Ark: Survival Evolved combines hardcore PVP with creature taming to make for an experience like no other in the sandbox survival space. But if you’re tired of loincloths and dinosaurs, here are some games like Ark: Survival Evolved that are worth checking out on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S.
Developer: Grapeshot Games Publisher: Grapeshot Games Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Atlas is made by a Studio Wildcard spin-off team, developers of Ark: Survival Evolved, and was built using the same engine that powers that dino-taming survival sandbox. It trades Ark’s dinos for an assortment of watercraft, from simple rowboats that you can operate solo to massive warships that require a whole crew.
Nautical exploration is the main draw in Atlas. Instead of a single, large land mass, the map is mostly ocean and spotted with hundreds of little islands for you to explore. Since so much of the world is water, that means you’ll need a boat to get around. And when you put real players in a PVP world and give them boats, you get pirates.
The PVP in Atlas is just as cutthroat as Ark’s, and the ocean is full of players scanning the waters for potential raid targets. Sometimes it’s not even about the loot — the naval combat is loads of fun. You can deck out your ship with cannons to fire from afar, ram enemy ships, or even conduct a good old fashioned naval boarding.
Some would describe Atlas as Ark with pirates, which isn’t inaccurate. But there’s no better praise if you loved the open world PVP of Ark: Survival Evolved.
Developer: Facepunch Studios Publisher: Facepunch Studios Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
If you live for hardcore PVP in your survival sandboxes, Rust is the game for you. Players will hunt you down, chase you through the woods, raid you in your sleep, and force you to strip naked in the middle of the freezing wilderness. There’s just something about the game that brings out the worst in people. Maybe it’s the cannibalism.
When you first spawn, you’re as naked as the day you were born (or in a tight-fitting pair of undies if you have nudity off). You must learn to live off the land, gathering wood by banging rocks against trees and tying sticks and stones together to make tools. Eventually, you’ll collect enough materials to build a rudimentary home from wooden planks and stone blocks. With a bit of luck, you could even work your way up to an armored compound.
Just remember: other players want what you have, and they’ll do anything to get it. The strongest among them roam the wilds with AKs, hunting for anyone with a home and a cache of resources. That’s you.
It should be easy for Ark fans to transition to Rust. After all, the general gameplay experience is basically the same, just a lot more toxic.
3. Conan Exiles
Developer: Funcom Publisher: Funcom Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Conan Exiles is a survival sandbox game based in the brutal mythology of the Conan the Barbarian series. You are one of countless exiles cast out into the wastelands to die. You must overcome the odds and learn to thrive in the Exiled Lands.
The Exiled Lands is made up of several distinct biomes, from the arid, sandy dunes of Gandahar to the biting cold tundras in Verkat. Each biome is filled with gorgeous environments that are bursting with personality. And they’re filled with dangers, too — one misstep could put you in the path of a vicious sandstorm or the belly of a sandbeast.
Although much of Conan Exiles revolves around its fast-paced, brutal combat, the game also has a fairly deep base building system, too. Things really come alive when you learn to enslave members of the various humanoid tribes that call the Exiled Lands home. Watching your thralls work the forge or pray to the gods in your name really makes you feel like the master of your own little pocket of Exiled Land.
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S
Grounded is set in the backyard of your typical suburban home that would make for a comically tiny playing ground if it weren’t for the fact that you’ve been shrunk down to the size of a pebble. Now, you (and maybe some friends) have to stay alive in a world where blades of grass stand as tall as trees and ants are the size of tigers.
Just like in Ark, you can do more than fight bugs — you can ride them, too. Those six-legged, pincer-faced jerks are mountable. Imagine charging into battle atop a soldier ant, your mallet made of mint chunks and flower petals raised high. It’s just like riding a velociraptor pet in Ark, just leggier.
Base building is where Grounded really shines, especially when played with friends. You start by planning out your base, laying down a blueprint for construction. Then, it’s time to gather the materials and start putting it all together. There’s no need for mental math, the blueprints do a great job of communicating what you need and how much of it goes where.
Grounded has all the things that made Ark a great game: great base building, amazing co-op multiplayer, and big beasts that you can ride on.
5. The Isle
Developer: Afterthought LLC Publisher: Afterthought LLC Platforms: PC, Mac
The Isle is a survival game where you play a juvenile dinosaur who must hunt and fight to survive until adulthood.
The gameplay is rather simplistic: you choose a species of dinosaur to play as and must stay alive by eating plants (or other dinosaurs), drinking water from rivers, and avoiding your natural predators. Planned updates will allow you to mutate your dinosaur, giving them special skills and physical traits that allow for deeper customization and specialization. Humans will also be implemented in the future, so you’ll be able to choose to play as a tiny human in a world of giant lizards.
There is no traditional compass or map in The Isle. Instead, you must rely on your sense to survive. Sniffing will highlight any footprints, animals, and water sources in a small radius around you. If you’re playing with friends, you can let out a special call to pinpoint where they are or warn one another of an incoming predator.
Although there isn’t much content in The Isle as it’s still in Early Access, the current gameplay loop of foraging, hunting, and sniffing for danger is a lot of fun. The game is only going to get better in the future, with tons of planned content to be released in the coming months and years. The Isle is worth a shot if you thought the dinosaurs were the best part of Ark: Survival Evolved.
Developer: System Era Softworks Publisher: System Era Softworks Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Astroneer is about conquering the solar system, one planet at a time. You play a synthetic created to explore new worlds and help your corporate overlords get every last inch of their natural resources.
This game is mostly about designing and building a base that will allow you to process raw materials at scale. You can do much of the crafting manually, but you’ll want to take advantage of the various buildable tools that will automate the work for you. Each new planet is its own challenge, with different kinds of environments and geography to work with as you first locate mineral sources, then figure out how to get them to your base for processing in a manner that’s efficient.
Astroneer is a bit light on survival mechanics. As a synthetic, all you don’t need food or water, just oxygen, which is readily produced by your oxygenator (so long as it’s hooked up to a stable power source). In order to explore away from your oxygenator, you need to maintain a constant connection to it via tethers that you can drop as you explore these alien planets. Sometimes a change in geography or a bad step through a particularly rocky region will cause you to lose your link to your tether. Fail to restore the connection in time, and your Astroneer will suffocate to death.
This game offers a whole different set of challenges than you’d find in Ark, but those who love base building and thinking up solutions to problems on the fly will find a lot to love in Astroneer.
Developer: Strange Loop Games Publisher: Strange Loop Games Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac
Survival games are typically about an individual battling the elements to stay alive. In ECO, you’re fighting against time and your own greed for the future of mankind.
A meteor is on a collision course with our planet. You must work together with other players to research and develop technologies that will save mankind from impending doom. But can you do it without destroying the environment in the process?
The world in ECO is more than a virtual sandbox; it’s a sprawling simulated ecosystem. Thousands of plants and animals live in a delicate balance with one another, and everything you do has the potential to change the environment permanently.
To put it all into context, the world map is rendered as a voxelated globe that you can rotate and spin, which lets you see how the effects of your actions gradually reshape geography and change regional climates. Mine and log too aggressively and you could send the world’s ecosystem on an unstoppable downward spiral toward desertification.
Ark: Survival Evolved is often most fun when you’re just with your friends working together toward a common goal. In ECO, your common goal is the future of mankind.
Developer: Gamepires Publisher: Gamepires Platforms: PC
You’ve been selected to participate in SCUM, a brutal reality show where the world’s hardest criminals are thrown onto an island in a last man standing fight for survival. And as if it isn’t bad enough that you’re stuck there with cutthroat killers, the showrunners have also thrown mutated animals, mechanical menaces, and the odd military squad into the mix.
You are what you eat in SCUM thanks to the unique metabolism system. There’s a menu that tracks your character’s health down to the amount of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals currently in your body. This leads to some interesting effects: go overboard with the snacks and you’ll gain weight, reducing overall stamina and speed.
That attention to detail also carries over to the game’s combat. Wind and gravity affect the trajectory of your projectiles, so you’ll have to lead far away targets to have any hope of hitting them and might have to have a PHD in physics to be any good at the game. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.
SCUM has the hardcore PVP and addictive base building any Ark: Survival Evolved player craves but with a bit of extra depth in its combat and food & drink survival mechanics.
9. Citadel: Forged with Fire
Developer: Blue Isle Studios Publisher: Blue Isle Studios Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Survival sandboxes are typically rooted in gritty, realistic settings (e.g. abandoned suburbs or prehistoric Earth), but Citadel: Forged with Fire is a sandbox that lets you play with magic.
The complex base building mechanic allows players to create some incredible structures inspired by fantasy architecture, from lonely, towering wizard towers to imposing mountain fortresses. There are tons of side activities, too, from gardening and farming to the Broomstick League, which is a crazy combination of Quidditch and Rocket League.
Players can create their own spells using the game’s deep spellcrafting system. Collect and combine from up to six different magical essences to create a spell, then infuse it in an item to be able to use it in battle. The essences you used determine the type and strength of spell the process produces. It’s a fun little system that allows you to craft and carry different loadouts for any situation, which is vital to survive in the game’s PvP.
The PVP is loads of fun, as small skirmishes can quickly devolve into absolute chaos as players unleash all sorts of spells across the battlefield. There’s tons of flexibility with builds, too, despite the lack of a class system. Some players will charge headfirst into the fray with their heavy armor and fire-infused maces, while others are content to take potshots from afar.
Even though there aren’t food or drink survival bars to manage, the intense PVP, deep base building, and animal taming makes it an online sandbox experience that feels a lot like Ark: Survival Evolved.
Developer: PC, PS4, Xbox One Publisher: Bohemia Interactive Platforms: Bohemia Interactive
DayZ is the open world survival sandbox game that started it all, inspiring games like Ark and countless others. Players spawn in the fictional country of Chernarus after a mysterious illness has turned its people into zombies. Your only goal is to stay alive for as long as you can. That means scavenging for food and drink, finding shelter when it rains, and gathering medicine for when you get sick.
You’re not alone on Chernarus. The cities and towns of Chernarus are overrun with the Infected. There are other survivors, too, but they’re a lot harder to predict. Some will offer a bandage or food when you need it, but most are just looking for an opportunity to shoot you so they can get their hands on your stuff.
DayZ might not have everything that makes Ark such a beloved game, but what it does have is a laser focus on survival of the individual. Unlike in Ark, that sense of desperation and danger doesn’t disappear after dozens of hours of play. You don’t get to build a comfortable home with a stable of dinosaur pets to keep you safe from harm. Death can come at any moment, whether by zombie bite or a sniper bullet to the cranium.
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