There’s something richly nostalgic about the idea of going on an open sea adventure. Unfortunately it’s not as easy to find work on a schooner or team up with a band of pirates heading to the Caribbean as it used to be. Luckily, there are plenty of video games that are perfect for letting you live out that sailing fantasy in a virtual world without coming down with a case of scurvy or getting lost in Davy Jones’ locker. We have a list of the can’t-miss titles that will have you on a boat, so here are the best boat and sea-themed video games.
The Best Boat and Sea-Themed Video Games for All Occasions
Sea of Thieves
If you’re looking for the ultimate pirate adventure with plenty of plundering, swashbuckling, and naval battles at your fingertips, Sea of Thieves is the perfect fit. While the original release left something to be desired, its revised season system offers far more to do. Players will be able to assemble a crew of their friends and go on quests ranging from discovering buried treasure to battling the Kraken. From a massive open ocean to explore that’s teeming with nautical secrets, to more narrative adventures called tall tales, Sea of Thieves is a must-play for those seeking the pirate’s life and beyond. Just be sure to take a moment to enjoy a hurdy gurdy jam session between all the pillaging.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
While one typically associates a Zelda adventure with high fantasy, Wind Waker on GameCube (and beyond) trades in horses and castles for sails and islands. In Wind Waker, players will journey with Link as he sails across the Great Sea, meeting a colorful cast of characters and uncovering temples to find the Triforce, save his sister, and defeat Ganondorf. And with 49 unique islands and plenty of puzzles on the high seas, including its own collection of krakens and a ghost ship, there will always be something on the blue horizon to discover.
Return of the Obra Dinn
While Return of the Obra Dinn isn’t so much an exploration of the high seas, this marine mystery has plenty of immersive ship elements that make it one of the best boat and sea-themed video games anyway. In Return of the Obra Dinn you play as an insurance inspector for the East India Company attempting to catalog what happened to the 60 poor souls on their journey aboard the Obra Dinn. Not only does the story follow an intense and horrifying high-seas tale, but it actually rewards knowledge of classic maritime fashion and law. Also, despite the more calm setting, it’s yet another entry on this list that sneaks in a kraken-like creature!
Like its title suggests, indie title Raft is a survival game that places up to eight players on a meager wooden raft. Armed with few resources, your team will work together to collect debris to build important life-saving equipment like water distillers and grills, all while a very hungry great white shark casually gnaws away at planks on your vessel. The premise only gets zanier when you get enough supplies to start building second floors and fancy bedrooms, turning your raft into more of a floating hotel, but it does give a great sense of progress that will make you happy to keep hanging out on the open sea.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
If you’re looking for a more realistic (in appearance, anyway) take on the pirate’s life, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag might be more your knots in speed. Many credit Black Flag as an important new chapter in the Assassin’s Creed series, and its naval battles are a major highlight if you’re looking to engage in some ship strategy. It also set the pace for later entries like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which brought back the ship mechanic, allowing series fans to take to the ocean once more.
Moonglow Bay is a sweet story of rekindling a love of the ocean while helping your seaside town gather their own sealegs. While a fair amount of your time will be spent in town cooking and chatting with townies, there are still plenty of ocean activities like fishing, bay exploration, and even assisting sea monsters as a sort of boss fight. Toss in the mellow oceanside acoustic OST from legendary game composer Lena Raine, and Moonglow Bay is the perfect chill way to get in touch with your nautical needs in a cozy game package. It is another of the best boat and sea-themed video games.
If you’re looking to go in the opposite direction of cozy, Subnautica is a pulse-pounding thalassophobia-fueled nightmare with many, many sea creatures that can kill you. While discovering new peaceful fish can be calm and building your aquatic base is quietly gratifying, this game will make you search underwater caves and murky wreckage sites where giant plesiosaur-like monstrosities called Leviathans are swimming in wait, ready to devour you and your submarine whole. Add in the fear of drowning, and Subnautica is the sea-themed game for marine biologists and horror fans alike.
There are plenty of other games that let you enjoy the open water. Whether you’re searching for a new island in the cute and colorful Summer in Mara, sailing in the most realistic virtual way in Sailing Simulator, or looking for something in-between, there’s no limit to finding an ocean to explore. But we have outlined some of the best sea-themed and boat exploration games here!