Few television shows are buried forever. Even after they’ve taken their last breath, they stumble on looking for fresh minds to consume. The future’s brighter than ever for zombie shows, with streaming services ready to introduce them to an endless supply of new brains, I mean, audiences. It’s a form of immortality awarded to the smallest and the largest shows, and The Walking Dead is undoubtedly one of the latter.
In 2022, The Walking Dead concluded after an incredible 11 seasons of its zombie apocalypse. Initially developed by the legendary writer and director Frank Darabont from Robert Kirkman’s groundbreaking comic series, it arguably out-performed its source material. While the adaptation roughly followed the significant events from the page, it had the freedom to diverge from its inspiration to suit its medium.
Kirkman surprised everyone in 2019 when he abruptly finished the comic run at its peak (issue 193), even as some would argue that the show shuffled on a bit too long. Not many series lose their lead, in this case, Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, after an impressive nine years.
Still, there’s no denying that The Walking Dead was pivotal in the 21st-century resurgence of the zombie genre. It spawned a slew of series and films, reviving a branch of horror that had looked dead and gone. But the supernatural threat was only one part of The Walking Dead’s success. As often happens in these apocalyptic tales of survival, it’s living, breathing humans who pose the greatest danger. The Walking Dead built a large ensemble cast over its 11 seasons, with a range of characters able to sustain its story.
Over its run, The Walking Dead developed from a dysfunctional family drama into a western-like sprawling soap opera. That means there’s a broad selection of shows that can satisfy your horror, undead, or survival needs.
Here are the best shows to turn into a couch zombie and binge if you’re missing your dose of The Walking Dead.
Fear The Walking Dead (2015 – present)
The obvious place to start is this spin-off. A show as successful as The Walking Dead was always likely to launch a franchise, but what could the show’s producers do with the concept? Fear leaped back in time, with its first three series acting as a prequel.
By its fourth year, the focus had switched from a dysfunctional family learning to adapt to a new and deadly world to Lennie James’ Morgan Jones — a devoted but ruthless character familiar from the original show. Fear the Walking Dead is the most prominent of four Dead spin-offs.
Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)
It’s a good sign when one recommendation is possibly the biggest show of the century. Game of Thrones allied feudal politics with medieval fantasy to incredible success. No one anticipated how high its dragons would soar. Quite a few suspected it couldn’t quite live up to its promise when it tied up its loose ends.
If you missed the hype, there’s an incredible amount to enjoy in Thrones’ eight seasons. There’s a major draw in the tension, as forces pull together across the continents of Westeros and Essos. But lurking in the North is the growing threat of the show’s spin on zombies, the ever-increasing undead hordes of the White Walkers.
Kingdom (2019 – present)
Another series adapted from a webcomic, this South Korean series combined zombie horror with politics and period style.
Kingdom takes us to 16th-century Korea and a land beset by a mysterious plague that’s reanimating the dead. After two well-regarded series, a feature-length special, Ashin of the North, explored the plague’s origin. Its curious but compelling mix has gone down well with critics and audiences, and hopes are that Netflix will commission a third season soon.
Z Nation (2014 – 2018)
Z Nation shows the potential for dark comedy in the zombie genre. This SyFy series’ camp and innovative horror attracted a loyal fan base over five seasons.
At its center is Murphy, the only person known to have survived a zombie bite. As potentially the last hope for a vaccine, a ragtag team takes on the task of transporting him from New York to California for the sake of the human race. That’s no easy task during an apocalypse, especially when their precious cargo looks a lot like he’s turning into a zombie hybrid. Its campy comedy credentials are proved by its two crossovers with the Sharknado series.
Black Summer (2019 – present)
From the makers of Z Nation, Black Summer morphed from a prequel set at the start of the same zombie outbreak to something far darker. That made a crossover awkward, although fans of both series live in hope as zombie devotees should. The “summer” in the title refers to the dangerous peak of the apocalypse, and the series follows Rose (Jaime King) on a journey to find her missing daughter Anna in a brutal new reality.
Falling Skies (2011 – 2015)
Falling Skies swapped out zombies for aliens. Noah Wyle’s Tom Mason, a history professor turned militiaman, is second in command of a group of survivors fighting a devastating alien invasion. Falling Skies doesn’t skimp on the apocalypse that created its harsh dystopia — technology has been decimated, and only 10% of humanity is left alive. Despite its hi-octane concept, it proved to be a bit of a slow-burner, with the aliens’ true motives only revealed in its penultimate season. But the squad at its center and the talent behind the camera put it firmly on the militaristic side of the survival genre. Creator Robert Rodat may be best known for penning Saving Private Ryan, and that film’s director, Steven Spielberg, stepped aboard as executive producer of Falling Skies. Unsurprisingly, it was most memorable for its action sequences.
The 100 (2014 – 2020)
This CW post-apocalyptic series mines the same survival notions as The Walking Dead but with a stratospherically higher concept. The 100 presents another dystopian Earth, devastated by a nuclear apocalypse. A century on, humans who escaped to the orbiting Ark space station send 100 young people to the planet to see if it’s inhabitable. Those 100 discover survivors, but not zombies. Instead, humanity has split into distinct tribes, including the volatile Grounders, the cannibalistic Reapers, and the Mountain Men descended from U.S. Government survivors.
Outcast (2016 – 2018)
The second series from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman only lasted two seasons, but there’s lots of intrigue in its rural horror. It follows Kyle Barnes, rejected from his West Virginia town for supposedly injuring his family. However, the truth is that people around him are strangely susceptible to demonic possession. It’s packed with Kirkman’s dark imagination, but the horror is often unseen, unlike Kirkman’s more successful show.
Creepshow (2019 – present)
Anthology series have had a tough time, with even the most famous examples churning through cancellations and revivals. Creepshow achieved great success by building on the concept of the 1982 movie of the same name and packing each of its episodes with two stories.
The original portmanteau film had an incredible horror pedigree. It was directed by George Romero and written by Stephen King. Its new home, Shudder, has kept the horror credentials strong, with Greg Nicotero, the special effects supremo behind The Walking Dead, aboard as showrunner. Expect varied horror drawing heavily on short fiction. With three seasons gone, a fourth is on the way.
Midnight Mass (2021)
If you were a fan of The Walking Dead‘s more family-based early seasons, there’s something similar to be found in Mike Flanagan’s Netflix mini-series. His latest show, Midnight Mass, was a horror sensation in 2021. Its seven episodes are spent on Crockett Island, where a small community is rejuvenated by the arrival of a dashing, enthusiastic priest. Naturally, all is not as it appears. As the true horror slowly dawns, Flanagan explores the islanders’ reaction to something too good to be true, whether they’re devout attendees of Mass or a little more skeptical.
The Rain (2018 – 2020)
This Danish series imagines a world where a rain-borne virus has decimated humanity. Six years on, a brother and sister emerge from a bunker into sparsely populated Scandinavia, hoping to find the safety of a quarantine zone with other survivors. Rain ran for three short seasons, so it’s ideal if you want to power through a series.
iZombie (2015 – 2019)
iZombie isn’t the only police procedural spin on the undead that was made possible by The Walking Dead‘s success. Recent Korean series Zombie Detective tries something similar. But iZombie stands out, because it developed strongly from its comic book source concept over five seasons. It’s well worth meeting Dr. Liv Moore, the Seattle-based medical examiner who uses her zombie powers to help solve murders by absorbing victims’ memories when she, you guessed it, eats their brains.