Whether you’re ready to voyage on the high seas or you’re contemplating how best to virtually unload a volley of round shot into a warship, we’ve got you covered. We’ve collected the best pirate games like Sea of Thieves and the best historical naval games in one list.
Our selection covers arcade-like combat but also extends to the depths of tactical simulation. We’ve only included games which feature glorious oceans traversable by dependable sea-borne vessels, while we’ve also limited our list to those sea dogs that take a squeeze of historical inspiration with their lemon juice victuals.
Here is our list of the best historical maritime games you can play right now, arranged in no particular order. They include the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Sid Meier’s Pirates!, Windward, King of Seas, Blackwake and more.
1. Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag
For the first time in the Assassin’s Creed series, Black Flag introduced naval combat and open-world maritime adventure to the game, securing its status as a favourite among pirate games. The game follows the fictional pirate Edward Kenway in the 18th century Caribbean.
The success of the sailing led to a spin-off, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, and prompted the development of Skull & Bones, an open-world, multiplayer pirate game first announced in 2017. (The repeatedly delayed game has most recently been associated with allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at developer Ubisoft Singapore.)
2. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
The heart of Odyssey isn’t in its sailing, but what other game lets players traverse the Aegean in a trireme? Commanding the Adrestia as Spartan mercenary Kassandra (or Alexios) in the 5th century BC, Odyssey’s sparkling oceans connect a vast and monumentalised version of ancient Greece. Ramming enemy ships is satisfying, too.
3. Sid Meier’s Pirates!
First published in 1987 for the Commodore 64 and subsequently refreshed with improved visuals on a range of platforms, Sid Meier’s Pirates! simulates pirate life on the Spanish Main between the 16th and 18th centuries. It allows players to navigate the Caribbean, finding ports to acquire missions and participate in mini-games.
Released in 2015, Windward is a straightforward multiplayer trading game set in a procedurally generated world. Following in the tradition set by Sid Meier’s Pirates!, it’s also a highly effective co-operative game, tasking players with delivering consignments and defeating marauding pirates.
Simple, fun and for the most part relaxing, Windward is played from a top-down perspective using the arrow or WASD keys, and runs fine on low-spec PCs. The visuals, meanwhile, cleanly depict a virtual, imagined Caribbean during the Age of Sail.
5. King of Seas
King of Seas is not wholly unlike Windward, its most substantial difference appearing at first glance to be the adoption of Sea of Thieves’ aesthetic. There’s a mainline story and its world arguably has more fidelity than Windward’s, with more hills and atmospheric effects which influence gameplay. The result is a cruise of cartoonish pirate action.
Blackwake is essentially a more realistic version of Sea of Thieves, albeit more interested in blowing up enemy ships than family-friendly treasure hunts. For a modest price, Blackwake offers a tall ship simulation which thrives on teamwork among crews of 13 players. First released in 2017, you’ll find its seas a little quieter nowadays.
7. Naval Action
A professedly hardcore naval combat game, Naval Action is all about big, wooden sailing ships outfitted with loads of sails and armed with dozens of guns. It features over 50 detailed ship models and an intensive wind and physics simulation. Its reputation is mixed due to its time-gobbling grind and pricey expansion content.
8. Napoleon: Total War
The naval battles of Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War remain satisfying cinematic representations of naval combat in the 18th and early 19th centuries. These battles are simple and enjoyable, though still require a little attention to wind and tactics. On the campaign map, navies can also be used to blockade important ports and interrupt trade.
9. Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail
This tactical wargame is set in the American Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, its two campaigns buoyed by battles comparable with the Total War series. It features impressive ship customisation and a range of models to satisfy the nautically inclined.
It’s only natural that Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail would be compared with Total War. The Ultimate General series is developed by a formerly prolific Total War modder, his DarthMod releases for the series making essential additions.
10. World of Warships
World of Warships features over 400 ships from World War Two and the decades prior. Players can take part in battles between large fleets, commanding four different classes of vessel. Its impressive visuals and polished, rewarding combat have earned it praise, while the monetisation scheme behind its free-to-play model have soured some in the community.
UBOAT is for people who are after a simulation of the lives of sailors on a World War Two submarine. Still technically in Early Access, UBOAT lets players control a submarine by monitoring its various systems and making sure its crew are suitably keen to be ordered around. That means keeping them well slept and well fed.
There’s something about subs. Specifically German type VII U-boats. Wolfpack is a first-person, cooperative simulation game. A little like Blackwake up above, multiple players can take on roles including captain, helmsman, dive officer, radio man and navigator. It’s a game aspiring to realism, so expect to spend a good amount of time looking at control panels.
And… Sea of Thieves
Champion among open-world sailing games is Sea of Thieves, which hardly troubles to explain its rules or objectives before dropping you in the command of a sloop, brigantine or galleon. Thankfully, its quests and voyages are straightforward to pick up from handsomely dressed merchants and guild members in the game’s ever-growing open world.
Tropical islands crawling with skeletons, an ocean awash with creatures, and other crews looking for loot seed a sandbox experience best played cooperatively with friends or cheerful acquaintances encountered on the high seas. In 2021, a chapter drawing on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean was incorporated into the game.