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Home / Features / 10 best post-apocalyptic games ever

10 best post-apocalyptic games ever

Amazon’s fantastic new Fallout series has got us in the mood for battling wasteland raiders and exploring shattered societies. These are the games that did it best.

Death Stranding

Whether it’s fighting a robotic uprising, scrounging for supplies while evading zombie hordes, or simply trying to survive the classic nuclear annihilation scenario, there’s something oddly compelling about the end of the world. Anarchy, chaos, and the breakdown of law and order don’t sound like much fun in reality. But put a controller in our hands, and the post-apocalypse can make for some of the best gaming experiences going.

We chalk that up to the freedom you’re given to explore these often giant open-world sandboxes. These usually either paint a hopeful vision of the future – or a bleak prediction of humanity’s downfall. If civilization has only just crumbled, or Mother Nature has reclaimed the land over centuries, there are usually plenty of ruins and abandoned buildings to loot through and outfit your character with the tools needed to survive.

Few genres offer as much gameplay variety. Stealth, combat, RPG character-building and hardcore survival modes all provide something for everyone once the bombs have dropped and you’ve worked up the courage to leave your bunker. It’s not all guns, gore and mutants, either; the end of the world can be peaceful too. Sometimes. From tightly-scripted adventures to freeform first person shooters where you’re let loose to roam the wasteland, here are our picks for the best post-apocalyptic games out there. 

10. Death Stranding (2019)

Essentially Kevin Costner’s The Postman, in game form, as told by Metal Gear Solid auteur Hideo Kojima. Except it’s Norman Reedus in the starring role. But instead of delivering old letters, you’re lugging increasingly ludicrous amounts of cargo across an America desolated by invisible otherworldly creatures known as BTs.

This is the post-apocalypse taken at a walking pace. The barren landscapes are hauntingly beautiful, the action set-pieces spectacular, and the plot that’s practically indecipherable.

9. Stray (2022)

A short but sweet atmospheric explorathon told through the eyes of a cat. Stray largely avoids the genre’s usual combat and looting tropes in favour of puzzles and platforming. The walled city you’re stuck in is devoid of both human life and natural light, but is crammed full of incidental detail and mood-setting scenery. The robots that now run the place are also surprisingly endearing – except for the sentry drones that shoot on sight. 

There are a few stealth sections and even one point you get to turn the tables on the zurks (a sort of distant cousin to Half-Life’s headcrabs) with your AI companion’s upgraded flashlight. But honestly, any game where you can demand scritches from a robot janitor deserves at least one playthrough.

8. Mad Max (2015)

Far from the cheap film tie-in many wrote it off as at launch, Avalanche Studios’ spin on the Mad Max formula is equal parts vehicular combat, wasteland exploration, and fists-and-feet brawling. This open world rivals the likes of GTA 5 for scale, although it’s mostly made up of barren deserts and rocky canyons.

You’re not slogging across empty plains on foot, though. Max’s V8 muscle car, the Magnum Opus, speeds up traversal – and gives you weaponry to take out any nasties along the way. Once you’ve dug up a few upgrades, it becomes a formidable weapon against the series’ signature War Boys.

7. The Division (2016)

Ubisoft’s prescient depiction of a viral outbreak end-of-the-world scenario sees the snowy streets of New York littered with abandoned cars and body bags, as survivors loot what’s left and peacekeepers try to restore order. A tense player-vs-player extraction game mode and live service content drops made this a treat for anyone who wants their apocalypse a little more grounded in reality. The Washington DC-set sequel has tighter gameplay, but can’t match the original’s atmosphere.

6. Gears of War (2006)

Gritty. Gory. Glorious. This OTT cover shooter sold Xbox 360s by the truckload. And who could forget the arresting TV advert soundtracked by Gary Jules’ melancholy cover of Mad World? Players are thrown into an apocalypse that’s still very much ongoing, with the Locust Horde emerging from underground to decimate the human population. Only four armour-clad slabs of beef armed with now-iconic Lancer assault rifles (complete with chainsaw bayonets) can stop them.

5. Telltale’s The Walking Dead (2012)

This episodic tearjerker of an adventure game sees storytelling and character development take priority over puzzle solving.

The present-day zombie apocalypse plays out as it does on the TV show, only the cast of characters is all-new, and are quick to tug on the heartstrings. You’re often given seconds to make moral choices that will have lasting, often lethal consequences. One for players who prefer to be gripped by the plot, rather than the gameplay.

4. Metro 2033 (2010)

Living in the tunnels of the Moscow Metro sounds pretty bleak at the best of times. ut two decades after a global nuclear holocaust, it’s down-right detestable. Warring factions vie for control, and supernatural anomalies make surface visits deadly.

Developer 4A Games’ worldbuilding is just as impactful as the combat, with NPC background dialogue during the quieter moments cluing in players who stick around to listen. The two sequels take you topside, and are equally as moody.

3. Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

We couldn’t make this list without one Fallout entry. Arguably the series highlight since it made the jump from isometric RPG to 3D first-person adventure, New Vegas gives players unparalleled choice for character building and freedom to play your way.

There are several factions to side with (or antagonise), companions to meet, and multiple endings, on top of the usual looting and shooting. The Nevada wasteland is looking a little tired in 2024 – here’s hoping it gets the remake treatment sometime soon.

2. Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017)

Epic in scale and visually stunning, Horizon sets you loose in a world where someone pressed the reset button, all but wiping out humanity and letting animal-esque machines roam the land.

There’s something so unsettling about crocodiles and sabretooth tigers made from oil and steel instead of flesh and bone. That’s especially true when you’ve got to take one down with little more than a bow and arrow. The expansive and varied world map is ripe for exploration, as you uncover long-forgotten technology to stop the robots from taking over permanently.

1. The Last of Us (2013)

Naughty Dog’s masterpiece blends teeth-chatteringly tense gameplay with gut-punching narrative choices that’ll stick with you long after the credits have rolled. The tightly-paced linear narrative stands out in a genre filled with open-world adventures; each new location is staggeringly detailed and the worldbuilding is second to none.

A parasitic fungus that turns the infected into increasingly angry zombie-like creatures might sound terrifying, but it’s often the remaining human population that causes the most pain and suffering. It’s bleak and beautiful in equal measure.

Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming

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