Subnautica is a fantastic game and for a great variety of reasons. We’ll just name the two most important ones.
First of all, it’s a great survival game. As a survivor of a spaceship crash, you begin the game in an escape pod floating gracefully on the surface of a tropical ocean on some alien planet. You need to pay attention to your hydration and hunger levels. Since the game’s world is almost entirely aquatic, you’ll also need to find a way to dive deeper without drowning or getting crushed by water’s deadly pressure. Yup, anything can kill you here.
Second, Subnautica is really beautiful, especially when it comes to the sunlit surface waters. Colorful fish flit about, plants and coral reefs provide a lot of color to the ocean floor, and you can swim around without having to worry too much about anything, really. Even when you reach the deeper regions where more aggressive animals live, the game never ceases to look absolutely amazing.
There’s even quite an interesting story to unravel if you want to escape the planet. You don’t need to, of course, but it is there, providing a lot of background information on the alien world you’re exploring.
The list below features a selection of games that share certain traits with Subnautica, be it an aquatic (or any other unusual) setting or similar gameplay. Most of these are survival titles, some meant to be played endlessly, others featuring a robust story mode to complete. We’re pretty sure all of these are very much worth checking out.
|Ark Survival Evolved||2015-06-02||Efecto Studios||15%|
|Astroneer||2016-12-15||System Era Softworks||48%|
|Grounded (Xbox One, Windows 10)||2020-07-28||Obsidian Entertainment|
|No Mans Sky||2016-08-12||Hello Games||60%|
|Stranded Deep||2015-01-23||Beam Team Games|
|The Long Dark||2017-08-01||Hinterland Studio Inc.||39%|
|Minecraft Windows 10 Edition||2015-07-29||Mojang||13%|
|7 Days To Die||2013-12-13||The Fun Pimps||82%|
|The Forest||2018-04-30||Endnight Games Ltd|
|Subnautica: Below Zero||2019-01-30||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
|The Solus Project||2016-06-07||Grip Games|
|Aquanox Deep Descent||2020-10-16||Digital Arrow|
|Horizon Forbidden West||2022-02-18||Guerrilla Games||40%|
|Sunless Sea||2015-02-06||Failbetter Games||85%|
While Abzu isn’t exactly a survival game with crafting mechanics and managing your vitals, its stunning setting easily matches Subnautica’s.
Made by people responsible for Journey, among others, Abzu is where you explore beautiful underwater realms teeming with wildlife, as well as ruins that hide a tale of a long-lost civilization and the way to restore life to the oceans.
While Abzu isn’t exactly a survival game with crafting mechanics and managing your vitals, its stunning setting easily matches Subnautica’s. Made by people responsible for Journey, among others, Abzu is where you explore beautiful underwater realms teeming with wildlife, as well as ruins that hide a tale of a long-lost civilization and the way to restore life to the oceans.
Swimming with schools of fish or beside a giant whale feels amazing. Heck, finding life-restoring wells means following actual great white sharks, not some abstract markers on your HUD (by the way, it’s one of the rare instances where these aquatic predators are not demonized and portrayed as mindless killers, which surely is interesting). The game’s narration is wordless, so that you can truly immerse yourself in this world and its atmosphere.
ARK: Survival Evolved
Aside from the base ARK game being a survival game, the things that connect it to Subnautica are numerous unusual settings featured in the expansion packs.
While there isn’t a strictly nautical map, you totally can explore underwater areas and duke it out with aquatic creatures. As far as unusual biomes are concerned, there’s the underground realm featured in the Aberration expansion.
The new biome is crawling with weird creatures and threats that you never had to face while traversing the surface world. Admittedly, the hazards you encounter in Aberration are more along the lines of exploring the depths in Subnautica. If you’re a fan of lore scattered throughout the environment, ARK’s got you covered.
|Developer:||System Era Softworks|
As the title suggests, Astroneer lets you explore the stars, or, specifically, 7 hand-crafted planets with different biomes.
Since uninhabited planets are quite unfriendly to human life, you’ll have to spend some time adjusting to the environment in order to survive. That means a lot of crafting and even more messing around using the Terrain Tool that lets you modify the landscape freely (and is very fun to use, to boot).
It won’t take you long to establish the foundation of your future self-sustaining base, build useful vehicles, and develop tethers allowing you to explore locations further and further away from your HQ and go deeper underground without the risk of suffocation.
There’s no story to speak of and aside from the player doing what they want there are a few challenges to complete on each planet, if you’re so inclined.
|Genre:||Survival & Adventure|
In terms of unusual biomes, Subnautica might as well be on the ropes in comparison to Grounded.
Not even a beautiful alien ocean full of colorful fish and dreadful sea monsters can compete with being shrunk to the size of an ant and exploring a gigantic backyard. Grass is as tall as trees, ants are as big as wolves, and spiders are just like rhinos (and three times as aggressive).
Grounded is just so good at taking that idea to extremes. You’ll gather fiber from grass as a substitute for lumber, you’ll hide in soda cans littering the lawn and you’ll collect drinking water from dewdrops. It’s a wonderfully-realized, believable environment and the design of bugs and arthropods, ranging from ants to genuinely terrifying spiders, is top-notch. New features are still flowing in, so it’s worth coming back to the game every now and then.
No Man’s Sky
After a number of substantial updates, No Man’s Sky is a great, relaxing, space exploration game with all the obligatory components of the genre, and even some story to propel you forward when you lose momentum.
The core draw of NMS is the virtually infinite number of possible planets, each with procedurally generated geology and wildlife. If you’re the first to discover a world, you even get to name it!
New features and improvements were added over time, including base building, expanded survival mechanics, multiplayer and the like. No Man’s Sky became what it was always meant to be: an epic space exploration game with a vast universe to traverse. While it doesn’t necessarily boast the same thrills that Subnautica’s deep sea diving does, it’s still a great game.
Of all the games on this list, Raft bears the most immediate similarity to Subnautica by the virtue of its oceanic world.
You begin on a small, ramshackle raft with a rumbling sound in your stomach and a dinky hook to gather flotsam that may help you survive. Good luck trying not to die! Give yourself enough time and you’ll turn your floating plank into a huge, self-sustaining residence for yourself and your friends, if you think things through and plan accordingly.
There are also islands that you can encounter and explore for resources that you wouldn’t easily find floating around. Aside from abandoned buildings, the isles also let you find out various details about the people who used to live there.
Survival often means repelling attacks and Raft is no different. You need to be on a lookout for aggressive wildlife of all sorts. If left unchecked, it can ruin your day, as well as your buoyant home.
|Developer:||Beam Team Games|
The premise of Stranded Deep certainly is like Subnautica’s.
The difference lies in the fact that in Stranded Deep we’re dealing with a procedurally generated bit of the Pacific Ocean, not an alien planet with a spaceship wreck looming in the distance. However, just like in Subnautica, you’re encouraged to take a deep dive in order to find the resources necessary for your survival.
Of course you need to monitor your vitals, possible through a handy watch displaying all the relevant stats. You’ll also craft a whole lot of things, ranging from buildings through boats to even flying machines if you get bored with water. Interestingly enough, the game also features a split-screen co-op mode. It even supports Steam’s Remote Play, so that someone who doesn’t even have the game in their library can join in and help you out.
Subnautica: Below Zero
|Developer:||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
Subnautica: Below Zero is a follow-up to Subnautica (although the developers said it’s not a full-blown sequel).
Taking place two years after the events of its predecessor, it takes you back to the planet of 4546B. Still, like the title suggests, you’ll no longer be exploring a tropical ocean, but arctic equator instead. There’s also a new protagonist, Robin Ayou, who replaces Ryley Robinson (Ryley’s presumably busy paying off his huge debt, anyway).
Subnautica: Below Zero features a fair bit more solid ground than the previous game. There’s still a lot of underwater exploration to do, anyway, as well as lots of unseen lifeforms and a whole bunch of alien secrets to discover. A polar setting means new gadgets and monitoring a new body heat gauge. Below Zero also features a stronger focus on storytelling as opposed to the first game.
The Long Dark
|Developer:||Hinterland Studio Inc.|
Let’s stick to the freezing cold temperatures for a bit longer, shall we? The Long Dark takes places after a series of worldwide geomagnetic storms and is set in the Canadian wilderness, harsh, but beautiful nonetheless.
You play as a pilot who crashes in the middle of nowhere and is now forced to face all sorts of nasty things that can kill him: the omnipresent cold, hunger, exhaustion, wild animals… There are four difficulty levels here, with an option to create a custom one, too.
There’s even a story here, currently spanning four episodes (with the fifth one in the works) that focus on the exploits of Will Mackenzie, a pilot searching for his passenger, Dr. Astrid Greenwood, who disappeared following the plane crash. Both characters are playable depending on the episode, which makes for a more compelling narrative experience.
The Solus Project
The Solus Project is a complex, detailed game about surviving on an alien planet that’s barely suitable for human life.
You’re the last survivor of an expeditionary force sent to find a new place for mankind following the destruction of Earth. Unfortunately, your ship malfunctioned and crashed while your team was making an approach Gliese-6143-C and you’ve been left stranded in a hostile environment.
Between extreme temperatures, dynamic weather, and an occasional earthquake, you’ll have enough to worry about even before you start exploring the strange planet and poking about for answers. The game features a whole lot of things to discover, such as mysterious islands and the tombs of those who ended up on this planet before you. Will you be more lucky than them? The Solus Project is an engaging single-player adventure that also supports VR.
Aquanox: Deep Descent
|Genre:||Underwater Vehicle Shooter|
Deep Descent is the latest installment in the cult classic series that began in 1996 with Archimedean Dynasty (by the way, AD looks fantastic even to this day).
This game, an underwater combat sim, introduced players to the character of Emerald “Deadeye” Flint, a mercenary commandeering a battle-ready submarine and completing various missions for all sorts of individuals.
Flint came back several years later in Aquanox, a game that turned the series into fast-paced first-person shooters that looked fantastic at the tame and played great. Aquanox: Deep Descent is a modern re-imagining of that. While not necessarily a survival game (although one of your goals during combat is to stay alive, right?), what makes this game good for Subnautica fans is exploring the underwater world of Aqua. Generally speaking, things have gone wrong on the surface of the Earth and we were forced to populate the oceans instead. It’s a dystopian, unforgiving world and your task is to find your place in it.
Aquanox: Deep Descent makes you a leader of a team of highly-skilled fighter submarine pilots. You can customize your sub the way you want. There are six primary weapons at your disposal that you can configure to suit your needs. What you generally do in Deep Descent is setting out to complete a certain mission to earn credits that can then be used for your purposes, exploring the deep sea, salvaging and looting stuff.
While dark, dystopian and somewhat frightening, the underwater world of Aquanox: Deep Descent is also beautifully-crafted and captivating. We’re pretty sure you’ll have a blast traversing it in your trusty fighter submarine. Or getting hit by a torpedo. Well, you never know.
Horizon: Forbidden West
|Genre:||Action role-playing game|
While this one might seem like a surprising addition – you might say: why?
All the action happens on land! – it’s no secret that the sequel to Zero Dawn features extremely well-made underwater segments that actually make up quite a decent portion of the Forbidden West experience.
Naturally, you will only be able to stay underwater for a very short period of time, as the main character, Aloy, as fit and fierce as she is, can’t hold her breath indefinitely. However, at one point in the game you are able to craft an item called the Deep Dive Mask. This nifty little gizmo lets you remain in the aquatic setting for as long as you wish.
And this opens up some fantastic new possibilities! Horizon: Forbidden West is a breathtakingly beautiful game with stunning views and drop-dead gorgeous locales. While traversing these delightfully magnificent lands make up the majority of this adventure, underwater exploration is intricately crafted and the depths you get to see – seas, lakes and rivers – truly are a sight to behold.
Aside from feasting your eyes on some incredible views, there are of course mechanical beasts that roam the waters and are more than eager to hunt you down. Too bad there’s no actual underwater combat, but then again, human movements are rather restricted when swimming, so sneaking through tall kelp or dropping smoke bombs to escape beasts like Widemaws, Snapmaws and something even bigger (we won’t spoil it here) is your only option.
Still, it’s insanely satisfying, so if you’re looking for more gorgeous games that feature beautiful underwater realms – just like Subnautica – you should give Forbidden West a go.
We’ve mentioned Archimedean Dynasty, now it’s time to describe another classic from the past. 1997’s Sub Culture remains one of the most unique video games to this day.
While its mechanics are a bit different from Subnautica, a unique setting and the pirate-inspired activities you need to complete throughout the course of the campaign make this title really fun and compelling.
The premise is as follows: there is a race of tiny humanoids that live underwater. You are a freelance submarine captain who survived a deadly disaster, namely a soup can that landed on your city and destroyed it completely. It’s time for you to find a new home. But it’s not going to be easy.
The world of Sub Culture features two warring factions: the Bochines and the Prochas. You can complete missions for either of these nations. They get more and more difficult as you progress through the campaign and feature all sorts of fun objectives to complete. You blast enemy ships and mutant fish with torpedoes, collect all sorts of salvage and nasty stuff that you can then sell on the market for more money… Yeah, it’s definitely a spiritual predecessor to Subnautica.
Sub Culture is a very old game that was also a commercial failure despite its quality and uniqueness. Still, it’s definitely a cult classic. Who knows, maybe Nightdive (haha) Studios will uncover this precious little gem one day, acquire rights to it and release an updated version?
One thing’s for sure, they don’t make them like they used to!
Remnants of R'lyeh
|Genre:||Adventure & Horror|
|Developer:||Darktree Game Studio|
This might be a bit of a spoiler, but people say that Subnautica is actually a survival horror in disguise.
While not entirely inaccurate, this might still be a bit of an overstatement. However, the upcoming Remnants of R’lyeh game is pretty much just that: a Lovecraftian horror set in the underwater abyss.
This title is based on two things, namely puzzles and combat. The former let you discover the secrets of Remnant’s dark and grim world, while the latter make the game a full-blown first-person shooter where you use all sorts of lethal weapons against the monsters that you encounter while exploring ancient ruins. There’s even an underwater combat system that involves using an ancient gizmo to unleash destruction on terrifying enemies.
Remnants of R’lyeh is certainly shaping up to be a creepily, eerily good addition to the Lovecraft-inspired game canon. While still in development, you can head over to Steam to grab a playable demo and try it out. So far the reviews and gamer feedback have been promising and mostly positive, so who knows, maybe we have a new indie hit on our hands? Only time will tell.
Also considered an example of a very good Lovecraftian horror, Sunless Sea is all about a creepy atmosphere that permeates the entire game.
The premise seems quite similar to the one in Subnautica. You are a captain of a steamship roaming the world of Unterzee. Your goal depends on the ambition you choose at the start of the game. Whether it’s becoming a revered explorer or just a disgustingly wealthy person, it’s all up to you, really. But it’s easier said than done!
There are two modes in the game: the one where you commandeer your ship and battle all sorts of sea monsters and a story mode where you make decisions and perform skill checks. You acquire resources, upgrade your ship (or just get an entirely new vessel altogether), discover new locations and islands, and complete the so-called “storylet” quests.
There’s even a bit of roguelite thrown in. The maps are randomized to a certain degree and once you die, it’s over for your character. However, your new characters can inherit some of the previous adventurer’s wealth for an easier start.
Sunless Sea is a captivating experience that is known and praised for its atmospheric design and impeccable writing. If you love survival games with ambitious presentation, this one should be a very decent pick that will keep you busy for a bunch of evenings or even weeks.
Total immersion gaming
That concludes the list of games similar to Subnautica on some level. Obviously, there are many more survival games out there, like The Forest, some of which were featured on another list. Be sure to check it out!