best open world survival crafting games pc
Content Type: Gaming News
Date: June 15, 2022

Open world, Survival, Crafting: the trifecta of indie game features that exploded after the huge success and popularity of Minecraft more than a decade ago that continues to this day. We’ve made a list of active games here with notes around their rating and playstyles, and included their pros and cons in each game section to help you find the next game to test your survival skills!

Game
Release Date
PvE
PvP
Playstyle
Rating
7 Days to Die
Aug 16, 2013*
First Person
87.29%
ARK: Survival Evolved
June 2, 2015
First Person
81.40%
DayZ
Dec 16, 2013
X
First Person
70.35%
Don’t Starve
April 23, 2013
X
2D, Top Down
95.33%
The Forest
May 30, 2014
X
First Person
94.23%
Green Hell
Aug 29, 2018
X
First Person
85.63%
ICARUS
Dec 4, 2021
X
First Person
64.40%
Minecraft
Nov 18, 2011
First Person
93.00%
No Man’s Sky
Aug 12, 2016
First Person
75.02%
Raft
May 23, 2018
X
First Person
92.10%
Rust
Dec 11, 2013
X
First Person
86.12%
Subnautica
Dec 16, 2014
X
First Person
95.17%
Subnautica: Below Zero
Jan 30, 2019
X
First Person
89.92%
Terraria
May 16, 2011
2D, Side Scroller
97.13%
Valheim
Feb 2, 2021
Third Person
94.56%
Ratings taken from steamdb.info and metacritic.com
*game is in early release

7 Days to Die is an open world zombie horde survival game with extensive crafting. Every seven days a horde or zombies will attack you wherever you are, so most players spend the other six days exploring, crafting, and base building to prepare for the horde night. Like Minecraft, 7DtD is a voxel-based game.

As an early access game, 7DtD has had extensive changes between versions. However, it has a large catalog of mods available, including overhaul mods, so even if something changes in the base game, with a new version you can rest assured someone will make a mod to undo it.

Survival Features

Resources tend to be plentiful but require exploration and looting. Early game play can have difficulty curing infections which can be caused by attacks from zombies or animals.

What’s Good About It

  • Good graphics
  • Extensive crafting
  • Extensive building
  • Active modding community
  • Procedural generated maps

What’s Bad About It

  • Poorly optimized performance
  • No real endgame or story
  • Can be slow to get into

If zombies aren’t very exciting, how about dinosaurs? Well, how about not only surviving on the island full of dinosaurs, but being able to tame and ride them? Build a portable flying home on top of a massive quetzalcoatl, stomp your enemies into dust atop a brontosaurus, or breed an unstoppable army of dodos and unleash your own scenario for a mass extinction!

ARK gained a shaky reputation because of its equally shaky stability upon launch, but the game has received many updates since, including a catalogue of DLCs (and a bunch of them are free!). If you happen to get tired of the classic experience, you can always have some fun with Scorched Earth, Extinction, or Aberration expansion packs.

Survival Features

A lot of early survival in ARK is all about sheltering from the elements and avoiding aggressive animals. Once you advance your tech tree and tame some dinos, venturing away from the coast and into the depths of the forest will kick all of these dangers into overdrive. As you unlock more and more powerful tools, the ultimate challenge will be subduing the most threatening of the creatures.

What’s Good About It

  • Good graphics
  • Extensive crafting
  • Extensive building
  • Active modding community
  • Engaging creature taming
  • Both procedural and preset maps

What’s Bad About It

  • Heavy on computer resources
  • Bugs and crashes are not uncommon
  • Can take a bit to learn

What started out as a mod for ARMA 2 eventually became one of the most popular zombie survival games around. Thanks to the success of the mod, its creator Dean Hall joined Bohemia Interactive and worked with them to create a standalone version of the game. This version followed the now popular trend of releasing in early access and — at least according to some people — never truly being finished.

Thanks to the unpredictable nature of the game (and the fact that players can be handcuffed and force-fed rotten food), this is one of those games that can contain memorable moments — interspersed with long stretches of hunting for food and gear. Still, if you’re willing to brave the bugs and hackers, and you don’t mind a challenge, there’s nothing wrong with getting into DayZ in 2022.

Survival Features

Resources can be found, but doing so requires both patience and experience. New players often struggle to find even food and basic equipment. Additionally, full official servers can be particularly difficult places to collect gear.

What’s Good About It

  • Large environments and interesting challenges
  • Continued support for the game
  • Has a healthy player population even after 9 years
  • Can go a long time without seeing other players

What’s Bad About It

  • Out of date compared to contemporary titles
  • Still fairly buggy
  • Can go a long time without seeing other players

Paper-thin isometric 2D graphics with a sepia tone give Don’t Starve a nostalgic charm — and indeed, since its release in 2013, the game became one of the best-rated classics in the indie survival genre. Don’t let its cartoon theme fool you: the game comes with a lot of unusual enemies, interesting biomes and secrets, gritty mechanics, and plenty of items to craft for both tools and shelter.

Just like ARK, Don’t Starve comes with a variety of DLCs, including its standalone multiplayer expansion, Don’t Starve Together, which allows you to bring some companions on an otherwise uncompromising survival journey.

Survival Features

Resources will be your biggest concern for a long time, especially when it comes to food. Not all methods of obtaining that food in the game are safe: cutting on sleep, fighting powerful opponents, and consuming questionable meats can quickly lead to mental health deterioration. Which, in all fairness, is a mechanic in of itself in Don’t Starve, so why not have some fun with it?

What’s Good About It

  • Unique artstyle
  • Light on resources
  • A novel take on dark-themed survival
  • A lot of expansion content
  • Active modding community

What’s Bad About It

  • Can be very challenging with original settings
  • Building and crafting starts slow and is less extensive
  • Most of the game’s story occurs outside of the game itself

The first release from developer Endnight Games, The Forest has been a huge hit. An open world survival horror game that also features crafting and building, the game also has a decently fleshed-out storyline unlike most games in this genre.

You start off as the survivor of a plane crash on a peninsula to find out that a cannibal has taken your son. Sadly, Timmy is just going to have to wait a while so you can gear up, explore, and slaughter cannibals and mutants.

Survival Features

Resources are plentiful, lack of sleep has no impact other than low energy which can be cured by eating. Sanity likewise presents no notable challenge to the player. Features adjustable difficulty options from Peaceful to Hard Survival which has stronger enemies and harder survival.

What’s Good About It

  • Great graphics
  • Well optimized performance
  • VR ready
  • Caves are scary as hell

What’s Bad About It

  • Replay value is low once you know the map and story
  • Crafting can become tedious
  • Inflexible construction system

Green Hell is a survival sandbox game with a very multilayered survival system and a driving story arc. Polish studio Creepy Jar crafted a mysterious and thrilling storyline that draws you deeper into the dangerous Amazonian jungle with every clue and cutscene. The suspense builds as you become aware of just how easily every part of the environment and its human and animal denizens can kill you. If that wasn’t enough, the complete game has an additional 3-part expansion (Spirits of Amazonia) set during the backstory of the protagonist. Both the endless survival mode and the expansions are multiplayer, and there are single-player timed survival challenges to test your mettle in the Amazonian wilderness.

The premise in Green Hell is that you are trying to discover what happened to your wife, Mia, an anthropologist and expedition partner. You become disoriented and separated after an accidental fall, which propels you into a frantic search while you learn to survive (largely by trial and error) in a jungle infested with predators, disease, and hostile tribes. Green Hell has one of the most realistic survival systems (on par with ICARUS and second only, perhaps, to Survisland). The game also provides a useful field notebook feature. As a biologist, the protagonist uses this bespoke means to note the building and crafting recipes he has observed, as well as the uses of native animals and plants for food and medicine. This level of detail makes it easy to get immersed in the world of Green Hell, drawing you back again and again into the depths of the Amazon, just like… well, you’ll just have to find that out for yourself.

Survival Features

Green Hell is aptly named, because nearly everything in the game can spell doom for the protagonist. Its sanity, illness, sustenance, and herbology systems are the most complex of any of the big-name titles in the genre, and this really drives the suspense.

What’s Good About It

  • Comprehensive survival system
  • Compelling storyline and lore
  • Great detail in crafting and building systems, and models
  • Field notebook tracks your progress and recipes
  • Storyline mode and (multiplayer) endless survival mode

What’s Bad About It

  • Larger builds can be cumbersome
  • Field notebook can be inaccurate

ICARUS is a survival sandbox game with one of the most rich character customization and crafting systems in the genre. Developer RocketWerkz and gamerunner Dean Hall, creator of DayZ, wanted to shake up the genre with a session-based, mission-focused concept. The result was a survival sandbox game with the feel of an action adventure title. To complete each mission and survive to tell the tale, you have to tailor your build and the equipment you choose to start with. ICARUS also challenges a staple of most sandbox games, that structures are permanent. While the game is open-world and you can build anything anywhere, the map is wiped and reset at the end of the mission. (That is, if the violent weather and fauna doesn’t destroy the build first!)

In ICARUS, you play the role of a prospector trying to extract valuable resources from the surface of Icarus. It is a hostile and unforgiving planet where terraforming failed, but has not deterred a cadre of mining factions eager to pillage the planet for rare elements called Exotics. This setting provides ample fodder for tons of missions, like scanning for drop zones, opening up mining routes, or exterminating alpha predators dining on your fellow miners. It also sets up another aspect common in action/adventure/FPS titles, but not survival sandbox: economy. You trade in mission rewards and exotics to research and build powerful late-stage equipment that you can reuse on any mission. And with a deep talent tree for character specialization and a lobby that can support 8 players, ICARUS is a great title for fans of co-op building and PvE adventure.

Survival Features

ICARUS goes far beyond the basic hunger/thirst/health meters. It sports the most detailed and dynamic weather system in the genre, which constantly influences how you plan and progress through the game. Its mission-based gameplay loop also allows them to impose a mission timer, after which your prospector is left to perish on the planet surface (with optional permadeath).

What’s Good About It

  • Excellent crafting and character customization
  • Large number and variety of missions
  • Frequent content updates and 2 planned DLCs
  • Two 64 km² hand-crafted maps
  • Outpost mode for permanent builds
  • Active player community for help or co-op
  • Multiplayer with up to 7 friends

What’s Bad About It

  • Some content in base game is still “Coming Soon”
  • Light on lore and story
  • Building progress erased after each mission
  • Resource grinding can be slow

Minecraft needs no introduction, being the best-selling game of all time and the “father” of the open world survival crafting genre. No list of the best games of this kind would be complete without Minecraft: with its distinct blocky graphics and seemingly never-ending amount of things to do, Minecraft is very much still the king of the genre, with millions of people actively digging out caves, exploding creepers, and falling into lava on Minecraft servers worldwide.

Minecraft has been getting updates non-stop ever since it was purchased by Microsoft, so players who only played it way back in 2009-2011 may find themselves lost. Nevertheless, Minecraft remains an excellent starting point into the genre, thanks to its focus on the basics — you’re spawned into a random spot in the world, where you must gather resources to build tools in order to build a base and then start crafting more complex tools, and so on.

Survival Features

Hunger is the primary concern you’ll have in Minecraft, as it predates other systems (such as thirst, fatigue and sanity) becoming mainstream. It’s typically fairly easy to deal with hunger, with the ability to make a vegetable farm or consume the flesh of slain creatures — but be careful of of zombie and spider meat, as it can poison you temporarily! Besides that, the main survival challenge in Minecraft will be shelter, which you typically solve by creating a shelter and making sure it’s fully lit, which prevents enemies from spawning nearby and consequently destroying your beautiful house.

What’s Good About It

  • Extremely simple to pick up and get into
  • An unending amount of content to go through
  • Simple graphics allow it to run great on any PC
  • Creative mode makes simply building stuff a blast if you get tired of the survival mode
  • Active modding community

What’s Bad About It

  • Blocky visual style is a turn-off for some people
  • Lacks modern quality of life features, such as a skill tree, quest log, crafting manuals, etc.
  • Clunky combat system

Perhaps one of the biggest comeback stories in gaming history, No Man’s Sky went from super hyped, to fairly big disappointment, to solid entry in the genre. Creator Sean Murray wanted to create a game that captured the magic and mystery of sci-fi space exploration — whether he’s been successful yet is still hotly debated in the game’s Steam reviews, but No Man’s Sky has managed to become one of the most popular Survival Crafting games out there.

The game lets you explore a nearly infinite universe of planets, and you can do so as a trader, explorer, or even a pirate. While the planets might get samey after a while, if you enjoy flying around in your own personal spaceship and building bases on strange new worlds, No Man’s Sky is definitely worth checking out.

Survival Features

The challenge in No Man’s Sky comes more from the grind than from active threats — unless you go to a planet you aren’t prepared for, it’s pretty hard to die.

What’s Good About It

  • Incredible vistas, both in space and on-planet
  • Wide variety of in-game activities
  • Continues to receive meaningful updates

What’s Bad About It

  • Still buggy after 8 years
  • Lacks story or meaningful goals (beyond self-imposed ones)
  • Procedurally-generated environments are repetitive
  • Serious grind for building materials
  • Combat is clunky

Swedish developer Redbeet Interactive created one of the most innovative survival sandbox games in the genre when they conceived of Raft. The concept was so unique, that Raft spurred an entire subgenre of survival sandbox games on PC and mobile platforms. Its unique premise turns exploration on its head, where you stay in place building your raft base, while a randomly-generated infinite ocean world brings resources floating past you. The fact that this concept was born from a group project in a school for game development really makes you appreciate that some of the best and original game ideas come from novice developers.

The world of Raft is post-apocalyptic, where something has caused the oceans to rise to a point where human and animal survivors have scrambled to the few scraps of land that remain. There are plenty of threats to contend with at every stage, including dive-bombing birds, exploding fish, and malfunctioning robots. Let’s not forget your constant companion, Bruce, the psychotic shark that faithfully patrols the waters around your raft. The cartoonish art design keeps the world fresh and entertaining as you build up your raft and a means to propel it toward a wide variety of points of interest and zany adventures. Raft is definitely an experience survival sandbox fans won’t want to let pass them by.

Survival Features

Raft is easy to play solo or with friends, and the survival burden is intentionally kept light and entertaining. This lets you relax and enjoy every part of the game. Each point of interest (including your raft) balances survival on land and beneath the waves, forcing you to mind both health and sustenance, as well as oxygen and light.

What’s Good About It

  • Unique raft base-building dynamic
  • Infinite procedurally-generated world
  • Great lore and storyline
  • Entertaining creatures and points of interest
  • Creative and story modes and varying difficulties
  • Multiplayer
  • Modable, with numerous options

What’s Bad About It

  • Simple object and animal graphics
  • Resource grinding can be slow at the start

Tired of being stuck on a raft? How about we take it to the mainland with Rust! With monuments to explore (pun intended) and people to kill, Rust is a high-octane game for those PvP addicts out there. Build a massive base with your friends, or live like a hobbit and scavenge what you can! Compete, raid, fight, and conquer your way to being the richest player on the server!

Rust has a slightly tenuous reputation for requiring a lot of computer power, as well as its toxic community; and, although the community part hasn’t changed too much, it definitely has gotten a lot better over the last few months. The base game has also changed greatly in the last few years — from being a bare-bones survival game, to being a high-octane first-person shooter, more focused on its PvP aspects than its survival aspects.

Survival Features

While the Hunger and Thirst meters are present, they aren’t very consequential. Still, even though you don’t really need to survive your environment in Rust, you do need to survive the other players. Once you join in on the map you need to prioritize staking your land! Rush to your build location and set down a small base. Make sure to get some clothing to allow you to explore the map without taking radiation. While out, just farm some ores and components until you can begin to progress in your wipe (time before the next server reset), hopefully gaining guns and riches along the way!

What’s Good About It

  • Decent graphics
  • Intense PvP experience
  • Active modding community
  • Large selection of POIs to explore
  • Lots of features to try, from cars to farming

What’s Bad About It

  • The community can be intense
  • Heavy on computer resources
  • High skill ceiling (big gap between new players and the best players)

Subnautica came as something of a surprise hit — it’s unlikely many people expected the creators of Half-Life mod turned full game Natural Selection to come out with one of the most popular Survival Crafting games of 2018… but they did. The third-highest rated game on our list, Subnautica’s success is due in no small part to its colorful underwater vistas and simple-to-use crafting system.

Subnautica is similar to The Forest in that it has a linear story that is gated by your progression through the crafting tree, which provides additional motivation to find that next blueprint or crafting material. While the game isn’t particularly complicated, the risk running out of O2 and the dangers of large sea monsters provide enough of a challenge to keep things interesting.

Survival Features

Dying mostly occurs if you explore while unprepared, or get surprised by a creature you weren’t ready for. Otherwise, the ocean is full of life, and finding food and water doesn’t end to be much of a challenge.

What’s Good About It

  • Incredibly polished and immersive
  • Underwater vistas are beautiful
  • Environments continue to be varied and more challenging as you progress through the game
  • Upgrading to bigger and better vehicles is very satisfying

What’s Bad About It

  • Somewhat limited options in terms of habit construction
  • Can be confusing to figure out how to progress the story
  • Replayability is somewhat limited

Developer Unkown Worlds wisely didn’t mess too much with the fundamentals that made the original Subnautica so great, and builds on many of its strongest aspects. The environments are even more breathtaking and alien, and the game is once again based around a clear narrative.

The story isn’t quite as strong as in the original, and for some players, running around on land for part of the game just isn’t what they signed up for. Additionally, the way the environments are laid out in the sequel isn’t as intuitive or satisfying to explore (and the depth you can dive to has been nearly halved). For most players however, Below Zero is just more of a good thing.

Survival Features

As in the original, dying mostly occurs if you explore while unprepared, and creatures are even less aggressive (must be that arctic chill). It’s also generally easier to find the resources you need, largely due to the smaller map.

What’s Good About It

  • Incredible environments
  • Tight, focused gameplay
  • Well fleshed-out world

What’s Bad About It

  • End game vehicles aren’t as cool as in the original
  • Walking on land < being underwater
  • Weak ending
  • Significant back-tracking, more linear map

When Terraria first released back in 2011, a lot of people gave it a quick glance and immediately dismissed it as a cheap 2D side scroller version of Minecraft — an impression that developers of Re-Logic were determined to change; and they succeeded! After a lot of extra content was added to the game over its lifespan it has come to be iconic in the genre, landing in 9th place on the Best-Selling Games of All Time.

Terraria is a bit of an oddity within the genre, and that goes past its 2D side scroller visual style. Gathering resources like wood and stone in order to craft tools isn’t the main focus here, as you just gather stuff automatically while digging — there’s a bigger emphasis on combat, and particularly on boss fights. You must kill bosses in order to advance in the world, similarly to Valheim, with certain bosses changing the world itself upon death.

By the time you’ve advanced sufficiently in the story, you’ll notice that Terraria has become more of a bullet-hell type of a game, with intense combat involving using jet packs to avoid boss attacks that 1-shot you, and other similarly hilarious, high-octane stunts. And, near the end, the game gets really hard.

Survival Features

Terraria lacks some of the traditional survival features, which leads some to debate if it can qualify as a survival game at all. However, it’s not exactly correct to say it lacks them altogether. Hunger exists in the “The Constant” mode, but not in the main game in the traditional sense — instead of having to eat to keep your hunger meter topped off however, you need to eat food for its powerful buff effects, and more importantly, to restore HP, which you’ll need to do a lot as you often take damage in Terraria.

Additionally, shelter is a game mechanic, but not in a traditional sense, where it protects you from the elements. At the start of the game will need shelter in order to keep enemies out while you rest, but that becomes less important later on. In the late game, you will need to make fortifications in order to fight bosses, and fend off enemy swarms.

What’s Good About It

  • Some of the more boring elements of the genre, such as grinding basic resources like wood and stone, have taken a backseat
  • Emphasis on mobility makes navigating the world extremely fun
  • Endgame is very difficult, which appeals to more hardcore players
  • A LOT of content to go through, though there are no more updates

What’s Bad About It

  • Not for everyone, especially not casual gamers, as it gets very difficult
  • You need the Wiki for guides on how to advance, how to kill bosses, what build you need so you don’t get 1-shot, etc.
  • Extremely grindy, as you need rare drops to craft equipment necessary for killing bosses
  • Strictly linear progression means replayability is very low

Valheim skyrocketed in popularity after its launch in February of 2021, and it’s not very hard to see why: it combines some of the best parts of modern open world survival crafting games while trimming a lot of the fat, and even has an actually engaging combat system, which is rare in the genre. To make things even better, its folk-y, one-with-nature viking theme fits it perfectly. It’s hard to believe a team of ~25 people produced this masterpiece.

There’s just so much to love about Valheim. It has a simple story you can follow, which is perfect for people who get lost or bored in full sandbox type games. It has vibrant colors and a simple cartoon-y aesthetic, making it enjoyable for people of any age. There’s enough stuff to do for you to always feel like you’re working towards something, but there’s never so much that you feel overwhelmed. Grab a friend and try it out!

Survival Features

Valheim re-imagines staple survival features, with the intent of alleviating frustration by making interacting with them rewarding rather than punishing. There’s a hunger meter, but going hungry won’t kill you — instead, you gain extra health and health regen by having a high hunger bar, with specific food giving specific extremely useful buffs. There are weather conditions, but most won’t kill you if you don’t have appropriate clothing, just apply temporary debuffs that hinder you. Shelter however is pretty traditional, in that it protects you from roaming enemies while you rest, and occasionally there are events which cause hordes of enemies to rush you, where having a well-developed shelter can greatly improve your chances of survival.

What’s Good About It

  • Trims the fat & offers only the “meat” of the genre
  • Great combat system
  • Offers something for everyone
  • Simple, beautiful graphics make it family-friendly & allow it to run well on any PC
  • You’re a viking!

What’s Bad About It

  • Updates aren’t very frequent
  • Certain systems are a bit confusing at first
  • Support for mods is somewhat lacking

Special thank you to the EIP writers who helped us put this list together: DanielD, Pride, Mila, SurvivalSherpa, and Atё.

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