Dead Island Game Poster Image

Dead Island

Ambitious zombie game loaded with violence, mature themes.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value
Positive messages

This game is about surviving an undead apocalypse. There are few moral or social messages to be derived, save the glorification of gory, bloody violence. Some narrative sequences hit lightly on touchy subjects including molestation and alcohol and drug abuse, though without any sort of agenda.

Positive role models

The player can assume the role of one of four different characters. A couple of them have vaguely shady pasts, but we don’t get to know much about their histories beyond a short pre-game blurb. Once in game, their primary concern becomes simple survival. However, all four are extremely tough and show no remorse in dispatching the undead by the dozens.   

Ease of play

Zombies can take down a careless survivor in a matter of seconds, so caution is a must. Controls are a bit too sensitive at times, but generally comfortable. Rookies to this kind of open-world action game will likely take a while to get their bearings and figure out how best to go about the many missions available to them at any given moment.


Action involves destroying zombies in a variety of violent, gruesome ways, including running them down with vehicles, stabbing them with knives, and hitting them with spiked two-by-fours. When struck, the undead typically grunt and bleed profusely, leaving large red puddles on the ground. Severed body parts can be found littering the island in various spots.


Some of the zombies and survivors are dressed in skimpy bathing suits, and one character briefly mentions teen molestation in dialogue.


Characters frequently employ profanity, including words such as “f--k,” “s--t,” and “bitch.”

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The player’s character can drink alcohol, which makes the camera become blurred. Intravenous drugs are mentioned by an addict, and several drunken characters can be seen in the game’s opening scene, which is set in a bar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Dead Island is a violent, open-world action game set in a remote island resort that has been overrun by zombies. Players move between enclaves of survivors, carrying out tasks and killing countless zombies in brutal, gory fashion along the way. Adult narrative elements, including alcohol, drugs, brief talk of sexual abuse, and strong profanity, validate the game’s Mature rating. Parents should also note that this game supports online cooperative play with open voice chat for up to four players. Common Sense Media does not recommend open online play for pre-teens.

What's it about?

DEAD ISLAND places players in the shoes of one of four survivors (players choose their protagonist at the game’s outset) who wake up after an evening of drunken high jinks at a remote island resort only to find the atoll swarming with zombies. After hooking up with a small group of survivors, it’s your job to head out into the undead apocalypse armed with whatever you can find -- knives, pipes, the fender of an old pick-up truck -- and carry out missions necessary to the group’s continued survival, such as finding keys, carrying messages, and looking for engine parts required to fix vehicles. The island is open to roam, which means players have free license to explore large swaths of the resort at their leisure, carrying out multiple tasks at once. You can even join up with other players online who are working on the same missions. As the game progresses, players earn points that can be applied to level up special skills, as well as upgrades that can be used to modify weapons.

Is it any good?


Zombie games are a dime a dozen these days, so it’s nice to see one that’s had a little thought put into it, even if it isn’t perfect. Dead Island takes a concept gamers are used to thinking of as global -- a zombie apocalypse -- and places it in a controlled microcosm in the form of a secluded island resort. However, thanks to the open nature of the environment, the game world still feels larger, more random, and, consequently, scarier and more realistic than most other games of its ilk. Add in a subtle leveling system, customizable weapons, and a clever drop-in cooperative system, and you have a zombie actioner unlike anything else available.

The graphics aren’t great, the controls are a bit touchy, and it can be pretty hard -- especially if you try to work through the entire campaign without enlisting the aid of other players online. That said, it’s one of those rare games that will stay with you, if not because of its horrific, overarching plot then because of its smaller, more affecting scares, such as watching helplessly as a descending plane radios for help before crashing into the jungle. Zombie fans won’t want to miss it.    

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. What markers do you look for in determining whether a game is too scary or violent for your kids? How can you determine what your kids are capable of handling?

  • Families can also discuss online play. Do you find you communicate differently with others when speaking to them online? Have you found that it’s easier for someone to be mean to someone else if they don’t know them, or if they can’t see or hear their reactions? How can these situations be avoided?

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
Subjects:Language & Reading: following directions
Skills:Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together
Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, investigation, thinking critically
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Deep Silver
Release date:September 6, 2011
ESRB rating:M for Blood and Gore; Drug Reference; Intense Violence; Sexual Themes; Strong Language; Use of Alcohol

This review of Dead Island was written by

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Parent of a 11 year old Written byconcernedparent413 July 3, 2014

A surprisingly good game

At first I was unsure about this game, because of the title cover(a little scary, don't you think?). I decided to do some research, and was surprised and pleased at what I found. While there are some...unsavory aspects of the game, there is a screen on which you can turn off the blood. As well, the cooperative aspect of the game was very nice, my two sons were able to play it together and they had a blast. There was also a lot of information about other cultures (tribes on the island and in the jungle).
Parent Written by531zombies January 25, 2012


its gory but a good game and you need to explain to ur kids its just a vidoe game and that zombies r fake my son and daughter luv it and do thier chores or i take it away and.
Parent of a 11 year old Written bymother112 July 3, 2014

Improved my child's reflexes

Right off the bat, there is violence in this game. However, I found that the worst of this can be turned off, making the game a lot more tame and appropriate for younger kids. Despite the violence, I really liked this game. My young son, who has had some problems with hand-eye coordination, has markedly improved, and learned a lot about another culture, the island tribesman, who had a somewhat confusing but deeply interesting history. Heck ,I even learned a thing or two. However, my favorite part of this game was the online co-op. My son and his friends had a lot of fun working together to complete the missions in the game.
What other families should know
Easy to play/use