.
      • The second ending has Thornheart walking in front of tubes filled with liquid, possibly containing his other creations.
      • The third ending has Thornheart saying that he saw the "evolution of envy", so he would follow it with "arrogance".
      • The fourth ending has Thornheart boasting that his plans have only just begun.
  • Naïve Newcomer:
    • Kate in 4 is a fresh recruit to the AMS. Despite the horrifying outcome, the game's events are only her first assignment.
    • Ditto with G in Overkill.
    • Ryan from Scarlet Dawn takes rash decisions and acts dismissive to matters that are clearly important on second thought, implying that he is new to the AMS. Kate, who returns in the game as an experienced senior, has to guide him.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The first game was released in 1996 but is set in 1998, while 2 was released in 1998 but is set in 2000. Unlike the third game, which shows a completely different society than the real one, the first two games have society and technology on par with then-real life.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Late game zombies in the first game will sometimes have robotic arms. And in any stage in Goldman's skyscraper, you get to fight alien/zombie/robot things.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • By far one of the most difficult Light Gun Games around. Many a player has witnessed the second game's continue screen no less than 10 times in a single run.
    • The PC versions are however easy with practice, since you can see where you're aiming and there are shot types in the first game (such as G's extremely powerful derringer). It also helps that you don't have to take your aim off-target to reload here.
  • Oddball in the Series: Overkill is the only main game in the series not developed by Sega's in-house division; instead, London-based Headstrong Games was responsible for its production. As a result, the game features a very different, Westernized feel; the English voice acting, while still narmy, adhere to the spoken dialogue more closely (whereas the Japanese games have some questionable word choices). The creators' decision to make it grindhouse-style instead of a generic rail shooter doesn't help matters. The story also deviates from Curien/Goldman story arc and G is the only representative of the AMS in the game. For extra points, it is currently the only main game not released for the arcades.
  • One-Letter Name: Agent G.
  • Our Zombies Are Different:
    • The series is very ambiguous as to what type of zombie it's using. In the first game and in Overkill they're explicitly the products of mad science, but after that it's anyone's guess. They cause a Zombie Apocalypse, implying infectious zombies (and Goldman gets zombified in the second game's bad ending), but Goldman's laboratories are still hanging around with copies of Curien's notes. The boss monsters and robotic foes that still fight likes zombies aren't helping.
    • The zombies are most consistently featured as the Artificial Zombie type. Curien's zombies are explicitly made from his own creation and considering that Goldman has several test tubes with zombies in them in his headquarters, this suggests that they are templates used to mass produce them and unleash unto the world. Also, they are smart enough to know how to wield various weaponry and drive vehicles, something that would be impossible for ordinary zombies to do and was most likely programmed into them by Curien/Goldman. They also aren't interested in infecting humans and although some possess bite attacks, they simply kill anyone who isn't a zombie and the bite just does damage rather than cause infection to the protagonists.
  • Pinball Spinoff: The Pinball of the Dead, duh.
  • Raising the Steaks: This series has undead fauna all over the place: bats, owls, spiders, frogs, scarabs, vultures, piranhas, sloths, leeches, crows. The first game even featured winged zombie dobermans.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain:
    • The classic. Shoot here to destroy them quickly.
    • The battle against Team Judgment is one where this doesn't work. Because Kuarl (the 10-foot tall armored zombie) doesn't have a head!
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike:
    • 2 is a lot harder than the previous one and is considered the hardest in the series. The zombies are more numerous, faster and can appear from all sorts of angles in each section. The hostages are also harder to save with zombies usually sprinting after them, which increases your chances of accidentally hitting them. The bosses also have more aggressive attack patterns than the previous game's and there is no auto-reload function like the first game possessed.
    • 4 manages to be a bit harder than the first two. Since you have a submachine gun, a LOT more zombies will appear on-screen at once and the bosses now require their weak points to be shot enough times so that a Cancel meter is filled, which is the only way to interrupt their attacks and prevent damage from being taken. Additionally, more of the bosses fit That One Boss category.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • Lisa Rogan and Daniel Curien, son of the infamous doctor deliver their own retort to the final boss of HOTD 3 before punctuating it with a shotgun blast to the face.
      Lisa: This is our future, we'll handle it ourselves. You've got bigger problems to worry about!
      Daniel: You're not my father!
    • The final chapter to HOTD 4 reveals that Goldman (in flashbacks) has been ranting to James Taylor and Gary Stewart; the original protagonists who ruined his plans in HOTD 2. James' response to Goldman's elaborate rant?
      James: Is that all you have to say, Goldman?
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: James and Ryan Taylor. The former is calm and shrewd, the latter is Hot-Blooded and reckless. While not apparent in the English voice acting, Ryan uses very informal Japanese in the subtitles (e.g. he refers to James as "aniki", a rough way to call your big brother and stereotypically used by gang members), indicating his boisterous personality. James, meanwhile, just uses ordinary Japanese.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Played straight. In each game, there is only one named female character: Sophie Richards (1), Amy (2), Lisa Rogan (III), and Kate Green (4 and Scarlet Dawn). Even the spin-off game EX only has Zobiko as the sole female. The only aversion is Overkill, which features two women (Varla Guns and Candi Stryper).
  • Spin-Offspring:
    • Thomas Rogan is the P1 character of the first game, while his daughter Lisa is the P1 character of III.
    • James Taylor is the P1 character of 2 and 4. In Scarlet Dawn, the position is taken by his brother, Ryan.
  • Spiritual Successor: Vampire Night, a joint effort between Sega and Namco that utilized similar gameplay, boss encounters, and goofy voice acting and translation. It also introduced the "Boss Cancel" bar that would be used in III onward.
  • The Stinger: Technically, all of the endings qualify, since they are played after the credits.
  • Story Branching: All games in the series have branching paths (usually classified as the "normal" and "hard" paths) which cannot be accessed together within a single playthrough. This is in fact the main Replay Value of the series. Most of them are promptless and depend on your actions, but 4 introduces a Choose Your Own Adventure method of branching.
  • Tarot Motifs: Every boss in games 1 through 4 and Scarlet Dawn is named after a tarot card of the Major Arcana. As of Scarlet Dawn, the only Tarot card not used is the Devil. The bosses in OVERKILL don't follow this pattern — but they weren't developed by Curien or Goldman.
  • Theme Naming: The bosses of the first four games, as well as Scarlet Dawn, are named after Tarot cards.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Some fat zombies do this rather often. Other zombies also do the same.
  • Title of the Dead
  • Transformation Trauma: The bad endings have Goldman or a character close to the protagonists turn into a zombie, who is usually promptly shot off screen.
  • Warmup Boss: Each game has one boss with a relatively easy weak point and predictable movements to start you off, and often has the basic types of zombie before that.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Where did Kate Green go after 4? It's explained in the Special Edition game, where she teams up with G immediately after the events of that game. She eventually becomes a main character again in Scarlet Dawn.
    • In the second game, James Taylor and Gary Stewart serve as the protagonists. In the fourth game, James returns, but Gary seems to have simply disappeared along with Amy and Harry, who were supporting characters. Gary does appear, but only in the flashback played in Chapter 6.
  • Would Hit a Girl: There are male and female hostages alike to rescue in the first two games and Scarlet Dawn and the zombies will kill both of them with impunity regardless of sex. In the same vein, the zombies won't pull any punches if you are playing as a female Player Character either.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Duh. Much more egregious in House of the Dead III - the world was overrun, and yet no one can use anything actually descriptive in regards to the zombies. And in Overkill, well, they're mutants.

     The House of the Dead 
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The mansion could be considered a more "mundane" version of this trope. There are lots of physical undead, but no ghosts or any other type of spirit. However, the Magician possesses psychic powers.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The manual for the Saturn port made rather blatant references to G having "metallic"-tasting blood and behaving "mechanically", implying he was a robot or cyborg. This is never followed up on in subsequent games.
  • Crippleware: The game's demo was time-limited; a big timer counted down from three minutes, and the game would quit once the timer reached zero. The hack-savvy player who used a memory location editor to freeze the timer would find out that the timer was the only thing crippling the game; with it out of the way, it was possible to play the game to the end.
  • Disposable Woman: Sophie in the original game gets kidnapped by the Hangedman, and is axed by the Chariot just before you fight him as the first boss, driving Rogan to seek revenge. This can be subverted if you're good enough at the game.
  • Power Pincers: One of the enemies in the first game has a kind of "scissor claw" that it can launch at you from a distance.
  • Revenge: Rogan's motive against Curien when Sophie is seemingly killed by Chariot. The third chapter is even titled "Revenge".
  • Secret Character: Sophie, a female researcher, and alternate versions of Rogan and G could be used in the game (both Arcade and ports) if a code was used.
  • Title Drop: The last chapter is literally "The House of the Dead".
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The Magician kills his creator, Curien, upon his activation deeming him as nothing but a lower lifeform.
  • We Will Meet Again: The Magician's final line to the player before vanishing without dying: "You haven't seen anything yet!"

     The House of the Dead 2 
  • Breaking Speech: The revived Magician gives one to James and Gary before the fight starts, again followed by their retort after they beat the crap out of this Humanoid Abomination.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Goldman appears to be one, but then turns out to be much worse.
  • Death of a Child: Subverted, where child characters are just as readily murdered by the undead if you are not quick on the trigger.
  • Final-Exam Boss: The Emperor will turn his metal orbs into some of the previously killed bosses, and you can repel them by hitting their weak spots.
  • Fish Person: The Hierophant, the second boss, is an aquatic reptilian beast who carries a trident.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Goldman's motive for his bringing about a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Magician's re-appearance in the next to last level has this written all over it.
  • Headless Horseman: The first boss, Judgment, consists of a headless suit of armor (Kuarl) controlled by a flying goblin (Zeal).
  • Hockey Mask and Chainsaw: Strength, the fourth boss, dons this. It gets blasted off after several headshots.
  • The Imp: Zeal, one of the two beings who make up Judgment.
  • Knight Templar: Goldman. He wanted to protect nature. Okay. But did he have to go as far as killing off the human race "reverting them to their natural state"?
  • Ominous Owl: The Moowls, which are zombified owls.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Goldman. His boss creations fit more, though.
  • Piranha Problem: The Mofish, which resembles a mutant piranha. These foes are found in the canals and leap at the players to take bites out of them. They are also seen during the fight with the Hierophant.
  • Sand Worm: The Tower is a roaring, five-headed worm-dragon-snake-hydra-thing. After you kill four of its heads, the main one will slither away to the next arena, where you'll have to finish him off. Depending on the path you took, the arena could even be a large sand pit that he burrows through.
  • This Is da Faynl Bawdl: Before the final boss.
    Goldman: Show yourself! Our new ruler, the Emperor!

     The House of the Dead III 
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: III is set in a post-apocalyptic 2019, where the zombie infestation has spread throughout the world. The game was released in 2002.
  • After the End: By this point in the series, the Zombie Apocalypse has gone global. It's lasted sixteen years.
  • All Hallows' Eve: The game literally takes place on October 31, 2019.
  • Appendage Assimilation: The Sun's giant wall of faces.
  • Badass in Distress: Rogan disappears after the prologue chapter, prompting his daughter and former AMS partner to search for him.
  • Book-Ends: The prologue chapter and the end of the final chapter in III take place in the same areas.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The Sun. In exchange for being easier than Fool and Death, it has a gigantic amount of HP. It goes down much more quickly after it starts its final attack, but it takes minutes of constant firing at its weak points to get there.
  • Determinator: Death, the huge security guard zombie. He will suddenly pop out of the ground and keep running after you for the first and second levels before finally dying.
  • In the Blood: Daniel struggles with this, but gets over it after blowing up the zombie-android resurrection of his father.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Dr. Roy Curien in regards to his son. He went into forbidden research to find a cure for him but it drove him mad in the process.
  • Mauve Shirt: Dan Taylor lasts a little bit longer than his comrades in the prologue (where he serves as the first Player 2).
  • Mini-Boss: The final chapter features the Red Shirt commando who dies at the start of the game as this; a first for the franchise. He behaves similarly to the zombified members of Rogan's team, but can take much more punishment than ordinary enemies, as he gets back up after being shot down multiple times. It takes the entire upper half of his body being blown off for him to finally die.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Because of this particular game's usage of shotguns rather than pistols or machineguns, you can hit two targets with a single shell. Doing so awards the "Twin Shot" bonus.
  • One-Winged Angel: Wheel of Fate could be considered Curien's One Winged Angel form.
  • Plant Person:
    • One of the levels is an lab overrun with plant growth. There, you'll encounter enemies who seem to be the result of zombies fused with plant life.
    • Though it's technically not a person per se, The Sun is a living plant-like abomination.
  • Red Shirt: Thomas Rogan's team who initially investigated the facility.
  • R-Rated Opening: The second to last remaining member of Thomas Rogan's team is killed quite gruesomely by the zombies at the start of the game.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Encouraged with the Time Attack mode.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: III uses shotguns instead of the handguns of the prior two installments.
  • You're Not My Father: At the end where after defeating the Final Boss, Dr. Curien as the Wheel of Fate, Curien's son Daniel rejects him as his father before Daniel and Lisa kill him with one final blast.

     The House of the Dead 4 and Special 
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The player characters are AMS agents, and the game starts as an AMS base gets suddenly completely taken over by zombies.
  • Arc Words: Hope.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The first game that inverts this. In contrast of the first three games ability to blow chunks off the zombies and monsters, here zombies and monsters either burst into flames, disintegrate, or fall down.
  • Callback: Seeing as Goldman serves as the game's antagonist again, a few are made to the second game (see Nostalgia Level below).
    Kate: It's almost like we're being invited in.
  • Call-Forward: In the G ending, G shows up at the site where James sacrificed himself, swearing to "fight this back to the source", alluding to his role in III.
  • Continuity Nod: The final levels take place in the same area as, and play just like, the final levels of 2. The music that plays are also remixed songs from the second game.
  • Downer Ending: Failing to stop The Magician's last-ditch attack in part 4 SP allows it to create dozens of clones of itself, which presumably kill the heroes and go on to destroy humanity, and you have a ten-second margin for error to prevent itnote .
  • Feed It a Bomb: Justice, the first boss, can be instantly defeated if you chuck a grenade in its mouth.
  • Gainaxing: Disturbingly applied with the Temperance boss.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Inexplicably, "darn" and "heck" are littered throughout the dialogue, without any real profanity. One wonders if the ludicrously profane dialogue in Overkill was meant to make up for this.
  • Guide Dang It!: Never does the game mention that shooting the propane tanks of the welder zombies acts like a grenade blast, nor the fact that Justice's attacks can be stopped by throwing a grenade into his mouth.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: James blows himself up along with Pandora's Box at the climax of 4's story to keep The World from evolving further in its weakened state.
  • Just Before the End: House of the Dead 4 which takes place slightly during whatever catastrophe befell the world. Or so we thought until Scarlet Dawn...
  • Life Meter: The original arcade amusement version of Special has one tied between two players. Lose it and it's an instant Game Over with no continues.
  • More Dakka: The default weapon in this game is a machine pistol with 30-bullet clips. 4 SP gives you 100 bullets in one clip.
  • Motive Rant: Employs a heavy retcon to give Caleb "loyfe cycle" Goldman a lot more menace; the start of each chapter flashes back to the events of HOTD 2, showing Goldman quietly seething behind his desk about how mankind's arrogance and greed will doom the entire planet. The final level reveals he's been speaking to James Taylor and Gary Stewart, who have him at gunpoint.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Justice is a huge, four-armed zombie brute who chases you around a sewer.
  • Nostalgia Level: The fifth and sixth chapters of 4 are designed to harken back to the final stages of 2 (particularly the fifth chapter but the sixth also has shades of it as well). Justified because they literally are the same areas (the DBR Corporation skyscraper).
  • Scenery Gorn: Kate and James get a very nice view of the burning shell of Venice at the end of 4's fourth chapter.
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop: After the brutal Nintendo Hard nature of the second game, this game is much easier, but still challenging. You are given a fully automatic submachine gun to shred zombies with, in addition to grenades for clearing out large groups of them and doing some good damage to the bosses. There's also no civilians to obstruct you, so you can literally Shoot Everything That Moves too. That doesn't mean that the game is all rainbows, however (see Sequel Difficulty Spike above).
  • The Siege: The AMS base that the players are in has been taken over by zombies, and the player characters have to fight their way through it.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Justice will resort to dropkicks later in his fight.

     House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn 
  • Absentee Actor: G does not appear or mentioned in the game, breaking the tradition of featuring him in every HotD game. Especially weird since Kate is a main character here, and G was her partner in her last game before Scarlet Dawn, so she ought to mention him one way or another (though to be fair, James never mentioned Gary in 4 either...)
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Chariot and Hangedman return once again as bosses.
    • Thornheart is also stated to be this, as it was widely believed he succumbed to a fatal illness several years before.
  • Blood-Stained Glass Windows: The final chapter is set within the inner reaches of Thornheart's residence, a mansion richly decorated with stained glass.
  • Call-Back:
    • The first chapter is pretty much a re-creation of entering the house in the first game with zombies jumping on the chandelier, the knife throwing ones attacking you afterward and even a zombie busting into the room from a bottom door. Many enemies and even bosses from the first game also return.
    • Some of Kate's lines echo her previous adventure in 4.
      • She recalls James lamenting that their experience in 4 was only just the beginning of something terrible. She also recalls her promise to him not to give up hope.
      • If you pick the left elevator in the Annex stage, she exclaims "When in doubt, head left", the exact same line she said in Chapter 1 of 4 if the player chose the Corridor path. Ryan, who didn't figure in 4 (and by extension any player who has yet to play 4), is confused and asks what she was talking about.
        Ryan: What?
      • Upon reaching the last room of the final stage, Kate mentions that they're being invited in. She says the same thing before the Star boss battle in 4, which itself was said upon entering the final stage in 2.
    • For the second time, Kate has to watch a Taylor risking death to destroy a madman's ultimate creation and final boss (for bonus points, she also screams his name before he does the thing). Except this time, he lives.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A lightning strike miraculously strikes the spear Ryan used to impale the Moon, electrifying it. So miraculous, Kate speculates that it was James' divine intervention.
  • Difficulty Levels: You can choose between Normal and Master modes, with the latter throwing many more zombies at you at once.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: One of the new enemies, Mac, wields a sword and moves around like a samurai.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are a lot of establishing shots that focus on the full moon. Who is the final boss of this game? The Moon.
    • Just before the final boss, Kate and Ryan enter a garden filled with blue roses. Kate and Ryan have this conversation:
      Kate: In the language of flowers, it means a divine miracle.
      Ryan: Oh good, I could use one of those.
  • Human Ladder: The zombies do this at one point when Kate and Ryan try to board a helicopter and start climbing on top of each other to reach them. Ultimately, the heroes have to jump off as it gets pulled down.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Subverted. Ryan jumps from a tower and impales the head of the final boss with a pipe, but it's the lightning strike that ends up killing it.
  • Lady in Red: Kate sports a very decorative red and black dress, now competing with the sharp-dressed men of the series.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One of the new zombies, Bruce, is practically Slash from Guns N' Roses in zombie form, sporting a top hat, shades, a similar hairstyle, and even carries a guitar!
  • Scenery Gorn: During the final boss battle, the environment surrounding Scarecrow Manor is leveled to the ground. The only structure surviving is a single tower, and badly damaged at that.
  • Scenery Porn: The game's scenery is gorgeous. Thank the Unreal Engine 4 for that.
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends stating that the story will be continued in the next HOTD game. Although the third game is next in the timeline, the website indicates the game is set to receive a "Special" treatment as with the last game.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Thornheart references this in regards to the corruption of the human mind, and serves as his motivation to bring in a new human evolution.
  • Zerg Rush: Zombies attack in massive droves in this game and you'll soon find yourself fighting against a horde of them.

     The Typing of the Dead 
  • Denser and Wackier: Well, for starters you're killing zombies with a giant keyboard powered by a Dreamcast (or a PS2 in Zombie Panic) and a giant battery. Some of them carry Joke Weapons and the phrases you need to type can be completely absurd and hysterical. And in the Multiple Endings, Goldman falls off of the roof and blows up at the bottom, is brought back up with a bungie cord and burps, or farts and flies off into space.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Quite literally, these games are basically the same as their originals only with the focus on typing rather then shooting and some silly cosmetic changes (the agents having keyboard packs as weapons, zombie carrying things like frying pans and form mallets, etc).
  • Content Warning: One of the paragraphs has the player type during the Strength boss fight is the game's Content Warning.
  • Dancing Mook Credits: The game rewarded you for typing out an entire section of credits with a dancing zombie. Up to 10 or 12 zombies in all!
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: One of the chain sentences during the Strength battle says that animals do not practice cannibalism - the last sentence is "and you'd never see a lawyer bite a snake."
  • Pop Quiz: The first phrase against The Tower is in this format, with a correct answer typed under the time limit required to damage it. The last phrase of the Emperor battle also has one, although any of the answers will work.
  • Serious Business: In the tutorial, James says finishing work early and go for karaoke is good and all; but at AMS, not being able to touch type (that is, typing without looking at the keyboard) is "like facing certain death" (while the game shows James getting hit by a zombie every time he looks at the keyboard).
  • Timed Mission: Occasionally, you'll be tasked with killing a brief horde of zombies within a time limit without getting hit.

     The House of the Dead EX 
  • The Cameo: Gary, James and Kate show up in the "Detective Zobiko" minigame.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Zobiko is a Cute Zombie Girl. And a protagonist.
  • Faking the Dead: The Star helps the couple this way at the end of the game by reporting to the scientist they perished in the The World's final explosion attack.
  • Gameplay Roulette: The game cabinet features a pedal, and while there are stages that require use of the pedal in combination with the gun, there are also stages where you exclusively use the pedal.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Zombio was meant as a guardsman to Zombiko but, seeing that the two have a lot in common, abandoned his post to flee with her. Justice (yes the same one from 4), likewise becomes an ally to them. And the Star in the final battle again The World.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Zombio is a pretty huge guy and Zobiko is a very petite girl.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The Star is enamored with Zobiko but she constantly makes it obvious she's not interested. Upon see the lengths Zombio and she are willing to go for each other he helps them against the final boss, saves them from his final attack then let's them leave, reporting back to the scientist that they perished in an explosion.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Whenever you put a coin in, Zombio and Zobiko shout out "Get Ready!"
  • Mini Game Game: Mostly a compilations of mini-games using the gun and foot pedal. Though the final boss is a straight up gun fight akin to the original series.
  • Something Completely Different: The House Of The Dead EX. You have light guns, but that's about as far as the similarity goes. It's not only lighter and softer, but is filled with childish cutscenes which are mostly 2D anime/manga style stills, toned down violence, and aside from that, there's the genre change from rail shooter to minigames.
  • Tomato Surprise: Zobiko is actually a clone of the the mad scientist's deceased wife.
  • Traintop Battle: The final battle is set on top of a cable car that the couple were forced to climb onto to escape the zombie horde. The World later picks it up during the fight and The Star holds it up from underneath it to give the couple a foothold to stand on to finish the fight.

Hee hee hee! Seems like my advice had no effect. Suffer, like G did.
  • Dogs of the AMS. It's time they made a move.

Alternative Title(s): The House Of The Dead