Editorials Reviews Previews Essays Worth Playing

Essays

Essays 14 April 2021, 14:25

author: Alexander Eriksen

Alex is a gaming industry veteran of institutions like GameSpot and Twitch. His work has been published on GameCrate, Yahoo News, and The Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @Alexplaysvg

The Best Survival Games - Prepare for the Apocalypse

The best survival games where you will collect resources, build shelters and try to survive in the jungle, outer space, underwater and during the zombie apocalypse.

The fight for survival is the story of life itself. If you think about it, everything is trying to kill us. There are natural disasters, murder hornets – *ahem* – deadly viruses, and good old-fashioned diseases and tumors, or a thing called brain aneurysms. Life is a fragile thing, so why not get in some virtual practice at staying alive?

It makes sense not to wait until you’re actually stranded on a desert island to learn how to transform a pile of sticks into a cabin cruiser. We thought it might be useful (and entertaining) to put together a list of survival games to help you get ready should you ever need to battle the elements.

Best survival games is a topic that often implies early access. Games are released in an alpha or beta version, only to be fully released after an unspecified – and usually considerable – period time. Players who enjoy survival games are therefore often exposed not only to the dangers prepared for them by the devs – they also die often because of broken mechanics and bugs. But that's what we've put together the Best Survival Games list for: so you can choose the best games for your own taste.

Best survival games 2021 edition:

  • Valheim - Multiplayer survival game in viking setting.
  • Don’t Starve - Beautiful and artsy, Tim Burton-inspired game.
  • The Long Dark - Dark, single-player survival game, in which the main opponent is cold.
  • OceanCraft - Survival game for VR fans.
  • Green Hell - Man vs. Jungle – Bear Grylls goes hardcore.
  • The Forest - Survive on an island full of violent tribes.
  • Stranded Deep - Singleplayer game in which you have to survive on a desert island. Features split-screen.
  • Subnautica - Singleplayer sci-fi survival game in which you have to survive deep underwater.
  • DayZ - A cult-classic of the genre – you vs. zombies and evil players.
  • Rust - Sandbox-survival, open-world multiplayer game.
  • Conan Exiles - Sandbox focused on struggle in a familiar fantasy world.
  • Far Cry Primal - FPS game with survival elements.
  • ARK: Survival Evolved - Open-world multiplayer game with dinosaurs.
  • This War of Mine - An award-winning, grim game about trying to survive during a war.
  • Raft - You build a raft on the ocean.
  • No Man’s Sky - The best sci-fi survival game on the market.
  • Minecraft - A classic of the genre – a game where imagination is the only limit.

Valheim

Release date: February 2, 2020 (early access)

Developer: Iron Gate Studio

Platforms: PC (Steam)

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ve no doubt heard about the viking-themed survival sim Valheim. One part Minecraft, one part Mordhau, this procedurally-generated hardcore survival sim has taken the gaming world by storm. With more than 190,000 overwhelmingly positive reviews on steam, this is a trip to Valhalla you don’t want to miss.

Valheim might not be the prettiest game on our best survival games list, agreed. However, it more than makes up for that with gameplay and sheer playability – these are really unprecedented, and the game’s about much more than simply gathering materials and crafting. If, for example, you’d like to upgrade your house, you need lots of wood. But you can’t put tons of wood into your backpack, so you also need to figure out the logistics of transport, as well as make sure trees don’t kill you as you’re toppling them!

  1. Our Valheim game guide.

Don’t Starve

Release date: April 23, 2013

Developer: Klei Entertainment

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op)

If you’ve ever wished Cuphead was a survival game then Don’t Starve is just the game for you. The old-timey aesthetics, the extreme likelihood of death, all that’s missing are finger guns and a deal with the devil. Genuine challenge and a uniquely designed world reminiscent of Tim Burton makes this a solid addition to any survivalist’s library. There’s also Don’t Starve Together if you want to bring a friend.

As in many other survival games, here you also have to take care of food and shelter. The key is to prepare for the arrival of dusk – our character cannot travel in the dark (since monsters obviously lurk in the darkness), so in the evenings, you must light a fire and keep it going.

  1. Our Don’t Starve game guide.

The Long Dark

Release date: January 1, 2017

Developer: Hinterland

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Modes: Singleplayer only

The Long Dark is more of a narrative-driven survival game but it didn’t start out that way. The original game simply dropped you into the woods and had you fending off cold, hunger, and hostile wildlife. A story mode makes it much more accessible to first-time survivors but doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to mechanics.

In Long Dark you’ll scrounge, craft, fight, and shiver your way through the game’s post-apocalyptic story, learning how to stay alive along the way. The game’s light on combat but it’s genuinely rewarding if you enjoy the genre. Nothing beats the feeling of a successful supply run and returning to base, starting a fire, and cooking up some soup as the wind howls outside. The Long Dark is one of the more interesting games on the list.

What are the best free survival games?

Unfortunately, decent and free survival games are few and far between. If you really need a free survival game, try Fallout Shelter or Creativerse (which is a Minecraft clone). The 2017 game Unturned may also be worth your time.

OceanCraft

Release date: February 8, 2021

Developer: FlodLab

Platforms: PC (Steam, VR, Oculus)

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op)

This one’s only for you VR freaks, but it definitely makes the cut as a truly unique, if a bit casual take on survival. You’re stuck on a raft and have to build your own mega-yacht out of floating garbage. It’s kind of like if that movie Life of Pi was more about floating trash and less about a guy and tiger. You can bring a friend, however, and together, you can build the finest garbage barge to sail the seven seas.

What is the most realistic survival game?

Picking the most realistic survival game isn’t easy, because most creators are more concerned with the right balance of realism and fun. So, it all boils down to how you define realism. If, however, we were to name a single most realistic survival video game, it would be The Long Dark. In that game, you not only need to cater to your character’s needs, but also watch out for diseases and poisoning. There’s no zombies there, either – The Long Dark simply presents a single challenge, which is pure survival.

Green Hell

Release date: September 5, 2019

Developer: Creepy Jar

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op)

I was never a big outdoors person and certainly not into jungles. There are bugs out there the size of a mini-fridge, so no thanks. You can, however, visit the virtual Amazonia in Green Hell and can even bring a friend along for some jolly survival cooperation. Studio Creepy Jar is also bringing the game to VR this year after porting Blair Witch to the Oculus Quest. The game itself is a pretty classic survival – we land in the jungle, gather resources, craft, build, and try to survive, because in the jungle, everything wants to eat us.

Green Hell sold pretty well. So well, in fact, that the developers announced the creation of a prequel to the game in the form of a free update – Green Hell: The Spirits of Amazonia, which was released in January 2020.

The Forest

Release date: April 30, 2018

Developer: Endnight Games

Platforms: PC, PS4

Modes: Single player, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

This one is great to experience on a screen, but playing it in VR takes it to a whole new level. The experience of having blood-soaked cannibals come screaming at you out of the woods is one of a kind in VR. The story might be a bit of an afterthought, but The Forest brings all the great survival mechanics – exploration, crafting, fighting, building – together into one solid package. And hey, there’s also multiplayer.

In The Forest, we are a survivor of a plane crash, stranded on an island that’s unfortunately not desert. We collect raw materials and other necessary things, and quickly discover that there are some really creepy dudes hiding in the bushes. Natives turn out to be hostile, so we need a shelter. We collect wood, stones, we build and prepare to fight back.

Stranded Deep

Release date: April 21, 2020

Developer: Beam Team Games

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE, co-op split screen)

This one may actually keep you alive if you find yourself surviving a plane crash in the south pacific. You wash up on an island and it plays out mostly how you’d expect. Well, maybe except for the giant squid boss battle.

After the plane crash, we have to gather resources needed to build a shelter, true Robinson Crusoe-style. Interestingly, we can explore not only the island itself, but also swim in the coastal waters of the Pacific. The game also has a weather system, which affects the condition of our character.

Subnautica

Release date: January 23, 2018

Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (May 14 2021)

Modes: Singleplayer only

Keeping with the nautical theme, Subnautica is one of the ultimate games in the survival category. You crash land on an alien planet and have to explore, craft, and survive long enough to unravel the mysteries of this strange, alien world. The amazing soundtrack and gorgeous graphics will have you swimming for hours if not days. Just watch out for the big sea monsters.

Subnautica also got a nice add-on – Subnautica: Below Zero, in which we visit the underwater kingdom of an ice planet. This is one of the best survival games currently available on the market. Unfortunately, it doesn't have multiplayer nor co-op mode. But it is probably one of the best sci-fi survival game on the market. Yes, really, try Subnautica.

  1. Our Subnautica game guide.

DayZ

Release date: December 13, 2018

Developer: Bohemia Interactive Studio

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Modes: Multiplayer only (PVE, PVP)

No list of the greatest survival games would be complete without Day Z. What started as an ARMA 2 mod, spun out into a world-wide phenomenon. Known for its punishing mechanics and unforgiving world, Day Z is for those who like the hardest of hardcore experiences. When you do manage to survive and even recruit fellow survivors, all that effort pays off with pure gaming magic.

DayZ is a tad clunky, and you really need a lot of time to fully understand the mechanics, but at the end of the day, the game still enjoys a dedicated community. So if you prefer shooting to building, this is the game for you. On a side note, DayZ was in early access for so long that gamers no longer believed it would ever be released. Oh, yeah, and this is one and only zombie survival game on our list.

What is the best multiplayer survival game?

Depending on the type of gameplay and setting you prefer, the best multiplayer survival game is either Rust or ARK: Survival Evolved. You also should remember No Man’s Sky, as well as the good, old Minecraft.

Rust

Release date: February 8, 2018

Developer: Facepunch Studios / Double Eleven

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

Rust is a hard game to define because there’s just so much you can do. You’ll fly gyrocopters while naked, build elaborate bases (while naked), and get into furious PvP gunbattles (also while naked). It has all the survival mechanics you’d expect but leaves things open-ended. If you’ve got an expansive imagination and lots of spare time, Rust is the game for you.

The game is still being developed, and the developers are adding new mechanics and items. So if you are looking for an FPP survival game, Rust might be the choice for you.

Conan Exiles

Release date: May 8, 2018

Developer: FunCom

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

Conan Exiles made penis size a thing in gaming way before Cyberpunk 2077. Conan Exiles drops you into a harsh world of survival based on the Conan franchise. And like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you’ll use your muscles to bash in enemy faces. Just make sure you get enough protein to keep up the pummeling.

As in many other survival games, Conan Exiles, has hunger and thirst parameters to bear in mind. However, the game focuses on combat in open world, both against AI-controlled opponents and real players.

Far Cry Primal

Release date: February 23, 2016

Developer: Ubisoft

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Modes: Singleplayer

Not strictly a “survival” game, but it definitely makes the list in my book. Sometimes, you just want the action of a survival game rather than struggle to gather enough twigs to burn to keep you from freezing to death. Ubisoft sure knows how to make the same game over and over again, but they really nailed the feeling of burying a spear into your enemy’s face.

With the prehistoric setting, there’s much more emphasis on crafting. We create new weapons from the resources we collect by hunting more or less dangerous animals. Fire is also important for survival – it will allow us, for example, to drive away the wild animals that want to have us for dinner.

  1. Our Far Cry Primal game guide.

ARK: Survival Evolved

Release date: August 29, 2017

Developer: Studio Wildcard

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

The pitch meeting for ARK must have been wild. “So, there are dinosaurs AND you can build a giant city shaped like a banana if you want.” Very much in the massive-world-with-tons-of-stuff-to-do category, there’s way more going on here than just fighting dinosaurs.

ARK is an MMO sandbox and open world, in which we’ll fight a thousand battles with blood-thirsty dinosaurs. Apart from an elaborate combat system (both in PVE and PVP), we’ll have to gather resources and keep an eye on vital stats.

  1. Our Ark Survival Evolved game guide.

This War of Mine

Release date: November 14, 2014

Developer: 11 bit studios

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOs

Modes: Singleplayer

An oldie, but goodie, showing the horrors of war from the perspective of regular people. This War of Mine combines strategy, simulation, and stealth with a survival game. In the game, we control a numer of characters – our job is gathering vital resources, building, and crafting the items needed for survival, such as foods and medicines.

This War of Mine is hard – the characters can get sick, get shot while gathering resources in the field, or succumb to depression (which leads to suicide). Released in 2014, it’s still playable as hell. In 2016, and enhanced version was released under the name of This War of Mine: The Little Ones, introducing children, among others.

  1. Our This War of Mine game guide.

Raft

Release date: May 23, 2018 (early access)

Developer: Redbeet Interactive

Platforms: PC

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

Minecraft spurred an entirely new video game genre, and Raft seems to have picked up the core lesson of that game: friends want to hang out and build stuff together. With nearly unlimited customization, you’ll team up with friends to build the ultimate floating home.

Our primary task in Raft is simply to survive. We float on a raft somewhere in the middle of the ocean. We can dive to explore the depths, watching out for sharks, and collect resources to use in an extensive crafting system.

No Man’s Sky

Release date: July 9, 2016

Developer: Hello Games

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

Here’s a game that possibly used to be the most-hated game in the world, just to – step by step – reclaim its lost glory and fulfil the promises it had made. Currently, No Man’s Sky is among the most complex games focused on space exploration. And in space, just like in space – oxygen is scarce, gamma rays bounce around trying to split your proteins, and things tend to want to kill you.

You need materials not only to create air and items – you can also build a base, repair and upgrade your ship, and head out to conquer the cosmos. The game uses procedurally-generated planets – currently, they’re way more detailed, and the game brings enough content to last you a few months. No Man’s Sky is one of the best survival games.

  1. Our No Man’s Sky game guide.

Minecraft

Release date: November 18, 2011

Developer: Mojang Studios

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch

Modes: Singleplayer, Multiplayer (PVE co-op, PVP)

A list of the best survival games could not exist without Minecraft. An iconic game that defined its gaming era. A game that raised a whole generation of players. So much has already been written about Minecraft that it's actually hard to write anything except... recommending this game. It’s based on a simple concept – the world consists of cubes that we collect and then build with – and it’s so playable that today, hundreds of thousands of players are nearing addiction.

Each new world is randomly generated – we collect resources and build our houses, watching out for zombies or creepers creeping towards us. To play Minecraft, you basically need two things – lots of time and imagination.

There you have it, a fairly comprehensive guide to the world of survival gaming. Hopefully you take some valuable life lessons away from these games, but don’t go thinking you’re Bear Grylls just because you manage to not die right away in a game. Let’s face it: most of us can barely do without air-con, and survival.

We will monitor the market and update the Best Survival Games article. Check back with us in the future.

Alexander Eriksen | Gamepressure.com

Minecraft

Minecraft

Valheim

Valheim

Subnautica

Subnautica

The Forest

The Forest

Stranded Deep

Stranded Deep

Rust

Rust

Green Hell

Green Hell

ARK: Survival Evolved

ARK: Survival Evolved

No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

DayZ

DayZ

The Long Dark

The Long Dark

This War of Mine

This War of Mine

Don't Starve

Don't Starve

See/Add Comments