Although naval battle games are something of a niche genre, there are plenty of awesome games out there that focus mostly or entirely on naval battles. Whether you have to manage your fleet of aircraft and battleships to beat your enemy, defend your base, ports, and fleet, or launch raids to cut off naval routes and invade enemy territory, there are nautical warfare games for every scenario.
Whether you’re an aspiring modern naval tactician, or looking to sail the high seas as an adventurous pirate in search of plunder, there are countless choices in the naval battle genre.
Below are some of the best naval battle games on the PC Desktop, taking you from WWII and Modern naval combat to the 17th Century high seas, and everywhere in between.
Top Ten Naval Battle Games
1. World of Warships
Taking the incredible free-to-play formula that WarGaming.net perfected with World of Tanks and World of Warplanes, World of Warships has you take command of the bridge of a modern military warship. As Captain you don’t have the same direct control over your craft as you do in other games in the series. Because of this, the action is comparatively paced as you exchange powerful barrages with other players in a strategic experience that often feels like a first-person game of Battleships.
2. BattleStations Midway
One of the classic games in the genre, BattleStations Midway is a strategy game that takes place in the Pacific Ocean circa WWII. Using real-time tactics, you can control each individual ship or plane in your fleet, with the hope of defeating your enemy. While BattleStations Midway may be an older game, it still has decent graphics, offers both single and multiplayer mode, and is truly a staple in the genre.
3. BattleStations Pacific
The sequel to BattleStations Midway, BattleStations Pacific expands on the previous title by adding new features including new weapons and ships, different kinds of combat–namely, more advanced submarine battles– and the ability to play either a US or Japanese campaign. It also has 5 extra multiplayer modes, including Island Capture, Duel, Competitive, Siege and Escort.
4. Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific
If submarine warfare is more to your taste, try Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific, a game from Ubisoft that also takes place in the Pacific during WWII. The submarine simulator uses really intricate graphics to literally immerse you in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, with everything from launching torpedo attacks, to using radar and sonar, to managing your crew. Different game modes make it easy for both beginners and more advanced players to master the game.
5. Naval War: Arctic Circle
Travel a bit further north in Naval War: Arctic Circle, a real-time naval strategy game that, unlike some of the previous games, takes place in the distant future during a fictional war. The game has everything from submarines, aircrafts, and helicopters, to in-air refueling tankers and onshore airbases. It also features navies from many different countries – including the UK and Scandinavian – that can be battled in both single and multiplayer modes.
6. Dangerous Waters
As a modern-day naval game, Dangerous Waters lets you control all aspects of air, surface, and submarine warfare, simulating over 250 real-life naval units. Aside from the fact that you can work cooperatively in Multi-Station Mode to operate various crew stations as a team, one of the coolest thing about the game is the AI of the crew members, which lets you hand off tasks so that you don’t have to worry about actively managing specific aspects of the game.
7. Battle Fleet 2: World War 2 in the Pacific
A game of tactical naval combat, Battlefleet 2 puts you at the helm of Japanese or US fleets during WW2. Trying to make your way across the Pacific Ocean, you’ll get zoomed in on the action once you engage in battle. You’ll be engrossed in the game as you move from macro strategies to micro tactics, and with a great range of units, the game is perfect for any WW2 enthusiast. If you want to take gameplay on the go, you can even download a mobile version for iOS and Android.
8. Fighting Steel
Fighting Steel, from Strategic Simluations Inc, is a 3-D game that takes place in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during the biggest naval battles of WWII, between 1939 and 1942. Battling against American, German, Japanese, and British warships, you’ll use real-time strategy and an in-game camera to control multiple ships at once. You can play online multi-player with up to four people, and with a super detailed instruction manual, getting started is easy.
9. Naval Action
It may still be in Early Access on Steam, but that doesn’t stop Naval Action laying anchor in the top of this genre. Giving you the helm of an 18th century vessel, you take to the open seas in a huge online environment with other players. With battles of up to 50 ships, realistic damage physics, and navigation that demands you use landmarks and the stars, this game not only doesn’t hold your hand – it cuts it off and replaces it with a hook.
If you’re a fan of 17th century ships but prefer a bit more small scale naval action, try Windward, an online game from developer Tasharen. In Windward, you play in teams of four, using your ships to take over as many structures as you can on the map. It’s not as graphically advanced as some of the naval battle games on the list, but for a browser game, its still pretty impressive.
The above games are all limited to naval battles, but here are a few honorable mentions of games that feature great naval warfare in some way or form.
Bonus: More War Games that Feature Naval Battles
War Thunder is a great option which, although not exclusively containing naval battles, definitely has some great naval content. The focus is on flight, but no air combat game is complete without naval battles. You can experience naval warfare in War Thunder with aircraft carriers, warships, and naval aviation units. For a free game, it’s a great option.
Battlefield 4 Naval Strike (expansion pack)
The Naval Strike expansion pack for Battlefield 4 brings naval warfare to the 21st century. Taking place in the South China Sea, an area of increasing naval tension between the US and China, the DLC pack brings multiplayer maps, new gadgets and weapons, and most importantly, a hovercraft. In the new Carrier Assault mode, you’ll be battling to sink the enemy’s aircraft carriers.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
For a series about climbing over rooftops and stabbing Templars, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s ship-to-ship combat is surprisingly complete and stasifying. Sailing across the Caribbean taking direct control of your ship – The Jackdaw – you can attack different navy’s vessels with your vast armory to get money and supplies for upgrades. But, if you would rather board an enemy vessel for some cutlass based action, you can capture it and add it to your fleet.
Bonus: Top Mobile Naval Battle Games
The thrill and excitement of a good naval battle game should not be limited to just the PC Desktop experience. For naval battles on the go, try one of these mobile naval battle games:
Pacific Fleet Lite
Pacific Fleet Lite is the free version of a popular and detailed turn-based World War II naval battle simulation. It contains a lot of simulation data and logic-based gameplay that will appeal to a hardcore naval strategy enthusiast, but it’s lack of fast-paced action means arcade/action lovers will probably want to take a pass.
Want more? Check out Appcrawlr’s list of iOS games similar to Pacific Fleet Lite.
Assassin’s Creed – Pirates
This mobile installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise from Ubisoft features fast-paced 1 on 1 naval battles in an adventure storyline. The game was recently updated to be free-to-play (it used to be a $4.99 paid download).
Want to see more games like this? Check out Appcrawlr’s list of games that are similar to Assassin’s Creed – Pirates.
What’s your favorite naval battle game? Let us know in the comments section below.
Note: Original article published October 3, 2007.