The open-world role-playing game Kenshi is as divisive now as it was when it first hit the market back in 2013. Whereas the gaming community is notoriously quick to brand a game as good, bad, or in-between, Kenshi seems to be one of the few exceptions to this rule. After seven years there is no consensus about Kenshi’s quality or, depending on who you ask, lack thereof. The game has its faults, to be certain. The graphics and user interface were ugly and outdated even for 2013 standards. But for every negative aspect there is at least one redeeming quality that justifies the game’s small, but cult following. Many of these redeeming qualities can be found in games that try to follow in Kenshi’s footsteps.
30 Games Like 'Kenshi' to Play Right Now
Rust’s 2018 introduction came with a bit of controversy. Gamers had grown used to character choice customization that allowed them to live out their fantasies, so Rust’s decision to take away the of player aesthetics wasn’t initially appreciated. But once the fervor died down, players grew to appreciate Rust for what it was, a sandbox game that allowed players to build power through cooperation or go it solo for maximum chaos.
2. 'ARK: Survival Evolved'
Ark: Survival Evolved is one of those games that look like it could be multiple different games in one. But there is a thoroughfare between the games beginning of primitive dinosaur wrangling to the sci-fi epic endgame content. Players are free to absorb the game’s copious content as they see fit.
3. 'The Forest'
It seems 2018 was a good year for sandbox games. But, whereas other games pit players against players, The Forest encouraged cooperation so players can best survive and unravel the mysteries of the titular locale. The forest is part horror, part survival sandbox. It distinguishes itself from most of the other games on this list by having an ultimate goal, find the player’s lost son. It’s a fun, genre-smashing game that deserves all its plaudits.
4. 'Day Z'
One of the few games on this list that successfully balances PVE and PVP elements, Day Z is the blueprint for zombie survival games. You play as a Walking Dead extra traversing a hellish wasteland in search of much-needed supplies. Along the way, you will run into zombies, non-zombie enemies, and the occasional helmet wearing griefer. How you deal with these threats is entirely up to you, since the game offers little by way of directions. Once you learn the ins-and-outs the game becomes highly rewarding.
5. 'State of Decay 2'
Day Z’s younger sibling. State of Decay 2 is the followup to the massively popular State of Decay. Building on new game development technology that wasn’t available to Day Z developers, State of Decay 2 is a bit more technical, a bit more in-depth, and a bit grimmer than its predecessors. But the spirit of the genre is still there, with players having to survive literal hordes of zombies at almost every turn. The game is good enough to have its own sequel, currently in the works.
6. 'Black Desert Online'
A veritable Kenshi clone, Black Desert is a 2017 entry that pits the player against the entire in-game world. Danger is everywhere and only those players with sense enough to prepare for it can survive. Like Kenshi, survival entails supply hoarding, base building and, most importantly, protecting your assets from other players. The aesthetic might appear a bit high-fantasy compared to Kenshi’s gritty realism, but the two games share too many similarities for Black Desert Online to not be on this list.
7. 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt'
While technically not a massively multiplayer online game, the Witcher 3’s in-depth RPG elements more than earn it a spot on this list. And it isn’t just the RPG elements. One of the major elements in the game is foraging for herbs and materials for a number of potions and remedies. While the game does set you along with a narrative from the beginning, it is very easy for players of Kenshi to play a story somewhat similar to the Witcher series, if they’re so inclined.
This game emphasizes PVP which makes it a bit different from most games on this list. In spite of this, the survival elements are still very much present. In SCUM, the player takes part in a sort of Hunger Games battle royale. Their prize is their freedom. It’s a concept that has been explored in books and movies. SCUM developers seemed to be aware of this, which is why the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, a welcome change of pace from the grim aesthetics of many other survival games.
9. 'Dying Light 2'
Easily one of the most criminally underrated games on this list. Dying Light 2 is the followup to the first Dying Light, a first-person zombie survival game that emphasizes both melee weapons and, above all else, movement. Little has changed in the second installment as you take control of the main character to zip across the city like a caped superhero doing missions, helping friendly settlements, and destroying hostile ones. Like Kenshi survival is key and the tools you collect could spell the difference between survival and violent death.
(Not yet released)
10. 'The Division 2'
The Division is a game whose popularity seems to ebb and flow. The second installment in the franchise is no different, with a player-base as likely to swell as it is to shrink. But interest in the game is consistent enough to warrant a steady stream of content, which is a good thing. The Division is an overlooked survival shooter that deserves to be considered among the greats.
11. 'Atom RPG'
One of a handful of role-playing games that take place in a post-nuclear apocalyptic wasteland. Atom RPG treats the setting with the appropriate serious you won’t find in games like Fallout. Like Kenshi, the game is at times excessively grim as the player navigates and tries to survive in a world with very little. Atom RPG may not have the popularity of some other games but it definitely deserves a place on this list.
Frostpunk has a bit more flash than Kenshi but the survival elements are still there. Frostpunk, released in 2018, has garnered a bit of a cult following. It takes place in a frozen world and, instead of requiring players to build bases to protect from other players, Frostpunk requires you to only build one stronghold, humanity’s last city. In this game, the environment, more than anything, is the ultimate enemy, which adds several interesting layers you won’t find in other survival titles.
13. 'Wurm Unlimited'
Wurm Unlimited is another esoteric title that deserves more attention than it receives. Wurm places a heavy focus on building, allowing players to build a wide array of forts. The player's imagination is the games only real barrier. Players are free to build and protect small homesteads, villages, or massive metropolises.
14. 'Novus Inceptio'
Novus Inceptio combines great looking (if not a bit choppy) graphics with magical and otherworldly elements. You play as a character navigating what appears to be a magical world in the vein of Elder Scrolls only for things to unexpectedly change. Like ARK: Survival Evolved, the start of the game looks somewhat different to the endgame but that’s only indicative of the breadth of content the game has to offer.
15. 'Citadel: Forged with Fire'
At first blush, this game looks like an Elder Scrolls rip off. Appearances can be deceiving. While it shares a certain aesthetic language with Elder Scrolls the game is much closer to Kenshi in several aspects. Players aren’t given direction and are instead free to be and do whatever they like. Player classes range from warrior to wizard and just about everything in between. Citadel gives players the chance to become an important character instead of being born into it.
16. 'Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation'
Its name says it all. Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation is a game that puts players in the midst of several apocalypses. Zombies, werewolves, magical wraiths, while the game doesn’t exactly go too much into detail about the apocalypse itself, you get the distinct impression it was quite the calamity. Regardless, you and others must band together and survive against the forces that would otherwise destroy you. It’s a classic survival RPG with very little frills.
17. 'Last Oasis'
While still in early access, Last Oasis has a lot of people excited. The game seems to take survival sandbox RPG gameplay and combine it with visually stunning graphics and remarkable art style. Whereas other games of the genre are focused on base building, Last Oasis as all about combat. If players have a different flag than yours, you’re inclined to attack them and take whatever resource they have.
Forager is an indy game that revolves around foraging for materials and building. But it’s much more than that. It’s heavily combat-focused and has a dose of dark comedy (such as anthropomorphized vegetables saying they still love you as you dig them out of the ground). The tone is lighthearted, for the most part, and can be quite challenging despite its cutesy aesthetic.
19. 'Lantern Forge'
A heavily stylized open-world survival RPG, Lantern Forge takes visual cues from old-school role-playing games. Players can explore the world at sea level or underground. Day and night cycles along with seasons lend the game an added element for players to consider and the leveling system is very in-depth. It’s quite easy for players to get lost in the intricacies of Lantern Forge.
20. 'Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild'
Perhaps the only Legend of Zelda games eligible for this list. While past Zelda games made survival a matter of finding hearts, Breath of the Wild requires players to hunt, forage, and cook food to replenish life. Also, gone are the days of Link relying on his trusted magical sword. In Breath of the Wild, Link spends much of the time swapping between weapons. While not a straight RPG it has elements RPG elements to earn a spot on this list.
21. 'Life Z Survival'
Another builder focused survival game that relies heavily on zombies. Players must mine and forage for building materials, supplies, and items to build weapons. While the combat system isn’t particularly thrilling, it is an integral part of the game. Players must be able to defend themselves as they hunt for supplies or they are likely to expire before erecting a suitable base.
There isn’t a lot of overlap between fans of Kenshi and fans of Fortnite. I would even wager the latter probably haven’t even heard of Kenshi. But that doesn’t mean Fortnite hasn’t taken certain elements, such as gathering materials and made itself into one of the most successful video games on the planet.
23. 'Mount and Blade 2'
The rare esoteric game that managed to get a sequel, Mount and Blade is a survival game in a medieval setting. The world itself is vast and alive. It shows the developers put in a lot of attention to detail. It’s easy to get lost building your own stronghold or forging your path as a sword-wielding hero. The path you choose is entirely up to you.
24. 'Tiger Knights'
In Tiger Knights, survival is all about building up your army and conquering your enemies. Sound strategy and management skills are key. Players unable to make wise decisions about their resources are doomed to fall to enemy hordes. While technically not a survival game in the traditional sense, Tiger Knights takes the idea of role-playing and applies it to the macro scale, making it one of the most complicated games on this list.
25. 'Sea Dogs To Each His Own'
Years before there was Sea of Thieves there was Sea Dogs, a game that has had almost two decades to garner a cult following. To Each His Own is the perhaps the most popular installment in the little known franchise that has players take to the high seas in search of riches and glory. Each player takes command of their own vessel and is free to do as they please in the massive world map.
A game with a more whimsical style, Raft tasks players with surviving the open seas with nothing but a barrel and plank of wood. As the player collects random debris they are able to build up their rafts into floating bases but along the way, they have to contend with sharks eager to destroy parts of their base as well take attack those brave enough to leave the safety of their floating fortresses.
A heavily stylistic game that builds on a simple premise. It’s the apocalypse and you, the player must ensure the survival of a family of four in an impossible situation. It’s a game that is almost entirely about survival and leaves the task as open-ended as possible. It’s completely up to the player how this family survives.
28. 'The Last Haven'
Another game that takes place in a post-nuclear war apocalypse, you are tasked with surviving in a ravaged land. Players must build bases and grow crops in order to survive and raid nearby encampments in order to thrive. Despite its art style, The Last Haven shows players what life would likely be like in a post-apocalyptic setting.
One of the few games on this list that de-emphasizes combat, Planetbase is an open world sandbox that tasks players with establishing a permanent settlement on a planet not suited for human life. The elements are the enemy, as players navigate and manage all the tasks associated with kickstarting a space colony.
30. 'Conan Exiles'
Putting Conan Exiles at the top of this list shouldn’t be surprising to those familiar with it. Released in 2018, the game enjoyed flash-in-the-pan success, due in large part to the community of popular Youtubers and streamers who farmed it for content. The parallels between Conan and Kenshi are unmistakable. Both feature characters that are not on some grand quest and both feature sandbox gameplay that is light on the story. Players are free to do what they please and that is what makes sandbox gameplay so alluring.
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