Survival games have a unique appeal not found in many other genres. Often open-ended without any predetermined objectives, these titles give you the freedom to explore, craft, and create to your heart’s content. They’re often not the easiest of games either — with death resulting in the loss of items, progress, or your entire save file.
Regardless of what you’re looking for in a survival game, these ten are bound to check something off your list. Whether you’re into crafting fortified shelters, exploring dangerous caverns, or engaging in some competitive PvP, here are the best survival games on PC.
While it may have changed quite a bit over the years, Minecraft is still entirely centered around survival. Watching your hunger and health are the two main keys to staying alive, but you’ll also need to find shelter at night, extract resources from your blocky surroundings, and explore an endless world filled with a variety of dangers.
Multiplayer and continued support from the devs keep things interesting, as there’s always new content being pumped into the iconic game. And in between updates, you can dive into hundreds of gorgeous worlds handcrafted by other players. If you’re looking for a survival game that’ll keep you occupied for years, look no further than Minecraft.
ARK: Survival Evolved
Take your standard survival game formula, mix in a healthy supply of ferocious dinosaurs, and you’re pretty close to the premise of ARK: Survival Evolved. Most of them are hostile — and want nothing more than to turn you into lunch — but resourceful survivors can actually tame them beasts and turn them into an ally.
Hunting and taming an ever-growing list of dinos is the main draw of ARK, but there’s plenty of crafting and multiplayer hijinks to keep things fun once you’ve grown familiar with the standard gameplay loop. It’s arguably one of the most unique survival games on the market, and it’s a perfect fit for any aspiring paleontologist.
Although it carries a whimsical art style, Don’t Starve boasts some serious survival chops. In fact, it’s not uncommon for new players to barely last a few days in its unforgiving world. The “Sanity” resource adds a new layer of difficulty to the game, as you’ll need to keep an eye on your character’s mental health on top of Health and Hunger.
Sanity is impacted by a variety of factors — staying in the dark for too long, getting surrounded by monsters, and even eating gross food all lower your character’s well-being. If it gets too low, deadly Shadow Creatures will appear and the game will take on a shaky, painfully bright appearance. You can make things a bit easier on yourself by picking up Don’t Starve Together — a standalone cooperative version of the game — which retains much of the original’s charm.
With over 500,000 reviews on Steam, Rust is currently sitting with a “Very Positive” rating… and for good reason. Consistently among the most-played games on the service, Rust only seems to get better with age. You’ll attempt to survive in an unforgiving wilderness among dozens of other players — which start off as your predators, but quickly turn into prey as you gain experience and new equipment.
Rust is an unapologetic survival game, and developer Facepunch Studios says it best:
“The only aim in Rust is to survive. Everything wants you to die – the island’s wildlife and other inhabitants, the environment, other survivors. Do whatever it takes to last another night.”
While the groundbreaking survival game was first playable in 2013, it didn’t officially release until five years later. In that time, DayZ blossomed from a glorified ARMA II mod to a full-scale game brimming in places to explore, gear to discover, and hunting, crafting, and building mechanics to master.
Gearing up and fighting against other players is only half the challenge, as DayZ‘s gigantic map is overrun with dangerous zombies. Going solo is an entirely viable option, although brave players should consider teaming up with strangers to thrive in this post-apocalyptic world.
Grounded literally brings a new perspective to the survival genre. Instead of fighting zombies and dinosaurs, the game sees you fighting ants, spiders, and koi fish as your miniaturized character struggles to survive in their own backyard.
Although it’s still in Early Access, Grounded has already found a dedicated following of players — and new content is always just a few weeks away. It doesn’t stray too far from established genre norms, but the premise of playing as an ant-sized human makes it stand out in a crowded market.
There isn’t a bad thing to say about Terraria. Released in 2011, developer ReLogic has continued to update the open-world side-scroller more than a decade after its launch. That means new players jumping in for the first time have literally thousands of hours’ worth of content to explore.
Gorgeous, pixelized graphics make Terraria feel like a game from another era, but its modern crafting and building mechanics make it easy to piece together the homestead (or castle) of your dreams. Adventure is arguably a bigger lure than crafting, as bosses, dangerous biomes, and unique gear litter the 2D world of Terraria.
When it first became playable in 2021, Valheim was a bonafide hit. It quickly climbed the Steam Charts and — while it isn’t hitting those same sky-high numbers — there’s still a lot to love about the indie gem. Quirky graphics, enjoyable combat, and a robust building system all add up to one of the best survival games we’ve seen in years.
Of course, Valheim also has its fair share of bugs to work through. Most titles on this list have been around for years — giving them time to smoothen out some of their rough edges. But if you can look past a few loose ends, Valheim is one of the best games to dive into in 2022.
No Man’s Sky
It didn’t get off to a strong start, but No Man’s Sky has cemented itself as one of the best survival games around. Playing in “Normal Mode” might be a bit easy — and lends itself well to crafting and exploring — but jump into “Survival Mode” and you’ll find an experience that will push you to your limits.
In this mode, you’ll find fewer resources, more dangerous enemies, and death results in the loss of your entire inventory. If that’s not extreme enough for you, consider jumping into “Permadeath Mode,” which wipes all your progress if you die.
Starbound is a bit like a sci-fi version of Terraria. You’re thrown into a 2D world that looks eerily similar to Terraria, although a unique combat system and the ability to explore different planets make Starbound feel like something fresh.
Capturing monsters, crafting powerful new gear, exploring the universe, and modding your game are all core to the Starbound experience. However, everything is made a bit more enjoyable with the addition of friends — which allows for easy “drop-in/drop-out” co-op. And if “Survival Mode” is a bit too challenging, you can always get some practice in “Casual Mode.”
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