Gathering stuff is a part of human nature, and we have various words for it, depending on how we do it. We can loot, collect, scrounge and, indeed, scavenge.

While usually scavenging refers to reclaiming something potentially useful from a pile of useless, potentially decomposing stuff, in gaming it might easily be extended to the general practice of picking up stuff from the environment, as long as it’s not looting corpses of our own making.

On the list below you’ll find quite a few games which put a lot of emphasis on scavenging, both in the usual and in the expanded sense. Unsurprisingly most of them are various shades of survival games, but not exclusively. Let’s dive into the list of…

Best Scavenging Games
Project Zomboid 2013-11-08 Indie The Indie Stone
Dead Rising 4 2017-03-14 Fighting Capcom Game Studio Vancouver, Inc.
Dead Rising 3 Apocalypse Edition 2014-09-05 Adventure Capcom Game Studio Vancouver
Dead Rising 2 2010-09-27 Horror Capcom Vancouver
Fallout 3 Game Of The Year Edition 2009-10-13 RPG Bethesda Game Studios
Fallout 2 1998-12-01 Adventure Black Isle Studios
Fallout 4 Game Of The Year Edition 2017-09-26 RPG Bethesda Game Studios
This War Of Mine 2014-11-14 Adventure 11 bit studios
Stalker Bundle 2007-03-20 Adventure GSC Game World
Stalker Shadow Of Chernobyl 2007-03-20 RPG GSC Game World
Neo Scavenger 2014-12-15 Indie Blue Bottle Games
The Long Dark 2017-08-01 Adventure Hinterland Studio Inc.
Dont Starve Together 2016-04-21 Economy Klei Entertainment
Dont Starve 2013-04-19 Adventure Klei Entertainment
The Forest 2014-05-30 Adventure Endnight Games Ltd
Miasmata 2012-11-28 Adventure IonFX
Starbound 2016-07-22 Adventure Chucklefish
Terraria 2011-05-16 Adventure Re-Logic
Rust 2018-02-08 Adventure
Subnautica 2018-01-23 Adventure Unknown Worlds Entertainment
7 Days To Die 2013-12-13 Adventure The Fun Pimps
Metro 2033 Redux 2014-08-27 Horror 4A GAMES
Icarus 2021-12-03 Sanbox, survival RocketWerkz
Subnautica 2018-01-23 Adventure Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Astroneer 2016-12-15 Adventure System Era Softworks

Project Zomboid

Developer:The Indie Stone

Project Zomboid doesn’t look like much, but that’s because it values complex gameplay over snazzy graphics. It’s a wonderfully detailed zombie apocalypse survival game, and its level of realism trumps most, if not all, more graphically impressive zombie-themed games you could find anywhere. That extend to scavenging, which allows you to pick up anything the character could realistically grab.

The wealth of stuff you can scavenge is confronted by the fact that you need some way to transport it. You’ll be lucky to find a military backpack, since you’re more likely to find a plastic bag or a big purse. Medicine (injuries are a big deal here), food, crafting supplies, all have their use, and the game’s complex enough that virtually everything can be used for something in a pinch.

Key features
  • You’re not a hero, just some random person living in an actively deadly place
  • More detailed are realistic than any other zombie game
  • Immersive, tension-building vision and sound systems
  • Permadeath, obviously


Developer:Redbeet Interactive

Raft is significantly nicer than most other games on the list, but it can still kick your butt, especially the shark is always happy to chomp your rickety boat to bits. While there are islands to explore, most of your time you’ll spend fishing out bits and pieces floating in the vast blue ocean around you. You can use most of that stuff to expand your raft to the point where it becomes a floating mansion.

The Raft is rather open-ended, with a simple story to give some context to the world and your character’s particular predicament, but otherwise you can spend as much time as you want scavenging, crafting, and exploring. And even when the shark attacks, it’s still not too scary, because The Raft has a friendly, slightly cartoonish art style.

Key features
  • A large degree of freedom in how you expand your raft
  • You must always watch out for the hungry, hungry sharks
  • Friendly graphics
  • Relaxed storytelling

Dead Rising 4

Developer:Capcom Game Studio Vancouver, Inc.

Unlike other games here, Dead Rising 4 manages to be both grim and silly, finding an unexpected balance between these two extremes. Part of that comes down to the location: a sprawling mall, where the things you find range from actual weapons to sports gear, to seemingly harmless stuff which you can turn into highly lethal contraptions which can only make sense in a Dead Rising game.

You’re playing the part of Frank West, a photojournalist who is once again dropped into a zombie-filled scenario with little beyond his attitude, jury rigging skills, and a handy camera he can use for selfies…but it’s mostly about jury-rigging. Virtually anything you find in abandoned shops can be turned into some manner of silly implement of destruction to help you mow down hordes of zombies.

Key features
  • Frank West comes back to kill more zombies
  • Anything can be(come) a weapon, so pick up everything
  • Many odd contraptions you can craft
  • Co-op multiplayer

ARK: Survival Evolved

Developer:Efecto Studios

Like many other survival games, ARK: Survival Evolved relies a lot on scavenging to get crafting resources you can’t get from hunting or raiding other players’ bases. The crafting list is massive, and resource requirements are no joke, especially for the later schematics, so you’ve got a lot of hunting-gathering to do. Just be careful because much of the ARK’s fauna are dinosaurs.

Well, dinosaurs and other prehistoric beast, as well as some proper science fiction weirdoes and even fantasy creatures, such as wyverns. To protect yourself, you can establish bases, which can be truly impressive and spectacular, and you eventually unlock more powerful defensive and offensive gear, starting with the most basic stick-and-stone weapons and working your way up to lasers.

Key features
  • Plenty of dinosaurs to hunt and/or tame
  • Lots of crafting blueprints to feed resources into
  • Several large expansions with new regions, beasts, and options
  • Non-intrusive storytelling

Fallout 4

Developer:Bethesda Game Studios

The entire Fallout setting is built on scavenged remains of the world before the nuclear war ruined everything for everyone. Scavenging is a fact of life, and nowhere does gameplay express it stronger than in Fallout 4, the second in the Bethesda-led part of the series. With FO4 going the whole hog on crafting, even more so that the previous Beth-Fallouts, gathering stuff is inevitable.

Not only can you craft and upgrade your usual gear, but there’s a whole system for founding settlements, which are just a perfect place to dump the vast tons of things you pick up during exploration. You can build houses, create elaborate contraptions, and everything else you need to not go looking for your child the way the story wants you to.

Key features
  • A large, open, post-apocalyptic world
  • Plenty of NPCs and factions to interact with
  • Lots of stuff to pick up and use in crafting
  • Several solid expansions

This War of Mine

Developer:11 bit studios

This War of Mine is substantially different from every other game on the list. For one, it’s neither a fantasy nor a science fiction game: it takes place on our Earth, just in a fictional country. It tells the story of a group of people trying to survive in a war-torn city, which means dealing with enemy soldiers, other people trying to stay alive, and indeed, scavenging, which is its own kind of harrowing experience.

You can only safely go scavenging in the night, when the soldiers are less likely to see you, and often gathering what you need to keep your people alive means taking away from others. This War of Mine presents a profoundly unglamorous, unheroic perspective on war, instead focusing on small, hard-hitting dramas. It definitely isn’t a game to be played lightly.

Key features
  • A survival/strategy game
  • Muted, grim aesthetic
  • Moral choices with no good solutions, only the degrees of “bad”
  • From the dev studio who later made Frostpunk


Developer:GSC Game World

Inspired by the classics of Russian science fiction, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series puts you in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which in this setting has experienced the second nuclear disaster. This resulted in a number of bizarre, extremely dangerous anomalies. But there are also rare artifacts which can be retrieved and sold for a hefty prince, which is the business model of the eponymous Stalkers.

While we don’t exactly play as them, instead taking the roles of mercenaries and such, we do get to share in the lifestyle, so to speak. The STALKER games are deeply immersive, open world games with an unmistakable atmosphere and solid gameplay. There’s been three instalments already, and the fourth is scheduled for December 2022, so there’s a lot to play.

Key features
  • Travel to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone virtually and don’t worry about radiation!
  • Inspired by classic Russian science fiction stories
  • Immersive environments, cool, memorable NPCs
  • A sequel in the works

Neo Scavenger

Developer:Blue Bottle Games

It would be weird to have a list about games featuring scavenging themes and mechanics and NOT include NEO Scavenger, a game that’s so committed to the idea that named itself after it. It also happens to be quite unique, in that it’s a turn-based game played on a hex map of the world. Each move drains your character’s meters, so you must plan wisely in order to survive and achieve your goal.

There is a detailed equipment system, plenty of statuses you must watch out for, and many encounters which you clear by making the right choice instead of clicking faster than your enemies. In a way, NEO Scavenger might appeal to the same crowd that Project Zomboid does, although the latter is more action-oriented. If you’d like a more planning-heavy kind of survival game, try NEO Scavenger.

Key features
  • Turn-based survival game
  • Very detailed
  • Low system requirements
  • Nothing to grind: there’s exploration, reacting to events, and trying to stay alive

The Long Dark

Developer:Hinterland Studio Inc.

The Long Dark doesn’t feature any fantastical elements other than its inciting incident: a geomagnetic storm which messed up all kinds of stuff and plunged the frigid Canadian wilderness into complete blackout. You’re put in the shoes of a survivor of a plane crash who now has to figure out a way to survive, be it by hunting or scavenging. Anything might be helpful, and the cold is merciless.

The Long Dark comes in two segments. One is a straightforward survival mode with permadeath, just you vs. the wilderness. The other is an episodic story which leans closer to an adventure game, but it doesn’t lose all the survival pieces, it’s just more interesting in telling the story than in killing you. The Long Dark is a very interesting, and it will test your keen scavenger eye.

Key features
  • A survival game set in the frigid Canadian wilderness
  • An episodic story mode
  • Skillful scavenging is key to staying alive in the Survival mode
  • There’s permadeath in Survival, so play cautiously

Don’t Starve

Developer:Klei Entertainment

The first thing you notice about Don’t Starve (or it’s standalone multiplayer version: Don’t Starve Together), is its unique 2D art style inspired by the visual style of Tim Burton, Don’t Starve puts your chosen playable character in a weird land full of odd beasts and murderous darkness. Hardly a place where survival is easy, but you have to live long enough to figure out a way home.

Like other survival games, Don’t Starve is keen on turning you into hunter-scavenger. Given the dangerous creatures sharing the world with you, scavenging tends to put less stress on your character’s body and mind. Of course, there’s also a decent amount of crafting to be done, from basic tools and defenses to more complex contraptions.

Key features
  • A 2D survival game with an art style inspired by Tim Burton’s iconic aesthetic
  • Several playable characters, some coming with special abilities
  • Procedurally generated world
  • It’s single-player, but there’s a multiplayer version too

Ooh, shiny

This concludes our list of games which let you dig through the refuse of civilization and nature seeking something to prolong your existence in unwelcoming circumstances. From post-apocalyptic to weirdly magical, there’s quite a variety of stuff you might start putting in your inventory quite soon.