Games that teach survival skills

What games have you found that teach survival skills in a fun way? I’ll include some of my favorites as comments and encourage others to do the same.


  • Comments (51)

    • 7

      The Long Dark

      Wilderness survival in very cold climate. Includes fire building, water purification, hunting, scavenging for supplies, and optimizing pack weight.

      Screen Shot 2021-12-22 at 6.52.52 PM

      • 6

        I have played The Long Dark and LOVE IT! Highly recommend it to everyone. If you want to get into a survival video game this is one that doesn’t require a lot of “gaming skills” and more critical thinking and survival skills. Great story, nice visuals, and should run on older systems just fine (no need for the latest and greatest).

      • 4

        I came here to say this. TLD has got to be my all-time favorite Survival Game. One thing I like is that it doesn’t have an emphasis on combat or weapons, like Ark: Survival Evolved. It’s more thoughtful, and punishing in a meaningful way.

    • 4

      This War of Mine

      How to survive in a war torn country, and eventually escape. Includes home defense, sleeping in shifts, scavenging for supplies, and gardening/trapping for self-sufficiency.

      Screen Shot 2021-12-22 at 6.55.59 PM

    • 2

      Prepare for Impact

      Practice evacuating an airplane. Each scenario has different challenges, such as smoke, fire, blocked exits, water landing…

      Screen Shot 2021-12-22 at 7.00.50 PM

    • 2

      Plague Inc

      Learn about pandemics by playing the part of the disease, trying to wipe out the human species.

      Screen Shot 2021-12-22 at 7.04.41 PM

    • 3

      One of my favorite survival games is Ark Survival Evolved. You wake up naked on an island, (well pretty much naked you have a little loin cloth on) and there are no instructions or tutorial on what to do. You have to figure out that you can pick up rocks and you can gather berries and grass, then you can punch a tree to gather wood, and slowly you learn that you need to gather various items to build an axe or spear. You then gather more resources to build a house, hunt for food, and build a fire. You have to combat with hunger, thirst, the elements, and most of all… dinosaurs! 

      You are a lone person on an island full of dinosaurs, you can tame them or hunt them, and the carnivores will hunt you. 

      Very very fun and long survival game with beautiful graphics.


      Ark Survival Evolved is available on PC, game consoles, and a simplified version on iOS and Android.

      • 4

        Jurassic park themed survival game sounds fun, and it’s on sale for $10 until Jan 5.

        A few things give me pause on this game, and would love to hear your thoughts on any of these. These issues are all based on review of the Steam page, especially reviews.

        This is an MMO with lots of “grinding” meaning that advancement in the game is mostly based on doing the same thing over and over.

        While most reviews are positive, the most thoughtful sounding reviews talk about bugs and support problems.

        There are a bunch of expansion packs that cost extra, and some reviews indicate that the expansions actually make the game worse.

        Promotional videos mostly show combat. Is this mainly a combat game?

      • 2

        I’ve only played it offline and single player making it a PVE (player vs environment). If I played online then yes, it would be an MMO with a lot of grinding and would then make it a PVP (player vs player). If you have hours a day to dedicate to this then try the online PVP. I don’t and if I tried then my base would definitely get raided during the day when I am at work or when I am asleep. Online as a PVP, it would be mostly combat, but offline PVE like I play, it is more about survival, creativity, creation, exploration, and just relaxing casual fun. Until the raptor sneaks up on you and eats you that is…

        I haven’t bought any expansions and find there is more than enough to the main base map than I could ever do. You can tweak settings to make the game harder, or easier, give yourself more hit points or less, make gathering resources faster or harder.

        The settings I like playing with are maxing out the speed at which I gather resources so it’s not just grinding and I can speed up gameplay and actually enjoy it instead of spending an hour on collecting berries. I also change the night time speed to 1.5X because there isn’t much to do during the night with limited visibility. 

        There is a great ARK wiki that teaches you a lot and gives you console command codes that you can type in to say spawn a certain item and cheat a little if you want to have some more fun. There are also many mods you can plug in to give varying effects. I haven’t seen any bugs or issues with one player mode just trying to survive myself. 

        The game is updated almost weekly and they do fun holiday events like on Christmas Santa will fly through the sky with a sleigh pulled with raptors and drop a random rare item throughout the map each night. Really fun game!

      • 1

        I think I’ll stick with single player just like you. Thanks for finding this game! 🙂

      • 2

        Ark survival is free on steam for the next week. Anyone on the fence about this game, now is the time to buy! 🙂

    • 3

      Also, not a video game, but the board game RISK taught me some things about the current conflict going on with Russia and the Ukraine.

      Hear me out here and tell me if I’m wrong, but with Russia deciding to invade the Ukraine I have a small sense of the conflict and other dilemmas that will come with that. If they invade, other countries (players) will see that they are getting bigger and may want to put them in their place and stop Russia from getting to big. And Russia’s dilemma is that they then will be spreading themselves slightly thinner and triggering other countries.

      I know this is way simplified but having played many hours of RISK with friends has helped me to understand a little of real global take over, more than if I hadn’t played I guess.


      This actually is available as a mobile app if you do want to play it.

      • 2

        I enjoyed many hours of Risk as a child and definitely learned a lot from that game.

        If real life were a risk game, I think everyone would team up on USA because they’re the strongest. The big difference in real life is that a country can get a good result without taking over the whole world (not winner-take-all) and the biggest players USA and China both offer incentives for others to work with them.

        I don’t know Russia’s plans. This is just my best guess at analyzing with not enough information/understanding:

        If Russia’s goal were to take Ukraine, they would have done it quietly rather than make so much noise about their plans to do it. I think they want the attention more than they want the conquest.

    • 3

      A free game that I just got the other day from the Epic Game store (no longer available for free unfortunately) is called theHunter: Call of the Wild


      It looks to be available for PC and other major consoles.

      I haven’t downloaded or played it yet but it looks like it’s a beautiful hunting simulator, and pretty realistic at that. From a review I saw that once you wound an animal you have to track it and follow it’s blood trail. I’m excited to play this and learn some very basic hunting techniques.

      • 1

        The base game is $5 on steam until Jan 5.


        There are also quite a lot of expansion packs which makes the full game much more expensive. Is the game still playable if you don’t get any of the expansion packs?

      • 1

        I haven’t played this game yet so I can’t speak too much about the expansion packs. I will only be playing the base game though probably.

      • 1

        I play this game a lot and it is the most realistic hunting game I’ve ever played. If you don’t hit the vitals on an animal with a large enough caliber for that animal, they’re not going down quickly, and won’t leave a very good blood trail. The use of blood trails, prints, scat, and other tracking methods is excellent. Wind is also a huge factor in the game as it is in real life. Animals with a strong nose will wind you easily if you don’t pay attention to the wind direction and use scent cover. The DLCs are excellent too, it gives the opportunity to hunt in many diverse locations across the globe. 

    • 4

      Very interesting topic. Nice post.

      I have not played it, but there is a board game about Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. It claims to involve activities such as building shelter; finding food; and constructing weapons. Also involves discussion and negotiation with other people in the group. I would be willing to give it a try.

      • 1

        I would be interested in trying that one too. Adding it to my wishlist now…

    • 7

      It might be showing my age but how about The Oregon Trail?


      • 1

        I actually have never played Oregon Trail but have heard a lot about it.

      • 1

        I played Oregon Trail in grade school, and more recently played again as an adult. It’s available for free online.

        The Oregon Trail Game Online

        This really could be thought of as a bug out simulator. You load up the car (wagon) with your family and as much supplies as you can afford, and try to reach your bug out location (Oregon).

        At the beginning of the game, when they ask you to choose your profession, that’s the difficulty level. A banker has enough money for the level 3 bug out bag. A farmer must make do with a level 1 bag.

      • 1

        Yes! Loved this game. 

    • 2

      I thought you were talking board games! ROFL. Showing my age eh? LOL.

      • 2

        Games come in many forms!

        I’m going to add survival themed “choose your own adventure” books just to ensure the conversation doesn’t get narrowed to video games. 🙂

      • 1

        I haven’t played survival games since the Boy Scouts. I wasn’t aware of most of these computer games. They look fun but taking things to the next level and really going out looking for flint to knapp, identifying animal tracks or foraging edibles is likely to be just as entertaining and long term, more rewarding. That was the kind of thing I did as a child.

    • 3

      Choose Your Own Adventure – Survival Pack

      Style of book where you make decisions that change how the story progresses. This survival-themed collection includes the following adventures:

      • Can You Survive the Jungle?
      • Can You Survive the Wilderness?
      • Can You Survive an Earthquake?
      • Can You Survive Being Lost at Sea?

      Teaches real skills and techniques for surviving some of the most challenging environments, disasters, and situations. Readers build perseverance as they find the paths with the best outcomes throughout the book.

      I enjoyed many “choose your own adventure” books starting in elementary and continuing through high school. Might be a good way to introduce preparedness concepts to children.

    • 5

      Virtual-O Orienteering Simulation

      Screen Shot 2021-12-24 at 9.17.50 AM

      Learn how to navigate effectively with a topographic map and compass. Realistic simulation of an orienteering training course. Currently $40 on Steam. I’ve put it on my wishlist in hopes of buying at a discount next time it’s on sale.

      Thanks to Sarah for recommending this game.

      • 3

        I still do this for fun but I’m no longer competitive as I’m too old to run. Another option is geocaching where you use a GPS.

      • 1

        Geocaching is a lot of fun. It gets you outdoors, moving, exploring your neighborhood, enjoying nature, and learning some orienteering. I’ve been meaning to take my niece out and do that , so thanks for the reminder.

      • 1

        Damn, too bad this game is 6 years old and hasn’t been updated or finished. Looks like it would be a really useful skill to learn through a game.

      • 1

        I haven’t tried yet, but from a distance it looks polished enough. The author mostly wants to improve the process for creating custom maps before calling it complete.

      • 1

        Looks like the game has been abandoned. Wouldn’t pay $40 for abandonware but that’s just me: https://steamcommunity.com/app/529020/discussions/1/2976275080126602324/

    • 3

      Green Hell

      Wilderness survival in the Amazon jungle. This game has a lot of focus on foraging, crafting, and taking care of your health – exactly the issues you would really face trying to survive in the Amazon. And it covers many of these issues with an amazing level of realism for a video game. For example, when cooking meat, you can choose to fry the meat to lift your spirits (tastier), boil it for more nutrition, or smoke it so that it can be packed and eaten later. And this isn’t just choose one of those options from a dropdown. If you want to smoke that meat, you’ll need to collect sticks, build a smoker, and make sure your fire doesn’t get rained on while you’re cooking.

      Screen Shot 2022-06-25 at 1.17.07 PM

      • 1

        It’s 30% off during Steam’s summer sale too! Looks like a really fun game from the trailer. They have a VR version as well that would be pretty nuts to play.

    • 3

      My favorite survival game ever is Unreal World. It’s definitely not for everybody, as it’s nearly 30 years old and it can be clunky, but it still gets regular updates and new features. It takes place in a fictional Finland-based land in the iron age, and it’s brutally realistic. You have to manage everything, not just hunger and thirst but sleep, fatigue, wounds, even nutrition. Death is permanent and easier to come by than avoid.

      You can get the latest version for about $10 on steam or the previous version for free at http://www.unrealworld.fi

      • 1

        That’s incredible that it has been updated for the past 30 years. I don’t think many video games can say that. 

        How long have you been playing it?

    • 3

      Project Zomboid! I’m surprised no one listed yet!

      Yes, it has zombies, which is meh, but everything else is on point.

      You have diverse characters with real life professions (chef, carpenter, mechanic, doctor). You’re lost in Kentucky (if I remember correctly). You have to eat, drink, take care of wounds, sleep, etc

      The setting is post apocalyptic. So in about 1 month of game time electricity/water stop functioning, but there’s still potable water left in the toilet.

      You hunt, fish, farm, repair cars, build houses, loot houses and stores.

      You learn skills by doing, or reading books and watching tv.

      Fun to play in a group where everyone specializes on different things.

      • 2

        I recently got Project Zomboid, and yeah it definitely fits! I like how your character’s occupation can play a major role in your survival style, and just how deadly the game really is.

    • 2

      Interesting that folks immediately go to video games.  Videos don’t teach skills; at best they provide instruction on how to do something.  You don’t gain that skill until you can do it consistently in real life.  For example, you can watch a video of lighting a fire using a ferro rod for hours, but you won’t have even a basic fire making skill until you can do it consistently with a variety of materials. 

      The best survival simulation uses your own plans and gear lists.  Are you going to shelter in place?  Run through some what/if scenarios with your family and friends.  Bugging out to a family/friend?  Run through some scenarios on how you’d make the “go/nogo” decision and then how you’d get there using maps and your gear list.  Make sure you include the remote family/friends in that simulation because they need to understand the impact of their decisions as well.

      The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

      • 2

        “Run through some what/if scenarios with your family and friends.”

        Did you find a way to make these scenario reviews a fun group activity? Any tips on that?

        This reminds me that I should add our Endure RPG games to this list. Seth and Ezly each created a different survival scenario and we had a lot of fun playing through those scenarios together.

      • 2

        All I learned about running DR/BC simulations is based on my experience with Dungeons and Dragons back in the day.  A good Dungeon Master (DM) makes the game engaging, challenging, and fun.  A bad DM made you want to kill off your character just so you can leave.  A good DM does a ton of work to weave a story using detailed maps with all the treasure, tools, weapons, traps, monsters, and clues laid out.  A bad DM wings it or, worse, tries to kill off player characters in the most horrible ways.

        Likewise, if you want to a good “Disaster Master” then you have to do your homework to make your simulation engaging, fun, and leave them wanting to do more.  If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort, there’s no way you’re going to get anyone to participant for long (or ever again).  Go at it the wrong way, and you can actually make folks not want anything to do with prepping (or at least you).

        My experience is that, done well, folks walk away from those simulations with a new respect for what is involved in dealing with even limited disaster situations.  Maybe the good folks here would consider a series of articles on creating/running disaster simulation games.

      • 2

        I agree that videos and video games aren’t a true substitute for hands on doing the actual thing, but many times I have seen something in a movie, tv show, or video game that introduced a concept to me that I then took and applied in the real world.

        For example, I saw a survival technique demonstrated in a tv show that I thought was bogus and I then put it into action and found that it was. At least according to what I could recreate.

      • 1

        Maybe I’m old school and more than a little impatient, but I’d rather read a decent guide in 2m than watch some self-proclaimed expert talk for 10m about some survival hack.  There are exceptions.  I recently encountered a site that had step-by-step knot tying GIFs.  That was valuable because it showed just how to tie the knot. 

    • 2

      This is a reprint of a posting that I made to another forum back in 2011. I thought that it might be of some use to us here, too:

      Here is a training project that I used on my youngest three with pretty decent success. I came up with this because, a little while before that time, three of our older kids had gotten lost in the woods at a friend’s property. When we could not find them, I went to our van and started honking the horn. I gave three short blasts, three longer blasts and another three short blasts (SOS in Morse). I repeated it after about 10-20 seconds of pause and then did about 75-100 reps – repeated those reps several more times. It took several hours for them, but they finally made it back, cold and hungry, but safe.

      The younger ones benefited from the older ones discomfort. I took each one out to a small, wooded area near our house. This is a very small area, you have to plug up your ears AND close your eyes, and work very hard to try to convince yourself that you are lost, but that is exactly what I wanted.

      When we went out (one kid at a time), I told them that we were going to go out in the woods and get lost – that was good for some interesting looks on their faces. We walked the block or so to the woods, and walked on in to the wooded area. We walked through the area for a couple of minutes, checking everything out – lots of cool bike paths and small jump ramps there along with some kids’ “camp” sites (coke bottles and candy wrappers.) After maneuvering the kid so that houses were (mostly) out of view, I would suddenly say, “Oh, look. Were Lost!” (comical exaggeration to keep real panic away, feigned panic is just right for this!)

      Next, I walked the kid through the STOP method of surviving. This is the acronym for Stop and Sit down, Think, Observe and Plan. I asked each kid about how to spell the word stop, and then had them recite, after me, each part of the acronym. After each part, I had the kid act out that step.

      For the S, I had the kid find a nice log or stone and then sit down. I actually let them sit for a minute while I explained how panic is what kills most people who get lost. It’s kind of difficult to panic if you take the time to sit down, do a bit of relaxing deep-breathing, and rest a bit.

      After this, for the T, I had them think about what we were doing and start getting mentally prepared to get unlost. I again mentioned how Panic=Bad, Calm=Good. Using your head to think about your situation and resolve your dilemma is waayyyy better than using it to panic.

      Next, for the O, I told them to list their five senses and then think about how they could use those for observing (explained how observing is more than just looking). I had them close their eyes and listen. Of course they were able to hear kids playing and cars driving by. Trains’ whistles, and horns, are easy to hear from a long way off. Next came looking for any signs of civilization – the neighborhood houses were hard to miss, and I had to tell them to ignore those, because in a real event, the houses may not be visible. We did try smell, and I told them that sometimes you can smell civilization (vehicle exhaust, BBQs, etc) before you can see it. I did say that taste might not be a real good idea to try , but we touched on foraging and how God provides a LOT of stuff in the wild – that will be another training session. We next tried standing up, closing their eyes and feeling the lay of the land, then opening their eyes and looking at the slope. I mentioned that water flows downhill (we live in “River City”, Pittsburgh, there is always a small stream around) and that if they follow water downhill, it will always lead to a bigger stream and then finally to one of the three major rivers here. Along nearly every one of the bigger streams, or smaller rivers, there is a more major road. Once the find that, they can either find a way to call us for help, or find their way home.

      Finally, for the P, I had them go over our little talk and make a plan for how to recover from their temporary setback. I had each one of them come up with at least one or two ways to go about working towards getting unlost.

      Finally, we worked through one of the plans (each one of them came up with the idea of following the stream downhill). This of course took us out of the woods right behind a local drug store; great time to run in real quick and get a bit of candy and a drink. It really builds up the hunger and thirst to be lost in the Great Outdoors for a full twenty or thirty minutes.

      With each one of those little trips out in the woods, we had a great time to build up our Father/Son and Father/Daughter relationships. We all loved the time, and I think that the kids learned something that could help them, if they follow in their older brothers’ steps.

      I have already told my Daughter-In-Law that, this spring, I was taking my granddaughter (she just turned two) out and we were going to get lost in the woods. The look on her face was every bit as entertaining as the look on my younger kids’ faces several years ago. She apparently has learned to trust her (kind of strange) Father-In-Law though because, other than the strange look, she didn’t object. Her look did clearly say that she thought the baby was a bit too young, but you know… little kids can run out in the woods and get lost, just like their older uncles. Hmm, maybe the word STOP will be the first word that she learns to spell.

      • 2

        Very cool.   Good dad, good grandpa.

      • 1

        I love the fact that you’re actually getting your kids and grandkids into the outdoors and trying to make the learning experience real while keeping it absolutely safe.

        Total respect.

    • 1


      Board game that helps players to understand energy policy. The goal of the game is convert New York City to zero carbon energy production by 2035.

    • 0

      Sorry but sitting at home with a tablet or PC watching your avatar strike sparks and make an animated fire is a poor substitute for actually practicing these skills for yourself. 
      These games are created by programmers just like most survival books that are ghost written by writers. They’re not even a close approximation of reality. It is just another industry created to separate people from money… Colour me cynical.

      I promise you it is a lot more fulfilling to go out into the great outdoors and actually master one or two simple skills than it is to sit on your butt playing games. The internet is a great resource if you use it wisely and don’t just use it to waste your time.

    • 2

      I found another TTRPG that’s good for this!

      The game is called Twilight 2000, and I’m specifically referring to the 4th Edition of it. The default setting is a post-war year 2000 involving the Soviet Union not falling and launching WW3 in the 90s, but much like Endure it can be modified to handle other settings as well. I’ve seen games based on Y2K, Brexit, EMP strikes, and video games like The Division, The Long Dark, and Escape from Tarkov. There is a bit of a military and/or combat focus to it, but also stuff like Home Bases and travel rules. It also comes with solo play rules, so you don’t even need someone to run it! 

      I created my nuclear family as Player Characters in the game using its Lifepath system, and I intend to use the system to run a series of crisis simulations for entertainment and educational purposes. I could also do something similar for the community here the way I tried to with Endure, but since Twilight 2000 is not only a system with combat but also a lethal system it’d have to be known ahead of time that your characters could get hurt and/or die.

      Let me know if this is something anyone here is interested in!

    • 2

      If you have a dog….you can make training the dog part of this. And train dog for ” Find the kid”. Doggie hide and seek. You also make the scent age as you go along. My older kids loved to try to ” lose the dog” on 2500 acres. Plus since scent had to age, they were out of the house for a few hours<smile>. Since dog was trained to air scent instead of tracking, it never took more than 15 mins to find them. 


    • 1

      Help! The Serious Game

      Practice evacuating a building due to earthquake or fire. Also addresses extra challenges related to disabilities.