There's just something about a game with great water. Maybe it's because for years water in games was mostly unconvincing: it didn't sparkle or ripple or swirl or even really move. Now, water has become a highlight, cooed over in game trailers and examined closely for realism and beauty. We love when games have great water—even if we don't always love the games themselves.
Below we've collected some of the most beautiful water in PC games. Dive in.
Above: Gif source: NeoGAF (opens in new tab)
Sea of Thieves
Yeah. Let's start here because Sea of Thieves definitely has the most beautiful water I've ever seen in a game. In calm weather or during storms, in bright sunlight or at the edge of dusk, while gazing at it while standing on a sandy beach or desperately trying to bail it out of your leaking hull, the water in Rare's open world pirate game is always distractedly lovely.
I'm content to just enjoy it, but if you'd like to learn about how its made, there's a developer diary here.
Assassin's Creed Origins
You'll spend plenty of time splashing around in Assassin's Creed Origins, partly out of necessity and partly because the water is just fun to be in. The ripples and splashes are convincing, the sun shimmering off the waves on the open sea is beautiful, and Bayek, after getting out of the water, will actually flick the water off his hands. It's nice when characters actually notice they're soaking wet.
While it's not entirely visually convincing, the physics of Spintires' water rushing and pushing against the truck you're attempting to plow through it is amazing. We've all driven cars into water in games because we're terribly irresponsible, but the water in Spintires actually interacts with your vehicle. It's amazing.
Granted, Batman can't interact with the water in Arkham Knight—he's a bat, not a fish—but it's still beautiful and atmospheric. The dark waves reflecting the moonlight makes me wish for a bat boat—Gotham can sort out it's own problems tonight. I just want to take a cruise.
It's been over a decade since Bioshock 2, and it definitely shows, but I think the water is still pretty glorious in the sequence where a section of Rapture floods. It's an event we held our breath for in the original Bioshock and finally got to experience in the sequel. Step outside, the water's fine.
When you're talking about physics, effects, and graphics, you're going to run into one of the Crysis games eventually. The water in Crysis 3 is more than just eyecandy—it's convincingly responsive to anything disturbing it, from bullets to cars to your own legs wading through it. Forget saving the world, I just want to splash around in puddles all day. Maximum water.
Rapture ain't the only city surrounded by water. In Hydrophobia you're in a floating city, and water is the focus—to the detriment of pretty much everything else in the game. The physics and modeling of the water is fantastic, though, as it rises and falls, pours through doors and corridors, and pushes you around with it.
More great waves to stop and gaze over. Like everything else in Dishonored 2, the water is beautifully realized and transfixing, especially when you spot a whale breaching offshore. It's nice to see a living whale that hasn't been converted to lamp oil (yet) once in a while.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Before we set sail in Sea of Thieves, we had Black Flag. Sailing is exciting and invigorating thanks to the beauty of the high seas (with an assist from your crew's sea shanties). Water spouts and rogue waves, as you can see above, gave us another reason to hold our breath.