The survival adventure genre is constantly growing. There’re promising games, and there’s abandonware. To guide you towards the alternative, we’re searching for the best games like Subnautica.
Subnautica, by indie studio Unknown Worlds Entertainment, is unique on its own. It’s still a proud member of the survival, craft, open-world genre. As such, we’ll take it as an example.
Both survival fans and Subnautica fans can find something else to play on our list. We’re traveling to various settings to find similar experiences, though. Within the survival and adventure genres, we’re going to caves, outer space, underwater, frozen tundras, and dangerous wilds for our options.
Selecting Games Like Subnautica
Subnautica has been around since January 2018 and still has many supporters. For example, it has about 4K concurrent daily players on Steam Charts. That’s the average the game has enjoyed since launch.
Its loyal fan base is perhaps because of the elements of the game. Speaking of which, selecting games like Subnautica means understanding these elements:
- Genre: Subnautica is a single-player open-world survival/adventure and crafting game.
- Open-ended: Aside from the open-world, the game is open-ended. That means you’re free to do anything and explore anywhere instead of following a questline. That makes it a sandbox game.
- Setting: The entire game happens underwater, on a submarine alien planet.
- Crafting: To survive the planet, you must craft gear, weapons, lanterns, vehicles, bases, and more. Crafting requires scavenging resources on the map.
- Storyline: There’s indeed a storyline in the game. As you survive underwater and explore the area, you’ll uncover the game’s story and the alien planet. Most of the story comes through you via the atmosphere, scenarios, and other hidden secrets.
- Enemies: The underwater is full of life. The creatures around you can be a source of food, oils, and other resources. Or they can be dangerous monsters looking to hunt you. You can craft and use weapons like harpoons to defend and attack. Combat is very light, though.
- Survival Stats: The Survival difficulty mode requires managing hunger, thirst, and oxygen.
- Free Mode: Another game mode offers the same gameplay but without the survival stats.
- Extreme Mode: The most challenging game mode adds survival stats and permanent death.
- Creative Mode: Similar to Minecraft, the creative mode allows players to create anything. The game grants players infinite resources and blueprints.
- Day Cycle: There’s also a day/night cycle that affects the environment and the creatures. In particular, the most dangerous hunters lurk at night, and you need to find shelter (like caves) to survive.
- Developer Support: Unknown Worlds supports the game constantly with weekly and daily patches. For example, the game is available in VR, and there’s an expansion.
Overall, games like Subnautica should be healthy, survival adventure games with interesting features. In specific, by “healthy,” I mean they should have an okay player base, plus a developer constantly ironing the title.
Games Like Subnautica
- Developer:Iron Gate AB
- Publisher:Coffee Stain Publishing
- Release Date:February 2021 (Early Access)
- Platform:Linux, Microsoft Windows
Valheim is an easy recommendation to top the list. It’s also one of the most popular games on Steam and perhaps the most populated game in the genre. Moreover, it offers you the possibility of playing alone or with a party of 10 people.
On Valheim, you play on procedurally generated Viking scenarios. YOu’re on the otherworld of Norse mythology, the Valhalla, and you play as a Guardian for Odin.
Looking to prove yourself, you combat against all kinds of mythological creatures. Aside from the storyline, though, Valheim delivers open-world survival-adventure craft. Moreover, it has a brutal combat system, akin to Souls-like games.
You can dodge, attack with light and heavy moves, attack with ranged weapons, parry, and block.
The mechanics feel brutal, smooth, and satisfying. Moreover, the enemies are varied and incredibly looking.
The crafting is equally impressive. The system is wide and allows you to scavenge and craft many things. These include weapons, shields, armor, and structures.
Over time, you’ll end up with your own Viking castles, longboats, and gear.
No Man’s Sky
- Developer:Hello Game
- Publisher:Hello Games
- Release Date:August 2016
- Platform:Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS5
No Man’s Sky resurrected as an outstanding game after a sub-par debut. It “disappointed” fans, in a way, as it failed to deliver its promise of an endless galaxy to explore.
Still, fans only had to wait until they finally got their systems right coming from a small indie studio.
And they did. With outstanding developer support and a loyal fan base, No Man’s Sky is the best sci-fi sandbox adventure you can play. It has a galaxy you can explore, with thousands of procedurally generated planets to see.
So, the gameplay is massive. You get on your ship, take off from the planet, fly through space, and dock on another planet. There, you can gather resources you can then craft.
As for the crafting system, you can make almost anything a space traveler needs: weapons, armor, tools, bases, ships, mechs, and more.
More impressively, every light you see in the sky is something you can explore. Every planet has life, and every place has something to see or scavenge. There’re no quests and no limits other than your imagination.
Also, there’s combat, either on your ship or on foot.
Yet, combat is very light and very rare, so you can focus on exploring and crafting your own story. You can be a trader, a pirate, a bounty hunter, an officer, and anything in between.
- Developer:Mojang Studios
- Publisher:Mojang Studios
- Release Date:November 2011
- Platform:Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, iPadOS, Fire OS, tvOS, Apple TV, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Minecraft is also an obvious choice, and games like Minecraft could also appeal to Subnautica fans. In essence, it’s the ever-growing block builder with an endless list of places to explore, things to craft, and stuff to do.
And, of course, the crafting system includes potions, supplies, farms, weapons, armor, and more.
On Minecraft, you can play in one of its two main modes. There’s survival, where you start with limited HP and must survive monsters at night.
Raising the HP means finding special items, and surviving the monsters means gathering resources to build bases. Then, there’s the creative mode, free-building gameplay with infinite resources.
Either way, Minecraft offers more building possibilities than Subnautica on a procedurally generated world. Everything you see is a block, and you can mine every block, with the right tool, for later use.
The possibilities are infinite, and we’re still finding things to do in Monjang’s game, like making portals, getting bleach, or taming a wolf. Overall, Minecraft is the definitive survival craft experience.
And if you don’t like the survival part, you can just craft and explore.
But if you do, you can push the experience further with mods and custom servers brimming with zombies and other monsters. Moreover, you can play alone, or with your friends.
- Developer:Giant Squid Studios
- Publisher:505 Games
- Release Date:August 2016
- Platform:Windows, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
If you’re looking for more stunning ocean views, Abzu is your best option. This is an exploration game with an underwater setting. Moreover, it has a gorgeous OST by PlayStation’s Journey’s composer Austin Wintory.
You dive deep into a sea world full of mystery, life, color, and secrets. The game offers acrobatic controls to perform fluid swimming and acrobatics.
This is instead of combat, crafting, and scavenging, and these are not mechanics available in the game. That said, there’re many creatures, abundant sea life, and predators.
The aquatic ecosystems have amazing detail. The graphics are epic, and the journey can take you to a lot of biomes. You can go deeper for the darker side of the ocean or swim nearer to the surface for breathtaking reefs.
Overall, Abzu is free of threat and combat. There’s hardly anything to challenge you and none of the dangerous creatures you’ll find on Subnautica.
However, it’s a safe bet for underwater exploration and fully-fledged atmospheric music for Subnautica fans.
The Long Dark
- Developer:Hinterland Studio
- Publisher:Hinterland Studio
- Release Date:August 2017
- Platform:Windows, Linux, macOS, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
The Long Dark is a single-player first-person exploration and survival experience. It’s not exactly like Subnautica, though.
The alternative we’re sharing has a stronger focus on storytelling and a somehow linear progression. Also, the game includes hunger, fatigue, cold, and thirst as necessities you need to manage.
You’re alone, in the cold, a frozen wilderness after a geomagnetic disaster. The Long Dark delivers an episodic experience that challenges you to explore, think, and use what you can as tools to survive.
That means climbing, walking, hunting, cooking, fishing, fighting, and more. And, in particular, there’re over 100 tools you can craft, like lamps and knives.
The story mode (WINTERMUTE) has five episodes following a dark story where the wild, the weather, and the gangs are the enemy. It offers 30 hours of solo, campaign-oriented survival adventure gameplay.
Moreover, the performance includes Mass Effect’s Jennifer Hale as the main character. On top of that, the developers hand-drawn every scenario and animated every conversation. It all fits very high production standards.
But there’s also a Survival Mode, a free-roam mode that offers the survival sandbox you may be looking for. Either mode receives constant developer support and a loyal fan base.
That said, this game is quite challenging, as there are no in-game guides and markers. Information is scarce, resources are limited, and permadeath is present in survival mode.
ARK: Survival Evolved
- Developer:Studio Wildcard, Instinct Games
- Publisher:Studio Wildcard
- Release Date:June 2015
- Platform:Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
Ark: Survival Evolved has a rough past regarding bugs and performance. The game is currently in a quite good state and has a significantly large player base for its co-op and PvP features.
Also, like Subnautica, the gameplay loop is similar: you explore, scavenge, craft, and combat.
The setting is simple. You customize a character, choose a server, choose a map, and arrive at an island, an ARK.
Here, you’re level 0 naked man or woman. But you can hunt animals and harvest nature to grow in levels, build weapons, craft supplies, and build your bases.
Moreover, the server can support up to 100 players, and it will save your character’s data, as well as your loot. This is just the beginning, though. There are tons to do in Ark and tons of things to fear.
For example, there’re dinosaurs to tame, as well as other players ready to steal your loot.
Many dangers are from hunger, thirst, and disease to first-person shooting against other players. For example, other players can raid your bases, and only a tribe (a clan) can protect your items when you’re offline.
That said, as you play, you’ll advance in tech tiers just like you do on Subnautica. You start naked, and after many hours of grinding, you can have a high-tech fortress with your own make-shift rocket launchers.
All the while, you must drink and eat to survive, as well as explore the islands deeper and deeper for increasingly challenging fights and rare resources.
- Developer:Endnight Games
- Publisher:Endnight Games
- Release Date:November 2018
- Platform:Windows, PS4
The Forest is another open-world survival adventure game with hefty crafting mechanics. Unlike the others, though, it also has horror sim elements akin to a Resident Evil title.
You play as a plane crash survivor -you’re always a survivor of some kind. Lost in a forest, you find mysterious monsters, cannibal monsters, are living in the Forest. This setting opens up the first-person survival horror gameplay.
As for survival, you can gather almost anything from the Forest, its caves, and lakes. So, the gameplay loop explores the wilds for resources and then building a camp and weapons.
You can also build traps and supplies to defend yourself and survive. The goal is going back to society, and you can do it alone or with a party of up to eight players.
Over time, though, you’ll discover the plot in the game. The mutants are genetically altered humanoids with beliefs, families, and morals. Escaping the forest means either engaging in full frontal battle or sneaking past by.
- Developer:RedRuins Softworks
- Publisher:HypeTrain Digital, RedRuins Softworks
- Release Date:February 2021
- Platform:Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5
Breathedge is an outer space survival adventure title with a weird sense of humor. It’s a parody of sorts that still thrives on the genre’s mechanics and success at delivering great gameplay.
Most of its gameplay happens around the ship wreckage at the beginning of the game. You play as “The Man,” just a guy trying to take his grandpa’s body to a funeral in outer space.
Things go wrong in a spectacular fashion, though. Your ship, gone, your companions, corpses floating in space. But then, your phone begins to bleep in the middle of seemingly nowhere. This opens up a brilliant but bizarre story.
Yet, the gameplay is as usual. You build bases and vehicles to travel around space. You also scavenge resources and craft supplñies to stay alive while you find out what’s going on.
In essence, you’re in the middle of a universal-wide conspiracy. As an “average” Joe capable of crafting rockets and space stations, you can…save the princes?
The dangers include freezing, incineration, blunt trauma, electrocution, depression, storms, cannibals, and suffocation. The systems are complex, and the humor is dark.
Surviving requires a lot of effort, and pushing through is about taking baby steps. Overall, Breathedge is a stellar game and a unique survival adventure title.
Sadly, it doesn’t have the fan base to support constant development updates.
- Publisher:505 Games
- Release Date:May 2011
- Platform:Windows, macOS X, Linux, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Kindle, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia
Terraria is a highly popular game in the survival genre. Although the formula deviates a bit from Subnautica, you may still find its many elements quite attractive.
This is an open-world survival action-adventure game, with plenty of crafting, lots of exploration, and a 2D 16-bit world. In essence, you explore the underground and the surface for loot, resources, and combat.
Then, you hang back at your many bases to keep building structures, gear, potions, and more. Moreover, you rescue NPCs by defeating specific bosses.
New NPCs open up new questlines, which revolve around building houses and handing resources for them.
Similarly, beating certain bosses automatically unlocks higher difficulty levels. It means the challenge and the story keeps increasing for hours without end.
That said, the combat in Terraria evolves greatly over time. You start as usual, with weapons made of mud and stone. But then, you can unlock skills, magical powers, weapons, and gears by finding and building better equipment.
So, combat depends on what you’re wearing, and the skills are as varied as Terraria’s procedurally generated worlds.
- Release Date:July 2016
- Platform:Windows, macOS X, Linux, PS4, PSVita, Xbox One
Starbound also doesn’t look like Subnautica but instead like Terraria. However, the depth of its world and the depth of its crafting system is a great experience for survival and sandbox fans. It’s also in 2D and features 16-bit graphics and music.
The game delivers a sci-fi setting with a great emphasis on storytelling. You play as an intergalactic bounty hunter, searching for criminals and gangs. Soon, you’ll be exploring various planets to find the criminal’s bases and dungeons.
Then, each planet is a “biome,” and the game generates these worlds randomly. Because of its “variation” systems, the settings change about every minute of exploration.
That delivers an interesting game to see and a challenging game to traverse. Also, you have a starship you can decorate, and you can play the game as one of the seven available races.
Lastly, the game streamlines the story with bosses, NPCs, and key items. Aside from the lore, there’re other elements to push you forward.
For instance, the game offers a comprehensive crafting system, tech tiers, resources, procedurally generated quests, and more.
You may even forego the heroic bounty hunter journey and just do your own thing, colonize uncharted planes, or decorate your bases.
- Developer:System Era Softworks
- Publisher:System Era Softworks
- Release Date:December 2016
- Platform:Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Astroneer is a cute exploration game with a deep base-building system. In essence, you move between seven planets to gather resources and explore.
Then, you go back to your base and turn your materials into tools, labs, generators, panels, oxygen tanks, and anything you need.
The result is a space adventure that feels chilling and relaxing. There’s a gradual sense of progression, but everything comes without asking for you to grind or lose anything. Moreover, you can play in co-op with up to four players at your party.
So, in essence, you explore and shape distance worlds. You play as an “Astroneer” in the 25th Century Intergalactic Age of Discovery.
The story is just there to justify a massive sandbox, a customized experience about building bases, vehicles, and gear across a vast solar system.
So, instead of going underwater, you go to outer space, planets, and stars. The limit is your imagination because anything and everything you see in the game is yours to use as tools and building blocks.
- Developer:Campo Santo
- Release Date:February 2016
- Platform:Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Firewatch is quite different from Subnautica, but it offers one of the elements of the underwater adventure. Even though the game never puts you in real danger, it shares a huge world and atmospheric storytelling.
This is a single-player first-person mystery game in the Wyoming wilderness. The only NPC in the world is talking to you on a handheld radio, guiding you through the game.
It’s the year 1989, and you, Henry, have the job of keeping the wilderness safe. However, something amiss draws you further into the wilds to search for questions during the hot summer.
The story then includes adult themes, deep moral subjects, and plenty of storytelling. You’d want to pick every note, see every clue, and check every environment. And that’s a good thing: the scenarios are wild, rich, and gorgeous.
Lastly, the game includes choice mechanics. The narrative shifts along with your decisions. Even better, the mystery will keep you on your seats all the way through the end.