Best survival games: build, battle, loot, learn and live

best survival games Road going through a pine forest
(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

The best survival games may not sound like much fun to most people, but to those who enjoy testing their metal and pushing their skills to the limit, there's no better way to unwind at the end of the day. 

While the best survival games can be tough to crack at first, they do provide tons of fantastic adventures and complicated scenarios for players to triumph over. Whether you have to grow enough food to explore the Nether in Minecraft or collect trash to make your boat sturdier in Raft

You can set out on your own adventure by yourself or with friends and forge your own path ahead into the unforgiving wilderness. Many of the best survival games also feature beautiful landscapes, which makes getting lost in the wilderness slightly more bearable. 

If you're looking for some excellent survival games to enjoy, then this list breaks down all the best ones on various platforms that are available to play right now. 

Best survival games

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A car with glow in the dark paint sat in a garage

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

Pacific Drive

Explore the Exclusion Zone

Reasons to avoid

Empty List
Why we love it

Pacific Drive is an incredible survival game which offers up outstanding landscapes, terrifying and confusing enemies, as well as great crafting systems. If you're a fan of driving sims but want something slightly more intimidating then this survival game is well worth a look in. 

Platforms available: PC and PlayStation 5

Pacific Drive is an incredible survival game that adds a new twist to the usual resource-gathering systems. Players will find themselves in the unusual and unforgiving Olympic Exclusion Zone, a location which the US government has barred off from the rest of the country due to the high rate of strange and dangerous anomalies. 

With only a rusty station wagon at your side, you must explore the zone, gathering resources and intel that will help you craft sturdier car parts and allow you to explore more dangerous elements. There are a few friendly faces that you will meet along the way who can help you in your quest to discover what went wrong in this abandoned place and how you can get out of it. 

The crafting element and hostile anomalies in Pacific Drive constantly keep you on your toes. However, for those who don't want a painstaking experience hoarding resources and running from danger, you can change up the difficulty thanks to numerous accessibility settings. It's a fantastic survival game that can meet everyone's needs, no matter if you want a smooth ride or want to be tested to your limits. 

best survival games: a Don't Starve character chased by two spiders

Don't Starve (Image credit: Klei Entertainment)

Don't Starve

The woods are a dangerous place
Why we love it

There's a lot of layers to Don't Starve and each one of them want to kill you. The fantastic art style and precarious scenarios are brilliantly engaging. 

Platforms available: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android

From its lovely Tim Burton-esque art style to its deep and engrossing crafting system, Don’t Starve is like a beautiful nightmare. 

Exploring its mysterious world is never jump-out-of-your-seat frightening, but you’ll be terrified if you lose all your progress getting killed by a marauding spider thing. Or starvation. Or eating something deadly. There are many ways to die in Don't Starve, which is why this addition to the best survival games is so rewarding when you manage to survive.

Consider picking up the Don’t Starve Together add-on, which introduces four-player co-operative play into the mix and quickly makes the game one of the best co-op games.

Troll looking down at player

Valheim (Image credit: Coffee Stain Publishing)


A saga worthy of Odin’s patronage
Why we love it

Valheim is a perfect game to play with friends thanks to the freedom found and the unique tasks that lie ahead of you. There's so much to explore and build in this world that it'll provide a ton of activities for you and your friends. 

Platforms available: Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC and Xbox One 

Valheim is a brutal exploration and survival game that can be enjoyed solo or with up to 10 players, making it one of the best survival games to play with a large group. Trapped in a Viking-inspired purgatory, you must fight through various Norse mythology characters to conquer the lands you find. 

You can explore a world shrouded in mystery by building longboats and setting sail upon the open seas. Or, if you want to plant your roots, pick a spot and create a marvellous Viking hall with a completed building system. Just make sure to develop adequate defenses and store up food for the winter, as in this game, the monsters aren't always your worst enemy.

This open-world survival game has almost endless possibilities, which becomes even more enjoyable with friends, making it a strong contender for our best co-op games.

A man holding a gun in a derelict town

Rust (Image credit: Facepunch Studios)


Where everything wants you dead
Why we love it

Rust is a classic survival game, and you can't really go wrong with the original. Encountering the hardest obstacle to surviving, humans, is infinitely more interesting than simply facing the wilderness.  

Platforms available: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

The primary objective of Rust is to conquer the wilderness, animals, and critically other players in a bid to survive another night. As a strictly multiplayer online game, the biggest threat in Rust is your fellow player, as you can use firearms, bows, and various weapons to bludgeon people to death for fun or to collect their materials. 

You'll encounter wild animals stalking the woods or armed NPCs driving around in vehicles that shoot at any player armed with a weapon. In this deadly open world, your best bet at survival is either building a base or joining a clan. This usually means that raiding will become another threat for you to fight against.

For those who want to get even more creative, rest assured that modded servers are supported on Rust, which can add additional content.

best survival games: Minecraft character stand on top of a cave that creepers spill out of

Minecraft (Image credit: Mojang)


Pixelated playground
Why we love it

Minecraft has always been at the top of our list for survival games since its launch. While it may not have complex systems it does have tons of fantastic mods, and a solid foundation of identity which has worked well for years.

Platforms available: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android

Perhaps the most famous survival game of them all and a shoo-in for our best survival games list, although for many who like to focus on building, that side of Minecraft has slid into obscurity. 

At the heart of Minecraft remains an engrossing survival adventure, seeing you collect resources, build a shelter, and head into the heart of the Earth to take on the increasingly aggressive inhabitants while hunting for rare treasures. Thanks to many crossplay options, it's one of the best crossplay games, too.

If you want to get started in Minecraft on PC and need help working out what version of Minecraft to download, check our guide on how to download Minecraft for PC.

best survival games: The watery grave of a sea monster in Subnautica, surrounded by alien fish

Subnautica (Image credit: Unknown worlds entertainment)


choppy waves
Why we love it

Subnautica is a fantastic experience you can enjoy alone or share with friends. If you're a fan of exploring vast oceanscapes and encountering horrifyingly huge sea creatures, then this is one for you.

Platforms available: PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One

Taking the survival genre 20,000 leagues under the sea, Subnautica mixes sci-fi scares with underwater thrills. It’s one of the most polished survival games, with a unique world to explore and a great loop of resource gathering, enemy battling and base improvements. 

If you're not one for deep, murky waters, then Subnautica can be a genuinely stressful experience (that's why it's made our list of the 10 worst games for thalassophobia). Subnautica is one of the most atmospheric titles on our best survival games list.

If Subnautica has got you hooked, don't forget to check out Subnautica: Below Zero, set two years after the original game's events.

best survival games: a soldier lying on the ground shooting at a zombie

DayZ (Image credit: Bohemia Interactive)


The bread and butter (and brains) of survival horror
Why we love this title

DayZ has got some fantastic PvP battles as well as roleplaying features which give this title a refreshing spin on the survival game genre. 

Platforms available: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

In many respects, the grandfather of the best survival games started life as a mod before blowing up in such a massive way that it became its own game. Based on military sim Arma 3, it adds that ol’ faithful of videogames, zombies, into the survival mix. However, it’s not the undead you need to be most afraid of, but other players – they roam the maps in makeshift gangs, preying on the weak and stealing your hard-earned gear.

DayZ has the potential for some great roleplaying, big PvP battles, and unforgiving survival elements. The tables can turn quickly on you in this game, but anything is possible if you've found a good group.

best survival games: a cross section of a temple and its base level

Terraria (Image credit: RE-Logic)


This one you've got to see for yourself
Why we love it

Terraria takes you on a magical and monstrous journey through wonderfully beautiful scenarios that force you to think on your feet.

Platforms available: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android)

Like 16-bit Minecraft, pixel-art Terraria is one of the most popular survival games out there. Colorful and vast, Terraria lets you take on lots of monstrous foes, digging deep into endless caverns before returning to your home to construct gigantic bases to hone your skills.

It’s a great game, with a cutesy art style that belies its complexity. For years, Terraria received extensive updates, and the amount of stuff there is to see and collect is really astounding. Losing in Terraria can be frustrating for that very reason, but there are so many things to do and discover that you'll start it all over again – truly the mark of the best survival games.

A raft floating in the sea

Starbound (Image credit: Axolot Games)


Struggles ahoy
Why we love it

While surviving in Raft is in by no means easy, it is a simpler survival game to play with friends meaning you can really enjoy yourself with little consequences. 

Platforms available: PC

Raft is an excellent survival game to test the metal of you and your friends. Set adrift on a small plank of wood; you must explore islands, scavenge for parts, and fight against the perils of the sea to survive. 

You can customize and build up your raft into a luxury vessel that is worthy of carrying you to your next adventure, but be warned; it's not all sun and seashells. The harsh sea will punish you, so resources and food can be scarce, so when possible, scavenge reefs and islands as much as possible, no matter the danger.

Best survival games FAQs

What is the hardest survival game on PC?

It's widely accepted that Rust is the hardest survival game there is. Starting off completely naked armed with a torch and a rock, a lot of hard work goes into surviving against your fellow players and all the beasts. 

What should a survival game have?

A survival game should focus on resource management, item crafting, and exploration. The player typically starts out by themselves with little resources before actively searching for shelter, weapons, and food.

How we made our list 

The best survival games come in tons of shapes and sizes, and luckily here at TechRadar Gaming, our writers love all sorts of titles. There's the classic zombie survival, multiplayer and co-op games, or just the seemingly cute and cuddly adventure survival titles. 

I grew up playing Minecraft, and although it hasn't always gone to plan, especially when I lost my A.S.S., I always love coming back to this survival game. I also love to dive into co-op survival games; getting to go up against all the odds with my friends by my side is hilariously stressful.

If you want the thrill of surviving against all the odds but don't want to spend countless hours playing Grand Designs in a forest or harvesting crops then check out of best battle royale games list for some titles that'll give you immediate action and crushing fights.

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased. 

With contributions from