Whether it’s zombies, harsh environments, alien worlds, or even the Middle Ages, the survival genre is filled with a diverse range of titles.
This means there are sure to be survival games for every type of player – but with so many options available on Steam, where do you even begin?
Whether you’re dipping your toes into the genre for the first time, or a survival-genre enthusiast, you’ll find gripping games here.
We’ll skip some obvious recommendations, like Minecraft, Ark and Rust, because those are obvious selections that almost everyone has heard of (and if you haven’t, you now have some additional bonus picks to try out).
Check out my picks for Steam’s best survival games below, I’ve focused on the lesser-known, great survival games that are worth your time.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
|Genre:||Action, Adventure, RPG|
|Developers:||Square Enix, KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD.|
|Release Date:||December 10, 2019|
|Average Playtime:||55 hours|
Minecraft is one of the most successful games in history. The impact the title left on the industry, and the survival genre is momentous. It also led to the creation of Dragon Quest Builders 2.
Mojang’s iconic title was a sweeping success in Japan, and Square Enix took heavy inspiration from it and blended it in with their signature JRPG franchise. Dragon Quest Builders 2 combines the best of both worlds.
The game is a mostly single-player survival experience, featuring a vibrant world to explore and engaging combat. If you wanted a story-driven Minecraft, this game delivers on that premise.
It is heavily narrative-driven, and will have you going from different islands playing as the legendary builder. The builder is a prophesized hero that is destined to help rebuild humanity.
Each island will feature a town, packed with a lovable cast of NPCs that you can befriend, and even help you rebuild. When it comes to survival games on Steam, this game is unique.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 has more AI interaction than any other survival title, with systems comparable to Stardew Valley. The NPC mechanics alone make it worth checking out.
Hailing from the Dragon Quest franchise, you can also expect the series’ signature Dragon Ball-esque style. The art design is filled with personality—both, the characters and monsters are charming.
Best of all? If you need more convincing, the game has a lengthy demo. It’s a more refined version of Minecraft.
|Release Date:||January 21, 2016|
|Multiplayer:||Shared/Split Screen Co-op|
|Average Playtime:||28 hours|
Are you a massive Don’t Starve fan? If you love that gameplay style, then Crashlands is one of many other survival games on Steam you have to try. It features similar controls and design.
Where Don’t Starve channels Tim Burton energy, Crashlands opts for a brighter art style instead. The game draws heavily from iconic sci-fi titles, placing you in the role of a galactic trucker.
An alien menace derailed your latest shipment, leaving you stranded on the personality-packed alien planet Woanope. It’s a typical survival genre trope, but the excellent gameplay makes it forgivable.
What really sets Crashlands apart from Don’t Starve and other titles in the genre is the heavy RPG progression. There is a huge range of gear to craft—with just as many upgrades to customize them further.
Sick of your character’s pockets weighing you down? Crashlands goes all-in with quality of life, improving on the tedious survival genre systems. The game has an infinite inventory.
The base-building mode is also easy to pick up. It’s like drawing in PhotoShop or MS Paint—just select and tap. To top it off, there is also a taming and pet system.
In an era where online multiplayer is everywhere, Crashlands is a hidden gem. It allows for 2-player couch co-op multiplayer, which is rare for the survival genre.
The crafting system is also extensive—with over 500 craftable items. If you’re a sucker for gear galore, give our list of loot-filled Steam games a read for more Crashlands-like titles.
|Genre:||Action, Adventure, Open World|
|Release Date:||December 3, 2021|
|Average Playtime:||7 hours|
If you’re searching for more co-op survival experiences on Steam, Icarus is worth your time. The game is developed by the survival-genre pioneer Dean “Rocket” Hall, and executes his dream.
He always envisioned the survival genre that creates an environment for emergent storytelling and socialization. This vision has come together finally in Icarus. Its gameplay is also like no other.
Somehow, this game translates the PvP experience from session-based survival titles like Escape From Tarkov into team-oriented PvE gameplay. The idea sounds impossible, but Icarus pulls it off.
This game takes place on the planet of Icarus, the title’s namesake. Where you can go on missions (sessions) lasting anywhere from a few hours to a week to collect resources.
As you can expect from a survival title, it isn’t as simple as just mining materials. You’ll be up against the planet’s harsh wildlife and environment. Time is also everything…
On your missions, every second counts. If you fail to return to your ship before it takes off, you’ll lose everything you worked hard for and character progression. The same goes for death.
Icarus offers the same high-risk/high-reward thrilling gameplay Tarkov delivers. You can take on the alien planet either alone, or with up to 7 other players in multiplayer.
Whilst you lose progression on death, the game does have a persistence system. As you take on more missions, you’ll unlock new skills and talents for your character, along with building your own personal base.
|Genre:||Simulation, Open World, Rogue-like|
|Developers:||Sami Maaranen (creator), Erkka Lehmus (co-designer)|
|Release Date:||February 26, 2016|
|Average Playtime:||20 hours|
If you can get past the archaic user interface, UnReal World is one of the deepest simulation, survival games on Steam. It has a steep learning curve, but the experience is worth it.
This game is a mocktail between simulation mechanics, the survival genre, and roguelike gameplay. There’s nothing else like it on the market, and it is set in an enticing, low-fantasy world.
UnReal World throws you into the late Iron Age, where you’ll be pitted up against a harsh wilderness. The game is faithful in recreating a historic atmosphere, and delivers good RPG gameplay.
This title is deserving of your attention just off its historic value alone. It was the first open-world survival game, and has been refined with updates for decades now.
If you love character customization, this game has one of the best creation systems. There are various different cultures to choose from, and features a classless system.
The game’s world is also procedurally generated every time—so each playthrough is unique. The level of intricacy is also exceptional. Everything down to the wildlife and behavior is simulated.
The combat and character statuses are also extremely detailed. Instead of using a “health bar” system, the game simulates damage through realistic wounds and bruising.
UnReal World offers endless replayability, and a true hardcore survival experience. It’s also got various modes to pick from and a strong modding community backing it.
Whether you want to play through different scenarios or have a true survival sandbox experience—this game has you covered. It also has one of the best crafting systems in survival history.
|Genre:||Action, Adventure, MMO, Simulation|
|Release Date:||December 1, 2015|
|Average Playtime:||13 hours|
Ever play ARK and wondered what it could be from the dinosaurs’ perspective? The Isle throws players back into the Jurassic era, with a range of different dinosaurs to play as.
Can you survive the harsh, prehistoric world? This game places you into the role of either a herbivore or carnivore, as you try to survive long enough to reach the end of your life cycle.
This is a multiplayer-driven game, with various servers and modes available. It can support up to hundreds of players, as it simulates a dinosaur-packed ecosystem.
Where The Isle really shines is its beautiful creature designs and breathtaking environment. The novelty of playing as a dinosaur and seeing all the prehistoric flora never wears off.
The Isle also offers two game modes that cover all types of survival players. Want a hardcore experience? Then there is a survival mode, where you’ll start as a baby and then build your way up.
Want to jump right into the game’s world as an adult dinosaur and play around? Then there are sandbox modes and servers available, which also remove any death consequences.
Every dinosaur in this game’s growing roster is unique. They’ll have their own special abilities and skills. Surviving in this game you’ll need to utilize this, from smelling scents and even night vision.
There are also goals and objectives in this game and a variety of content. Claim territory, create nests, defend any of your dino children, and go hunting for food!
|Genre:||Casual, Indie, RPG, Simulation|
|Release Date:||December 1, 2017|
|Average Playtime:||16 hours|
In a sea of gritty, dark survival titles, Cattail is a breath of fresh air. Its meow-infested world is the perfect getaway for any survival fan looking for a lighter-hearted experience.
Above all, the game is also a cat simulation at heart. It drops you into an expansive open-world, with lite-survival elements, mixed in with a dash of RPG gameplay and Stardew Valley-esque features.
This game is also a delight for any fans of the cat-tastic “Stray” but wanted a less linear focus. Guess what? You also get to create your own cat, with a range of different coat and eye options.
Cattails isn’t just fluff—it has great worldbuilding and top-tier RPG systems. The other furry friends you’ll encounter are charming, and the game’s three factions are well fleshed out.
You can even romance other cats and start a litter of your own. This is where the Stardew elements start to kick in. You also get your own base, a den, to upgrade, and it shares the same festival events.
Bring your cat friends on your adventures, or even your litter. There is plenty of dungeon exploring to be had, and battling other cat colonies.
The survival mechanics of Cattail come in the form of acquiring the essentials for your cat and colony. You need to make sure you have enough food to survive, and going on hunts.
Tribes of Midgard
|Genre:||Action, RPG, Open World|
|Release Date:||Jul 27, 2021|
|Average Playtime:||18 hours|
If you took Valheim and then mixed in elements from ARPG titles like Diablo, you’d end up with Tribes of Midgard. It stands out with its more structured gameplay design and content.
The biggest change from its older sibling, Valheim, is the fast-paced combat. Battles are extremely satisfying, with quick and responsive fights. There are also proper RPG-styled skill trees.
It’s also innovative in its design. Along with taking from hack-and-slash titles, it also draws from the tower defense genre. You’ll build up your own village, which you’ll guard every night—fending off monsters.
This is where Midgard carves out its own space in the survival genre. The gameplay is unique, providing more meaning to the building and crafting loops.
Midgard also has a wide range of content to keep you busy. From questing to world events, and a variety of biomes to explore and conquer. It’s quite comparable to an MMORPG in this aspect.
For fans of Norse mythology, this entire game’s world will be a dream come true. From the aesthetic to the bosses and character names—it all comes from the sagas.
Co-op players will also find Midgard enjoyable. It lets you form a tribe with up to 10 players to take on Ragnarök and the Norse-filled world together.
It might not be as frightening as the zombie apocalypse, but the Iron Age end of the world is just as challenging. This game’s boss battles and combat are genuinely difficult, requiring skill and grinding.
Caves of Qud
|Genre:||Open World, Rogue-like, RPG|
|Release Date:||July 15, 2015|
|Average Playtime:||10 hours|
This game falls under a similar category to UnReal World. It features an “archaic” user interface, but if you can set that aside, its rich simulation and survival gameplay are enriching.
You won’t find anything else like it, despite all the survival games on Steam. It is a mostly text-based game, that throws you into a procedurally-generated, sci-fi and fantasy-inspired world.
The player, NPCs and even enemies are fully simulated. This level of complexity is what makes the game so compelling. For example, everything from body parts, wounds, equipment, levels, and even allegiance is simulated.
The worldbuilding and lore are also phenomenal. There are over 60 different factions you can ally with, and even the game’s world politics is simulated.
Caves of Qud has an expansive character creator system. Whilst it might not be pumped with high-fidelity graphics, the diversity in options is awing.
You can decide to play as either a mutant or “pure-strain” human. There are also over 70 mutation/defect options and cyborg enhancements for further customization.
Finding games like Minecraft and ARK too easy? Just wait until you play QUD. The game is a roguelike title, and that means permadeath. If you lose, you need to start completely from scratch.
This results in thrilling gameplay, and places more weight on every action. It requires you to think, and plan out your every move. Putting everything on the line makes QUD engaging.
|Genre:||Action, Adventure, Base Building, Open World|
|Release Date:||September 27, 2022|
|Average Playtime:||16 hours|
Obsidian Entertainment’s approach to the survival genre resulted in a literal, ant-sized title. However, don’t let the size fool you. Grounded is one of the most polished survival games.
Taking the life and death battle to the backyard, the game shrinks you down to the size of a bug. You’ll need to survive—either alone or co-op with friends in your yard and garden.
Whilst the idea isn’t entirely new, it is fresh in the videogame field. Seeing massive bugs and birds up close also gives a sense of joy that never quite wears off.
Except maybe… When you encounter gigantic spiders. This game is great if you’re looking for a PvE focused title, and want to get away from the usual kill-on-sight gameplay we see in the genre.
Grounded also has a nice story running in the background. As you wander and explore the environment, you’ll slowly uncover the secrets of the mysterious backyard.
A fascinating aspect of this game is how immersive it is. The devs put passion and care into the game’s world, and the insect life will actually react to your actions.
The gameplay may be your usual survival fare, however, the level of polish is incredible. It’s what makes Grounded a must-try for any fan of the genre.
From the visuals to combat, base-building and crafting, every system is just executed expertly. Grounded may not reinvent the wheel, but it refines what everyone loves about the genre, providing unmatched gameplay.
|Genre:||Action, Adventure, MMO, Open World|
|Release Date:||Dec 13, 2018|
|Multiplayer:||Online PvP, Online Co-op|
|Average Playtime:||53 hours|
Sometimes, you just can’t beat the classics. If you haven’t tried it already, there is a reason why DayZ is hailed as the ruler of the genre. It still stands as one of the best survival games on Steam.
The game pioneered the modern survival genre, and its influence can be seen in almost every other title. Even now, it offers an experience that is heart-racing and deeply atmospheric.
The apocalyptic world of DayZ is one that can’t be beaten. With the sheer size of the map, and complex mechanics, the game borderlines on life simulation at times.
Even compared to other titular titles like ARK and 7 Days To Die, this game still wins out with its rich systems. It has full-fledged infection mechanics, medicine, wounds, and temperature management.
Stay out too long in the rain? Your character will get sick. This level of detail even expands to the interaction between players, too. This is also what allows the game to foster emergent storytelling.
Where DayZ really shines is how it accommodates creating unique social situations between its survivors. One time, I was even forced into a player Fight Club by other players to win back gear.
Want to tie up another player and force feed them their friend’s human meat? You can. It sounds wild, but this level of depth is what makes DayZ one of a kind.
On top of that, this realism is also found in its physics-based movement and combat. The game also has a supportive community with a range of different mods/servers to change up the gameplay.
|Genre:||Tactical RPG, Visual Novel|
|Release Date:||July 28, 2022|
|Average Playtime:||27 hours|
This might seem like an odd addition to the best survival titles on Steam list, but trust the recommendation. Digimon Survive embodies the soul of the genre, and offers a harrowing story.
It might not feature the staple crafting and base-building mechanics the survival genre is known for, but it offers a just as haunting experience. It’s as horrifying as your usual zombie apocalypse.
This game takes the usually colorful Digimon franchise, putting an adult spin on the creature-collector. For any fans of the anime series, you’ll find plenty of callbacks to Adventures Season 1.
If you’re open to moving away from the typical survival genre staples, this game is deserving of your time. It’s also a fresh and innovative take on survival, and the game is a visual novel/strategy RPG hybrid.
The gameplay is split 70/30 between the visual novel and strategy elements. You play as the high schooler Takuma, who bears a striking resemblance to Tai, who is also partnered with Agumon.
Takuma and his group of friends are transported to an unknown world, where they must survive in its hostile environment. Enemy Digimon will come for your life, and every decision matters.
The game is entirely choice-driven. Not only does this extend to the story and relationships between characters, but the story decisions will even impact your Digimon’s development.
Did we mention characters can die? This game is an extremely brutal take on the series. It’s also backed by a beautifully orchestrated soundtrack, and gorgeous artwork. It’s a survival experience not to be missed.