Post-apocalyptic setting have been popular for decades and there’s no slowing down on that front. In games that usually means a TPP/FPP survival game, or a gritty RPG, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. In fact: the strategy genre has plenty of room to accommodate the aftermath of the apocalypse!
One of the finest examples of it is 11 Bit Studios’ game Frostpunk, set in an alternate version of the 19th century, suddenly consumed by an ice age because of a few volcanic eruptions. You’re in charge of a community gathered around a coal-powered heat generator. It might look like a safe place, but managing it takes a lot of effort and many difficult decisions. Some of them are expressed through gameplay decisions, others come through narrative vignettes forcing you between two options with no obvious “best” answer.
But Frostpunk isn’t the only game to put you in charge of a community faced with hard times, difficult decisions, and overwhelming odds. On the list below we take a look at a few games which have their own spin of the society survival, some in a manner similar to FP, others not, but one way or another, you should give them a chance.
|Surviving Mars||2018-03-15||Haemimont Games||87%|
|Endzone - A World Apart||2020-04-02||Gentlymad Studios||82%|
|Surviving the Aftermath||2020-10-22||Iceflake Studios||84%|
|This War of Mine||2014-11-14||11 bit studios||89%|
|Surviving the Abyss||2023-01-17||Rocket Flair Studios|
|They Are Billions||2017-12-12||Numantian Games|
|Oxygen Not Included||2017-05-18||Klei Entertainment||52%|
|Banished||2014-02-18||Shining Rock Software LLC||59%|
|Northgard Steam Key GLOBAL||2017-02-22||Shiro Games||74%|
Fallout Shelter is a colony survival sim about these fun cartoon you see in the PipBoy in any Fallout game.
Your job is to act as the Vault overseer, one of those people who managed VaultTec bunkers to sustain humanity in the even of a nuclear war. Well, it’s your time to shine. You get a mountain to manage, excavating room for facilities, and assigning jobs to hapless vault dwellers.
Much of the game revolves around maintaining crucial life support systems and quality of life facilities, by assigning people to job. It’s not smooth sailing from there, of course, deathclaws or bandits might attack, and in time you’ll have to start sending some people on expeditions, scavenging for resources, experience, and weapons.
Welcome to the first Earth colony on Mars.
Through careful planning and handy drones, the land has been prepared for exploitation, and habitats were prepped for… habitation by a full community of people who decided it’s in their interest to risk death on a hostile planet, far from any substantial terrestrial support. This is the reality of your duties when you start playing Surviving Mars.
You will direct robots to make the first life-supporting installations, and when the colonists arrive, you’ll have to make sure they are healthy, happy, and have something useful to do. To make things complicated, each colonist has a unique set of traits and quirks, so a bit of micromanagement might be needed. There are no moral dilemmas, but these people live and die by your choices anyway.
RimWorld is similar in some way to Surviving Mars.
The difference is that the planets tend to be more habitable…and somehow more hostile at the same time, and that RW is much more… chaotic, in the same way Dwarf Fortress is. However, you still do get a growing colony of weirdos and incompetents to manage directly and indirectly, which would be tall task on its own, and yet…
To make things more interesting, there also lots of random events hurled at you head by the AI Storyteller you chose. There are several options, ranging from chill to chaotic as hell, so you can pick your poison. The important thing to know about RimWorld is that there only ending you’ll ever going to get is losing the game, but RimWorld makes losing fun, just like its Dwarfy ancestor.
Surviving the Aftermath
The good news is that the apocalypse is over.
The bad news is that there was an apocalypse, and the world is wrecked. You’re running one of the many scattered colonies of survivors trying to eke out a stable living in these unfortunate conditions. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll also find a way to bring humanity back from the brink and civilization anew.
Surviving the Aftermath is quite close to the ideas of Frostpunk, although it still, somehow, manages to be less bleak. You’ll be recruiting specialists for extra-difficult jobs, expanding your base with a satisfying selection of buildings, and trying to forge relations with other communities. There will be many hard choices to make, and each of them will be impactful, so think twice.
The Tiqqun space station plods through the cosmos, in a hopeful search for a new place where humanity could settle.
Your job is to make sure what remains of our species can survive long enough to reach that new homeworld. That means taking care of infrastructure and life support systems, finding whoever is out there waiting for help, managing tensions and basic needs…
It takes a lot to run a space station, and Tiqqun is huge, complex, and needs to be self-sustaining if it’s ever going to reach the destination. You’ll control the research projects, handle emergent crises, send probes looking for resources, and make hard choices presented by the story. It’s not an easy or simple game, but if you liked Frostpunk, you should definitely check it out.
This War of Mine
|Developer:||11 bit studios|
This War of Mine put the creators of Frostpunk on the map. You are in charge of a group of civilians, occupying a shelter in a war-torn city.
The task is to provide the survivors with the means to endure the horror of war, maintaining their resources, as well as mental state. TWoM was deservedly praised for its realism and careful approach to the sensitive matter.
The gameplay is based around a steady cycle of night and day with their own separate themes. Night is for scouting around and, potentially, encountering other survivors, for good or ill. Meanwhile during the day you must stay inside and spend time crafting and healing, because there are snipers everywhere. The steady, stressful routine the game instills works very well with its theme.
They Are Billions
Humanity is pretty much all zombies now, with only a very tiny number of people staying safe and healthy behind the walls of a fortified encampment.
The problem is that there are billions of zombies, and they often come knocking on your walls. The only sensible thing to do is build better walls, add some artillery for good measure, and scavenge resources for even cooler tech.
They Are Billions is a strategy game that’s all about building a resilient fortress, keeping the people inside safe, and scouting a zombie-infested world to find what you need to stay afloat. Unfortunately, there are also special zombies which can put quite a dent in your defenses, unless you’re really good at your job. It’s a real-time strategy horde survival game. What a mix.
Oxygen Not Included
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Say what you will but waking up on an asteroid with little to no atmosphere is not what we consider a fun morning.
But this is how the characters of Oxygen Not Included start their adventure in space. Your task is to look after mildly incompetent Duplicants as they try to create a habitable colony in a procedurally generated asteroid.
Keeping the spacefarers alive will require keeping an eye on their oxygen and food supply, as well as the hygiene and moral. You’ll need to spend some time exploring the asteroid, but caution is advised, as many areas can be deadly. ONI has a whole physics system for handling gas and liquid simulation, and you’ll need to learn how to use this to your advantage.
|Developer:||Shining Rock Software LLC|
Taking a break from fantastical scenarios, let’s take at Banished, a much more down-to-earth simulation of outcasts trying to make a living in a new land.
Although it’s not explicitly set in any real period or location, it does take strong inspirations from medieval Europe in terms of architecture and general vibe. A growing collection of thatched roofs among verdant fields looks quite lovely.
As a proper city-building colony sim, Banished takes the happiness of people seriously, even as they are treated as a resource themselves. The economic system is based fully in bartering, and there is no research tree to pursue, your people know their stuff, you just need to make sure they have the resources to build what they need.
Take the bravest of your clan and dare to explore a new mysterious land – Northgard, where creatures of legends roam free, and winters are harsher than back home.
Establish a settlement, explore the land for new resources and mysteries, and get ready for beasts and monsters alike. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, if you’re cut out for it.
There are 6 clans in the base game (and more in DLCs), each coming with different aptitudes and tweaks to building and units, which means you should pick a clan based on the desired playstyle. Although, admittedly, it’s mostly a real-time strategy, the aspect of preparation for frigid winters should still be quite appealing to you, if you enjoyed the snowy Frostpunk.
Adapt, survive, live today for the better tomorrow
This concludes our short list of games similar to Frostpunk, even if the exact experience is most likely going to be different, with its own quirks and nuances. What you can always count on, however, are the overwhelming obligations to the community under your governance.
And if you’re absolutely dead-set on the moral (or, arguably: immoral) choices which put Frostpunk on the map, you can just wait a little bit (or 11 bits) for Frostpunk 2.