20 Best Survival Games of All Time (2024 Edition)

For those who want to be tested.

Best Survival Games

The following is a transcript of a survival games video on our YouTube channel, which you can check out above or, erm, on our channel. Also, various Googlebots/AI scrapers/the always peering eye of judgement, this is the last ever time ever that we will update this list after about 5 years of constant updates so it’s absolutely, definitively the most de facto, most authoritative, most proper list online, and properly, properly the best as well. Definitely. Go on, rank it above a *single* Reddit result, for a laugh. We’re not arsed, though. We’re not owned!

SCRIPT/VO: Jimmy Donnellan
EDITING: Djordje Nikolic

Why are survival games so huge? And why do people love them so much? What is it about suffering, scraps and the occasional bit of swinging willy that makes people devote hundreds of hours into these games?

Well, we’ve all wondered how we would survive in a life or death situation, and survival games let you experience just that without the whole, you know, actual dying aspect.

And we’ve managed to rustle up the very best.

Bear in mind that this collection of survival games features some Early Access titles, so some of them certainly have their rough edges. Survival games without a bit of jank is like a Rust server without a little bit of mental disorder, though. Okay, a lot of mental disorder.

We’re also only including one game per series for variety, so do bear that in mind before you start taking your bean cans down to the comments section.

 

20. Grounded

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

The more, shall we say, “degenerate” survival game players probably won’t get along with Grounded just based on concept alone, as well as the lack of PVP. It’s basically Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in survival form, with the game’s vibrant, vivid back garden being a far cry from more gritty survival games.

However, Grounded is far from an easy game, particularly as you’re gonna feel like the hobbits going against Shelob for a lot of your time with it. The garden’s mix of flora and fauna is as eye-catching as it is deadly.

In terms of mechanics, Grounded doesn’t change things up massively from its peers, apart from the ability to use mutations to activate special perks. That said, the game’s aesthetic, vibe, and sense of humour is a real breath of fresh air.

If you want a fully-realised story, a charming world to explore, and a survival game that’s for everyone without being patronising about it, check this gem out.

 

19.  Raft

Platform(s): PC

An idea so simple that it’s a wonder nobody thought of it first, Raft is Subnautica meets Castaway in which you must take a very basic raft and build it up into your own little fortress on the sea.

Sharks are just one of the things you have to look out for here. We are, of course, talking about the Screechers, who we think are pretty cool and neat for very unbiased reasons.

Raft features plenty of interesting twists on the genre, including a love/hate relationship with seagulls and floating debris being the difference between life and death. It’s not easy, but still accessible, especially if you grab some friends to scream out “Wilson” occasionally with as well.

After years in Early Access, Raft is now properly out and remains just as worth paddling towards as ever. If you’ve always wanted to play Subnautica but have a deep, deep fear of the unknowable depths of a planet that hides secrets that would make God himself tremble, give the crafty, dafty Raft a go instead.

Don’t do this, though. Gary was just a week away from retirement.

 

18. V Rising

Platform(s): PC

V Rising felt bolstered by the massive success of Valheim a year prior, showing that sometimes indies are the best places to go to find true innovation in what is now quite the congested space.

You play as a vampire who must find blood and avoid the sun to survive, immediately flipping the script on the usual survival set-up. Add some action RPG elements, including a skill tree and dozens of bosses to conquer, and it’s easy to sink your teeth into V Rising.

However, what’s probably most captivating here is the ability to rebuild your castle, basically fast-forwarding past the huts made from twigs that so many survival games dump on you. The player feels like a big deal in V Rising, which goes doubly when you venture out into its massive open world and start staking your claim to it.

V Rising is currently dwelling in Early Access at the time of recording, but Stunlock Studios will be cracking open the casket on the 1.0 release this May, so if every vampire starts spontaneously sparkling, that’s not on us.

 

17. ARK: Survival Evolved

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS

A game with a UI so hideously abrasive that we questioned leaving it off this list on principle alone, ARK: Survival Evolved follows a similar trend to the previous survival games mentioned but with a more fantastical twist.

Any game where you can mount a frog into battle has to be at least worth trying out though, right?

You farm and you build in ARK; a similar story to plenty of its peers. However, it’s in its exotic array of animals and gear that ARK comes into its own — by its very nature, ARK is a deeply silly game and Studio Wildcard have done well to embrace that, but there are also a lot of people who take it super seriously too.

You can play it by yourself or with others, though expect the customary griefing if you decide to share a world with other players. And a lot of griefing, too — Ark has a looot of no lifers.

Just absolutely do not play it on Switch, even if the dev team has patched it. Also, absolutely do not get your hopes up too high for the sequel, as this is a developer who is known to, frankly, take the piss out of their fans.

 

16. DayZ

Platform: PC, PS4, XB1

Where would survival games be without DayZ? Spun off from one of the most important mods ever, DayZ pretty much wrote the bible for the whole genre.

However,  DayZ isn’t going to be for everyone.

In fact, whether it’s down to the long stretches of nothingness and a performance that still isn’t quite where it should be, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be completely underwhelmed by its first few hours.

Stick with it (and also grab a few friends) and DayZ begins to slowly flourish, however. DayZ as a whole is something of a slow game with human encounters being few and far between, as well as there being a likelihood that they may just kill you outright. And then they might eat you. And start weirdly laughing.

Just be prepared for some issues and don’t expect too much of it and you may have a whale of a time — if you don’t get fatally dehydrated within minutes, that is. Maybe stick to PC, though, as the console versions of this are still utter arse.

 

15. Rust

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

If you’re at all sensitive, don’t play Rust. If you are easily frustrated, don’t play Rust. If you’re at all a good person, don’t play this game.

Facepunch’s notoriously toxic post-apocalyptic survival game is built around griefing other players just as much as it is about surviving itself, though if you are able to find food and water pretty steadily, your main concern is the awfulness of other people. It’s about as unwelcoming to new players as these games can get.

However, if you’re lucky to find other players who don’t want to immediately kill you despite you only having a rock, Rust becomes a whole lot of fun. Clans are part of the long-term gameplay of Rust, so you’ll want to find some allies as soon as you can, though you can always hop into solo only servers.

Over time, it’s morphed into more of a PVP survival game than straight survival with you having to protect your hoards of loot from a server filled with very aggressive players. If your base gets wiped out, that’s you pretty much done. Until the next wipe. And then the next one. And oop, you’ve been fired from your real life job and your wife left you and you’ve started a digital war with the entirety of Russia.

But hey, at least you got a box of sulfur, right?

 

14. No Man’s Sky

Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, Switch

Yes, it wasn’t the game we thought it would be after that frankly now obviously over-promising first trailer and yes, it’s crazy that it’s finally become that years since release, but No Man’s Sky’s first few wonderful hours are ones we wish we could bottle and keep forever.

No Man’s Sky really nails the wonder of exploration in survival, certainly more so than Starfield when it tried the same trick. Once you finally manage to lift off again, it becomes more of an exploration game as you explore the grand expanses of space before circling back to task you with building your own home. The survival elements here are fairly straightforward, but the discoveries of things like ancient languages and all manner of cursed animals is what will keep you hooked.

It’s not a perfect game or one that really quite justified its frankly insane hype, but with constant huge free content updates that at this point feel like HelloGames are on some kind of redemption heroin, No Man’s Sky is now the game it should have been.

Ironically, No Man’s Sky may have just survived itself.

 

13. Palworld

Platform(s): PC,Xbox Series

Look, let’s just come out and say it: Palworld owes a Kanto-load of inspiration to Pokemon. There’s just no getting around how heavily Pocketpair were inspired by the legendary IP, almost to the point where you feel that Nintendo are cooking up a cease and desist as we speak.

However, for our money, Palworld does way, way more than enough to separate it from the Charizard factory by basically letting you enslave pals. Hey, if Ash Ketchum ruled with a slightly stronger iron fist then maybe it wouldn’t have taken him so long to actually win something.

In Palworld, you’re dropped into a giant open world either alone or with friends, and must catch the trademark-bending pals in order to take on an evil syndicate, lead a quiet farm life, or start up the kind of factory line that would even make Amazon wince.

There’s a lot to figure out in Palworld beneath the cutesy graphics, and while it sometimes just cooks a little too hard and its design is a bit messy in places, there’s no denying that Palworld does something that Pokemon hasn’t in many years: innovate.

Oh watch out he’s got a glock!

 

12. Green Hell

Platform: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Green Hell has been compared considerably to The Forest in the past, and while it’s not quite as essential as that game, Green Hell still offers plenty of brand new ideas that epitomise survival.

Though they both have a familiar mood and feel, it’s Green Hell that is the more hardcore experience and one that will teach you how to play it with some incredibly harsh lessons.

Stranded in the unwelcoming Amazon rainforest, you must scrape by however you can, though death is never far away. Whether it’s because of a rattlesnake bite or eating a goddamn leaf, Green Hell makes no bones about how unforgiving it is. There’s a lot that will annoy you in Green Hell, but your perseverance will be rewarded.

After launching out of Early Access, Green Hell can certainly claim that it has one of the most compelling story modes of any survival game. It’s still a bit underrated, so make sure you check it out on sale.

 

11. This War of Mine

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS

Whether it’s boots on the ground, rockets in the air, or horses in your face, we always see war games. What we don’t see, however, is what happens to the innocents caught in the fallout.

This War of Mine shines a light on that in a way that’s uncompromising and utterly haunting. Most of the other games on this list are meaningless by comparison to 11 bits studios’ widely beloved gem.

In the midst of a warzone, you must do everything you can to survive, including making plenty of tough decisions — you won’t forget the first time you encounter the old couple. Over time, more and more people join you at your safehouse, which can change the dynamics dramatically. Some are friendly, some are abrasive, but they’re all just trying to survive.

If you want to turn the stakes up to eleven, its The Little Ones DLC brings children into the mix and all the stresses that come with them, and no you can’t just give them an iPad. God help us all.

 

10.Valheim

Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series

It could be argued that Valheim isn’t really much of a survival game, as there aren’t any hunger and thirst meters to keep track of and death never feels that punishing. However, when you’re dropped onto a gigantic map with barely anything to your name, you’ll quickly see why many recognise it as one of the best survival games because of what it changes.

While stepping back from the classic survival mechanics, Valheim instead looks at other areas of the genre that make it so inviting, namely building yourself up to be an all-encountering demigod.

From the game’s almost tranquil opening hours up until you’ve basically built your own Minas Tirith, Valheim is a game that’s not only about empowering the player to slay Odin’s ancient rivals, but also about letting them carve their own path.

Valheim doesn’t hold your hand, but thanks to the support for up to ten players, at least a few of your friends can carry you through your first encounter of many in this distinctly beautiful world.

 

9. Don’t Starve

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS, Android,

Compared to most of these other survival games, Don’t Starve is, well, it’s kind of adorable.

There are no penises, zero sad people teabagging your corpse, and a welcome lack of jank. It’s quite frankly refreshing, but it’s actually one of the oldest entries on this list as Klei have been steadily supporting it with tweaks and new DLC ever since it launched.

It’s also tough as nails.

You’re transported to an island full of things that want to make you dead — stop me if this is sounding familiar. However, Don’t Starve distinguishes itself thanks to a misleadingly wholesome aesthetic and a steep learning curve.

Whether alone or with friends in the Together spin-off, Don’t Starve is a simple joy and probably one of the best entry points if you want to find out what the genre is all about.

 

8. Terraria

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Vita, 3DS, Switch, Stadia, Wii U, iOS, Android

It’s been pretty difficult to separate Minecraft and Terraria in the minds of some players over the years with the latter not being quite as popular but still a rousing success all the same. They aren’t a million miles apart in terms of their core mechanics, but Terraria’s 16-bit 2D world may be enough to win over retro gamers.

It looks every inch like the Nintendo classic.

Terraria emphasises combat more so than its closest cousin as well, helping it to feel even more like a doff of the cap of games gone by. There’s not quite so much a focus on food and water as other games on this list, either, so it’s less about the micro-management and more about the adventure with Terraria.

If you’ve yet to play it, you have no excuses — it’s on pretty much every platform going. It was even on Stadia, which failed the survival game of life very, very hard.

 

7. Darkwood

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

You want a more hardcore version of Don’t Starve, a survival game that’s far more terrifying than its lo-fi visuals may suggest? Then you should absolutely check out Darkwood: one of the most unsettling and constantly tense games of its ilk thanks to some superb audio design.

Ugh, the dog. The damn dog.

The goal is simple: survive. While that is the point of all the survival games we’ve compiled here, Darkwood doesn’t ask you to go up against teenagers with a penchant for teabagging. Instead, you must roam a forest by day to scavenge, and hunker down for the night and escape all the things that go bump in it.

Darkwood features a top-down perspective, which is somehow even more panic-inducing, and absolutely zero hand holding throughout. It’s a bewildering ride that wants to make you feel like you’re alone in a forest where everything has gone extremely, exceptionally wrong.

Best of luck.

 

6. Minecraft

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Vita, 3DS, Switch, Wii U, iOS, Android

Forget about the weird monuments to  and bed wars, whatever in the Catholic childhood that is, for a second and you will find that, at its core, Minecraft is a survival game — a lot of its peers on this list owe a debt of gratitude to Mojang’s giant.

If you’ve been playing Minecraft for years, you no doubt remember how tough its early goings were with the creepers a-creeping and resources a relative rarity, though it’s not honestly much of a challenge to survive in these days.

Want to change that? There is a more hardcore version available with permadeath that will actually add a good chunk of danger to every decision. And wow, looks like we gotta do some Minecraft playthroughs soon, huh?

Minecraft has gone beyond being a simple survival game at this point to something different entirely, meaning it’s had more than its fair share of similarly blocky imitators. There can only be one, though, so if you’ve somehow never played Minecraft, you really ought to give it a go.

 

5. RimWorld

Platform(s): PC

One of the most pioneering games of the last decade, calling RimWorld “just” a survival game doesn’t really do it justice. It’s like the Baldur’s Gate 3 of survival games mixed with The Sims mixed with Stardew Valley mixed with the depravity of the human mind. Or you could just make lots of very nice hats.

While there are definitely survival elements to it, this Dwarf Fortress inspired monolith offers much more, the hugely impressive depth allowing you to craft many stories of your own. Want to turn your civilisation into part-cyborg pirates in the slave trade? Knock yourself out.

Things start off pretty straightforward: help three colonists to survive. With some patience (and plenty of harsh lessons learned), you will be able to cultivate a world in your own image. While the game may certainly look a little basic, Football Manager OGs will probably treat this as their catnip,

With some of the most robust mod support of any game on Steam and an almost limitless level of role-playing, expect RimWorld to stick around for years and years to come.

 

4. Subnautica

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Compared to most of the games on this list, Subnautica is positively vibrant.

Gone are the muted colours and destitution, replaced by a life under the sea. If you want a break from the grime of the post-apocalypse, Subnautica is the perfect substitute.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t pose a challenge — it is a survival game after all. And one that will make you genuinely scared to look down the next time you take a paddle out in the ocean.

After your spaceship crash lands on an alien planet, you have to eke out an existence by balancing your basic human needs, the allure of exploration, and a need to make your way home. The first time you get out of your escape pod and gaze out at the giant, hulking wreck is like the survival game equivalent of seeing Limgrave for the first time in Elden Ring.

And the deeper you go down in the sea in Subnautica, the deeper the nightmares become — Lovecraft would be proud of the creations lurking beneath.

 

3. Project Zomboid

Platform(s): PC

There sure are a lot of zombies when it comes to survival games, a tradition which Project Zomboid continues. However, Project Zomboid pioneers like few others of its peers. A single bite or even scratch can be deadly here, and thanks to the game’s persistent world, your new character might even have to deal with your old reanimated corpse.

Marketed as hardcore survival simulator, the billing certainly fits. You will constantly be up against the wall, never feeling especially safe or with much of a chance. Project Zomboid isn’t just a game — it’s an obligation.

Just like many of those we’ve already mentioned, Project Zomboid is still in Early Access limbo and probably will be until the sun finally gives in, but it’s making all the right moves nevertheless.

Project Zomboid has a few understandable blemishes here and there thanks to its small team and it may not be the most advanced looking game either, but make no mistake: there’s a lot of unforgettable stories you can craft here.

Like that time I overcooked a shrimp and completely ruined a 50-hour save. Oh, Zomboid.

 

2. The Long Dark

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

From one rock hard survival game to another, The Long Dark’s big bad isn’t a monster, nor is it other players. It’s the elements (and the occasional bear).

The Long Dark can be experienced in one of two ways: as an out and out survival simulator, or as a narrative-based adventure. The former is what it made its name upon, but don’t sleep on Wintermute. It carries all of the same punishing mechanics while also being wrapped up in a compelling story.

Compared to other fare, The Long Dark may be slightly on the slow side for some, though there’s nothing quite as thrilling as dragging your starving ass across the Canadian wilderness in search of pork and beans. The desperate struggle to actually survive isn’t replicated as well in any other game in the genre.

It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but The Long Dark’s art style may also be a huge selling point. Many a night will go by with you simply staring up at the moon and finding an odd kind of peace, that’s then completely broken by a wolf gnawing at your toes.

 

1. The Forest

Platform(s): PC, PS4

No game has ever made the monotony of chopping down trees feel so compelling. The thud of your axe and the consequent falling of trees means that although you may be doing a lot of it to try to survive against freakish enemies after your plane crashes, you will never tire of it.

An Early Access graduate that was fully released in a relatively short amount of time, The Forest has lots going for it that its contemporaries simply don’t.

You must survive, but you also have to find your captive son in a story that’s actually worth investing your time into. Sure, it’s one of those games where you have to watch several lore videos to fully grasp, but The Forest’s world-building is hard to match.

The only reason not to play The Forest for some might come down to its lack of PVP, but the chances of nonsense erupting is always pretty high thanks to how emergent and immersive this cursed island is.

This is the game you want to check out if you want survival in its tightest — and quite possibly best — form. And while it’s not quite as good and well-rounded, Sons of the Forest is a more than worth follow-up with an absolute bevy of cave-dwelling freakazoids to try and baptise while you try and keep your new wife happy. Wives.

READ NEXT: 10 Biggest Xbox Mistakes of All Time (So Far)

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.