Most games forgo the need to make you perform the basic necessities we are bound to in real life. Things like eating, drinking, and sleeping are usually pushed aside to focus on giving you an action-packed, streamlined, and fun experience. However, the survival genre makes all of those menial tasks the focus, and even manages to make them all incredibly fun and addicting. The genre has been booming over the course of the PS4’s lifecycle, with many amazing games that began on PC finally opening up to console players.
There are so many ways developers have put new spins on the survival genre. Whether it be setting, mechanics, or perspective, there are a ton of different flavors of survival games to suit whatever tastes you have. At the same time, a lot of games were rushed out in an attempt to capitalize on the new craze and are not worth investing your time or money into. It can be hard to tell the games that will give you hours of enjoyment from the ones that will feel like a total slog, so we’ve collected all the best survival games you can play right now on the PS4.
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Unlike a lot of other survival games, The Forest is a game that actually has a story and ending. That is, if you care to follow it. You’re free to spend as much time ignoring the plot, as minimal as it is, if you just want to enjoy the mechanics of it. You play as a survivor of a plane crash on a mysterious island that you quickly discover isn’t quite as uninhabited as you first thought. Packs of cannibals roam around and will dynamically change their behaviors based on how you treat them. If you immediately attack, which no one would blame you for when you spot a blood-covered man with a club made out of bones creep out of the shadows, then they will in turn be faster to attack you on sight.
The island also has a massive underground network of caves, tunnels, and caverns that you can explore. This is where you will find some of the game’s more permanent upgrades that will let you go farther and farther down. But, be warned that these caves hide some downright terrifying creatures down there that can make your spelunking feel almost like a horror game. Bring some friends along for co-op to help ease the tension, build up a base together, and explore the island. There are plenty of secrets to uncover here, plus an ending to seek out whenever you’re ready to move on.
Most survival games are hard, but This War of Mine is absolutely relentless. Not only are you going to struggle to keep your little crew of survivors in even modest shape, but if you want any hope of doing so you’ll need to start making a lot of morally questionable, or downright evil, choices. Will you steal food from a helpless old couple to feed your rag-tag group of survivors knowing they can’t stop you, but also condemning them to death? This game is full of these choices, and no matter what you’ll never feel like you’re in control. Everything is precious, hard to come by, and all too easy to lose.
Unlike the majority of survival games, you don’t control just one character in This War of Mine. You are in charge of a small group of survivors, each with their own needs and stats you need to pay attention to. This adds a bit more management to the game, deciding who will do things like cook or work on your base and who you will take out to go look for supplies. Morale is just as dangerous as starvation, cold, and other people in your war-torn city. This is a bleak and sobering, yet satisfying, take on the survival genre you won’t find anywhere else.
Keeping yourself protected from the elements is a fairly common mechanic in survival games. Getting too hot or cold usually comes with debuffs and can eventually deal damage, but The Long Dark makes the climate your primary concern. Set in the deep winter of Vancouver, you take on the role of Will, a pilot who was flying his ex-wife to a mysterious location when the plane goes down. Waking up alone, you must struggle to find warmth, shelter, and food and to complete objectives to hopefully find your ex-wife alive. This game doesn’t force you to micromanage every little thing, though. You will come across abandoned buildings to take shelter in and loot, and the list of craftable items is a tight 15.
Besides the story mode that spans five complete episodes, you can also dive into the sandbox mode to just enjoy the solitude of trying to survive in the tundra. You will spawn in a random area in one of the zones from the story mode, each with different difficulty levels attached to them, but are free to go anywhere in the surprisingly large environment. That is if you can live long enough to get there of course. You’ll need to compete with your hunger, thirst, wild animals, and, of course, mother nature herself.
Why did it take so long for someone to make a survival game set underwater? That idea alone is brilliant enough, but Subnautica takes it a step further and places you in the ocean of an alien world. Considering how alien things in our own oceans look, you can only imagine what lurks in the deep waters of an alien ocean. Even if you don’t have a fear of the ocean, or the massive creatures that may or may not be down there, this game will still make you hesitate to swim down that trench when you hear an unrecognizable bellow ripple through the waters. That only makes upgrading and improving your character feel more empowering once you are able to confidently explore those depths.
Like The Forest, Subnautica has a story that will lead you along to a natural conclusion. If you follow the critical path, the game will give you a nice curve of objectives to find, gather, and craft to let you go farther and deeper in the alien waters. Things like expanding your base, oxygen supply, how deep you can dive, and even extra vehicles are your main ways of progress. You will naturally need to still satisfy hunger and thirst, but they are on fairly generous timers. The game comes with the normal survival mode; freedom mode, where you don’t need food or water; hardcore, which resets your game if you die; and creative, where you can’t die at all.
Don’t Starve Together is a pretty old game, but thanks to the gothic, almost Tim Burton-esque art style, it holds up very well. This is a mixture of a survival game with rogue-lite elements to keep things fresh. You spawn on a random map with the only real goal of surviving by doing the usual gathering of materials, crafting, building a base, and fending off monsters. There is a timer going at all times that cycles day and night, but also through seasons. You will start in the warmer months to give you time to prepare for winter when resources will become scarce. It will take some time to learn, but eventually you will start to understand how to use the systems effectively.
There is so much character tucked into this cozy little game. You will come across settlements of pig creatures, your character speaks in musical squawks, and there are even trees that fight back when you attempt to chop them down. In terms of goals, aside from creating a base that can sustain you through all seasons, there are new characters to unlock and tons of secrets in the world to find. Also, thanks to an updated version of the game, you can play in co-op for more fun.
Throwing all sense of realism out the window, Ark: Survival Evolved is as fun to play as it sounds on paper. This game is a full-on multiplayer experience where one minute you’ll be whacking a dinosaur with a club and the next shooting a railgun at giant robot mechs. Everyone starts out the same, with nothing on the beach of an island, and needs to work up from there. The multiplayer component is meant to help you overcome the initial hurdles of building a base, leveling up, and getting some basic supplies. Of course, the other people you come across may not be friendly.
There’s a lot unique about Ark: Survival Evolved that other survival games don’t do. There’s obviously the inclusion of both dinosaurs and sci-fi technologies, but those are more than just set dressings or enemies. There’s a robust taming, training, breeding, and mounting system to enjoy here. If you’ve ever wanted to live out your childhood fantasy of riding a T-Rex-type monster, or even a massive gorilla, no other survival game has as many awesome giant monsters to mount up on as this one.
Don’t be put off by the name here if you’re not a fan of anything related to Conan. Conan Exiles is as loose of an adaptation of that property’s world as could be. It is another multiplayer-focused game like Ark, only set in a strict medieval world of massive swords and castles. You will start out as one of thousands of people cast out into the harsh desert world as an exile. From here, you know what to do: Gather resources, build a home, craft tools, weapons, hunt, and grow your own crops to get stronger. Teaming up with other players will eventually become necessary to fend off both the aggressive predators as well as demons and other mythical monsters. And, of course, enemy player factions.
Building is one of Conan Exiles’ main claims to fame. Using your resources like wood and stone, you can build huge structures if you know how. Building is a bit more realistic than you might be used to, though, with a full-on load system that can cause your building to collapse if the foundation is weak, as well as a decay system that forces you to at least visit your base every so often to keep it from vanishing. Reaching the top in the world of Conan Exiles is brutal, and sometimes a little buggy, but a fantastic time with friends.
Stranded Deep is another classic setup for a survival game. You’re a lone survivor of a plane crash who washes up on the shores of a deserted island and just needs to find a way to get back home. This game only recently hit the PS4 but has been in early access on PC since 2015 so has undergone plenty of upgrades and iterations over the years to become a very solid survival sim. This game lets you explore the island, but also puts just as much focus on using the resources of the ocean to survive, making it a light mix of a typical survival game and Subnautica. The island mainly consists of natural resources you’ll need, but venturing out into the water can yield useful cargo from other crashed planes and sunken ships.
Using the game’s watch, you will keep track of all your vital information including hunger, thirst, injuries, and sickness. One area you need to pay attention to that no other game includes is your sun exposure. If you are exposed to the sun for too long, you can get sunstroke, which causes your thirst meter to increase at a much faster rate. There are your usual suspects of craftable tools, weapons, and items, and a full cooking and building system. There are also a handful of bosses to take on, and an ending if you seek it out.
We could only go so long without including a zombie survival game on this list, and in that specific genre, 7 Days to Die is a clear standout. If you somehow missed out on this survival hit, here are the basics. The world has become infested with zombies after a third world war, and you take on the role of a survivor who must, as usual, build yourself up to survive. Despite the name, the game certainly doesn’t end after seven days; rather, that timer is used to indicate that every seventh day, or night rather, a blood moon will appear. When this happens, a massive horde of zombies will swarm on your location to attack. If you’re not ready for the siege, there’s no chance of survival.
Even though the basic combat is, well, basic, the number of systems, items, and ways to customize almost everything is what makes 7 Days to Die so addicting. You can dig giant tunnels, build towering monoliths surrounded by spikes, build and repair guns, tear down entire buildings, and so much more. It is very close to Minecraft levels of creativity, though with zombies that actually pose a threat. Speaking of the zombies, there are also multiple types that appear as the days go on, getting progressively stronger. Team up with some friends, design a base, and see how many days you can survive.
Even though it kind of skirts the line, there’s no way we couldn’t at least mention Minecraft. While it didn’t initially have many real survival elements, it has since added things like a hardcore mode and food meter. Between that and the obvious crafting and building elements, it is very much on the easier side but still a survival game. That makes it perfect for its target audience — kids, of course — but also for anyone who is just getting interested in the survival genre or is intimidated by the harsh learning curve and overwhelming systems of the more complex games on this list. The tone and pace are very relaxing, and the game is quite forgiving.
In terms of things to actually do in Minecraft as a survival game, there’s really no limit. You can just try and live as long as possible, working your way up to essentially fully automated farms, or attempt to beat the final boss of the game. You can set your own goals, or go after some of the more difficult challenges in the game like summoning The Wither. Honestly, though, odds are we don’t need to sell you on why Minecraft is so great. We just had to pay respect to one of the most classic survival titles out there.
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