Submerged cities, mysterious sea creatures, and vast uncharted territories – the ocean’s depths have long captured our imagination, both in literature and film. Yet, it’s in the world of video games where this fascination truly comes alive, offering players a chance to explore, interact, and immerse themselves in breathtaking underwater worlds. From serene explorations to heart-pounding adventures, these aquatic games have carved out a unique niche in the gaming world. So, prepare to take a deep breath as we plunge into the depths to uncover the 10 best underwater games of all time, guaranteed to make waves in your gaming collection.
10 Best Underwater Games of All Time
“Subnautica” is an open-world survival adventure game developed and published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment. The game was initially released in early access in 2014, with the full version launching in 2018. It’s available on multiple platforms including PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
The game is set in the 22nd century, where you play as an astronaut who crash-lands on an alien, oceanic planet known as Planet 4546B. Your primary objective is to survive by gathering resources, crafting equipment, and building shelters while also trying to make sense of the planet’s alien ecosystems and mysteries.
“Subnautica” has received widespread acclaim for its atmosphere, storytelling, and attention to detail in its underwater environments. It offers a unique blend of survival and exploration gameplay, with an emphasis on ecological storytelling.
The game “Bioshock” is set in the fictional underwater city of Rapture, a utopian project gone horribly wrong. Built in the 1940s by the enigmatic Andrew Ryan, Rapture was intended to be a haven for the world’s best and brightest, free from government intervention and societal constraints. However, the discovery of a substance called “ADAM,” which grants superhuman abilities, leads to societal collapse, leaving the city in a state of chaos by the time the player arrives.
“BioShock” received widespread acclaim upon its release and is often cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. Critics and players alike praised its atmospheric setting, complex narrative, and innovative gameplay mechanics. The game has won numerous awards and spawned two direct sequels, “BioShock 2” and “BioShock Infinite,” the latter of which takes place in a different setting but shares thematic elements.
“Abzû” is an exploration-based adventure game developed by Giant Squid Studios and published by 505 Games. Released in 2016, the game is available on multiple platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. “Abzû” is renowned for its mesmerizing underwater visuals and emotionally charged narrative, which is presented without dialogue or text.
The game is set in a vibrant, mythical underwater world inspired by real-life oceanography as well as various myths and legends about the ocean. As the player, you control a diver exploring this enigmatic environment, encountering various forms of sea life and submerged ruins.
Crafted by Frictional Games, “Soma” plunges players into the haunting depths of PATHOS-II, an underwater research facility where machines eerily mimic human behavior. The game cleverly interlaces the existential horror of being confined underwater with immediate threats that keep players perpetually on edge. While not always set in the open ocean, the game maximizes its aquatic backdrop through carefully paced indoor and outdoor sequences, making each trek across the ocean floor feel incredibly significant and tense.
What sets “Soma” apart, however, is its deeply philosophical narrative. As players control Simon Jarrett, they explore not just the labyrinthine corridors of PATHOS-II but also complex themes surrounding human consciousness and identity. The story gradually unfurls the dark secrets of the facility, the fate of the surface world, and Simon’s own unsettling place in this new reality. This blend of atmospheric horror and poignant storytelling transforms “Soma” into an unforgettable experience that resonates long after the credits roll.
Subnautica: Below Zero
“Subnautica: Below Zero” is a standalone expansion to the original “Subnautica” game. Released in 2021, this survival adventure game takes players to a new, ice-covered region of Planet 4546B, adding an additional layer of environmental hazards like freezing temperatures to the already challenging underwater exploration.
The game expertly builds on the underwater exploration mechanics of the original “Subnautica,” while introducing new biomes, creatures, and technologies. As Robin, players will have to manage both underwater and above-ground survival elements, juggling between temperature regulation and oxygen levels as they explore the frigid environment.
Multiplayer first-person shooter game “Depth” developed and published by Digital Confectioners. Released in 2014, the game is available on PC and offers an intense, asymmetrical multiplayer experience that pits divers against sharks in underwater environments. In “Depth,” players can choose to play as a diver, tasked with collecting treasure and completing objectives, or as a shark, whose primary goal is to hunt and eliminate the divers.
The gameplay mechanics differ depending on the role you choose. As a diver, the focus is on teamwork, exploration, and resource gathering, all while managing your oxygen supply and evading shark attacks. Equipped with various weapons and tools, divers must navigate the underwater environment, often with limited visibility, to complete objectives and survive.
“Maneater” is an action RPG developed by Tripwire Interactive, released in 2020 for multiple platforms including PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and later on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. The game allows players to assume the role of a bull shark, offering a predator’s perspective on underwater life. From a small pup to a full-grown behemoth, your shark embarks on a vengeful quest against a shark hunter who killed its mother, all while navigating various aquatic ecosystems and facing both marine and human threats.
The gameplay in “Maneater” is a mix of exploration, combat, and RPG-style progression. Players can freely roam underwater environments ranging from swampy bayous to open ocean, encountering a variety of sea creatures as well as human threats like fishermen and boaters. Combat is fast-paced and visceral, allowing the shark to employ a range of attacks and abilities.
Dave The Diver
In “Dave the Diver,” players are plunged into a delightful hybrid world that marries restaurant management with adventure RPG elements. As Dave, a deep-sea diver and sushi restaurant owner, you don the scuba gear to explore the mysterious Blue Hole. Your quest for exotic fish to serve in your restaurant intertwines with treasure hunting and encounters with aquatic foes in ancient ruins. This dual gameplay setup serves up a satisfying balance between the excitement of underwater exploration and the day-to-day challenges of running a restaurant.
Visually, the game artfully blends pixel art with 3D landscapes to create an aesthetic that complements its whimsical yet adventurous spirit. Far from a nerve-wracking survival game, “Dave the Diver” weaves humor and coziness into its narrative, blurring the lines between the everyday and the fantastical in an engaging way. It’s a unique gaming experience that successfully marries two disparate genres into a harmonious and entertaining whole.
Sea of Thieves
“Sea of Thieves” is a multiplayer action-adventure game developed by Rare and published by Xbox Game Studios. Released in 2018, it’s available on Xbox consoles and Windows PC. The game provides a shared world for players to become pirates, setting sail on the open seas alone or with a crew. While not exclusively an underwater game, “Sea of Thieves” features a significant amount of maritime and underwater gameplay, including treasure hunting, shipwrecks exploration, and sea battles against both AI enemies and other players.
Players can engage in various piratical activities like treasure hunting, fishing, and combating mythical sea creatures like the Kraken. The game is open-ended, allowing for a great deal of player freedom. The maritime world is dynamically generated, offering a variety of islands and underwater locations to explore. Ship customization and player progression are also key elements, giving players a sense of growth and achievement as they become more notorious pirates. Since its release, “Sea of Thieves” has received numerous updates and expansions, adding new content and gameplay mechanics, such as haunted seas, merchant missions, and mythical storylines.
Debuting in 2007, “Aquaria” stands as a seminal underwater gaming experience that has stood the test of time. Players navigate the enigmatic depths as Naija, a character in search of her purpose and history in the expansive underwater realm from which the game takes its name. The game’s non-linear design lets players unearth the remnants of forgotten civilizations in a sequence largely of their choosing, enriching the tapestry of its meticulously crafted world.
Uniquely, “Aquaria” incorporates music and vocals not just as ambiance but as a gameplay mechanic. This enhances the game’s atmosphere, harmonizing perfectly with its aquatic landscape. The auditory experience, coupled with the isolation of underwater exploration, serves to make Naija an incredibly relatable protagonist. This masterful integration of storytelling, exploration, and music cements “Aquaria” as a poignant and enduring adventure set against the backdrop of an oceanic wonderland.
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