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…
|Project Zomboid||2013-11-08||Indie||The Indie Stone||54%|
|Dead Rising 4||2017-03-14||Fighting||Capcom Game Studio Vancouver, Inc.||83%|
|Dead Rising 3 Apocalypse Edition||2014-09-05||Adventure||Capcom Game Studio Vancouver||76%|
|Dead Rising 2||2010-09-27||Horror||Capcom Vancouver||76%|
|Ark Survival Evolved||2015-06-02||Adventure||Efecto Studios||62%|
|Fallout 3 Game Of The Year Edition||2009-10-13||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios||70%|
|Fallout 2||1998-12-01||Adventure||Black Isle Studios||71%|
|Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition||2010-10-21||Adventure||Obsidian Entertainment||68%|
|Fallout 4 Game Of The Year Edition||2017-09-26||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios||83%|
|This War Of Mine||2014-11-14||Adventure||11 bit studios||89%|
|Stalker Bundle||2007-03-20||Adventure||GSC Game World||57%|
|Stalker Bundle||2010-02-11||RPG||GSC Game World|
|Stalker Shadow Of Chernobyl||2007-03-20||RPG||GSC Game World||77%|
|Stalker Call Of Pripyat||2010-02-11||Horror||GSC Game World||79%|
|Stalker Clear Sky||2008-09-15||Adventure||GSC Game World||72%|
|Neo Scavenger||2014-12-15||Indie||Blue Bottle Games||53%|
|The Long Dark||2017-08-01||Adventure||Hinterland Studio Inc.||46%|
|Dont Starve Together||2016-04-21||Economy||Klei Entertainment||76%|
|Dont Starve||2013-04-19||Adventure||Klei Entertainment||68%|
|The Forest||2014-05-30||Adventure||Endnight Games Ltd||40%|
|Subnautica||2018-01-23||Adventure||Unknown Worlds Entertainment||53%|
|7 Days To Die||2013-12-13||Adventure||The Fun Pimps||80%|
|Metro 2033 Redux||2014-08-27||Horror||4A GAMES||85%|
|Subnautica||2018-01-23||Adventure||Unknown Worlds Entertainment||53%|
|Astroneer||2016-12-15||Adventure||System Era Softworks||47%|
|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.
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.
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.
ARK: Survival Evolved
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.
|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.
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.
|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.
|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.
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.
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.
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.