The appeal of survival games is simple to understand: fighting to stay alive is hard-coded into our DNA, so it’s easy to see why we’d become engrossed in experiencing it in games. The best survival games on PC push players to their limits, presenting them with tough problems and challenging them to find creative solutions.
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.
In a sentence: Exploration and base-building in the Viking afterlife.
Status: Released in Early Access on February 2, 2021
Link: Official site
It didn’t take long for Early Access co-op Viking survival game to draw a crowd, and it’s easy to see why. A massive procedurally generated world, fearsome boss fights, and excellent base-building systems mesh wonderfully with survival elements like cooking and crafting. Solo play is great, but it really shines in co-op, and players can busy themselves with base construction or set out on perilous journeys across the sea to find dangerous new continents.
In a sentence: Survival, crafting, and building—underwater.
Status: Released January 23, 2018
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.
In a sentence: You’re tiny and trying to survive in someone’s back yard.
Status: In Early Access since July 28, 2020
Obsidian shrunk you down and dropped you in a normal backyard, but due to your size it might as well be a jungle. Surrounded by killer spiders, hungry birds, and annoying ants, you can build a base by chopping down blades of grass and forage for food and drink by roasting aphids and collecting drops of dew. It’s a beautiful and somewhat wonderous environment from the perspective of a someone the size of a bug.
In a sentence: Survival, city-building, and crisis management in a frozen world.
Status: Released April 24, 2018
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.
Escape from Tarkov
Escape from Tarkov is a savage evolution of survival games with just a pinch of battle royale thrown in for flavor. Instead of playing in a persistent world, you spawn on a map with a few other players and several dozen enemy NPCs. To survive, you have to reach an exfiltration zone on the other end of the map, but you also get to keep anything you loot to sell on a player-driven marketplace or use in subsequent rounds. It’s a lot like poker only way scarier. What really sells Tarkov, though, is it’s hyper-realistic gunplay and ridiculously deep gun customization.
Sounds strange to say it, but this fantasy RPG where you can never actually die is one of the best recent survival games around. In Outward you’re not only challenged by mystical monsters but the world itself, in which you must keep yourself fed, hydrated, and healthy. In the arid deserts heat will sap your endurance, in the marshy swamplands the water can poison you, and with no fast-travel or quest markers or even your own location shown on your map, each excursion is an exercise in preparation, patience, and survival.
It’s been five years of Early Access, but RimWorld has finally reached version 1.0. In this management and survival sim you oversee a colony of randomly generated people stranded on a procedural alien planet. Expand the base, keep your colonists healthy and sane, and deal with disasters thrown your way by RimWorld’s AI director, which can include anything from disease outbreaks to alien attacks to weather events. The toughest challenge may be just making your colonists simply get along with each other: each one has a distinct personality, desires, and moods.