The Best Survival Games to Play Right Now
Survival games give you a sense of being just close enough to failure that you're never quite comfortable. Games like these can test your creativity as much as your strategic planning. If you want to succeed in a game like They Are Billions, you'll have to think carefully about where you place your defences. But in a game like Minecraft, you're much freer to make a beautiful home that you must also keep safe from zombies.
Survival games excel at keeping a steady pace of action that moves forward as fast as you do. If you're looking for something with a little less structure but a whole lot of depth, here are the best survival games to play right now.
Credit: Studio Wildcard
Terraria is a 2D survival platformer game that's as easygoing or as hardcore as you want it to be. Playable with up to eight other people, Terraria starts out with some simple house-building to create shelter from the monsters that come at night both for you and for any nonplayer characters that may come along to help you. Once you meet your basic needs, you'll quickly discover more and more dangerous places on the map, either above ground or as you dig deep into the dirt.
Terraria features a hardcore mode that deletes your character permanently upon death, a "mediumcore" mode in which your inventory resets on death and a softcore mode with no death penalties. You'll discover powerful boss fights that require special conditions to trigger, locked-away temples you'll need to learn how to breach and a whole second half of the game that's unlockable after you've beaten the boss.
Available on: PC, Mac, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, Switch, iOS, Android
Credit: 505 Games
Minecraft has earned its spot on many lists of games worth buying, but it's no more at home than on a list of survival games. This famous, blocky crafting and exploration game gives players many choices of how to play. But in the classic Minecraft experience, you build a house out of the various blocks that make up the world to keep yourself safe from zombies and creepers that come at night.
After gathering specific resources, you can make stronger mining tools, weapons and armor to dig deeper and faster, and survive longer during a fight. There's very little to guide you through the survival experience of Minecraft outside of your own desires to make a prettier and bigger living space. There is, however, the goal of reaching a realm called The End and slaying the Ender Dragon, but this is as close to a structured experience as Minecraft provides players.Available on: PC, Mac, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Switch, New 3DS, iOS, Android
Don't Starve is a very lonely survival game that has players control one of a variety of characters who are left stranded in the woods to forage for food and fend off attacks from mysterious sources that come at night. On top of avoiding hunger and injury, you must also keep your character sane by doing pleasant activities like eating unspoiled food while avoiding interacting with cursed objects or doing disturbing things like eating monster parts.
The game doesn't truly progress until you've died, at which point you win experience points based on how many days you survived. As you survive longer, the seasons will change based on a 36-day calendar, and this affects the amount of daylight players will experience as the seasons progress into winter. Use the experience points you gain to unlock new playable characters with their own special traits and abilities.
Available on: PC, Mac, PS4, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS, Android
Credit: Klei Entertainment
Sunless Sea (Feb. 6, 2015; PC, Mac)
Sunless Sea is a disturbing, top-down, 2D roguelike survival game that features a player-created character in the world of the Unterzee. This underground sea is dotted with island civilizations and half-seen underwater monsters. You command a ship and must go from port to port, visiting the Unterzee's island communities to run missions that give you money and increase your core stats. A win condition can be set depending on the type of character the player creates and the ambition chosen for that character, such as amassing a great fortune or discovering what happened to your deceased father.
Along your journey, you'll acquire companions who increase your character's stats in different ways. These stats help you in combat while you're sailing, but they also help you find out more about the world of the Unterzee and places like Fallen London as well as the lives of your companions. You'll battle not only sea monsters, but also other sailors along the sunless sea, and you must appropriately outfit your ship to see your character's ambitions fulfilled.Available on: PC, Mac
Credit: Failbetter Games
Starbound was made by some of the same folks behind Terraria, and it features very similar gameplay. But Starbound gives players a much more directed and objective-based experience. In Starbound, you're not limited to one planet. Once you repair your ship, you can fly to many different planets in the search for different resources. Players can warp at any time from their ships to a central hub of commerce, where they can trade in their materials and upgrade their gear. Here, players can also learn more about the world of Starbound by collecting clues about various civilizations that used to inhabit the planets they explore.
While your orbiting spaceship functions as a safe haven from the vicious wildlife on planets below, you don't have a ton of space to make the necessary crafting stations to help you and up to three friends progress in the game. You'll need to make a safe camp down below that you can easily warp to from your ship or other planets. The difficulty comes not in defending this base, but in pressing on to increasingly hostile and environmentally hazardous planets and making it back alive.
Available on: PC, Mac, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One
Astroneer is an early access game that's currently seeing a lot of improvements to basic game mechanics at a regular rate by its developer. But if you're willing to jump into a game that's still in development, Astroneer offers a unique solo or online co-op survival experience. You play as an astronaut landing on a planet in a tiny shuttle pod. Stray too far from the pod, and your oxygen meter will deplete, giving you your first objective: find resources to create and place tethers that let you explore farther and farther from your landing site.
You interact with the world via your terrain tool, which you use to dig through the ground and suck up resource deposits, placing any important items into slots on your backpack. These resources can be used to build out a base around your pod, which will let you create vehicles, storage containers, and even rocket ships for exploring other planets and moons in your solar system. Currently, there's no story or primary objective of the game, so it's up to you and your friends to make your own goals and discover everything the game lets you create.
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Credit: System Era Softworks
Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark: Survival Evolved is a game all about braving the elements, scavenging for everything you have, and making allies or enemies out of other players in a world full of dangerous beasts. You can play in the officially supported online servers with large groups of people, join tribes to work cooperatively with some of them or wage war against other tribes. You can also host a multiplayer game yourself for just you and your friends, or you can play solo. This opens the game on PC to Steam Workshop mods that can add a lot to the experience, like new wildlife to tame or new building materials to work with, as well as totally reworked gameplay mechanics.
Ark is the sort of survival game that forces players to keep track of several slowly depleting meters, like those for hunger, thirst, heat or cold exposure, and fatigue. You'll have to make clothing to keep from getting too cold, hunt animals for food and keep near a water source to stay hydrated. As you progress and unlock new crafting schematics, addressing these concerns gets easier. But your challenges still grow as Ark offers several difficult bosses to fight and dangerous caves to explore.
Available on: PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Credit: Studio Wildcard
They Are Billions
They Are Billions takes a different approach to the survival experience than other games on this list do. As a real-time strategy game, They Are Billions presents players with an endless hoard of zombies and a central base to protect. Placing defensive walls and posting soldiers is just the start of setting up your defense, as there's also food, power and housing to keep in mind when supporting a growing army of defenders.
Occasionally a super-large wave of zombies will descend on your base and test the limits of your defenses. Once you've cleared the wave and made whatever repairs are necessary, it's back to the process of expanding your base, keeping it defended and preparing for the next big wave. They Are Billions is an early access game, so expect several changes and fixes to gameplay balance and additions to the game over the coming months.
Available on: PC
Credit: Studio Wildcard
Rust presents some similarities to Ark: Survival Evolved in that they're both first-person survival games with a strong multiplayer focus, but Rust is far more about player-to-player interaction. In Rust, you're limited to joining servers provided by the game or those set up by players who are using a powerful PC to host a dedicated server. This further emphasizes playing others in Rust, either cooperatively or competitively. Joining a clan will help your chances of survival greatly.
Gameplay in Rust includes some of the same health meters as in Ark, like hunger and exposure, and an extensive crafting tree that lets you go from running around with no clothes on to wielding modern military weapons. Outside of surviving the elements, Rust is all about collecting loot from random airdrops and stealing the resources of other player clans. Your character's presence is persistent, even if you log off, so you'll need a safe place to hold up while not playing. If you're lucky, that place is a base guarded by other players who are still online.
Available on: PC, Mac
Credit: Numantian Games