Best Games About Sailing


Both in video games and in real life, maritime travel has always been more exciting than merely walking, driving, or galloping to one’s destination. One usually has to pay more attention to the sea, it’s a fickle mistress as the old sailors say. Video games whose core gameplay revolves around sailing have thankfully captured this personification.

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The high seas tend to be more exciting as open worlds compared to landmasses which mostly just let their players be. Hence, a lot of games have made the oceans their playground, and the best among them provide a deeper understanding of sailing as the game’s main activity. Players ought to get their sea legs ready because these games will float their boat.


8 Sid Meier’s Pirates!

  • Release year:
  • Platforms:
    iOS, PlayStation Portable, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox 360, Xbox, Windows Phone, SteamOS, Classic Mac OS, Wii

It’s nearly 20 years old at this point, but Sid Meier’s Pirates! still has its dedicated fan base. One can even say that it was ahead of its time since it was one of the most ambitious pirate RPGs of the 2000s. Players assume the role of a dashing young lad whose family was enslaved so he was forced into piracy to rescue them, or not and just be a scum of the high seas.

The sailing is quite barebones (as is expected in a 2004 game) but it played a big role in how the players progressed and it’s also the majority of what they’ll be doing. Players need to take into account wind direction and other factors because if they sail too long aimlessly, their character’s life will go by without much progress; time is also a gameplay mechanic here since the protagonist will age. Sadly, not many other games incorporate that kind of unique mechanic anymore.

7 Sailwind

sailwind gameplay
  • Release year:
    2021 (early access)
  • Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows

For a more updated sailing game, here’s a promising title from 2021 that is still in development to this day. Sailwind is a simulation where players get to control a small ship as they sail around an impressive simulated and picturesque rendition of the ocean.

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The game also has survival elements; players will need to feed their characters with fish and take logistics into account. It’s not as swashbuckling as those pirate adventure games, like the upcoming Skull and Bones, but there’s a certain therapeutic appeal to Sailwind and similar games.

6 Maelstrom (2019)

maelstrom gameplay
  • Release year:
  • Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows

Most of the time, naval battles are sluggish and tense deathmatches of luck, but Maelstrom begs to differ. It’s a fantasy warship action game so it has plenty of excuses to disobey the typical ship physics with which players are used. Sailing is thus a bigger part of the combat since it’s more fast-paced and not just about who packed in the bigger guns and the fiercer crew.

Ship customization is also a huge part of the experience here, and something that will motivate players into progressing further. Of course, let’s not discount the game’s charming and vibrant fantasy graphics. Players get to choose between Orc, Dwarf, Human, or Undead warships as their faction or theme of choice.

5 Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Edward Kenway in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
  • Release year:
  • Platforms:
    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Wii U, Google Stadia

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is easily among the fan-favorites in the rather saturated Ubisoft franchise and it’s easy to see why. It’s really just a pirate game under the pretense of assassins and creeds. True, players are sometimes forced to go back to assassinating and creeding, but the majority of the map is water and there’s a sharp focus on ship customization.

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It’s also a single-player experience where players can sometimes just focus on the sailing and piracy part by putting off the assassin questline. More importantly, Black Flag became an interest check for a bigger property like Skull and Bones, though sadly, the ship seems to have sailed already for that one.

4 Windward

windward gameplay image
  • Release year:
  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac operating systems

Windward is perfect for players who want a simpler sailing perspective that offers a wider view. It’s a top-down naval simulator game where players control their ship and guide them through the procedurally-generated game world. That quality of the game world alone makes it infinitely replayable.

To give players more incentive to explore, their ships were made more modular and could be upgraded and customized to better take on larger leviathans. Players can even re-shape the terrain to their liking by bombarding plots of land and their reputation also plays a part in the game world.

3 Raft

Raft Grills
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  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Mac operating systems, Linux

Raft is first and foremost, a survival game except its schtick is that it takes place on the sea where players commandeer a rickety raft. They must then turn their raft into a floating fortress by collecting resources from nearby islands and landmasses.

Related: Best Underwater Games, Ranked

Maintaining the raft isn’t a walk in the park or a swim in the pool, of course. Sharks here are hungry and smart and they will nibble at the raft from time to time in a water-locked vendetta. Since it’s a survival game, players will also have more fun if they bring their friends to help with the workload (or the suffering).

2 Sea of Thieves

Emissary Ships Sea of Thieves
  • Release year:
  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Cloud Gaming

Sea of Thieves currently has the throne when it comes to games about sailing; it’s a hilarious and light-hearted multiplayer experience about piracy and naval combat. Since it takes place mostly in the ocean (with a few island respites), the game is famed for its most graphically gorgeous simulations of water.

Players can even just sit back and admire the turquoise treat and briny blue while their comrades scatter on the deck from enemy gunfire (though that’s not a recommended mode of play). In any case, Sea of Thieves will have players busy running after booty while singing their own Caribbean shanties; it’s a more immersive voyage compared to other games.

1 Sunless Sea

sunless sea
  • Release year:
  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One

Speaking of immersion, here’s a survival/RPG sailing game with a generous splash of Lovecraftian horror. Sunless Sea is one of the most unique sailing games right now; it lets players loose into the unknown, exploring, looting, and scraping by in a meaningless existence while they try to stay sane amid all the nightmares of the deep and the dark.

If things turn desperate, then no worries; some crewmates are more than willing to sacrifice a literal arm or leg to keep everyone else fed. Probably. Most likely. They signed up for it anyway. Sure enough, it’s not as relaxing as most sailing games, but the story and atmosphere will surely make any Lovecraftian horror fan mad with excitement, or just mad in general.

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