Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The best survival games on Nintendo Switch

When it comes to challenging, rewarding experiences, the survival video game genre is at the top of its class, often featuring compelling gameplay, and equally as gripping storytelling. Survival games typically throw you into procedurally generated worlds against deadly creatures and harsh weather, all while your resources deplete over time. Though these kinds of games are exceedingly difficult at times, they’ve attracted a surprisingly wide audience, especially thanks to their high replay value. There’s something deeply satisfying about finding just the right types of materials to keep your character alive — even more so if you manage to outlive an attack against a terrifying group of enemies.

Better yet is the ability to take these kinds of games on the go. With that in mind, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect platform for survival games, allowing you to play on the TV, or in handheld mode whenever you’d like. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t offer as many survival games as the PS4 or PC, but there are still plenty of fantastic options to choose from on the handheld hybrid.

These are the best survival games on Nintendo Switch.

Further reading:

Recommended reading:
Terraria
Terraria
81 %
4.5/5
T
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox 360, Mac, Android, Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows Phone, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia
Genre Platform, Role-playing (RPG), Strategy, Adventure, Indie
Developer Re-Logic, Engine Software, Pipeworks Studio, Codeglue
Publisher Headup Games, 505 Games, 505 Games
Release May 16, 2011
Terraria is sometimes referred to as “2D Minecraft,” and while the two games do have many similarities, the comparison isn’t totally fair. The greatest thing Terraria does is focus on wild creature designs, some of which veer into almost surreal territory, such as a massive floating eyeball or a skeleton serpent. Aside from that, Terraria features compelling gameplay that leans into action, while also allowing you to explore, and gather resources — it’s a survival game after all. Speaking of which, each world is procedurally generated, with surprises around every corner. You’ll want to find and craft the best armor possible to survive against the deadly creatures that await.
Read our full Terraria review
Terraria Official Trailer
Subnautica + Subnautica Below Zero Double Pack
Subnautica + Subnautica Below Zero Double Pack
E10
Platforms PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5
Genre Adventure, Indie
Developer Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment America, Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Release May 14, 2021
This package offers both Subnautica and its sequel Subnautica Below Zero as part of a Double Pack, giving you plenty of content to enjoy on Nintendo Switch. As the name suggests, Subnautica sends you to the depths of the ocean, with the goal of — you guessed it — surviving by exploring and crafting resources. Unlike many other survival games, the story in Subnautica and Below Zero is fascinating, and one of the driving forces that will keep you coming back for more. It’s wild how well these games run on Switch, with admirable performance across both versions. The game kicks off by immediately throwing you into the deep end (literally), with the task of getting back to your water pod, setting the tone for what’s to come. It’s a bit challenging, but if you’re in the market for an exciting underwater adventure, Subnautica and Below Zero are the games for you.
Don't Starve
Don't Starve
76 %
E
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre Simulator, Adventure, Indie
Developer Klei Entertainment
Publisher Klei Entertainment
Release April 23, 2013
Don’t Starve is easily the most unique game on this list simply due to its presentation, art style, and whimsical tone — resembling something out of a Tim Burton film. This entry features many of the familiar gameplay tropes survival games are famous for, such as procedurally generated worlds, the ability to craft items, and deadly foes to defeat. Though, Don’t Starve also features a day/night and seasonal cycle that constantly changes things up, meaning you’ll have to prepare for what’s ahead. With winter especially, making sure you have the right supplies ahead of time is essential. Don’t Starve also features cooperative play, which makes it easier to survive against the deadly weather effects and wild enemies you encounter. Even if you don’t fall in love with the gameplay, Don’t Starve will likely grab your attention thanks to its gorgeous visuals.
Don't Starve Cinematic Trailer: Forbidden Knowledge
This War of Mine: Complete Edition
This War of Mine: Complete Edition
70 %
T
Platforms Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Simulator, Strategy, Adventure
Developer 11 bit studios
Publisher Deep Silver, 11 bit studios
Release November 27, 2018
Many games on this list take a lighthearted approach to survival, with a less realistic presentation or style. Though This War of Mine: Complete Edition does feature a distinct, almost graphic novel aesthetic, its war themes make it far more mature than many other games on this list. In it, you take control of a group of survivors who live in a dilapidated city under the control of armed forces. You must scavenge for resources while avoiding the soldiers who aim to take the city for their own. In that regard, player choice is at the forefront, with many opportunities to make decisions that impact the overall story at large. This War of Mine: Complete Edition comes with the base game, the most recent update, and all the DLC, giving you plenty of things to do.
This War of Mine: Final Cut
The Long Dark
The Long Dark
77 %
T
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre Shooter, Simulator, Strategy, Adventure, Indie
Developer Hinterland Studio Inc.
Publisher Hinterland Studio Inc.
Release August 01, 2017
Survival games are often brutally difficult, throwing deadly enemies, weather effects, and other elements at you, making them tough for newcomers to get into. That’s where The Long Dark comes in, as it offers a survival mode that functions how you’d expect, along with a story mode, allowing you to enjoy the narrative, while slowly introducing you to the gameplay mechanics. This is a great addition, as it truly allows players to learn the basics of survival, without the frustrating consequences that often come alongside games like these. In this first-person game, players need to account for hunger, thirst, body temperature, and other factors you’d expect. On top of that, there is no real way to “beat” this game, as player death is inevitable. Thankfully, there are various difficulty modes that give players of all skill levels a chance to enjoy. This is one of the more difficult games on this list, but thankfully, The Long Dark has plenty of options that will appeal to a wider audience.
The Long Dark - E3 Xbox One Announcement Trailer (Official)
The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition
The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition
T
Platforms PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Genre Simulator, Adventure, Indie
Developer The Molasses Flood
Publisher Curve Digital
Release January 17, 2017
One of the best aspects of The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition is the procedurally generated river mechanic that allows you to reach new areas via a raft. The river itself can be violent, and the more you crash, the more damage your floating vessel will take. Once you pick a place to dock your raft, you’ll need to explore and gather resources alongside your canine companion. Though this game features a permadeath mode, you are able to restart at various checkpoints around the map during the campaign, making it a bit more approachable for newcomers. We absolutely love the art and music in this game, both of which offset the daunting nature of the gameplay. The Flame in the Flood is presented from a third-person isometric perspective and the Complete Edition includes all the previously released content.
The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition PS4 Release Date Trailer - Official
Windbound
Windbound
40 %
E10
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Adventure, Indie
Developer 5 Lives Studios
Publisher Deep Silver, Koch Media
Release August 21, 2020
Immediately, Windbound will likely grab your attention thanks to its absolutely stunning art style, featuring beautiful cel-shaded visuals. Beyond that, Windbound is an intriguing entry on this list because it does feature challenging gameplay, but not in the way you’d expect. Its survival aspects aren’t as brutally punishing as other games on this list, but its combat makes up for it. In Windbound, you must make your way to various procedurally generated islands around the map, where you’ll encounter beasts that stand in your way. These fights are difficult, but thankfully, there’s a story difficulty mode that allows you to restart at checkpoints if you die, once again, giving you plenty of options depending on your skill level. You’ll also find some Breath of the Wild-esque mechanics such as a glider, and even shrines that increase health and stamina.
Windbound - Brave the Storm Announce Trailer [Official]
Minecraft
Minecraft
78 %
E10
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows Phone, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV
Genre Simulator, Adventure, Arcade
Developer Mojang Studios
Publisher Mojang Studios
Release September 20, 2017
What best-of survival list would be complete without Minecraft? This is arguably the game that put the survival genre on the map, with an approachable art style, and easy-to-understand mechanics that have attracted hundreds of millions of players. The beauty of Minecraft is that it can be played in a variety of ways. You can make it as difficult as you want, with survival at the forefront. Or, you can go in a completely different direction while focusing on building instead. Even though the survival mechanics can be daunting, especially for newcomers, having the ability to customize the difficulty is a major asset in Minecraft, which has contributed to its success. Its visuals are stunning, the music is relaxing, and simply put, it’s one of the best games of all time. There’s a reason it’s at the top of our bestselling games list.
Official Minecraft Trailer

Editors' Recommendations