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5 of the Best Survival RPGs You Probably Missed

Prepare to go from nurturing a litter of cubs as a Lynx to escaping aristocratic mustache-faced robots on a man-hunt with these underrated survival titles.

The objective of the survival genre is quite simple. Survive. Though, this is much easier said than done. Survival games plop players right into the direst of situations with very little instruction and absolutely no resources. More often than not your enemies aren't bloodthirsty demons or gun-toting commando agents. Instead, players fight against their natural environment, where hunger, thirst, and the cold are your adversaries. And trust me, mother nature is a tough lady who pulls no punches.

Unfortunately, fantastically inventive games are often passed by as they do not receive the same amount of funding or notoriety as AAA console games. Sure, Day Z and ARK: Survival Evolved have a huge fan base, but there are tons of other games who reinvent the experience of traditional survival games. Below, we've put together a list of the most underrated survival games you may have missed while mesmerized by flashy AAA titles. Have fun dodging gentlemanly murder-machines and celebrating the discovery of half-eaten granola bars.

5. Project Zomboid

Project Zomboid originally released on Steam as an Early Access title way back in 2013. While still receiving steady improvements in its Early Access phase today, the zombie-survival game provides one of the most realistic and addictive post-apocalyptic zombie games to date. Fans of Day Z will feel right at home while still discovering plenty of elements completely unique to Project Zomboid. Simply scavenging your environment for supplies brings with it tons of moments filled with gut-wrenching anticipation. Best of all, the sandbox world can be shared with friends who can either help you survive, or bring about your early demise. Whether you want to lead a quiet life from a fortified country-side home or stay on the move as a zombie-hunting squatter, how you survive is entirely up to you.

4. Shelter 2

Do you have a burning desire to take to the wilderness on all fours while providing sustenance and shelter for your adorable cubs? If so, you may need a psychiatrist. In the meantime, the developers at Might and Delight have just the game to satisfy your extremely strange fantasy. Shelter 2 has players assuming the role of a mother lynx who just gave birth to a litter of cubs. As the momma lynx, it is your job to nurture your cubs by hunting prey, finding water sources, and keeping the defenseless little guys out of harm's way. The family of lynxes will experience spring blooms and harsh winters as the dynamic environment changes with the seasons.

The art direction reminds me of Ico's simplistic, yet beautiful environment that creates a mysteriously solemn atmosphere around the player. I realize comparing Shelter 2 to a masterpiece like Ico is saying a lot, but the game's presentation truly speaks for itself. Unfortunately, I'll never be able to play this because the mere thought of losing one of the adorable cubs already fills me with tear-jerking anxiety.

3. Sir, You Are Being Hunted

Sir, You Are Being Hunted delivers one of the most bizarre combinations of humor and horror I've ever seen in a survival game. And it's done with dignified style and class. Players spawn on a procedurally-generated British island where the protagonist must find Mysterious Artifacts in order to escape the blood-thirsty gentleman-robot infested archipelago. Sir, You Are Being Hunted is just as silly as it is brutally difficult. Flee, fight, and sneak your way past countless aristocratic robots who have as much of an affinity for killing humans as they do for villainous mustaches.

2. The Long Dark

The Long Dark delivers survival in its purest form. The game's protagonist becomes stranded in the expansive North Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. The game pins you versus mother nature, as The Long Dark is not a post-apocalyptic setting filled with zombies and mutants. Instead, you will be tasked with finding warmth, staying fed, and overcoming the wildlife lurking in the frozen tundra. These are no easy tasks, considering there are many factors that go into successfully creating fires and fishing the frozen lakes. Something as simple as failing to start a fire has serious repercussions and could even mean death. As lootable supplies dwindle, players are forced to eventually take to the forests and become the predator to face-off with wolves and bears alike. Never has stumbling across a wood stove been so satisfying. Plus, the game is still in Early Access on Steam, meaning improvements and updates that foster an even better experience are still on the way.

1. Stranded Deep

Start thinking of a good name for your red-faced volleyball companion, because you'll find more things that want to eat you rather than discuss the weather in the Stranded Deep. The game drops you right into the middle of the Pacific Ocean with nothing but a raft and an endless tropical world to explore, both inside and outside the water. Procedurally-generated islands appear in the distance, offering chances to discover more resources that improve your chance of survival. It is up to you whether to pillage islands for resources or manage an island's growth to make it your home. Risk an attack from the ocean's bite-friendly inhabitants each time you dive into the ocean to hunt fish and scavenge the reefs. The ocean begs to be explored, but each trip is filled with an atmosphere of horrifying uneasiness as predators could be lurking all around you.

The dynamic weather and day-night cycles create unique situations. For instance, a storm might call for a day to hang close to the shelter rather than risk taking your raft to the seas. While a sunny afternoon might offer the perfect day of hunting you've been waiting for. Developer Beam Team Games has created an experience deeply rooted in the survival genre that  not only tests your inventiveness but your ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment.

Published Jun. 30th 2016

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