Survival game

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This article is about the video game genre. For the outdoor sport, see Airsoft.

Survival games are a subgenre of action video games that generally start the player off with minimal resources, in a hostile, open-world environment, and require them to collect resources, craft tools, weapons, and shelter, and survive as long as possible. Many survival games are based on randomly or procedurally generated persistent environments, with more recently created games often playable online, with multiple players on a single persistent world. Survival games are generally open-ended with no set goals, and are often closely related to the survival horror genre, in which the player must survive within a supernatural setting, such as a zombie apocalypse.


Survival games are considered an extension of a common video game theme where the player-character is stranded or separated from others, and must work alone to survive and complete a goal. Survival games primarily focus on the survival parts of these games, while encouraging exploration of an open world.[1] They are primarily action games, though some gameplay elements present in the action-adventure genre—such as resource management and item crafting—are commonly found in survival games,and are often central elements in some titles, like Survival Kids. At the start of a typical survival game, the player is usually placed alone in the game's world with few resources. It is not uncommon for players to spend the majority or entirety of the game without encountering a friendly non-player character; since NPCs are typically hostile to the player, emphasis is placed on avoidance, rather than confrontation. In some games, however, combat is unavoidable and provides the player with valuable resources (i.e., food, weapons, and armor).

In some titles, the world itself is often generated randomly so that players must actively search for food and weapons, with knowledge from previous games being used for visual and audio cues about where resources may be found nearby.[2] The player-character will typically have a health bar, and can take damage from falling, starving, drowning, stepping into lava or similar deadly liquids, or being attacked by monsters that inhabit the world. Other metrics may also come into play; the survival title Don't Starve features both a separate hunger gauge and a sanity meter, which (if allowed to fully deplete) will cause the death of the character. In some games, character death is not 'the end'; the player may be able to return to the point at which his character died to retrieve lost equipment. Other survival games use permadeath: the character has one life, and dying requires that the game be restarted from the beginning.[2] While many survival games are aimed at constantly putting the player at risk from hostile creatures or the environment, others may downplay the amount of danger the player faces and instead encourage more open-world gameplay, where player-character death can still occur if the player is not careful or properly equipped.[3]

Many survival games feature crafting systems; by combining two or more resources, the player can create a new object, which can be further used for crafting.[2] This enables gameplay where the player can collect resources to craft new tools that enable them to access better resources that will eventually lead to better tools and weapons. A common example is creation of pick-axes of various levels of hardness, starting from wood; these allow stone to be mined but not metallic ores, but a stone pickaxe, made from collected stone, can be used to mine these ores. The same concept applies to weapons and armor, with those made out of more difficult-to-acquire materials providing better offensive and defense bonuses. Often, the crafting system includes durability factors for tools and weapons, so that after repeated uses, the tool will break and new ones created. Crafting systems may not give the player the necessary recipes for crafting, requiring this to be learned through discovery or through game guides.

There is rarely a winning condition for survival games; the challenge to the player is to last as long as possible, though some games set a goal for survival time. As such, there is rarely any significant story in these games, beyond setting up the reason why the player-character has found themselves in this situation. Some survival games provide quests to help guide the player to learn the game's survival mechanics and lead them to more dangerous areas as to acquire better resources. Because of the open-world nature and crafting systems, some open-world games can allow for user-made creations to be built. Minecraft, for example, allows players to place blocks to construct crude shelters for protection, but as they gather more resources and readily survive, players can create massive structures from the game's building blocks, often modeling real-world and fictional buildings. Survival games typically feature non-replenishing resources, though the player can take steps to allow new resources to become available. For example, in Terraria, chopping down a tree will eliminate that tree from the game, but the player can replant seeds that will allow new trees to grow.[4]

Survival games are nearly always playable as a single player, but many are designed as multiplayer experiences, with game servers hosting the persistent world that players will connect to. The open-ended nature of these games encourage players to work together to survive, but do not prevent the killing of player-characters, and in some cases, can making this a rewarding goal such being able to loot the dead character's body. This can lead to players forming alliances, constructing fortified structures and working together to protect themselves from both the dangers presented by the game's world and from other player-characters.[5]

Many survival games are presented in the first-person perspective to help immerse the player in the game. Other titles have taken other methods of presentation: games like Terraria and Starbound are presented as two-dimensional side views, while Don't Starve uses sprites rendered in a three-dimensional isometric projection. Further, while survival games are considered action games, there are other genres that feature the survival theme, such as turn-based role-playing games Dead State and NEO Scavenger, and the first-person shooter, story-driven S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series.[6] Survival mechanics, particularly resource gathering, hunting, and crafting, have also become elements of games primarily focusing on other genres, such as 2013's Tomb Raider and the Far Cry series.[1]


An early example of the survival game genre is UnReal World. This game was created by Sami Maaranen in 1992 and still in active development at the present. The game was based on a roguelike approach, using ASCII graphics that computers were capable of at the time, and placed the player in the harsh conditions of Finland during the Iron Age. Unlike traditional rogue-likes where there was a goal to reach, UnReal World's only goal was to survive as long as possible against wild creatures and the dangers that the snowy weather created.[7] Another early example of the survival game genre is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System game SOS, released by Human Entertainment in 1993.[8]

Wurm Online is also a title containing some elements that ultimately have influenced a number of survival games. As a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, the game set players as characters in a medieval setting, allowing them to terraform the land, create buildings, and effectively develop their own kingdoms. Initial development began in 2003 by Rolf Jansson and Markus Persson, and though Persson left around 2007, the game continues to be operated and expanded in the present.[7] Persson became instrumental in developing Minecraft, the title that is considered to have given popularity to the survival game genre.[7] Within initial public releases in 2009, Minecraft focuses on resource-gathering and crafting in a procedurally-generated world, and requiring the player to defend themselves during night cycles while managing to scavenge for resources otherwise.[7]

Another key title in the survival genre was DayZ. It was originally released as a mod in 2012 for ARMA 2, but due to its popularity, was later expanded to a standalone game. The game sets the players in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, requiring the characters to avoid hordes of zombies while scavenging through the remains of human civilization for resources.[7] As a result of the financial success of Minecraft and DayZ, the survival genre began to see numerous titles released from 2012 onward. Some considered that the market has become saturated with many titles based on the same post-apocalyptic setting, clones of more popular titles, and titles released as a quick attempt to make money using Early Access models.[9][10]

List of survival games[edit]

The following is a representative list of games classified in the survival genre.

Year Title Developer Original Platform(s) Notes
1992 UnReal World Enormous Elk Microsoft Windows
1993 SOS Human Entertainment Super Nintendo Entertainment System [8]
1994 Robinson's Requiem Silmarils Microsoft Windows, Atari Falcon, Atari ST, Amiga
1996 Deus Silmarils Microsoft Windows Sequel to Robinson's Requiem
1996 Tail of the Sun Artdink PlayStation
1999 Survival Kids Konami Game Boy, Game Boy Color
2000 Survival Kids 2: Dasshutsu!! Futago Shima! Konami Game Boy, Game Boy Color Released only in Japan
2002 Disaster Report Irem PlayStation 2 [11]
2003 Stranded Unreal Software Microsoft Windows
2005 Lost in Blue Konami Nintendo DS
Pathologic Ice-Pick Lodge Microsoft Windows Remake set for 2017
2006 Raw Danger! Irem PlayStation 2
2007 Lost in Blue 2 Konami Nintendo DS
Lost in Blue 3 Konami Nintendo DS
The Sims 2: Castaway Electronic Arts Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
Stranded II Unreal Software PC Sequel currently in development
2008 Lost in Blue: Shipwrecked Konami Wii
The Sims Castaway Stories Electronic Arts Microsoft Windows, OS X
2009 Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3: Kowareyuku Machi to Kanojo no Uta Irem PlayStation Portable Released only in Asia
2011 Terraria Re-Logic Microsoft Windows
Minecraft Mojang Microsoft Windows, OS X, Windows Phone, Linux, Android, iOS, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Raspberry Pi, Universal Windows Platform, Wii U
2012 I Am Alive Ubisoft Shanghai and Darkworks Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Infestation: Survivor Stories Hammerpoint Interactive Microsoft Windows Previously known as WarZ
Miasmata IonFX Microsoft Windows
2013 DayZ (mod) Dean Hall Microsoft Windows Later released as a standalone game
Don't Starve Klei Entertainment Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Don't Starve Together was later released
Day One: Garry's Incident Wild Games Studio Microsoft Windows Sparked controversy
How to Survive EKO Software Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
Rust Facepunch Studios Microsoft Windows Alpha stage
7 Days to Die The Fun Pimps Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
2014 FarSky Farsky Interactive Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
The Forest Endnight Games Microsoft Windows Alpha stage
Unturned Smartly Dressed Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
The Long Dark Hinterland Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
Miscreated Entrada Interactive Microsoft Windows Alpha stage
Rising World JIW-Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
Subnautica Unknown Worlds Entertainment Microsoft Windows, OS X Alpha stage
2015 Stranded Deep BEAM Team Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
Savage Lands DigitalDNA Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
Dyscourse Owlchemy Labs Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
Out of Reach Space Boat Studios Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux Alpha stage
Life is Feudal: Your Own Bitbox Microsoft Windows
Hurtworld Bankroll Studios Microsoft Windows, OS X Alpha stage
Reign Of Kings Bankroll Studios Microsoft Windows, OS X
2016 Better Late Than DEAD Odin Game Studio Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4
The Culling Xaviant Games Microsoft Windows Alpha stage
Fragmented Above and Beyond Technologies Microsoft Windows Alpha stage
Starbound Chucklefish Games Microsoft Windows
No Man's Sky Hello Games Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
H1Z1: Just Survive Daybreak Game Company Microsoft Windows Alpha stage
H1Z1: King of the Kill Daybreak Game Company Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Ark: Survival Evolved Studio Wildcard / Instinct Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Alpha stage
The Wild Eight Eight Points Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Alpha stage
We Happy Few Compulsion Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One Alpha stage
2017 Conan Exiles Funcom Microsoft Windows Alpha stage


  1. ^ a b Macdonald, Keza (January 1, 2014). "6 OF THE BEST SURVIVAL GAMES". IGN. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Lane, Rick (July 5, 2013). "VIRTUAL SELECTION: THE RISE OF THE SURVIVAL GAME". IGN. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ Roberts, Samual (September 9, 2015). "No Man's Sky: how to play a game with 18 quintillion worlds". PC Gamer. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  4. ^ Hillier, Brenna. "Dying Light and the survival renaissance". VG247. 
  5. ^ Ross, Andrew (May 8, 2014). "Rust, H1Z1, and the emerging 'survival MMO' genre". Engadget. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  6. ^ Burford, GB (February 4, 2015). "Most Survival Games Have Problems That S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Solved Long Ago". Kotaku AU. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Smith, Graham (October 20, 2014). "Survival Games Are Important". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved August 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Kurt Kalata, SOS / Septentrion (プテントリオン) - Super NES (1993), Hardcore Gaming 101
  9. ^ "Has the open world survival genre run its course?". PC Gamer. March 27, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2015. 
  10. ^ Orr, Lucy (February 4, 2014). "The revival of survival – the gaming genre that refuses to die". The Register. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  11. ^