Sometimes they’re slow, sometimes they’re fast, sometimes they’re the magically risen dead, other times they’re infected, but they almost always come in a horde: hell yeah, they’re zombies, one of the best video game enemies ever. Their folk and filmic origins have nothing to do with video games, but zombies were always fated to be our fodder. They’re dumb and numerous, which makes them a perfect shooting gallery, and they can be manipulated into whatever grotesque form makes for the best game (or the best metaphor for whatever corner of the human experience you want to explore). Here then, in no particular order, are our favorite games which star the wonderful dead alive.
The appeal of survival games is simple to understand: fighting to stay alive is hard-coded into our DNA, so it’s easy to see why we’d become engrossed in experiencing it in games. The best survival games on PC push players to their limits, presenting them with tough problems and challenging them to find creative solutions.
In such a popular genre, which games provide the best survival experiences? Below you’ll find our favorite examples of simulated survival on PC, whether it’s among the stars, deep underground, and in other dangerous environments packed with monsters, mutants, zombies, dinosaurs, or the deadliest enemy of all: other players. Here are the best survival games on PC.
Frostpunk is a blend of city-building, society simulation, and survival in a grim and frozen world. With a handful of cold, hungry, unhappy people, you’ll need to construct a working city inside a snow-filled crater heated only by a massive coal furnace. Gather resources, hunt for food, and manage your citizens by giving them hope for the future. It’s a harsh and beautiful survival game that confronts you with difficult choices at every turn.
Download Frostpuck For PC
Explore an alien, underwater world while piloting your hand-crafted submarine through mysterious submerged landscapes. From beautiful coral reefs to deep-sea caves and trenches, you’ll gather resources and sustenance, build habitats and a fleet of subs, and craft new tech to help you survive the depths. It’s hard not to compare it to Minecraft, yet developer Unknown Worlds has put their own unique stamp on the survival genre. Download: Subnautica With All DLC
Sounds strange to say it, but this fantasy RPG where you can never actually die is one of the best recent survival games around. In Outward you’re not only challenged by mystical monsters but the world itself, in which you must keep yourself fed, hydrated, and healthy. In the arid deserts heat will sap your endurance, in the marshy swamplands the water can poison you, and with no fast-travel or quest markers or even your own location shown on your map, each excursion is an exercise in preparation, patience, and survival.
Download: free Outward for PC
It sounds almost idyllic, floating through the world serenely on a raft, building and expanding upon it as you fish flotsam from the ocean with a grappling hook. There are sharks, though. Hungry ones, and if they can’t eat you they’ll settle for eating your floating home. You’ll need to somehow find food and fresh water while keeping your raft afloat and growing. Luckily, you can play co-op with a pal and double your chances for survival.
State of Decay 2
You don’t play State of Decay 2 as a person, but as a community of people. As you make your way through the zombie apocalypse, you scavenge not just food, water, weapons, and gear, but more characters, each with their own skills, quirks, and personalities. Supplies are scarce so the bigger your community, the more you’ll need to support it, meaning you’ll be making excursions into the big open world map of rural America. You can have co-op partners drop in and out as well.
Scum hasn’t been in Early Access long, so we’re not sure what kind of game it will ultimately become, but it’s already raised the bar for pure survival features. It’s got a metric ton of data about what you eat and drink, down to the individual vitamins and minerals—and that stuff doesn’t vanish when you eat it. You have to poop it out eventually. It tracks your character’s heart rate and body weight and even the number of teeth you’ve got, and even simulates the added weight of your clothes when they get wet. Scum’s got a whole lot of survival simulation under the hood.
The Long Dark
With a focus on atmosphere and environmental survival, The Long Dark stands out in an increasingly crowded genre. You play as a bush pilot stranded in the frozen wilderness after a mysterious global calamity. There are no zombies, no mutants, and no other players: it’s just you fighting against the elements, the wildlife, and your own human fragility.
Oxygen Not Included
The best games are those that are easy to learn and difficult to master. Oxygen Not Included fits that bill: jumping into it and learning the basics is a snap, but fully understanding it takes a lot of time and effort. While it’s adorable, the colony-builder is also deep and complex as it simulates its harsh subterranean environment. You’ll need to manage your colonists hunger, happiness, cleanliness, and naturally their clean and breathable oxygen as they dig out caverns, gather resources, build machinery, and try to turn a harsh environment into a comfortable underground home.
Ark: Survival Evolved
Dropped nearly nude on an expansive map filled with dinosaurs, you’ll have to contend with extreme heat and cold, starvation and dehydration, and fellow humans (though you can play solo as well). Craft weapons and gear, build a base, tame and ride dinosaurs, and join with (or battle) other players. Ark’s free Primitive Plus DLC adds tons more depth to crafting and farming.
With charming artwork yet punishing gameplay, Don’t Starve is an addictive challenge and one of the best survival experiences out there (and in a rare turn of events, one of the few games here to graduate from Early Access). The crafting is complex and satisfying as you attempt to survive busy days and deadly nights. Fight (and eat) animals, practice both science and magic, and keep an eye on your mental health so you don’t go insane. The standalone expansion Don’t Starve Together even lets you play with pals.
Duskers may not feel entirely like a survival game, given that it’s a real-time strategy roguelike about steering a fleet of drones through spooky derelict spaceships. But the reason you’re exploring is to scavenge parts, collect fuel, and repair and upgrade your drones so you can continue traveling through space in hopes of finding safety and an answer to the unexplained event that seems to have left the universe uninhabited (by humans, at least). Its a tense and nail-biting experience as you must keep moving through increasingly dangerous situations in hopes of gathering enough resources to survive.
Survival (The Division expansion)
The Division’s second expansion provided not just new content for players but a new way to play. Trapped in a deadly blizzard, players begin each round stricken with a disease, are armed with only a pistol and low-level gear, and must travel to The Dark Zone to locate a cure and an extraction point. Meanwhile, they must survive the terrible cold, roving gangs of NPC enemies, and a couple dozen other players who are in the same predicament.