There’s always been something oddly enticing about the end of the world and what comes afterwards for a lot of people. By exploring the depths humanity will sink to when up against the wall, the genre has been successful on the big screen for years. However, there’s arguably just as big a market for the best post-apocalyptic games, those that allow you to live through the grime and the struggle of just surviving.
They’re in higher demand than ever with plenty of games showcased at gaming conventions revolving around the end of days, including the likes of Biomutant, Dying Light 2, and plenty more. While those titles are a little ways off, we still have a huge range of the best post-apocalyptic games that you can immerse yourself in the squalor of right now. From twisted and destitute playgrounds to more human and introspective affairs, there’s no shortage of options for those who are more morbidly minded.
For the sake of variety (and also not having five Fallout games in one list), we’re limiting entries to just one post-apocalyptic game per franchise. We’re also excluding regional apocalypses as seen in The Division and going full fat end of days.
Check out the post-apocalyptic games you should be playing for yourself below.
The Best Post-Apocalyptic Games
Developer: Piranha Bytes Publisher: THQ Nordic
Nobody’s going to suggest that ELEX is the most polished post-apocalyptic video game you will ever play, neither is it the most casual. Full of the customary bugs from Piranha Bytes, it’s a game that threatens to pull you out of the experience but never enough to prevent you from appreciate its weird charm. It’s not really like any other ARPG on the market.
When the population of Magnalan is wiped out by a comet, the survivors claw their way through the dark days and create tribes, the most powerful of all being the Albs. They harness the power of the titular ELEX and with you playing as an outcast Alb, it’s up to you to decide who you pair up with next. If you can get through ELEX’s testing first ten or so hours, you may find a lot to love.
“Bizarre and brazen but totally sincere, ELEX is a rough diamond that offers everything a hardcore RPG fan could want in a very rough and ready package.”
Developer: Unicube Publisher: Team17
Fallout Shelter may be the first game that comes to mind when you see Sheltered in action, though Bethesda’s spin-off’s tone is far more irreverent and inconsequential. Sheltered, meanwhile, is grim and almost oppressive by comparison, constantly giving you and your family tests to survive in the post-apocalypse.
It’s also a far deeper game than Fallout Shelter, allowing you to scavenge in the wastes and take part in turn-based combat. You can make your own stories in Sheltered, so if that means you turn into an omnipotent patriarch, so be it. Your family can be customised to be whatever and whoever you want them to be, but don’t get too attached: you never know when death will come in Sheltered.
18. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Developer: Ninja Theory Publisher: Bandai Namco
Poor Enslaved, it never really stood a chance. In a market dominated by varying shades of grey shooters, a post-apocalyptic game with no multiplayer and an usual aesthetic was never going to make it big, leading to a promising new IP being struck down before it even really began.
Written by Alex Garland of Ex Machina and 28 Days Later, Enslaved focuses on Monkey, portrayed by Andy Serkis, as he teams up with a girl who wants to get back to her village with a tonne of mechs standing in their way. With a unique aesthetic and decent meshing of platforming, puzzles, and action, Ninja Theory and Bandai Namco would do well to try and port this to current-gen to give it the love it deserves.
17. State of Decay
Developer: Undead Labs Publisher: Microsoft Studios
One of the better ways to live out eking out a living in a zombie apocalypse (try saying that when drunk), State of Decay tasks you with not only surviving but also to allow those around you to prosper as well. With multiple characters to play as in your community, it’s a constant source of despair when your favourite survivor permanently dies, so much so that you may never want to take them out again.
While the second game is more expansive and arguably rewarding, it’s also a tad on the unpolished side. The first State of Decay still has its issues, though it’s not difficult to look past that when you’re moving from house to house and scrounging all the supplies you can find before mowing down zombies in your car as you make your escape.
The epitome of a Jack of all trades post-apocalyptic game. RAGE had many interesting ideas when it was released, though it never managed to excel in just one. Still, with the amount of things to see, do, and kill over many hours of gameplay, you could be forgiven for forgetting the storyline, which is, well, it’s there, that’s for sure.
Whether you’re raiding raiders with your fancy boomerang of death, racing your bucket of bolts around, or just taking up a harmless addiction to gambling, RAGE is an interesting look into life after the end of everything. With id Software being the behind of wheel, RAGE gets a pass for some of its missteps just for its gunplay alone.
Critically polarising at launch, Mad Max has gone on to become something of a cult classic in recent years. An amalgamation of games like Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham series, Mad Max’s main hook comes from taking your puny vehicle and eventually turning it into the scourge of the wastes. It’s slow going, but worth sticking with.
The driving is excellent, though the combat does feel like a poor imitation of Rocksteady. Still, with an interesting approach to gathering water and fuel, Mad Max is a game that constantly keep you on your toes and also regularly on the verge of wanting to punch Chumbucket square in his irritating face. It’s available for a pittance these days, so be sure to check out Mad Max and lose yourself in its dunes if you haven’t yet.
Developer: Double Fine Publisher: Bandai Namco
Here’s a bit of a change for this list: RAD is a post-post-apocalyptic game that sees you playing as basically a teenage clone who is tasked with eradicating the mutated wastes, one baseball swipe at a time. This is Double Fine we’re talking about, so expect some lunacy.
A rogue-lite with oodles of personality and charm, you are able to mutate to give yourself special powers. Want to be a unicorn and poop down eggs on top of unsuspecting beasties? Be our guest. While the RNG can offer some frustration and the difficulty may spike somewhat unfairly, give RAD your patience and you will rewarded with an irreverent joy.
“RAD is a madcap rogue-lite from the twisted minds over at Double Fine that more than lives up to its name.”
13. Nuclear Throne
Developer: Vlambeer Publisher: Vlambeer
One of the progenitors of the massive surge in rock hard roguelikes over the last ten years that’s influence can be keenly felt in darlings such as Enter the Gungeon. Different to most post-apocalyptic games, you don’t take the role of a grizzled survivor who does bad things, rather a mutant who needs to make a lot of damage.
An aggressively difficult game, Nuclear Throne is likely to send you nuclear after the first fifty or so cheap deaths. After that, though, when you get a good run going and gain access to bigger and badder weaponry, you will practically keep asking to be punished over and over again.
12. Resistance 3
Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: SIE
Here’s an underrated blast from the past. The Resistance franchise may have never been the Halo or Gears beater that Sony were hoping for, but it had enough of its own unique ideas to make it worthwhile. You can couple a good story with its interesting mechanics with the finale of Resistance 2 bringing plenty of shocks.
However, if it’s a true post-apocalypse you want, it’s Resistance 3 you have to play. Humanity is on its knees with the chimera ravaging Earth in an alternative history. You play as Joseph Capelli as he takes the fight to the invaders and to put an end to the conflict once and for all. With some mind-blowing setpieces and a truly moribund atmosphere, Resistance 3 is an FPS game that shouldn’t be overlooked. Now, if only Sony had a spot open for an FPS game set in an open world for their PS4 exclusive line-up…
Kojima’s first game post-Konami isn’t for everyone, hence why we’ve put it somewhere in the middle of this list. While others hail it as a masterpiece, others may find its plodding tempo and eccentricities a little difficult to fall in love with.
Death Stranding is certainly a polarising game, but what’s even more certain is that it offers the most original take on the post-apocalypse we’ve seen in year. You play as Sam, who’s been tasked with rebuilding America one delivery at a time.
Death Stranding really comes to life when you use helpful items left behind by other players and then leave your own, a solid reminder that we are all in this together.