What is DayZ?
DayZ is a game that belongs to a genre that has become much more popular since its initial release. Developed by Bohemia Interactive (who brought us the incredible ARMA series), DayZ is a multiplayer, open-world survival/horror game. Think of it as kind of like Minecraft, but for a more mature player. In DayZ, players run around a post-apocalyptic world and do what it takes to survive. This means crafting, killing, hiding, looting, and a few other verbs. As I alluded to before, although DayZ was pretty unique when it first came out, several games have come out since that hope to replicate DayZ’s initial success.
When I came up with this list, I took a look at the features of DayZ that I felt were most successful, and I looked for games that were just as strong in those same areas. I also looked at a couple of DayZ’s weaker points, and found games that made improvements. I think the key to the original game’s success was their fun multiplayer experience, thrilling gameplay, and game world. I considered those aspects when I wrote this list up. Let’s take a look at top five games that are similar to DayZ.
I’m going to be frank, and say what you’re probably thinking. This game looks really bad. Because it does. If you’re someone who really cares about graphics in your video games, I’m telling you right now that you probably won’t like Unturned. However, if you like games like Minecraft, you might enjoy this one. Unturned basically takes all of the more Minecraft-y aspects of DayZ, like its crafting and building mechanics, and expands on them even further.
Unturned, although it may look like a game for children, is surprisingly difficult. The game controls well, and everything feels relatively well balanced, it’s just not a game that you can run into without a course of action. It involves a lot more strategy than I initially anticipated, which means that if you aren’t prepared, you’re going to die over and over and over again. It also helps to play with friends. Unturned is a free game, and that when paired with its simple/popular premise means that it has a pretty large user base. There’s never really any shortage of populated servers, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding people to play with. Even more impressively, Unturned already has a few dedicated player communities. This is pretty cool when you consider how small and new this game is.
Unturned is a game that’s being actively developed by Nelson Sexton, who was eighteen years old at the time of the game being introduced to Steam Greenlight. So, it’s pretty cool that a game with such humble beginnings has grown into something so popular. It definitely isn’t pretty to look at, and being an early access game it is optimized horribly, but if you can get over that, you’ll find that Unturned is actually a pretty fun game.
4. The Forest
Like Unturned, The Forest is an early-access game. However, you’ll probably be happy to know that it is a little more polished. The Forest is a game where you play as a man who is trapped on a mysterious island, which is also inhabited by a race of cannibalistic monsters. To survive you must scavenge materials on the island and craft them to create weapons, traps, and structures. In my opinion, this game is much more of a horror game than DayZ is. Although being killed by zombies in DayZ may be frustrating, being captured by cannibals in The Forest is horrifying.
However, The Forest is lacking in a few other areas. To begin with, their crafting system is substantially less robust than the crafting systems that you’ll find in most survival/horror games. If you play this game you’ll find that the majority of your time is spent cutting down trees. I get that the game is literally called ‘The Forest’, but I think that the developers could be a little more creative and put out some items that don’t require wood to be crafted. This more shallow crafting system results in a more muted multiplayer community. When you join a server in The Forest, odds are, the people in that server are building a fort. Odds are, they’ll want you to cut down trees to help build that fort. It can be kind of relaxing in a way, sitting at your computer and cutting virtual trees all day, but I don’t think that’s a good thing.
Also like Unturned, The Forest is kind of buggy. You’ll encounter all sorts of weird glitches and bugs in this game, but I don’t think that you have to worry about this game being abandoned. The developers of this game are very serious about ensuring that the game continues to grow, and new content is added regularly. You can play for a bit one day and revisit the game a few months down the road and it will feel completely different. Although the game bogs itself down with its own setting and narrative, this is definitely a game to keep your eye on.
Rust is actually the original game like DayZ, if we’re being honest. Rust began as a straight-up DayZ clone, but has since found a niche outside of its inspiration. The most glaring difference between the two games would be that Rust isn’t really a survival horror game. There aren’t any zombies in Rust anymore. Maybe the developers realized how crowded the survival/horror genre was, and decided to duck out. Either way, Rust has become more of a plain survival game. You gather resources, you craft, you build, and you fight wild animals like wolves and bears. There aren’t any zombies involved, so if that’s a must-have for you, you’re out of luck here.
Although the lack of zombies may be a deal-breaker for some, I personally think that they make the game feel much more real. Yeah, it’s fun to pretend that you’re in a zombie apocalypse and all, but I think there’s something especially great about a game that could reasonably play out in real life. Some critics argue that Rust’s simple premise means that there isn’t much replay value, and I can understand that argument. If your only goal is to survive, once you have it made, there’s nothing else to do. However, I think that once you get settled in is when the real fun starts. That’s when you can start forming clans, that’s when you can start encountering raiders, and so on. The game offers a lot of pseudo-roleplaying opportunities that I think greatly benefit from such a simple premise.
However, Rust isn’t really as easy as I’ve made it seem. In most games belonging to this genre, there definitely is a feeling of “grind enough and you’ll reach endgame” but I don’t really think that’s the case with Rust. You would have to play for a VERY long time to reach “endgame”, if only because the game makes it so difficult to survive. You’re constantly combating starvation, dehydration, and illness. Just when you think you’re in the clear, something random will occur that leads to your player being thrown for a loop. It’s challenging while still being simple, which I think is something that DayZ has made work for it.
2. Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark is another fairly popular open-world survival game, which has attracted a lot of attention for basically being DayZ but with dinosaurs. Yes, you read that right. A survival/horror game where your primary concern is dinosaurs. Ark is a blast to play with friends, and it probably looks the best out of every other game on this list. The leveling system keeps users motivated to continue playing, and well-balanced gameplay means losing doesn’t mean the end of the world.
However, every rose has its thorns, and it seems like every survival/horror game has a few issues. To begin with, interactions with dinosaurs are kind of anticlimactic. Knowing that this is an independent open-world multiplayer game, I’m not expecting God of War-tier QTE combat. (Although that would be really cool.) Combat with dinosaurs just feels dull, there was nothing unique to hunting the Dinosaurs. They could have replaced them with any other animal and it would have felt the same. This is majorly disappointing, considering that dinosaurs are the main draw to this game. Not to mention, this game can get tedious really quickly. There’s a lot of grind and repetition involved in the early stages of this game, which might be off-putting to some people. Plus, remember how I said this game looks good? Unfortunately, you’ll need a really powerful machine to be able to see all of that eye candy. This game is horribly optimized, meaning you’ll need a much stronger computer to run it than you should need.
However, I think that Ark deserves credit where credit is due. They have taken a very ambitious concept and they’ve done a great job executing it. The point of these games is for players to join their friends and have a bunch of weird and action-packed adventures, which is exactly what this game enables you to do. It doesn’t do anything in a particularly revolutionary way, but its gameplay is so approachable and addictive that it just sucks you right in. If you’re looking for a solid all-around DayZ-like experience, I can’t recommend this one enough.
1. 7 Days to Die
Finally, my personal favorite. On the surface, 7 Days to Die may look like nothing special, but I assure you it is. 7 Days to Die is a game with the same basic premise as DayZ. Survive zombies (and the other people on your server) by gathering resources, crafting, and building. Although it sounds like a bare-bones experience, the game is actually much deeper than you would think. Like Ark, 7 this game doesn’t really do anything that’s all that special. It just takes pretty much every aspect of DayZ and improves upon it, making it a more comprehensive feature.
Take crafting, for instance. Crafting in this game goes deeper than I’ve ever seen crafting in a game go before. Each item can dismantle into different items, which can be used in smelting, crafting of raw materials, or crafting of tools. Materials can be gained from a variety of sources, and some materials are more difficult to find than others. One of the most memorable games I’ve had in 7 Days to Die was when my entire server took 4 in-game days to find animal skin, which is required to create bellows, which are required to make a furnace. If you can say anything about 7 Days to Die, it would be that it is far from shallow. This level of complexity makes the game difficult, but never so difficult that success feels out of reach. Yeah, I may have died in this game because I didn’t have any bandages, but I was able to find dozens of bandages during my last game! It’s really a game that keeps on giving.
7 Days to Die obviously has some of its flaws, mostly dealing with stability and online play. However, I think that going into detail with regards to these issues would just date my writing, because the development team for this game is so ridiculously active. Some of the biggest gripes that I had with this core gameplay have been completely fixed during the time that I’ve owned this game, which is for around six months. From complete gameplay changes to minute graphical details, nothing goes unpatched by this game’s incredible dev team. I think that if it continues to grow at this rate, 7 Days to Die will easy overpass DayZ in terms of success as a survival/horror game.