Video games have come a long way. Modern games have the potential to open up worlds while others may feel like a nice fun day at a theme park. What we’ll be looking at in this Top 5 list are games that have both excellent overall and sub mechanics with content that makes a game feel full and worth the purchase. These games will offer you a wide array of play styles so that you can play in a way that you find best fits the theme of the game. The following fully fleshed out games feel like “if you can think it, you can do it” (and probably craft it) and often, the only limit is your own brain.
This list excludes buggier games, as no one likes playing a troubleshooting simulator for two hours to unlock the game you purchased, with an unfortunate randomized potential of “surprise mechanics” for another x amount of time/days spent troubleshooting. It also goes without saying that games are better with friends, but that doesn’t matter because a lot of us don’t have friends anyway. Regardless, the following will be multiplayer compatible and mod compatible giving each of these games even more variation and customization.
#1 – ARK Survival Evolved
While ARK’s PVP is very linear and meta driven, its PVE and single player offer unique worlds to explore. This is determined by the recipes you learn, the stats you increase, the dinosaurs you tame, and the maps you inhabit. ARK offers you challenging bosses, a wide variation of crafting recipes (that only get better as you progress) throughout the game, and environments that encourage distinctive and exciting experiences. You want to be a water dweller? Make yourself an underwater cave base surrounded by giant sea monsters, sharks, and other noteworthy creatures. Do you like living in snowy areas? There are sub-zero environments where trying to survive the harsh temperature is hard enough not to mention the packs of wolves, manas, argentavis, snow owls and all other kinds of carnivores trying to survive in an iced over tundra looking for their next meal. Want to live in a tree? Build a tree base high in the redwood forest, safe from the Carnotaurus, Terror Birds, Raptors and Thylacoleos. There are mountains, swamps, plains, canyons, deserts, wastelands, and additional fantastical biomes all with their own ecosystem. ARK is truly one of the most fleshed out and complete games ever created to date.
#2 – 7 Days to Die
Our second fully developed choice is what I wish I could do when I played black ops zombies to exist in this world and explore, accumulate power at my own pace, and build a stronghold capable of withstanding the strongest waves of zombies. The major mechanics in 7 Days are the choices you make with your character build: intellect, strength, fortitude, perception or agility, and all of their sub category perks. You can build a stronghold or modify a building that you find in the wasteland to withstand the 7-day horde or any other dangers that might otherwise prove fatal in the open world. The perks and items you can craft as the game progresses make for an exciting and long journey where you can accumulate vast power and tools that modify the dynamics of the game. The key to surviving the stronger waves of zombies that spawn every 7 days ( or whatever interval of days you choose in the settings) is by creating an efficient and creative stronghold that both withstands the force of the waves of zombies and also neutralizes them as quickly as possible in order to negate the threat.
This game places you in an open world where you can choose to focus on building, questing or scavenging and exploring in order to advance your characters skills and levels to unlock better tools and technology that will in turn facilitate your fight for survival. You start with sticks and stones, a bit of canned food and water but by the later stages of the game you’ll have accumulated automatic weapons, strongholds with booby traps powered by its own electrical grid, vehicles and your own self sustained farm assuming your journey lasts that long. Even though this game is in alpha it’s quite stable and constantly receiving updates. 7 Days to Die is a full and fun zombie survival game with many many ways to enjoy it.
#3 – DayZ
Our third spot is filled by another zombie survival contender that focuses more on a realistic take on what surviving a post-apocalyptic zombie infested world would be like, taking your survival experience to the next level. The core game mechanics on DayZ are a huge open map, a very in-depth character survival system, zombies, crafting, looting and base building. If you’re looking for a more realistic simulation of what surviving in a zombie post-apocalyptic world would be like then DayZ is your best choice by far.
DayZ has focused a lot on the details of managing your characters survival with its intricate and multilayered character management system of health, nutrition, sleep, stamina, and carrying weight capacity all affecting each other like they would in real life. So in order to function and survive your character’s health must be taken care of. This wouldn’t be such an issue if there weren’t zombies everywhere looking for their next meal and with supplies being so scarce fighting or clearing them out of a building to scavenge is a big risk. Often you may find yourself lucky enough to find wildlife to secure a few days worth of food and missing an opportunity like this may prove deadly as scavenging can often be fruitless. If this wasn’t already hard enough the night time cycle makes wandering in pitch black darkness a near death sentence if not equipped properly should you ever be forced to wander the night.
Dayz offers a realistic experience that will have you on the edge of your seat and often in a panic searching for ways to survive and avoid the real consequences of perma death.
#4 – Empyrion Galactic Survival
For our fourth place we take to space in a voxel based sci-fi gem of a game. Empyrion offers a full and multilayered journey in a universe where you have to gather mineral resources in order to craft and build your bases and ships, travel to other vastly different planets all with their own ecosystem and atmospheres, fight or defend from hostile races and wildlife or play like a pirate and plunder ships in space and stations or towns for all kinds of goods.
Empyrion offers full freedom to create bases and ships of any size and shape, equipped with all kinds of technologies you would find or need in a base or space. Want to make your own destroyer? Gunboat? Scoutships? Or even capital ships, there really is no limit to the creative angle in this game. The crafting options are vast and your character will be able to unlock better recipes as you level up making for a well-designed progression system.
#5 – Kenshi
At number five we have a personal all time favorite of mine, Kenshi is truly a gem of a game. While the graphics are not great it makes up for it entirely with its engaging and rewarding game mechanics and amazing theme.
In the world of Kenshi, you play as multiple characters or just one if that’s your choice, and attempt to survive hunger, poverty and enemy attacks by playing as a bandit, a warband, an army, a village, a trader, a ninja, a farmer, or many other roles. Each character in your party has specific traits that can be trained to better fulfill their chosen roles. As a combat expert you would train your endurance, strength, dodge, melee attack and defense as well your expertise with your weapon/s of choice. You could potentially make a character that is a master at all things and have that be your sole character. The atmosphere in Kenshi is fitting for its theme and the soundtrack is amazing. As you would expect in an open world game the world of Kenshi is filled with traders, bandits, wildlife, factions and citizens and you’re free to interact with them as you please. You will also find ancient technologies that you can research to unlock more efficient and powerful structures, weapons and armor. Kenshi has a charm that’s quite hard to explain. Maybe it’s the perfect blend of futility and harshness or the ambiance that fills you with sorrow but at the same time you wonder how strong and how far you can actually go. Either way Kenshi is an amazing game if you can still enjoy a work of art that doesn’t fit contemporary graphics standards.
Open world games are becoming more popular with many series converting into this format. Games such as the Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain or Zelda: Breath of the Wild adopted the open world format giving the player more options. Open world survival video games are the digital equivalent of a child being tossed the keys to the candy store. It turns into an endless wonderland where the only limitations are those of your own making. The only goal to focus on is simply survive. It’s just you, your wits, and a world filled with resources and challenges to overcome.
If you have an open survival game, we’d love to hear about it. Just shoot us an email at [email protected]. This list will be updated as more games are released.