How Survival Video Games have Evolved in Recent Years?

by Rosemarie Hardison
how survival video games have evolved in recent years

Survival games are surviving better than any other gaming genre right now. Even if you’re not playing a survival game, you might have a survival option open to you. Why are they so popular, and how have they changed? Read on to find out.

What is survival mode?

Just about every AAA game released over the past few years has come with survival and story mode. These are two ends of one spectrum. If you were to play Prey, for example, you’re facing a rich narrative that is supposed to be sci-fi horror-based. Playing story mode will make the jump scare fewer, the enemies easier to kill, and you can simply enjoy the narrative, rather than getting stuck on one boss monster and giving up.

Survival, on the other hand, is all about the challenge. The monsters are bullet sponges, your ammo is limited, your resources depleted, and often extra challenges are introduced, like thirst, eating, and sleeping. Additionally, some games introduce perma-death, which means you are not about to respawn with your health bar full again once you’re dead.

The details of different games’ versions of survival mode change depending on the game, but generally, they introduce the challenge of just living as a human being on top of facing whatever challenges the plot introduces.

Survival elements are added to everything today

The popularity of survival games might be attributed to the biggest gaming franchise of its time: Minecraft. This virtual Lego, but not really Lego, world allowed people to create worlds and build things from scratch. It’s not the place where you worry about your surroundings – by day. By night, the monsters spawn and destroy what you have made, perhaps killing you in the process. Survival mode also makes you vulnerable to falling, starving, drowning, and other fatalities.

The story goes that Minecraft was initially too easy, and therefore was boring for players, so the creators added in a challenge that quickly made it one of the biggest games in history. So, it’s easy to see why games are adding a survival mode to just about any narrative they release.

There’s more to survive than bullets

Lately, a very old game has been making more of an appearance in gaming content. Reviewers are going back to playing Pathological, which doesn’t look like much to begin with, but if you like survival games, you’re going to love this.

It’s hard to sum up Pathologic’s plot succinctly; in fact, its resurfacing is arguably due to hbomberguy – you’ll find him on Twitter, YouTube and Twitch – who made a 2-hour long video explaining its “genius”, but you get the choice of three characters and are put in a town ravaged by plague. You have all the elements of a survival game, like eating, sleeping, etc. with the addition that in order to complete your goal of getting to the bottom of this plague, you are constantly putting yourself in harm’s way. This 2005 survival game renewed its popularity in 2020, after the release of its sequel in 2019, but also at the height of Covid. It’s not hard to see why!

And then there is 2014’s This War of Mine, which abandons the battlefield aspect of war that games like Call of Duty revel in, but instead focuses on a player in their home. This is where survival games got philosophical. Your goal is simply to survive as a citizen. You have no expressed opinion of the war and instead, you’re faced with a series of ethical decisions that are vital to survival. Do you take the bread from the old lady? Do you defend yourself from someone just trying to feed their child? All the while maintaining your own health, sleep (which is dangerous), and even mood. The Polish Chancellery of the Prime Minister recommended it as a Polish high school reading list item in 2020.

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