And although many of these games can be considered clones, there are a ton of great survival games that manage to stand out by introducing new environments and gameplay systems.
Here, we’ll be highlighting the best survival games to play in 2021.
Make sure to check back as we’ll be updating this list regularly in the future and if you’d like to receive more gaming recommendations, consider reading through our other curated lists:
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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 control over 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.
State of Decay 2
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 un-dead enemies.
While most zombie survival games revolve 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 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.
Mechanica offers an open-world survival sandbox where players can create their own fortified bases, manufacturing operations, and more. Where the game differs from other games is its emphasis on programming and automated building. This allows you to scale projects as you progress and acquire more resources.
However, exploring the game’s post-apocalyptic map isn’t as easy as getting up and going since hostile robots will chase you down if they detect you nearby.
Thankfully, there are a variety of traps and defenses which can be modified to work how you want. For example, you could set up a tripwire that triggers a flamethrower whenever it’s stepped on, or install a security measure that sends your base into total lockdown at the push of a button.
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, it’s 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.
Scrap Mechanic sees you crash landing on a “far-away” planet filled with menacing Farmbots that have gone rogue. In order to traverse the open-world world and stay alive, you’ll have to flex your creative muscles by building up a base, some defenses, and a vehicle or two.
The game leans heavily into its building component, allowing you to dream up complex structures and vehicles via a flexible crafting system. Scrap Mechanic recently received a Survival Mode update that introduces health and thirst mechanics, new enemies, character customization, gardening, and more.
These are all welcome additions considering how limited activities were before, especially for those playing alone.
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 several objectives to pick from, such as exploring the deepest parts 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 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 transform 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.
The Long Dark
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 provides 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 entirely 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 is an open-world, survival horror game that sees players take on the role of Eric Leblanc after crashing and landing on a remote island along with his son. Soon after waking up, Eric realizes that his son’s been captured and that cannibalistic mutants inhabit the island he’s on.
The game is centered around crafting a base, tools, and weapons 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
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 amid 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 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.
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
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 to find resources and discover new technologies.
The game’s lighthearted tone does a great job of luring you into a false sense of security, as even the smallest mistake can lead to a member of your crew dying.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the forefathers 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.