Top 20 Best Pirate Games with Great Adventures

Captain Robert Witterel of the "Obra Dinn" stares someone down in the darkness of his ship. The last place you want to be on a ship is on the wrong side of the captain. Remember: dead men tell no tales.

Avast me video gamers who have yet to find a compelling adventure game! So many games out there boast larger-than-life fantastical stories or incredible quests for fame in some kingdom. Not many hold the ideal adventures found in pirate fiction: swinging down the mast's sail, splitting a bottle of rum over the head of a pirate drunk, fragging a ship with so much cannon fodder it becomes a fish playground, etc. So, here are 20 pirate games that capture incredible adventures for young and old. As a warning, some games listed here are sequels and require some reading or context before playing. 


20) Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion - (PC/Switch/Xbox One/Nintendo 3DS/Stadia/Amazon Luna)

Starting the list is a video game based on a cartoon that withstands the test of time and pop culture. “Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion” was released in July 2018.  The game dives into the Land of Ooo as the entire continent is suddenly swept up in a massive flood, leaving Finn the Human and Jake the Dog in a tiny boat where their treehouse typically stands. The duo has to sail, find their friends, and interrogate legitimate bad guys to find the cause of the flood and bring peace back to Ooo.

While I usually avoid discussing licensed games, I’m willing to make exceptions if they have merit and heart. Luckily, this game packs both in its usual Adventure Time humor, 3D cartoon visuals, and story. Familiar characters can become allies in turn-based combat with RPG elements, meaning each team member gets a chance to shine and level up their skills. Sailing is the primary method of getting around Ooo, with every direction open and nowhere off limits. Steering and sailing are done through normal stick movement, and navigation is dictated by a compass rose panel at the top of the screen.

Areas can be visited, treasure can be obtained, and pirates roaming the seas of Ooo can be encountered swiftly. Once a pirate is defeated, the game enters an interrogation minigame, where the iconic duo takes turns talking down or up a bad guy, getting their information in any way possible. Once gained, the plot can progress. How it goes is all up to the player and how they choose to sail, what treasures they collect, and how they spend their adventure.


  • With a simple premise, strong sailing mechanics, and a massive world begging to be explored, the whole game is just a fun turn-your-brain-off experience from start to finish.

Finn, Jake, Marceline, and Princess Bubblegum sail from the Ice Kingdom to another area of Ooo. Adventure, ho!


19) Windward - (PC)

From cartoon adventures to real-life combat simulation, the next entry pulls no punches in how tactics are a prominent part of pirate participation. “Windward” was released by Tasharen Entertainment Inc. on May 12th, 2015, and remains a favorite among “Civilization” fans. The player is placed in a procedural world and allowed to play solo or with others. Once the mode is chosen, ships are set up, and the player becomes an explorer tasked with expanding their territory and resources while discovering the world around them.

After a while, pirates will come to lay waste to the established colonies, and the only solutions are to submit peacefully or stand up and fight them off. Every game decision stems from the player’s involvement, meaning the story is constantly being written, and the sails are always open to adventure. 

The game is essentially an interactive sandbox of towns, ports, and cities that can be captured by the player, with missions given at each stop. These missions range from cargo transport to land acquisition, and upon completion, the player is rewarded with treasure, resources, recruits for their ship, etc. Combat is boat-to-boat, complete with cannon fire, vessel boarding, and the ever-looming threat of sinking.

The longer the player retains their territories and riches, the more complex the game becomes, increasing pirate and foreign threats. Co-op play has multiple players on the same map gunning for the same territories, causing an extra increase in difficulty and enjoyment. Best to prepare strategies ahead of time before the stress starts to sink its teeth into you.


  • While the game does present some exciting mechanics involving pirate ship battles and the management of resources, it can become tedious. Quests can become repetitive, and only a little exists regarding a campaign. However, it becomes addicting to play as your drive to expand your resources and fleet becomes your sole goal.

Two pirate ships fire at each other as they circle to a captured point. Aim for the hull! It’ll sink better!


18) Abandon Ship - (PC/Linux/Mac OS)

Another entry, another game that acts as a naval combat simulation with pirate themes. But this time, we’ve got sea creatures! “Abandon Ship” is an action strategy indie game developed and published by Fireblade Software. The game dropped on October 22nd, 2019, and quickly became a hit. The story follows a captain on their journey through a fantastical world fraught with danger and beasts of mythic proportions. The player assumes direct control of the ship and the crew, exploring lands covered in various environmental hazards and beasts. Have each member work to fortify the ship from any danger, and see how your choices in-game steer the sails of the narrative. 

Unlike most games on this list, “Abandon Ship” is a title that has independent campaigns at the ready for the player to experience, with subject matter ranging from a Cthulu cult to fighting off giant spiders with pistols and sabers. The game utilizes a top-down perspective with a smooth, velvet animation reminiscent of oil paintings to create a unique and compelling visual experience for the players.

Combined with the ship-to-ship combat and fantasy setting - take that, fantasy gatekeepers - the game has an added mechanic that adds spice to every experience. Even if the main vessel sinks, the game can continue if the player can get to a lifeboat or a safe area. So long as the captain is alive, the game goes on. This means the player can test their endurance when faced with the hardships of pirates as they solve the seas’ mysteries, find missing figures, and hopefully steer clear of more enormous monsters that lay dormant under the ocean.


  • The game is an excellent fantasy with intense action scenes and compelling worldbuilding that ignites the imagination and keeps the player eager to not perish after one mission. If the difficulty could be ramped up with each story, then the game would reach a higher ranking for me.

The ship sails onward as the crew spies the tentacles of a strange sea beast rising from the waves. That would be so cool if it wouldn’t wreck that ship.


17) Blackwake - (PC) 

There’s always something cool about playing a game as a pirate on an actual ship. “Blackwake” takes the concept of pirate gameplay and creates something more authentic than other games. It was released on Steam in early access in February 2017 and released entirely in February 2020. The developers, Mastfire Studios Pty Ltd, sought to make a combative pirate-themed game revolving around teamwork and player cooperation and succeeded not only there but in creating an entertaining game with a massive player base. The player can choose to be a part of the Royal Navy or the Pirates, and from there, the game splits into three modes: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Booty, or Fortress Seige. Each game is packed with swashbuckling action, intense cannon fodder, and multiplayer capability. 

“Blackwake” is one of several games that focuses on multiplayer combat while the player remains in first-person perspective. It also bears many similarities to Rare’s game, “Sea of Thieves”: ship repair by players, PVP combat, separate game modes for solo and competitive play, ship customization, etc. However, this game differs in its emphasis on teamwork and individual responsibility of the players.

Communication between players is necessary, with each player needing to play some role on the ship. They are never assigned, giving the players a  chance to step up and assist in their ways. The leading player is then tasked as the captain to make the right calls and ensure the crew is listened to, heard, and understood as they tackle any obstacle. This game embodies the spirit of “part of the ship, part of the crew.”


  • It’s rare to see a game that values cooperation without faulting others for mistakes or berating them for failing to win. It’s also rare to see a game with a dedicated fanbase with developers that read their enfeeblement wanted changes. It’s refreshing to see and fun to play!
  • Customization can be done in the game for the avatars and the ships, with added game modes increasing the number of ships available in battle.

The player stands and watches as another player, and their pirate crew, invade their ship. Time to grab a saber and become Errol Flynn!


16) Blazing Sails - (PC)

You can tell how much of an impact a video game has when more games that tout the same genre-defining characteristics appear from the ether. In this case, it’s another game that saw the success of “Sea of Thieves” and wanted to create the same feeling for more gamers. “Blazing Sails” was released in November of 2020 from Get Up Games and Iceberg Interactive and remains in early access on Steam.

The game’s story is purposely left ambiguous for the player to become fully immersed as a pirate, with several ways to play at their disposal. The player can search for treasure, find unique weapons, frag ships, and achieve high ranks to become the best pirate possible for their teammates and themselves.

This is another game with many of the same mechanics and aspects as “Sea of Thieves,” but it does try to create something new with the same ingredients. Players can customize and create their avatars and ships, and participate in one of three game modes: Treasure Hunt, where the player and their crew can find treasure chests; Battle Royal, taking place on a ship and land, with the last ship standing winning; and Galleon Conquest, which is a giant game of “Capture the Flag” involving Spanish galleons and cannon fire.

Every game mode is fast-paced and relies on sudden reactions, so even the slightest mistake the player makes can cost their crew the win. While it sails the same path as before, it strives to create a new experience for more pirate players. 


  • In a market with games like “Salt” and “Sail Forth,” it’s hard for this title to stand on its own legs. The game modes and fast pace are welcome in a genre that is defined by slow-burn development, and respect is deserved for the developers who continue to keep the game afloat after so many years in early access.

The player selects their pirate’s look, outfit, and ship style before setting sail. You might want to go with something less royal purple. Keeps the pirates away a bit longer.


15) Flinthook - (PS4/PC/Linux/Xbox One/Switch)

Who doesn’t love a good swashbuckling adventure that involves a swing mechanic? “Flinthook” is a roguelike platformer game from Canadian developers Tribute Games. The game officially dropped on April 14th, 2017, received praise, then faded into obscurity. The player takes control of the mysterious masked Captain Flinthook, a small but capable being who is out to stop a treasure hunter who plans to unleash the worst evil the world, nay, the cosmos, has ever seen. Bounties will need to be collected, walls will need to be climbed, and death will need to be avoided to complete the mission and save everyone. 

This game is a pixel art roguelike that boasts a unique mechanic, making it a drop in the ocean of a genre that thrives on recreating titles like “Deadcells” and “Slay the Spire.” So one has to wonder what “Flinthook” offers to separate itself from other titles with the same characteristics. Every room in the game is autogenerated, loading immediately when the player reaches the door. Each comes with its assortment of items, enemies, and platforms, with no two rooms looking alike.

The floors are wholly unreachable and often covered in fire, meaning the titular hook is used not only for attacking enemies, but for platforming, and navigation. Care needs to be implemented, as even the slightest wrong hook throw or platform miss can cause the player to plummet to a fiery demise. 


  • The game is a fast-paced cavalcade of enemies and items, so quick thinking and excellent muscle memory are necessary. Death in the game means the player loses items and progress, starting the chapter over with new rooms and paths open. While it can get repetitive, it does keep the player on their toes.
  • Oh, the game is also a pirate adventure set in space. No one ever said a pirate adventure needed to not occur in space.

The player swings across a room packed with pirate ghosts, floating fireballs, and flaming piles of bones. Better learn to dodge!


14) One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 - (PC/Switch/Xbox One/PS4)

Pirate fiction is often disregarded in the fantasy genre due to modern expectations of how the two genres should interact. Fantasy is relegated to dragons, knights, and magical worlds, while pirate fiction involves pillaging, swordplay, and the occasional betrayal onboard a ship. Good thing anime is mainstream so that notion is being swept under the rug. “One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4” is the 4th entry in the long-running “Pirate Warriors” game franchise under the anime umbrella known as “One Piece.” The game was developed by Omega Force and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment on March 27th, 2020.

The game's story is difficult to discuss due to its ties with the manga but it can be simplified as an alternate take on the Wano arc, wherein the Straw Hat crew are captured by Big Mom and forced to escape and fight for their lives. It’s up to the player to help them escape the comically large fists of a pink-haired woman and avoid being spotted by Whitebeard, a new pirate with grudges to settle and shockwaves to lay.

As the name implies, the game takes inspiration from the “Dynasty Warriors” series, with each playable character having an enhanced mode they can access once their meters are full. Several enemies attack at once; attacks dispel them, and conditions for winning battles vary from defeating all enemies to beating the boss and their minions within time constraints. The player is given control of several characters from “One Piece,” each with their own special abilities and weapons, and tasked to go through the story and beat the challenges offered at each corner.

The game also sports four multiplayer modes: Giant Boss Battle, where four players beat a giant enemy; Total Bounty Battle, which has players rack up a massive bounty; Time Defense Battle, where four players defend a specific territory until time runs out; and Territory Battle, where three teams of four go after a territory. With so much content, insane anime action, and multiplayer possibility, players will want to keep fighting to declare themselves king of the pirates.


  • This game relies heavily on One Piece lore, characters, and stories, so if you have never cracked open a single manga of the series and are charging into this headlong and blind, you will be confused immediately. 
  • However, once the controls are mastered, the gameplay and combat become fun, and the visuals are feasts for the eyes.

Whitebeard unleashes a massive shockwave in the air thanks to his sword and Devil Fruit abilities. That’s all I know about the guy. Don’t ask for more.


13) Salt - (PC)

The simpler the game, the simpler the time. No game on this list is simpler than “Salt,” an exploration sailing simulator developed by Lavaboots Studios. The game dropped on February 6th, 2018, and earned praise and ire. The first goal of the game: build a raft and set sail. From there, the player can sail wherever and whatever they wish. Simple as that. They can fish, decorate ships lost at sea as new homes, find lost pirate treasure, or explore the world and all it offers. This is a time for the player to indulge in their freedom and be lulled by the sea as they write their own story on the sand.

There’s a reason I mentioned how responses to the game were ire-filled. There is a primary story mode with quests that can be completed, but those are about as optional as choosing to play with friends or going solo. The game is heavily built on its exploration and sailing mechanics, with much of the player’s time being spent on water instead of land.

There are no time limits or significant distractions, so the game's tone is relaxed. This can detract players from wanting to finish or drop the game entirely due to boredom. However, if the chance is taken, the procedurally generated world can send the player on a one-of-a-kind journey that will take them far and wide. 


  • I’m not a fan of crafting or survival games, especially when they’re compounded with other complex mechanics, like hunting or investigation, but it is rare to find a game where I can enjoy the construction of tools and methods of transport while genuinely relaxing in my chair. 
  • The graphics may be generic, but don’t let that deter you from the title. It can be as complex as you desire, and the survival mechanics make it as intense as most other games.

The player's makeshift raft arrives at another island, barren of people and animals. Is this how Tom Hanks felt?


12) Sail Forth - (PC/Switch/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S/Amazon Luna)

Adventures don’t always need to be decorated with 4K graphics, profanity, and blood to be exciting. Sometimes the simple approach can be just as fun, if not rewarding. “Sail Forth” is an indie exploration title from the creative minds of Festive Vector and The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. The publishers’ game output is diverse, imaginative, and surprising, with some of their more prominent titles comprising abstract puzzle platformers, top-down RPGs, and casual twin-stick shooters.

“Sail Forth” is their most recent game, having dropped on December 21st, 2022, and it’s a shame how little praise this game has received since then. The game introduces the player to a seemingly adorable world that relies on boat travel and a nameless main character who wants to answer the call to adventure. They’ll need to brave the waves, search shipwrecks, explore new lands, follow dolphins, and discover uncharted territory to find the best times and the dangerous secrets that lay dormant under the ocean blue.

The entire game is spent on the boat, with a heavy emphasis on communication between characters by yelling at them on the shores or talking to them from their ships. Speaking of the boat, the mechanics behind sailing are done realistically and go against the wind. The sail can be hoisted and opened for swift increases in the wind but can be taken down just as quickly to stop on a dime. Navigation is done from an actual compass on the screen, with sharp turns and rocks at every corner.

The player can amass several ships and send each off in their direction or keep them together to explore in a fleet. Maps are gathered everywhere the player travels, expanding the world and the places to be sailed. Where to do and what to do next is up to the player, bringing the freedom of choice for the player and their companions.


  • The game is adorable in both appearance and humor, with characters’ lines that are too funny not to laugh at. Even when the game is trying to be scary or serious, it retains that charm. Aside from that, there is steady exploration and communication, so there’s a consistently calm atmosphere.
  • The sailing controls can be difficult on the Nintendo Switch port, especially with the dread of JoyCon drift.

The player and their companion are near another small island and try to get the attention of the sole inhabitant. Hey, over to your right! Got a spare sail?


11) Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - (PC/Linux/PS4/Xbox One)

For a series like this to have a sequel, considering the developer’s past is a feat in itself. For it to involve pirates makes it even heartier. “Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire,” the sequel to Obsidian Entertainment’s previously crowdfunded game, was released in May 2018. The game picks up five years after the first “Pillars of Eternity,” with the god of light and rebirth, Eothas, reviving and consuming the souls around it and destroying Caed Nua. As a Watcher, the player has part of their soul sucked by the deity and is contracted by the god of death, Berath, to be their herald, discover Eothas’ plans, and destroy them. The Watcher must set sail on a massive journey with a crew to follow Eothas’s trail of destruction and stay alive long enough to ensure he stays dead.

The isometric RPG game remains the same as in the first, with class-based systems and turn-based combat at the forefront of the game. Strategies are planned with classes and abilities in mind, weapons given accordingly, buffs added, etc. Subclasses can be added to characters, adding a set of newer abilities and buffs to current characters that weren’t accessible prior. This means various builds can be created for strength, magical ability, speed, agility, etc.

Added bonuses can be given for specific builds, such as a 100% critical damage rate for flanked and bloodied players if they sport the Rogue class with the Streetfighter subclass. The myriad ways to balance and fight in the game allow for a new level of creativity and gamer investment.  Combine this with swashbuckling elements and ship battles, and the game becomes a top-tier example of story-driven pirate-themed games.


  • The game is high fantasy mixed with pirate fiction and fantastical elements. While isometric games can confuse me due to the perspective and the cluster of characters in one location, I can see the appeal of a game like this. 
  • The story is also compelling and adds to a world that was already so well built in the previous game. 

A man stands at the stern of a boat in "Pillars of Eternity II." He holds a torch, illuminating the name written on the back. I wish I could read that, honestly. And figure out why that fire is burning green. 


10) Cleo - A Pirate’s Tale - (PC)

From RPG games with multitudes of builds to the simple adventures of a young girl at sea, we come to another pirate adventure that varies in medium and tone from other games on the list. “Cleo - A Pirate’s Tale” is a point-and-click adventure inspired by similar adventure games of the 90s, specifically, the “Monkey Island” series from LucasArts. The game was created by Christoph Schultz and released on December 12th, 2021.

Cleo, the titular character, is a young girl living with her father in a bar, wishing for a purpose and a life of adventure. The plot gets rolling when Cleo finds a pirate’s logbook and sees a mysterious ghost who tells her something important about her life and future. She and the player are thrown headlong into a long journey filled with greed, with the ultimate goal being “the treasure of eternal memory.”

The game is a point-and-click, so the player's mouse dictates where Cleo will go and what she will do. Each command appears once scanning a person, item, or location is made readily available. The puzzles in the game require out-of-the-box thinking, and not every item will do what the player intends it to do. Some items are needed for specific quests, while others are only there to exist. The added mini-game, Krakken Fodder, is a dice and card game necessary for the plot's progression.

All these elements and more are present in the large overworld, from the pirate ships on the water to the bar where Cloe starts her journey. The player must muster every ounce of know-how and gaming skill to aid Cloe on her long journey and hopefully learn the most crucial part of a story. 


  • The humor in the game is curt and, when combined with the style of the game, creates a dynamic that does evoke old memories of LucasArts games. While it doesn’t quite reach that level, it carries its own charm and elegance that can’t be beaten in modern games.

Cloe awakens on a pirate ship, groggy but a little eager to start her journey. Just ignore the comment about it being too early.


9) Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag - (PC/Switch/PS3/PS4/Xbox One/Stadia/Xbox 360/WiiU)

Oh look, another franchise game, but this time it takes history and applies it to 3rd person combat playing styles and pirate history. “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” initially dropped on October 29th, 2013, and was given a plethora of DLC to go with it. The game occurs after the mixed conclusion of “Assassin’s Creed III,” with the late Desmond Miles’ blood still being used by the high-tech company Abstergo.

The player assumes control of an unnamed tester hired under pretenses by Abstergo to continue diving into Miles’ past, this time as a pirate named Edward Kenway. As Kenway, the player must explore the past and keep up their dual life as a pirate and merchant, while in the future, they must hack into Abstergo’s systems, discover their true intentions, and stop it before it's too late.

The game expands on the usual “Assassin’s Creed” gameplay by allowing the player to steer and run a pirate vessel, which can be upgraded through missions. Allies can be recruited for the ship, and loyalty with crew members can be rewarded with captain status. These crew members can be given ships for exploration, expanding the fleet and the resources that come with it. Enemies can still be sneak-killed, fought overtly, or skipped over entirely should the player decide not to engage. The player can also fish, hunt, and acquire additional resources through land and sea missions.

More areas are accessible, from Mayan temples to plantations, with real locations from the world being used as central plot points, and even then, most can be ignored should the player choose to. Listing anything else from this game would rob future players of the chance of engaging in this quintessential pirate tale that goes above and beyond to deliver a satisfying story and a fleshed-out game world.


  • You play as a pirate in the past, assassinate historical characters, steer ships on massive expeditions and missions, lay siege to ships, and stick it to a large corporation that had the nerve to use a dead man’s legacy for their gain. What else is there to love about a game like this?

Edward Kenway boards an enemy ship and goes straight for the crew and their cargo. Avast, mates! Grab the flintlock and fire!


8) Gothic II: Gold Edition - (PC)

This one may be a stretch, but this is another example of how fantasy can be combined with pirate fiction for an incredible experience. “Gothic II” was developed by Piranha Bytes but was published by three companies for worldwide releases. The story follows a nameless hero on the island of Khorinis who is informed of a new evil army being led by dragons. They are sent to retrieve the Eye of Innos, an ancient artifact said to allow the user to speak to dragons. Armed with this, the hero begins a long journey from shore to shore, talking with magical beings, making friends and foes, and potentially stopping another war on the island. 

The game is similar to “Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire,” showing the audience a realistic and fantastic world with gameplay mechanics that rely on both strategy and intense thought. Over 100 missions exist in the game’s campaign, each more difficult than the last and varying in execution and plot deployment. Pirates can be interacted with throughout the game, with most of them lying on the beach of the isle. Some will offer quests; some will offer booze, and others will offer a blade.

While no sailing is done, the player can still indulge in their pirate fantasy on land. There is a fair amount of freedom to choose which quests to undertake and how to go about them, meaning the player can craft their pirate persona onto the nameless hero. Weapons can be gained, quests can be taken, and the isle will come to know who the salty dog of a hero is, despite their feet never leaving the shore.


  • While the efforts for an overall complex and interesting overworld are genuine, most of the game comes across as clunky. But the increase in player freedom allows it to be more fun and challenging. 
  • The plot stays the same no matter where the player goes, bringing to mind how the joy of most things can be found in the journey. 

The nameless hero meets a pirate known as Skip on the shore in his little hideaway in "Gothic II.". Nice place you got here, man. Minimalism is in.


7) LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game - (PC/PS3/PSP/Xbox 360/Wii/Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS/Mac OS)

I know I said I had to limit myself with franchises when they have heart and merit, so hear me out on this one. “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game” was developed by Traveller’s Tales and Disney Interactive Studios, releasing in May of 2011 after an initial announcement the year prior. The game's plot is ripped from the feature film, with Elizabeth Swann being captured by the crew of the cursed Black Pearl, leaving the unlikely duo of Jack Sparrow and Will Turner to save her. The player must control both men and other characters to save Elizabeth, break the curse, and take on the head pirate Davy Jones himself.

And now for my main talking point: it's Legos but in video game form. Everyone’s played with Legos in real life, usually as a kid, so having the chance to play with them in a video game setting is enough to get the nostalgia senses going. Characters in the game are at least aware of their morphed bodies and knobby hands, the gold bricks are actual Lego bricks, and the swords are plastic. The entire game is a sandbox for the imagination of an adult who wants to play pretend with Legos again. Combat is RPG-based, with characters from the movies available for control, each possessing a unique ability or trait, i.e., Davy Jones being able to breathe underwater.

The game has a central hub, The Port, where the player advances through the story and unlocks characters. The Port grows with progress in the story, introducing more elements to the hub world and the expanded story that comes with the game. Every mechanic and niche of the game makes it enjoyable, showing the game is a love letter to not only the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise but to Lego fans.


  • This game is fun for the whole family. The story is rewritten with younger audiences in mind, and tongue-in-cheek comedy is sprinkled in for all ages to laugh at.

A pirate brandishes a sword at the player before fighting an enemy pirate. Wait, what in Mother of Pearl are those things?!


6) Sea of Thieves - (Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S/PC)

Never expected to talk about a Rare game that was made after the mid-2000s. But hey, first time for everything. “Sea of Thieves” was the brainchild of Rare and given publishing reality through Microsoft Studios as a first-party title for the Xbox Game Pass. It dropped in March of 2018 to mixed reviews but was given proper attention and developed content throughout its 6-year lifespan. This improved both the gamer’s experience and the game itself.

The game's story is bare-bones, allowing players to immerse themselves entirely in a world dominated by pirates, sea creatures, and scurvy. Once the player chooses their avatar, they are dropped onto a ship with a few other players, and tasked with nothing but playing as the best pirate version of themselves.

This is the quintessential pirate game; no set goals, freedom to pillage, fight other pirate crews, gain treasure, sail along the open waters, etc. Some players can maintain their vessel as they sail by patching holes in the hull with wood scraps and scooping water out in buckets. Other crews can lay waste on ships using bombs and items found in exploration. Crews can forge alliances and earn gold through the three prominent trading companies in-game, creating economic streams and allowing the players to customize and upgrade their vessels.

Narrative missions are also available, which add more lore to the world and provide single-player content for those pirates who choose to go solo. Every game experience is unique, and no two adventures can ever be the same. Players can craft their adventures and draw their sails out for a real pirate adventure tailor-made for themselves.


  • Despite needing an internet connection, this game is a grand time, and every hour spent on these seas is one spent learning naval tactics, ensuring a steady trade, exploring islands for bananas and coconuts, or pillaging ships for resources and fun. This is a game that oozes creative freedom and is best experienced with friends.

The player steers their ship ahead on a northern course, careful of crashing waves and bouncing momentum. I think I’m gonna be seasick.


5) Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse - (Switch/PC/Amazon Fire/Luna)

Oh, I am excited to talk about this one. And no, not for the reasons one would think. “Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse,” the follow-up sequel to “Shantae: Risky’s Revenge,” was released by WayForward Technologies, Rising Star Games, and Oizumi Amuzio Inc. for the Nintendo 3DS in November of 2018. The game picks up where the last story left off, with Shantae living happily as a human after her genie source was destroyed. Soon her peaceful life is shattered as she finds her hometown is now under the control of Ammo Baron and is confronted by her rival Risky Boots, who is forced to join her on an extended journey to prevent the revival of a long-dead evil pirate, save her town, and retrieve her lost magic.

This is a 2D pixel platformer that never once loses its charm or appeal. Every world is brightly colored and designed to evoke nostalgia for older SEGA and SNES games, with sprite work that feels like it came straight from a Genesis console. Shantae lacks her genie powers from previous games, but she makes do with various items, i.e., a pistol with close and long-range capability, a hat that allows her to glide, etc. She also possesses a dash mechanic and - I am not making this up - hair combat that can be upgraded as the game goes on.

World navigation is done by sailing on Risky Boots’ ship to islands, some containing Dens of Evil, where a new pirate item awaits to be retrieved. Defeat the boss inside, gain the item, and a new map of another island will be obtained. Only by finding every pirate item can Shantae and Risky defeat their newfound adversaries, so long as their rivalry doesn’t destroy each other first.


  • This game is similar to older Zelda and RPG games, with the regular item collect-a-thons and a myriad of weapons to choose from for combat and puzzles. It takes the tried and true formula and reworks it into a fun game for all ages!

Shantae hurries offscreen after collecting another rare gemstone on the island. Reminds me of a familiar blue blur, but cuter.


4) Sid Meier’s Pirates! - (PC/iOS/PSP/Xbox 360/Wii/Mac OS)

This is another first for me because this game is older than it appears, but withstands the test of time as well as a doubloon in a treasure chest. “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” was developed by Firaxis Games and published by Atari Interactive, Feral Interactive, and 2K Games. The original game was a 1987 Commodore 64 title, which was remade and released in November of 2004.

Like many titles on the list, the plot is minimal to allow maximum player enjoyment. The player is a new pirate in the Caribbean, determined to make their riches any way they see fit. The sky is the limit, nothing is off limits, and the world is an oyster ready to be pried open.

If the name Sid Meier is familiar to the player, it’s due to his involvement in the critically acclaimed “Civilization” series, where combat is turn-based, history can be rewritten, and thousands of hours of gameplay can be spent forging and breaking alliances for the better of one land. “Sid Meier’s Pirates” takes heavy inspiration from the prior series, right down to the top-down graphics, ship captures, and land acquisition.

Where the game varies is how it includes a myriad of minigames for the player to experience, i.e. a 1-vs-1 sword fighting game, a ballroom rhythm dancing game where the goal is to court the daughter of a noble figure, etc. Each of these adds to the gameplay and gives the player a proper amount of immersion instead of acting as a passive bystander to a world of their design. This is another incredible game where players can choose what to do and where to raise their sails while learning more about history, and themselves.


  • This surprisingly fun game introduces historical figures and naval strategies and wraps them into an easily digestible and playable experience. Even people who don’t enjoy history will grow to love this game!
  • The minigames also cover ship-to-ship combat, with loading and firing cannons also set as a mini-game. You can be a part of the same processes used to take down enemies.

The player is asked to side with the French, Spanish, Dutch, or English for ships and employment. I’d choose the Dutch. And not just for the tulips.


3) Return of the Obra Dinn - (PC/Switch/Xbox One)

Everyone is a sucker for a good mystery. Put it on the high seas in the 19th century and involve pirates and cursed cargo, and you have a mouth-watering adventure for both mystery and horror fans. “Return of the Obra Dinn” is a sepia-toned naval mystery from the brilliant mind of Lucas Pope, who also developed the hit indie game “Papers, Please.” The game was released for PC on October 18, 2018.

The titular Obra Dinn supposedly went missing in 1802 after it was sent to deliver its cargo and crew around The Cape of Good Hope but reappeared on another shore in 1808 with the crew missing or dead. The East India Company, baffled by the turn of events, sends an investigator - the player - to uncover what happened to their crew and cargo. The player must uncover this mystery with any tools, be it natural or super. However, some mysteries are best left buried in the sea.

A mystery in an enclosed space has been done to death in media, but “Return of the Obra Dinnn spices up the formula with one of the most unique mechanics I’ve seen. Before embarking on the vessel, the player is given a pocket watch called the Memento Mortem, which reveals the last few seconds of an individual’s life. Using this tool, a comprehensive list of the 60 crew members, and a detailed map, the player can sort through any information to find the victim's identity, how they died, and who was around when it happened.

The mystery and plot move forward only when someone’s details are discovered. The game also has no set time limit. This gives the player the freedom to conduct their investigation one piece at a time and see the inside of this seafaring catbox mystery. 


  • The game allows the player to go at their own pace, deciphering the largest logic puzzle in gaming history and keeping track of the proper flow of time without talking down to the audience or holding their hand. This is a game that exudes pure mystery!

The Inspector uses the Memento Mortem on the body of a mechanic to find his cause of death. Wonder if the butler did it.


2) Wavetale - (PC/Switch/Xbox One/PS4/PS5)

You have to give it to indie developers who always come up with unique ideas that transcend the usual genres but reach the familiar keyholes of fiction. “Wavetale” is a wave-riding indie game that dropped on December 12th, 2022, from Thunderful Development and Publishing, but it has yet to make a real splash.

The player is introduced to Sigrid, a young girl who lives with her grandmother in the archipelago of Strandville. When an old nemesis resurfaces, Sigrid must work with her workaholic grandmother and a new shadow friend, who allows her to walk on water. The player must assist Sigrid in her journey to take down the waterlogged enemies around her, save the remaining citizens of Strandville, and stop the work of someone too close for comfort.

The entire game is spent riding waves and grappling from roofs, all in the name of moving forward. Speed is critical for many game mechanics, especially with wave-riding being a massive part of travel and interaction with items. If your speed is slow, you cannot go. Melee combat involves  Sigrid’s net, and spin attacks are prevalent for stunning enemies and dissipating the darkness at each turn.

Every character has something unique to say, and each offers an interesting piece of advice or worldbuilding for the player and Sigrid. Playing the game shows the damage of the darkness of the world and the damage of running from the darkness for too long.


  • The game’s mechanics are fun and balanced when on a keyboard, and while some quests can become tedious, i.e., fetch quests, it all adds to the world Sigrid lives in and introduces some interesting lore.
  • The themes the game touches on in the dialogue are thrown off by the game’s speed, so tonal dissonance is very prominent. However, the heart shines through and does try to resonate with the player.

Sigrid talks with her grandmother while getting rid of another shadow. Dang it, granny, there’s always a time to listen to ska!


1) The Secret of Monkey Island - (PC/PS3/Xbox 360/Atari/DOS/Sega CD/iOS)

The last game on the list is nothing short of a legend, something that helped to inspire multitudes of games like it and keep the pirate spirit alive and well decades later. “The Secret of Monkey Island” is a point-and-click adventure game from LucasFilms Games that was released back in October of 1990. This game was the first in a series of six games, ranging in engines, development teams, and publishers, but never losing the same comedic charm of the original.

The player is introduced to Guybrush Threepwood - yes that is his name - as he arrives on Melee Island, seeking to be a pirate. After going about three trials of endurance, agility, and strength, Guybrush hears a local legend about an old pirate named LeChuck and his ill-fated expedition to Monkey Island. He decides to set sail to Monkey Island as well but gets involved with not only a ghost but a curse that threatens to unravel his already burgeoning career as a pirate.

This game is a point-and-click 2D adventure game told from a 3rd person's perspective, and like in “Cloe - A Pirate’s Tale,” the mouse and the player dictate Guybrush’s movements and actions. Characters will always have something interesting to say with an ever-evolving dialog tree, items will have purposes and allow you to look at them or pick them up, and there will always be an option somewhere to eat an inedible item.

Animated cutscenes are scattered through the game, and always appear when the player least expects them to. They are brilliantly done and offer some incredible voice work and animation styles, especially if the player has the remade edition of the game from Steam. The best part of the game is how no matter the incident, Guybrush will not die, allowing the player to explore the highest reaches of cartoonish pirate joy without suffering the consequences.


  • This game is a classic through and through. The comedy is golden, the puzzles are incredibly satisfying to solve, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg for the entire series. Once this game is played, you will have no choice but to get the next game to see where the story goes. 

Guybrush looks on at a trio of pirates as they drink in their tavern, eagerly awaiting their decision. It looks different from when I was a kid. Can’t put my finger on it, though.

A bard down to the last letter, Kay is consistently writing and drawing new worlds of fantasy, magic, and intrigue. Her only known weaknesses are a can of Dr. Pepper and a new manga.
Gamer Since: 2010
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: 13 Sentinels
Top 3 Favorite Games:Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance , South Park: The Stick of Truth, Undertale