When you think of underwater video games the first thing you think of has to be BioShock, and for good reason – the FPS thriller may be the best underwater video game of all time. A fantastical city at the bottom of the sea is the perfect setting for this story of a utopian society gone wrong.
You don’t interact a ton with your surrounding ocean environment, save for the odd burst pipe, but there’s no getting away from its oppressive atmosphere. Looking out through glass walls at the endless deep blue leaves you with the undeniable feeling that you can’t escape.
Subnautica lets you explore the alien ocean of a watery planet. Helpless and stranded after a crash landing, you have no choice but to investigate and utilize the bizarre world around you.
In this open world survival game, you must use the resources you find in the sea to help you craft tools and equipment to stay alive and further your research – for example, synthetic rubber in vines that you can use to make artificial fins. Record and categorize the many weird types of underwater wildlife, but don’t be surprised if some of them want to kill you.
While many of the games on this list are somewhat relaxing, SOMA replaces the calm of the deep blue with gripping fear. A survival horror set in a remote underwater research facility, SOMA is packed full of tense moments, along with some jumpscares.
The game is not unlike Dead Space in its brand of unnatural horror. As you make your way through the facility, you’ll unlock terminals and uncover secret documents that tell the story of what went wrong, all the while fighting against twisted creatures and the station’s corrupted AI.
Abzu is like an episode of Blue Planet in video game form. By the creators of Journey, the deep-sea diving simulator lets you swim through the breadth and depth of the ocean, from the shallows of the vibrant coral reefs to sea bed ruins.
The game offers an almost meditative experience, as even the sharks in Abzu cant be bothered to attack you and peacefully let you ride them. As you slowly drift through the ever-changing underwater landscape, your explorations are serenaded by a soothing instrumental soundtrack that might just have you drifting off.
Survival horror meets psychological thriller in Narcosis, a game that centers around paranoia and the slow erosion of sanity. You play as an industrial deep-sea diver stranded in the darkness of the sea floor. With no communications, you’re left with only one choice: walk.
Equipped with low light and limited air, you have to stay calm and use your head if you want to get out alive. Be prepared to see some truly terrifying sights, whether it be hallucinations brought on by low oxygen, or the very real creatures that live at the bottom of the ocean.
The oft-overlooked sequel to our first entry, BioShock 2 deserves a place on this list all its own. While some argue that the game has a weaker story, it also has some of the best gameplay of the series, in part because it utilizes its watery nature much more than its predecessor.
The game features several sections where you venture outside of Rapture. Walking along the ocean floor is a uniquely slow-paced, eerie experience, and when the city begins to flood has to be one of the most nerve-wracking moments in the game.
On a base level you could say that Insaniquarium is just a cartoonish aquarium simulator, but it’s so much weirder than that. The game starts off simple enough, with you feeding and caring for a handful of little guppies.
As you acquire more marine life, like a coin-collecting snail and piranhas that drop diamonds, you soon discover the appearance of aliens in your tank. These aliens want to eat your poor, delicious fish, and it’s down to you to defend them with your trusty laser gun(something every aquarium owner needs), aided by battle-ready swordfish and crabs to help you out.
2D metroidvania Aquaria still holds up as a great underwater adventure, in part thanks to its stunning visual design. You play as the mermaid-like heroine Ninja who explores the underwater world of Aquaria. In your travels you come across a truly massive array of sea life and learn about the history of your world.
Being a mermaid, one of Ninja’s talents is singing, allowing her to move objects with her voice and sing to plant life. You can even hitch a ride on the seahorses and turtles you find throughout the world, letting them ferry you from place to place.
Originally a simple flash game, Flow later ended up getting a beautiful graphical update when it came to the PS4 in 2013. The game is kind of like an underwater version of Flower, as you control a microscopic worm-like creature that floats through the ocean, consuming other microorganisms.
The more you eat, the bigger you’ll grow, but there are other elements to the game’s seven levels. Some planes include aggressive creatures similar to yours who’ll try to eat you, while others simply let you rise and sink through the increasingly blue water by eating specific colors.
Song of the Deep
By the makers of Ratchet and Clank, Song of the Deep is a metroivania-style adventure where the ocean is basically a child’s bedtime story. You play as a young girl called Merryn as you journey in a makeshift submarine to find your missing father.
A narrator tells the story from Merryn’s perspective as you travel through the sea, encountering colorful aquatic characters and obstacles alike. Sometimes your path will will be unreachable – or blocked by the odd inflated puffer fish – meaning you have to search for ways to upgrade your vessel to continue your quest.