It’s hard to get away from the post-apocalyptic genre. It saturates film, television, and video games. Nowadays, it seems like there’s a never-ending supply of destruction. Media, developers, and storytellers are obsessed with how people survive once the world ends. And with good reason! We all love getting to see a somewhat familiar world marred by zombies, the fall of man, or nuclear disaster. There is a certain excitement in imagining what society does once the world has fallen apart
Thankfully, this obsession puts gamers on the path to some pretty incredible games. As a genre, there is something for everyone. Post-apocalyptic games are not confined to any one game type.
There are post-apocalyptic open-world games, RPGs, first-person shooters, strategy games, and more. What helps the best post-apocalyptic games stand out is a commitment to its world, fantastic characters, and enjoyable gameplay and mechanics.
Here’s our list of the best post-apocalyptic games you should be playing right now. We’re sure there are others you probably love so be sure to let us know in the comments section.
Encased takes inspiration from some of the most well-known post-apocalyptic games like Wasteland and Fallout. It takes place in an alternate 1970s in which you journey into a recently discovered building in the desert called The Dome.
You join CRONUS Corporation to help shape the world and future of life under The Dome. There are a number of “wings” you can take in the company. These boil down to what class you want to be as you fight through enemies, talk your way out of problems and explore the vast post-apocalyptic world.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Most post-apocalyptic games feature worlds overwhelmed with death and destruction, but Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture turns that trope on its head. It is not a game many would initially think of as post-apocalyptic with its ideal countryside and stillness.
It’s a quiet walking simulator that sees you trying to unravel the mysterious disappearance of people in a village. The narrative unfolds by viewing scenes from the past put on by floating lights. It isn’t a game for everyone, but its story is one full of intrigue and heartbreak.
Death Stranding is not a game for everyone. It’s hard to deny the beauty in its world, though. Death Stranding features a very Hideo Kojima story in a post-apocalyptic landscape that has the player carrying cargo across the United States while trying to avoid supernatural creatures and rain that causes you to rapidly age.
Despite the calmness some of the game has through its traversal, there are also many scenes full of tension. This comes by way of the BTs, creatures that come from the “Beach,” a land linked to the afterlife.
You move through the game’s gorgeous landscapes while trying not to alert these creatures. All the while, you’re hoping that BB, a premature baby strapped to you in a tank, doesn’t cry. It’s as bonkers as it sounds.
Dying Light 2
It’s hard to get away from the inclusion of zombies and similar creatures in the best post-apocalyptic games. There are a number of incredible zombie games out there. Dying Light 2’s horror is found in the droves of Infected that inhabit the world. Instead of taking a slower, more atmospheric approach, Dying Light 2 relies on speed in much of its gameplay.
Almost everything in this one is better than the first game. Its melee-based combat is more satisfying as you knock off heads and limbs of the Infected. Moving across the dilapidated city using parkour, a glider, and a grappling hook feels incredible. The central story isn’t anything grand but gets its hooks into you enough to care.
If you’re looking for a more fast-paced zombie apocalypse experience, Dying Light 2 is the game for you.
Fallout 3 was the series’ first foray out of the isometric, turn-based battles of the previous games. The game takes place in 2277 and follows the player who has left Vault 101 in search of their father.
Fallout 3 brings the player into the barren wasteland of Washington DC and surrounding areas with a number of mutants, creatures, and hostile enemies to take down.
Fallout 3 still is a fantastic experience even today. Its legacy as one of the best video games of all time is appropriately earned. Much of this is to do with its huge world, numerous side quests, and dark humor. It’s one of those games that make it very easy to sink dozens of hours in as you get lost in its post-apocalyptic world.
Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas came out just a short time after Fallout 3. New Vegas takes place, in, you guessed it, a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas. The story begins in one of gaming’s best opening scenes with the main character getting shot and buried alive, but miraculously, they live. From there, it is up to you to guide them to their killer all while exploring a world brimming with things to do.
The game improves upon almost every facet of Fallout 3.
New Vegas embraces its storytelling more fully than Fallout 3. With multiple ways to complete quests and different endings dependent on dozens of choices you make in-game, there is a lot more freedom. Much of this careful crafting on the developers’ part is what makes this iteration of Fallout one of the best post-apocalyptic games.
Many post-apocalyptic video games are open-world adventure games. It’s not often you get to experience the horrors of a world in a city-builder. Frostpunk not only bends the genre with the post-apocalyptic world it’s in but also the disaster that occurs. Frostpunk puts you in the shoes of “The Captain” as you struggle to keep afloat your city and its inhabitants in the face of a volcanic winter.
The game also introduces a fair amount of politics into the game as well. If you need to increase productivity, you are able to install laws that allow for child labor or day-long shifts to keep your city running. There are also ways to make your citizens happier too like offering rations to sick people and developing better healthcare.
Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is arguably the best of the first three games in the series, and that says a lot about how great the first two are. It helps that the game’s narrative was helmed by Karen Traviss, a sci-fi writer who’s contributed to both the Halo and Star Wars worlds.
The game does a great job at answering questions left open from the other two games. It also introduces a number of new plot points that help move the story forward and ties it up with a very satisfying end.
It isn’t often that Half-Life 2 gets tied to the post-apocalyptic genre, but the alien invasion that’s occurring on the planet is definitely apocalyptic in nature. Both Half-Life 2 and the original are highly regarded. The sequel expands the world and has Gordon Freeman trying to stop the oppressive Combine forces he was partly to blame for unleashing.
The biggest issue with the game is that it leaves many questions unanswered. Fans keep hoping that maybe one day we’ll get a Half-Life 3. Until then, both games are worth playing if you’ve never experienced them thanks to their excellent use of physics, engrossing puzzles, and fulfilling narrative and characters.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn follows protagonist Aloy in a post-post-apocalyptic world. The game takes place approximately 1000 years in the future. Humans live scattered across the world in primitive tribes and have access to limited technology. Large machine-like creatures roam the world and mostly coexist peacefully with humans.
Horizon features one of the best open worlds in gaming. There are numerous places inspired by actual locations in the United States. The game features a narrative from the lead writer of Fallout: New Vegas and some really incredible performances from Ashley Burch and Lance Reddick among others.
Aloy is given a large variety of weapons to take down machines, who have grown more aggressive, and a large open world to explore. Link to beat open world games
The Last of Us
Not many games are as fantastic at heartbreak as The Last of Us. Originally released in 2013, the game is regarded as one of the best post-apocalyptic games ever created. Much of that success is thanks to the game’s two iconic protagonists, Joel and Ellie.
In the game’s development, the relationship between the two became the focus and everything else was built around it. Their relationship helps make the game one of the best post-apocalyptic games there is.
While the gameplay, enemy design, and plot all find success in their own ways, it is this relationship between Joel and Ellie that propels that game forward. Their connection is one of the best in gaming history. It’s also what makes its sequel even more heartbreaking than the original.
The Last of Us 2
The Last of Us 2, while still widely well received, divided critics and fans alike with its story and characters. The world, while still ravaged by clickers and man-made monstrosities, offers up some more gentle, and quieter moments. We’re able to see towns that have been formed and the aftermath of a society that has finally started to rebuild itself.
The Last of Us 2 also gives us one of the most brutal deaths in the history of video games. It also splits the game up so you’re playing as someone who isn’t Ellie for half of your time. It’s a decision that upset some fans, but it is one that helps show their greyness in a world where there is a monster inside everyone.
Left 4 Dead 2
Killing zombies with friends will probably never feel as good as it does in Left 4 Dead 2. Its post-apocalyptic world is meant to be enjoyed with others. It’s often considered to be one of the best games of all time, and its presence is still known today, more than a decade after its release. The main campaign has you and up to three other human players battling through hordes of Infected to safety.
Left 4 Dead 2 establishes a set of Infected that players will see throughout their adventure. There are the common Infected who are powerful in hordes that can swarm the player. There’s the Boomer, a giant swollen Infected that spews bile and explodes at death. There’s also the deadly, crying Witch who can knock you out in one hit if she’s alerted to your presence.
Rarely do video games inspired by a film franchise work, but Mad Max prickles with magic. The game gives you control of Max Rockatansky as you journey through the dessert and upgrade your vehicle. You partake in vehicular combat across post-apocalyptic deserts, canyons, and caves.
Mad Max features person-to-person combat as well. While there are weapons like Max’s iconic shotgun, ammo is scarce. Melee combat will take you further in your adventure – especially if you’re aggressive. Bashing the faces of bandits has never felt so good.
Metro: Last Light
Metro: Last Light is a sequel to the hit game Metro 2033. The first game is based on the Dmitry Glukhovsky novel while the sequel crafts its own story. This new story allows for more branching paths and routes to be taken throughout the ruins of Moscow and its tunnels.
Last Light does a great job at making you feel like you are on your last leg. You must scavenge for ammo and supplies. Everything you find feels important and valuable. As you scavenge, there’s a healthy amount of scares to look out for too.
Nier Replicant (and its remaster) takes us far past the end of the world. Like Horizon Zero Dawn, the game’s setting is far removed from the events that caused society to crumble. The world is afflicted with a sickness called The Black Scrawl and there are many monsters.
Even though the game takes place far in the future, there are still reverberations felt from over a thousand years before as none of this has gone away. There is also a sense of somberness that many post-apocalyptic games lack. The game also has some of the best music in any game ever.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Chernobyl is a fascinating subject for games and other forms of media. It’s also been featured a lot. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. takes place in a world where a second event happened at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The horrors inside make it not only one of the best post-apocalyptic games but also one of the best in survival horror.
Despite being a game from the mid-2000s, it doesn’t look bad today thanks to great use of lighting and textures. The world’s atmosphere is palpable and bleak. Weather plays a key part in crafting how everything feels. Enemies help the atmosphere. Being stalked by an almost invisible enemy as lightning flashes behind it will send chills down your spine.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead series has always been about good old-fashioned zombies. It first began as a graphic novel, but since it’s morphed into a television show that’s gone on a little long, books, and the TellTale games.
The TellTale games give the graphic novels a run for their money as far as the best version of this post-apocalyptic world. The first round of stories following Lee and Clementine are especially riveting.
It, like The Last of Us, is built upon the relationship between the two main characters. The game employs many difficult choices throughout its narrative that can change some moments happen. Some can even end up with characters dying. It’s a very bleak version of a post-apocalyptic world.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Post-apocalyptic games are almost always set in either a world similar to our own or it goes down a sci-fi route. It’s not often that the genre mixes with fantasy, but it’s not unheard of in games.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 brings fantasy to the end of the world in some really terrific ways. It’s a multiplayer game directly inspired by the Left 4 Dead games.
While there are a lot of similarities between the two, Warhammer’s fantasy elements like its heroes, creatures, and level design give it a fresh perspective. Vermintide 2 also improves and expands upon the first game in every way.
Released in 1988, Wasteland was one of the first post-apocalyptic games. In the last eight or so years, it’s gotten two sequels. The original helped define the genre and even introduced the basis for the Fallout series. Wasteland’s mechanics are directly inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and feature a party system and a very high difficulty level.
With a limited amount of disc space, the game came with printed content the player would read at certain points during the game. This helped lengthen the game’s story without using disc space. In 2020, a remaster of the original game was released.
That’s our list of the best post-apocalyptic games you should be playing right now. Which of the games on our list are your favorite in the genre and which games did we miss?