Ever since its release, Lo-Fi Games’ Kenshi was praised for never-before-seen sandbox mechanics. Most games in the RPG genre tend to mask linear storytelling and gameplay with open-world mechanics and some degree of customizability.

Kenshi allows the player to create their experience as they see fit, unrestricted by typical role-playing game mechanics like overpowered hero characters or linear quests and missions. Kenshi offers unparalleled gameplay freedom, but it’s hardly the first game to try giving the player plenty of slack in terms of playstyle.

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Release date:2016-02-25
Developer:Wube Software

One of the critical features of Kenshi is base management. In the game, the player can create their own fortress and upgraded it with new buildings and facilities. Kenshi shares that feature with Factorio – an RTS that’s all about constructing and managing the player’s base.

In Factorio, the player’s task is to build a factory and expand it by gathering resources and materials to construct more advanced machines. The game can be played indefinitely, but the victory condition is to launch a rocket into space. The game features elements of survival, as the player faces against the dangerous creatures inhabiting the areas around the factory. Equipping it with a strong defense system is crucial to fending off attacks. Factorio features a multiplayer mode, which can be played both competitively and in co-op. Factorio was met with positive reception from the critics and was also well received by the players.

Key features
  • Expansive RTS focusing on base management
  • Build and expand your factory by gathering resources and automating the production processes
  • Defend your base from dangerous fauna, don’t let it hinder your progress


Release date:2018-04-24
Developer:11 bit studios

Another title that, similarly to Kenshi, features management of the player’s settlement, with a dash of survival thrown in for good measure, is Frostpunk. Unlike previously mentioned Factorio, this one has an actual plot. After the eruptions of volcanoes Krakatoa and Mount Tambora, the sun was dimmed, bringing about another ice age. To counter the deadly effects of cold weather, the British developed a system of heat generators, around which cities were built.

As the leader of one such city, the player’s job is to acquire resources to expand their settlement and provide its citizens with so desperately needed warmth. Gameplay-wise, Frostpunk is very similar to Factorio: the player starts building their city from scratch, gathering resources to expand. What makes Frostpunk stand out are expanded city management options, such as introducing laws and policies, increasing support by either good leadership or force, etc. The fate of the city depends on the player’s decisions, so each one should be well thought through. Frostpunk was met with critical acclaim and was nominated to several awards, winning Strategy of the Year 2018 at Australian Game Awards.

Key features
  • A survival-strategy game set in an ice age-like environment
  • Build your city and provide its citizen with safety and warmth
  • Rule with compassion or through fear in expansive city management system


Release date:2016-07-15
Developer:Ludeon Studios

RimWorld offers bridges the gap between Factorio’s lack of narrative and Frostpunk’s story-story driven gameplay. RW features a system of randomly generated events. Through A.I. storytellers, the player can experience different types of scenarios, varying in difficulty. The events that occur in the game can be good, neutral, or bad, and the choice of storyteller determines the frequency of the bad ones.

RW features mechanics similar to Frostpunk. The player must tend to their colony settlement as well as the needs of its inhabitants. Keeping the spirits high and bellies full is essential in keeping the morale of the colonists. Developing the colony requires gathering resources and using them to erect new structures. Technological developments can be made to facilitate better operation an improved living conditions in the colony. The game also features a combat system in which players must protect their territory from attacks by developing strong defenses. RimWorld’s reviews were generally positive. Especially the game’s challenging mechanics were compared favorably to other titles in the genre.

Key features
  • Settle an unknown world
  • Expand your colony and tend to its inhabitants needs
  • A.I. storytellers determine the randomized events in the game

Mount & Blade: Warband

Release date:2010-03-31

In Kenshi, there are no limits on who the player can be. There are no intricate storylines, no heroes or classes – everything depends on the player’s actions in the game. Mount & Blade: Warband offers similar freedom of choosing the protagonist’s destiny. While not determined by in-game actions, the introduction to the game allows the player to decide on the background of their character, which slightly influences their standing in the in-game society – a lowly peasant will be perceived differently than an heir to a noble title.

The gameplay of M & B: Warband focuses on forging alliances with local rulers and gaining their trust through feats in combat. The game emphasizes a realistic approach to Medieval lifestyle – aside from wars, there are other activities the player might enjoy, such as tourneys, feasts organized by kings, etc. In time the player will be given a fief as a token of their liege’s trust. That provides an additional aspect of managing a small settlement by providing it with resources and defending from bandits. Reviews for Warband were mostly positive: critics praised the length and replayability of the game.

Key features
  • Become a knight and offer your services to kings
  • Hone your combat prowess in battle and social skills in the game’s many side activities
  • Win the kings’ favor and enjoy the spoils of wars you’ve helped win

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Release date:2019-06-11
Developer:Warhorse Studios

Like Kenshi and Warband, Kingdom Come: Deliverance emphasizes player’s choice in forging their path in the game. In KC: D, the player develops their character, a young boy named Henry, investing in various skills and traits. Depending on which skills the player decides to emphasize, the character will behave differently. The player can also develop combat acuity with specific weapons. With such a robust skill customization system, the only limit is the player’s imagination. Nothing stops them from creating a well-read scholar, a master swordsman with a penchant for herbalism, or a brutal barbarian swinging his ax at everyone.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance plays similarly to Warband, with a caveat that in this game, there is a plot the player can choose to follow. Other than that, the same sandbox features apply. Dare we say that Deliverance takes the whole medieval schtick a little bit more seriously, with the number of factors that influence the gameplay – the character’s needs, layered clothing that determines protection, physics-based weapons behavior, and much more. KC:D received positive reviews from the critics and won several awards, including the Player’s Wards’ RPG of the year 2018.

Key features
  • An open-world Medieval adventure
  • Explore the Kingdom of Bohemia at the time of great turmoil
  • Develop the protagonist Henry to your desire, equipping him with skills and traits he’ll need to make it in the world

Ark: Survival Evolved

Release date:2015-06-02
Genre:MMO, survival
Developer:Studio Wildcard

Kenshi might’ve pushed the envelope when it comes to the game’s with general premise of starting from scratch in an unknown world. But it was Ark: Survival Evolved that capitalized on the trend of putting the player in remote locations with little resources, forcing them to survive in the wild. Also, it has dinosaurs, which is always a plus.

The core gameplay mechanics of A: SE involve survival. At the beginning of the game, the player has little to no resources and has to work with what they have to create tools to build shelter, hunt for food, and protect themselves. And boy, do they need protection. Everything, from starvation, dehydration, and sunstrokes, to dangerous dinos roaming the island, is out for the player’s life. Luckily, the prehistoric reptiles provide an excellent source of materials and food, and taming them can help significantly with exploration and combat. Nothing makes a better statement than riding into battle on a T-Rex. Reviews of Ark: Survival Evolved were generally positive, with critics praising the detailed survival gameplay and exciting setting of the game.

Key features
  • Survive on an island full of dangerous reptiles
  • Explore the locations for resources to build shelter
  • Protect yourself from the elements and create tools to bend the nature to your will

The Forest

Release date:2018-04-30
Developer:Endnight Games Ltd

Compare to an island inhabited by dinosaurs in Ark: Survival Evolved, the setting of The Forest is pretty bland. That is until the cannibals appear. Then you realize that despite its humble presentation, Endnight Games’ survival title has a lot to offer. Gameplay mechanics? Very similar to the ones in Ark, and equally as punitive.

The player has to make tools to build shelter, find resources, fend off aggressors, and remember to eat something before they pass out from exhaustion. here is a plot about a plane crashing in the mysterious forest, and the only survivors are a man and his son. When the child is kidnapped, the father pursues the abductors, discovering a cannibalistic cult and mysterious creatures living in the underground tunnels. Not the best storyline, but does its job of keeping the player engaged and giving them a sense of purpose other than making another wooden shed. The Forest was met with generally solid reception from the critics.

Key features
  • Explore the mysterious forest and find your son
  • Make tools and build shelter to survive in hostile environment
  • Manage your needs, such as thirst and hunger, before you pass out from exhaustion

Conan: Exiles

Release date:2017-01-30

Based on the Conan the Barbarian franchises, Exiles puts the player in an uneasy situation of being stranded in a harsh and hostile environment and having to fend for themselves to survive…yet again. What C: E does that the previous mention on our list didn’t, is that it gives the player larger freedom of creating their experience without taking away the sense of purpose.

The player begins by creating their in-game avatar, choosing from various physical features and races, including Conan’s kin, the Cimmerians. From that point forward, the game opens its gates to the player, pushing them face-first into the dangerous world of Exiled Lands. Like in Ark, The Forest, and other survival games, the player must keep an eye on the character’s needs, build survival tools, fight enemies, etc. The game doesn’t feature class system – similarly to Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the player, invests experience points into specific skills and attributes. Conan: Exiles was released to solid reviews from the critics, who noted the expanded character customization and survival mechanics.

Key features
  • Robust customization options
  • Expansive survival mechanics
  • ”Create-your-own-experience” style of gameplay


Release date:2018-02-08
Developer:Facepunch Studios

While pretty much the same in terms of mechanics as the previous few mentions on our list, Rust goes into a slightly different direction by emphasizing multiplayer over single-player experience. Other similarities to Kenshi can be found pretty much in every aspect of the gameplay, from starting with little to no resources to lack of character classes. The game emphasizes the player’s resourcefulness, clever use of crafting, and occasional drops as well as cooperation.


As a strictly multiplayer game, Rust encourages the players to team up into clans. Said clans can build bases for themselves to store crafted items and resources. The players organized in a clan can partake in raids against other factions, which provides an additional source of materials. The game also has a sort of free market, where players can exchange goods. Looking for trouble there is discouraged by auto-turrets that will vaporize anyone who draws a weapon. Rust received solid reviews from the critics.

Key features
  • A multiplayer survival game set in an open-world sandbox environment
  • Gather resources and craft items to survive in the battle royale against other players
  • Play solo or form a clan to achieve greater goals


Release date:2013-12-16
Developer:Bohemia Interactive Studio

Last but not the least, an Arma 3 mod that the fans liked so much it was made into an actual video game. In DayZ, the player is thrown into the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Their task is to survive against the undead hordes as well as other players. The player can try and make it out there alone or team up into a group with other survivors. The mechanics of the game emphasize survival with all that entails, including staying healthy and well-fed.

What makes DayZ a game similar to Kenshi? Perhaps it’s the fact that the game doesn’t restrain the player in any shape or form. They can go anywhere and do anything. With no defined goal to accomplish, the player can enjoy playing the game the way they choose to. While the game isn’t a single-player title, it can be played solo without feeling like the player is missing something. DayZ is a true definition of a sandbox game – a bunch of features thrown together for the player to enjoy. Like it’s mod version, DayZ was met with a generally positive reception from the critics.

Key features
  • Open-world sandbox gameplay
  • Mechanics that emphasize crafting and survival
  • Enjoyable both as a solo and multiplayer experience

There’s no denying that Kenshi went far and ahead, offering a truly unique gameplay experience. But, as we have shown in our list, the mechanics of the game are far from revolutionary. Plenty of titles have used them before, to better or worse effect. Does it make Kenshi a bad or repetitive game? No. Kenshi works because it manages to blend all of these different gameplay features into a full-fledged experience.

Will Lo-Fi Games’ title set a new standard for RPG games? Time will tell. But for now, you can enjoy it as well as all the other games from our list that share similar gameplay mechanics.