Looking Back on the Survival Genre

The survival genre has exploded in popularity in recent years with games such as Ark attracting huge player bases. Survival games are known for their brutal and hard starts that give players more of a challenge than typical triple-A titles. The genre has become so popular in recent years that we are now seeing more of a focus on making more of these games than we are on making FPS’s which reigned over last gen. Where exactly did these games really start though and why is this genre so popular now of all times?

Some of The First Survival Games

Some of the first actual survival games I can remember seeing are games from the Survival Kids series. These titles are more commonly known as Lost in Blue in the West. These games came out in the era of the first DS and the first game in the series became a rare find in the US for a time. Because of the demand for the games, it got 3 sequels that got a much bigger release print than Lost in Blue 1.

Lost in Blue games were incredibly hard and very true to the survival genre. The games all take place after you have shipwrecked and a remote island. Here you have to learn to do primitive tasks such a gathering food, creating fire and learning to make basic weapons. At the beginning of the game you will get a few coconuts nearby to gather and some wood for getting the first started. After you leave the tutorial to faze you are pretty much on your own and you will need to learn resource management rather quick in order to survive. Oh, did we mention that not only do you have to keep yourself alive but your partner as well? That’s right you have a female partner who got stranded as well and if she starves you lose the game.

There is no time limit or difficulty scale with these game, but you have an ultimate goal to get off the island. In order to do this, you will need to explore while building up the cave you live in. If you do things like build better beds than you can be more well rested and explore further. You will also need to make ways to carry water and meals with you to keep your stamina up. The further you wander out the more you put yourself in danger. You have to constantly micromanage the stats of both characters while learning the mysteries of the environment around you. These game do little to nothing to hold your hand and more than likely you will find yourself having to start from a save point often.

When the second and third sequels for Lost in Blue came out they introduced obstacles to make survival even harder. The second game added in the chance of natural disasters that can change the landscape and an even bigger island for you to figure out how to explore. In the third came you have to keep four characters alive and honestly I never got too far in that one because of the difficulty spike I faced early on. The worst part is these games didn’t feature any type of multiplayer element to make things easier on you.

Introducing Minecraft

The next big step you see is the Survival mode of Minecraft. Minecraft is a game that took the world by storm and almost anyone who plays games has now experience. Minecraft main mode is a survival mode where you have to build shelter and eat in order to survive the harsh cube-shaped world. This game was one of the first times that a huge array of gamers got to experience a survival mode in a game and most of them loved it. With the added feature of co-op, most played found working together in Minecraft to be an enjoyable experience.

This coupled with the fact that Minecraft gets constant updates meant an ever-changing world that you and your friends could build up and alter at your will. Many players spent days trying to reach their goal of collecting all the achievements within the survival mode. Some players even made goals for themselves by setting out to build extravagant structures while fighting off enemies just to get bragging rights among their friends. Minecraft was a new and fresh gameplay idea that people of all ages could latch onto.

The modding community also helped a lot by making skin textures and adding in things to the game. That meant that PC players could make the game even harder or have new goals that Mojang themselves didn’t add in. This gave the game a whole new level of playability and made gamers truly start to realize all the could be done with the survival franchise. Soon after this person started to gravitate towards more mature survival games such as Dayz.

Taking Notice

Independent developers started taking notice of the trends going on in the PC community where this genre was becoming more prevalent. We then saw Indie games Like Don’t Starve start to pop up on Steam for purchase. Games like Fallout and Skyrim started to be used for survival runs by console players who had less access to the title. Around this time the FPS genre was also running its course with the oversaturation of titles on the PS3 and 360 consoles. It was time for a new genre to take the leading seat in gaming for a bit.

Soon enough we had 7 Days to Die on console and Ark appearing digitally on the virtual stores. People were demanding physical copies of Ark all across the internet for their consoles. Ark is now known as one of the hardest multiplayer experiences you can take part in. These games are rough and unforgiving. People themselves create a lot of the challenges within the game making the events that happen to you and your friends completely unpredictable.

In recent years many gamers have noticed a decrease in the challenge with most of the games they buy. Most games will give you rewards with you barely working for them. Some games hardest difficulties are either completely insane or easier than the top difficulty ever should be. This has left many of us feeling as though we aren’t getting enough of a challenge out of the modern games. This is especially prevalent when people play games like Dark Souls because they are notoriously hard. That’s it, that’s the main draw is that the game is a challenge for the player.

Survival games, however, actually pull us into the worlds they are based in. When you are actively playing a survival game you have to put your complete focus in the game. This is because so many things can go right or wrong at any time. With these games, it doesn’t matter if your level 1 or 100 you can be taken down by simply not looking at your hydration gauge for a short period of time. This gives players an actual sense of accomplishment when they manage to reach a milestone in the game. They just are more interesting than easy to beat games.

These games are also great multiplayer experiences. There aren’t many games where your friends can make such a huge difference in the way you play. With survival games things can become much easier the more people you get to join your side. These are great go to games for large groups of people that normally couldn’t join the same lobby together.

Jessica has been working with the gaming industry for about two years now. She enjoys playing quirky Japanese games and learning about the newest trivia in the industry. When not working with games you may find her chilling with her naked cat Prince Noko... he's pretty cool we guess.