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

Best survival games: Don't Starve character on a green background
(Image credit: Future/Klei Entertainment)

If you're on the hunt for the best survival games, then you're already on your way to being the ultimate survivor, as you'll find them right here. 

The best survival games are designed to put you through your paces, pitting you against hostile environments and the elements, as you craft, kill and scavenge in your bid to survive.

Sure, this genre may not sound like a whole lot of fun, survival games are brutal after all, but they're also brutally addictive. That's why we've rounded up some of the best titles the genre has to offer below, with our list consisting of survival games that will test your endurance, your ingenuity and, in many cases, your capacity for scares

Ready to put your survival skills to the test? Here’s our pick of the best survival games you can play right now.

Best survival games

Don't Starve character in a camp

Don't Starve (Image credit: Steam)

Don't Starve

The woods are a dangerous place

Reasons to buy

+
Challenging but goofy
+
Tim Burton-esque art style
+
Plenty of crafting options

Reasons to avoid

-
Maybe too challenging for some

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 nightmare as conducted by Roald Dahl. Exploring its creepy world is never jump-out-of-your-seat frightening, but you’ll be terrified if you lose all your progress being killed by a marauding spider thing. Consider picking up the Don’t Starve Together add-on too, which introduces four-player co-operative play into the mix and is easily one of of the best co-op games around.

No Man's Sky spaceships on a planet

No Man's Sky (Image credit: Steam)

No Man’s Sky

Explore planets

Reasons to buy

+
Lush, vivid world
+
Exciting exploration
+
Soundtrack

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic mechanics

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

There’s a part of us that feels that, after the release and subsequent polishing of No Man’s Sky, all other games should just go home. What’s the point in playing something else when No Man’s Sky offers an entire universe for you to explore? A phenomenal technical achievement, and sci-fi nerds dream, it’s also one of the best survival games, as you’ve got to collect resources, craft new gear, upgrade ships and defend against a menagerie of environmental hazards and intergalactic nasties.

First-person view of a bow and arrow drawn, pointing towards a dinosaur

Ark: Survival Evolved (Image credit: Steam)

Ark: Survival Evolved

As close to Jurassic Park as we might get

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of freedom
+
Regularly updated
+
World feels dangerous

Reasons to avoid

-
No story or structure
-
Unforgiving to newbies

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

There’s never really been a good Jurassic Park game, and while it’s not officially licensed, Ark: Survival Evolved might be as good as we’ll get. Waking up on a deserted beach with just your wits and a loincloth, it’s up to you to find shelter, craft tools and weaponry, and forge alliances with fellow players on an island teeming with giant aggressive dinosaur inhabitants. It’s a bit rough around the edges, and very unforgiving for newcomers, but getting to the point where you’ve tamed your own ferocious T-Rex still takes some beating.

Conan characters fight a giant snake

Conan Exiles (Image credit: Steam)

Conan Exiles

Dongs galore

Reasons to buy

+
Brutal, authentic combat
+
Lush environments
+
Create giant settlements

Reasons to avoid

-
Nudity may not be for everyone

Platforms available: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

You know what survival games need even more of? Dongs! More dongs! And this time, with a dong-size slider in the character creation screen. Yep – build-your-own dong. And that’s before the game has even properly started. Obviously not one for the kids then, but this barbarian-themed survival game does Arnie proud with brutal combat, lush environments to explore and giant settlements to create. And massive dongs.

A various cast of Minecraft characters in one of the game's worlds

Minecraft (Image credit: Microsoft/Mojang)

Minecraft

Pixelated playground

Reasons to buy

+
Fun for all ages
+
Loads of ways to play
+
Playground of creativity

Reasons to avoid

-
Some may find it boring

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

Perhaps the most famous survival game of them all – although for many that side of Minecraft has slid into obscurity. While many now dive into the friendly build modes, at the heart of Minecraft remains an engrossing survival adventure, seeing you collect resources, build a shelter, and heading into the heart of the Earth to take on the increasingly aggressive inhabitants while hunting for rare treasures.

The watery grave of a sea monster in Subnautica, surrounded by alien fish

Subnautica (Image credit: Unknown worlds entertainment)

Subnautica

Traverse the depths

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous world to explore
+
Mystery to unravel
+
Plenty of crafting options

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be difficult to work out what to do

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

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

A soldier lies on the floor shooting a zombie

DayZ (Image credit: Steam)

DayZ

Throw in some zombies

Reasons to buy

+
Good fun with friends
+
Who doesn't like zombies?

Reasons to avoid

-
Unforgiving for newbies
-
Technical issues

Platforms available: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

The survival daddy in many respects, DayZ started life as a mod before blowing up in such a huge 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.

First-person view of hands lighting a molotov

The Forest (Image credit: Steam)

The Forest

One for horror fans

Reasons to buy

+
Sprawling map
+
Fun with friends
+
Terrifying enemies

Reasons to avoid

-
Buggy

Platforms available: PC and PS4

This one’s great for horror game fans – it’s the most out-and-out scary on the list. As a survivor of plane crash landing in that titular forest, The Forest has you evading the wandering mutant cannibals lurking among the trees, while building a fortress up in the branches. A toughie, and most enjoyable with a gang of pals.

A cut section view of a pixelated house

Terraria (Image credit: Steam)

Terraria

One of the most popular

Reasons to buy

+
Colorful and vast
+
Cute art style
+
In depth crafting system

Reasons to avoid

-
Tutorial isn't thorough

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

Like a 16-bit Minecraft, the 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 in. It’s a great game, with a cutesy art style that belies its complexity.

A cut section view of a spaceship

Starbound (Image credit: Steam)

Starbound

A Terraria alternative

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of planets to discover
+
World feels alive
+
Plenty of content

Reasons to avoid

-
Difficulty curve

Platforms available: PC

Starbound has a very similar artstyle, and playstyle, to Terraria, but takes the endeavor up to the outer reaches of space. It has the same side-scrolling open-world exploration but has a bit more of a quest system than some of the more free-form entries on this list. A great one for Terraria fans.

Gerald is the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Based out of TechRadar Towers, London, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.


Gerald dreams of the day when he can pop on a VR headset and meet Lawnmower Man-era Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, Pierce doesn't share the dream.


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