Survival games are one of the most popular genres, with both big AAA developers and independent studios releasing their own take in the hopes of amassing a massive and sustained audience for their game.

One could argue that not a day goes by without a survival game releasing on Steam – there are literally thousands of them, all offering different aesthetics, gameplay mechanics, and settings, with only a few pushing the boundaries and innovating.

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What is a Survival Game?

The lure of the best survival games is easy to understand – the act of crafting, looting, hunting, cooking, farming, gathering resources and building shelters in order to protect oneself from hunger, extreme temperature, diseases, and other threats scratches an itch in our brains that no other kind of game provides.

With the release of Palworld, Pocketpair’s ‘pokemon with guns’, which sold more than 4m copies and set a concurrent player record of more than 1 million on Steam, the genre has received yet another shot in the arm.

Its phenomenal success only shows that a quality survival game that provides something new and exciting will be lapped up by the audience, even if the game is currently embroiled in accusations of plagiarism and AI use.

10 Best Survival Games 

But if Palworld is not up your alley, here are our ten best survival games to consider, with all offering something unique and different that could catch your fancy. Do note that we will not include Minecraft on this list because, come on…

Sons of the Forest (2023)

Platforms: PC

Released in Early Access last year, the sequel to The Forest blends survival and horror and then takes it up a notch.

After crash-landing on a mysterious island, players will quickly come across a tribe of terrifying cannibals that are more grotesque and relentless than ever before. In order to survive, players must stay fed and hydrated, build structures, and construct traps to keep off dangerous creatures, as well as hungry locals determined to take a bite of your flesh.

The game provides a vast open world with diverse biomes, such as lush forests (I mean…), sun-drenched beaches, dark caves and treacherous mountains. And if the constant sense of dread and unsettling environments is too much to take in alone, players can team up with friends or join online servers to tackle the many challenges of Sons of the Forest together.

V Rising (2022)

Platforms: PC

Vampire games are a dime a dozen, but fitting into the survival genre was a stroke of genius for Stunlock Studios.

V Rising embraces the power fantasy of playing a vampire wholeheartedly, allowing players to drain the blood of hapless villagers – a visceral and strangely satisfying mechanic – to sustain themselves. And while the bloodlust is undeniable, V Rising isn’t just about slaying and feasting. Players can also construct elaborate castles that serve as both haven and hunting ground, with intricate systems that govern everything from resource gathering to blood alchemy.

Valheim (2021)

Platforms: PC, Xbox

Valheim distinguishes itself from other survival games by offering a more relaxed and easy-going experience. Besides its striking Viking theme, which is somewhat unique to the genre, it does away with the constant pressure of hunger mechanics and building defences and instead encourages exploration, discovery and taming Norse mythology beasts, either alone or with friends.

It also features a procedurally generated world, ensuring that every playthrough is different and feeds into its key gameplay loop of exploration.

Grounded (2020)

Platforms: PC, Xbox

Obsidian Entertainment is known for its sprawling RPGs, so when they released a survival game, everyone was indeed caught by surprise. And while the game had a rocky launch of sorts, the constant updates and improvements to the game have made it one of the most popular survival games out there. And it’s available on Game Pass, too!

Grounded flips the familiar survival genre on its head. Instead of battling zombies or foraging resources from a post-apocalyptic landscape, players are shrunken down to the size of an ant and are dropped into a backyard teeming with everyday insects.

Due to your size, everything becomes gigantic and threatening. Cute ladybugs now resemble menacing drones; spiders are now lift threatening instead of animals you could just swath away (or vacuum them up…don’t ask). On the other hand, a dewdrop becomes a refreshing oasis, a dandelion puff transforms into a bouncy trampoline, and blades of grass provide shade and respite from the challenges ahead.

Besides being a survival game, Grounded also blends RPG elements like crafting armour and weapons, levelling up skills like combat, and taming creatures as loyal companions.

Subnautica (2018)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

Unknown World Entertainment’s survival plunges players into the deep, uncharted waters of an ocean planet called 4546B, which is fitted with lush forests, colossal jellyfish, and bizarre otherworldly creatures.

As players take in the sight and sounds of a breathtaking world, they must also keep an eye on their hunger, thirst and oxygen levels at all times while also scavenging for resources, craft tools, building bases and new tech to dive deeper into the ocean and uncover all of its mysteries. 

Escape from Tarkov (2017)

Platforms: PC

Escape from Tarkov’s hyper-realism may not be for everyone, but since its early access launch in 2017, it has steadily amassed a dedicated player base and has essentially carved its own niche in the crowded shooter genre.

Battlestate Games’ first-person shooter is less of a traditional survival game and banks more on the loot-survive-sell gameplay loop. Players spawn on a map with other players and hostile NPCs. From hereon, they must loot weapons and armour and fend off foes to the best of their ability while trying to reach the exfiltration zone on the other end of the map. After a successful round, players can either keep the loot to use in the next match or sell it on a player-driven marketplace.

What really ticks Tarkov along is its hyper-realistic gunplay and deep gun customization, and coupled with a realistic injury system and dynamic weather conditions, it aims to replicate the experience of a modern soldier navigating a war-torn city.

ARK: Survival Evolved (2017)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

ARK: Survival Evolved’s unique blend mixes traditional survival mechanics with monster taming. Players begin as castaways on a vast, prehistoric island, where they must gather resources, make crafting tools and build shelter from the tempered weather. But as they explore further, they will encounter gigantic dinosaurs that are as much of an environmental hazard as they are an opportunity to turn them into companions. From the lumbering Triceratops to the bone-crushing T-Res, there is a whole roster of dinos available to befriend, and use them to take to the skies, or charge into battle.

No Man’s Sky (2016)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

A complete failure at launch despite its grand promises, No Man’s Sky is a fairytale story of how a developer’s commitment and grit can overcome even the most severe adversity. Deemed dead on arrival, Hello Games doubled down on fixing, improving, and expanding its galactic survival-adventure game and turned it into one of the most popular games in the genre.

With continuous updates and expansions, No Man Sky offers players unbridled flexibility and freedom in charting unexplored planets and systems, as well as catalogue exotic lifeforms, amassing wealth in galactic trade, becoming a pirate by plundering hapless freighters and building a fearsome armada, and so much more. It’s a comprehensive spacefaring adventure for those who dare to explore and is surrounded by a passionate community that is welcoming of new and old players alike.

Don’t Starve (2013)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

Don’t let its cute Tim Burton-esque art style fool you. Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve is possibly the most brutal survival game on the list, and for good reason.

The game strips down the survival genre to its core elements. Players are dropped into a randomly generated world with a single goal: survive. How? The game provides no hand-holding tutorials, no elaborate crafting chains, and no- clear-cut objectives. Instead, players must learn through trial and error, discovering secrets of the world on their own. This minimalist approach encourages exploration and imbues a sense of discovery and self-reliance that is rarely found in games.

What makes Don’t Starve unforgiving is that, unlike other survival games, the game features permadeath. If your character dies, welp, that’s it. Players lose everything, including all of their painstakingly collected and crafted items, and have to start from scratch. Its high-stakes gameplay adds a layer of dread and excitement to every deadly encounter. While it may not be everyone, it’s easy to see why the game has sold millions of copies and boasts a passionate player base.

Project Zomboid (2013)

Platforms: PC

In an oversaturated landscape of zombie games, Project Zomboid has managed to carve its own niche with its unique aesthetics and gameplay loop. The game isn’t your run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse shooter but takes a slow and methodical approach where every decision holds weight. From scavenging food and medicine to building precarious shelters, every action must be carefully taken while navigating the ever-present threat of infection and bloodthirsty zombies.

Much like Don’t Starve, Project Zomboid is an unforgiving game. Death comes easily, and more often than not, it will be due to your mistake or just downright poor planning. As such, every successful day in the game feels like a hard-earned victory and a testament to the player’s wit and resourcefulness. Despite the brutal nature of the game, it’s hard not to see why this caught the attention of millions of players worldwide.

Those were our picks for the best survival games you can play across the PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo consoles. Hit us in the comments below if you’ve played any of these or if we’ve missed a game that should be on this list.

Mufaddal Fakhruddin
Mufaddal Fakhruddin

Mufaddal Fakhruddin has been writing about games and technology for the past 15 years. He has lost count as to how many reviews he has written over the years, but he is sure headphone reviews make up at least 70% of that.

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