The best Survival games challenge players to survive in harsh and unforgiving environments. These games typically require players to gather resources, build shelter, and craft tools and weapons to stay alive. Below, we’ve gathered the 15 best survival games, some you can play alone and others you can play with friends. We’ve also ranked them for your convenience.
Top survival games, ranked
15 – Sons of the Forest (2023)
An indie game starts our list, Sons of the Forest is a sequel to The Forest and takes place in an eerie forest of supernatural activity. As you build structures, you’ll meet companions, from a dunce that breaks everything to a four-armed woman. You’ll also be hunted by cannibals who really want to wear your skin. You’ve got to manage resources while you run around the world and find tools to escape. I didn’t like it because there wasn’t much to say about the story, but a lot of people definitely loved it.
14 – Valheim (2021)
Valheim is a procedurally generated open-world survival and exploration game set in a world inspired by Norse mythology. Players have to scavenge for resources, build shelter, and craft weapons and armor in order to survive. There are also really nice nods to the mythology, including big monsters that will spawn as you go through the game.
The best part of the game is how much control you get over the buildings you make. Instead of being set in the way they look, you are able to design it down to where each wall goes. The game is pretty fun and isn’t too graphically intensive if the others are too demanding on your PC.
Related: 15 Best PC Games To Play in 2023
13 – Ark: Survival Evolved (2017)
I am not a fan of Ark: Survival Evolved but it has a really dedicated community that swears by it. Ark: Survival Evolved is a survival game set on a mysterious island inhabited by dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. Players need to scavenge for resources, build shelter, and survive on this island. There is both PvP and PvE, but most people like the freedom they get to do what they want in the game.
The reason I don’t like it is because the animation and models are pretty basic. It’s not a good-looking game in my opinion, but it’s well-loved, so it needs to be here.
12 – No Man’s Sky (2016)
No Man’s Sky takes place in a vast universe and is a procedurally generated open-world survival-adventure game. The game features many planets, stars, and other things that have been procedurally generated. The new updates have gotten it to the point where it can do well against games like Star Citizen, but it’s not more than just a space survival game.
No Man’s Sky is a lot like Starfield, but it doesn’t cut out the boring parts. You’ll find yourself having to wait through the whole landing process, flying through space, and gathering stuff like fuel for your engines. In all honesty, I think Starfield does all this stuff better and it has a great story.
Related: 14 Best Bethesda Games
11 – Project Zomboid (2013)
Too many people slept on Project Zomboid but it’s a fun game. It’s basically a sandbox survival horror game set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. You need to survive by building a nice base somewhere in town, and keeping on the move so you don’t get overrun by the zombie hordes. You have to keep yourself healthy because dehydration, hunger, and getting wounds can be a big issue. If you get bitten once, that’s it, might as well say goodbye to everyone. It’s a really fun game to play and is easy to learn.
10 – Conan Exiles (2017)
Conan Exiles is a survival sandbox game set in the world of Conan the Barbarian. You play as someone who was crucified, but Conan saves you and lets you try and survive in this horrific desert. You can find places to set up your base, and even fight big monsters, but the best part of the game is making a fortress full of thralls. It’s a great game to get into, and you won’t find yourself bored anytime soon.
9 – RimWorld (2018)
RimWorld is one of the most successful Dwarf Fortress and Banished clones. RimWorld is a story generator game where players manage a colony of survivors on a remote planet they’ve crash-landed on. Instead of having direct control of your survivors, you give them tasks to accomplish. The story generator decides when you get enemies, more followers, and everything else.
It’s at its most fun when you’ve made a small base and are trying to expand but need to fight against raids, diseases, and natural disasters.
8 – Stranded Deep (2015)
Stranded Deep is my white whale, I just could not get a good first base going before dying. It’s set in an ocean after a plane crash, where the player is a rich person who somehow knows everything about survival. You have to scavenge for resources, build shelter, and craft tools and weapons before you can start trying to rebuild a plane to escape.
There are sharks, crocodiles, and poisonous plants among other things trying to keep you from escaping. Like many other games on this list, there are monsters you need to kill but they’re more believable. The ending is subpar so don’t expect a good reward for all your hard work.
7 – DayZ (2013)
DayZ is probably the most realistic game on this list. There are zombies, but your biggest enemy is other players. Players in DayZ are as unhinged as you’d expect people to be. You’ll find more hostile players than you’ll find friendly ones, and I’ve heard some awful stories of gameplay.
My experience has been that I’m not worth the effort of talking to because I get shot dead pretty quickly by other players. This is classic survival, build a shelter, manage your health, and try to survive.
6 – Subnautica (2018)
Subnautica is an open-world survival-adventure game set on an alien ocean planet. This has a huge fanbase, and it’s too hard for me but I love the TikTok videos. Players need to explore the ocean, gather resources, and build underwater vehicles and bases to survive. The monsters you’ll see are straight out of HP Lovecraft’s books, and they do them justice. There are also other creatures in the ocean, but the main objective is more than just survival. The objective is really to make it all inhabitable.
Related: 15 scariest Fortnite skins
5 – Medieval Dynasty (2021)
Medieval Dynasty is a survival sandbox game set in medieval Europe. Your father and mother are dead, and so you as the player need to find your uncle and start a new life. You build a whole land, recruit villagers, defend them, and pay taxes. You start by scavenging for resources and building slowly, but eventually, you’ll find your town rivals any others in the area. The game rewards you for going above and beyond, to the point where small problems become problems and you are now trying to raise a village.
4 – Rust (2013)
Rust is the game you want if you are looking for a game that will punish you for being too friendly. It has buildings, but everything is more of a fortress. Players are out to get each other, and you’ll find yourself getting raided more often than in any other game.
You need to gather resources, craft weapons, and armor, and fight with everything you have because this post-apocalyptic island is home to some tough players.
3 – Terraria (2011)
A lot of people call Terraria the 2D Minecraft, and while that’s a fair accusation, it isn’t all this is. There is a lot of thought that has gone into Terraria’s world, from its lore to its enemies to its different layers and bosses.
Players explore a procedurally generated world, craft items, build structures, and battle enemies in Terraria, a sandbox adventure game. Various biomes in the game contain unique enemies and resources, each with its own unique features. Additionally, Terraria offers a variety of bosses with unique rewards to fight.
2 – Dwarf Fortress (originally 2006, but this is for 2022 release)
The 2022 Steam release of Dwarf Fortress is one of my favorite games. It was a major milestone for the game and was the first time it was released on a major gaming platform. Most people have heard of Dwarf Fortress, but it is dated, so not many people have played it. You manage a group of dwarves and try to make a settlement last as long as possible, gathering more dwarves and fighting the enemies in the world.
You’ll die a lot in this game, but losing is fun, you’ll just try again with what you’ve already learned. The original is made using ASCII, so it relies on your imagination. The Steam release brought in a new graphical user interface and tutorial system making it easier for people to learn and play the game. It fixed multiple bugs and had performance improvements that made it a lot more approachable.
Over 100,000 copies of the game sold in the first week, and many more players keep getting into it. Try it if you haven’t.
1 – Minecraft
Hate all you want, the survival game genre wouldn’t be where it is today without Minecraft. Minecraft puts you into a block world where you can do whatever you want. Plenty of videos have been made on its gameplay, from building in its creative mode to surviving in its regular gameplay to playing through its story (or lack thereof). Notch quit because the fanbase asked too much of him and blamed him for third-party things they were buying (source is the book I recommend below). Before he left, he created one of the best games the video game industry has ever seen.
If you’re not a fan of the game, I recommend reading the book Minecraft, Second Edition: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game That Changed Everything by Daniel Goldberg. It made me see how important the game has been to the industry I love and how crazy it was that Notch even made it.
If you like lists like these, check out more features at PC Invasion.