In the wide world of video games, I like to group most of them into two categories: games with a story for you to discover and games that encourage you to make your own story. The former group houses story-driven, narrative-heavy experiences known for their storytelling, characters, and themes.
Think of The Last Of Us, Hollow Knight, and Dead Space. Even if the game isn’t story-driven, though, there is often a narrative you, as a gamer, are meant to uncover. RPGs thick with lore and detailed worlds can also fit here, with interconnected quests that tell an overarching story.
The latter group is full of simulation, open-world, sandbox-type games, which have only existed for a few years. They may have a few loose quests lying around in the world, but they are primarily meant for you to explore, make your story, and form your own narrative.
Minecraft, V Rising, and Vampire Survivors are good examples of this genre. But the game that takes the Nobel prize for open-world simulations has to be Project Zomboid.
Project Zomboid, an open-world zombie apocalypse survival game, is set within a hauntingly accurate 1993 version of Kentucky. All of it. Players will explore Kentucky is a far too realistic simulation that allows them to create their own story.
Hidden in the vast, sprawling hills of Kentucky are many surprises. Secret military bunkers, bloody campsites, and unmanned convoys are some of the weird happenings you’ll encounter while exploring.
One of the more shocking surprises? The largest city in Kentucky. Just sitting there.
For some reason, developers decided to place Louisville, the most populated city in Kentucky, within Project Zomboid but not as a starting area.
You can spawn into Muldraugh and Rosewood but not Louisville. Instead, players must travel to the biggest city in the bluegrass state to experience its unique goodness and craft their own story.
If you’ve never been to the concrete jungle in the northeast part of the map of Project Zomboid, let me tell you why it’s the most dangerous, lucrative, detailed area in the entire game.
Project Zomboid Louisville Guide: Key Info Up Front
Alright, listen up. Louisville is huge. It’s 344 square miles, and the developers of Project Zomboid filled out every single inch. There are more stores, homes, and vehicles than you could loot in a lifetime.
There are also more zombies than you could kill in a lifetime. Around 650,000 to give a ballpark.
Bring weapons, first aid, and all the stamina you can muster. Don’t try to kill them all, don’t stay in one place for too long, and don’t alert the horde.
Why Should You Visit Lousiville?
Louisville is large enough to fit several Rosewoods within it. Shit, the park at the center of Louisville is about as big as all of Rosewood, so we’re talking about an incredibly massive city here. And that means an incredible amount of loot is just waiting to be, well, looted.
If you’re someone whose playstyle in Project Zomboid is that of a looter, meaning they don’t build, farm, trap, or cook much, Louisville is where you want to be.
In any other city within Project Zomboid, you’ll run out of loot eventually. It’s why you must build up your other skills like farming, trapping, and fishing. If you don’t, you’ll eat all the canned food within scavenging distance after a few short months.
By virtue of Louisville’s enormity, you’ll pretty much never run out of canned food to loot. Yes, some food will still spoil and go rotten, but Louisville has so many grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants to pillage, you’ll never need to set up a farm or animal traps.
Though, you still should.
If you’re someone who burns through resources quickly, Louisville should be on your list of priorities. You won’t go through your supplies as a solo player all that fast. But if you’re playing multiplayer and have a group of friends you don’t want to see starve to death, heading to a massive city full of resources would be wise.
And thankfully, Louisville can provide. Hospitals for medical supplies, multiple fire departments for fire axes, and the glorious mall – the impregnable American symbol of capitalism – for literally anything else you could ever need.
Why Shouldn’t You Visit Lousiville?
It’s a goddamn death trap. The better question is, what the hell makes you think you’re going to survive in Louisville? Do you survive perfectly in other cities? Can you live for a year in Muldraugh? Because Louisville has a population of about 10 Muldraughs plus 2 Rosewoods.
It’s enormous and full of more enemies than you can comprehend. Hell, your game might crash when you make it to Louisville from trying to load and render the sheer unfathomable number of zombies trying to eat you.
If you don’t want to play on hard mode, avoid Louisville. It’s the most populated city in Kentucky and has been for almost a hundred years. You thought the hordes in other cities were formidable? Think again, tough guy. Louisville might have the greatest treasures and treats in Project Zomboid, but they come at a high price.
Louisville is also new. It’s a city you can’t spawn into, so no player will be that familiar with it. You have to drive a great distance to reach it, then survive long enough to get your bearings before dying and starting all over again.
Louisville will trip up players the first they get there because it’s unlike other cities. It’s just so endlessly sprawling. The sickening number of zombies, the perpetual urban sprawl, and the way every tile on the map is new make Louisville equally dangerous and lucrative.
Another reason you shouldn’t go to Louisville is that you don’t need to. Louisville is the looter’s city. It’s meant for thieves and scavengers who pick clean the carcass of the city to survive. It’s not meant for builders.
If you’re a carpenter and can build your own bases just fine, there’s no need to move to Louisville. Yes, it may have more supplies than other cities, but it’s not like you’re starved for supplies in Rosewood. It’s hard to build in Louisville since so much of the city is already built up everywhere.
Not to mention you’ll be too busy fighting off the population to make anything of substance. If you survive just fine outside of Louisville, there’s no need to up and move. It’s a guaranteed death, anyway.
What to Bring for the Journey
- Sturdy vehicle – something that can bob and weave between all the traffic hazards of Louisville, but something that can take a few hits as well since you’re bound to clobber at least a few zombies crossing the road.
- All the weapons – you shouldn’t use guns in Project Zomboid unless absolutely ready for the attention they’ll bring, but in Louisville, you’ll have constant attention and might as well thin the hordes a bit. Use every weapon you can.
- Stamina – it’s worth building up your fitness skills before making the journey to Louisville so you can maintain physical combat for longer. Getting fatigued in Project Zomboid can be a death sentence since it affects your walking, running speed, and offense. Bring vitamins to keep your stamina up, and use guns to preserve your endurance.
- Focus – outside of the game, you – the player – must have your wits about you. It will take some considerable skills to get out of the many tight corners, congested streets, and cramped houses alive, and let’s not even talk about sheer dumb luck. If you’re looking to chill, unwind, or game for a bit, avoid Louisville. It’s a sweaty gamer area, for sure.
- All your stuff – Louisville isn’t a quick stop; it’s not somewhere you run to for a few fast errands. It’s a massive city that’s a tiring drive from all other starting points in the game. Don’t go there just for a fun outing. If you go to Louisville, you’ll be there for a while. You might as well move there. Bring all your stuff, your best supplies, because there’s no telling when you’ll leave Louisville.
What to Expect in Louisville
Expect hundreds of thousands of zombies. Expect infrastructure befitting a major metropolitan city; libraries, hospitals, schools, courthouses, grocery stores, a university, a sports stadium, and a giant mall await within Louisville’s limits. It’s a big ass city, so it’s got big ass city stuff.
Expect a long drive to get to Louisville and a long drive to get anywhere inside Louisville. It’s a hefty trek to get from one side of the city to the other, and that’s without running into hordes.
Expect the most exhaustive fight of your Project Zomboid career. The zombies will not stop coming. You can expect to fly through the durability of your weapons – and your character – far quicker than you think.
You can also expect the most Twilight Zone-looking communities you can think of. Every house looks the same, and every street, lamp post, and suburb looks identical. And there are a lot of them, so be careful.
If you see yourself entering a gated community or an obvious suburb while outrunning a horde, know that you’re running headfirst into a mini-maze. The suburbs are shaped in spiraling maze-like patterns, and you’ll not only get lost if you’re not careful, you’ll get dead.
Best Places to Build a Base in Louisville
Alright, ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk shop.
So, you packed up the family station wagon and moved out east to find fame and fortune in the historic city of Louisville, Kentucky. But now you’re looking for a place to establish, lay down some roots, and figure out your next move. You’ll need a proper base to fortify if you want to last any length of time within Louisville.
To the map!
Also, FYI, an invaluable resource to have when preparing to embark anywhere in Project Zomboid is Map.ProjectZomboid.Com. It’s an interactive map of everywhere in Project Zomboid with helpful tags on places of interest.
When looking for the right place to hold up in Louisville, you’re looking for the same criteria you’d use anywhere else. You want a place relatively isolated from the rest of the community and population, somewhere with few windows and doors, or what professionals call ‘places of ingress.’
You want to find somewhere that allows you to be self-sufficient – cutting trees, trapping animals, growing food, catching fish, etc. So find somewhere with a forest, lake, or prairie nearby to help you survive. And always – ALWAYS – have an escape plan. There is no base that’s so impenetrable it can’t be overrun by zombies.
Never settle down entirely. Never 100%. When looking for a base location, look for somewhere with a route you can use for escape.
Outskirts #1 – House in the Woods
It’s simple and not listed as a specific place of interest, but that works in your favor. We want something unassuming, inconspicuous, and outside the boundaries of Louisville. This homestead has a shed, a garage, and a small barn. It sits next to a large forest, so you’re set with wood and animals but it lacks any water source.
No pond, lake, or river to enjoy. It’s far away from the hustle and bustle of Louisville, yet close enough that you can run into town for a few errands and be back home before sundown.
If you fortify the fenced area, you’ve got the makings of a good base. Not to mention, it’s relatively open to the north, so you can make your escape if things go sour.
Outskirts #2 – Scarlet Oak Distillery
On the opposite side of town, we have the Knox river. If you bump up right next to the river, you can put a pretty good distance between yourself and the city center of Louisville. A line of gated houses dot the river’s shore, but if you go a little way north of them, you’ll find the Scarlet Oak Distillery.
It sits right on the river, has a large gated fence, and plenty of buildings to make your own. I like the distillery because it’s secure, deep within Louisville, you can fish to your heart’s content, and it’s close to everything.
Military surplus, grocery store, auto repair, pharmacy – everything I usually need is within walking distance from the distillery.
I also like that there are so many places to lose a horde around the distillery. I can lose them in any one of the gated houses to the south, I can lose them in the train station nearby, or I can do some laps around the block and get them hung up near the university.
Also, a distillery is precisely where I’d go in a world-ending event like Project Zomboid. Well, right after I visit a dispensary.
Ballsy Move #1 – Grand Ohio Mall
Boy, running into town for errands is such a hassle. Wouldn’t it be great if you could, I don’t know, stay somewhere in town close to all the most frequented areas, so you never have to run all over the city again?
Visit the Grand Ohio Mall today!
The Grand Ohio Mall (squarely in Kentucky, not Ohio, kind of confused about the name) is located in the northeast part of Louisville, and it’s a death trap.
I mean, it has all the consumer goods your little survivor could ever need. It’s two stories, has a massive food court, a gun store and a pharmacy, and it’s full of more loot than the developers would like to admit. I’d list everything you’ll find in the Grand Ohio Mall, but it’s easier if I sum it up.
Every single standing business that you can find scattered around Louisville is located within the mall. The devs even created a few new stores just for the mall. Everything – and I mean everything – can be found in the mall.
The economy was too strong in 1993; too many people were hitting up the mall to fix all their consumer desires. Employees and shoppers alike will fill the fluorescent hallways of the Grand Ohio Mall as you make for your loot, so be wary. You’ll likely die more than once while exploring its nooks and crannies; it’s a wildly frustrating place to explore.
Toyz Toyz Toyz, Better BED Than DEAD, and Sheba Jewelers are all great places to hold up. If you head into the mall prepared with tools and supplies, or you know exactly where to get supplies within the mall, you can make a pretty good fortification at the store of your choice.
Will it last long? If you’re playing solo, probably not. But if you’re playing multiplayer, the mall – and specifically the food court – are great places to hold up. Barricade yourself behind choke points, like doors that lead to employee areas, and venture out only when you have a supply run.
Only attempt if you have massive cojones. I mean, you have legitimate problems riding a bike because your cojones are just so enormous.
Ballsy Move #2 – Central Park
It’s as big as Rosewood! Do I need to say anything more?
Full disclosure, I survived in Central Park. Because, and I may have mentioned this already, it’s as big as Rosewood. And it’s not as if it’s a densely populated area.
Yes, you can accidentally bring in some hordes when first entering the area, and you might alert a few nearby ones while setting up your base. But it’s not as hard as in some other places.
When I play Project Zomboid, I’m usually some sort of nature-loving outdoorsman. Is it because I’m emulating my nature-loving, outdoorsman-living self? Possibly.
But also because I know both the genuine Kentucky and the Project Zomboid Kentucky have many woods dotting the map. And those woods usually house animals. And if you’re lucky, those animals are good to eat.
I had a rough time setting up my first base in Central Park. Okay, let’s call it a shed. Well, a hut, actually. Okay, it was just a high fence without a roof; get off my back. It was the protection I needed.
I set out traps, collected and boiled rainwater, and used my bespoke wooden spears to skewer any hungry zombie that came close. It worked. For a time.
Suburbia #1 – Community with Park
Just south of Central Park is a gated community with a park in the center. If you can block off the four gates that lead into the community – I know, that’s more than ideal – you’ll have an excellent compound all to yourself.
You’ll have to empty the streets and go house to house clearing out zombies, but it’s a smart, safe place to build your compound. It also works excellent for multiplayer since everyone can have their own house.
Suburbia #2 – Gated Community
Just south of the Scarlet Oak Distillery is the perfect gated community. One point of ingress, 12 houses, and plenty of space all to yourself. It’s honestly one of the smartest moves in Louisville. You’re nearby the unofficial downtown, the main road in and out of town, and the river. And the distillery!
The military always has the best stuff. The best guns, the best gear, the best… homes? Maybe? I guess not, since several of them burned down. But we’re still marking it on our list!
The group of military homes – called such on the map – were just homes to me when I first discovered them. But they’re incredibly hard to reach. And when I see an incredibly hard to reach area on my map, I must reach it.
To make contact with the homes, you either take a gated road for several in-game miles, circle around the gates behind houses in a nearby community on the outskirts of the city, or drive offroad from the train station.
They aren’t technically gated in the same way the gated communities are, but since it’s so remote and protected, you’re pretty darn safe out there. Use the forest for all your trapping needs, pillage the houses for supplies, and enjoy the silence.
Best Spots in Louisville
While some spots on this list are great places to generate loot, they’re also just cool areas unique to Louisville. If you made the trip this far, you might as well check out some of the sights. I’m not calling you a tourist, but you should at least get familiar with your new home.
The Grand Ohio Mall
I already covered this above, but if you haven’t mustered up the courage to build a base at the mall, that’s okay. Just go for the day; check it out. It’s highly worth the trip if you manage not to die.
Yes, police stations are all over Kentucky. But none are as big as the one found in the center of Louisville. Not to mention there are at least two more throughout the city, so you can stock up on all your state soldier needs.
Southeast area – Gun Store, Gas Station, Fire Department, Warehouses
In just a few blocks, you’ll have a gun store, a school, a gas station, a fire department, some small warehouses, a junkyard, and Knox talk radio station. You can finish off the run with a visit to the Louisville music concert center.
The historic LSU campus (go tigers!), complete with a library and dormitories. Check it out, and explore the detail developers put into this artist’s interpretation of the LSU campus. Is it accurate? Nope. Still cool, though.
Horse Track and Train Station
Are you going to find much at the Kentucky Derby horse track or either of the two train stations in Louisville? No. They are honestly relatively sparse when it comes to loot. Should you still check them out? Absolutely. It’s the freaking Kentucky Derby, man. Not on the same scale as the Catalina Wine Festival, but close.
Louisville Central Hospital
Alright, this one serves two purposes. You can check out this expansive hospital and give yourself chronic panic levels while exploring its tight, blood-soaked hallways. And you can loot all the pain pills Project Zomboid is willing to provide you with. Win-win, baby.
The only veteran-approved military surplus and disaster prep store in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Ready Prep has all your killing, hunting, trapping, shooting, reloading, prepping, cooking, organizing, sewing, storing, fishing and survival needs! I don’t need to say anything else, do I?
Worst Spots in Louisville
Oddly enough, everywhere I just mentioned, if approached improperly, could turn into the worst spot in Louisville. The worst spot in Louisville is wherever you currently stand.
Because zombies spot you from so far away and there are so many zombies to attract in Louisville, you should treat everywhere you go as the most dangerous spot in the city.
That said, those areas of infrastructure I mentioned earlier – schools, apartments, hospitals, the mall – are usually the worst spots in the game. The best loot? For sure. No doubt at all. The most deaths? Yeah, that too.
Question: What’s the most Interesting Area in Louisville?
Answer: For me, it’s a toss-up between the Spiffo Headquarters and the massive baseball stadium. Spiffo is like a mecca. But the stadium holds so many memories for me. I’ve used it to burn so many hordes to the ground behind me that it’s become sentimental. Both places are. I have to stop by both when I visit the city.
Question: Does the Helicopter Event Still Happen in Louisville?
Answer: Hell yeah, it does. It happens everywhere. Louisville is no exception. This means you’ll need to prepare just like in any other city.
Question: Why didn’t the Developers Add Louisville as a Starting Area?
Answer: I still don’t have an answer to this. Did some digging but couldn’t find anything official. I guess they wanted to put somewhere in the game for players to aim at.
If players only had other cities to spawn into and explore, they’d get bored. So having an enormous area for them to reach makes the game more exciting.
If you’re playing Project Zomboid, you must eventually visit Louisville. It’s an area you should always aim at reaching in your runs if you live long enough. It’s also somewhere you should try to go if you want to loot everything the game offers.
It’s a massive, sprawling city that the dedicated developers lovingly recreated at The Indie Stone. And we, as gamers, should reward their dedication by repeatedly dying at the hands of zombies inside their creation.
Check out some of our other Project Zomboid guides below, along with a closer look at Vampire Survivor’s many characters and weapons.
- Best Project Zomboid Mods Currently Out There
- Project Zomboid Hotwire Car Guide – The Blue and the Black Wire
- Vampire Survivors Combinations Guide – Every Evo Rated and Explained
- Vampire Survivors Characters – Every Hero Rated and Explained