In PC games, fishing is a much beloved and sought-after pastime. Sometimes it's a side activity or minigame, and other times—as in fishing simulators—it's the entire point of the game. But in MMOs, survival games, sims, and other genres, fishing is near and dear to our heart.
A good fishing experience should provide two things: relaxation, and excitement. The act of fishing—casting your line and waiting for a nibble—should be a serene and calm experience. Once you've got a bite, however, reeling in your prize should be a bit of a rush.
Below, in no particular order, we've rated the fishing experiences in a number of PC games, whether they're minigames, time-killers, or full-blown fishing simulators, by how relaxing and exciting they are. Just for fun, let's begin with a game you can't even play yet!
Far Cry 5
I grew up fly-fishing with my dad, a method for catching trout in which the fisherman wraps a bunch of feathers and fur around a small hook to resemble a bug and whips it around like a bullfighter. He calls it 'the philosopher's sport', probably because you spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing or untangling your line from the brush. Far Cry 5's take does away with the brush and the long waits but gives you a character that can cast line across a damn football field with the grace of an Olympic javelin thrower. It feels and looks amazing, propped up by a detailed rendition of Montana. Catching fish is easy and satisfying, but any meditative properties are gutted by Far Cry 5's insistence on entertaining you. Expect to bag as many dead cultists, bears, and mountain lions as you do trout. And expect any philosophical musings to veer into nihilism—it's hard to appreciate your place in nature if it's dunking you in blood. —James Davenport
There are a lot of relaxing activities in Stardew Valley, and fishing is simultaneously the most calming and the most frustrating. Instead of the standard "hit the button when the bobber goes under" mechanic, Stardew's fishing minigame involves keeping your fishing meter aligned with a fish icon that fluctuates up and down, depending on how difficult the fish is to catch. It's frustratingly difficult at first—the bar is tiny, the fish flail wildly, and the control scheme is unconventional. But once you get the hang of things—and level up your fishing skill enough so the bar isn't so miniscule—it becomes a relaxing zen escape from the hustle and bustle of small-town farm life. —Bo Moore
The Sims 4
There are a number of relaxing activities in The Sims 4, though I've come to the determination that fishing isn't one of them. It feels like one, initially: you cast your line and see what happens. The issue I have is that once you're there, the game will immediately send other Sims to fish beside you: friends, neighbors, strangers, pets, they all flock to your location as if they're answering a distress call. Your personal needs begins stacking up, relationship meters begin appearing, and the zen experience quickly becomes lost amidst a clouds of distracting icons. When you catch something, conversely, it's not exciting but a relief: now I can go do something else just to get away from the crowd. —Chris Livingston
My Time At Portia
To fish in My Time At Portia you'll need a rod (craftable) and a caterpillar (found while hacking up bushes), and you can only fish at a few designated spots. When a fish bites, you reel the fish in while keeping your mouse cursor over the struggling creature.
My issue is that a fish always bites, and always bites at pretty much the same amount of time after you've cast your line. It's not particularly relaxing, I think because the fish bite so quickly, and it's not terribly exciting, either, because you pretty much know exactly when the fish will bite. Fishing in Portia is very respectful of your time, which is nice, but I'm not here for tightly scheduled fishing. Quite the opposite, in fact. —Chris Livingston
World of Warcraft
I want to cut World of Warcraft some slack because its fishing minigame is well over a decade old at this point, but it’s pretty damn disappointing all around. There’s nothing really to it: Just cast your line, click on the bobber when it wiggles around a bit, and voila, you have a fish. There’s a skill system tied to it, obviously, but it doesn’t really mean much since you can still fish wherever you want. Legion also added an ultra rare fishing rod for those real zealous fishers, but again fishing largely feels like a waste of time and I won’t fault you for skipping it entirely. —Steven Messner
Any spot of fishing that begins with a goddamn starter pistol firing and a group of fishermen running at top speed toward the lake can hardly be considered relaxing. Luckily, Ice Lakes has a non-competitive free-fishing mode as well. It's a novelty to use a giant hand-cranked drill to bore a giant hole in the ice, but there's something a bit graceless about the fishing experience itself. It's not stressful, but not relaxing either. It can be a bit exciting seeing your pole bend when a fish nibbles, and it's satisfying, after a catch, to see the fish plop onto the ice next to you. That's right, you scaly bastard. You've been caught. Now lie there and watch while I catch the rest of your friends and family. —Chris Livingston
Ark: Survival Evolved
A nice change of pace from battling dinos or getting raided, fishing in Ark does require some hefty gathering of bait: either visiting a dangerous swamp to collect leeches, or tapping redwoods for sap (the sap-taps require a good deal of crafting). You'll also need a chair to sit in, but once your line is in the water it's plenty relaxing and enjoyable to watch the fish nose around.
Unfortunately, it culminates in a QTE where you're prompted (in the least-subtle on-screen text ever) to press a bunch of letters. It can feel a tiny bit stressful, but stress isn't the same as excitement. —Chris Livingston
Depth Hunter: The Spearfishing Simulator
It's been about six years since I played Depth Hunter and discovered I have a mild fish-phobia and a lot of concerns about ghost pirates. Using a spring-loaded harpoon to impale fish is cool and it can be exciting when you puncture a barracuda and drag it into your pocket. But fishing takes on a slightly less-relaxing tone when you have to do it while holding your breath underwater. In fact, I'd say it's not very relaxing at all. Running out of breath while in an underwater cave surrounded by slimy fish and (maybe) undead pirates isn't exactly the best way to chill. —Chris Livingston
Fishing in Minecraft has some nice details baked in, like the fact that fishing in the rain will result in a shorter wait for a bite (presumably since the fish are attracted by the raindrops) and fishing in the dark will take longer (fish typically don't carry flashlights). And there's a nice effect as the fish leaves a little wake when approaching the lure. It's an enjoyable and relaxing experience to fish in Minecraft.
Exciting? Not so much. Click once when the bobber dunks and you'll automatically catch and pocket whatever's there. If anything, it's anti-climactic. —Chris Livingston
Fishing: Barents Sea
It's tough to relax when your entire livelihood depends on catching fish, as in Fishing: Barents Sea, a commercial fishing simulator. It's a great game, but as you work your way from a lowly fisherperson on a tiny boat to a wealthy and successful fish baron, there's simply not much time to relax. Bringing fish into your boat isn't terribly exciting itself, but a good haul that meets a quota, completes a mission, or sells for a ton of money: that's pretty exciting. As a bonus, there are enjoyable (though repetitive) fish-hooking and fish-gutting minigames.
Black Desert Online
The actual act of fishing in Black Desert Online isn’t anything extraordinarily unique. You do the basic cast, wait for a bite, and then complete some quick-time events like pressing a button at the right time and then punching in a combo of keys before a timer runs out—the usual stuff. But what I love about Black Desert Online’s approach is that it openly embraces the fact that fishing in a videogame is actually so goddamn boring and captures none of the serenity and joy of the real-life sport.
So instead, there’s an AFK fishing mode where you can just leave your character to cast their line and then minimize the game and they’ll continue to fish until their rod breaks or their inventory fills up. It’s a great way of making money and I’d much rather just AFK fish then spend my afternoons doing it the slow and painful way. Win-win. —Steven Messner
I'm not sure if fishing in Torchlight is actually relaxing, or simply relaxing in comparison to the unending hacking and slashing of the dungeon crawler's swarms of monsters. It's nice, though. Find a designated fishin' hole in a quiet spot, drop in your line (your character apparently carries a fishing pole with them at all times), and wait. The circle will grow and contract hypnotically, and when it closes, hit a button and reel in a fish, feed it to your pet, and watch it transform into a treasure chest with teeth.
You can also fish with dynamite, which is good for catching several fish at once, but somehow detracts from the zen fishing experience (as explosives often do). —Chris Livingston
Provided you've managed to craft or find a fishing rod before someone handcuffs you, drains your blood, and shoots you in the head, fishing in DayZ can be a welcome respite and an incredibly relaxing activity. With an earthworm on the hook and your line cast, you just wait, keeping an eye on the status messages until something bites. It's never 100% relaxing, due to the paranoia of another player showing up, but it's about as close to a rest you get.
The menu-based actions to pull in the line, however, take away a bit of the excitement of catching a fish. As a bonus, however, you can use the fish as a melee weapon instead of just cooking and eating it. —Chris Livingston
Your relaxation while playing Fishing Planet might depend on how you personally feel about free-to-play games with in-game currency, microtransactions, and gated content. If you don't mind spending some money (or slowly grinding out progress), there's a lot to like in this complex fishing simulation. It's a nice-looking game with lots of (unlockable) places to fish and tons of depth, though the excitement can be undercut if you know what you're doing. Use the right lure and the right bait in the right area, and the fish will be so easy to catch you'll assume that becoming your dinner is their lifelong goal. —Chris Livingston