Podcast: Should survival games die?


No. Let’s not be ridiculous. But there are so many examples of bad survival games that it’s important to remember the good ones. So that’s what we are doing on the latest RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. We’re breaking stones over the heads of rubbish survival games, but cooking, salting and eating the delicious ones. Adam wraps himself up in The Long Dark but reluctantly sets Project Zomboid on fire to stay warm. Matt gets sea sickness from Subnautica but wants to swim again anyway. And Brendan freedives into Subnautica too, in an attempt to escape from all the mediocre survival games set on red planets.

But it’s not all barbequed fish and pointy sticks. We’ve also been powering through some cracking January games. Adam is climbing a mountain in tough but tight platformer Celeste, Matt is second guessing the good intentions of the cyberpunk protagonists in The Red Strings Clubs, and Brendan is still wandering about in a daze at card game roguelike Slay the Spire. All these games get hearty recommendations. And if all that isn’t good enough, we’ve also got Quickfire Questions with Charlie Cleveland of Subnautica developers Unknown Worlds Entertainment. A good week of words spoken into a microphone.

You can listen above, or go straight to Soundcloud where you can download it for later.

You can also get the RSS feed here or find it on iTunes, Stitcher or Pocket Casts. We found our theme music under a rock with Jack de Quidt’s face on it.

Want to write in with questions or suggest a theme for a future episode? Now you can, to podcast@rockpapershotgun.com.


The Long Dark is survival at its brutal best

Subnautica review

The Forest is beautiful and terrifying

Zelda’s hardcore survival island

Dying Light: The Following review

Have you played… I Am Alive?

The Solus Project early access review

The deadly creatures of Rain World

The Long Dark’s story mode wasn’t great

Project Zomboid devs talk zombies with Dean Hall

Dead State is not…

… State of Decay

Frostpunk asks why we survive

Have you played… UnReal World?

Pour cyberpunk drinks in The Red Strings Club

9 minutes of mountain climbing in Celeste

Slay the Spire made Adam love deck building

It also has a goblin who runs a gameshow


  1. Seafoam says:

    “I’m a survivor. We’re a dying breed.”

  2. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    >talking about survival games
    >no mention of NEO Scavenger

    I would honestly put that game as the gold standard of survival, between engaging combat and creative inventory systems.

    Anyway, I’d almost say that survival has fallen out of vogue. At least during my last foray through the Discovery Queue on Steam around Christmas, it seemed like survival games are barely being made anymore in favor of Battle Royale-type deathmatch games. The market is saturated to the point that players are spread too thin for any one title to dominate, so developers have focused their efforts elsewhere.

    • Brendan Caldwell says:

      I can’t believe we have failed you all this badly.

      I’m handing in my games journo badge as we speak.

    • Curate_This says:

      Try the longest dark, there isnt the need to exist many survival games, only a few good is enough to keep fans on them. Deathmatchs games are the “vogue” now, like Massive multiplayer games were a few years back. the problem with deathmatches royale games make money, because people want to dress up and paint their guns with stuff with no utility. so that will continue

  3. nimbulan says:

    Yes. Though it would just get replaced by the next dreary game fad with a flood of just plain terrible games and a few mediocre ones.

  4. satan says:

    I love exploring the open worlds people create for survival games, so I keep buying survival games… even though I get bored of the ‘fill the bars’ part of survival games pretty quickly.

    I think subnautica has the right balance of bar filling if you go with the difficulty setting that just has oxygen and health bars to fill.

    Oh I enjoy building small, fortified bases in survival games too. Never had the patience to stay in one place long enough to build one of those gigantic bases/compounds I’ve seen people make.

  5. Curate_This says:

    I had to join RPS just to comment on this. No. Survival games shouldnt die. And that’s a stupid premise to start with. Die? Why? Whats the reasoning behind it? I found nothing in this article that is substancial to that opinion! And i wont hear a podcast about game bashing.

    • SBLux says:

      I think they probably just called it that because it’s a pun. That’s the RPS way.

  6. magnificent octopus says:

    I don’t really play survival games, but I blame them for the fact that so many RPGs now have a crafting element. Maybe I don’t want to make stuff. Maybe I just want to kill things, get gold, and buy stuff. Why isn’t that good enough?

    • Don Reba says:

      If I were to hazard a guess, I would say it is because a lot of people DO want to make stuff.

    • spectone says:

      I remember Ultima being praised because you could bake bread. Role playing means playing a role and that role should not be limited to busting goblin heads.

      • SBLux says:

        Ultima was ahead of its time in so many ways. It makes you wonder what went wrong with Shroud Of The Avatar. Ultima 6 is my favourite game of all time but I still think SoTA is pretty awful.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Baking bread in the later Ultimas was cool because you had to actually use the ingredients and equipment together as you would with other items in the game. Grind wheat into flour in a mill, add water to flour, then stick the ball of dough in an oven. Or something like that, it’s been a while. Point is, it felt tactile. Connected to the game world.

        Now virtually every “crafting” system involves little more than navigating a huge menu system and picking out what you want. It’s boring. It just feels like the worst kind of inventory management. There’s too much stuff and I don’t care about any of it.

        The Long Dark was pretty good though, last time I checked. The stuff you collect actually matters, you’re not just hauling 100 tonnes of junk with you wherever you go.

    • Cederic says:

      Yeah, I’m where you are.

      I’m very happy that the survival genre exists, that players enjoy those games and the creators can be successful.

      Just don’t shoehorn those mechanics into the games I want to play please. Or I wont want to play them any more.

  7. Kowie says:

    While they are still popular good luck with that.

  8. malkav11 says:

    Yes, of course they should, but they won’t as long as anyone thinks there’s still a buck to be made.

    I mean, no doubt there’s a good one or two in there somewhere, where survival is mechanically engrossing but neither full of tedious busywork nor arbitrarily punishing. Where there are real, worthwhile goals beyond mere existence, and rewards for exploration and creativity abound. Where the interface is a joy and the environments sublime. Etc. But that’s hardly a reason for it to be a genre.

  9. nottorp says:

    Can’t say I enjoyed the genre too much even when there were few survival games. Now I’ve reached saturation and I don’t even take a look at new titles. Simply too many.

  10. felipeneves81 says:

    in the strategy department we have Thea: The Awakening, wich is a mix up of survival and 4x game, with a heavy focus on storytelling.

  11. heretic says:

    Has Adam played Darkwood?

    Been watching ChristopherOdd’s let’s play of it recently and the nights seem super stressful and engaging, to his point about Project Zomboid not being very fun during the night times, Darkwood seems to have that covered.

  12. Railway Rifle says:

    There is a really Survival Game moment at 25:ish with “It’s good when you’ve arranged food, shelter, warmth and OH GOD A WOLF”. It reminds me of John’s Long Dark diary about “oh no I’m being eaten by a wolf.”

    The sense of discovery: surely this is limited to the amount of content the devs can create, unless you have a No Man’s Sky-like proc-gen engine. The desire for “more funny animals” is the same.

    Progression: my first thought was something like Factorio, where you start by gathering resources yourself, then build devices to improve your use of material, like a better stove, then devices to automate your needs and so on.

    Anything but Mars: I had an idea for surviving on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn, possibly maintaining your support systems until a rescue ship arrives, but the core of the idea was the looming presence of the vastness of Jupiter taking up the whole sky.

  13. axiomatic says:

    Well, it’s not over for me yet. Still playing The Long Dark and also Stranded Deep. If there is a real chance of death in the game, it’s fun. The ones like ARK and Conan Exiles that are more about the crafting are less fun to me. But that’s just my opinion. I think the Genre will be fine.

  14. Siegfried Adelbrand says:

    I like project zomboid, what it lacks in graphics, it makes up for in depth of mechanics and crafting