Minecraft set the gold standard for survival games for over 90 million players globally in 2009 and developers are constantly trying to innovate the genre with unique mechanics, stories and more. If you love punishing games where one mistake can lead to a ‘game over’ screen and do not mind scavenging for every resource you can get, we have some recommendations for that you can try out. You can play these top survival games on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PC, iPhone, Andriod or even online.
12. This War of Mine (2014)
11-bit Studios is a master of their craft, and they have released some beautiful survival games over the years. This War of Mine is undoubtedly the best title on their roster with a fictional war setting and punishing mechanics. You find yourself with a group of survivors in a city under fire and have to depend on your survival skills to make it through one day at a time. During the day when it’s dangerous, you are forced to stay indoors which is when you can manage your hideout and plan resource usage. The other characters have their own demands, and you have to ensure everyone is happy, which can be surprisingly difficult. There are a number of difficult choices involved in-game and do not be surprised if some of the choices you need to make have a fair bit of guilt attached to them.
While most games focus only on the physical health of the survivors, mental health plays a major role in the game, and you have to ensure that you take care of other survivors to prevent them from descending into madness. The gameplay takes a sharp turn when it turns night in-game as you have to choose survivors to go out in the dark and scavenge for resources. Your group of survivors might have to do heinous things to keep themselves alive, and it affects their mental health adversely. If you force the same survivors to go out in the dark, they will slowly lose their will to live which makes it important to keep as many people alive as possible.
One of the most beautiful things about This War of Mine is that it does not glorify war as other games do. Instead, it focuses on the dark side of these horrific events that make humans question themselves over their acts of survival. Unlike other games that have hundreds of survivors and you form no real emotional connection with them, This War is Mine is quite different, as you form strong relationships with the game’s NPCs. It is one of the most bone-chilling experiences you can have as a gamer, and it talks about important issues that everyone should be aware of.
11. The Long Dark (2014)
The Long Dark is one of the most visually stunning indie games ever made, and very few titles manage to make you feel as hopeless as this gem of a game does. You find yourself lost in unknown territory and are constantly on the run from animals and the forces of nature. Every time you feel you are about to reach a safe spot, you only find some brief respite and end up being on the run again. Right at the start of the game, you find yourself in a power station where you find clothes, resources and it seems like a good place for taking shelter, but your hopes are dashed within minutes.
There are a number of physical factors that you need to take care of if you don’t want to die. Every time you are about to venture into the world from your shelter, you need to plan everything to ensure you don’t end up dying to a simple mistake. You also have to account for the amount of time it will take for you to go out and gather resources as staying out in the dark for too long will draw unwanted attention towards yourself. While different studios have their own take on the survival genre, The Long Dark is a true classic with old-school mechanics set in a modern world. Your awareness needs to be on point at all times as slipping up can lead to wolves charging at you and tearing you apart. And despite the tension and unforgiving gameplay, the Canadian wilderness looks absolutely beautiful and you will enjoy every moment of it.
10. Darkwood (2017)
Darkwood delves more into horror than survival, and the isometric view reduces how much you can see at any given time. You need to be constantly on the move if you don’t want to get swarmed by the monsters that are lurking in the forest and failing to keep them away using your torch will lead to immediate death. The dangers of the forest are not limited to the night alone. During the day, you have to scavenge for resources to set traps for the monsters. The longer you spend in Darkwood, the more dangerous things get. Visuals and sound design is where Darkwood excels at and there is no denying that the developers definitely managed to recreate the feeling of being trapped in a horror movie. The gameplay gets a bit disturbing at times, and it is not a title that we’d recommend to anyone below 16.
9. Don’t Starve (2013)
Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve is one of the most visually impressive survival games ever made. The first thing you will notice is the brilliant gothic art style and a catchy soundtrack. As you start playing, you will notice that you are not the only one who is trapped in the wilderness. Unlike other titles that offer a sense of realism, you will be chased by monsters that feel like they came straight out of the Lovecraft universe. It’s not just the monsters that you need to run from, but the wilderness can also get into your mind and cause you to hallucinate. Over time, your hallucinations starting taking shape and you can take damage from the spawned enemies as well. Just like other survival games, there are safe zones that you can stay in to keep yourself safe.
Don’t Starve takes advantage of campfires similar to Dark Souls that serve as spawn points in case you die. There are some wonderful bosses in Don’t Starve you need to be careful of, and they have their own tricks up their sleeves, so you need to be careful about your steps. The more you play this brilliant survival game, the more you realize the intricacies of the mechanics. Creative thinking is rewarded a lot in Don’t Starve, and you can always find ways to get out of tricky situations without engaging in combat. Being reckless with your actions can also lead to dire consequences, so you do not want to go around destroying everything that you set your sights on. You can also play with your friends in ‘Don’t Starve Together’ which is a co-op version of the game that retains all of the same mechanics and also introduces competition over food which can turn friends into enemies.
8. Frostpunk (2018)
Frostpunk is a modern survival game with steampunk elements. You start off in a world where everything seems to be going back to the ice age. With the help of machines and a single furnace, it’s your goal to keep everything alive. While the game is not as good as 11-bit Studios’ previous title This War of Mine, it does live up to the expectations set by its predecessor. With population growth slowed down to a halt, even a single death in your township can have dire consequences. The game does not really have a story, and you keep playing as long as you are able to keep your people alive. If you can last about ten hours of gameplay and brave every challenge that the game throws at you, you will have successfully saved enough people to give humanity a second chance.
11-bit Studios brought over some of the best parts of This War is Mine, and you get access to the same resource management mechanics. Your top priority is to offer people shelter, food and of course, warmth. If you fail to keep the furnace running and too many citizens end up dying, you will lose the game. You can force your workers to go commit more hours per day, but it can adversely affect their health. Sometimes you might have to make decisions that will make your people unhappy but will preserve their future, and you have to constantly weigh between short term and long-term goals.
7. Dying Light: Enhanced Edition (2016)
Dying Light: Enhanced Edition comes with The Following, which is easily one of the best DLC releases in the recent past. While the base game focuses on parkour and stealth, The Following DLC is a very different experience. As soon as you complete the base game and start The Following, you will notice that the game is pushing you away from everything you have learnt so far. Instead of parkour, you now have to rely on a modifiable vehicle to get around. There are a number of quality story-based quests to keep you engrossed, and you definitely want to talk to every local that you run into to clear off side quests and get good gear.
Unlike other titles that try to pad out stories with filler quests, Dying Light is much more compelling with its storytelling. From crazy treasure hunts to the usual stronghold missions, you have a nice mix of missions to keep yourself engaged without making the experience feel repetitive. Zombie games receive a lot of flak for their uninspiring gameplay, but Techland managed to diffuse all concerns surrounding the title in no time. If you were unhappy with how Dying Light ended, The Following makes up for it with a brilliant plot twist at the end of the DLC, which sets up events for Dying Light 2. The sequel is slated for launch in 2019, and we can expect quite a few improvements over the original title. We will see a “living world” that constantly changes based on your actions and your progress in the story. With just months to go until Dying Light 2 is out, we can’t wait to see what Techland has in store for us.
6. Minecraft (2009)
No survival game list is complete without the inclusion of Minecraft. It is still the most creative game out there even though it has been almost a decade since its launch. The survival mode drew in millions of players over the years, and you should definitely check out some of the custom servers that offer survival game modes. You can also start your own server and create your own maps by gathering resources and building structures and pathways. You can also create hidden dungeons underground that can offer a highly challenging experience. If you feel the gameplay is a bit too easy, you always have the option of ramping up the difficulty to ‘hardcore.’
The crafting system of Minecraft is still emulated till date, and if you want a classic survival experience, this is definitely the game you should pick up. Minecraft is not just about survival, and you will find a zombies horde mode and other custom games that stray away from the genre that you can try out. The game can get a bit grindy, and you will need to spend a lot of time farming resources to progress through the game.
5. Rust (2013)
Rust is one of the most daunting survival games out there, and there is absolutely no handholding involved. Once you load into the game for the first time, you are expected to figure things out for yourself as you pick up sticks and stones trying to make sense of everything. After the introductory sequence, you figure out how to gather and use resources; you will be able to set up your first base. However, as soon as you start feeling safe, you notice that there are a number of dangers that are present and it’s not just wild animals but other players who are on the same server as well. You have to be on the lookout to prevent getting mugged at all times.
The game is much easier if you have a friend who can tag along, so that you can help each other out. Playing solo can be far more challenging, and you need to work with strangers to build towns and figure out how to acquire advanced weaponry to keep enemies away. While the gameplay focuses a lot on cooperation, no one can be trusted, and you need to keep an eye out for not only your enemies but also your allies. There is always a numbers advantage at play, so you need to form friendships carefully if you want to be the best on your server. The game requires you to invest a lot of time if you want to get the most out of your experience.
4. ARK: Survival Reloaded (2017)
When you experience ARK for the first time, you see majestic dinosaurs that can easily kill you. But the biggest shock comes when you realize that you can actually tame them! If you are a fan of the ‘Jurassic World’ franchise and want to experience what it would feel like to live with dinosaurs, ARK definitely delivers on that front. Your pet dinosaurs will protect you and help you go from one location to another safely, and of course, they will also hold all of your resources. From Tyrannosaurus Rex to Pterodactyls, you can use a variety of dinosaurs to aid you in battle and protect your fortifications. It takes a while until you are able to tame dinosaurs and you will need to be very patient with them.
However, the gameplay is not about dinosaurs alone. You need to take care of yourself at all times and ensure that you consume enough food and water to keep going. If you are low on stamina, you will become ineffective and fail to do various missions. With new content constantly being pushed out by the developers, ARK is definitely one of the best survival games of this generation.
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3. Subnautica (2018)
There are a ton of survival games that come out each year, but very few have something unique to offer. Subnautica surprised fans last year by offering something we have not seen in the genre for a long time. Instead of the usual war, post-apocalyptic or wilderness themes, we are thrown deep into an underwater planet. You must rely on your equipment to stay alive and keep finding underwater bases to rest. There are vehicles that you can use to travel around to scavenge for food and resources.
With no oxygen available to players, gathering resources can be very challenging as you have very limited time to do things. It’s not just the fear or running out of breath that should frighten you but also the unknown creatures that roam the seas. You are constantly reliant on oxygen tanks, your vehicles and air pumps to maneuver yourself around the map. Despite the tense setting, you will lose yourself looking at the beautify of Subnautica’s graphics. It is a nice change of pace from the usual grim and dark settings that you find in other titles from the genre.
2. The Forest (2014)
Endnight Games Ltd. released The Forest as an early access title in 2014 and its official launch happened four years later in 2018. Over the course of the early access period, the developers were kind enough to collect user feedback and turn The Forest into the brilliant survival game that it is today. There is a mix of sci-fi and horror in the game, and you will constantly feel tensed when playing the game. You are introduced to the mutant cannibals in the region in the most frightening way possible, and you rush through the forest into a shelter. Once you start familiarizing yourself with the crafting process and learn how to keep the cannibals away, you will be able to make your way through the forest without being captured.
One thing you gradually realize is that the AI in The Forest is quite different from what you would find in other titles. They can study your actions and realize what you are up to. It is important not to let your intentions be known. You do not want to draw the attention of too many cannibals at the same time as they will immediately start working together to take you down. The Forest is one of the most frightening games you will ever play, and it is not meant for the faint-hearted.
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1. State of Decay 2 (2018)
A lot of survival games offer second chances, and you can revive yourself or simply load up a save file. State of Decay 2 does not follow any of those rules and imposes permanent death instead. One small slip up and it means that you need to start from scratch all over again. The open world survival game is a sequel to the original State of Decay, which is considered to be one of the best zombie games of all time. If you want to have better odds of surviving, we strongly recommend playing the game in co-op mode.
Unlike other titles, fighting is not the best solution in many sticky situations, and you have to make your great escape if you do not want to lose your life. There are NPCs you get to interact with and recruit to your squad as you progress through the story and you also have to ensure their safety at all times. Death of a squad member will cause unrest among other NPCs that follow you around, and you will have to regain their trust or end up in a fight with them for survival. Resources are not abundantly available, and you need to be conservative with your ammo if you don’t want to be stuck in a room full of zombies with no way to fight. Overall, State of Decay 2 is a solid survival game that improves a lot over its predecessor but fails to deliver a compelling story. However, when it comes to the gameplay, it is a solid survival title every hardcore player should check out just for the perma-death feature.
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