When Did Survival Games Begin? A Brief History and Evolution of the Genre

Survival games have been a staple of the gaming industry for decades, captivating players with their blend of danger, strategy, and resource management. But when did this beloved genre first emerge? The history of survival games is a fascinating tale of innovation, evolution, and unforgettable experiences. From the early text-based adventures to the immersive, open-world survival experiences of today, the genre has come a long way. Join us as we explore the origins and evolution of survival games, and discover how this beloved genre has captured the hearts and minds of gamers worldwide.

The Origins of Survival Games

Early Influences on Survival Games

Survival games have their roots in several early influences that helped shape the genre as we know it today. These influences include early adventure and exploration games, outdoor survival shows and movies, and military simulation games.

Early Adventure and Exploration Games

The earliest survival games were heavily influenced by early adventure and exploration games. These games, such as the popular “Colossal Cave Adventure” and “Zork,” were text-based and required players to navigate a virtual world by typing commands. They were focused on exploration and survival, with players needing to gather resources, solve puzzles, and avoid dangerous situations to progress through the game.

Outdoor Survival Shows and Movies

Another early influence on survival games were outdoor survival shows and movies. These shows and movies, such as “Survivorman” and “The Revenant,” depicted real-life survival situations and taught viewers how to survive in the wilderness. They showed viewers how to build shelters, find food and water, and start fires, all of which became important skills in survival games.

Military Simulation Games

Military simulation games were also an early influence on survival games. These games, such as “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield,” were focused on military strategy and tactics, and included elements of survival such as resource management and base building. They taught players how to strategize and survive in a hostile environment, which became important skills in survival games.

Overall, these early influences helped shape the survival game genre and laid the foundation for the modern survival games we know today.

The Emergence of the First Survival Games

Early survival games on home computers

The origins of survival games can be traced back to the early 1970s, when home computers first became widely available. These early games were simple in design and often focused on basic survival mechanics, such as gathering resources and avoiding danger. One of the earliest examples of a survival game is the text-based game “Colossal Cave Adventure,” which was first released in 1976 and tasked players with navigating a treacherous cave system.

The impact of game consoles on the popularity of survival games

In the 1980s, the advent of game consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Master System brought survival games to a wider audience. These consoles introduced games such as “The Legend of Zelda” and “CastleVania,” which featured survival elements such as exploration, resource management, and combat.

Examples of early survival games

Some other examples of early survival games include “Survival Island” (1978), which tasked players with surviving on a deserted island, and “Survival: The Ultimate Challenge” (1987), which featured a variety of survival scenarios, including being stranded in the desert and surviving a shipwreck. These early survival games laid the groundwork for the genre as we know it today, with their focus on resource management, exploration, and survival mechanics.

The Evolution of Survival Games

Key takeaway: Survival games have evolved significantly since their early influences in adventure and exploration games, outdoor survival shows and movies, and military simulation games. The modern era of survival games has seen a proliferation of new titles and gameplay mechanics, as well as a growing interest in multiplayer experiences. Subgenres of survival games include survival horror games, crafting and survival games, and open-world survival games. The future of survival games looks bright, with continued advancements in technology, new game mechanics and genres within the genre, and an increased focus on immersive storytelling and mature themes.

Survival Games in the Modern Era

The modern era of survival games has seen a significant evolution in terms of technology, gameplay mechanics, and player expectations.

The rise of survival games on mobile devices

With the advent of smartphones and tablets, survival games have found a new home on mobile devices. These games often feature simpler mechanics and more accessible controls, making them ideal for players on-the-go. Popular examples include titles like “Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition” and “The Long Dark”.

The popularity of survival games on console and PC platforms

Survival games have also continued to thrive on console and PC platforms, with games like “The Forest” and “Green Hell” offering players more complex and immersive experiences. These games often feature open worlds, crafting systems, and challenging gameplay mechanics that appeal to a wide range of players.

The emergence of survival games with a focus on multiplayer experiences

In recent years, survival games have begun to incorporate multiplayer elements, creating new opportunities for cooperation and competition. Games like “Rust” and “H1Z1” have embraced this trend, offering players the chance to work together to build shelters, gather resources, and fend off enemies.

Overall, the modern era of survival games has seen a proliferation of new titles and gameplay mechanics, as well as a growing interest in multiplayer experiences. As technology continues to advance and player expectations evolve, it will be exciting to see how the genre continues to develop.

Technological Advancements and Their Impact on Survival Games

The impact of 3D graphics and immersive sound on survival games

The introduction of 3D graphics in the late 1980s and early 1990s revolutionized the gaming industry, and survival games were no exception. With the ability to create more realistic environments and characters, developers could create a more immersive experience for players. This allowed for a greater sense of presence in the game world, making survival games more intense and engaging.

In addition to 3D graphics, the introduction of immersive sound in the late 1990s further enhanced the experience of survival games. The use of 3D audio enabled players to hear sounds coming from all directions, making it easier to locate enemies and other in-game elements. This created a more realistic and intense experience, which was further enhanced by the use of surround sound systems.

The use of motion controls and virtual reality in survival games

Another significant technological advancement that has impacted survival games is the use of motion controls. The introduction of the Nintendo Wii in 2006 marked the beginning of a new era in gaming, with motion controls allowing for a more interactive and immersive experience. This was particularly beneficial for survival games, as it allowed players to physically interact with the game world, adding a new level of realism and intensity.

More recently, the rise of virtual reality (VR) technology has had a significant impact on survival games. VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive provide players with a fully immersive experience, allowing them to physically interact with the game world in a way that was previously impossible. This has led to a new level of intensity and realism in survival games, with players able to experience the fear and adrenaline of being hunted or stranded in a hostile environment in a way that was previously only possible in movies or TV shows.

The impact of cloud gaming on the accessibility of survival games

Finally, the rise of cloud gaming has had a significant impact on the accessibility of survival games. Cloud gaming allows players to access games on a variety of devices, including low-powered devices such as smartphones and tablets. This has made survival games more accessible to a wider audience, including those who may not have access to high-end gaming computers or consoles.

Cloud gaming has also made it easier for players to access survival games on the go, allowing them to play from anywhere with an internet connection. This has opened up new possibilities for survival games, including the ability to play in real-time with other players from around the world. Overall, the impact of technological advancements on survival games has been significant, leading to a more immersive, intense, and accessible gaming experience for players.

Subgenres of Survival Games

Survival Horror Games

The Origins of Survival Horror Games

Survival horror games, a subgenre of survival games, emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These games combine elements of horror and survival, emphasizing psychological fear and atmosphere rather than physical action. The genre was popularized by classic titles such as Alone in the Dark (1992) and Resident Evil (1996), which pioneered the use of pre-rendered 3D graphics and set the standard for future survival horror games.

The Evolution of Survival Horror Games

Over the years, survival horror games have evolved with advancements in technology, leading to more sophisticated storytelling, graphics, and gameplay mechanics. The early 2000s saw a shift towards more action-oriented gameplay, exemplified by the Silent Hill series (1999-2004) and the Resident Evil series, which transitioned from fixed camera angles to more fluid third-person perspectives.

In the 2010s, survival horror games experienced a resurgence with the rise of indie developers and the emergence of new subgenres, such as the psychological horror of Amnesia (2010) and the survival-exploration of The Last of Us (2013). This recent wave of games often focuses on immersive storytelling, mature themes, and refined gameplay mechanics, leading to a new level of critical acclaim and commercial success.

Examples of Survival Horror Games

Some notable examples of survival horror games include:

  • Alone in the Dark (1992)
  • Resident Evil series (1996-present)
  • Silent Hill series (1999-2012)
  • Amnesia series (2010-present)
  • The Last of Us (2013)
  • Outlast series (2013-present)
  • Until Dawn (2015)
  • Alien: Isolation (2014)
  • Layers of Fear (2016)
  • Bloober Team’s Observer (2017)

These games showcase the evolution and diversification of the survival horror genre, proving its enduring appeal and influence on the broader world of video games.

Crafting and Survival Games

The Origins of Crafting and Survival Games

Crafting and survival games have their roots in the early 1970s, with the release of the text-based game, “Colossal Cave Adventure.” This game was the first to introduce the concept of collecting resources and using them to survive in a harsh environment. In the following years, several games were released that built on this concept, including the popular game “Zork,” which was released in 1979.

The Evolution of Crafting and Survival Games

The 1990s saw the release of several games that further developed the crafting and survival genre, including “The Longest Journey” and “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.” These games introduced new mechanics, such as inventory management and character progression, which would become staples of the genre.

In the 2000s, crafting and survival games began to take on a more sandbox-style approach, with games like “Minecraft” and “Terraria” allowing players to explore vast, procedurally generated worlds while collecting resources and crafting items.

Examples of Crafting and Survival Games

Some popular examples of crafting and survival games include:

  • “The Forest”
  • “Don’t Starve”
  • “Rust”
  • “The Last of Us”
  • “State of Decay”
  • “7 Days to Die”
  • “Astroneer”
  • “Subnautica”
  • “Grim Dawn”
  • “Death Stranding”

These games all have unique mechanics and gameplay elements, but they all share the common goal of surviving in a harsh environment by collecting resources and crafting items.

Open-World Survival Games

The Origins of Open-World Survival Games

Open-world survival games can trace their roots back to the early 1970s, with the release of the text-based game “Colossal Cave Adventure.” This game tasked players with navigating a maze-like cave system, gathering resources and battling monsters in order to survive. While far removed from the modern open-world survival games we know today, this title laid the groundwork for the genre and inspired countless others to follow in its footsteps.

The Evolution of Open-World Survival Games

In the years that followed, survival games continued to evolve and expand in scope. Titles like “Survival Island” (1976) and “Survival of the Island” (1979) introduced new mechanics and challenges, such as hunger and thirst management, while “Elite” (1984) introduced a space-faring survival experience.

As technology advanced, so too did the capabilities of survival games. With the release of “Dune II: The Building of a Desert Planet” (1992), the first real-time strategy game, survival games began to incorporate elements of resource management and base-building. This trend continued with the release of “The Longest Journey” (1999), which blended survival elements with a narrative-driven adventure game.

Examples of Open-World Survival Games

Today, open-world survival games encompass a wide range of experiences, from the harsh and unforgiving environments of “The Forest” (2014) to the post-apocalyptic landscapes of “Fallout 4” (2015). These games often task players with managing their hunger, thirst, and health, while also contending with dangerous enemies and harsh environmental conditions.

One of the most popular open-world survival games is “Don’t Starve” (2013), which challenges players to survive in a harsh wilderness filled with hostile creatures and limited resources. Other notable titles include “Rust” (2013), “7 Days to Die” (2013), and “Grim Dawn” (2014).

Despite their varied settings and mechanics, all open-world survival games share a common goal: to test the player’s ability to survive against all odds. Whether it’s fending off zombies in a post-apocalyptic world or battling for survival on a deserted island, these games provide a unique and thrilling challenge for players to overcome.

The Future of Survival Games

Emerging Trends in Survival Games

The impact of new technologies on survival games

New technologies have had a significant impact on the survival game genre. One of the most notable trends is the increasing use of virtual reality (VR) technology. VR has the potential to provide players with a more immersive experience, allowing them to feel like they are truly in the game world. This can enhance the survival aspect of the game, as players must navigate their environment and make decisions based on their surroundings. Additionally, VR can also provide new gameplay mechanics, such as using hand gestures to interact with the environment.

The emergence of new game mechanics and genres within survival games

Another trend in the survival game genre is the emergence of new game mechanics and genres within the genre. For example, some survival games are now incorporating elements of exploration and discovery, as players must navigate a vast open world and uncover hidden secrets. Other games are incorporating elements of base-building, where players must gather resources and build shelter to survive. These new mechanics add depth and complexity to the genre, making survival games more appealing to a wider audience.

The impact of global events on the development of survival games

Global events have also had an impact on the development of survival games. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the popularity of survival games, as players seek out games that provide a sense of escape and adventure. Additionally, political and social events have also influenced the development of survival games, with some games incorporating themes of resistance and revolution. These events have led to a greater diversity of themes and settings within the survival game genre, making it more relevant and engaging to players.

The Continued Appeal of Survival Games

The continued appeal of survival games can be attributed to several factors, including the psychology behind the genre, its role in modern popular culture, and its future in the gaming industry.

The Psychology Behind the Appeal of Survival Games

Survival games tap into basic human instincts, such as the fight or flight response, and the desire for self-preservation. These games often require players to make difficult decisions, such as choosing between risking their own safety or sacrificing resources for the greater good. The challenge and sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming these obstacles is a significant factor in the continued appeal of survival games.

The Role of Survival Games in Modern Popular Culture

Survival games have become a staple of modern popular culture, with many successful movies, TV shows, and books exploring the theme of survival. The popularity of these media forms has spilled over into the gaming industry, with survival games becoming increasingly popular among players of all ages and backgrounds. The genre’s continued success can be attributed to its ability to tap into universal themes and experiences that resonate with a wide audience.

The Future of Survival Games and Their Place in the Gaming Industry

The future of survival games looks bright, with many new and innovative titles being released each year. As technology continues to advance, survival games are becoming more immersive and realistic, providing players with an unparalleled sense of excitement and adventure. With the continued growth of the gaming industry, survival games are likely to remain a popular and influential genre for years to come.


1. When did survival games first appear?

Survival games have been around since the early days of video gaming. The first survival game is often considered to be the text-based game “Colossal Cave Adventure,” which was released in 1976. However, the genre really took off in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the release of games like “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and “Resident Evil 2.”

2. What are some of the earliest survival games?

Some of the earliest survival games include “The Oregon Trail” (1971), “Wilderness Survival” (1978), and “The Lords of Midnight” (1984). These games were often text-based and focused on survival in harsh environments.

3. How has the survival game genre evolved over time?

The survival game genre has evolved significantly over the years. Early survival games were often focused on survival in harsh environments, such as the wilderness or in space. However, modern survival games often feature more complex mechanics, such as base building, crafting, and exploration. Many survival games also feature multiplayer modes, where players must compete against each other to survive.

4. What are some popular survival games today?

Some popular survival games today include “The Forest,” “Rust,” “Don’t Starve,” “H1Z1,” “Subnautica,” and “The Long Dark.” These games often feature challenging gameplay, beautiful environments, and a strong emphasis on survival mechanics.

5. What makes survival games so popular?

Survival games are popular because they challenge players to survive in harsh environments, often with limited resources. These games require players to use their wits and skills to gather resources, build shelter, and fend off enemies. Many players enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming these challenges and mastering the game’s mechanics.

First day playing a survival game

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