Post-Apocalyptic worlds are a staple of the gaming industry. What better way to throw the player into a survival atmosphere than to take away all of the comforts of modern society and throw in roving bands of bandits, zombies, or other monsters for them to contend with? That’s why all the best post apocalyptic games were born.
In many post-apocalyptic games it is not simply a matter of locating basic necessities of life to live, you will also need to be able to defend yourself against innumerable baddies who want nothing more than to take all of your hard earned things… or sometimes just your life.
It is sometimes hard to find the truly great post-apocalyptic games in the endless sea of chaff that seems to clog up every digital distribution platform, but this list should provide you with at least a few great examples of this oft-overused gaming genre.
What is a Post-Apocalyptic Game
In order to really get into what makes a post-apocalyptic game great, it is probably important to discuss what makes a game “post-apocalyptic”. To me, there are two key components:
- Does the game take place in either our world or an alternate reality of our world?
- Was there an apocalyptic event that shattered society as we know it, leaving only chaos and entropy in its wake?
It is not necessary to complicate things further than that, but I will because that’s how I roll. I will be further dividing this list into Post-Apocalyptic Top-Down RPGs, FPS RPGs, Survival, and Strategy Games, because, despite sharing a common backdrop, all of these games are wildly different in playstyle.
I have also toyed with the idea of adding a rating system for this list, but many of these games are so wildly different that there isn’t really a set of criteria that could be used to encompass them as a whole. So, with that in mind, just know that these are the best post apocalyptic games.
Best Post-Apocalyptic Top-Down RPGs
There was a wonderful time not so long ago that post-apocalyptic Role-playing Games were everywhere. Many of my fondest childhood memories were of adventuring through pixelated or low-resolution isometric barren landscapes full of people and monsters wanting my head … or other body parts. While this particular style of game has fallen out of favor in recent years, that does not mean we don’t have great examples to draw from both the past and the present.
Age of Decadence
|Initial Release Date||October 14, 2015|
|Developer||Iron Tower Studios|
|Publisher||Iron Tower Studios|
Age of Decadence is a primarily turn-based role-playing game which exists in an alternate reality loosely based on the Roman Empire. The world of Age of Decadence is Earth-Like but has suffered a catastrophic societal collapse. This game is very lore-heavy and has a ton of quests available to you. Be prepared to bring your reading glasses.
There are several backgrounds available to your character and this particular choice will prove to be one of the most important you will make. Factions will react differently to you based on your background, and you can either embrace a chosen faction or reject them all and forge your own destiny. Also, much like Planescape: Torment, talking is almost always preferable to violence if you can help it.
|Initial Release Date||December 19, 2018|
|Platform||PC, Linux, Mac OS|
A.T.O.M RPG is one of the newest games included on this list. While admittedly I have not beaten this game, the world of ATOM shares many similarities with Wasteland and Fallout. Again Earth has suffered a catastrophic war leaving only desolation in its wake, however unlike Fallout and Wasteland, for once, you are not exploring the continental United States.
Your character is thrust into the heart of Soviet Russia in an alternate future where the Cold War does not end so well. You are a survivor tasked with the duty of exploring the world and eventually uncovering a big bad to fight. Atom does not deviate a whole lot from the formula established by Fallout or Wasteland, but it’s not a bad thing. One of the best post apocalyptic games on the market, and I highly recommend it.
|Initial Release Date||October 10, 1997|
|Platform||PC, Mac OS|
Perhaps the most iconic post-apocalyptic top-down RPG of all time is the original Fallout. Released in 1997, this game featured a story-heavy style of gameplay that revolves around your protagonist emerging from a vault into the nuclear wasteland of the former United States.
Throughout your journey, you will discover that the world as we know it ended rather abruptly on October 23, 2077. You must journey forth into the wasteland encountering warring factions, vicious monsters, and hardened bandits in the search for a Water Chip for your vault.
|Initial Release Date||September 30, 1998|
|Platform||PC, Mac OS|
|Developer||Black Isle Studios (Defunct)|
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Fallout 2 again thrusts you in the role of “player character”. This time you are not a vault dweller but instead a descendent of the first vault dweller. You are the “Chosen One” (no subtlety needed), and are tasked with finding a G.E.C.K (Garden of Eden Creation Kit).
Fallout 2 will feature a familiar environment, post-nuclear United States, along with many similar monsters or factions. Much like the first game you will have an extensive list of stats, skills, and perks to choose from in order to customize your character to your playing style, and much like the first Fallout, there are usually multiple ways to complete your goal.
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel
|Initial Release Date||March 15, 2001|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo 64|
|Publisher||Bethesda Softworks, Interplay Entertainment, 14 Degrees East|
I briefly toyed with the idea of leaving this game off the list, because it almost crossed out the “Role” part of RPG on its rampage towards its new preferred title “Tactical Role-playing Game”, but it was still pretty great despite this.
Unlike its predecessors, Fallout 1 and 2, FOT: BOS thrusts you into the role of a Brotherhood of Steel squad. It also significantly cuts back on interactions with NPC characters and it is more focused on mission objectives than world exploration.
Much like the other Fallout games, however, you will be dealing with a blasted nightmare wasteland full of baddies and monsters. You still control a “primary character” but the game focuses far more on squad-based combat… make sure your charisma score is pretty high (like 8), trust me.
Project Zomboid (Early Access)
|Initial Release Date||November 8, 2013|
|Platform||PC, Mac OS, Linux, Java|
|Developer||The Indie Stone|
|Publisher||The Indie Stone|
Technically Project Zomboid has not been released yet, but from what I have played of it, it is shaping up to be a great game. You are a survivor of a zombie apocalypse in Knox-County, USA. Your goal is to survive and flourish in a world with a huge amount of undead wanting to eat your face.
You begin the game by choosing skills and stats that you believe will give you the greatest chance of survival in this truly inhospitable world. Don’t assume for a second that your first or even ninth character will be the one to make it. Zombies are everywhere and they are more than happy to swarm you. If you get bitten and infected, it is a death sentence and the nicest thing your friends can do for you is to take you out back like Old Yeller.
|Initial Release Date||February 6, 2015|
|Platform||PC, Playstation 4, IOS, Linux|
Sunless Sea tops my personal chart as one of the best narrative story-driven Role-playing Games of all time. It was even included in our best of RPGs infographic.
It is the sequel to the browser-based game, Fallen London, and while some may argue that it isn’t really Post-Apocalyptic, in that the surface world still exists and only London and presumably a good chunk of British people have fallen into the Unterzee, but to me the capital of a nation collapsing into a lightless world beneath the surface of the planet full of nameless horrors and ancient evils is pretty post-apocalyptic.
You take on the role of a Zee Captain, whose job is to choose your goal in life and make that thing happen. There are several ambitions you can strive for, but it soon becomes clear that your primary motivator is only one of the myriad stories you will discover while exploring the depths. In fact, if you just go straight for your main-story you will miss probably 98% of the game. Explore far my friends, but beware the nightmares in the depths.
|Initial Release Date||31 January 2019|
|Platform||PC, Linux, Mac OS|
Sunless Skies is the direct sequel to Sunless Sea and exists in the same world. In Sunless Sea you will most likely come across an ancient gate known as Avid Horizon. It seems that in her wisdom, our good Queen Victoria decided to open that bad-boy up and transport all of London and its people into the sky.
You will again be taking on the role of a captain with your own ambition, and you will be exploring the nameless horrors among the stars. You will discover entire Suns destroyed by the might of the Queen’s weapons, and delve into mysteries that would satiate any disciple of Lovecraftian Horror. Fly carefully friends, there is more in the dark than marauders… of that, you can be sure.
Tower of Time
|Initial Release Date||April 12, 2018|
Technically, Tower of Time doesn’t conform to my own conditions for a Post-Apocalyptic game, being as it does not take place on Earth or an alternate world based on ours. It is, however, one of the best role-playing games I have played. The story is deeply intriguing and the world in which it exists is suffering under the effects of both a past apocalypse and another in the near horizon.
You take the role of a young lordling who returns to a strange tower he discovered when he was a child. After plopping down on a crystal throne, you send forth your two brave companions, that you have a telepathic link to, and descend into the depths of the tower, uncovering its secrets, and the secrets of the doom that hangs above your entire world. I could not recommend this game more.
|Initial Release Date||January 2, 1988|
|Platform||PC, Linux, Mac OS|
|Publisher||Electronic Arts, InXile Entertainment|
The original Wasteland was incredibly impressive for its time. Set in a post-apocalyptic United States, you took the role of a group of Desert Rangers exploring the last remaining strongholds of humanity. Most of your exploration will take place from a top-down perspective, while events are handled in windowed screen usually displaying a pixelated display of the event and the actions you can take.
Don’t let the aged graphics turn you away, however. The original Wasteland is still quite an adventure even to this day. The plot is well written, there is a lot of lore to read, and there are multiple methods to solving the game’s challenges. It is truly a gem in the crown of late 1980 role-playing games.
|Initial Release Date||September 19, 2014|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux, Mac OS|
|Developer||InXile Entertainment, Obsidian Entertainment|
Wasteland 2 was funded on Kickstarter in 2012 and reached its funding goal in 43 hours. Developed by inXile, some veterans of Obsidian Entertainment joined the project soon after it was Kickstarted. Much like its predecessor, Wasteland is set in post-apocalyptic USA and you again take on the role of a ground of Desert Rangers.
Using the Unity Engine, Wasteland 2 has a similar graphical style to Pillars of Eternity, a top-down isometric squad based role-playing game. Nearly the entire game is played from this perspective, with the exception of the world map.
Kind of a spoiler alert!
You will again explore the last outposts of humanity and have to make some hard choices in who lives and who dies. It is not a game for people who want to see everyone flourish peacefully. That simply isn’t a reality you can hope for.
Post-Apocalyptic First-Person Shooty RPGs
|Initial Release Date||27 January 2015|
|Platform||PC, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, OS X|
|Publisher||Techland Publishing, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment|
Dying Light exists in a world in which a Zombie Apocalypse has wiped out society as we know it. You take on the role of Kyle Crane who has the dubious duty of infiltrating a quarantine zone to find a file stolen by a corrupt politician (as if there were any other kind). You find other survivors in the fallen city of Harran (not a real place) and must choose between aiding them or completing your mission.
Dying light is relatively unique in that the campaign can be completed cooperatively and combat is mostly melee focused. Also of note, the zombies present in Dying Light become significantly more dangerous and aggressive at night, which is a pretty neat mechanic.
|Initial Release Date||October 28, 2008|
|Platform||PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360|
Fallout 3 diverges from the top-down isometric perspective of Fallouts One and Two, instead shoving the camera deep into the eye socket of your new protagonist and allowing you to explore the world as if you, yourself, were in the blasted landscape.
Fallout 3 follows a similar plot path to Fallout 1. You are a vault dweller who escapes your relatively happy life in Vault 101 after your father goes missing. You journey again into the blasted wasteland of the United States, post-nuclear scourge, and will join or battle with various factions across the region. Though your goal is to find your father, like all Bethesda Games, you will soon forget this completely as you take on dozens of side and faction quests instead.
Fallout: New Vegas
|Initial Release Date||October 19, 2010|
|Platform||PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360|
|Publisher||Bethesda, Bandai Namco Entertainment|
Fallout: New Vegas was created by Obsidian Entertainment. It is widely touted as one of the best Fallout Games of all time, to which I agree. Obsidian is well known for its heavily story-driven narratives, and its ability to implement a variety of solutions to most of the game’s challenges. It should be noted that this game was heavily riven with bugs upon launch, though most have been fixed by now.
In FO: NV, you do not take on the role of a Vault Dweller, but instead you are a Courier. As a Courier, you are tasked with carrying a package to New Vegas. Unfortunately, this goes poorly for you and you end up getting shot in the head. You survive somehow and begin a rampage through the Mojave Desert in order to find the people responsible.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
|Initial Release Date||March 20, 2007|
|Developer||GSC Game World|
|Publisher||GSC Game World Publishing, THQ|
Shadow of Chernobyl is the first of a trilogy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R games released in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In this universe, people are doomed to repeat past mistakes when they decide to repopulate the area around Chernobyl. Another Meltdown occurs and bad things happen to the area (known as “the Zone”) again. This game takes place mostly outside and features truly beautiful graphics for its time.
You find yourself thrust in the role of an amnesiac explorer known as the Marked One, and you have one simple mission – to Kill Strelok. You will take on numerous missions to try and find out about your target and also your memory. But it is never as easy as it sounds on paper, you will be facing off against deadly mutants and other factions as you desperately try to figure out who you are.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky
|Initial Release Date||September 15, 2008|
|Developer||GSC Game World|
|Publisher||GSC Game World Publishing, Deep Silver|
Much like the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R, you will be exploring “The Zone”. Clear Sky, however, is not the sequel to Shadow of Chernobyl as you would expect, but instead a Prequel. This game features the addition of faction wars, which allow you to aid a particular faction of your choosing, unlocking better items. You will also be exploring anomalies, like the first game, and there are a variety of weapons and armor to choose from depending on your playstyle.
In Clear Sky you take on the role of Scar, who has the rare ability to survive anomaly blasts, which present as emissions. You are set on a path to discover what is causing the disruptions, and along the way you will find other Stalker groups, factions, towns, and the normal role-play things. Your journey will lead you into the heart of Chernobyl for a pretty spectacular ending.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat
|Initial Release Date||February 2, 2010|
|Developer||GSC Game World|
|Publisher||GSC Game World Publishing, Deep Silver, bitComposer Games|
Unlike the first two S.T.A.L.K.E.R games, Call of Pripyat does not take place near Chernobyl, but instead near the town of Pripyat (go figure). This game is generally considered to be more tactical than its predecessors, requiring careful management of medical supplies and equipment to prevent it from breaking. It also has a very limited economy, meaning you should be sparing with both your goods and your currency.
In Call of Pripyat, you take on the role of Major Alexander Degtyarev, who is sent to investigate the loss of five helicopters during a failed attempt to scout the area in preparation for an invasion by the Ukrainian government. Your goal is to figure out what happened to the helicopters and their crews and to try and figure out what is happening in the Zone. Good Luck.
Post-Apocalyptic Third-Person Shooty RPGs
|Initial Release Date||March 8, 2016|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
No one can deny that the first Division suffered some problems throughout its lifetime, but the premise of the game was pretty solid. The game revolves around a paramilitary group known as the Division as they desperately try to unite and secure a world shattered by the “outbreak”. The world of the division lies in shambles with the focus of this game being centered in Manhattan.
The Division offers both PVE and PVP gamers tasks and goals to advance their characters, but the end-game primarily revolved around PVP battles. This was extremely problematic because a lot of the game data is handled client-side, which makes it incredibly easy to hack or use exploits. I would recommend playing through the first Division simply for the story, and then move onto the Division 2, which will hopefully address this incredibly glaring error in developer judgment.
The Division 2
|Initial Release Date||March 15, 2019|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
The Division 2 is fairly obviously a sequel to the first Division. This time the story is set in the ruins of Washington, D.C. and is centered around the White House. The Green Poison has pretty much wiped out society and it is up to you as a Division Agent to try and renew hope among the people of D.C. This won’t be easy.
Much like the first game, Division 2 offers a mixture of PVE and PVP encounters, with the latter being limited to Dark Zones. You will also be facing off against four semi-unique factions, the Hyenas, The True Sons, The Outcasts, and the Black Tusk. Each of these enemy nations has their own specializations and fighting styles, but for the most part, you will be mowing down bullet sponge mobs a lot.
The Last of Us
|Initial Release Date||June 14, 2013|
|Publisher||Sony Computer Entertainment|
One of the few Playstation Exclusive games to make the list, The Last of Us is perhaps a shining example of amazing story-telling and compelling gameplay. Much like every other zombie or monster outbreak type game, The Last of Us falls back on the familiar trope of mutated fungus spreads across the land and destroys society.
You take on the role of Joel, a smuggler. You come into contact with a rebel militia group known as the Fireflies and are given a mission to escort a teenager (Ellie) outside of the quarantine zone. You follow this unlikely pair through harrowing adventures and terrifying enemies only to realize that your goal is at odds with your own morals. It is a beautiful story that I think everyone should play at least once.
Post-Apocalyptic First-Person Shooty Games
Far Cry: New Dawn
|Initial Release Date||February 15, 2019|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
It may surprise some people to discover that the first Far Cry was developed by Crytek in order to premiere their CryEngine Game Engine way back in 2004. The initial five Far Cry games were not really Post-Apocalyptic by any means, but with New Dawn, it seems the series has decided to weigh in on the chaos of shattered society.
You do not have to have played any of the previous Far Cry games in order to play FC: ND, but it is set around 20 years after the story of Far Cry 5. All of the expected tropes are in the game, nuclear war, warring factions, lots of guns, and mayhem.
Like most Post-Apocalyptic games, you will take the role of savior to the world and your job is to try and bring a little order to chaos. Good Luck.
|Initial Release Date||November 19, 1998|
|Platform||PC, PS2, OS X, Linux|
It should surprise no one that Half-Life made this list. Created by Valve in 1998, Half-Life is among the most iconic post-apocalyptic games ever made. You take on the role of the mute hero Gordon Freeman, a nerdy scientist with a penchant for beating things to death with crowbars and having excellent shooting skills despite working in a laboratory for presumably his entire adult life.
Unlike most of the other games on this list, you are not thrust into the ruins of a shattered world, you are actually a witness to the beginning of the end. In fact, you are the bringer of the end… good job.
You will have to battle your way through aliens and soldiers while also navigating a research facility on the brink of collapse. In the end, you don’t even get to go home to a cozy bed. Sad.
As an aside… if you want a version of this game with better graphics, get Black Mesa.
|Initial Release Date||November 16, 2004|
|Platform||PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, OS X, Linux, Android|
Some six years after the release of Half-Life, the masterpiece of Half-Life 2 was bequeathed upon us from the all-mighty Valve. Half-Life 2 still stands today as a nearly perfect example of pacing and level design. There are suitable points of action and rest littering a diverse landscape of both interior and exterior areas.
The story of HL2 begins an unknown number of years after the events of Half-Life. Our world has been invaded by the Combine, whose ruthless nature and vast technological edge utterly shattered our world’s defenses.
We begin our journey in the desolate and decaying City 17. As Dr. Freeman, we are not to be crushed beneath the heel of an oppressive militaristic police force, and so we start killing and never stop.
|Initial Release Date||November 17, 2008|
|Platform||PC, Xbox 360, OS X|
Long ago, near the dawn of the internet, there was a time where Valve actually made video games. Half-Life and Half-Life 2 were spawned from their genius, but another type of shooter was also brought forth from those hallowed halls, Left4Dead. This four-person zombie shooter is perhaps one of the best examples of its genre to this day.
You take on the role of one of four survivors, desperately trying to find their way to safety. The campaign levels usually encompass 5 acts, with the final act leading to the survival (or death) of the players. Throughout these acts, you will face off against hordes of zombies, as well as several types of special infected, each with their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
|Initial Release Date||November 17, 2009|
|Platform||PC, Xbox 360, OS X, Linux|
Running on the same game engine as L4D, L4D2 will be familiar to anyone who played the first one. Something to keep in mind, however, is there are amazingly powerful melee weapons in L4D2, as well as a Magnum pistol for those who like to blast zombies apart with a hand cannon.
You again take on the role of one of four survivors (though different survivors than the first game) and your goal is again to find safety and eventually be rescued. The gameplay is nearly identical to the first one, with new forms of special infected along with the old classics.
|Initial Release Date||16 March 2010|
|Platform||PC, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Linux, OS X|
Metro 2033 is a survival horror game set in the ruins of Moscow following a nuclear war. There is a mixture of enemies and challenges present throughout the game as you explore the labyrinth of tunnels in which the remnants of humanity live. You can, and on occasion have to, go to the surface, but the blasted landscape is heavily radiated and offers certain death to those without proper protection.
In Metro 2033 you take on the role of a survivor named Artyom who lives in the northern station of VDNKh (“Exhibition”), which comes under attack by the Dark Ones. You are tasked with traveling to the new capital of Polis and thus your journey begins.
You will be scavenging for supplies and competing with both monstrous and human enemies. Be prepared for the horror setting in this game as it is very dark and you will only have a flashlight to guide your way.
Metro: Last Light
|Initial Release Date||14 May 2013|
|Platform||PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Linux, OS X|
Metro: Last Light is a sequel to Metro 2033, and takes place a year after the events of the previous game. Much like the first game, you will be exploring a labyrinth of tunnels, however, the areas are generally larger than in Metro: 2033 and usually offer multiple paths to reach your goal.
You again take on the role of Artyom, but in this case, you are actually on the side of a Dark One child. This brings you into direct conflict with other human factions, including the Fourth Reich (which are just as evil as they sound) and the underground successor of the Soviet Union.
During the game, you must make the difficult choice between your loyalty to humanity and your morality as a human, all while delving into the dark, twisted corridors of the Metro.
Best Post-Apocalyptic Strategy Games
They Are Billions
|Initial Release Date||December 13, 2017|
While not technically set on earth, the world of They Are Billions is “Earth-Like” enough to make the list. Like most strategy games, They Are Billions will have you constructing cities, raising armies, and gathering resources. Arrayed against you are the innumerable hordes of undead. Also, the Victorian Steampunk aesthetic is beautiful.
You think you are safe behind your high walls and soldiers? Think again. They Are Billions is a challenging game to learn and master, but deeply rewarding.
Careful management of limited resources to upgrade your city and improve your defenses will either lead you to victory or death against vast invasions. This is one of the few games where you may find your few defenders standing bravely against a literal ocean of enemies. It is truly breathtaking and horrifying to behold.
|Initial Release Date||April 24, 2018|
|Developer||11 Bit Studios|
|Publisher||11 Bit Studios|
I, admittedly, have not played as much Frostpunk as I would have liked. This city-building survival game tows the line between making the hard calls and delighting in describing your decision was a bad one. It is a game where the bad almost always outweighs the good, and the world itself is your enemy.
You take on the role of the leader of a city huddled around a generator to power and heat its citizens. You have to manage resources, people, and laws in order to make the most of your limited supplies.
You will be able to expand your technology to make your city function more effectively and find more resources, but you might have to do so on the backs of child labor or 24-hour work days. Finding this balance is the difference between a dead leader and a great leader.
This brings an end to our list of some of the greatest Post-Apocalyptic games of all time. If there are games missing from this list, please feel free to comment below and maybe they will be added or placed in a new list of post-apocalyptic games we missed! Thanks for reading.
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