10 Most Influential Survival Games

Games are meant to be fun, and for most people, starvation, dehydration, and being mauled by bears don’t seem like fun. Survival games should have been a doomed genre, but instead, gamers flocked to them, eager for the challenges on offer.

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Maybe it’s about testing yourself, pushing your limits to survive another day, another hour in seemingly impossible circumstances. Perhaps fantasy and survival games have the same appeal, giving players the chance to live and explore in completely alien circumstances. Either way, some survival games have changed the genre as a whole, introducing new elements or perfecting old ones. Here are some of the most influential.

ten Rust

rust bow and arrow

In terms of difficulty, not all survival games are created equal. There are those where survival is a challenge and those where survival is torture. Rust is one of the games that helped popularize hardcore survival. It’s not about whether you’re going to die. It’s a question of when.

Between the elements, hunger, and other players, putting in a few hours or even a few minutes can be a triumph for new players. As a naked person on the beach encountering players fully equipped with AKs, the enormity of the task of survival couldn’t be more evident. Rust is survival in its purest sense: there is no greater purpose.


9 No Man’s Sky


Scale is a critical issue in survival games. Based asks players to survive in the backyard; during this time, No Man’s Sky asks players to survive in the universe. Part of what makes survival games compelling is that they tend to leave players to their own devices, throwing them out into the wild and letting them do whatever they want. No Man’s Sky extends this philosophy to its limit by removing any meaningful boundaries and ask what it means to survive and thrive on the largest scale imaginable.

Despite a difficult launch, No Man’s Sky showed all survival games since the limitless possibilities of the genre, whether there’s a galaxy to explore or a sandbox.

8 The Sims


Critics may object to the definition of The Sims like a game of survival, but those who have juggled the need to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom, while not burning down the house, understand the pressures of this unique series. As in most survival games, sims players must manage their needs to thrive.

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survive in The Sims might not be much like the cannibal island survival of The forest, but at a basic level, the tasks involved are the same, but with a social system overlaid on the old game. The Sims is the quintessential example of what day-to-day survival looks like, and it’s been a touchstone for all games where the social side of life is key.

seven resident Evil

Resident Evil 4 HD Project Finale

The union of survival and horror could hardly be more fitting, so much do elements of each genre heighten the tension of the other. And if any franchise has been the face of survival horror over the years, it’s Resident Evil.

Preserving ammo and healing herbs while the player fights zombies and monstrous mutations has been a must since the beginning, and most games where resource management is the key to survival can point to resident Evil as a source of inspiration. Silent hill, eternal darkness, and other highlights of the genre benefited from the influence of the original Resident Evil, as well as its consequences.

6 dwarf fortress

Dwarven Fortress Chambers, Passageways, and Lava Lake

No, most players have never played Dwarven fortress. Many are unaware of its existence. None of these points prevent the game from being one of the most complete survival games out there. Terraria, Frostpunk, and other survival games in which interactive systems create an ever-changing experience have dwarf fortress to thank.

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In addition to its astonishing complexity, dwarf fortress also helped set the standard of difficulty. Don’t be fooled by its rudimentary graphics. This saga of dwarves and their halls of stone is one of the most punishing games out there.

5 Fallout 3

Fallout NCR armor and flag.

Survival games are almost always about more than living another day. Crafting, base building, and exploration are all essential. the Fall franchise has helped pave the way for other survival games since the beginning, but Fallout 3 is the title against which all other open-world survival games are judged.

From the moment a player first steps out of the vault and into the ruins of post-apocalyptic America, one senses both the oppressive danger and the exhilarating possibility of the challenge ahead. Fallout 3 immerses the player better than almost any other game in its genre. That’s how it feels to survive.

4 DayZ

Screenshot from DayZ showing a female character running through a field.

A defining trait of many survival games is the perseverance players must have. The goal is not just to survive one day, but as long as possible, slowly accumulating the skills, resources, and knowledge that will allow the player to triumph in the harshest conditions. DayZ does it flawlessly. Zombies, other players, and the environment want the player dead, and every day is a battle even when no bullet is fired.

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Persistent survival games like Valheim and Ark: Survival Evolved continue to rely on the formula that DayZ perfected. A can of soup and a well-placed shot can keep the player alive another night, but there’s always another day and a threat to end it all.

3 Minecraft

Minecraft Player Shows Impressive Dirt House

In games, few titans are bigger than Mojang’s hit Minecraft. More than a decade after its release, the game has reached a level of popularity and cultural saturation that makes its actual achievements in the genre hard to describe.

Surviving in its blocky and randomized environments is always a new experience, and Minecraft makes crafting and base building an engaging endless gameplay loop. Equally important, from Minecraft The simple, cartoonish aesthetic makes the game accessible to kids and adults alike, introducing a slew of new players to the survival genre.

2 The Oregon Trail

Wagon and text diagnosing Nicole with dysentery in The Oregon Trail

Anyone who has ever played The Oregon Trail probably remembers the anxiety of trying to cross a river with a wagon loaded with sugar, bear meat and sick pioneers. It may be an educational game, but The Oregon Trail is as deadly as Dark Souls.

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Dysentery, cholera, and snakebites are just a few of the threats waiting to kill settlers on their journey west. Given its ubiquity at the time, The Oregon Trail couldn’t help but influence the genre. Set a simple goal and terrorize players as they attempt to accomplish it: this premise defines the survival genre, and this game is more or less where it began.

1 Dungeons & Dragons

dungeons and dragons monstrous races art

Before survival games migrated to the land of ones and zeros, they called the tabletop home. Dungeons & Dragons lives at the origin of fantasy, survival and RPG. A good dungeon master might not actively try to kill players, but they do make sure the world is populated with enough blizzards, cubs, and acid traps that survival is never certain.

J&D has long been the story of heroes fighting against the odds. Players must battle hunger as well as trolls as one traverses the swamps in search of salvation from an inn. In one form or another, the stories and mechanics of most survival games started here.

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