Survival mode, or horde mode, is a game mode in a video game in which the player must continue playing for as long as possible without dying in an uninterrupted session while the game presents them with increasingly difficult waves of challenges.[1] A variant of the mode requires that the player last for a certain finite amount of time or number of waves, after which victory is achieved and the mode ends.[2] The mode is particularly common among tower defense games, where the player must improve the defenses of a specific location in order to repel enemy forces for as long as possible.[3] Survival mode has been compared to the gameplay of classic arcade games, where players face off against increasingly stronger waves of enemies.[4] This mode was intended to give the game a definite and sometimes sudden ending, so that other players could then play the arcade game as well.

Power Instinct added a Survival Mode, called 'Life Attack' to their Super Nintendo Port in November 1993. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior on the Game Boy introduced the mode in 1995, and both Tekken 2 and Street Fighter EX included the mode in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Killing Floor, originally a total conversion mod for the game Unreal Tournament 2004, first released in 2005, introduced the wave-based survival cooperative game mode.[5] Popular games that have a survival mode include zombie games such as those in the Left 4 Dead series,[6] games in the Call of Duty series following Call of Duty: World at War,[7] and the tower defense game Plants vs. Zombies.[8] Gears of War 2 introduced the term "horde mode" as an alternative name for survival mode,[1] and subsequently picked up by other games such as World War Z.[9] Additionally, many sandbox games, such as Minecraft, take advantage of this game mode by having players survive the night time from a variety of monsters, such as skeletons and zombies.[10] Another sandbox game, Rust, uses both non-player characters and other players as enemies, inviting player vs player combat in order to survive in the game's environment.[11]


  1. ^ a b Glasser, Aj (15 October 2008). "Gears of War 2 – Horde Mode Is The Way To Go". Kotaku. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  2. ^ Rodgers, Scott (2010). Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. John Wiley and Sons. p. 383.
  3. ^ Walker, John (5 May 2009). "The Plants Vs. Zombies Review". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  4. ^ Osborne, Joe (11 October 2011). "Empires & Allies Survival Mode: Everything you need to know". Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  5. ^ de Matos, Xav (22 March 2009). "Killing Floor mod gets standalone Steam release". engadget. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  6. ^ Kuchera, Ben (22 April 2009). "First impressions of Left 4 Dead's survival mode". Ars Technica. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  7. ^ McElroy, Griffin (25 October 2008). "Call of Duty: World at War co-op mode pits players against Nazi zombies". Joystiq. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  8. ^ Hatfield, Daemon (18 January 2011). "Plants vs. Zombies DS Review". IGN. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  9. ^ Wales, Matt (20 July 2020). "World War Z's latest update brings cross-play support to PlayStation 4". Eurogamer. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  10. ^ Miller-Watt, Josh. "Minecraft beginner's guide". GamesRadar. Future plc. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  11. ^ Caldwell, Brendan (28 March 2014). "To Hell With Other People: Nine Lives in Rust". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 27 September 2018.