Tired of the easy hand holding game design of current day? It doesn’t have to be that way. There are a wealth of video games that exist that push players toward making critical decisions sooner rather than later.  

Stay with us as we wade through the top survival games that will surely give you a challenge.

How We Critique The Top Survival Games

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Critiquing survival games is tricky, because not everyone has the same experience with survival games. You can’t just throw challenging enemies at players with low health and call it survival.

While some players may revel in the challenge, other players may find certain challenges unappealing. With this top 10 list, we look to bring gamers a comprehensive list of survival games that define the genre. 

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We considered the following factors to decide the top 10 space games:

  • Survival mechanics
  • How the survival game influences the survival genre
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SURVIVAL MECHANICS

Survival mechanics are the lifeblood of any survival game. These mechanics define what the environment expects of the player.

Effective survival mechanics give player’s a robust number of options to extend the likely hood of their survival. Games with excellent survival mechanics allow players to creatively find solutions to their options.

In the best survival games, there is no illusion of choice. Players have the ability to take the world in their own terms. This also means that players can put themselves in terrible positions, and are punished summarily for that.

HOW THE SURVIVAL GAME INFLUENCES THE
SURVIVAL GENRE

We also critique survival games based on what they add to the survival genre. Does the survival game add new mechanics that change the way we think about survival games?

Is there some novel interplay between environment and player that we have not seen before? If a survival game has answered these questions well, it earns a spot on our top survival game list.  

10 Top Survival Games

1

Dead Space

Dead Space 2
  • For the first time, experience the horror of a Necromorph outbreak in multiplayer as you fight in skirmishes around the...
  • Continue the frightening Dead Space saga in a whole new survival-horror adventure with engineer Isaac Clarke
  • Impale Necromorphs into the walls with the Javelin, use improved telekinesis to turn limbs into deadly weapons, plant...

Dead Space is a game that leaves you on a mining spacecraft that has been overrun by an infectious alien scourge. This alien scourge, known as Necromorphs, transform the cellular structure of human bodies, transforming them into horrific creatures.

Your goal in this game is to escape. Survival mechanics instantly come into play as the only weapon you start off with is an engineering saw. This saw can slice vertically and horizontally.

To combat the Necromorphs you come across, you must strategically use this saw to cut off different body parts. In addition to the saw, you eventually unlock other weapons like a beam that allows you to shoot Necromorphs limbs at other Necromorphs for maximum damage.

Dead Space pushes the genre forward by providing the player survival tools that reward ingenuity and quick thinking. Players must strategically use their environment and wit to survive the Necromorphs horror.

Sometimes disabling a Necromorph is the better path to outright destroying it, as some of these aliens can summon other Necromorphs upon death.

2

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead 2 - Xbox 360
  • On day one, Left 4 Dead 2 features more co operative campaigns, more campaigns and maps for the versus game modes than...
  • Left 4 Dead 2 features quality next generation co op action gaming from the makers of Half life, Portal, Team Fortress...
  • Updated “AI Director 2.0 technology expands players’ ability to customize level layout, world objects, weather, and...

Left 4 Dead 2 is an online cooperative survival horror game that forces players to work with their teammate to survive a number of horrors. Survives must defeat the infected, a medium to rapidly moving swarm of undead.

The survival mechanic elements that make this game excellent, is how each weapon and item balances with one another. Shotguns are great at clearing rooms, while snipers are great for taking out infected that deal high amounts of damage.

Players must take note of their environment as the infected respond to movement, and sound. There are vehicles scattered throughout each zone that will sound off if players come into contact. Even firing a weapon can summon a zombie hoard to your location.

Left 4 Dead 2 adds to the survival genre by adding in special infected that change the way each mission must be approached. For instance, the witch specializes in jump scaring the player and can take their health down in one hit.

The witch’s attention can be triggered by sound, sight, and even proximity to the player, making battling other infected around a Witch more challenging.

3

Dead Rising

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Dead Rising - Xbox One Standard Edition
  • Upgraded graphics - taking advantage of the current hardware systems, an all new version of Dead Rising can be enjoyed...
  • Dress for success - each new version of the game includes all additional DLC costumes.
  • The original that started it all! Explore expansive indoor and outdoor areas of the Willamette Mall

Deadrising puts players in the role of Frank West, a freelance photojournalist who goes to a mall in Willamette, Colorado because he gets a tip that something “big” is going to happen. Something big is in fact happening as there is a zombie outbreak that forces the player and other survivors into a large shopping mall. The goal of the game is to figure out why exactly the outbreak occurred.

Deadrising’s survival mechanics revolve around the 3 days Frank West has to make it to the roof of the shopping mall in order to escape. He uses a collection of weapons, vehicles, and items he finds in the mall to survive.

Surviving isn’t just a matter of defeating all of the zombies, Frank must also combat against psychopaths. Deadrising’s combat changed the way the survival genre in a key way. It made a statement that survival games could still be challenging and have a beat em up, hack and slash feel to them. 

4

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Xbox One
  • Awe-Inspiring Deadly Tombs – Explore huge ancient spaces littered with deadly traps, solve dramatic environmental...
  • Woman vs. Wild - Conquer a world fiercely protecting its secrets, endure perilous conditions and unstable landscapes,...
  • Guerrilla Combat – Use the environment to your advantage, scale trees and dive underwater to avoid or takedown...

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to Tomb Raider (2013) that redefined the survival adventure genre. The protagonist Lara Croft must face off against an organization named Trinity in the Serbian wilderness. Along the way Lara Croft comes across a native population harboring a secret that could change the world.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s survival mechanics revolve around staying warm, traversing the environment carefully to unlock tombs, and gathering small quantities of items to help you survive against wild animals and Trinity soldiers.

This game pushes the survival genre forward by adding a difficulty to combat that was not trivial. There are multiple ways to defeat enemies, and sometimes stealth trumps outright fighting enemies.

5

Uncharted

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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Hits - PlayStation 4
  • Several years after his last adventure, retired fortune hunter, Nathan Drake, is forced back into the world of thieves
  • With the stakes much more personal, Drake embarks on a globe-trotting journey in pursuit of a historical conspiracy...
  • His greatest adventure will test his physical limits, his resolve, and ultimately what he’s willing to sacrifice to...

Uncharted 4 tells the story of Nathan Drank, how he became a treasure hunter, and tackles the question of whether or not he can leave his treasure hunting hays behind him.

The game is an adventure survival game that is a joy to play. What separates Uncharted 4 from most other survival games, is the way survival adventure mechanics are incorporated to be fun as opposed to masochistic.

Every resource that can be gained is a pleasure rather than challenging to obtain. Of course, if players choose a higher difficulty, they may find obtaining certain items to be more difficult.

Uncharted 4 changes the survival genre by adding in an Indian Jones-esque entry into the survival game genre. At times lighthearted, and at times serious, survival game fans looking for a vibrant world will enjoy this game.

6

Frost Punk

Frost Punk O-Ring Standard Edition - Windows
  • The City Must Survive - Frostpunk is a city-survival game where heat means life and every decision comes with a cost.
  • Maintain The Hope - Survival is about hope and will to live. Your ability to spark and maintain these two in your people...
  • Make The Law - Society is a group of people abiding the same rules and sharing similar beliefs. Establishing laws and...

Frostpunk is a game that forces players to build a city in a frozen apocalypse scenario. This game drastically changes the survival genre by incorporating moral and political components to survival.

Frostpunk requires that players strategically plan most of their actions. There is the day to day reality of survival. The generator that powers New London must be kept up at all times or people will freeze to death.

At the same time, players need to think about the future, and create technological changes that can help the city withstand the forever lasting winter.

This game redefines the survival genre by including laws that the player must make to run New London. Will the player allow for child labor to speed up the building process? Will the player allow options for free healthcare, or charge for that healthcare?

The way the player responds to these questions will impact the moral fortitude of the city, and the populations viewpoint of the player.

7

ARK

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ARK: Survival Evolved - PlayStation 4
  • Capture and Tame Dinosaurs: Discover over 100 different dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures on the island, finding ways...
  • Survive Above All: Hunger, thirst, basic safety, and protecting yourself from the weather are all part of the game
  • Harvest, Hunt and Build: Cut down trees and turn them into a basic home, which you can quickly expand into a Jurassic...

Place human player avatars in a world with volcanoes, dinosaurs, dragons, and futuristic robots and you get Ark Survival Evolved. The gameplay is in the name of the title where the only objective is to survive.

Ark Survival Evolved has a wealth of survival systems that force the player to consistently think about their next move. Players need to eat or they will slowly lose stamina and die. Players also need to drink water, or they will become dehydrated and die.

Players must also survive against a host of planet life that is out to kill them. T-Rex will chase you across the game world, and dragons may swoop down for the kill. It is up to players to build shelter, weapons, and survive for as long as they can.

Ark Survival Evolved changes the survival genre by requiring the player to look after many resources that constitute survival.

By creating a world that changes and is truly in opposition to the player, Ark Survival Evolved succeeds in creating a believable survival world.

8

Don't Starve Mega Pack

Don't Starve Mega Pack - Xbox One
  • Uncompromising Survival & World Exploration: No instructions. No help. No hand holding. Start with nothing and craft,...
  • Dark and Whimsical Visuals: 2D Characters and odd creatures inhabiting a unique 3D world.
  • Randomly Generated New Worlds: Want a new map? No problem! At any time you can generate a new living and breathing world...

Don’t Starve is an open world survival game that puts players in the shoes of Wilson, a scientist who is trapped in the wilderness by a demon. Players begin the game with nothing, and must survive in this hostile environment.

This game also has an expansion called Don’t Starve Together that allows for players to experience the survival horror with up to 4 people on the same system.

Don’t Starve has interesting enemy design, and creates a cartoonish macabre world that is perfect to explore around Halloween time.

9

The Last of Us

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The Last of Us: Remastered (PS4)
  • The Last of Us Remastered Standard Edition
  • Arabic (Publication Language)

The Last of Us is a survival horror game that finds humans trying to survive after an infection outbreak. You play as Joel and Ellie, two survivors who are trying to take Ellie to a secret facility as she might have the cure for the outbreak.

The survival mechanics in this game make it quite difficult. Not only do you have to fend off against infected, and special infected variants, but the player must also combat raiders and bandits.

Weapons are not always the most efficient solution. Do you shoot the bandits only to run into infected later and not have ammo? Or do you try to sneak past bandits and save your weapons for when you really need them?

The questions we previously asked are all at the core of the Last of Us survival ethos. The narrative also plays a huge part in the game as it tackles the morality of human action during a zombie outbreak.

Is senseless death justified in a fight for survival? The Last of Us wastes no time in using the survival genre as a mirror for the player to reflect on their own morality.

10

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They Are Billions quite literally puts you against billions of zombies. Don’t worry the horde doesn’t all come at once, but your gameplay decisions will decide whether or not your base suffers the onslaught of over 20,000 infected.

They are Billions puts you in control of a base. You must maintain the base and prevent zombies from breaching your base. If a zombie breaches your base chaos ensues. Just one zombie can end the entire game.    

This game changes the survival genre by adding a pause button. Because you will be attacked by overwhelming odds, you are going to need to make use of the pause button to think about your next move.

man pointing a gun to a dinosaur

Buyer's Guide

Although we have provided you with the top 10 survival games out currently, you may want to find one on your own.

We recommend that players consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to buy a survival game:

  • Narrative
  • Is it fun?
  • Price

Narrative is an important factor to consider. Do you enjoy the world that the game is going to be set in? If you won’t, then playing through the survival game could feel like pulling teeth as opposed to fun.

Ask yourself whether or not the game is fun. Do you find the horror mechanics engaging? You can watch online reviews to help you come to this decision.

Consider the price of the game. If you only have a passing interest in what the game is selling, don’t buy it.

Our Top 10 Survival Games Of All Time Are All Genre Defining

Whether you enjoy zombie survival games, or games where you must survive in space, we are sure that we have listed a survival game you will enjoy.

Each game we have listed adds to the survival genre by defining new survival mechanics, and pushing the survival narrative forward.

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