The 8 Best Survival Games to Ever Grace Your Screen
If you're looking for a game that offers more mental challenges than blowing things up and crushing turtles, then you definitely should check out the best survival games. Take a moment to picture this scenario.
You're in a jungle with no food, no water, no bug spray, no social media, and no idea how to get back to civilization. Strange noises are all around you, you see bushes rattling, and flying biting insects are constant companions. It's getting dark, and you need to find shelter, preferably some that'll protect you from whatever you hear growling behind you.
Now, if you can believe it, this scenario's probably a lot more fun virtually than in real life, which is what makes the best survival games so much fun to play. These games allow you to experience all these things from the comfort of your home, and with a substantially smaller risk of dysentery. Bonus!
What Qualifies a Game to Be One of the Best Survival Games?
The best survival games have one fundamental element in common. They all transform your perspective like no other game genre. You're immediately put into a completely vulnerable situation and experiencing the unsettling sensation of helplessness.
The best survival games have no "safe spaces," and they offer no quarter. Survival games are unapologetically difficult by design. They will test your temper and patience unlike any other kind of video game. Most of these games involve a lot of mind-numbing chores and work, mixed in with overwhelming elements of danger.
However, the upside is the tremendous feeling of accomplishment after achieving even the smallest milestone in the best survival games, which at times may feel like takes forever to get right. Just as in real life, survival in these games comes in the form of many small victories.
How We Found the Best Survival Games
Our process for finding the best survival games involved spending hours reading survival game forums and social media pages. We then put together a list of the most recommended games. From there, we chose the games with the most unique and difficult concepts. After reviewing over a dozen games, we picked what we felt to be the cream of the crop when it comes to survival video games.
Meet the 8 Survivors
Our eight best survival games consist of games set in many different environments. From exotic forests to tundras to outer-space, these games each offer a unique survival experience. Some of these games are exclusively on the PC, while others are also on the PS4 and Xbox One. However, Minecraft, one of the most played even if it's not the prettiest survival game, is the only game that's also available on mobile platforms like Andriod and iPhone. Prices for these games can range from free to $70.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about Minecraft, which first released in 2009. First off, Minecraft may never win any awards for its beautiful graphics. Back in the days of the Atari 2600, Minecraft might have turned a few heads. However, we live in the era of the PS4 and Xbox One. Games that look like Minecraft should not have the popular following that it currently enjoys.
The Minecraft Phenomenon
This simplistic game has taken the world by storm and is a big hit with young children. For most gamers, Minecraft is a bit like Grapenuts. You'll either love it or hate it. You either ignore it or think it's one of the best survival games ever made. However, devoted fans would tell you that it's one of the best survival games of all time. Of course, if merchandising and licensing were any indication of game quality, then they may have a point.
Along with merchandising sales, Minecraft has already sold over 144 million copies as of January 2018. That might explain why Microsoft bought the company that designed Minecraft, Mojang, and all the rights to the game for 2.5 billion dollars last year. However, beyond selling Halloween costumes and backpacks, Minecraft does deliver a positive message to kids. The game is about self-reliance and solving problems through human ingenuity. I mean let's be honest here. Those are attributes kids are otherwise unlikely to learn from many other current forms of entertainment.
Just as an aside, Minecraft is hugely appealing to the autism community and is the alpha and omega as far as the best survival games go. The ability to literally control an entire virtual world has come as something of a revelation to those struggling to make sense of the world around them.
At this point, you're probably wondering about the Minecraft movie. Well, that comes out in 2019 starring Steve Carell. Here's the trailer.
The game puts you in a blocky green world, where your blocky character begins with nothing. Your first task is to build a shelter for the night. To do this, you'll need to gather materials by mining the environment around you. Resources like rocks, dirt, and trees break down into little cubes that look like building blocks. To collect materials a bit faster, you'll need to craft specific tool. Mine and craft, get it? Creating tools involves rearranging your gathered elements either in your inventory or on a crafting table. Unless you take pleasure in finding a dark hole in which to shiver throughout the night, a warm shelter should be your priority.
Oh, and did we mention that you'll need to eat? Hunger is a real element in the game that requires you to hunt and prepare food. You can also farm and grow crops, but on day one you may want to find some meat. In the game, you'll meet and eat some friendly cuddly creatures such as pigs and cows. You can breed these animals and slaughter them for food. However, don't just think you're magically having pork chops if you kill a pig. In Minecraft, the player works for every outcome, meaning you'll need a few additional resources and steps to cook your food.
Plus, the game also features an element of danger. You'll have to defend yourself from creatures such as skeletons, zombies, giant spiders, and exploding Creepers. These nasties prowl the landscape looking for trouble.
Recent updates to Minecraft focus on more player abilities and stats. Now you can convert skill points and mystical ingredients into potions and enchantments. These magical abilities give you powers such as flight, super strength, and breathing underwater.
Pricing and availability
Minecraft, with its 8-Bit graphics, is weird but definitely one of the best survival games. It's available on Windows 10 PCs and consoles for between $20 and $30. The mobile versions can cost between free and $10. There are also some in-game extras you can purchase such as new skins and textures. Lastly, you can find purchase information for every format at the Minecraft online store.
Rust is a game first released in 2014 that gets down to the nitty-gritty when it comes to a survival game. The game takes place from either the first or third-person perspective (depending on your preference) and starts with your character naked and alone in the wilderness. No, that's not a metaphor. Your avatar does not have any clothes on his or her body. Like Minecraft, your character has to find materials -- like rocks, wood, and other things lying around -- to build things. Eventually, through crafting items, you'll be able to fashion yourself some necessary clothing along with weapons.
You probably think that you'll need weapons such as rocks and homemade tools to fend off wild wolves and bears right? Unfortunately, your main threat in Rust is other players, who will most likely be far more advanced than you. To make matters worse, if you have a headset device, you can hear other players chatting about you. The other players' voices get louder as they get closer to you. Soon you'll find yourself trying to face down a player with a homemade shotgun with your woefully-inadequate gray rock. In this game, mercy doesn't exist, as you'll likely be killed several times before you can get started. There are also occasions when the game developers will drop some hints in the top corner of your screen. Messages like "harvest wood!" and "build a hatchet!" occasionally show up.
Oh, the humanity!
The game forces you to plan everything out. It's not enough to build a shack. You'll need to make sure its close to both a food and water source. Players can even work together to form communities, gangs, and clans. You name it. These groups can build highly advanced forms of shelter and weapons such as rocket launchers. Now, you probably think the way to survive is to sneak into an empty building and steal their stuff right? Well, good luck with that. Because even while those players are logged off, they can craft some nasty defenses to keep naked thieves like yourself at bay. They can create Punji sticks, landmines, and keypad locks. Some players even recruit players across every time zone and schedule patrols.
Of course, it's not all bad. Sometimes a powerful and well-equipped player will take pity and drop a crossbow or something for you. The game also includes other abandoned structures with weapons and supplies. So if you're lucky you can find a nice pair of pants or maybe a rifle. However, don't get your hopes up as many of these locations are picked clean and used by other players as bait. The non-stop insanity of Rust makes it one of the best survival games out there. Just don't forget to cover up first.
A word of warning about the global chat
There are reports about a lot of racism and misogyny in the Rust global chat channel. Keep in mind that like other unmonitored online forums, human nature will likely be on its worst behavior. If you can ignore or enjoy the vile comments, then this might not bother you. But, if you feel it's too much, you can always log out of chat and go silent. However, you would be giving up your only warning system.
Pricing and availability
Rust is exclusively available on STEAM, and the price currently ranges from $30 to $40. However, there's no official word yet concerning the game's release on both the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One platforms in 2019. Also, there are in-game purchases that allow you to buy things like clothes and weapons if you don't have the patience. These items are pretty cheap with prices, ranging from $1 to $3.
The Forest, released in 2014, is a unique take on the survival horror genre. The game takes place from the first-person perspective. You start with your character alone in the forest (fortunately he's clothed). You were involved in a plane crash, and your son is missing. Your mission is to find him.
But first, as with the other survival games, you must find things like food, shelter, and weapons. However, you're not alone. Instead of exploding creepers or other players to worry about, you've got cannibals. I mean, you've got a lot of cannibals. But no worries because unlike Rust, these cannibals won't tear you apart immediately. Because, where's the fun in that? There have to be bad guys in the best survival games.
I always feel like, someone is watching meee ♪
When you spot your first cannibal, it's likely going to be from a great distance. As you begin to gather materials and start building things, the cannibals will watch, measuring you up. However, as the game progresses, they'll get closer and closer. Eventually, they'll attack. You never know when it's going to happen.
However, the process of waiting for their attack is one of the most disturbing aspects of the game. You will hear twigs snapping, brush rustling, grunts, and cries. At no point will you ever think you're completely alone. Their eyes are always watching you. You'll have to work quickly to build shelter, weapons, and find food. Once you've done all these things, you can have a bit of fun. The game allows you to set elaborate traps around your shelter. But don't think these cannibals are dumb enough to keep falling for your traps. These hungry buggers are smart. They will execute various strategies and tactics to get past your defenses. You're engaged in a constant game of chess, except one where the pawns want to chew your face off.
It's also interesting to observe the different behaviors of the cannibal tribes. Their attitudes and postures will change based on factors like the time of day, how much you've fortified your shelter, and by how outnumbered you are. Knowing that you're in the woods with intelligent enemies who employ rational thinking and complex decision-making to make you their dinner is more than a bit unsettling. However, observing their behaviors is one aspect that also makes the game fun and unique. You almost feel like an amateur anthropologist as you learn your enemy's patterns.
Lights out. Sweet dreams
Another horrifying aspect of the game is the fact that the jungle environment is almost pitch black at night. The only illumination you have early on is a gas station lighter, which barely gives of any lighting. Sitting by your camp, listening to movement in the forest with a lighter in one hand and puny weapon in the other can be pretty nerve-wracking.
To make things more fun, the game creators created a cute little feature involving your primary light source. You see, every time your gas lighter goes out, there's a chance it may not flick back on. This situation of course naturally leads to some hilarious moments where you're furiously flicking away at the lighter while cannibals close in on your position -- those rascals.
Cannibal caves, oh joy
Another area you'll explore are the caves. Once in the dark caves, you'll find abandoned camcorder tapes left behind by your son. You soon discover that he was kidnapped, and must find a way to rescue him before he becomes lunch. In addition to the food and water gauges at the top of your screen, there's also the sanity gauge. This gauge tracks just how far you're willing to go to survive. In other words, you could go native and start eating other cannibals.
You and eight other players can participate in co-op mode which allows you to build bases. However, prepare to defend your fort as you and your team will have to deal with hordes of cannibals trying to breach. As with the single player game, the cannibals take their time to recon your defenses before attacking. If you and your team miss one little weakness, the cannibals are likely to exploit it. The exquisite heart-pounding terror of being hunted by flesh-hungry cannibals while trying to survive in the jungle makes The Forest one of the best survival games that'll leave you, ahem...hungry for more.
Pricing and availability
The Forest is available on STEAM, and the price currently ranges between $20 and $30. Additionally, it costs between $20 and $30 on the PlayStation 4 digital network. However, there's no official word on the release date for the Xbox One platform. However, the game's developer says that they are open to porting a version over to the new XBOX One X.
This War Of Mine
The best survival games are about more than just the physical challenges of surviving. They give you a glimpse at the psychological stress of that survival and This War of Mine, released in 2014, takes that stress to a whole new level. The game takes place in a dark charcoal colored world ravished by war. It's also shot from a 2D perspective, which allows you to see the different levels of the buildings you occupy. In the game, you must lead a group of refugees and somehow keep them alive.
The game is a brutal and unapologetic look into the realities of warfare. Hollywood and the gaming industry stand accused of glorifying, desensitizing, and trivializing the horrors of war. For years we've seen television, movies, and games that focus on blowing things up but fail to show the human cost. This War of Mine is all about that cost and the terrible decisions people are forced to make to survive in a war zone.
Eat, sleep, fight, scavenge, don't die
Keeping a group of war survivors alive in an active war zone is no easy task. As a leader, you must assign work tasks to members of your group. One person may go out scavenging for food and supplies. You may also have another member of your group tend a garden. The game features a lot of the mundane tasks you would find in many survival games. However, unlike other games, you have to protect your group from dangers unique to a war zone. Bloodthirsty soldiers, militia, bandits, and other survivors are a constant threat. For example, as you craft and collect items, other survivors will try and steal from you. Many times, they will use stealth, but they can also use direct violence. Meanwhile, you may be able to swap and trade with soldiers, that is unless they feel like shooting you for fun.
The game also features some heartbreaking decisions. For example, in one scenario your camp suffers a surprise nighttime raid by a group of bandits. They steal a lot of food, expensive bandages, and other supplies. Now you have a difficult decision to make. You could launch a counter-strike on the better-armed bandits, which would likely get your people all killed. Or, you could send someone to steal food and supplies from an isolated elderly couple. Let's say you chose the elderly couple.
Your man brings back a substantial haul from the elderly couple, who by the way does not resist in any way. After making that decision, morale for your group nose-dives. The man you sent to steal the supplies falls into a deep depression, as does the group. Now your people stop working and start arguing amongst themselves. Some may turn to alcohol and other vices to cope, and alcohol is an essential resource for trade. Also, keep in mind, while all of these things are going on, the player has to continue to defend the group from attacks.
This game should be a pre-requisite for any soldier or world leader. This War of Mine is, without a doubt, one of the best survival games that will also shake you to your emotional core.
Pricing and availability
This War of Mine, one of the best survival games, is available on STEAM, and the price currently ranges between $20 and $30. Additionally, "This War of Mine: Little Ones," which adds children to the mix for more soul-searing horror, costs between $20 and $30 on the PlayStation digital network and Xbox Live.
Green Hell, released in 2018, is an immersive survival simulation set in the Amazonian rainforest. Your character starts with only a radio and must follow a familiar voice through the jungle. As you progress through a ruthlessly inhospitable jungle environment, you slowly begin to piece together the mystery behind why you're there. The game makers said they wanted to create a game that also simulates the effects of solitude and the impact it can have on not only the body but also the mind.
The realism within Green Hell is incredible. For example, just a few minutes into the game, you brush up against a seemingly innocent looking bush. The next thing you know, your arm is crawling with dozens of tiny spiders. Now you've developed a rather unpleasant rash as a result. Green Hell may be the first game to introduce such environmental hazards. So your new goal is to figure out how to cure your rash before it gets worse. These minor details easily qualify the Green Hell as one the best survival games ever made.
In Green Hell, just like in many survival games, you'll die quite often. Expect to expire from things like venom, wounds, falls, arrows, dehydration, and disease. Yes, there are hostile Amazonian tribes in the game who are rather enthusiastic about putting pointy sticks in you.
Live, die, and learn
One fortunate thing about Green Hell is that it does have a tutorial that teaches you the basics you'll need to survive. You'll learn things like maintaining your health, crafting, and finding your bearings. You'll also learn why you're bumbling around the Amazon with no food or matches while sporting a high-tech watch.
As for the watch, it has a compass and status indicator which shows your health and hydration status. The crafting system is as simple as it gets. For example, one rock plus one stick equals a stone ax. Yes, there's probably twine and rock sharpening involved but let's not overthink it.
Another fun part of the game is regularly checking your body for afflictions. You can physically inspect different areas of your body by moving your mouse. As mentioned previously, while stumbling through the forest, you're bound to pick up some nasty health issues. But you can also get injured sleeping. That's right; this game has things like worms that burrow into your skin while you sleep. You can also pick up some fun leeches on your leg if you step in the wrong puddle. Oh yes, and did we mention the other lovely wildlife?
As with most survival games you'll first need to find a way to build a shelter. Now imagine gathering the materials to create your stone ax. Next, you chop down some trees, collect sticks, and start putting a few leaves on it for a roof. Unfortunately, a hungry leopard happens to stroll by on his lunch break and thinks you're looking pretty good. Guess who gets to start all over re-building their pathetic shelter? And oh look, you stepped in a puddle, and now you've got leeches. Lucky you.
Pricing and availability
Green Hell is available on STEAM for between $20 and $30. Unfortunately, there's no word yet on a console release for either the Xbox or PS4. However, one of the game's developers stated in an interview: “Currently we do not have a timeline for any console releases, but we haven’t written it out for the future.“
The Long Dark
Perhaps you'll like to exchange the suffocating humid heat and poisonous bugs of Green Hell for something a bit cooler? The Long Dark, released in 2014, drops you in the middle of the Canadian tundra where you'll need to brave sub-freezing temperatures and wolves. A geomagnetic event just rendered all technology useless and plunged your plane down into an icy hellscape. Your character starts the game surrounded by the flaming wreckage of a plane crash. Severely injured and freezing to death, you must find a way to survive one of the deadliest terrains on the planet, making this one of the most interesting and best survival games.
Two ways to play
The Long Dark features two distinct modes you can play. There's Wintermute, which comprises of an episodic story mode staring bush pilot Will Mackenzie, who's on a quest to find his missing friend. This mode's guided adventure features melancholy cutscenes which explore the character's past and the state of this new apocalyptic world.
Sandbox mode is an open world mode that lets you do your own thing. You can explore the vast wintery expanse at your leisure, creating a personalized survival adventure. The only objective in this mode is to survive as long as you can.
Wintermute is a good mode for beginners. It begins with a series of short tutorials designed to slowly acclimate you to learn the different gameplay systems you'll need to master to survive. You'll learn about finding medicinal plants, treating wounds, building fires, and other vital survival skills. In Wintermute, you're gently guided from one moment to the next so that you won't get lost often. You'll also occasionally meet other survivors who need your help, which forces you to complete a series of fetch quests.
But once you feel you're ready to take the training wheels off, Sandbox mode awaits, making this somewhat unique among the best survival games. This mode will allow you to explore large interconnected regions while you face numerous challenges such as hostile wildlife and unpredictable weather. FYI, being stalked by a pack of wolves while starving and freezing to death is about as fun as it sounds. However, if dealing with blood-thirsty wolves isn't your thing, you can always adjust the difficulty level to exclude hostile wildlife from your survival experience.
However, there will be times when the weather presents an equally if not a more significant threat to your survival. One minute you're walking along during a crisp and clear day. A minute later you see a storm front coming right toward your position. The next thing you know the wind is whipping the snow all around while taking the concept of "cold" to a whole new level.
The Long Dark also features various meters that measure your tiredness, hunger, thirst, and other factors. Survival entails managing these perpetually diminishing meters before ending up an ice sculpture. The intense, rich detail of your character's brutal winter horrorland experience easily makes The Long Dark a deserving candidate for one of the best survival games out there.
Pricing and availability
The Long Dark is available on STEAM for between $30 and $40. Expect to pay between $10 to $30 for the PS4 version and the Xbox One version.
No Man's Sky
We now move from the tundra of The Long Dark to the otherworldly plains of No Man's Sky. Released in 2018, No Man's Sky allows you to explore different planets as well as build some really cool space bases and ships. The game also features some of the most beautiful and unique alien terrains you'll find in a space-based video game. Some planets are lush and beautiful, with colorful plants and animals just begging to be savored in camera mode. However, other planets can be ugly, barren, and bizarre wastelands.
Danger, danger Will Robertson
Nothing beats bouncing around strange worlds on a jetpack, except for maybe zapping dangerous critters with your ray gun while doing it. Freaky fauna and flora are everywhere, and No Man's Sky features a wide array of strange alien creatures such as bouncing blobs, flying sharks, dino-beasts, and giant rabbit-crab thingies.
But don't overlook the weather. Although the worlds look different, they hurt you pretty much the same. Your environmental shielding energy bar will be under continuous assault from insanely hot, cold, or toxic environments. However, your shielding's really going to take a pounding once a nasty storm hits your planet. Fortunately, you can always refill the meter by injecting a cure-all resource.
Hope you don't mind mining
A big part of the game is gathering resources to build cool things like ships, bases, and weapons. However, to do this, you'll have to devote a generous amount of time to mining and refining resources. But, once you're further along in the game, you'll be able to automate many of your basic resource gathering tasks.
However, resource mining can be a real drag once you start getting harassed by hall monitoring sentinel robot cops. You also have to deal with the occasional attacks from space pirates seeking to reap the benefits of your hard work.
Ray gun fun
Combat in this game is pretty basic. You get a small selection of weapons, like ray guns, to choose from, and you fight on both land and in outer space. You'll mix it up with various alien spaceships, including dreaded space pirates as well as strange alien surface creatures. You can also trade in your resources for upgraded weapons that do more damage.
Beam me up Scotty
Once you've established yourself in a different world, by building bases, you can start teleporting from planet to planet. You can even create a mobile base freighter that follows you around with vast quantities of resources. You can eventually upgrade and build up an entire fleet of mobile base freighters. Devoted fans of No Man's Sky believe that the insane amount of detail, resource management, and exploration easily makes this one of the best survival games in the galaxy.
Pricing and availability
No Man's Sky is available on STEAM for between $60 and $70. Expect to pay between $30 to $70 for the PS4 version and the Xbox One version.
Our final foray into the wilderness of best survival games takes place in the disturbing yet adorable world of Don't Starve. Released in 2013, Don't Starve's animation looks like something out of a twisted children's book written by Tim Burton. Every aspect of the game is dripping with ominous overtones, from the music to even the shrubbery. You begin in a randomly generated wilderness world.
Once there, you have to start gathering materials during the relative safety of the daylight hours so you can eat and build a fire to survive the night. You repeat this cycle as many times as you can, but don't be fooled. Your relatively mundane routine soon turns into a desperate fight for survival.
Things that go bump in the night
As you start to find resources harder to come by, you'll also have to contend with the terrifying creatures that will try to end you at every turn. For example, you may find yourself pursued by a horde of spiders. Once you realize that there's no chance to escape the creatures, you do something desperate. You set a tree on fire, which quickly escalates into a forest fire that reduces the spiders to piles of silk. You can then use the silk to make a warm vest.
Death and insanity
Another danger you face is the continuous reduction of your character's sanity meter. Exhaustion is also an ongoing threat as you desperately fight shadowy creatures both big and small while trying not to, you guessed it, starve. Did we mention that once your character dies, it's game over? That right, there are no save points in this game, it's a marathon of survival. But don't expect the game to recognize your 48-hour record. There are no reward systems of any kind in the game, meaning just as in real life, the experience is your reward.
Don't Starve's brutal finality may turn off many gamers. However, this aspect earns it the distinction of being one of the best survival games ever made. There is no respawning. In Don't Starve, dead is dead
Pricing and availability
Don't Starve is available on STEAM for between $10 and $50. Expect to pay between $20 to $40 for the PS4 and the Xbox One version.
Who's the Ultimate Survivor?
All of these games are fantastic survival experiences in their own right. However, we felt that one game stood out more than any other regarding emotional impact. This War of Mine accomplishes the opposite effect of all other games on our list or anywhere else for that matter.
Instead of offering escapism, This War of Mine pulls you into a surreal experience that's an unfortunate daily reality in too many parts of the world. Most people will never know what its like to survive in a war zone. However, This War of Mine gives players an uncompromising glimpse into that horror. Gamers not only experience the harsh physical realities of war but also the gut-wrenching emotional consequences that affect people's daily lives. This War of Mine is a real standout and one of the best survival games that everyone should experience at least once. We do hope you've enjoyed this information on the best survival games and have some great suggestions for your next virtual adventure.
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