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Few things link all humans together. Our need for water, food, and shelter is one of them. Another is that we all, on some level, crave adversity. Whether this adversity comes in the form of a brutal 40-hour workweek or some insane weightlifting regiment, we all seem to either love the punishment which the process inflicts or the feeling of achievement we get once the ordeal is over and done with.
For this reason, I suspect the survival game genre has only increased in popularity over the last couple of years. As our lives become increasingly more comfortable and stable, it is human nature to seek some adversity and hardship. The better and more intense the survival experience, the higher we feel once we have well and truly conquered it, becoming superhuman in a world that only 10 hours ago would have swatted us away like some human-shaped fly.
Once developers gained the ability to add a multiplayer dimension to this genre, all bets were off, and the previously niche area of gaming exploded into something the community could never have expected. Not only do gamers get to experience this hard-fought existence for themselves. They now also get to share their hardships with some friends and, in some cases, represent the brutality of their survival game of choice on some stranger who was just unlucky enough to choose the same server as you.
So, with all this in mind, why don’t we take a look at some of the best multiplayer survival games currently on the market in the hopes that by the end of this list, you feel a bit more confident about which world you want to jump into first. Let’s go!
As this genre continues to grow and grow, I realized quite early on that I would need to set some ground rules in order to help me select games for this list. These rules were chosen in the interest of finding the best possible multiplayer survival games on the market currently. These rules include:
- The game must be currently on the market at the moment and therefore cannot be in a closed beta phase either.
- There must be a hunger/hydration system within the game to be included in this survival game list.
- All games on this list must allow for at least four friends to play together. Anything below this seems pretty outdated and questions whether it gives a true multiplayer experience.
- These games must look at survival in a long-term sense, not just a ten-minute battle royal altercation.
- Developer: Mojang Studios/Xbox Game Studios
- Metacritic User Score: 8.1
- Release Date: November 2011
We all remember our first night in Minecraft. That feeling when we saw the vast and ever-expanding landscape before us; that the world was our oyster, and we could do truly anything our imaginations could cook up and our game mechanics would allow. However, this feeling always left rather swiftly when the sun set and the monsters came out to play.
For those of us who bought the title after watching some long-forgotten YouTubers play the Beta release version of the title, this experience came as a slight surprise. After all, the YouTuber I watched had a fancy home and nice diamond armor; nighttime wasn’t a problem for them. However, for little 1-day old Minecraft Steve, everything that came with the night was an issue, and this is when most players experienced their first death. Either through hunger issues or via hand-to-hand combat with enemies.
Sometime later, when multiplayer was added into the title, this first night experience got even worse with two mouths to feed and an even bigger hole in the ground needing to be dug.
I recognize that the genre has moved along greatly from the early Minecraft days; however, for some of us, this title was our first experience within this genre, so I truly believed that it would be an absolute travesty not to include it.
2. Don’t Starve Together
- Developer: Klei Entertainment/Blitworks
- Metacritic User Score: 8.1
- Release Date: April 2016
When the initial title, Don’t Starve, was released in 2013, the gaming community at large rejoiced. Finally, something new and exciting had come along. However, as with most games, the fan base soon grew tired of the same old gameplay day in and day out. This forced the developers to use some of that massive profit the title had generated in order to expand the game a little via DLCs and other updates.
The most notable and relevant update to the title is the Don’t Starve Together update. This allowed up to 6 players to join one horrid, dark, and baron world to try and conquer it themselves. Through this multiplayer journey, players could expect to face multiple enemy types while scavenging for even the simplest of resources as they progressed through the campaign together.
While this title still lacks some of the more interesting tropes associated with the survival genre today, it was still one of the highest-rated and most loved entrances into the genre for many years. By displaying that for a game like this to be good, sometimes it’s better to keep things simple.
3. The Forest
- Developer: Endnight Games
- Metacritic User Score: 74
- Release Date: May 2014
Right at the top of this entry, I want to say that The Forest really holds a special place in my heart. Not only because I spent a lot more hours on the game than was really necessary, but because it was one of my first experiences within the genre.
This title, which sees the player crash land on a seemingly deserted tropical island in the middle of nowhere, exploded onto the scene way back in 2014 as the developers decided to adopt the tried and tested method of releasing an unfinished game at the Beta development stage in order to accrue the funds necessary actually to complete it.
Whilst some early fans of the title complained about the delayed final release date of the game, I truly enjoyed each new mechanic as it was slowly added to the game. The last release of the title culminated in the player being able to progress through a linear campaign and fight intelligent enemies who actually responded to the player’s actions.
Once all of this was nailed down, the developers knew that due to the delay in actually finishing the game, they had to, once again, drum up some excitement for the game, so they added a multiplayer element. This element ensured that Youtubers would once again pick up the game for some easy content and that the fans of the game could once again complete the campaign and fight off the nightmare-inducing monsters with the help of some friends.
In the end, I feel that the final rendition of The Forest was a rather brilliant game. However, it was just completed too late, leaving the game feeling outdated by the time it was finally finished.
- Developer: Facepunch Studios/Double Eleven
- Metacritic User Score: 6.4
- Release Date: December 2013
In my opinion, this is the first game on this list that actually behaves as a true, purpose-built multiplayer survival game. Not only does Rust place the player in some sort of post-apocalyptic land where everything, and I mean everything, is trying to kill the player, but it also has the critical element of PvP, which the other entries on this list were mostly missing. Unless you count Minecraft, which I don’t.
What initially started as an open-world survival game, with servers hosting anything from 10 to 100 people at any one time, evolved into a game more about the alliances between players and the communities that they could form amongst themselves in order to survive, overcome, and dominate the landscape and other players.
This type of gameplay is truly what I now look for in an actual multiplayer survival game. It is all well and good to get some great armor in Minecraft and defeat the Ender Dragon. However, it is a whole other thing entirely to completely dominate a server with tactics, manpower, and skill. Also, when one considers the base-building side of Rust, which allows players to hide their most valuable loot behind formidable and resource-consuming defenses and incentivizes players to loot said bases, you truly have a winner on your hands.
- Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
- Metacritic User Score: N/A
- Release Date: Febuary 2021
As one of the newer entries into the multiplayer survival game genre, I will not be too harsh or try and predict where the developers hope to take this title. However, I will say that at the moment, at least, the game on this list which Valheim is most similar to is The Forrest.
This is because of the game’s base-building mechanics and how the multiplayer system is implemented into the title. However, games such as Valheim make The Forrest look dated by today’s standards. This is because of the many significant improvements that this game made to the base recipe I believe both titles started with.
Unlike The Forrest, there is no real campaign within Valheim. While there are stages that each player can expect to progress through and bosses to defeat along the way, Valheim seems to be more concerned with billing itself as a sandbox experience.
The actual gameplay of Valheim will see the player and their friends explore a Viking-style world wherein you work to slowly improve your character’s stats and weapons whilst simultaneously improving the defenses of your home base. This game also encourages its players to jump in with some teammates, as it makes sure to hold nothing back when it comes to boss battles and general combat throughout its open world.
In the end, I believe that Valheim is one of these games that will continue to make waves with every update that the developers release. Not only because of its broad appeal and simple gameplay mechanics but also because of its potential to help players create exciting, funny, and unique experiences across the varied and vast world each new playthrough promises.
6. Project Zomboid
- Developer: The Indie Stone
- Metacritic User Score: 9.3
- Release Date: November 2013
When writing this list, Project Zomboid is one of, if not the most popular games across all of YouTube and Reddit, having quite recently received an update allowing players to experience the title with a friend for the first time.
However, with all this being said, the title has not become so popular in recent months simply because it has added a multiplayer function. At its core, Project Zomboid is both beautifully simplistic, allowing even the most inexperienced player to enjoy the title right from the get-go. However, there is a depth to the game and some of its mechanics, which ensures that a mammoth number of hours must be invested into it for someone to become truly good at the game. This is what I call the ‘sweet spot’ in-game such as this.
In addition to this complex yet simplistic level of game design, Project Zomboid now allows multiplayer, allowing the player and their friends to band together for the first time. When gaming together, groups can prepare for awesome battles and intense periods of sneaking and looting, combined into a package of intense yet realistic survival metrics, including food, water, overall health, energy, and more.
To put it simply, Project Zomboid may just be the perfect game for a great multiplayer experience, especially if someone in the group has sunk more hours into the game and can solve any particularly taxing issues which might spring up.
- Developer: Bohemia Interactive
- Metacritic User Score: 5.3
- Release Date: December 2013
Next, we have what I would call the daddy of all zombie survival games, let alone multiplayer survival games. DayZ came into being after the release of a less well-known game called Arma 3. This game was basically a hyper-realistic military sandbox experience that the community decided to turn into a zombie horror survival game via intensive modding.
This modding of Arma 3 eventually led to the creation of DayZ. The game was very basic at this stage, prone to glitching and causing infuriation amongst its loyal fanbase. However, it was also known for its intense survival mechanics and amazing PvP moments, allowing the mod to grow substantially over the years until it completely eclipsed the base game, which spawned it.
Eventually, the mod became so popular that the developers decided that it was time to release it as its own standalone game, removing the need to buy Arma 3 or do any complicated configuration to get the whole thing up and running. In the end, we now have a title with a lot fewer glitches that can be played on pretty much every console.
However, the final iteration of the DayZ title did not leave its modding routes behind, as the game actively encourages server holders to design and implement mods that they think make their gaming experience better. Mods such as base building and raid mechanics have thus become an expected addition to the game within almost every server.
In the end, we have a game much like Rust in terms of its base building and raiding mechanics, but also a hyper-realistic survival simulator that will punish its players for the simplest of mistakes. This combination results in a multiplayer survival game wherein groups of friends battle it out amongst an entire server population to see who can become the top dog. Then, the beauty of DayZ is that every week or a couple of days, the entire server wipes, sending everyone back to the start so that nobody can manage to get so far ahead that they cannot be stopped.
8. Dread Hunger
- Developer: Dread Hunger Team
- Metacritic User Score: 7.3
- Release Date: April 2021
This title is unique in this list. The player has to survive against the elements like most other games on this list, but they also have to survive against their friends.
While I accept that many of the titles on this list have rather intense and brilliant PvP built into the root of the game, Dread Hunger is the only title included that forces friends to turn against one another should they wish to win the game. There are no long-lasting friendships in Dread Hunger. Instead, all we have are temporary alliances that will crumble under the slightest bit of suspicion from the other players.
The best summation I have heard of this game calls it a combination of Traitor in Terrorist Town of Garry’s Mod fame and some wacky version of Among Us. However, I will say that this title is much better than Among Us, and I wouldn’t dare insult the developers of this title like that.
The gameplay itself is fun and really different each time around. This is likely because of the games focus on inter-player dynamics, forcing friends to argue amongst themselves, discussing who is and who isn’t the traitor, and holding off the elements and hungry wolves surrounding their stranded vessel.
All of this, combined with the Sea of Thieves-like art style and smooth gameplay mechanics, really make this title a joy to play and one I certainly enjoyed and will come back to time and time again.
9. ARK: Survival Evolved
- Developer: Studio Wildcard/Virtual Basement
- Metacritic User Score: 65
- Release Date: June 2015
Whenever I write about or talk about this game, I always compare it to Rust without even thinking of why. Most likely, it is due to the similar art styles and how one hopes to progress through the open world.
This progression will see players or packs of players spawning into an already populated server wherein they must build their way up from nothing into a being of immense power, capable of tackling some of the most feared creatures in history, ranging from one strike pawns to immense boss battles requiring hours of preparation.
These fun battles and little snippets of combat are held together well by calm moments of base building, garden planting, and creature taming, creating a game that is all about balance.
With this all being said; however, it is important to note that one of the main criticisms that you can find across the forums about ARK: Survival Evolved is the open servers and how annoying some elements can be, especially if you have already put a great deal of time into the game.
Therefore, for maximum enjoyment, I would recommend that you treat this title more like old school Minecraft, wherein you and a couple of friends set up a private server together and attempt to tame all that can be tamed, removing as many of the eccentricities of the game as possible.
Want to know more about this game? Continue reading our complete ARK: Survival Evolved review.
10. No Man’s Sky
- Developer: Hello Games
- Metacritic User Score: 36
- Release Date: August 2016
The last but not the least entry on this list is No Man’s Sky, the game that created the biggest controversy in the gaming industry that I can remember unless we include the whole Cyberpunk: 2077 debacle.
No Mans’s Sky, as I am sure most of you remember, caused a great deal of commotion and negative press when after years of hype, it hit the shelves with probably 5% of the features that developers had promised, forcing many people who had pre-ordered the title to instantly regret their decisions and the whole process of pre-ordering altogether.
However, after this mammoth disappointment that undoubtedly turned many away from the game altogether, regardless of future patches, No Man’s Sky has once again been in the news. But for a good reason this time!
Now, the game supports up to a maximum of 32 players on one server, allowing friends to explore planets and battle against the game’s newly designed and optimized survival mode. This game has, therefore, somehow managed to combine the beautiful worlds and concept of space travel with a fun yet difficult survival system that will test even the most experienced gamer and all of their friends. What more could you ask for?
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can you play DayZ on Ps5?
Answer: While the title was initially designed for PC gamers, there is now a port over to the consoles so that nobody has to miss out on the fun.
Question: When will Valheim be fully released?
Answer: The developers of Valheim found it necessary to publish their game while it was still in its development stage, releasing it on early access in order to acquire enough capital to continue its development.
Question: How long does it take to complete all achievements in Rust?
Answer: Rust: Console Edition will take most players somewhere between 80-100 hours in order to acquire all of the achievements.
So, there you have it, a list of some of the best multiplayer survival games on the market at the moment. This list was incredibly hard to put together, with the genre having exploded over the last couple of years and studios doing better and better jobs with seemingly less money than they ever have before.
So, if you’re a fan of the genre or a complete beginner, why not jump into one of the titles mentioned above and see if you can last the night. Good luck!