Subnautica is an imaginative look into a setting that’s rarely explored in video games: that subworld of mysteries that lies beneath the ocean’s surface. Its creative crafting and underwater exploration make for some utterly addicting gameplay, and where you pair that with its Lovecraftian horror vibe, you get a survival-adventure that teases your curiosity, goading you to swim further into its unknown depths.
There isn’t anything out there quite like Subnautica, but if you’re looking for something with a similar vibe, here’s a list of 10 games like Subnautica (in no particular order) that are worth checking out on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and Switch.
Developer: Giant Squid Studios Publisher: 505 Games Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Amazon Luna
Abzû is the game to play if your favorite part of Subnautica was its gorgeous aquatic environments. It’s less about survival and crafting than it is about just immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of Abzû’s underwater landscapes. In fact, there isn’t much ‘game’ to it at all — you can power through its single player adventure in just a few hours.
Several members of Giant Squid Studios honed their game-making skills on 2012’s Journey. If you loved (or hated) Journey’s vibe and atmosphere, expect more of that in Abzû.
9. Stranded Deep
Developer: Beam Team Games Publisher: Beam Team Games Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Stranded Deep throws you on a desert island where you must do whatever it takes to stay alive. That’s a common premise in survival sandboxes, but where Stranded Deep stands out is that it eventually lets you escape from your island prison and sail the high seas.
The starter island is small and sparse; the game’s scale only becomes clear after you first hop atop a raft (MacGyver’d together from sticks and wooden planks) and set off into unknown waters. Eventually, you’ll find materials and more advanced components that let you move faster and go farther out to sea, even to other islands.
You’re never meant to stay in one place too long. There’s no escape and no one’s coming to your rescue, so you might as well set sail and go where the wind takes you.
8. The Long Dark
Developer: Hinterland Studio Publisher: Hinterland Studio Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
A geomagnetic storm has destroyed all electronics. You’re in a plane over Canada when the storm hits, bringing you crashing down in the middle of a snow-filled tundra. This is The Long Dark.
The Long Dark is playable in two modes: Wintermute and Creative.
Wintermute serves as the game’s story mode and follows Will Mackenzie, a pilot searching the Canadian wilderness for his lost friend. Unlike most survival games, the story in The Long Dark is a more guided and linear experience, with animated cutscenes that touch on Will’s past or give you a look at how the world is dealing with the electronic apocalypse. It’s a gripping tale that also functions as an extended tutorial for the game’s main event: Sandbox mode.
Sandbox mode is what most survival players will be accustomed to. You wake up hungry and freezing to death in the middle of a snowstorm. Stay alive. The openness of The Long Dark’s wintry landscape makes for the perfect canvas for a creative sandbox, and the extra randomness introduced by its weather system creates opportunities for exciting personal stories to emerge from the chaos.
Developer: Campo Santo Publisher: Panic Inc., Campo Santo Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Firewatch is a game about escapism, conspiracy theories, and trust. Following a personal tragedy, Henry signs up for a summer job as a fire lookout.
His only human contact is with his supervisor Delilah, a firewatch veteran with whom he communicates exclusively via handheld radio. Delilah’s a kindred spirit, also running away from the consequences of events from her past, and she’s full of stories about the forest and the people that guard it, including tales of secret government experiments, unidentified visitors in the night, and the strange circumstances behind the disappearance of your tower’s previous lookout.
Those who love great character development and that heavy dread as things steadily spiral into chaos should put Firewatch on their to-play list now.
6. The Forest
Developer: Endnight Games Publisher: Endnight Games Platforms: PC, PS4
In Endnight Games’ The Forest, players take control of a father separated from his son after their plane crash lands on a mysterious island. You can tell from the get-go that something ain’t right with the forest that covers most of the island, and it isn’t long before you get a taste of the grotesque things beyond its threshold.
Like in Subnautica, The Forest is constantly pushing you to leave the safety of your camp by drawing you in with a great story. That carefully balanced push-and-pull between survival and curiosity is The Forest’s greatest achievement and what makes it a game Subnautica fans need to play.
5. Project Zomboid
Developer: The Indie Stone Publisher: The Indie Stone Platforms: PC
It’s not a question of if, but rather when you will die in the top-down survival RPG Project Zomboid.
Visually, Zomboid is about as far from Subnautica as you can get. However, both use the environment to toy with your senses of vision and hearing to great effect. Half the fun is in not knowing what dangers lie in wait around the corner.
A good Zomboid run depends more on the economic use of the items you find rather than crafting. Unlike in Subnautica, there are no safe zones, so you have to be on the move at all times if you want to stay a step ahead of the zombie hordes.
This is an entire game built around that disturbing uneasiness you feel when you dive into the deepest waters of Subnautica. If your nerves can take it, give Project Zomboid a go.
Developer: Farsky Interactive Publisher: Farsky Interactive Platforms: PC
FarSky is what Andy Weir’s The Martian would be if it were a video game and set on the ocean floor.
There’s a big emphasis on agriculture in FarSky, and your underwater base can be expanded to house dozens of pots for planting and growing vegetables and fruits. If you need a bit of meat in your diet, you can grab a spear and poke a shark or two.
FarSky is unique in that just leaving your base is a big deal in this game. While other games want you to get out into the world as soon as possible, exploration in FarSky is always limited by your food and air. Also, there are man-eating fish out there, and you’re the only person for thousands of miles.
Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge Publisher: Buka Entertainment, G2 Games Platforms: PC
Pathologic by Ice-Pick Lodge is an underappreciated gem that made a huge splash in its native Russia but went almost entirely unnoticed everywhere else.
The player arrives at an isolated town in the middle of nowhere at the start of a mysterious plague that’s poisoning the soil and killing the townsfolk. There are three characters to choose from, each with their own approach to finding a cure. Each character has their own ideas on how to bring an end to the illness, but it’s up to you to conduct interviews and find the source of the disease before you succumb to the sickness, too.
Pathologic is light on survival mechanics and has no crafting to speak of, but if you’re addicted to that feeling of hopelessness and anxiety that permeates every moment in the dark waters of Subnautica, this game is for you.
Developer: Acid Wizard Studio Publisher: Acid Wizard Studio Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Darkwood by Acid Wizard Studio is a game that puts you on edge from the moment you spawn in its titular forest. Set in a post-apocalyptic world with no hope of recovering from the global plague that brought civilization crumbling down, you must craft, barter, and fight for your survival.
Most survival sandbox games are solitary adventures — alone in the middle of nowhere, the biggest threats are the wildlife or the environment itself. In Darkwood, interacting and trading with your NPC neighbors are key gameplay elements. The trouble is they’re all broken or mad. Your survival depends on trading with the other humans in this post-plague world. But regular interaction reveals the extent of their depravity, and some have secrets that will chill you to the bone.
There is no safety in Darkwood. You’re always on alert, ready for a threat that may or may not come. The other humans in the world offer no respite or peace of mind — they’re either useless or dangerous, each with their own twisted agenda to fulfill. Intensely dreadful in the way few games are, Darkwood will tickle the horror bone of any Subnautica fan who loves giving their heart a workout.
1. Sunless Sea
Developer: Failbetter Games Publisher: Failbetter Games Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Sunless Sea by Failbetter Games imagines a London stolen away by unknown powers. You are the captain of a ship that navigates the supernatural waters in an alternate Lovecrafian dimension that’s in turns horrifying and comical.
The majority of the game involves taking on and completing quests given to you by the characters you meet in your travels. It’s an open-ended roguelike that gives you free reign to explore and do what you want, so long as you can keep your crew healthy and happy. Managing your ship’s crew is a big part of the game, and every action you take has a chance at affecting their morale and psychological state.
While Sunless Sea is dripping with atmosphere, the real star of the show is the writing, which is clever and creative. The game’s writers must have had a field day coming up with strange and wonderful nautical misadventures, from helping a woman obtain her Hell citizenship to romancing a crewmate of your choice.
Be warned: there’s a whole lot of text in Sunless Sea, so prepare to spend some time flipping through pages.
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