I have a complicated relationship with survival games where I think I like the genre in theory, and I have rarely liked a survival game in practice.
I recall reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen as a youth, wherein a teen boy survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness (in the summer) and somehow does not immediately die to the elements despite having no real tools other than a hatchet. Not dying sounded very hard! It seems like the kind of novel a Boy Scout leader would recommend.
Given that starting point, I'm always immediately disappointed that a lot of survival-craft games seem like "the elements" are a threat for maybe the first 30-90 minutes, but within 5 hours of playtime you're standing in your granite fort, beside your fully operational agricultural operation, and you have 6 chests full of:
- 400 stacks of iron ingots
- 90 refined wooden planks
- 150 stacks of copper wire
- 800 cooked chickens
And by this point they've lost me. Basic survival isn't an issue, as the morphs into a weird resource-hoarding-then-craft-and-build game. These games are not really a "yo, you gotta SURVIVE" game. The game I imagine I want is more of a survival sim, as opposed to the survival-craft-build genre that is very popular due to being a lot like Minecraft.
Full disclosure: I haven't played many survival games, but I've watched a lot of survival-craft-build games through streams, and a lot of them seem pretty well made for what they are (in recent years, Valheim seems fun with friends, Subnautica seems like a fun singleplayer option, etc.). But I think I would prefer the tension of "one really bad storm could fuck up your whole camp" or "yo a bear could KILL you no matter how much gear you have." Something more comparable to the actual survival fiction I've read or watched.
I've found this hard to search for, because when I search in digital storefronts using the "survival" or "survival sim" or whatever tags, it's just way too broad of a label and includes a bunch of the games I'm not interested in. The thing I specifically DO NOT want are an absurd amount of resource hoarding or really really extensive crafting trees, and maybe the things I actually DO want are hunger meters and temperature meters and encumbrance and more sim-like storage space instead of carrying/storing 999 wood.
The closest game to what I'm looking for appears to be The Long Dark. It seems neat! I've thought about it buying it for a little while. I don't know what the endgame looks like, but it's at least going for the vibe I'm talking about. Is anybody else doing this, or really just them? Also kinda close is Don't Starve, though from what I've heard you eventually get a pretty self-sufficient farm going and the game becomes more about crafting weird end-game science items/buildings or whatever the fuck, and Not Starving seems to become rather trivial.
What would you recommend from the specific survival genre I'm looking for? Are people out there doing this, and if so, is there a better genre label I should be aware of? Is it just a very niche sim genre, and should I simply cut my losses and dive into The Long Dark?