Pirates are cool. The romanticized versions of pirates we have invented are, anyway. As children, many of us wanted to be pirates; we yearned for the open seas, the adventure, and the treasure. Unfortunately for these dreamers, the Golden Age Of Piracy has long been over. However, for those gamers wanting to be a pirate, the games on this list do a great job of helping to indulge in that fantasy. The original pirate game was Sid Meier’s Pirates, released by Microprose in 1984. This PC game set the standard for what needs to be included in a pirate game. Nearly every game on this list owes much to that original.
10 Port Royale 3: Gold Edition
At first glance, Port Royale 3 might seem simplistic, but under the surface hides a fairly involved trading simulator. Players can go the route of setting up a trading empire in the Caribbean if they want to. Becoming a privateer and raiding enemy shipping lanes while serving a particular nation is another option. The third option is to become a pirate, and owe allegiance only to yourself and the crews of your ships. The ship battles in Port Royale 3 are a little too simplified, and have an arcade feel to them. That doesn’t mean they are bad, but their simplicity will occasionally get repetitive and cause players to hit the auto-battle tab.
The graphics in the overhead view are serviceable; they aren’t going to blow you away, but they get the job done. The city views are well done though and at times border on photo-realism. Give Port Royale 3: Gold Edition a try if you like playing as a pirate, or if you like city-building trade simulators. It succeeds at both.
Tempest is an open-world role-playing game at heart, and the role is that of a pirate. In Tempest you can explore the open seas between three continents. The interface for organizing your crew in Tempest is made simple and straightforward. Tempest also allows you to train your crew so they’ll operate more efficiently during a battle. The ship-to-ship battles in Tempest are fun, but like Port Royale 3, they could be improved. The isometric overhead view while sailing the open seas is visually appealing. The water is especially well done, with surface conditions changing with the weather.
Being a pirate is not limited to sailing a galleon around the Caribbean. Some of the best pirating games take place in outer space. The creator of Freelancer, Chris Roberts, has been working on space combat simulators since his work on the Wing Commander series back in the 1990s. Freelancer was released in 2003, but is still a visually appealing game by today’s standards. In this game the player pilots their ship through beautifully rendered star systems instead of crystal blue waters. Within each star system are points of interest connected by jump gates that allow you to reach destinations much faster.
These jump gates create natural space lanes which the player can patrol and look for targets. There are lots of treasures and hidden stashes to be found away from these space lanes too, which really incentivizes exploration. Even though Freelancer is sixteen years old, it still has an active on-line community in 2019.
7 Man O’ War: Corsair
This game is for the players that want a little bit of sword and sorcery mixed in with their pirate adventures. Man O’ War: Corsair features many of the races from the Warhammer series of games; such as dwarves, orcs, elves, and skaven (rat men). The high seas are also populated by giant sea creatures waiting to attack your ship. The graphics in Man O’ War: Corsair are a little rough around the edges, but at times they are quite nice. The way the lanterns bathe your ship with a soft glow at night is a very nice effect.
The ship variety in this game is also superior to most of the other games on this list. There are dwarven ironclads, orcish hulks, and huge wargalleys just to name a few. The ship-to-ship battles are fun, but boarding another ship is quite an experience. These moments are summed up best as exciting, beautiful, chaos. There are duels being fought all around as the sounds of firearms and cannon blasts are occasionally broken by the sound of someone screaming. These boarding fights aren’t perfect though; there are times when these fights can be annoying due to poor game design.
6 Skies Of Arcadia
At its core, Skies of Arcadia is a role-playing game that features ship-to-ship battles. The main characters are Vyse and Akika, who are both members of the Blue Rogue faction of air pirates. This game features excellent ship-to-ship battles that are not handled in the conventional way, but rather plays more like a type of quick-time event.
That’s not as bad as it sounds... seriously. Some battles take a bit too long to finish, but they are fun and well animated. The graphics in Skies of Arcadia are brightly colored and cartoonish. It is because the graphics are cartoonish they have held up quite well over time, but they do take some of the seriousness out of the game. The story in Skies of Arcadia is well written and will cause you to play this game later into the night than you were probably planning.
5 Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
Much like its predecessor Black Flag, Assassin’s Creed Rogue is a game set in the golden age of piracy. This addition to the Assassin’s Creed series feels more like a DLC expansion for Black Flag than a stand-alone game however. That being said, Rogue has a huge world to explore, an engaging plot full of intrigue, and astounding graphics.
The problem with Rogue is that it has all of the shortcomings of its predecessor Black Flag despite releasing a year later. There weren’t many complaints about Black Flag, but those complaints weren’t addressed when Ubisoft made Rogue. Give this game a try if you want a good pirate game, but try Black Flag first.
4 Sid Meier’s Pirates!
This series started in 1984 as a Commodore 64 game and was considered groundbreaking at the time. Sid Meier’s Pirates! was remade in 2004 to give it a better graphics and gameplay; that is the version this list will focus on, but as with most of Sid Meier’s games the original is still just as fun as the remake. Pirates! may have a cartoonish style to its graphics, but it is perhaps the best pirate simulator ever made. This game doesn’t bother much with a plot or story, instead Pirates! focuses on providing a pure open-world pirating experience. There are side quests, like searching for legendary pirates to defeat, following treasure maps, and courting a governor’s daughter.
Most of the time you will be sailing throughout the Caribbean looking for ships to attack. The only real complaint generally leveled at Pirates! is when the player boards an enemy ship. The game always has the player fight the opposing captain in a duel. These duels can really break the flow of the game. There are few games better than Sid Meier’s Pirates! at giving the pirate experience.
3 The Monkey Island Series
At this point, what more can be said about the Monkey Island series from Lucasarts? They are regarded by many gamers as the best point and click adventure games ever made. The Monkey Island games put the player in control of wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood. The first words spoken in the first game are Guybrush declaring, “I want to be a pirate”.
Hallmarks of the Monkey Island series are vibrant and well-drawn graphics, smart and funny dialogue, atmospheric and memorable music, and just the right amount of difficulty. The third game in the series even allowed for ship-to-ship battles. These battles may have been a bit rudimentary, but were a welcome addition none the less.
Few games can give the feeling of exploring the unknown oceans as a pirate than Windward. As readers can see from the above screenshot, Windward appears much like the other games on this list. This game is different in that its oceans are procedurally generated. This means the game creates the game world randomly for each player. These procedurally generated oceans provide a unique experience for each player. Everything else a gamer would want from a pirate game is also found in this title. The battle are fun and don’t drag on too long, there is a fairly robust resource trading element, and the graphics, while not mind-blowing, provide the feel of a living world for the player to explore.
1 Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
If you are looking for the ultimate pirate experience, then look no further than Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. This entry in the Assassin’s Creed series is generally considered one of the best - and for good reason. The small touches the developers included in Black Flag edge it past other games on this list. Taking the wheel of your ship and sailing the open seas as your crew sing a jaunty tune is one of those gaming experiences that never fails to elicit a smile.
The battle system is the same as the other games in the series – meaning it looks great in motion but will frustrate a lot of gamers until they get past the learning curve. Black Flag is a beautiful game to look at, and the sound effects really add to the illusion you are controlling a pirate ship on the lookout for its next target. If you are looking for a great pirate game, start with Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.