Top Naval Warfare PC Games

When you grow tired of miniatures/board-based games eating up massive quantities of your time, what is the alternative that can possible provide you with some lighter relief? The answer isn’t in joining the army or navy: the safer option is to simply buy yourself a naval warfare PC game. Arguably more immersive and engaging than board games, PC games can truly plunge you into the thick of the action. But instead of reading through dozens of reviews, you should instead have a look through our pick of the top naval warfare PC games that you can spend your money on.

This list will hopefully save you some time and also the annoyance of spending money on games that are as poor in quality as Sean Connery’s “Russian” accent in The Hunt for the Red October.

(1) Empire Total War

Empire Total War

It has become an almost unquestioned understanding in the wartime strategy gaming world that if you want to experience what is considered to be the best strategic wartime experience, you only have to look as far as the Total War series. Empire: Total War is one such game the long-running and hugely successful series from developers The Creative Assembly, and it is one that best encapsulates the strategic nuances of warfare. Set in the early modern period, you can bet that you’ll be commanding fleets of seafaring vessels as you engage in the game’s real-time, turn-based battle system.

It has become an almost unquestioned understanding in the wartime strategy gaming world that if you want to experience what is considered to be the best strategic wartime experience, you only have to look as far as the Total War series. Empire: Total War is one such game the long-running and hugely successful series from developers The Creative Assembly, and it is one that best encapsulates the strategic nuances of warfare. Set in the early modern period, you can bet that you’ll be commanding fleets of seafaring vessels as you engage in the game’s real-time, turn-based battle system.

The game’s campaign is where you’ll be spending most of your time here: your aim is to choose a faction (from Great Britain to Russia through to the mighty Ottoman Empire) to assume the role of with view to building your own global empire through diplomacy, warfare, and well thought-out tactics. The most fascinating facet of the gameplay is that you can choose your own way to develop your power, whether this is through heavy focus on the industry of your faction or, more appropriately for our interests here, to develop your naval might (Great Britain here is obviously a great power to be if you’re going the naval route).

The reason why Empire: Total War is in the top spot here is a combination of factors: the graphics are quite incredible, the gameplay is complex and has many layers, and the battle/warfare system is engaging and thrilling as well as responsive to a massive variety of factors, all of which you are in control of.

 But the main justification for it being number one is because of the incredible depth of the naval warfare in the game. Expect to command vessels from large Ships of the Line to smaller auxiliary ships through to trade vessels and artillery-only monsters. The depth is such that there exists an in-depth guide to naval warfare in the game that covers various strategies that can be used. The point is that you’re not going to get a strategic naval warfare quite like it anywhere else since this side of the game exists within a much broader and more epic framework that makes this one of the best computer games of

(2) Command: Modern Air / Naval Operations WOTY

Command: Modern Air / Naval Operations WOTY

The board post-World War II (and right up to the present day) focus of this game gives it the advantage of making this one of the more unique naval warfare titles in this list. This stand-out nature is made even more pronounced when you consider that the gameplay is based around naval and aerial warfare, executed with a simulator-like approach rather than the comparatively more broad and casual perspective of many other warfare games.  This title’s approach to military operations on both the operational and tactical level is nothing short of exemplary.

Granted, gameplay is limited to single-player but this doesn’t take away from the fact that you get to command various units including satellites, aircraft, ships, and submarines, utilising these units conjunction with each other and with a level of detail not seen in a majority of the warfare games available today.

(3) Napoleon Total War

Napoleon Total War

Yet another Total War title in the list and its third place is awarded for good reason. The style of this game is very similar Empire: Total War, but it obviously has more interest for fans of the Napoleonic Era, and especially ones that wish to build the Napoleonic empire and take it through its various stages of development: the defensive Italian campaign, Egypt, and of course the most famous, the Napoleonic Wars of Europe.

You won’t find gameplay that is drastically different from the other Total War games, but high level of historical authenticity and the shifting focus between vast campaigns and individual battles will make this game’s appeal very wide in nature, even if the graphics do look a little bit outdated compared to today’s standards.

(4) Battle Fleet 2: World War 2 in the Pacific

Battle Fleet 2: World War 2 in the Pacific

This is a naval combat simulator with a twist: it is one of the very few cross-platform titles you’ll find on this list. This means you can enjoy the relatively high-fidelity simulator action on a multitude of platforms, from PC to mobile. The game’s focus is on the Pacific Theater during World War II and its approach is a fairly standard one, allowing players to control a variety of ships from the WWII period and use a variety of weapons and tactical approaches to defeat their AI-based or even human foes.

Based on your experience level you are allocated turns for your ships, which are then used to either move or attack. The strategy isn’t particularly complex in Battlefleet 2 and the depth of strategy pales in comparison to that of Empire: Total War, but because it’s cross-platform it has a unique and broad appeal when it comes to naval warfare enthusiasts. It can be typically likened to games such as this popular web based 1944 war strategy game in terms of keeping the focus on the tactical manoeuvres of your battle units.

(5) Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific

Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific

You’ll find plenty of naval sims in this article, but Ubisoft’s Silent Hunter 4: Wolves of the Pacific is one of the few that is concerned exclusively with submarine warfare. While not quite on the level of detail as flight sims like Digital Combat Simulator, the Silent Hunter series has previously had you assuming the role of what we would consider the enemy, sinking allied ships as a U-Boat captain. Here you get to come at things from the American side and sink some Japanese vessels.

Depending on whether you have high or low fidelity settings, you can either play this as a detailed submarine simulator that requires a lengthy procedure in order to fire your torpedoes, or simply point and shoot (a little like a first-person shooter but in the vast expanse of the pacific). What truly cements this in 5th position however is the graphics: it’s a beautiful game to look at and a drastic improvement upon its predecessor.

(6) Dangerous Waters

Dangerous Waters

Another quality title that lets you get down into the nitty gritty of submarine warfare is Dangerous Waters. This game is from a developer that is well-renowned for their simulations – Sonalysts Combat Simulations – and as such should be a reflection on the quality of the gameplay. You’ll find that the potential for this game is quite broad as you are able to experience modern-day naval tactics first-hand, familiarising yourself with and executing high-fidelity operating procedures of a huge variety of vessels. This variety won’t soon cease to amaze you since you are able to control air, surface-based, and submarine assets in fully-fledged combat situations.

The huge variety of submarines (all of which are accurate reproductions of real-life subs) is a serious selling point for this game, as is the hefty campaign. The 500-page manual may be a little overwhelming for beginners, but for serious simulator fans this one’s a no-brainer.

(7) War Thunder

War Thunder

You’ll find that the best thing about War Thunder is its aerial combat: you are unlikely to find a game that is more visually stunning and functionally brilliant as this one is when you’re flying over realistic-looking water trying to sink an enemy vessel. This one’s in this top 10 rundown because of this more-than-just-decent naval warfare gameplay. It’s one of the few games here whose main focus isn’t on the naval warfare from a naval perspective as well. Much of the time you’ll spend commanding the sea from the skies, flying various warplanes. So if you prefer to experience naval warfare from a pilot’s perspective, this is going to be the game for you.

Having said that there are plans going forward to introduce the Naval Warfare side of WWII to the game and if that is anything like the on going promise shown in both the land and skie battle modes then WT is definately one to keep an eye on in the future.

The PC version of this game suffers from a fair few glitches and annoying bugs, but even when you take these into consideration this is still a very decent WWII-based warfare title, though the land-based tank warfare is not the game’s strong point by any means.

(8) Battlestations: Midway

Battlestations: Midway

This is a game that offers up on a plate a beautifully multi-faceted approach to WWII conflict in the pacific. It isn’t a simulation by any means – this game’s focus is much more on the dramatic, with third-person battle cinematics that give any rival game a run for their money. There’s still a hefty amount of strategy involved here however, since taking control of a fleet as a commander requires that you properly allocate your assets (such as your submarines, aircraft, and other vessels) to suit the variety of combat situations you’ll be coming across.

What Midway lacks in realism, it makes up for in stunning and often epic arcade style as well as offering both single and multiplayer gameplay. It’s also not too strong in the audio effects department, even if the visuals are very pleasing to the eye.

(9) Battlestations Pacific

Battlestations Pacific

If the 60 or so units of Battlestations: Midway impressed you, then you might also enjoy the 100 or so different units of assets that Battlestations: Pacific Offers. The problem with trying to enjoy a game like this is that there are many other games set in the Pacific Theater, and this game doesn’t do much to separate itself from its rivals. It’s still got great arcade-level gameplay with a surprising amount of depth for a game of this style, but the unnatural and clunky-feeling controls may annoy more than they amuse.

(10) Victory at Sea

Victory at Sea

There’s a narrative style in Victory at Sea that becomes pronounced from the very beginning where you choose from several characters to assume the role of. These don’t make too much different however since you’re still playing the same missions regardless, and all with a real-time strategy approach that you just really want to love. The problem is that its attempt at trying to blend an RTS-like framework with the ability to control the action in a battle dynamically doesn’t quite work.

You still get to control a nice load of different vessels, each with varying weapons that you can use in your efforts to dominate the seas, but this isn’t a game deserving of a higher place in this list.

Conclusion

There was never any doubt about Empire: Total War taking the top spot in this top 10: it is leagues above the rest when it comes to all-round strategy, plus the sheer gravitas that the Total War brand holds is enough to win it top spot in itself. Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations is a game of equal quality but in a different field: that of the simulator, and one with enough detail and depth to knock Napoleon: Total War to number 3.

The top 3 are really the games you should be aiming to experience if you only have the money for a few, but gems like Silent Hunter 4 and Dangerous Waters really ought to get some consideration if you’re after some truly great submarine warfare simulation.