With Rare's Sea of Thieves and Ubisoft's Skull & Bones both dropping their anchors in 2018, it's shaping up to be a pretty piratey year, one full of plunder and pillage. But if you can't wait until then to get your swashbuckling fix, don't walk the plank just yet: there are actually a ton of pirate-themed games already out there.
So to get your jolly adventure on the sevens seas now rather than later, here are 7 pirate games to plunder before the year of the Buccaneer begins.
Sid Meier's Pirates!
Let's just go ahead and get this one out the way. You knew Sid Meier's Pirates! would be on this list somewhere -- and rightly so. The 2004 remake of the 1987 version is as captivating a pirate game as any, and it's arguably the best of the lot. Developed by Firaxis Games (the makers of both the XCOM and Civilization series), this game sets you loose in the 17th century Caribbean after the nefarious Marquis de la Montalbán kidnaps and enslaves your family. Although you are nudged throughout the game to track down your family members and defeat Montalbán, the real enemy in this game is time.
As time passes, your character ages and will eventually be forced to retire, so the decisions you make on how to seek your fame and fortune are pretty important. Do you want to find the perfect trade route to haul spice and make an honest living? (But why would you?) Will you fight for your nation's navy and contribute to the war effort, conquering enemy ports and towns in the name of the various Governors you'll come to meet? Or will you go all in on the full pirate experience and become a legend, flying the colors of the Jolly Roger?
Regardless of how you play, it's a good time, and with Sid Meier's Pirates! being on nearly every platform now, you have no excuse not to pick this one up. Just don't pirate it.
Risen 2: Dark Waters
Risen 2: Dark Waters is Pirahna Bytes' sequel to the high-fantasy Risen. It's an RPG set in a gritty open world populated by wild beasts, creatures of the deep, and just terrible, terrible people. But that's all part of the fun: The atmosphere created by the brutal world and the characters you'll come across are why you want this game. Conversations contain perpetual swearing throughout, with some really well-written and funny dialogue, especially when you unlock Jaffa as a crew member, who's a blessing when you have to deal with fairly poor combat and dull boss battles.
Risen 2 is super difficult when you first start it because of a weird progression system that requires money to unlock skills. The catch is that you need skills to get money, so it takes a while before you can really do much. You can eventually choose to learn Voodoo (Risen 2's version of magic), where you can control people, which is awesome! But unfortunately, the overall story is nothing to write home about.
The giggles you'll have just from being in the world of Risen 2: Dark Waters is enough for it to make the list, though.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Following the disappointing slog that was Assassin's Creed III, Ubisoft's Black Flag was a fresh breath of sea air for the increasingly stale franchise. Playing as the Welsh privateer-turned-pirate-turned-assassin Edward Kenway, you are given your own ship and crew to explore the vast open world that Ubisoft sets before you.
There are plenty of opportunities to earn that sweet booty, from hunting whales to sell their skins to the usual assassin contracts, there's plenty do throughout Assassin's Creed IV. On top of that, there are also 4 'Legendary Ships' to fight that require your ship be heavily upgraded before you tackle them, but succeeding feels really rewarding and it doesn't hurt that it pays well.
Sailing between all these locations can feel tedious at times, but the collectable sea shanties solve that problem (at least it did for me); I'd happily forego fast-travelling to my destination so I could join in singing with my merry crew.
Choice of the Pirate
Enter the wildcard. Choice of the Pirate is a light-hearted interactive novel by Alana Joli Abbot and is part of the Choice of Games series of choose-your-own-adventure novels. It's entirely text based, weighing in at 165,000 words and as Choice of Games loves to say, it is "fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination".
This isn't the first pirate-themed ChoiceScript interactive novel, but it's longer and more entertaining than the couple that I've read. As with most of their recent offerings, you can choose to play as a male, female, or non-binary character, as well as your sexual orientation, which doesn't make too much of an impact on the story, even if it's a nice touch.
Taking place in the tropical Lucayan Sea, you strive to rise in the ranks from lowly floor scrubber to trusted Navy Captain in service of the Crown. Not your cup of tea? How about joining the Pirate King and becoming a feared Pirate Captain in your own right? No? Not into sharing? Then challenge the Pirate King and attempt to overthrow him. With such a breadth of jaw-dropping opportunities, I was impressed to see just how much my path diverged from others' playthroughs.
I don't want to give too much away, but there's even the option to explore your magical abilities by controlling the weather, as well as more traditional pirate activities such as boarding enemy ships and searching for buried treasure. Make a change from your usual games and give this one a try.
I know, I know! This isn't really a pirate game, but Elite: Dangerous can be if you want it to be. Frontier Developments have created a bloody huge galaxy for you to explore and make money, which is basically the goal of the game: make money, buy ship upgrades, make more money, buy a better ship, make even more money, and so on and so forth. What's interesting about Elite: Dangerous, though, is that you can do the usual trading, exploring, and bounties for credits while also preying on other players, taking their hard-earned loot for yourself.
The Secret of Monkey Island
Following the adventures of lovable idiot Guybrush Threepwood, you'll fail your way to becoming the most notorious Pirate Captain in The Caribbean in LucasArts' quirky point-and-click adventure series, The Secret of Monkey Island. Known for its humor, The Secret of Monkey Island spawned four sequels spanning 20 years, including Tales of Monkey Island developed by Telltale Games.
Gameplay is primarily relegated to interacting with the environment, using one of nine commands, such as "talk to" or "pick up" to solve puzzles and progress through the game. As Guybrush, you must impress three pirate captains in order to become a pirate and win the heart of the Governor, Elaine Marley. This brings you into conflict with the seemingly undefeatable villain LeChuck, who comes back to haunt you in each subsequent game, first as a ghost, then a zombie, and then a demon.
There's some really great twists and turns throughout the series, and the first entry should definitely be on every gamer's list of games to play.
Pirate Dogs! Heavily influenced by and frequently referencing Monkey Island, Brawsome's Jolly Rover is a treat for fans who've exhausted LucasArts' series and are looking for something similar. Playing as Gaius James Rover -- who just wants to join the circus like his father -- you're kidnapped by pirates while delivering a potent brew called Jolly Rover (accidentally created by mixing tobacco and rum). This sets off a chain of events that leads you to becoming a pirate and having a very enjoyable -- and often hilarious -- adventure. Also, there's a parrot that gives you hints if you feed him crackers. Brilliant.
Hopefully, now you've got your eye patches and peg-legs on and are ready to jump aboard when Sea of Thieves and Skull & Bones release in 2018. For news and information on both as they develop, stay tuned to GameSkinny.