Hey guys! As you know, the survival genre is one of the most exciting and innovative genres of games right now. From classics like Rust to newcomers like the indie-darling Valheim, there’s no end to the excitement and variety you can find when you play survival games. These exciting and usually challenging titles have a number of key features. First, they almost always feature a food meter and frequently a thirst meter as well. You have to find food and water in your environment to keep those meters up, or else your character dies. That’s why they’re called “survival” games. And, exploration is almost always key. Whether it’s to find resources or uncover secrets, you’ll have to make your way through the game world to advance.
These games also frequently feature crafting mechanics, as well as base building mechanics. Crafting allows you to take objects in the environment, such as rocks and sticks, and combine or change them to make something new, such as a tool. Base building, meanwhile, allows you to build your own structures, such as houses, walls, paths, and more. This can let you make everything from a simple shelter to a full-scale recreation of the Taj Mahal, depending on the game!
Survival games may feature other mechanics as well, such as hunting or combat. And, they are very frequently multiplayer games. You can work together with your friends to create a massive base and dominate the game. Some are even massively multiplayer, allowing you and your friends to compete against other groups for dominance.
One of the most innovative spaces in the survival genre is the indie space. New indie survival games are constantly being released, and feature just as much (if not more!) fun and excitement than their AAA brethren. Even better, indie games are often free games! And, even when they’re not free, they’re usually cheaper games than a full AAA title, costing $10-$20 on average a great game like this is volcanoids as an example. This is the space to watch if you’re gaming on a budget, these are the games for you!
Another great advantage of indie games is they frequently feature lower graphical requirements. Indie games often have pixel graphics or other less-intensive visuals such as voxel graphics. This is great if you’re trying to do some low-spec gaming. Or, if you want to play a multiplayer game, and your friends have weaker machines than you. With indie games, nobody has to miss out on the fun, whether because of their wallet or their rig.
I’ve gone exploring the indie survival game space to bring you 3 exciting titles that you should check out. I spent hours researching to find the best games, and hours more playing them to bring you all the important details. Here are my picks for 3 indie survival games you’ve GOT to check out right now!
Arid is one of the most impressive indie survival games available right now. Not only does it feature a stunning world and great graphics, but it’s a student project! The game is the work of Sad Viscacha Studios, which consists of students from Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
Your adventure begins when your plane crash lands in the harsh, dry environs of the Atacama Desert that stretch across northern Chile. Your protagonist (who is fully voiced!) narrowly survives the crash and finds herself having to fight for survival in one of the driest places in the world. You’ll have to find food, water, and shelter in order to survive as you manage food, thirst, and exhaustion meters.
Thankfully, you quickly find you’re not the first person to find yourself in this stretch of desert. Scattered around Arid’s expansive world are the remains of old mining operations. You’ll find not only abandoned shelters, but also mine shafts and tunnels. These shelters and tunnels are key in helping you manage one of Arid’s most unique mechanics, sun exposure.
The brutal Atacama sun is one of your worst enemies in Arid. As you spend more time directly in the sun, your character’s sun exposure meter will rise. If it hits a certain point, your character will experience sunburn and other negative effects that can become life-threatening if you don’t get out of the sun fast! In addition to using shade and shelter to avoid the sun, you can also smear soft clay on your skin to boost your resistance to the sun’s deadly rays. And, if you do get sunburnt, you can use some of the aloe vera growing in the desert sand to heal yourself.
As you make your way through the game world gathering food and water and hiding from the sun, you begin to find more and more strange things left behind by the old mining operation. A number of mummified corpses greet you, clutching mysterious notes in their crumbling fingers. They speak of some strange, possibly supernatural threat, as well as many strange and mysterious events, all seeming to relate to the mythology of the desert’s indigenous people. A few hours into the game, you find yourself face-to-face with this threat as you descend into an abandoned mineshaft, trying to get closer to a search-and-rescue plane you see in the distance. As you descend into the shaft, you begin hearing a strange rumble and growl, and suddenly, footsteps can be seen on the floor of the shaft. But only footsteps, because this monster is invisible! You’ll have to be quick and clever to escape it and make your way to safety.
Overall, Arid is easily one of the most exciting indie survival games to release in recent years. It’s got gorgeous visuals and great gameplay, plus an intriguing story. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? That’s right! Arid is completely free-to-play, and completely free of microtransactions to boot. Arid is available for free on Steam.
From the developer Pixel-boy, Dry Path is a game that might best be described as “survival-lite.” Instead of having a number of different meters and stats to manage, Dry Path only features a single thirst meter, and nothing else. Much like Arid, it begins with your crash landing in a desert environment. As you make your way through the world, your thirst meter slowly ticks down and must be refilled at wells or by using the cactus you find in the world. If your water runs out, your character passes out and reawakens at the last well you used.
The gameplay is highly exploration-focused and centered around a chain of fetch quests. Although Dry Path’s world is on the smaller side, you’ll have to explore every nook and cranny of it to find the things and people you need to complete your quest. You’ll meet a cast of characters, from a mushroom king, to desert bandits, to a coven of witches. Each one will have something they want, and you’ll have to bring it to them to advance.
Dry Path features a unique art style that it describes as “2D/3D.” The world is 3D, consisting of chunky polygons that form the rocks and plateaus in the world, while the characters and plants are flat 2D sprites. It’s a beaut’ to look at! Plus, it’s not very graphics intensive. A great option if you have a low-spec rig!
In addition to looking great, Dry Path also sounds great. The sound effects are all killer, from the chunky beep when you pick up a cactus, to the gentle crunch of your feet on the sound. And it’s all accompanied by a soothing, blissed-out soundtrack. High-quality headphones are highly recommended!
Dry Path is a small, relaxing take on the survival genre that took me a bit over an hour to beat. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a relaxing and charming survival experience. The full game is available for free on itchi.io.
Cryofall is a sci-fi open-world survival game from the developer AtomicTorch Studio. Set on a “forgotten planet in a distant future,” Cryofall features a 2D isometric aesthetic with tons of complex systems to dive into, including but not limited to:
- Hunger and Thirst
- Base building
- Cybernetic implants
- Complex tech trees
This game has so many deep, multi-layered systems, it’s almost hard to believe! And the crafting tree is huge, spanning from a humble stone ax to a full-fledged mech! If you’re looking for a challenge, you’ll be happy with Cryofall. And it’s a multiplayer game with a number of servers all around the world!
Cryofall starts you off with a simple character creation. You pick your character’s gender and appearance, as well as their origin. The appearance options are fairly limited, with some fixed face options, hair, and hair and skin color. Your origin, meanwhile, consists of the faction your character is from. The options are the powerful galactic republic, the proud and unaligned Independent Worlds, the distant Outer Rim Protectorate, or the isolationist and powerful faction known as The Directorate. Each option has various bonuses and debuffs associated, such as higher stamina or health regen.
Once you’ve created your character, you find yourself in the open world, and the game gives you a quick tutorial. It’ll be familiar to you if you’ve played even one or two open-world survival games before: gather some sticks and rocks, craft a few tools, build a fire, make some food, and make a bed. However, even at this basic stage, danger and excitement still lurks. As soon as I arrived in the world, there was already a world event happening. A meteor had come down! Unfortunately, I was unable to find it, as I hadn’t uncovered enough of the map to see it. So, I plugged along with the introductory quests and quickly found myself face-to-face with an angry boar who took out a chunk of my health. Cryofall doesn’t play around! And that wasn’t the last nasty creature I saw in my time with this game. I was also chased by a wolf and some kind of strange mutant creature!
Cryofall promises tons of content and gameplay possibilities. Although I only scratched the surface of the game’s systems, the prospects of building a massive base, my own vehicles, and powerful weapons definitely have me wanting more. Cryofall is available for $19.99 on Steam, and it even has a free 8-hour demo if you want to give it a test drive!
So, which games caught your eye? The next time you want to try a new survival game, give it a try and let me know in the comments if you liked it. And if you have any recommendations for more indie survival games I should try, I’d love to hear them!
Still thirsty for more survival games? Check out my list of 7 open-world survival games to play in 2021 or one of my other many articles on thegamersmind.com.