Survival. When mentioned in conjunction with videogames the word will invoke a bunch of different feeling and images in a player’s head. It’s a term we don’t hear to often today that can be applied to almost every genre to create a different type of game. This week we have the pleasure of seeing Tomb Raider doing it’s jump from a puzzle-platformer into a survival-action game, and as such I figured it was time to talk some games I felt handled the survival aspect in a very interesting way.
Please understand that I’m not calling these the most accurate representation of survivalist aspects in gaming, not at all, this is my list of five games that I personally felt handled survival in a very fun way.
Often regarded as the best in the franchise, Metal Gear Solid 3 introduced Naked Snake to the soviet jungles of Tselinoyarsk. New to the franchise was the way Snake had to keep his health and stamina in check. The game urged you to capture animals or collect fruit to eat in order to survive with a total of 51 different edible items being in the full game.
This wasn’t the only thing it changed up to enhance the survival-aspect. The medical system was completely rebuilt, forcing players to take out bullets from your body and apply the right article of medicine to the right type on injuries if you wanted them to heal. It’s honest a system I wish more games used as it made coming out of fights much more interesting and exciting. Did you get out without a scratch this time? Will you have to bandage your arm? Who knows.
MGS3 is a fantastic game and I wish more games would learn from it’s design, too many survival-focuses games just forget the small details that can make it fun instead of tedious, and that’s where MGS3 really shines through. A masterpiece of gaming-design, and a game I definitely couldn’t leave off the list.
When you hear “Survival Horror” you tend to bring your mind to the early Resident Evil and perhaps the Silent Hill franchise. And they certainly have their fair share of survival-aspect when it comes to escaping enemies. In Aliens: Infestation, if your character dies then they’re gone for good, you can have up to four characters in a team at once and as long as there’s an open spot in your team you may recruit new characters that you find around the map, making for a total of 19 playable characters that work as exra-lives.
If your 4-man team dies? Total game over with no continue or restore possible. Is it harsh? Absolutely, and I would even argue that it’s pretty off-putting if you don’t want to put hours into mastering the game just so you can survive the regular gameplay, but it’s all done with well intentions and to make you genuinely afraid of entering combat, something very few games dare to actually pull off. And I truly respect it for that.
Now we’re going into a genre that I made up a name for just for this article; Survival-Strategy. I grew up playing all the Lemmings games as a child, from the original game to Lemmings 3D and my favourite one was Lemmings 2: The Tribes because it had the best level designs from all of them.
But what makes Lemmings 2: The Tribes a game for a survival list? Well the way Lemmings 2: The Tribes work is that you get a certain amount of lemmings that will automatically try to advance across a stage, to guide them you have to assign them certain jobs such as telling them to dig tunnels or build bridges, and perhaps most memorable, telling them to stop in the path and block other lemmings from moving past them. Doing this would mean that the lemming would permanently stay frozen and he’d not make it to the end of the stage, and this is where the game gets tricky.
To finish a stage you need to bring a certain number of lemmings into a goal on the other end of the stage, and most of the time you would have a limited selection of jobs to assign. This is where survival becomes something you have to prioritize for certain lemmings and actually give up for others, make one small mistake and you’ll most likely end up killing a bunch of unknowing lemmings and not be able to beat the stage. It’s a game that’s 100% about keeping a group alive, and what could be more survival-focused than that?
The beautiful blocky child of ex-bearded man Markus “Notch” Persson is another game that focuses entirely on having you live a life and survive, though without some of the harsher outcomes that Aliens or Lemmings will often result in. Although the main appeal of Minecraft is certainly to build your own little world and creations, the actual gameplay in the game is all about survival. You’re dropped into a world you know nothing about, having to build shelter from monsters with whatever you can find, most likely wood that you’ll have to collect yourself.
And it never stops either, having to eat to stay alive, most likely kill to get the food to eat unless you want to explore for veggies, which can also be a death trap. Want to protect yourself? Guess you’ll have to explore mines and try to get material to get some armor to craft, oh, and of course the mines are also infested with traps, monsters and lava that will scorch you to death. It’s sort-of a nightmare scenario really, you are really living the worst life imaginable in Minecraft, and it’s sooooo fun.
I wanted to end this little list of my favourite survival-related videogames with Lost in Blue for Nintendo DS, the third installment in the Survival Kids franchise. The game is one of my all time favourite games and one that I look to as the standard for any game who wants to tackle survival as a something more than a small mechanic or story focus. Lost in Blue is Survival, there’s no other real genre to it, some could say it borrows ideas from the RPG genre, but only in the sense that you can collect consumable items into your inventory.
Lost in Blue tells the story of Keith and Skye, two teenagers who have washed ashore on a island after a heavy storm that their ship was caught in. Playing as Keith the player need to collect food to eat, keep themselves from getting dehydrated and even make sure they’re not too tired or else you’ll eventually end up dying. Some food will be poisonous and if you really want to get some good stuff you’ll have to craft tools to get a hold of fish or other animals, which means collecting material to build that stuff.
Making up a fire to keep warmth in your cave is a daily requirement, meaning you need to collect twigs to use for the fireplace, and this is all stuff you’ll have to get used to and master in the first few days of the game. And then you need to count Skye into it all. Skye is a girl you find on the second day on the island, washed ashore close to where you washed up. She can’t see without her glasses (which you broke by accident) and therefore hurts her leg trying to walk with you back to the cave.
Skye becomes a part of the gameplay as you’ll need her help to maneuver certain parts of the island due to things that isn’t possible for one person, such as heavy things you’ll need to push to reach new areas. You’ll have to keep Skye alive in the game as well by the same rules as Keith, the difference is that her handicap forces things to become more complex as she can’t walk about on her own which means Keith will have to lead her around the island. Skye will also help out by doing some of the crafting that Keith is unable to as well as cooking food if needed.
This was something that cause some people to yell sexism at the game, so much so that by the next sequel Konami made sure to make it so both the female and male lead both were playable from the start of the game, unlike Skye who was simply a unlockable character. Personally I doubt Konami meant to enforce any gender-roles with Lost in Blue, they just wanted to make the mechanics more complex which I personally appreciated and missed in the second game.
Lost in Blue is tough, unforgiving and absolutely wonderful all at once. If you do manage to master the mechanics you’ll eventually start to explore the deeper parts of the island, hoping to make your way off the island in one of the many possible ways, or you can just keep playing forever as there is no actual time-limit to the game.
And, there you have it. My five games that I feel handled survival in a fun way, what do you guys think, did you enjoy the survival aspects of Lemmings 2? What are your guys favourite survival games of all time? Leave a comment below!