Survival Games

Your objective? Survive. Sounds simple, right? It’s anything but. You’ll need to scrounge, scavenge, and struggle for every ray of hope in survival games!
Survival Games
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We might all have the survival instinct in us, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has what it takes to make it in the best survival games. You’ll need to keep your wits about you and firm up all your resilience if you intend to come out the other side unscathed. And even then, you might come up short...

If you’re looking for a true challenge, you certainly won’t regret playing survival games online. Designed to keep you on your toes constantly, the result is that simply surviving can often make you feel more fulfilled than preventing World War III or saving the world in other games.

From free survival games on mobile to the best survival games PC players can experience, this genre guarantees tense moments and a sense of real accomplishment!

Are Survival Games Their Own Genre?

Survival games could be viewed as a subsector or subgenre of action-adventure games. Typically set in bleak, atmospheric, open world environments, survival games are designed to create a sense of helplessness. A survival RPG game, for example, would include a distinct protagonist who you control and develop as the game’s storyline evolves.

Obviously, a lot of games require you to ‘survive’, but occasionally having to avoid your health dropping to 0 doesn’t mean you’re playing a survival game. Set in hostile environments with open-ended mechanics revolving around the durability of your character, the best survival games place emphasis on cheating death – not just so you can ‘get to the end’ of the game. Simply put, survival is your primary goal; everything else is secondary.

While the genre started with simple maze-chase arcade games in the early 80s, new survival games have infused this single-minded philosophy into every aspect of game design. They usually have complex health systems where, instead of a simple health bar, players might see their vision blurring around the edge so it’s hard to shoot or their character might become prone to panic.

In many new survival games, you aren’t as likely to see health bars as in older titles. Instead, players have to gauge the level of a threat from their character’s reaction to it. This can be expressed through explicit game mechanics like the character walking slower when they’re exhausted to subtle mechanics where the character is unable to interact with others since their thoughts are hazy.

Some survival games even have various stages of permadeath. You might lose a member of your crew forever or you might be allowed to respawn but without any of the items you have collected during the course of the game. Free survival games on mobile usually allow you to ‘cheat’ by watching an ad to reclaim your original progress. The most hardcore online survival games, though, start you afresh with a totally new character so you need to build from zero all over again.

Are Survival Games Difficult?

‘Staying alive’ sounds like a pretty straightforward objective but the best survival games turn this seemingly-simple objective into a seemingly-impossible one.

For one, you don’t have the luxury of abundant resources. You typically start playing with quite literally nothing. You have to navigate a hostile environment and forage for or craft the resources and equipment you’ll need to stay alive. And we’re not just talking about weapons, ammo, and armor – in most survival games, you have to consider things that wouldn’t even cross your mind in other genres, things as simple as food and water!

There are many potential threats: starvation, thirst, and environmental hazards are just the beginning. In some instances, you may face prehistoric beasts, flesh-eating zombies, changing seasons, radiation leaks, or deadly viruses. In multiplayer survival games, you might also encounter fellow players - either ones you’ll have to compete against in order to survive, or in some cases, work together towards a common goal.

The best survival games give players equal incentive to cooperate with others and to betray them. This can bring endless unpredictability to the game and make every interaction an adrenaline pumping event.

What Makes a Game a Survival Game?

From solo PC survival games to multiplayer survival games, this is a genre with a lot of variety. But there are a few key features that define it, all of which feed into each other to create tense, nail-biting gameplay loops.

A Pervasive Sense of Danger and Dread

Fear is an essential part of our self-preservation instincts. You are not supposed to feel powerful, the way you do in many action games. Instead, survival games should make you feel vulnerable, with threats lurking around every corner, creating an experience that takes you out of your comfort zone and pushes you to your limits.

An Emphasis on Character Resources

You’re not going to feel vulnerable if you’re covered in armor and armed to the teeth with machine guns or rocket launchers. The best survival games force you to think strategically about resources. You’re not handed the things you need to survive right away: you’ll need to work your way around death. And even if you do find a weapon, it might not be particularly strong, and ammo may be hard to come by.

You’ll need to think carefully about every piece of equipment, every type of resource, and every free slot in your inventory. What items will you have to find in order to survive? Which items are you going to have to sacrifice to make room for more valuable ones? And how can you combine and use the limited items at your disposal effectively but sparingly?

The Demand for Patience and Cunning

The ‘all guns blazing’ mindset isn’t going to get you very far in the best survival games. Perhaps you can see beasts in the distance, guarding resources you need (or, perhaps, they are the resources you need). You need to think carefully - do you have the right equipment to deal with this? The right skills? Is there a way to get what you need without battling?

Each decision is meaningful and it’s more so in multiplayer survival games. The player you see in the distance could be a helpful ally, but could just as easily be a bloodthirsty opponent desperate for your resources. You’ll have to decide whether to approach them, hide and wait, sneak around them, or attack first. Patience is a vital element of online survival games, and the wrong decision often has a terrible cost.

The Need to Adapt to Changing Environments

On top of all the other survival concerns, the best survival games will also force you to consider things like day/night cycles and the weather; factors which in other genres, such as in shooting games, are not at the top of your list of priorities.

Daylight might be safer and warmer, but it may also make you an easier target. The night lends you the cover of darkness, but with more dangerous creatures lurking about. And bad weather may be your biggest foe of all: rain and snow might bring lethal sub-zero temperatures. You’ll need to adapt to these dangerous and dynamic environments to get ahead.