If you love Minecraft, but you're burned out on blocks, may we suggest Terraria? There have been many attempts to recreate the success of the cubey original, and Terraria is the one that's managed to crack the code by creating something that's inspired by, but different to, Minecraft. Its main difference is that it's 2D, so you don't need to bother with pesky corners any more.
Terraria has disappointed some Switch owners, though, since its price is significantly higher on Switch than PC, and the co-op — which was only added in September 2020 — is limited to two-player split-screen. If you don't mind those limitations, though, Terraria is a compelling, story-free survival game with emphasis on crafting and building.
Multiplayer? Two-player split-screen couch co-op only
Difficulty options? Journey (start with extra equipment, and ability to control spawns and weather), Normal (drop half your coins on death), Mediumcore (drop all items on death), Hardcore (permadeath)
Can you have pets? So many — from monsters and snowmen, to penguins and the Companion Cube from Portal
When your firstborn gets surrendered as an offering to the Sun God, you don't question it, right? It's the way things are done around here. But when things start to go a bit funny, you start to wonder if your firstborn wasn't actually killed by that giant laser, after all. To find out what's really going on, you'll have to venture into the netherworld — a place where everything is terrible, and an underclass toils away to provide resources to the utopian world above, where you came from.
Smoke and Sacrifice is a survival game like many others, with crafting, perishable food, scary monsters, and a dangerous nighttime, but its parable of class-based societies, inequality, and the grasp of fossil fuels on the economy sets it apart.
Multiplayer? You can play couch co-op, with Player 2 taking control of Juicebox, your robot companion
Difficulty options? None
Can you have pets? You can tame some creatures, and they'll fight alongside you
Crashlands is an appealing mix of sci-fi, crafting, base-building, and goofy, entertaining writing. Like Don't Starve, it's a top-down survival game full of beasties that want to snack on your face; unlike Don't Starve, there's no hunger or thirst metre to contend with, making Crashlands a slightly less stressful experience. Plus, it's in space, so all the beasties are weird aliens.
Crashlands also has a story to keep you reeled in once the resource collectathon wears thin, so you'll always have something to do. Non-hostile aliens will ask you for various things, and you'll either have to catch them or craft them to continue the quest.
Difficulty options? TBC
Can you have pets? TBC
The original, the GOAT, the blocky eighth wonder of the world, it's Minecraft! The sandbox-exploration-adventure-survival game is apparently fairly popular in the gaming world, with millions of players worldwide despite being over ten years old. Minecraft's survival mode pits players against various obstacles and enemies, and although it's not quite as unforgiving as other survival games, you'll never forget the first time you fall into lava with all your diamond gear.
Your main sources of frustration, of course, are the mobs, from the exploding Creepers to the bow-and-arrow-wielding Skeletons who'll snipe you from a mile away. Early on in the game, you'll be better off just building a dirt house and hiding until daytime, when all the monsters catch on fire.
Difficulty options? Survival (you can die, and you have to find blocks naturally), Creative (access to all blocks from the beginning), and Adventure (used for exploring player-made maps, so you can't destroy anything)
Can you have pets? You can tame dogs, cats, horses, llamas, donkeys, parrots, and foxes, and raise sheep, cows, pigs, and chickens. You can even make yourself an aquarium or a beequarium if you catch enough fish or bees
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Residual is a comprehensive survival experience that fans of the genre will absolutely adore. Exploring the procedurally generated planets feels a bit daunting at first, but when the game opens up and starts dishing out essential resources, it becomes a lot more manageable. There are a few teething issues that we hope will be ironed out in time, like the confusing inventory UI, overly frequent need to eat/sleep, and the slightly dodgy navigation controls, but overall Residual is a fun, engaging 2D survival game that can sit proud alongside genre heavies like Minecraft and Don’t Starve.
Difficulty options? Yes, you can change day length and change a host of bits
Can you have pets? Er, you can go fishing?
Obviously, "soon" is subjective, but there are some survival games that have set their sights on Nintendo Switch.
Undying is a game about a kid with nothing in the world but his mother — but unfortunately, she's been bitten by a zombie. You'll need to teach him crafting, cooking, and combat, in order to make sure that he knows how to look after himself when you've turned (and presumably, he'll have to kill you, too). No pressure, then!
Undying is scheduled for Q3 2021.
Ones to Miss
Not all games are made equal. There are a few we haven't mentioned, but a couple of the most obvious omissions are Ark: Survival Evolved and Fallout Shelter. The former is a very bad port, which makes the graphics look like a PS2-era game; the latter is perfectly fine but better suited to mobile platforms. Of course, your mileage may vary, so if you've played all of the above and you're still craving more, well... you can give them a try, if you want!
That's certainly not all of the survival games, but it should be enough to get you started on your masochistic way. However, if you think there's a glaring omission in here, feel free to tell us in the comments... it might even make it in to the list!
This article is one of our Switch Essentials guides which cover a wide variety of genres, including the Best Switch FPS Games, the Best Switch RPGs, the Best Switch Games For Kids, the Best Switch Couch Co-Op Games and the Best Switch Fitness and Exercise Games. We can also help out hunting down the Best Switch Horror Games, the Best Switch Racing Games, the Best Switch Action-RPGs, the Best Nintendo Switch Roguelikes, Roguelites and Run-Based Games, the Best Free Switch Games, and even Games to Play After You've Finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Whatever your favourite genre, we've got you covered: Strategy Games, Metroidvanias, Puzzle Games, Party Games, Online Multiplayer Games, Local Wireless Multiplayer Games, Shmups, Visual Novels, Fighting Games, Hidden Gems, 2D Platformers, 3D Platformers, Run and Gun Games, Sports Games, Beat 'Em Ups, Chill Games, Family Games, Retro-Inspired Games, Short Games, Card Games and Deck-builders, Flight Sim and Space Combat, Point and Click Adventure Games, and the Best Switch Exclusives, as well as Every Arcade Archives Game, Every ACA Neo Geo Game, Every SEGA AGES Game On Switch, and the Best Switch Collections And Compilations.
If you're looking for the best Switch games regardless of genre, our reader-voted selection of the Best Nintendo Switch Games should help you out, and you can also find the Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. And finally, if you're interested in other Nintendo consoles and retro games, check out the Best Game Boy Games, Best Nintendo DS Games, Best Nintendo 3DS Games, Best SNES Games, Best N64 Games, Best GameCube Games, and Best Wii Games, as well as Every Nintendo Switch Online NES Game and Every Nintendo Switch Online SNES Game.