What are the best survival games? The Steam charts are filled with all kinds of examples, including classic survival horror games and new hardcore survival sims. To help any bewildered adventurers, we’ve gathered together the best survival games to help you pick and choose which emergent stories and unexpected adventures to undertake.
If you’ve got the grit to outlast the likes of the terrifying The Long Dark or the underwater wonder of Subnautica, our picks will help steer you toward the (not so) safe pastures of the best PC games that call for you to fight for your life. Whether you like surviving the horrors of war or you’re into the new breed of hunger and disease management games, get ready to endure agony and plenty of pain in these scintillating survival games.
The best survival games are:
You’d be forgiven for thinking this is only a game like Pokemon, but Palworld has far more in common with many survival games on this list and perhaps even a few management games like Factorio. Your goal is to get the best team of Palworld Pals possible while also building an arsenal of the best Palworld guns to defeat the adversaries in the towers.
It’s in early access at the moment, meaning that more Pals, guns, and other features will come in the future, but for now, we recommend reading our Palworld early access review to see what you’re getting yourself into. If it looks like the game for you, we have a Palworld guide to help you get started, as those first few hours are a doozy.
For something a little more grounded but still fantasy-based, Enshrouded is a recent open-world game that takes inspiration from recent Zelda games and Valheim, a great survival game in its own right. In it, you must make your own shelter before venturing out into dungeons filled with monsters.
Of course, there’s a whole lot more to this game than meets the eye, and if our Enshrouded early access impressions are anything to go by, we’re excited to see what’s in store for its future. For actual gameplay tips, here is an Enshrouded guide to help you begin your journey.
The most horrifying idea of most survival games is having to do it alone in a hostile environment full of unknown threats. That’s exactly what Don’t Starve makes you do, as it’s an entirely solo experience. The terror of fending for yourself in the wild is thankfully offset by the lovely Tim Burton-style 2D art and the collection of utterly bizarre creatures lurking in this sepia-tone world. Werepigs, Beargers, Deerclopses, and many more absurd monsters roam the land looking to make things difficult for you.
Don’t Starve focuses heavily on crafting to make your way through life, and so much of your time is spent harvesting raw materials – just like other crafting games. But rather than crafting houses like in Rust and Minecraft, this indie game is all about the tools and contraptions you can make. The Science Machine and Alchemy Engine will become your best friends before making way for ancient wonders and the art of magic. Like Minecraft, Don’t Starve happily embraces the mad and the mystical, and it’s all the more enjoyable for it.
If all this sounds wonderful, but you don’t want to harvest twigs and dry grass on your own, Don’t Starve Together also lets you play with a friend, and it’s actually one of the best co-op games.
This free-to-play battle royale started out as Cuisine Royale – a PUBG spoof, but when players kept coming back, it became apparent that Darkflow Software had found something that’s largely absent across the battle royale games genre: light-hearted fun.
Crsed: FOAD is still about surviving to the end and outlasting dozens of opponents, but instead of armor, you’ll be scrabbling around for colanders and baking trays to protect your fleshy parts from incoming bullets.
Recent updates have embraced the silliness, adding new champions, a new map, flamethrowers, mortars, and motorboats, and rebalancing the melee combat. You can now also shoot from vehicles, as well as unlock and improve your champions with secret missions or daily challenges.
If you’re after the best crafting survival game out there, look no further than Minecraft. At some point, it seems someone decided survival was all about grueling punishment, sloth-like progression, and murdering anyone who isn’t you. But before the big survival blow-out on Steam, we had Minecraft: a fun, colorful, creative survival sandbox game. Sure, some zombies will eat your face, and spiders, skeletons, and more unorthodox enemies will surprise you on every turn. At the very least, though, with the latest Minecraft skins, you at least always end up blocky and cute. No one minds a cartoon monster having you for breakfast.
More importantly, how you survive in Minecraft is entirely up to you. You could build an elaborate fortress and play a defense-style game, fending off the creatures of the night. Or you could craft exciting weaponry and venture out into the world’s most dangerous zones, testing both your mettle and metal. The world is endless and filled with incredible natural wonders begging to be explored. Just remember to eat something every now and again, and you’ll be fine.
We spend so much time focusing on the game’s creative side and its many Minecraft mods, Minecraft maps, Minecraft seeds, and all the other unique possibilities out there that we sometimes forget that the vanilla Survival Mode is just as exciting in its way. And if you really want to make an automated mining production line in Survival Mode, don’t let us stop you. Just make sure the creepers don’t put a spanner in your works.
Sons of the Forest
Sons of the Forest is the follow-up to Endnight Games’ sleeper survival hit The Forest, and both could be included in this list of the best survival games available. We’ve stuck just to the sequel, though, which you can get on with just as quickly having played or not played the first game, as you survive against the harsh climate and terrain of the Sons of the Forest map, as well as the terrifying Sons of the Forest mutants and cannibals around every turn.
As discussed in our Sons of the Forest review, the sequel stays faithful to the original, with old tools, like the modern axe, being joined by new weapons, including the mighty Sons of the Forest shotgun. Just don’t think this makes surviving any easier, though, as you’ll be short on ammo, and those enemies are considerably tougher this time.
This War of Mine
For all the stress that some survival games can press on you, nothing compares to the harrowing 2D adventure. As you’ll find out in our This War of Mine review, the game offers a different breed of survival. It’s a depiction of a group of civilians struggling to stay alive in their war-ravaged country. Trapped in a besieged house, pinned down by snipers, and attacked by other survivors looking to take what you’ve found, it’s a game of traumatic decisions and life-or-death consequences. It’s the side of conflict that few war games truly deal with.
Each of your randomly generated survivors has backstories, providing them with abilities for survival. Ex-firemen are fitter and more robust, while those who used to cook professionally can now feed the starving. But heading out into the world to find the things you need – medicine, ingredients, scrap to make beds – could bring you face-to-face with those willing to kill. And turning a survivor into a murderer leads to misery, depression, and – if not treated well – suicide.
It’s a bleak existence, and making what seems to be the obvious right decision at one point in time can lead to disastrous conclusions. The end of the war constantly seems like a pipe dream, and everyone will probably be dead before you get there. If you think you can live with yourself in such dire circumstances, though, this a must-play.
Abandoned in the Norse wilderness with nothing but a loincloth and your wits, you – and up to nine other Vikings – must build shelter, forage for food, and steadily build up your strength before heading out in search of glorious battle. The meadows you begin your journey in are relatively safe, but the procedurally generated wilds contain various biomes of escalating difficulty – you do not want to stumble into the plains before you’re ready, believe us.
Each one of Valheim’s biomes has its own magnificent boss; once you locate it, summon it, and defeat it, you unlock resources and powers that help you progress to the next region. You’ll also trigger increasingly powerful raids on your home base, so you must construct a well-defended homestead; don’t forget the chimney or smoke inhalation will get you before that giant blue troll does. If you can play over LAN, you don’t need an internet connection to enjoy Valheim, as it works perfectly as an offline game.
ARK: Survival Evolved
Ark isn’t just the best dinosaur survival game you can buy; it’s arguably one of the greatest dinosaur games ever made. After all, prehistoric beasties make everything better. It’s a survival game that fills every edge of the template: punch trees to get wood, use wood to build shelter, kill animals to find food, and inevitably die because you forgot to drink water. Yet Ark transcends the typical survival game pattern by including leathery leviathans that both want to hunt and eat you, but with some perseverance, you can also tame and ride. Moreover, cold wars rage between Ark Survival Evolved mega tribes as they seek dominance over their world. Ark Survival master builders push the limits of creation in a survival game.
Everything Ark does is rock-solid. The survival elements may be similar to what you’ve played before, but they’re the bedrock for the game’s more ambitious elements (and a strong Ark mods scene). Your character has RPG-like stats, and you can head into the world to hunt sci-fi secrets that offer a little more incentive to play rather than just ‘stay alive’.
It’s these various promises that make playing Ark worthwhile: other survival games rely on you being satisfied with making it through the night, whereas Studio Wildcard sets you long-term goals such as ‘tame and ride a T-Rex’. Having a true sense of progression and aims makes your time in Ark feel valuable, and that’s something many other survival adventures struggle with. Also, if you’re struggling with the game’s sci-fi-flavored expansion, our Ark: Aberration tips should help.
Like many of the survival games in this list, Scum is starting life in Steam Early Access, which means two things: it’s still quite shonky, and there are heaps of features yet to be added to the game. But even early into its life, there is plenty to enjoy about this detailed survival game set on a maximum security prison island.
What makes it stand out among its peers is an incredibly meticulous metabolism system which makes Scum a sort of simulation game that tracks what you eat, drink, and excrete. Eat many more calories than you’re burning off, and you’ll get fatter. Consume less than what you’re burning off, and you’ll have no energy and gradually lose weight.
But it’s a lot more complicated than that: you’ll have to watch your vitamin levels, stomach, intestine, bladder, and colon volume, and ensure that you eat well in advance of needing energy, as it takes time for your body to process anything you put into it. Scum puts the hunger and thirst mechanics of other survival games to shame. There are rewards for taking care of your body, too, as fitter characters deal more melee damage, run faster, and possess better weapon handling than their emaciated or overweight counterparts.
The result is a survival game where surviving is more important than amassing an arsenal of military-grade gear. Although once you’ve figured out how to take care of your body, you still have endgame goals such as exploring high-security areas, improving your supply of guns, and dabbling with PvP. If you need help with any of that, check out our top Scum tips, and if that’s not quite enough help, there are some handy Scum admin commands for you, too.
It’s the one that kicked it all off the zombie survival trend. This shuffling undead treat remains one of the best zombie games and survival games. In other words, it’s the king of zombie survival games. By today’s standards, DayZ could even be considered one of the leanest virtual survivors, with barely any crafting to speak of and no objectives beyond staying alive. Food and water are vitally important, and getting sick can quickly kill you should you ignore your symptoms. Walking without shoes cuts and infects your feet, and blood transfusions of the wrong type will see you slip away for good.
If you’re content with fighting against disease, bodily functions, and zombies who occasionally phase through walls, you’ll get to DayZ’s best feature: exploration. The world of Chernarus is a Soviet wasteland, and Bohemia has captured that Eastern Bloc atmosphere with the towns and villages around the map. DayZ’s forests feel genuinely life-like rather than being man-made imitations, while there’s a true sense of isolation out in the wilderness.
It’s best played with a friend or two, a camping trip where things could go horribly wrong. And by ‘horribly wrong’, we mean being captured by a gang of bandits who will force-feed you bleach and make off with your can-opener. So yeah, proceed with extreme caution.
With the massive success of games like DayZ, it was only a matter of time before a developer with access to a licensed character decided to try the survival genre. Conan Exiles shunts you into the Hyborian Age as everyone’s favorite barbarian looks to duff people up and avoid death.
The setup is largely familiar – grow crops, build settlements, club enemies to death – but Conan has a back-of-the-box bullet point that none of the competition can claim: human sacrifice. Should you be able to wrestle someone to an altar and butcher them, you can invoke the favor of the gods and shift the balance of power your way. That unique concept sets Conan Exiles apart from the pack.
This grim tale of endurance has become infamous for its naked men – but it’s not the size of a man’s particulars that’s impressive about Facepunch’s open-world game (and we all know that doesn’t matter anyway… right?). No, it’s the forts that players can, ahem, erect. Rust’s strong point is construction: as you gather materials from its wilderness, you can begin to lay down various items in a Sims-like manner, creating your perfect rural retreat by slotting together floors, walls, staircases, and windows.
While many servers exist where the traditional shoot-on-sight mentality exists, Rust has plenty of havens for those looking for a more civilized lifestyle. You can find player-created towns, complete with attempts at government, trading, and even prisons. It’s one of the nicest reminders that fantastic achievements can be made if people pull together and share their resources.
Rust underwent a massive overhaul that saw most of the original game scrapped in favor of a slightly new approach and completely new base code. The change ripped out many of the game’s core features, such as zombies and rad towns, but over time, they’ve gradually reapplied alongside new ideas. Rust remains one of the most played games on Steam, and if you’re one of them, be sure to check out these useful Rust console commands.
With its dreamy underwater setting – partly created by the Subnautica community – and compelling gameplay loop, Subnautica is one of the best exploration survival games on PC and even comes with its own Subnautica freedom mode for a much more hopeful and relaxing than other survival adventures. Sure, you’re a lonely man lost at sea on an alien planet, but it’s a game all about terraforming your new environment and making unfamiliar ground your home.
The art direction helps push the idea of hope home, with bright and shiny technologies, beautifully blue oceans, and schools of tropical fish filling your vision at every turn. You explore the ocean depths in your submarine, searching for new materials in marine trenches and coral reefs. And when you’ve found everything you need, you can construct bases on the ocean floor.
The game’s survival elements include the food and water requirements that most games in the genre do, but there’s a more pressing issue in Subnautica: oxygen. You can’t breathe sea water, so your oxygen levels and consumption must always be on your mind. Seeing as you’re continually threatened with the prospect of drowning, you really should read our Subnautica guide to ensure you squeeze every last drop out of your diver’s life. Every survival game has the ominous shadow following you around, but it’s simply good old O2 here.
Astroneer is one of the best games to come from Steam’s Early Access platform: solid at launch but transformed into something truly special after two years of consistent content updates and polishing. In Astroneer, you crash land on an alien planet and carve out an existence by developing your life support pod into a fully-fledged base with vehicles, power sources, and laboratories.
Of course, as in all the best survival games, you’ll need a lot of resources to start building the best base modules, and to do that, you’ll need to explore your planet, hoovering up rare crafting materials and shaping the terrain to unearth resource-rich caverns.
Despite being just as treacherous, Astroneer isn’t as bleak as most survival games. There’s a gorgeous low-poly art style that promises to soothe you as you crest every new horizon, and then there’s the fact that you can have your pals join you at any time, thanks to drop-in/drop-out co-op. There’s also a sense of progression in Astroneer, as you can eventually blast off and start colonizing the other six planets in your solar system, providing tangible goals for you to work toward rather than mere existence.
The Long Dark
This chilly adventure is similar to most of the games mentioned above, but it has some of the best horror games features in it. Unlike other titles on this list, The Long Dark has a reasonably fascinating story mode (called Wintermute) to sink your teeth into.
Set in the bitter cold of northern Canada, The Long Dark trades zombies for bears and tropical islands for deadly snow drifts. Mother Nature is your true adversary here, and to combat her, you’ll need to keep your calorie count up, your body hydrated, and a flame roaring whenever you curl up for the night.
The stylish aesthetic makes it quite an arty game, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this slows the pace and forces you to think long and hard about what you’ve done. The Long Dark is a genuinely challenging survival game with real bite.
Landing on the unforgiving plant, Icarus, you and up to seven online pals must complete missions before returning to the comfort of the orbital space station to upgrade your gear. In this session-based survival game – battling against hostile weather conditions, vicious animals, and unruly terrain – you must successfully collect the specified resources and retreat to the dropship before the time runs out.
Since leaving early access, Icarus has had its fair share of bugs, but its refreshing take on sandbox survival and robust progression system make this a varied and surprising survival game. Read our full Icarus review to find out more.
Starting on a small 4×4 raft, either solo or in co-op, you must survive at sea in this open-world adventure. Drifting aimlessly at first, gathering materials such as plastic, planks, and metal scraps to slowly increase the size of your raft and build newer, better tools – Raft is a constant fight for survival, battling hunger, thirst, and a furious shark.
As you start to moor up at islands you find at sea, you’ll also uncover letters and secrets, as well as discover more materials to lead you in specific directions eventually. Raft does a wonderful job of doubling up as a relaxing game as you sail along the beautiful ocean, crafting new areas and tending to your seed garden, but before you know it, you’re dying of thirst, and you’ve run out of food. It also has its fair share of powerful critters lurking on islands, so our best advice, like any survival game, is don’t get ahead of yourself!
Released in the wake of survival behemoth Valheim, V Rising is the vampiric solution to survival games, and it makes you realize just how challenging being a vampire is. As you build the castle of your dreams, complete with a coffin and human servants, this moody, gothic open-world game has light and dark moments as you gather resources, take on bosses, and master powerful skills. Just be sure to stay out of the sun.
That’s it, you’ve survived! Whether avoiding the terrors of the deep sea or taking on hostile Minecraft mobs, hopefully, the games above will sate your appetite for survival. If not, then one of our most hotly anticipated upcoming games might.