Whether you trace it back to Minecraft or even earlier, one thing is undeniable: survival games have seen a dramatic upshift in popularity over the past decade.
Not only are more people playing survival games than ever before, but developers keep pumping them out without rest. Of course, with so many of them coming out, you can't expect them all to be winners.
If you're subscribed to Xbox Game Pass, the good news is that there are plenty of great survival games you can play right now. Here are some of the best ones that'll keep you busy for months or even years.
If DayZ seems like a familiar title, it's because it was around for years—it started as a mod for ARMA 2, then later turned into a standalone game—before the game was officially released in 2018.
This multiplayer-only survival game sees you playing as a survivor during a zombie outbreak, trying to stay alive. The multiplayer aspect is a big part of many great survival games, and it's key here.
You're near death and you see another player approach. Are they here to help you, or to make off with your gear?
9. Medieval Dynasty
Medieval Dynasty may not be a pure survival game, but that's a big part of what makes it so interesting in the genre.
The game features a mixture of elements from RPGs, from strategy games, and from simulation games, and they all come together to create a resulting game that's unlike anything else.
While survival games aren't known for being easy, all of these aspects make Medieval Dynasty especially tough!
Frostpunk is another game on this list that isn't purely a survival game, at least in the way that you may typically think about the genre.
That said, while Frostpunk has more in common with strategy games and city builders, the game is still all about survival—so it counts.
You're responsible for managing a city and its people in a world that's been radically altered by global cooling. In the midst of that, you're going to have to make numerous tough decisions on a daily basis.
7. 7 Days to Die
The best way to describe 7 Days to Die? Simply that it's a survival horror game with a strong emphasis on the survival elements.
You'll encounter and fight plenty of zombies, but combat isn't the main draw here. The best part of 7 Days to Die happens to be exploring the world and using everything you can find to prepare for said battles.
And you aren't just surviving against the zombies. On top of worrying about them, you'll need to worry just as much about basic needs.
6. Conan Exiles
While most people wouldn't shout out Conan the Barbarian as a ripe franchise for game spin-offs, that harsh and unforgiving world makes perfect sense for a survival game.
Conan Exiles captures the brutal and unrelenting nature of the world, but the game can be slightly grind-heavy at times.
That said, if you're looking for a survival game that actually gives you some time to breathe, this is a good choice.
Most survival games take place in bleak environments. After all, your life is on the line and the world should reflect that. Right?
Well, if you like the gameplay of survival games but prefer environments that aren less depressing, Grounded is a great choice.
You play as a kid—or group of kids—who are shrunk down in your backyard. Everyday items are now giant obstacles, and everyday bugs are now incredibly dangerous, and it's up to you to survive.
4. State of Decay 2
Screenshots and clips of State of Decay 2 may look like nothing more than yet another typical survival horror game. However, it's more.
While you do fight zombies, you're also in charge of rescuing your fellow survivors and keeping them safe—and that whole process involves more than just a meter on the screen.
You can switch between survivors at will—and you'll need to. If your survivors start dying off, things are going to get tougher in a hurry, and you can't just reload an older save file to try again.
If you're looking for a survival game that isn't so demanding and tense, Astroneer is the perfect option.
It's still a survival game, but its relaxed pace and sandbox world make it a little more welcoming to explore at your own pace.
Astroneer also sets itself apart from other survival games with its emphasis on terraforming. Here you're not just building on top of the ground, but excavating it and shaping it to your liking.
2. The Long Dark
If you frequently feel aimless in survival games and prefer more direction and guidance, The Long Dark is absolutely worth a look.
While the game has the open-world sandbox gameplay that survival games are generally known for, it also has a more focused story mode to propel you along with concrete goals.
The story mode doesn't just give you objective markers, but also helps to better explain the world you're in and how it got that way.
1. Ark: Survival Evolved
As far as the survival game genre goes, Ark: Survival Evolved strips it all down to the very fundamentals.
You're dropped into the titular world of Ark with nothing—not even clothes. From there, there's only one goal: survive at all costs. You'll need to consider every aspect of survival, from safety to food to rest to shelter.
At first, the game can be daunting. However, the more you play and learn its systems, the more you won't just survive but truly thrive.