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The 15 Best Survival Games of all time [December 2022]

It’s time to put your survival skills to the test.

In recent years, the best survival games have showed no signs of slowing down. Whether it’s the random resurgence of Project Zomboid, more Minecraft updates, or an entirely new title to the scene like Valheim, we’re spoilt for choice. In fact, we’re spoilt for so much choice when it comes to the survival genre that it can be hard to choose which one you want to plough hours into.

Survival games are, a lot of the time, about the grind. There’s something deeply satisfying about starting with nothing and ending with an empire, regardless of whether you pillaged villages or destroyed an entire forest to get there. Whether you jump in for an intense day of gathering resources or simply choose to survive half hour at a time (this is how I often approach 7 Days to Die), there’s a survival game out there for everyone to become obsessed with.

Another wonder when it comes to survival games is their timelessness. You can pick up a survival game with such ease, and there’s no worry about where you might’ve got off last time or whether you need a narrative recap (most of the time). That is, unless, you closed your game of Minecraft while deep in a cavern surrounded by enemies. Even then, jumping onto an incredibly old save in an even older survival title is a whole different level of fun within itself: will I find the Minecraft castle I spent weeks building multiple years ago? Probably not, but it’s nice to know that there’s a possibility I could find it while revisiting my game.

Needless to say, survival games will rob you of your time once one captivates you entirely, but they are games that truly keep on giving, and that’s why many of them still proceed to capture so many players. In no particular order whatsoever, here are some of the best survival games of all time for you to try.

Minecraft

  • Released: 2011
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
  • Developer: Mojang

You might not have heard of this one… but Minecraft is arguably one of the best (if not the best) survival game of all time. Building and breaking blocks will not be to everyone's tastes, but it is an incredibly charming blocky adventure for those who do.

A Minecraft castle built into a cliff with cobblestone is shown, the sun is setting.
There's more to this survival game than just blocks.

Minecraft, typically, revolves around starting with nothing and then destroying the surrounding terrain to gather and craft resources. You build your base, kill some animals for food, and then it’s time to go down in the mines. Given the Minecraft Caves update recently, going down to the mines to hunt for diamonds and iron has never been more exciting. Your Minecraft experience is your own, so it’s up to you if you invite friends, join public servers, or go slay the Ender Dragon solo.

Either way, Minecraft is vibrant and developer Mojang simply keep adding more content. Sure, this content takes a long while to come out, but it’s usually so worth it when it does. We have blocky Minecraft frogs, what more could you want?

Valheim

  • Released: 2021
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: Iron Gate AB

Valheim comes from a different Swedish developer, Iron Gate Studios, and could easily be crowned one of the best survival titles that we’ve seen in recent year. Valheim is beautiful because it’s core survival gameplay at it’s finest and is heavily inspired by Norse mythology.

A player walks through the forest as the sun is setting in Valheim.
Valheim is scenic, to say the least.

The world of Valheim is procedurally generated with all the systems needed to craft one impressive beginners base. You can craft to your heart's content, cook away, and team up with friends for the adventure. It’s arguably multiplayer where Valheim truly shines, making those troubling boss fights and constructing sturdy bases a team effort.

Another aspect of Valheim that draws me to it whenever I think of the survival experience is the story. You’re not merely thrown into a world with nothing to your name, as is the case with other survival titles, but instead, you’re a legendary warrior who has had their soul transported to Valheim. Your enemies are also Odin’s enemies, and it’s your job to restore peace to Valheim. This makes your survival experience have an overarching sense of purpose, and it feels great. If you are interested in starting this one up, we've got a wealth of Valheim guides for you to peruse.

The Forest

  • Released: 2018
  • Platforms: PC, PS4
  • Developer: Endnight Games

Now, if you’re a fan of survival games with a strong story, and you also like horror, The Forest will without a doubt have you hooked. I remember the first time that I played The Forest very fondly. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and the moment my eyes met with those of a cannibal, I panicked, and I ran for the hills (well, the beach in this case).

Artwork of a forest for The Forest can be seen, with a sign in the distance.
This forest might look nice and safe, but cannibals and mutants lurk around every corner.

That’s right. In The Forest, you’re a lone plane crash survivor who finds themselves on an island inhabited by some very hungry cannibalistic tribes, and later, mutants (who also gave me a huge shock further into the game). While fending off hordes and trying to survive, you’re also tasked with finding your lost son, Timmy. This means delving into a lot of treacherous caves and regularly putting yourself into terrifying and risky environments.

The Forest intertwines survival with horror and has a rather neat, optional narrative to embark on too. Like a lot of the survival games on this list, The Forest truly shines when played alongside friends. Friends are also great for dealing with cannibals and mutants so that you don’t have to, if you’re able to convince them to take on the task.

If you end up playing The Forest and having a good time, I’ve got some great news for you. A sequel, Sons of the Forest, is expected to launch in October 2022.

Rust

  • Released: 2013
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: Facepunch Studios

Ah, Rust. The one title on this list that I have incredibly conflicted feelings about. On the one hand, Rust is a fantastic game that’s all about brutal, hardcore survival skills. On the other hand, you’ll almost certainly come across some people in public servers that are merciless, making getting started a little difficult.

A player walks through a boggy marsh with buildings in the distance in Rust.
Rust is good fun, if you're prepared for it.

Provided you avoid helicopters, wild animals, and don’t let your first home disintegrate while you’re AFK, you should be able to get a good start in Rust with these fundamentals. That is, up until you have the right resources to blast any menacing wild boar or nosy neighbour back to where they came from. Rust is all about building yourself up from nothing, and likely later losing it all in a PvP shoot-out, but that’s part of the fun.

Simply put, Rust is brutal. If you make a mistake, the title is often incredibly unforgiving, and that’s exactly why people like it. Rust is one for those who have a little more time to commit to their survival experience, and fortunately for you, the game continues to evolve in terms of its community, and grow in terms of its content. So, you’ve got plenty of exciting savagery to be getting up to.

No Man’s Sky

  • Released: 2016
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, iOS
  • Developer: Hello Games

No Man’s Sky wasn’t one of the best survival games of all time when it first launched. It would be years (and multiple updates) before the space exploration title felt like a fully fledged game. Now, if you waited before playing or have yet to dabble with No Man’s Sky, now is a better time than ever.

In this No Man's Sky artwork, the planet and sky are orange, with a few spaceships flying off to a distant green planet that can be seen.
No Man's Sky has 18 quintillion planets. Take that, Starfield.

No Man’s Sky is the ultimate survival game for those who like to explore the vast expanse of space, upgrade their ships, and befriend aliens. It’s entirely up to you if you wish to follow the main story of No Man’s Sky, which is a hell of a lot more developed now than it used to be. However, at some point, you’re free to go off roaming space all by yourself. There’s a myriad of beautiful planets to explore and creatures to tame or fight, and surprises in No Man’s Sky are just one flight away.

For galaxy jumping and an entire universe at your fingertips, get yourself kitted out in No Man’s Sky. While it is a grind, it’s a bloody scenic one. Plus, it's coming to Switch later this year.

Terraria

  • Released: 2011
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
  • Developer: Re-Logic

If I’m being honest, Terraria isn’t in much need of an introduction. The 2D survival game was released in 2011 and has been privy to a lot of memes since. Terraria is a simple survival game that can be picked up for a couple of quid (or dollars, or euros, take your pick), so there’s no reason to not give the side scrolling sandbox title a try.

A knight wields a torch and pickaxe in this Terraria artwork.
As a wise wizard in Terraria once said, friendship is magic.

Think Minecraft, but as a 2D side scrolling title with even more quality of life elements. That’s Terraria. Admittedly, Minecraft has caught up in the quality department, but Terraria did it first and deserves to be recognised for doing so. Terraria also doesn’t dry up as you plunge more hours into it, if anything, things get all the more wild, and it’s a title that can be incredibly hard to put down.

Your time surviving in Terraria is accompanied by a soundtrack that’ll be stuck in your head for an eternity, and the title also hosts a lot of RPG elements that you often miss out in some survival games. You can befriend NPC’s, defeat bosses, and play multiplayer with pals if you don’t fancy exploring dungeons and villages solo.

Grounded

  • Released: 2020
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

To put it simply, Grounded takes the premise of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and turns it into a survival game. This is perhaps one of the more unique takes of the genre on this list, so it won’t be for everything, but it deserved a mention.

A player, shrunken down to the size of an insect, stands in a garden and looks up at a tree in Grounded.
Grounded takes Honey I Shrunk The Kids and puts it into a video game.

Shrunk down to the size of an insect, you find yourself tiny and alone, wandering around a typical family garden. Given your size, what once was a small patch of grass now seems like the Amazon jungle, and obviously, a lot more danger awaits you than you’d first expect. Using the surrounding resources, like grass and dew, you must scramble to survive as predators seek you out.

These predators include the likes of ants, birds, spiders and more. As a microscopic version of your former self, Grounded grants you an entirely new perspective of taking a stroll around your garden, and also hosts a new approach to the survival genre altogether.

7 Days to Die

  • Released: 2013
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: The Fun Pimps

The ever-popular survival scenario that we regularly see across popular culture is the post-apocalyptic world full of zombies. This is what 7 Days to Die delivers, in a package that mechanically feels incredibly similar to Rust.

A player fires at a group of incoming zombies in 7 Days to Die.
This post-apocalyptic town has lots of inhabitants... they're not very friendly though.

If you like your survival experience to be gory, but not overwhelmingly scary, 7 Days to Die strikes a delicate balance between the two. It knows that it’s a survival game at its core, so while hordes of zombies destroy the motel you turned into a home, you’re not going to be in for too many jumpscares. I say too many, because zombies appeared at windows and openings that I never knew existed, which led to a bit of a fright while crafting.

7 Days to Die, if you can ignore the poor graphics, is the perfect interactive zombie movie. You are the main character in this apocalypse, and you can recruit friends to help out too. As you all scramble to survive, it almost plays out like Zombieland, and honestly, Zombieland’s ‘rules’ are actually pretty helpful for surviving 7 Days to Die.

Rule 22: When in doubt, know your way out.

Don’t Starve

  • Released: 2013
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
  • Developer: Klei Entertainment

If you like the idea of delving into the survival horror experience, but don’t fancy being chased down by wailing cannibals like in The Forest, Don’t Starve is for you. This beautifully illustrated title, that is eerily reminiscent of Tim Burton’s style, takes the form of a 2D top-down world that is packed with danger.

A player is surrounded by burning trees in Don't Starve.
I think this image just speaks for itself when it comes to the Don't Starve experience.

As a survival game, the most important aspect of Don’t Starve is surviving. This means you won’t be concentrating on building your first base and fleeing from danger, but you’ll be finding ways to actively face and overcome it instead. As a result, you’ll find yourself crafting and using contraptions galore to keep enemies from harming you as you navigate this sepia world.

Don’t Starve feels so whimsical, and this is through a combination of art and gameplay. You start with little to no knowledge of this fantastical but dangerous realm, and so much of the fun is derived from discovery and learning.

Additionally, if gathering resources and fending off Werepigs alone seems daunting, Don’t Starve Together is the multiplayer version of the game, and is arguably one of the best co-op games out there.

Subnautica

  • Released: 2014
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
  • Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

In Subnautica, you’re alone and lost – much like Don’t Starve – but this underwater world is a lot more relaxing than other survival titles in this list. Subnautica is rather unique because of the environment it's set in, and the developer is consistently working alongside the community to craft one of the best exploration titles out there.

One of Subnautica's many enemies can be seen, looking down at the player.
Try surviving underwater!

From your submarine, you can explore the sea, which is more vibrant and lively than you’d expect. As you gather materials and resources while dealing with some incredible-looking sea creature enemies, you’ll eventually be able to leave your submarine and begin to build on the ocean floor. Before you know it, you could even end up with your very own Atlantis!

As is the gripe with most survival games, you must look out for yourself before crafting. You’ll need to keep topped up on food and water, but also oxygen. You’re underwater, remember? Subnautica is a survival game that isn’t too demanding, and is perfect for those of us who love some deep sea exploration.

Raft

  • Released: 2018
  • Platforms: PC
  • Developer: Redbeet Interactive

During Raft, you’ll once again find that you’re all alone at sea, with nothing but the clothes on your back and the simple wooden raft you’re standing on. Now, while you can dive into the ocean and explore what it has to offer like in Subnautica, you probably won’t get too far.

A glimpse of Caravan Island in Raft can be seen.
If underwater isn't your thing, maybe just try surviving at sea.

Raft is all about, well, your raft. The goal here is to survive, maintain your new home, and embark on adventures to surrounding islands in an attempt to gather more resources and food to keep you and your raft going. Sharks, seagulls, and other critters are aplenty, all trying to sabotage your raft, and as a result, Raft is quite far from relaxing at times.

Much like Subnautica, the developer is continually working alongside the community to bring players a game that they love. The Final Chapter was released recently, rounding up the overarching story in this title, and introducing new items that players had been looking forward to for a long time.

If you fancy a holiday, jump into Raft. Even at it’s most frustrating, it’s all so incredibly worth it when you’ve got a raft to be proud of. It’s even more fun with friends, too!

Oxygen Not Included

  • Released: 2017
  • Platforms: PC
  • Developer: Klei Entertainment

Oxygen Not Included is a confusing game. This is the sentence that I’ve heard different friends echo over and over again whenever they’ve delved into the 2D title, and is the reason as to why many people will never see this game through. Oxygen Not Included goes a little too in-depth for my personal tastes, but that is entirely what makes the title so popular among fans.

A view of someones base in Oxygen Not Included, with multiple dupes hard at work.
Believe it or not, you actually need oxygen in this one.

In Oxygen Not Included, you start off in the very middle of an asteroid with three dupes that you can control to do as you please. With that, it’s time to build a base, gather some food, find a source of oxygen and ultimately stay alive. As the game develops, you will continue to expand building inside this asteroid, and hopefully, find new and improved ways of keeping yourself and your dupes alive.

I refer back to me calling the game confusing; it’s more a case of the fact that Oxygen Not Included refuses to hold your hand. As you progress further and find that there’s so much you need to do, it can even be overwhelming without any aid. Yet, this is a good thing. Those who commit to Oxygen Not Included need to be prepared to watch and learn, and they’ll be rewarded greatly for doing so as their asteroid home grows!

Project Zomboid

  • Released: 2011
  • Platforms: PC
  • Developer: The Indie Stone

Project Zomboid has been in early access for over a decade now, and there’s honestly no telling if it’ll ever leave. That being said, The Indie Stone is continually updating and developing the game, and it’s getting to a point where many fans are referring to the title as the best zombie survival game ever made.

A player overlooks the aftermath of slaying a zombie horde indoors in Project Zomboid.
This zombie survival title has a unique style and incredible detail.

In Project Zomboid, you’re dropped into another post-apocalyptic scenario, and your only task is to survive. With a horde of the undead on your tail, it’s a little easier said than done in this sandbox-simulation title, especially as you still have various survival needs to tend to. That’s not all, either, as there’s weather to take into account too, which will present you with entirely new challenges.

What makes Project Zomboid stand out among other zombie survival titles is the sheer attention to detail, and how immersive this can make the game. The title recently peaked and found a much wider audience with the release of Build 41 and popularity among streamers, and it deserves it. There’s something very special about Project Zomboid and the decade of dedication that The Indie Stone has put into it.

RimWorld

  • Released: 2013
  • Platforms: PC
  • Developer: Ludeon Studios

Don’t let the simplistic design of RimWorld fool you, this is a survival title that’ll keep you entertained for as long as you let it. Arguably, RimWorld focuses a lot more on narrative than survival itself, but it still makes for a totally unique experience every single time.

A player is trying to keep their factory running in RimWorld.
Which story will you be embarking on?

If you’re not familiar with RimWorld, this indie gem places you in a procedurally generated alien world, and it’s down to you to oversee the colony living there. There’s also an AI narrator who’ll regularly spice things up, and they can make your experience as easy or as difficult as they’d like. This means that as you expand your base, anything could happen: the attack of aliens, the outbreak of disease, and more, all completely at the peril of the narrator.

It doesn’t stop there, either, as every colony you create can be wildly different. There are different scenarios and narrators to choose from for each run, and if you fancy it, there’s a breadth of mods out there to spice up this nifty management title further. You’ll never know what turn the game will take next, you just need to be prepared to keep your colony alive!

State of Decay 2

  • Released: 2018
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One
  • Developer: Undead Labs

State of Decay 2 is the sequel to Undead Labs’ prior zombie survival title from 2013. As you’d expect, this one builds on its predecessor to offer an even more punishing zombie survival title that’ll certainly frustrate you at some point or another. From a third-person perspective, your job is to primarily scavenge and survive, and you won’t be doing this alone either.

A player attacks multiple zombies in a forest in State of Decay 2.
State of Decay 2 reminds you that survival isn't always just about you.

In this post-apocalyptic environment, you’ll also be tasked with working alongside a fellow group of survivors, and you must work towards keeping these guys alive as well as yourself. These aren’t actual players, but skilled NPCs who can help you a surprising amount with your plight to survive the hordes of the undead. You’ll eventually be able to build bases across the open world, and even construct important facilities such as watchtowers and medbays to keep the squad safe from hungry hordes.

It’s difficult, and it’s gory, but because of that, State of Decay 2 feels like a such a highly rewarding survival experience when it goes right. Whether you play single-player or cooperatively with some friends, team spirit is never lacking, and it really helps this otherwise gruesome slaughter of zombies feel a little less lonely, and a lot more fun.

Other Honourable Mentions

There are plenty of other survival games out there who are deserving of this list, but I’d be here for an eternity listing them all and checking them all out.

That being said, other honourable mentions are owed to: The Long Dark, Astroneer, Among Trees, Starbound, DayZ, This War of Mine, Conan Exiles, Icarus, Outer Wilds, Frostpunk, Darkwood, Kenshi, Scum


That isn’t all for some of the best games to try out, we’ve also done a deep dive into some of the best horror games and the best video game soundtracks of all time.

About the Author
Kelsey Raynor avatar

Kelsey Raynor

Guides Writer

Kelsey's passion for gaming began with Resident Evil, and it's been rather difficult to get her to shut up about horror games since. When she's not scoping out new ways to scare herself silly or commiserating the cancellation of Silent Hills, she can often be found fawning over cute Pokémon and Kirby, or being very average at FPS games.

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