They don’t get as much attention as Grand Theft Auto or God of War, but the survival genre is one of the most popular genres in video games. From Minecraft to Valheim, survival games consistently attract large and passionate fanbases dedicated to building their own unique worlds. They’re driven by tough challenges, an endless amount of content, and the sheer satisfaction of building everything from an ax and a campfire to a village, settlements, and even entire cities.
Each game is unique, but they all share the common element of inviting you to create your own survival in a hostile world, be it full of monsters, dinosaurs or giant ants. We’ve taken our tools and put together our own list of the best survival games, picking the ones with the liveliest communities, the most engaging mechanics, and the most exciting worlds. Here is our list of top 10 survival games.
If you have a high tolerance for pain, then Rust may be your best bet. That said, if you’re looking for a survival game to keep you on your toes, Rust is exhilarating and very difficult in equal parts. Have we stressed enough that this game is not easy? Rust is advertised as a game with a single main goal: to survive in a place where everything wants to kill you: the terrain, the wildlife, the weather, and oh yeah, other players.
The game is multiplayer only, so if you thought you were going to build your rustic abode in peace, you were wrong. At first glance, this game bears a strong resemblance to Ark: Survival Evolved, but the open world and FPS elements are totally different. With factions, raids, an electricity system, a huge variety of vehicles including hot air balloons and a huge network of trains, several highly modifiable server types, a strong player base, and fairly frequent improvements and updates, Rust goes far beyond the concept of “you wake up naked and alone in a deserted area”. Bring a friend, or several, if you want to get the most out of it. Rust will consume a lot of your time and you will end up devastated.
When Grounded launched in Early Access in 2020, it was a concept we couldn’t believe didn’t already exist. The movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” had already established that there is a tiny world that our normal human eyes would never be able to take in, so it makes sense for that idea to carry over into a video game. Grounded took it and built a totally realistic survival game around it.. Let’s face it, if you were suddenly shrunk to the size of an insect and thrown into a backyard, you’d be wanting to survive that ordeal too.
The bones that Obsidian has built Grounded on are typical, but solid, for a survival game. Enemies are all sorts of creepy crawling creatures, and everything else serves to keep you alive.
You’ll be able to build weapons out of sticks, build bases out of blades of grass, and even wear armor made from the corpses of the dead. Grounded has a lot to offer, and that is only in early access. We can’t wait to see what Obsidian has in store when this gaming microbeast comes out in its final version.
Valheim’s semi-impressionist aesthetic and its various biomes give players plenty to explore and loot in the tenth world of Yggdrasil. Contrast the calm and idyllic base building in the early biomes, with heart-stopping battles against giant Trolls and deadly Mosquitoes as you move away from the center of the world; Valheim offers hours of entertainment for warriors, farmers, and architects alike.. Progression in this game depends on defeating the bosses found in each biome, which in turn increases the diversity of resources you have access to, crafting recipes, and special abilities like damage reduction or increased endurance.
If you have a warrior spirit, Valheim is the perfect game to fight as Odin’s champion and claim your place in Valhalla.
7. This War of Mine
This War of Mine is a survival game that stays with you long after you finish its campaign. From its realistic war setting, to its various characters, to a no-nonsense story. This War of Mine is one of the most heartfelt representations of what it means to be a civilian trying to survive in the midst of a brutal and unforgiving civil war.
Its intuitive gameplay makes it easy to get lost in its morally ambiguous narrative and the difficult decisions you’ll have to make to ensure your party’s survival. Whether you want to play as an emphatic leader or a ruthless survivor, This War of Mine is a game you can come back to many times and still find something new.
6. No Man’s Sky
In 2016 there was no game more hyped than No Man’s Sky, which even made its way from gaming spaces into the mainstream, with developers going on late-night talk shows to talk about the game before its release. It all seemed to fall apart when it was released in August, lacking the features that people assumed would be included and offering very little in terms of gameplay, to the point that massive numbers of people demanded returns.
However, if 2016 was the last time you thought of No Man’s Sky, you’re doing yourself a disservice. In the years since then, No Man’s Sky has continued to be updated and not only is it now the game that so many of us thought we received in 2016, but it is much more. You can choose to focus on scientific research, studying cultures and languages, hunting sentinels, classifying plant and animal life, or a combination of these. The game is massive and a completely different journey for each person who starts it.
And, yes, now not only can you meet strangers in the game (although really only in the mysterious Anomaly) but you can also have your friends join your adventure. The game is totally what you make of it, which makes it one of the most exciting survival games on this list.
Few survival games capture the terror and isolation of its surroundings as well as Subnautica. As a lone survivor marooned on an alien world, he wanders into alien waters filled with monsters big and small (but mostly big, and sometimes downright gigantic). Along the way you will build submarines, underwater bases and other equipment along the way to unravel the mysteries of the planet.
First released in 2016, Subnautica is now available on virtually every major platform, and is also compatible with VR devices. Despite its age, its haunting underwater visuals still hold up very well, and few survival games match the anxiety of seeing your food and oxygen meters deplete as you venture into deep trenches and underwater caves. When you finally return to the safety of the Cyclops, it’s almost always with a sharp sigh of relief: the ideal survival game experience.
4. Don’t Starve Together
Don’t Starve Together is a hard but fair game, as addictive as it is attractive is its artistic style. Don’t Starve Together’s sanity meter is what sets this bleak gothic adventure apart from its contemporaries: if you spend too much time in the dark or ignore your sanity treatment for too long, your fears will begin to manifest in creatures of the shadows that will end your game faster than an empty stomach.
Don’t Starve Together’s difficult yet intuitive gameplay loop gives the game exceptional value and replayability. Add some friends to the mix and you will have a fun time; just stay away from the dark.
3. The Long Dark
If you’re looking for something that doesn’t have to do with science fiction or magic, buckle up and get ready for an adventure into the Canadian wilderness. The Long Dark came onto the scene in 2017, but continuous updates have made it fresh for new and old players alike.
Although there is a story mode called Wintermute (in which the last episode has not been released yet) the true jewel of the game is both in the endless survival mode and in the different challenges that you can choose from. And while there’s no multiplayer, it’s endlessly fun to challenge your friends and see who can survive the longest in the relentless winter storms with wolves, bears and moose chasing you.
If you are looking for something more casual, you can open the Survival mode in Pilgrim difficulty and enjoy discovering parts of the map and the different objects that you can find along the way. The Long Dark is still a snowy delight after all these years.
2. The Forest
Like almost all horror and survival games, The Forest lets you get to know the terrain before besieging you with monsters galore. What it does differently, however, is subvert your expectations as to how these cannibalistic creatures will react to your actions. Unlike many other video game enemies, The Forest’s cannibals aren’t suicidally aggressive, and that’s what makes them so unsettling. They run towards you, stopping just within arm’s reach and studying you before running off never to be seen again.
Endnight’s clever AI tactics make you second-guess every move you make. Must you destroy that cannibal effigy? Should you burn the bodies of the dead? You don’t know for sure, but what you can tell is that the creatures of The Forest are always watching.
Apart from its fantastic AI, The Forest also offers quite a large island to explore, teeming with wildlife to skin and eat, berries and flowers to forage, and of course an almost limitless amount of trees to chop down to build bases with a freedom only matched by the next game on our list. With a fully interlocking cave system to delve into, tons of collectibles, and a compelling story with a crazy ending, The Forest is a must-play for any survivalist.
It’s easy to dismiss Minecraft, but it’s just as easy to forget how excellent it can be as a survival game. A literal decade of updates and an almost unfathomable level of success have taken it from creative servers to an RPG platform and classroom teaching tool.
But the variety of experiences it enables doesn’t diminish the consistent fact that Minecraft is, at the same time, one of the deepest and most accessible survival games ever made. You can go from hiding from zombies in a dirt shack while gobbling up apples to building computers that literally run on Redstone mechanisms without having to switch servers.
Few games (if any) have done as much to open up this traditionally challenging genre to such a wide audience, but the possibilities it enables in doing so are nothing short of remarkable.
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