Every year, a new batch of survival games attempt to put a unique spin on the genre with hopes of replicating the success of games like Minecraft. And although you’ll still find plenty of block-breaking clones, many survival titles find ways to stand out by incorporating new visual elements and/or interesting gameplay mechanics.
Here, we’ve highlighted the best survival games to play in 2019, with an emphasis on recent releases. We’ll be updating this list in the future, so make sure to check back. Lastly, if you’d like more gaming recommendations, consider reading through our other curated lists:
- Best Upcoming Games of 2019
- Best PC Games
- Best Nintendo Switch Games
- Best PS4 Games
- Best Xbox One Games
Outward (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Outward is an open-world RPG that features an impressively large number of survival mechanics that make the game feel much more realistic. Characters are vulnerable to enemy attacks in addition to hazardous environments, infectious diseases, sleep deprivation, and dehydration.
Although the game is set in the magical world of Aurai, it offers the unique perspective of having you control an ordinary adventurer with no special skills or powers. In order to make up for it, you’ll have to be cunning, clever and prepared at all times while making sure not to neglect your basic needs.
Half Dead 2 (PC)
Half Dead 2 sees players taking part in a galactic game of survival where the goal is to make it past a huge network of rooms filled with deadly traps as an audience watches. Gameplay is split between two modes: Co-op, in which players work together to clear rooms, and PVP, where anything goes.
To add to the temptation, rooms are filled with a variety of weapons that serve only to increase players’ bloodthirst. Survival games are designed to bring out our natural instincts, and Half Dead 2 does a great job at taking those instincts and twisting them however the game sees fit.
Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 (PC)
Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is another PVP focused survival game in which players battle underwater while also dealing with the constant fear that a shark may at any moment join in on the action. Gameplay is broken up into a number of modes including standard PVP with an AI-controlled shark, Predator mode, with one player controlling the shark, single-player survival as well as online co-op.
The game includes a variety of underwater maps with unique environmental hazards to keep players on their toes and a wide-selection of shark species with different behaviors. Lastly, customization options allow you to personalize wetsuits, flippers, goggles, tanks, snorkels and more.
State of Decay 2 (Xbox One, PC)
State of Decay 2 is a follow-up sequel to the original, which saw you managing a community of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world brimming with undead enemies. While most zombie survival games are centered around one protagonist, State of Decay has you swapping between a number of procedurally-generated characters you’ve recruited to live in your base.
The game is focused on scavenging for supplies and fortifying your base in order to deal with in-game events such as zombie infestations. Resources in each map are limited, forcing you to carefully decide what goals you want to achieve and which skills you’d like to invest in.
Die Young (PC)
Die Young has you playing as a kidnapped woman who finds herself dropped into a hole on a mysterious island. After climbing your way out, you’re met by a hostile world filled with savage dogs, constant hunger, and undying thirst.
The game places a large emphasis on climbing and frequently uses verticality as a way to escape enemies and reach vantage points where you can easily spot landmarks. A welcome addition to the survival genre is Die Young’s RPG mechanics, which allow you to augment your character with gear-based skills.
Rust is an online multiplayer survival game that initially started out as a DayZ clone. The game sees players starting off as vulnerable “nakeds,” spawning with nothing but a rock in their inventory. From that point on its up to the player to scavenge for supplies, kill wild animals, and defend themselves from the biggest threat, other human players.
While some may be kind and offer to team up or donate supplies, a majority will kill on sight with no remorse. This may make Rust a bit too challenging to break into for some, however, sinking in time and learning from each death will help you survive the game’s cold, heartless world.
Subnautica (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Subnautica is a first-person survival game that focuses on underwater exploration. After your spaceship crash-lands on an alien planet covered almost entirely by oceans, you’re left in a constant struggle for food, drinkable water, and oxygen. While searching for resources to help keep you alive you’ll come across valuable materials that can be used to upgrade tools, expand your base, and craft submersibles.
There are a number of objectives to pick from, such as exploring the deepest depths of the ocean or trying to build the biggest base you can. Exploring your old ship’s crash-site also reveals more about how you ended up on this strange planet and can help you plan an escape; but beware, as danger lurks around every corner and comes in all shapes and sizes.
Raft, as its name suggests, is all about surviving while on a floating raft in the middle of the ocean. Players start off with a meager four-panel wooden raft, with the goal being to expand the structure while juggling hunger, thirst, and the occasional shark attack.
Floating barrels and driftwood offer a means for crafting items and improving your raft’s foundation. However, gathering these resources will require either venturing out into dangerous waters or using a grappling hook to reel items in.
Astroneer (Xbox One, PC)
Astroneer is an online space exploration and survival game where up to 4-players can work together to colonize an alien planet, mining its resources and using them to craft a variety of tools and vehicles. The game doesn’t follow a pre-determined story or contain any scripted events, granting you and your friends the opportunity to carve out your own adventures.
The game’s bright and colorful visuals blend nicely with its low-poly graphics, especially when using your landscaping tool to terraform environments. Additionally, a recent 1.0 update added a new solar system to explore in addition to new suits, environmental hazards, vehicles, and items to craft.
Salt is a pirate-themed survival game that features very little hand-holding or tutorials. Players are dropped on a random island, given some information on how to survive, and then left to explore a massive world filled with numerous islands, each containing useful resources.
The game does a great job at capturing the feeling of being a pirate, offering the ability to build large complex ships that require multiple players to man them. Additionally, traveling from island to island can be unpredictable as you’re never sure what you’ll discover during your adventures.
The Long Dark (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
The Long Dark is a survival title that features impressive, hand-painted visuals that contrast nicely with the game’s harsh survival mechanics. Gameplay is split between two modes: Wintermute, which offers an episodic story campaign, and Sandbox, where players are free to craft anything they want. The story mode serves as a series of tutorials and offers some backstory on how your character, a pilot, ended up crash landing in the frozen wildlands of Canada.
While most survival games place a heavy emphasis on PVP, The Long Dark is completely single-player, which helps to create a more immersive sense of solitude. However, that doesn’t mean you’re free from danger, as wolves can leave you seriously wounded and weather can shift from clear, bright skies to brutal snowstorms in a matter of minutes.
The Forest (PS4, PC)
The Forest is an open-world, survival horror game that sees players take on the role of Eric Leblanc after crashlanding on a remote island along with his son. Soon after waking up, Eric realizes that his son’s been captured and that the island he’s on is inhabited by cannibalistic mutants.
The game is centered around crafting a base, tools, and weapons in order to defend yourself from the local natives while searching for your son. What makes The Forest stand out is its enemy AI, which reacts differently to the player based on the time of day.
Resident Evil 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Following the success of the first Resident Evil remake, Capcom’s updated version of Resident Evil 2 is nothing short of a survival horror game masterpiece. It features completely redone assets as well as some QoL improvements that make the 20-year-old title feel like a current-gen release.
You control rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield as they attempt to escape Raccoon City in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. While the core experience of RE2 has remained pretty much the same and sees you scavenging for ammo and healing items, the story has been reworked in some areas, giving characters like Ada Wong a much more prominent role.
Darkwood (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Darkwood is a tense, horror survival game played from a top-down perspective that sees players controlling a silent protagonist stranded in a terrifying forest. The game features a day/night cycle that directly impacts gameplay, with daytime making exploration more possible.
However, once the sun has faded and the forest becomes dark, the game’s sinister intentions are revealed. The protagonist is completely incapable of dealing with threats outside, and therefore, must barricade themselves inside a small cabin and pray that no monsters come their way.
Rising World (PC)
Rising World takes a lot of the concepts introduced by Minecraft and kicks them up a notch, offering a lot more variety in terms of craftable items such as tools, armors, decorations, etc.
The game lends itself to a more photorealistic visual style, giving it a more serious tone compared to Minecraft’s voxel-based presentation. Although it’s been in Early Access for a long time, the developers are still communicating and releasing updates to address player concerns.
Unturned is a free-to-play survival game with voxel-based visuals and zombie enemies. Despite its cartoonish presentation, the game is very tough, with resources and inventory space are extremely limited as well as a day/night cycle that affects enemy behavior.
During the day, things are a lot more peaceful as the game’s colorful, blocky world comes to life. However, once night falls, your character becomes is much more vulnerable as zombies roam the streets and visibility is reduced, increasing your chances of running into an ambush.
Oxygen Not Included (PC)
Oxygen Not Included is a survival game with an interesting, hand-drawn art style that just so happens to deliver a challenging experience as well. The game tasks players with helping characters survive underground, where oxygen is hard to come by.
Duties include managing your crew’s lives, assigning them to complete different tasks, including exploring nearby areas in order to find resources and discover new technologies. The game’s lighthearted tone does a great job at luring you into a false sense of security, as even the smallest mistake can lead to a member of your crew dying.
Minecraft (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the grandfathers of the survival genre, Minecraft. The game’s community is bigger than ever, with millions of active players populating servers each month, and support for crossplay.
By now, most will recognize the staple Minecraft formula: You break blocks for resources and use them to construct tools, weapons, decorative items, you name it. The game’s longevity can be attributed to modders finding ways to keep the game fresh as well as a friendly community that’s welcoming to newcomers.
Whether its PC or console, AAA or Indie, New-York born and raised Justin has a natural curiosity to seek out hidden gems and share them with other gamers. He also maintains his own YouTube channel in addition to writing and managing the social media profiles for GamingScan.