This Mother Ocean day we’ve decided to celebrate the beauty and danger of the sea by putting together a list of the seven best seafaring adventures you can take today! All of the games on this list will have you traversing the ocean, discovering wondrous things and often just surviving. In media the Ocean is often used to represent mystery and how that can create an intersection between beauty and fear. Take, for instance, the classic Couleridge short ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, even in 1843 this combination of sheer beauty in the vastness and creatures of the deep and pure fear in the vastness and creatures of the deep. Even now this can be seen in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Life of Pi.
We’ve tried to collate a varied list of titles within the gaming space, created by talented individuals or small teams that have released these wonderful and memorable explorations of those wonderful things that cover 70% of our planet; Oceans.
Originally released into Early Access in 2018, Raft recently got a major update with ‘the renovation update’. For those unaware, Raft has you stranded alone on the sea, and you must gather debris and scavenge the reefs to build your own floating home on your voyage across the sea. Of course, it’s not all hunky-dory, and you have to keep a careful eye out for deadly man-eating sharks.
Raft is an open-world survival crafting game you can play with a group of friends, and it’s still being given major updates all the time as it treats its early access period. This is a fun time with friends that you can pick up on Steam now.
Perfectly encapsulating the intersection of danger and beauty that I mentioned earlier, Subnautica is one of those games where it feels like every time you play there’s something new to find, see and do. This is another Survival open world crafting game, but this time with no multiplayer element, as the feeling of self-reliance and solitude is important to this game. Instead, you can optionally play this game in VR, though I personally won’t risk meeting the leviathan in VR…
Again, you can find this game on Steam, and having released it’s sequel; ‘below zero’ last year, it’s a great time to grab the game, and maybe even the bundle.
Far: Changing Tides
One of the most recent releases on this list, having only come out a couple of months ago, Far: Changing Tides is described as ‘an atmospheric vehicle adventure that follows the emotional journey of a boy and his ship as he embarks on a voyage to find a new home.’ In this puzzle-platformer you must sail and upgrade your strange and futuristic ship, shifting the remains of the ruined world on the surface and scavenging the tools you need from below the water.
Far: Changing Tides is short but well worth the time, and is great for lovers of Inside and Braid. You can play the game on Xbox Game Pass or pick it up on Steam now.
Now, an important thing to remember about the ocean is that element of danger, of fear, and that’s what Barotrauma focuses on. Taking its name from what happens to the body when changes in pressure occur, Barotrauma is a 2D co-op submarine simulator – in space, with survival horror elements. Steer your submarine, give orders, fight monsters, fix leaks, operate machinery, man the guns and craft items, and stay alert: danger in Barotrauma doesn’t announce itself!
This game also features multiplayer, meaning that you can play with friends to help each other survive, or fail… but you’ll have to play the game yourself to learn more about that. This title is still in Early Access but nevertheless is well worth playing. Pick it up on Steam now to find out what horrors below the seas of Europa…
This award-winning atmospheric exploration masterpiece is one of the easiest recommendations on this list. Coming from the art director of the iconic title Journey, an official description reads; ‘ABZÛ is a beautiful underwater adventure that evokes the dream of diving. Immerse yourself in a vibrant hidden world bursting with colour and life as you descend into the heart of the ocean. But beware as you swim deeper as dangers lurk in the depths.’ ABZU is not the longest game, however every second of it is a beautiful, borderline spiritual experience as you experience, more than any other game on this list, the pure beauty of the ocean and all its flora and fauna.
Having had famously glowing reviews including crazy quotes like “When I die, I hope whatever happens next is even half as beautiful as ABZU.” (GameSpot) and “Closer to being a work of art than many games ever will be.” (Game Informer) This title is available on Steam right now.
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Spiritfarer is perhaps the most different entry on this list, you play as a ferrymaster to the deceased, and you have to build a boat to explore the world, care for your spirit friends and prepare them for the afterlife. This title features stunning art and animation, complete with some of the most compelling character design in recent years, where you live out a genuinely emotional story in this relaxing management game.
Perhaps one of the best indies of the last couple of years, You can play a demo of, and pick up Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition (which includes three major updates) on Steam and Game Pass as well as downloading the free demo if you’re not sure yet.
With such an eye-catching tagline as ‘LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW. DIE.’ Sunless Sea makes it clear what it is pretty quickly. You captain a steamship into the titular ocean on a journey of discovery. Set in the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London, Sunless Sea takes a lot of inspiration from the work of H.P. Lovecraft and other formative Cosmic Horror authors and artists.
You can pick up this title now on Steam, as well as its DLC and sky-based sequel.
Honourable Mention: Iron Lung
If I call it an honourable mention then it doesn’t count as breaking format, that’s just how it works; I don’t make the rules (I do).
This is an honourable mention for two reasons, not only is this a very new release, from early March, but it’s also very short, but oh-so worth it. Iron lung not only contains some real visceral horror, but surprisingly investing art and gameplay over its short runtime. It’s worth the small price and will almost definitely surprise you, you can pick it up on Steam.
And that’s it, This Mother Ocean day, there’s nothing better that you could be doing than thinking about our wonderful oceans, and doing everything you can to make sure they stay wonderful, and maybe these games will inspire you to do that.