Have You Played… Notrium?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The RPS archives don’t contain a single post dedicated to Notrium and Survival Week is the perfect time to remedy that. Mod-friendly, free to download and rocking a randomised alien world before ‘procedural generation’ became the buzzword de jour, Ville Mönkkönen’s top-down sci-fi treat is still an unusual experience, even if I do sometimes feel that half of the game developers in the world have been secretly taking notes from it.

You play as either a human, an android, a psionic or an alien. Each has a story, delivered piecemeal as you survive the hostile days and nights, and a set of pros and cons. The human is puny, as Hulk so wisely recognises, so must rely on crafted technology to explore and fight. At the opposite end of the scale, the alien is a powerful hunter and can evolve to gain new abilities, but because it has scythes instead of hands, it can’t use guns.

Rather than simply surviving Notrium (the name of the planet you’ve crash landed on as well as the game), you’re attempting to escape. The journey across the planet’s sectors takes the player character through several biomes, each of which has its own challenges and objectives. At first, it’s tricky just to stay alive, due to a lack of supplies, unpleasant lifeforms and hazardous weather.

There are multiple endings, some unique to a specific character, but I’ve never actually finished the game, despite dipping into it off and on over the years since it released in 2003. The healthy mod scene has created plenty of extra content and there are some highlights on the official page.

Happy hunting.

You can read more Survival Week articles over here.


  1. TechnicalBen says:

    Well, there possibly goes my evening. I was holding off till payday to avoid buying any survival games… but this one being free and with aliens (not zombies)? Better cuddle up with a cup of tea, some biscuits and some suitable background music…

  2. RanDomino says:

    Ooh, yes I have. It felt good but very shallow and some of the game systems needed to be fleshed out. Still, it has very good atmosphere for what it is.

  3. sinister agent says:

    Oh wow, this takes me back. I’d forgotten all about Notrium somehow.

  4. saberopus says:

    Takes me back too, sinister agent. I think the first time I every marathoned a game all night, shocked when I glanced at the clock and it read 3:00 am, was playing Notrium back in the day. I was listening to Fender Bender by Fuego (link to youtube.com) on repeat the whole time, for some reason. Definitely an odd but very vivid memory.

  5. shinkshank says:

    Ah, memories. I spent many hours screwing around in that thing. I particularly enjoyed how drastically different the playstyles were between the characters – The human plays a classic hard survival story, braving the elements and difficulties and try to get out of this hellhole, while the alien is a hacky slashy ” get enough food to start a brood ” bastard quest. Good times.

  6. Zankman says:

    Notrium is the best, man!

    Or, well, was. I have really fond memories of the game – I had installed and continuously played an older version of the game way back when, before I even had Internet (which is not saying much, since I got normal Internet in 2008), from a PC Play (basically Croatian PC Gamer) magazine bonus CD (DVD? wtf is that alien tech?).

    This was an older version, without even the Psyonic race or the Hermit starting house.

    I played the game a bunch and beat it a few times, dabbled with a mod or two (there were some nice mods), tried to make my own mod (just goofed around with a map editor), came into contact with online Forums for the first time (learned so much!)…

    Looking back at it now, the game is really barebones – combat, crafting, item variety, level variety, degree of random generation, enemy variety… All of it is a tad shallow. If the game came out now and I tried it out for the first time – I would be rather unimpressed, dismissive, and I’d probably state how it would be good if it only had X, Y and Z features.

    It’s fun to think how it had (a degree) of random generation (the zones themselves and the zone layout) before, as the article implies, it became a big thing in the gaming world; in addition, and also why I agree that it is good to mention it in survival week, it had things like power/energy, hunger, temperature…

    Often I day-dreamed about making some ultimate mod for the game, some Notrium 2.0, with (optional) things like: Sleeping and even “Waste Disposal System” mechanics (aka: going to the bathroom), more zones, items and enemies, more NPCs, factions and even quests/storylines, the option to play on forever… Since I never really dug the whole idea that the game actually has an ending where you leave the planet (in one way or another), as well as me always being sorta irked that, apparently during all of those 30+ days your character didn’t sleep at all.

    Eh, maybe I should have focused on reading tutorials, practicing, learning off of examples and by trial and error, both in terms of coding and artwork, and maybe today my would-be Notrium 2.0 would be a reality! A shame.

    Either way, great game, great nostalgia for it. Given that it is free and miniscule in size, sure, I recommend it, but don’t expect anything spectacular by today’s standards!

  7. Wedge says:

    The ambition in Notrium is amazing when put in context. It started in the era when indie games actually were an obscure thing nobody had heard of, and just being a game that managed to be a competent riff on an established formula was a big accomplishment. This was way ahead of it’s time, while ironically being based off the engine of the very of-it’s-time Crimson Land. When combine with it’s free-ness, I guess it’s not surprising it’s had such a long lasting development and modding existence.

  8. verhoevenv says:

    For those interested: Ville has open-sourced the code to Notrium recently. We’re currently getting the bugs out that crept in by about 10 years of compilers and OSes moving forward, and we hope to improve upon it in later stages.

    It builds on Linux (and presumably Mac), too!

    No downloads yet because there are still quite some annoying bugs left, but it shouldn’t be far away.

    Link to the project: link to github.com

  9. yhancik says:

    I always read those “Have You Played…” titles in an incriminating voice, as if the RPS Hivemind was asking if I’ve done my homeworks (I haven’t, most of the time :()

  10. The Army of None says:

    This is one of my favorite survival games. This and URW had me all set for many years. Excited to see a post about it!

  11. bansis says:

    Installed Notrium, Stranded and Stranded II (all ‘freeware’) back in summer and their still on my hard drive, recommended. Good honest fun…

    • Haborym says:

      Stranded 2 is not what I’d call a good game, but I kinda really liked it anyways for some reason.

  12. Haborym says:

    I have actually played it. Only ever managed to beat it as the alien though. Was kind of a hard game. I liked the idea though. Hell, I even played and beat the prototype version of this game that came out before it.