Pitted against the environment, hordes of mutants, and other players, survival is in your hands. Or so goes the mantra of most entries in the survival genre. A genre that’s seen substantial growth in recent years with a genuine squall of releases, all hustling for the attention of gamers. Undoubtedly, the trend is one of hit and miss, so we’ve sorted the wheat from the chaff and handpicked five survival games that are well worth your time.
Rust was first released as a DayZ clone back in 2013, but went on to establish itself as a dominant force in the survival sphere, leaving early access in February of this year. Purely multiplayer, Rust is a game of attrition where other players become the main threat once you overcome the challenges thrown at you by the erring wildlife, changing climate, and scarcity of resources.
With a somewhat inflated reputation for toxicity, Rust is so much more than a survival game per se, it is a battle of wits, of misplaced trust, and brutal back stabbings. Looking over your shoulder is a defining characteristic of the game and is what makes it one of the most harcore survival releases out there. The excellent crafting system, and monthly updates adding new features shine light on how devoted and committed developer Facepunch are to their creation.
2. Conan Exiles
A rocky passage through Early Access didn’t bode well for the longevity of Conan Exiles, but with the recent full release, the game has come into itself. Weaving in elements of mythology, a revamped combat system, an intricate skill and ability system, and the prevailing nudity, Conan Exiles offers much to be explored throughout the 40km2 map. The world is engaging, diverse, and challenging notably with the addition of the purge mechanic whereby NPCs now mount concerted attacks on player territory. PvP is engaging for the simple challenge off fending off other players, while single player has enough depth to keep players busy for dozens of hours as they take on the environment alone.
Only just released, Raft is already making waves. Equipped with only a tiny square raft and a hook, players must gather debris from the ocean, plunder vibrant underwater reefs, and hope to land upon resource-rich islands. From there the raft needs building into a livable stronghold by learning new blueprints to ease day to day survival. Gather water, grow food, hunt, cook, and build new weapons to fend off the constant onslaughts from the ocean. Raft’s simplicity is its best feature and it is truly remarkable how such a basic premise, though an original one, can provide hours of gaming bliss.
4. The Forest
Probably the most grim entry in our list, The Forest drops players onto a peculiar island following a plane crash. Tasked with saving your kidnapped son, gather resources, craft weapons, and build a shelter worthy of the name by day, and fend off hordes of village-dwelling mutant cannibals by night. The cannibals are an intriguing part of The Forest for the sheer uniqueness of their interactions with the player. They are as weary of you as you are of them, inquisitive and communicative. Rather than outright attacking, they adopt a tactical approach, defending their own kind in battle, using the environment to their advantage, and even outright choosing to surrender at times.
The Forest can be played as a normal survival game, though players can delve deeper into the mystery surrounding the island by exploring the network of caves below the surface. Through advancement, the game takes a darker turn that enters the realm of the horror genre with increasingly more bizarre enemies and mysteries. When you finally meet your son’s captor, the game has you questioning your own role on the island, the plane crash, and to what lengths a parent will go to save their child.
5. Don’t Starve
At first glance, Don’t Starve can seem deceptively benign; the hand drawn graphics, the charming characters with oversized heads, and the seemingly innocuous world. Don’t be fooled though, Don’t Starve presents an unforgiving and dangerous world, layered with challenges and subtleties. A genuine fear of not getting back to your settlement before dark intensifies as you navigate forward mainly due to the permanent death mechanic. The excellent Don’t Starve Together multiplayer addition also allows you to enlist your friends and makes for some quality social gaming time. Don’t Starve offers a comparatively laid back survival experience that is a perfect introduction to the genre and will appeal to those more accustomed to whimsical games such as Stardew Valley.