What exactly is a survival game? To be honest, the definition can be a bit loose. You could argue that titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast are survival games since the main objective is to, well, survive. To us, the "survival" tag pertains more to games that require you to gather and allocate resources in order to live. These releases require you to find food, fuel, or other items to keep specific variables in check.
Yes, there are definitely some titles on this list that fall more into the "survive at any cost with a bunch of weapons on your hip" but for the most part, we attempted to gather a collection of releases that force you to do more than shoot first and ask questions later.
That said, here are 10 of the best survival games you can get your hands on.
Let's go ahead and get the big daddy out of the way here. Minecraft is perhaps the most influential open-world survival game to hit the market in the last decade. Love it or hate it, there's no denying that this multiplayer build-fest helped to shape and mold the current "survival" genre as we know it.
Sure, Minecraft's survival mechanics are pretty simple (eat and don't take too much damage) but it still offers up a great (and highly accessible for all age groups) adventure that has you constructing a base, gathering materials, and letting your imagination run wild while you fight back hordes of monsters and sometimes other players.
Do you like Minecraft but prefer 2D side-scrolling games? If so, Terraria is the cure for what ails you. These two titles are so beloved and friendly with one another that they actually reference one another in their titles screens (via randomized welcome messages). Terraria actually has a lot more to offer than Minecraft, from a "gameplay perspective." Those of you craving a more structured adventure will enjoy all of the bosses, dungeons, and other "quests." It's not to say that there isn't an endgame present in Minecraft, but Terraria packs much more into its 2D world.
8 The Forest
When The Forest first popped up on Steam, it suffered from a lot of the same issues that "pre-release" titles do. It offered a great shell and some unique gameplay elements but was very devoid of content. The story was in tatters and there were a lot of mechanics that simply didn't work as intended. This is enough to cause strife for any game but the developers behind The Forest stuck with their project and continued to polish their 3D first-person survival adventure.
We're thankful they did because the "finished product" is an absolute blast to play and one of the best cooperative Horror-Survival experiences of all time.
7 Don't Starve
Speaking of Horror-Survival, like the Minecraft-Terraria connection, you can argue that The Forest and Don't Starve share a similar relationship. One is a 3D adventure teeming with feralistic cannibals and the other is a 2D top-down survival game filled to the brim with all types of cartoonish horrors.
Although it may look silly and Tim Burton-esque (which is honestly a selling point in our eyes), Don't Starve has a lot to offer in terms of survival mechanics and "village building." You can even play with your friends thanks to the series opening up further with Don't Starve Together.
6 Dying Light
Many of the survival games on this list feature subtle side-tracked storylines that can be completed at the player's leisure. Dying Light is very much the same but it has a much wider and deeper story than most survival releases. You're free to explore the open world and collect supplies and weapons as you see fit, completing the array of side quests that can be found littered throughout the expansive cityscape.
Yet, when you want to engross yourself in the storyline, you'll find a wonderfully executed tale of struggle and hardship during a post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak.
5 State Of Decay
Zombies seem to be the subject of a lot of survival games, which is fine since most of us enjoy the thrill of escaping ravenous hordes of the undead. There is something quite electric about being surrounded by so much danger (from a video game standpoint, we're not calling for a real zombie outbreak here). State of Decay puts you in the drivers seat when it comes to post-apocalyptic planning and survival.
The title is a mixture of traditional scavenging and world-building, where you'll need to establish a base and keep as many survivors safe as you can. After all, there's strength in numbers.
There are likely at least a few people out there that would argue against DayZ finding a spot on this list. Like The Forest, the title had its fair share of pre-release woes. Fast forward a few years and DayZ was given a bit more polish and work to round out its jagged edges. The experience was still far from perfect but there is no denying that it offered one of the most unique survival experiences at the time.
DayZ introduced us to the idea that zombies weren't the only threats in a post-apocalyptic world. Other players could be just as dangerous and this release gave players the option to play however they wanted to.
3 ARK: Survival Evolved
If you're looking for a survival game that offers something "new and exciting," you'll definitely want to check out ARK: Survival Evolved. You'll start your adventure with absolutely nothing, and you'll need to quite literally punch trees and craft the bare necessities just to make it through the night. Those that can quickly establish a base and craft weapons to defend themselves will find a world teeming with possibilities and dinosaurs.
That's right, ARK lets you hunt and tame dinosaurs, which you can then turn into your own personal pack mules. ARK is also unique in the sense that you'll go from a primitive tool–using cave-person to a full-blown armored gun-wielding T-rex-rider over the course of your adventure.
2 No Man's Sky
Cue the thunderous wave of boos and hisses. All joking aside, there was definitely a time in which No Man's Sky was the absolute laughing stock of the entire gaming world. It was the prime example of why players shouldn't fall too deeply into the Kickstarter craze and there is absolutely no denying that the game failed big time to deliver all of its promises to a wide-eyed and hopeful fanbase.
But you really have to admire the developers for hanging in there and taking all of the (well deserved) criticism and backlash in stride. Fast-forward to now and No Man's Sky is a shadow of its former self. It's a much, much better release now and can be an absolute blast to play with friends. It's still not the game we were all promised but it's definitely one of the more unique options out there and is absolutely beautiful to boot.
We'll be honest, one of the things that absolutely terrifies us is the depth of the Ocean. Much like Space, there are areas and channels within the deepest waters that are untouched by man, untamable and even unexplorable. Fear of the unknown is a very real thing and the Ocean presents it in spades.
Subnautica plays on these fears by forcing its players to survive in a vast aquatic world. On the outside, this seems like a happy-go-lucky diving adventure but veterans of this world will attest that this release is much more like a Survival-Horror.