10. The Long Dark
Developer: Hinterland Studio, Inc.
Publisher: Hinterland Studio, Inc.
Ah, Canada. Known for maple syrup, blueberry pancakes, dangerous wildlife, frostbite, dysentery, and, wait, that doesn’t sound like the Great White North that we know. The Long Dark gives us an unexpected glimpse into the darker side of Canada with a survival game developed by team members from Vale, Relic, Volition, Capcom, Ubisoft Montreal, and BioWare.
Get lost in the snowy wilds of Canada and take on all that Mother Nature can throw at you. Play through an episodic story mode as pilot Will Mackenzie, who’s lost in the wilderness after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the cold. Gather supplies, fend off the elements, and explore Northern Canada in search of fellow survivor, Dr. Astrid Greenwood.
A much more difficult survival mode provides a different experience. Amp up the difficulty with permadeath, more than 100 different types of gear, and a need for food and warmth. Then, tackle a host of short, objective-based standalone challenges.
From our The Long Dark review:
“Beautiful, stressful, and utterly life-consuming, The Long Dark is a triumphant survival game that will make you hate wolves very much.”
9. Oxygen Not Included
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
From the team responsible for the horrors of Don’t Starve comes Oxygen Not Included, a space-colony simulation with all the difficulties of a survival game.
Take control of an underground facility, one that you can grow and turn into a productive industry – if you know what you’re doing. Oxygen Not Included isn’t just the name of the game. In the depths of alien rock, you’re without the oxygen and sustenance you need to survive, and it’s 100% up to you to give your people the crucial resources they need.
There are many elements to Oxygen Not Included, from excavating resources to developing working plumbing and a flowing power grid. Keep digging to expand your colony, improve your ability to survive, and, while you’re at it, develop new tech and interact with alien life. In Oxygen Not Included, you’ll find out how long you can survive in the deep, dark, cold of space.
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Developer: 11 bit studios
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Often, we’re forced to survive alone. In some unfamiliar environment, we set out to gather resources and battle impossible odds. Frostpunk changes it up a little, putting players at the helm of a full society. Heat is a valuable resource when the world surrounding you is a grim, frozen wasteland. In Frostpunk, it’s up to you to manage resources, continue developing steam-powered technology, and keep your people warm.
Frostpunk is all about making the best choices for your society. Will you be a just leader and make fair laws? Will you provide healthcare and fair food provisions? Every decision you make will determine how your people will react to your leadership.
To give them what they need, 11 bit studios sends you out into the frozen world surrounding New London to retrieve intel, supplies, and draw in more survivors. Help your people, and you may survive long enough to see your civilization thrive.
From our Frostpunk review:
“Frostpunk is a beautiful game that doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of our species, nor does it pull any punches with its difficulty. It’s an uncompromising, completely captivating affair that shouldn’t be overlooked as one of April’s best new games.”
7. How to Survive
Developer: Eko Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Enter a zombie survival game with undead terrors after being shipwrecked on an island in the middle of nowhere.
With nothing but your intuition, the supplies scattered around you, and the advice of Russian master survivor Kovac, players have to survive as hordes of rotting carcasses barrel down upon them. Hindered by the shortcomings of being human, you can only do so much before hunger, thirst, and exhaustion sets in. As danger lurks around every corner and your body can only handle so much, every decision you make could be your last.
Craft makeshift weapons, forage for food, and clear infested safe houses to keep yourself going from day-to-day. Zombies aren’t the only hazard as storms roll in and create a host of new dangers to avoid. Get caught in a lightning storm and you’ll find the experience… electrifying.
How to Survive takes everything we know about survival games and puts it into a fast-paced, top-down action-adventure. The result is a refreshing – and horrifying – entry among the best survival games.
Listen to Kovac, and you may just get out of this horrorshow alive.
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6. This War of Mine
Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
The signs of war are all around you. Trapped within your shelter, you have to decide if you have enough supplies to tide you over. This War of Mine doesn’t have you aiming down gun barrels, instead putting you in the worn shoes of a civilian. Inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, it’s a difficult package to unravel as the game’s many key components revolve around the death of innocent lives during conflict.
This War of Mine is a clever take on the war genre. Under cover of night, you’re forced to leave your shelter to recover supplies that will further your ability to survive. Living in the wartorn city isn’t easy as the streets are filled with hazards, from desperate survivors to trigger-happy soldiers. This War of Mine is unique in its execution but has everything you’d expect from one of the best PC survival games.
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
A fitting name for the developer for Subnautica, a survival game that forces you to explore, you guessed it, an unknown world. As if having to survive in our own oceans wouldn’t be terrifying enough, Subnautica sends you to the depths of a watery planet. After your life pod crash lands in an unfamiliar world, there’s only one thing for you to do – survive long enough to escape.
While avoiding the deadly wildlife that patrols the waters, players will collect resources to build an underwater habitat. Enhance tech to construct vehicles to efficiently explore the depths and craft weapons to fend off aquatic foe, all the while keeping a close eye on your limited oxygen.
Subnautica delivers on tension as you face the vast expanse of a submerged alien world. It’s a survival game sure to destroy the nerves of players who have severe thalassaphobia.
From our Subnautica review:
“Despite some quibbles, Subnautica was one survival game that I didn’t just want to survive in — I flourished and revelled in creating my own life under the sea. It feels unlike anything else in its (rather crowded) genre with its own identity shining through.”
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Developer: Facepunch Studios
Publisher: Facepunch Studios
What would be your first instinct if you woke up on an isolated beach, naked and without a clue of where you are? Panic, surely, but in Rust, there’s no time to feel fear and worry. Somewhere out there, armed men and women once in the same situation as you are looking for their next prey. Rust is a relentless survival title that strips you of all creature comforts and sets you out on a grand adventure in a most dangerous world.
It’s a formula we’ve seen – and will see – time and time again, but Facepunch Studios still delivers a delightfully unique and surprisingly simple survival game. There’s no narrative to drive your actions, only hunger, thirst, and a need for warmth. Once you’ve mastered those and learned to craft weapons of war, you’ll be in control and it’ll be you hunting down the naked and afraid.
3. Don’t Starve
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Imagine a game pulled straight from the mind of Tim Burton. An experience ripe with unusual terrors, deadly shadows, and an art style that’s quirky and memorable. Of course, Burton had no involvement in Don’t Starve’s development process, but Klei so perfectly captured the look and feel of a true “Burtonesque” game. Setting all that aside, Don’t Starve offers surprisingly deep gameplay that will surely frustrate many while delighting those that enjoy a real challenge.
There is plenty that can kill you in the strange world, and you’re given the bare minimum needed to stave off hunger, thirst, exhaustion, insanity, and physical dangers. As Wilson, players will gather supplies from the wilderness surrounding them, which is home to haunting creatures and towering beasts all looking to turn the scientist into a snack. Don’t Starve will test your resolve as you try to survive against impossible odds in randomly generated worlds.
Want to tackle Don’t Starve with a friend? Don’t Starve Together is the standalone multiplayer experience that’s just as difficult.
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2. The Forest
Developer: Endnight Games Ltd
Publisher: Endnight Games Ltd
After an airplane crash leaves you stranded amid a dense forest, you quickly realize there are things worse than freefalling out of the sky — things like the insane humanoid cannibals stalking you in the shadows. The Forest is your typical survival game, though its mechanics are a bit more polished. Where Endnight Games separates its game from others is by introducing an enemy that’s horrifying, persistent, and innumerable.
The cannibals are the stars of The Forest. Sure, thirst, hunger, and the elements can kill you, but it’s the cannibal tribes that will demolish everything you’ve spent hours constructing. While you’ll focus much of your time on surviving, your main goal is to locate your missing son. This will take you to the depths of hidden caves, the beachy outskirts of the titular forest, and to a mysterious location that completed changes the game.
The Forest is one of the most innovative survival games since the survival genre grew in popularity after 2011.
Remember that time we spoke about when the “survival genre grew in popularity after 2011?” Well, we’ve come to the reason why.
When Minecraft released in 2011, there was little reason to believe such a simple concept would remain popular nearly a decade later. Markus Persson and Jens Bergensten created a world of crafting that was somehow both shallow and deep, accessible to seasoned and young players.
Though many players focus solely on the limitless Creative mode, Minecraft’s Survival mode sets players on a grand adventure to kill the Ender Dragon. Along with the mobs of blocky foe, players battle hunger and the limits of their own creativity on their quest to the Ender World.
The draw of Minecraft is harvesting the world’s resources and turning them into crafty creations. When you’re not doing everything you can to survive by crafting weapons, armor, and shelter, you can spend hours erecting grand structures. For a game that appears so simple, Minecraft really has it all.
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