Best Survival Games – 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.
If you’ve got the grit to outlast the likes of the terrifying The Long Dark or the underwater wonder of Subnautica, our picks will help steer you towards the (not so) safe pastures of the best survival games on PC. Whether you like surviving the horrors of war or you’re into the new breed of hunger and disease management games, get ready to endure agony and plenty of pain in these scintillating survival adventures.
1. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one of the best multiplayer survival games around. It may not be the first battle royale title, but with Fornite, it’s by far the most popular. And with good reason. PUBG nails the tense encounters that a battle to be the last survivor standing is all about.
100 players go into a PUBG match, and only one can come out victorious. There are plenty of valid ways to get the infamous ‘winner winner chicken dinner’ endgame screen; you could aggressively hunt down foes like the Predator, hide and wait it out as long as possible until everyone else has whittled down the competition, or create confusing crossfires to take advantage of.
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.
3. The Long Dark
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.
4. Conan Exiles
With the huge success of games like DayZ, it was only a matter of time before a licensed IP decided to give the survival genre a try. Taking its cue from one of the best PC games you can play right now in Dark Souls 3, Conan Exiles shunts you into the Hyborian Age as everyone’s favourite barbarian looks to duff people up and avoid death.
This grim tale of endurance has become infamous for its naked men – but it’s not the size of a man’s particulars that is impressive about Facepunch’s survival game (and we all know that doesn’t matter anyway… right?). No, it’s the forts that players are able to, ahem, erect. Rust’s strong point is construction: as you gather materials from its wilderness, you can begin to lay down a variety of items in a Sims-like manner, creating your perfect rural retreat by slotting together floors, walls, staircases, and windows.
6. Don’t Starve
The most horrifying idea of actual survival is having to do it on your lonesome. That’s exactly what Don’t Starve makes you do, as it’s an entirely solo experience. The terror of having to fend for yourself in the wild is thankfully offset by the lovely Tim Burton-style 2D art, and the collection of utterly bizarre creatures that are lurking in this sepia-tone world. Werepigs, Beargers, Deerclopses, and many more absurd monsters roam the land looking to make things difficult for you.
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.
8. Oxygen Not Included
The best games are those that are easy to learn and difficult to master. Oxygen Not Included fits that bill: jumping into it and learning the basics is a snap, but fully understanding it takes a lot of time and effort. While it’s adorable, the colony-builder is also deep and complex as it simulates its harsh subterranean environment. You’ll need to manage your colonists hunger, happiness, cleanliness, and naturally their clean and breathable oxygen as they dig out caverns, gather resources, build machinery, and try to turn a harsh environment into a comfortable underground home.
9. Ark: Survival Evolved
Dropped nearly nude on an expansive map filled with dinosaurs, you’ll have to contend with extreme heat and cold, starvation and dehydration, and fellow humans (though you can play solo as well). Craft weapons and gear, build a base, tame and ride dinosaurs, and join with (or battle) other players. Ark’s free Primitive Plus DLC adds tons more depth to crafting and farming.
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).
11. The Forest
After surviving a plane crash on a remote island, it’s of great importance to survey the land, build shelter, hunt for food and craft items. The only problem is you’re not alone in The Forest ($14.99), and I’m not talking about local wildlife. There are horrors that will leave you be, should you rather live in peace and not be disturbed (just try to steer clear of them and don’t make it obvious you exist on the island) or you can venture into the unknwon.
12. Survival (The Division expansion)
The Division’s second expansion provided not just new content for players but a new way to play. Trapped in a deadly blizzard, players begin each round stricken with a disease, are armed with only a pistol and low-level gear, and must travel to The Dark Zone to locate a cure and an extraction point. Meanwhile, they must survive the terrible cold, roving gangs of NPC enemies, and a couple dozen other players who are in the same predicament.
Yes, many players have grown weary of waiting for the multiplayer zombie survival game to leave Early Access, and DayZ’s roots in military sim ArmA make it a bit intimidating for newcomers. Still, the survival elements of DayZ are strong, with complex nutrition, hydration, and health systems that go beyond merely eating, drinking, and bandaging wounds.
14. The Long Dark
This chilly adventure is similar to most of the games mentioned above. Though unlike other titles on this list, The Long Dark has a fairly interesting story mode (called Wintermute) to sink your teeth into.
Set in the bitter cold of northern Canada, The Long Dark trades zombies for bears, and tropical islands for deadly snow drifts. Mother Nature is your true adversary here, and to combat her you’ll need to keep your calorie count up, your body hydrated, and a flame roaring whenever you curl up for the night.
15. This War of Mine
For all the stress that some survival games can press on you, nothing compares to the harrowing 2D adventure. As you’ll find out in our This War of Mine review, the game offers a very different breed of survival. It’s a depiction of a group of civilians’ struggling to stay alive in their war-ravaged country. Trapped in a besieged house, pinned down by snipers, and attacked by other survivors looking to take what you’ve found, it’s a game of traumatic decisions and life-or-death consequences.
16. Alien: Isolation
Meet the best survival horror game of the last five years. Like Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi masterpiece, Alien: Isolation is a master at brewing up suspense and tension; steadily building anxiety and fear in its cast of characters over its first half, before engaging in a terrifying game of hide-and-seek in its second. Remarkably, Creative Assembly managed to take this structure and apply it to a lengthy video game almost flawlessly.
17. Resident Evil 4
Capcom’s masterful survival horror really doesn’t feel like it’s over a decade old. And thanks to a sprinkle of HD magic, this high-resolution makeover makes Resident Evil 4 fresher than ever. Well, as fresh as a game about decomposing cultists can be. Perhaps it’s because the over-the-shoulder shooting influenced a generation of games we’re still playing. More likely, it’s because Resident Evil 4 is one of the creepiest, most atmospheric, and simply one of the best horror games on PC.
It’s easy to relegate it to the crowd of DayZ-like games that have popped up over the past few years, but Miscreated has begun to stand out as a stable and enjoyable multiplayer game—and built in Cryengine, it looks amazing as well. Beginning with just a flashlight and a change of clothing, arm and equip yourself by exploring decaying neighborhoods and military bases. AI mutants and wildlife pose a threat, but the biggest threat will come from your fellow survivors.
Most survival games put you through pain, misery, and eventually death, but this upcoming adventure is looking to do something different. LIFE wants its players to experience freedom, joy, and happiness. The game celebrates the natural world, and the more you contribute to it – growing crops, being respectful of its creatures – the more vibrant it appears.
Join or battle other players—or attempt to go it alone—starting with primitive tools and weapons and advancing to firearms and massive bases. You’ll have to contend with wild animals, hunger, and thirst, but this is a very PVP-intensive survival experience and your main threat will come from the dozens of other players on the servers. Rust is still experimenting with its formula—having recently removed XP and leveling, and we’re curious to see where it goes next.
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.
22. The Forest
After picking through the wreckage of the plane crash that stranded you here, you’ll quickly discover you’re not alone. You share a mysterious island with a tribe of terrifying cannibals, and while you struggle to stay fed and hydrated, build structures from simple tents to log homes, and construct traps to snare animals, you’ll have to defend against the hungry and determined locals. The Forest is built in Unity 5, which provides stunning visuals and effects.
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.
Don’t let its mildly cartoony look fool you: Hurtworld is no picnic. If you survive a few early hours of scrounging and combat with AI mutants and human players, you’ll be able to claim land, build a base, and repair procedurally generated vehicles (if you can find the parts). There’s an emphasis on the effects of weather, and not just on the player—for instance, the steak in your pack might freeze instead of rot when it gets cold enough. And, for a game that promises to punish you, it’s surprisingly forgiving in a few instances, such as letting you keep your weapons when you die.
25. This War of Mine
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.
26. Just Survive
While it’s had trials and tribulations in Early Access—once planned to be a free-to-play title, you’ll now have to buy it—Just Survive (formerly H1Z1) is still plenty of fun. Similar in scope to DayZ, but far more accessible, you scrounge for supplies while dodging zeds and doing battle (or making friends) with potentially over a hundred players on the same server. Build bases, craft weapons and gear, fight over supply drops, and keep yourself healthy in this multiplayer sandbox.
It costs you nothing to play Unturned, but this isn’t some slapped together free-to-play title. Its creator (a teenager) has released over 150 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.