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The best survival games of all time

Most of us wouldn’t want to end up on a deserted island or try to scavenge for food in a real zombie apocalypse. Fortunately, you can still get your heart racing and your blood pumping without having to actually fight off the undead or leave the comfort of your home. 

The survival genre has been around for a long time, and there’s a lot of great (and not so great) games to sift through. Check out the bests ones below. 

Further reading

Ark: Survival Evolved

When it comes to survival, few have made the impact that Studio Wildcard has since Ark: Survival Evolved’s first early access release in June 2015. Now, nearly five years later, the game has expanded and grown, offering a ton of content with DLCs and expansion packs. If you’re a fan of dinosaurs and fantasy creatures, Ark: Survival Evolved offers one of the best building systems in any survival game to date — and that isn’t even considering the plethora of mod content that the community has created. Ark: Survival Evolved is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC via Steam, and even Nintendo Switch.


Part survival game, part colony management sim, Rimworld has been a staple of the survival game community for years now. Inspired by Dwarf Fortress, Rimworld offers players a hardcore survival management combo that throws you in headfirst. Work with your colonists to ensure they’re getting enough food, sleep, and protection, or your colony could fall prey to the harsh, alien worlds that you’re tasked to settle. Though it’s been two years since 1.0 release, Rimworld continues to grow and expand with new updates from developer Ludeon Studios.

No Man’s Sky

When No Man’s Sky initially launched 2016, developer Hello Games faced one of the harshest backlashes any developer has ever seen. Fast forward almost four years, though, and No Man’s Sky has been polished and expanded to offer one of the best open-world survival games for sci-fi fans. Plus, Hello Games continues to add additional content to the game, further polishing the systems that the team has put into place. Full multiplayer, large-scale galaxies, and an entirely procedurally generated universe are just a few of the many features fans of survival games will find in No Man’s Sky.


Once heralded as the king of early access games, DayZ has seen quite a storied timeline. Despite the problems that it encountered over the years, players continue to flock to DayZ and its more realistic, hardcore approach to survival. With heavy roots in the ArmA series, DayZ always offered a much more hardcore experience for those longing for more from the survival genre. Just don’t expect anyone to hold your hand here, as most players are just as likely to handcuff you and leave you for the zombies wandering the streets of an eastern European countryside that makes up most of DayZ’s map.


You can’t make a list of survival games and not include Minecraft. While Minecraft had a humble beginning, the game quickly grew to be one of the most recognized titles in the gaming industry and spawned a new genre of similar games like Terraria. Years later, the survival mechanics within Minecraft still ring true. Players must eat, build shelter, and explore the rest of a massive world full of secrets and surprises, all while battling dangerous creatures, or even other players. Despite the success of the series and its spinoffs, the basic survival formula remains a go-to.

Don’t Starve

Looking for a challenge? Don’t Starve is an uncompromising wilderness survival experience. Grab your torch and make your way through a world filled with danger and surprises. Creatures roam the world in droves, threatening your life with every step that they take. Gather resources, build up your camp, and work hard to stay alive as long as you can. Don’t Starve has been a staple of the survival game genre for years. You can even get a little help in Don’t Starve Together, a stand-alone co-op-based game that offers the same challenges but with the added benefit (or detriment) of bringing your friends into the mix.

This War of Mine

Despite pushing six years old, 11 bit Studios’ survival management game, This War of Mine continues to pull at our heartstrings. Filled with excellent writing, and gut-wrenching twists, This War of Mine puts players in control of a group of civilians caught in the middle of a war. You’ll have to make tough choices as you scavenge for food, upgrade your base, and deal with the constant dangers that come from all around as you explore a war-torn nation. If you’re looking for a more shelter-like survival game that still packs a punch, then This War of Mine deserves to be added to your library.

The Forest

With a sequel already in the works, Endnight Games’ first-person survival game, The Forest, continues to delight. Set on an island filled with cannibal mutants, The Forest offers an intriguing and twisting story underneath all of its survival mechanics. Food, water, and shelter are all concerns at the forefront of your mind when playing The Forest, and the constant danger that comes from the trees around you will keep you on edge as you dig deeper into the mystery surrounding the game’s protagonist. Despite some rough years in early access, The Forest has come out on top as one of the best survival games available, and many are already looking forward to diving into the game’s sequel when Endnight Games releases it.

7 Days to Die

Creating an engrossing and convincing zombie combat survival game is a challenge, especially trying to find a balance between providing players with all the exposition they need and keeping things moving along.

7 Days to Die manages it well and has established itself as one of the best zombie combat survival games on the market. Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, players explore and scavenge while fighting off hordes of zombies. The giant voxel-based game offers a world ready to conquer, but you’ll need to defend your spoils.  7 Days to Die includes mechanics from the FPS, tower defense, survival horror, and role-play; it’s a winning romp for gamers craving hundreds, or even thousands, of captivating play hours.



While Subnautica had a humble start as an early access title, it quickly rose to extreme popularity. A riveting underwater survival adventure, players start with a crash into a water-based planet. You’re in survival mode from the start, building tech, a subaquatic base, and submarines just to stay alive. Once you create your home base, you’ll start traveling out and exploring the world and its creatures. While survival games are popular enough, Subnautica brought a unique flair with new challenges and a wholly original world.


Editors' Recommendations

Joshua Hawkins
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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