Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

Survival games have come a long way since their humble beginnings. From early text-based adventures to the immersive, open-world experiences we know today, survival games have evolved into a genre that captivates millions of players worldwide. But what was the first survival game? And how did it pave the way for the diverse and exciting lineup of survival games we have today? In this article, we’ll explore the history of survival games, from their earliest pioneers to the modern masterpieces that keep us on the edge of our seats. So buckle up, and let’s take a journey through the evolution of survival games.

The Origins of Survival Games

Early Pioneers: The First Survival Games

The Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

  • The Swiss Family Robinson is a 1960 American adventure film based on the 1812 novel of the same name by Johann David Wyss.
  • The film follows the story of a family of ten who are shipwrecked on a deserted island and must survive and adapt to their new environment.
  • The Swiss Family Robinson is considered one of the earliest examples of a survival game, as it portrays the family’s struggle to survive on the island and the challenges they face.

The Naked Prey (1966)

  • The Naked Prey is a 1966 American adventure film directed by Charles Marquis Warren.
  • The film follows the story of a man who is left for dead in the African wilderness and must survive against all odds.
  • The Naked Prey is notable for its realistic portrayal of survival in the wilderness and the psychological toll it takes on the main character.

The Survivors (1980)

  • The Survivors is a 1980 American horror film directed by Michael Rasmussen and starring Robin Ward.
  • The film follows the story of a group of people who are stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash and must survive against a mysterious killer.
  • The Survivors is notable for its unique twist on the survival genre, as it combines elements of horror and suspense with the traditional survival gameplay.

The Influence of Survival Games on Popular Culture

The Lord of the Flies (1963)

  • The Lord of the Flies, a novel written by William Golding, published in 1963, explores the theme of survival and the inherent human instincts that emerge when civilization is abandoned.
  • The book tells the story of a group of schoolboys who are stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes. As they try to survive, the boys’ societal structures begin to break down, revealing their true natures and the darkness that lies within them.
  • The novel serves as a commentary on the human condition, illustrating how people may regress to savagery when faced with the struggle for survival.

Cast Away (2000)

  • Cast Away, a film released in 2000, stars Tom Hanks as a man named Chuck Noland who becomes stranded on a remote island after a plane crash.
  • The film follows Noland’s journey to survive on the island, using his wits and resources to find food, build shelter, and maintain his mental and physical health.
  • Through Noland’s experiences, the movie highlights the psychological and emotional aspects of survival, as well as the importance of human connection and resilience in the face of adversity.

Bear Grylls and Survivor Man

  • Bear Grylls, a British adventurer and television personality, has gained fame for his survival skills and expeditions in extreme environments.
  • Grylls has hosted various television shows, such as “Man vs. Wild” and “Survivor Games,” in which he demonstrates his knowledge of wilderness survival techniques and shares tips for viewers on how to survive in different situations.
  • His popularity has contributed to the growing interest in survival skills and the importance of being prepared for unexpected situations, influencing the development of survival games and the broader survival genre in popular culture.

The Emergence of Modern Survival Games

Key takeaway: The evolution of survival games has been shaped by pioneering films, such as The Swiss Family Robinson and The Naked Prey, and influential books like The Lord of the Flies and Cast Away. These early works set the foundation for the development of survival horror games, including Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and other titles that pushed the boundaries of the genre. Additionally, open-world survival games, such as The Forest, Rust, and Ark: Survival Evolved, have paved the way for immersive experiences in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) survival games. Lastly, the growth of competitive survival games and the rise of esports leagues and tournaments have contributed to the professionalization of the scene, attracting sponsorships and endorsement deals from major brands.

The Rise of Survival Horror Games

The Genre’s Inception: Alone in the Dark (1992)

  • Alone in the Dark (1992) is considered one of the first survival horror games, developed by Infogrames and Irrational Games.
  • The game’s premise revolves around the protagonist, Philip, who explores a haunted mansion while uncovering the mysteries of his family’s ancient heritage.
  • The game introduced several innovative features, such as real-time graphics, exploration, and item-based puzzles, which laid the foundation for the survival horror genre.

A New Standard in Terror: Resident Evil (1996)

  • Resident Evil (1996), developed by Capcom, refined the survival horror genre and set a new standard for horror games.
  • The game follows the stories of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, as they explore a mysterious mansion filled with undead creatures and unravel a sinister plot.
  • The game’s emphasis on exploration, resource management, and puzzle-solving, coupled with its atmospheric soundtrack and visuals, immersed players in a terrifying world.

A Psychological Fear Factor: Silent Hill (1999)

  • Silent Hill (1999), developed by Konami, brought a new dimension to the survival horror genre by focusing on psychological fear.
  • The game follows Harry Mason as he searches for his missing daughter in the haunted town of Silent Hill, where he must confront his own fears and the town’s dark secrets.
  • The game’s haunting soundtrack, atmospheric visuals, and unique otherworldly settings, along with its complex storytelling, created a deeply unsettling experience for players.

In summary, the rise of survival horror games marked a significant turning point in the evolution of survival games. These early pioneers introduced innovative features, set new standards, and expanded the genre’s possibilities, paving the way for future survival horror masterpieces.

The Evolution of Open-World Survival Games

The Forest (2014)

In 2014, Endnight Games introduced the world to The Forest, a first-person survival horror game set on a haunted island. Players were stranded after a plane crash and had to survive against the elements, as well as the island’s supernatural inhabitants. The game was notable for its procedurally generated terrain, which provided a unique experience for each player.

Rust (2013)

Two years prior to The Forest’s release, Facepunch Studios debuted Rust, a multiplayer survival game set in a post-apocalyptic world. Players were dropped into the game world with nothing but their bare hands and had to scavenge for resources to build shelter, weapons, and tools to survive. The game quickly gained popularity for its challenging gameplay and dynamic server events, such as faction wars and bear attacks.

Ark: Survival Evolved (2015)

In 2015, Studio Wildcard unveiled Ark: Survival Evolved, a survival adventure game set in a prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures. Players were stranded on a mysterious island and had to gather resources, tame creatures, and build shelter to survive. The game was notable for its robust crafting system, deep lore, and the ability to ride and fight alongside dinosaurs.

Today, these three games are considered pioneers in the open-world survival genre, paving the way for future titles to build upon their successes and push the boundaries of what is possible in the genre.

The Future of Survival Games

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Survival Games

The Emergence of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Gaming

With the rapid advancements in technology, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have become increasingly popular in the gaming industry. VR and AR offer players a more immersive and interactive experience, allowing them to explore new worlds and engage with their surroundings in ways never before possible.

Pioneering VR and AR Survival Games

One of the earliest VR survival games was Robinson: The Journey, released in 2016. Developed by Crytek, the game placed players in a vast, immersive world where they had to survive and explore, all while avoiding dangerous creatures and natural hazards.

Arizona Sunshine, also released in 2016, was another early VR survival game. This first-person shooter game transported players to a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies, where they had to scavenge for supplies and fight for their survival.

Survivors of Ragnarök, released in 2017, was an AR survival game that used the player’s smartphone camera to create a mixed reality experience. Players had to gather resources, build shelter, and fend off dangerous creatures, all while navigating the real world around them.

The Future of VR and AR Survival Games

As VR and AR technology continues to improve, we can expect to see even more advanced and immersive survival games in the future. Developers are exploring new ways to incorporate movement and physical activity into VR games, creating a more realistic and engaging experience for players.

Additionally, AR survival games have the potential to revolutionize the genre by blending the virtual and real worlds in exciting new ways. With the ability to incorporate real-world environments and challenges, AR survival games could offer a truly unique and unforgettable gaming experience.

Overall, the future of VR and AR survival games looks bright, with exciting new developments on the horizon that promise to push the boundaries of what is possible in gaming.

The Impact of Esports on Survival Games

The Growth of Competitive Survival Games

  • In recent years, competitive survival games have experienced exponential growth in popularity, attracting millions of players and spectators worldwide.
  • This growth can be attributed to the rise of live streaming platforms, which have provided a stage for top players to showcase their skills and share their experiences with a global audience.
  • The increasing number of esports tournaments and events, offering large cash prizes and recognition, has also fueled the growth of competitive survival games.

The Formation of Esports Leagues and Tournaments

  • To organize and regulate the growing competitive scene, dedicated esports leagues and tournaments have emerged, bringing structure and professionalism to the industry.
  • These leagues and tournaments offer structured formats, rules, and schedules, providing a clear path for players to pursue a career in competitive survival games.
  • The formation of these leagues and tournaments has also led to the development of training facilities and coaching programs, further enhancing the professionalism of the scene.

The Rise of Professional Players and Teams

  • With the growth of competitive survival games and the establishment of esports leagues and tournaments, a new class of professional players and teams has emerged.
  • These players and teams dedicate their lives to mastering the games, training daily, and competing at the highest level.
  • They have become icons in the gaming community, inspiring new generations of players and attracting sponsorships and endorsement deals from major brands.

The impact of esports on survival games has been transformative, creating a thriving ecosystem of competitive play, professional players, and lucrative opportunities. As the scene continues to evolve, it is clear that survival games will remain a dominant force in the world of gaming and esports for years to come.


1. What is a survival game?

A survival game is a video game genre that focuses on the player’s ability to survive in a harsh environment or situation. These games often require players to gather resources, build shelter, and make difficult decisions in order to stay alive.

2. What was the first survival game?

The first survival game is widely considered to be “Survival Island” or “The Cave,” both of which were released in the late 1970s. These early survival games put players in the role of a stranded castaway or adventurer, tasked with finding food, water, and shelter in order to survive on a deserted island or in a mysterious cave.

3. How have survival games evolved over time?

Survival games have come a long way since their early days. Modern survival games often feature more complex environments, deeper gameplay mechanics, and more realistic survival systems. Many modern survival games also include multiplayer modes, where players must work together to survive against the elements or against other players.

4. What are some popular modern survival games?

Some popular modern survival games include “The Forest,” “Rust,” “Don’t Starve,” “Gris,” “H1Z1,” and “DayZ.” These games offer a variety of survival experiences, from cooperative multiplayer to challenging single-player adventures.

5. What makes a good survival game?

A good survival game should be challenging, but also fair and rewarding. It should offer a variety of ways to survive, and should encourage players to use their resources and skills creatively. A good survival game should also have a sense of progression, whether that’s through unlocking new abilities or discovering new areas. And, of course, a good survival game should be fun to play!

Evolution of Survival Games 1986-2020

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