How to Craft, Build, and Fight in the Best Survival Games on PC
Winter Survival may contain content that is not appropriate for all ages. The game contains bad language in the form of the protagonist cursing. It also contains visual violence towards animals and blood (hunting wild animals for survival or getting injured).
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The deep appeal of survival games is simple to understand. After all, fighting to stay alive is hard-coded into our DNA, so it's easy to see why we'd become engrossed in experiencing it in games. The best survival games on PC push players to their limits, presenting them with tough problems and challenging them to find creative solutions.
Beyond just a simple health bar, in survival games players need to manage their well being when it comes to elements like hunger, thirst, extreme temperatures, disease, and other threats. Exploring, gathering resources, crafting tools and gear, building shelters, and hunting, fishing, cooking, and farming are other common features in survival games. And some survival games aren't just about taking care of yourself but guiding a colony or settlement safely through extreme circumstances by managing resources, passing laws, and solving societal problems.
In such a popular genre, which games provide the best survival experiences? Below you'll find our favorite examples of simulated survival on PC, whether it's among the stars, deep underground, and in other dangerous environments packed with monsters, mutants, zombies, dinosaurs, or the deadliest enemy of all: other players. Here are the best survival games on PC.
Being immortal you wouldn't think vampires would need to worry about survival, but in V Rising your ancient bloodsucker will have their clawed hands full with resource gathering and management, base building, and staying out of direct sunlight. It does feel a little strange to be a vampire chopping down trees and operating a sawmill, but it all works wonderfully, and you can build your base into a might gothic castle, and enchant NPCs to become your loyal minions. Naturally there are all sorts of enjoyable vampire powers to unlock and use in combat, too. V Rising pulls off a nice blend of RPG action and survival systems.
It didn't take long for Early Access co-op Viking survival game to draw a crowd, and it's easy to see why. A massive procedurally generated world, fearsome boss fights, and excellent base-building systems mesh wonderfully with survival elements like cooking and crafting. Solo play is great, but it really shines in co-op, and players can busy themselves with base construction or set out on perilous journeys across the sea to find dangerous new continents.
Explore an alien, underwater world while piloting your hand-crafted submarine through mysterious submerged landscapes. From beautiful coral reefs to deep-sea caves and trenches, you'll gather resources and sustenance, build habitats and a fleet of subs, and craft new tech to help you survive the depths. It's hard not to compare it to Minecraft, yet developer Unknown Worlds has put their own unique stamp on the survival genre.
Frostpunk is a blend of city-building, society simulation, and survival in a grim and frozen world. With a handful of cold, hungry, unhappy people, you'll need to construct a working city inside a snow-filled crater heated only by a massive coal furnace. Gather resources, hunt for food, and manage your citizens by giving them hope for the future. It's a harsh and beautiful survival game that confronts you with difficult choices at every turn.
If you're looking deep and complex survival systems in a massive sandbox sim, there's only one game that truly fits the bill. There's a big learning curve in this zombie survival game but once you've got a handle on how the various systems work you'll find an unending and engrossing challenge in the harsh post-apocalyptic world. Loot buildings, craft gear, farm and fish, fight zombies (or better yet, avoid them) and struggle with everything from injuries to disease to boredom to how much noise you make while moving around. This is a brilliant zombie survival simulation like nothing else out there.
Escape from Tarkov is a savage evolution of survival games with just a pinch of battle royale thrown in for flavor. Instead of playing in a persistent world, you spawn on a map with a few other players and several dozen enemy NPCs. To survive, you have to reach an exfiltration zone on the other end of the map, but you also get to keep anything you loot to sell on a player-driven marketplace or use in subsequent rounds. It's a lot like poker only way scarier. What really sells Tarkov, though, is it's hyper-realistic gunplay and ridiculously deep gun customization.
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Sounds strange to say it, but this fantasy RPG where you can never actually die is one of the best recent survival games around. In Outward you're not only challenged by mystical monsters but the world itself, in which you must keep yourself fed, hydrated, and healthy. In the arid deserts heat will sap your endurance, in the marshy swamplands the water can poison you, and with no fast-travel or quest markers or even your own location shown on your map, each excursion is an exercise in preparation, patience, and survival.
It's been five years of Early Access, but RimWorld has finally reached version 1.0. In this management and survival sim you oversee a colony of randomly generated people stranded on a procedural alien planet. Expand the base, keep your colonists healthy and sane, and deal with disasters thrown your way by RimWorld's AI director, which can include anything from disease outbreaks to alien attacks to weather events. The toughest challenge may be just making your colonists simply get along with each other: each one has a distinct personality, desires, and moods.
It sounds almost idyllic, floating through the world serenely on a raft, building and expanding upon it as you fish flotsam from the ocean with a grappling hook. There are sharks, though. Hungry ones, and if they can't eat you they'll settle for eating your floating home. You'll need to somehow find food and fresh water while keeping your raft afloat and growing. Luckily, you can play co-op with a pal and double your chances for survival.
With a focus on atmosphere and environmental survival, The Long Dark stands out in an increasingly crowded genre. You play as a bush pilot stranded in the frozen wilderness after a mysterious global calamity. There are no zombies, no mutants, and no other players: it's just you fighting against the elements, the wildlife, and your own human fragility.
With charming artwork yet punishing gameplay, Don't Starve is an addictive challenge and one of the best survival experiences out there (and in a rare turn of events, one of the few games here to graduate from Early Access). The crafting is complex and satisfying as you attempt to survive busy days and deadly nights. Fight (and eat) animals, practice both science and magic, and keep an eye on your mental health so you don't go insane. The standalone expansion Don't Starve Together even lets you play with pals.
Duskers may not feel entirely like a survival game, given that it's a real-time strategy roguelike about steering a fleet of drones through spooky derelict spaceships. But the reason you're exploring is to scavenge parts, collect fuel, and repair and upgrade your drones so you can continue traveling through space in hopes of finding safety and an answer to the unexplained event that seems to have left the universe uninhabited (by humans, at least). Its a tense and nail-biting experience as you must keep moving through increasingly dangerous situations in hopes of gathering enough resources to survive.
Yes, it was a long road out of Early Access, DayZ's technically still isn't done. But the survival elements of DayZ are strong, with complex nutrition, hydration, and health systems that go beyond merely eating, drinking, and bandaging wounds. Scavenge a sprawling and decaying persistent open world, engage in tense interactions with other players, customize weapons and craft gear, and try not to die: if you do, you start again with nothing.
From visiting distant galaxies in your customized starship to building a home and farming crops, Starbound satisfies as both a sprawling survival adventure and a cozy pastime. The 2D pixelated sandbox is a joy to explore, and along the way you'll meet friendly alien NPCs and battle surprisingly tough bosses. There's a story-based campaign and side-quests, but no real feeling of pressure to complete them except at your leisure. You can also play with friends on dedicated servers or simply by inviting them into your game via Steam.
You may have heard of it. There are many different ways to play Minecraft: alone, in creative mode, with friends and strangers, as an explorer, or with custom game modes on specialty servers. As a survival game, it's still excellent, with well-implemented hunger and thirst systems and incredibly robust crafting and building. Dive into its blocky and beautiful world and you may never want to leave.
A wonderful, expansive, addictive, and not to mention inexpensive survival crafting sandbox. Explore randomly generated worlds, gather resources, and enjoy a simple yet satisfying crafting system. Tunnel through vast caverns, battle monsters, befriend NPCs, build yourself a palace, and play alone or with friends in co-op. Terraria has been around for years, but it's stood the test of time.
Depicting war not from the perspective of an elite soldier but from that of a group of civilians simply trying to stay alive amidst the chaos, This War of Mine is a different and more desperate kind of survival game. You'll face tough choices as you manage your survivors' health, both physical and mental. Scrounging for food and supplies during the night is tense and harrowing, and no matter what you find it never seems to be enough. It's not just a survival game but a harsh and unblinking look at the reality of war.
It costs you nothing to play Unturned, but this isn't some slapped together free-to-play title. Its creator (a teenager) has released scores of updates to the zombie-based survival sandbox since 2014, which makes it easy to see why it's been downloaded by millions of players since its initial release. Despite Unturned's blocky visuals it contains deep and satisfying crafting, skill, and survival systems, plus there's a massive and exuberant community surrounding it.