The Best Games Set On An Island

yamatai island

[Update: This article has been updated in August of 2018.]

The remote or abandoned island seems to be one of the most used — and most useful — settings for stories in any medium. From Daniel Defoe’s groundbreaking novel Robinson Crusoe to Ubisoft’s best-selling FPS Far Cry 3, humans have been using islands to explore various ideas and themes for centuries.

This is especially true in video games, where islands cut off from the rest of the world are the perfect places for mystical adventures, insane terrorists, and quiet puzzle solving. They can serve as places to escape to, or prisons for characters to get trapped on. Including both the serious and the silly, here are some of the best games with island settings.


#20 Dead Island

  • Developer: Techland
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XBO
  • Release: September 6, 2011

Techland’s survival game may be most remembered for its fantastic first trailer, but the game is set in an open-world island. This island is struck with a pandemic after a disease spreads turning humans into mindless zombies. Four survivors wake up to find out that everyone else on the resort island has been infected.

Now in order to escape this island, players will have to find other survivors and work on a means to securing a way back to safety. While it can easily be argued that Dying Light is a better iteration on Dead Island, the tropical island resort setting definitely made Techland’s first major project interesting.


#19 The Suffering

  • Developer: Surreal Software
  • Publisher: Midway Games, Encore, Zoo Digital Publishing
  • Platforms: PS2, Xbox, PC
  • Release: March 8, 2004

If you enjoy horror titles then The Suffering may be worth checking out. Released back in 2004 and developed by Surreal Software, The Suffering is a third-person shooter psychological horror video game. Players take on the role of Torque who is a prisoner waiting on death row for his execution date after being found guilty of murdering his ex-wife and children.

Torque claims to be innocent, however, after an earthquake hits the prison located on an island, our protagonist may be able to escape, but, he may find himself facing against other inmates along with a slew of supernatural threats.


#18 Tropico

  • Developer: PopTop Software, Feral Interactive
  • Publisher: Gathering of Developers, MacSoft, Feral Interactive
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: April 21, 2001

Being the ruthless dictator of a Caribbean island is no walk in the park but you do get a few perks. Tropico has been around since 2001 and since then, the video game franchise has seen a number of installments released into the market. As such, it’s no surprise to see the series in full make our list.

This is a simulation type video game where players take control of an island and manage their nation through the years. Depending on how well you handle situations and gain the respect of your peers will determine just how long you stay in office.


#17 Oxenfree

  • Developer: Night School Studio
  • Publisher: Night School Studio
  • Platforms: PC, XBO, PS4, NS, iOS, Android
  • Release: January 15, 2016

The recently-released narrative adventure game from Night School Studio mixes The Goonies and Freaks n’ Geeks with magical realism reminiscent of hispanic authors Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The main character, a 16-year-old named Alex, is spending the weekend with some friends on a remote island off the coast of her Pacific Northwest town.

As would be expected, the island harbors supernatural horrors that the unknowing teenagers must survive. Edwards Island is a uniquely haunted and tormented place, and one definitely worth visiting.


#16 Fallout 4 Far Harbor

  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
  • Release: May 19, 2016

If you completed Fallout 4, then we suggest checking out the expansion pack, Far Harbor. Within the DLC release of Fallout 4, players become a detective and must locate a missing girl who was living on a remote island. However, you will want to be careful as the island contains higher levels of radiation causing more mutated and feral creatures to roam freely.

During your exploration of the island, the game will present players with new faction quests, settlements, creatures and dungeons. Of course, you will want to explore in order to secure new powerful weapons and armor.


#15 Crash Bandicoot

  • Developer: Naughty Dog
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Platforms: PS1
  • Release: September 9, 1996

Like most who grew up during the PSX era, the most memorable aspect of Crash Banidcoot is the orange mascot’s choice of jean shorts (or jorts) as his only article of clothing. But there is an island setting here: the game’s antagonist, Dr. Neo Cortex, needs three isles to house his army of mutated animals. Crash’s adventure takes him through jungles, across beaches, and into temple ruins in order to stop Cortex’s nefarious plan.

Naughty Dog’s breakout hit may be remembered more for its protagonist than its setting, but the game’s Wumpa islands both narratively and literally serve as Crash’s home. Luckily the game can be played today with a massive overhaul in the visuals department thanks to the release of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.


#14 Contra

  • Developer: Konami
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Platforms: Arcade, NES
  • Release: February 20, 2987

Konami’s run-and-gun action game takes place on the Galuga archipelago in Oceania. You may not remember that, even if you blasted your way through its seven stages several times, whether it be in an arcade or on the NES.

The game will forever be remembered for its blasting gameplay rather than its setting. Much like Dr. Neo Cortex in Crash Bandicoot, the Red Falcon organization needs a small chain of islands to start its world-conquering business. Are we starting to notice a theme here?


#13 Myst

  • Developer: Cyan
  • Publisher: Broderbund
  • Platforms: PC, PS1
  • Release: September 24, 1993

Considered a puzzle-adventure masterpiece, Myst‘s titular island houses brain-bending puzzles, mysteries, and magic. At the beginning of the game, the player is whisked away to Myst Island after placing his hand on the last page of a book.

The island world is one of the most famous in video game history because of the story hidden within its puzzles. While the player will visit other worlds throughout the game, Myst island serves as the game’s anchor. It’s the most interesting and full-fledged island setting in video games.


#12 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Dragonborn

  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, X360
  • Release: December 4, 2012

Much like Far Harbor for Fallout 4, Dragonborn was DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. However, the DLC found its way into the full game thanks to the later title editions. After completing the main campaign of Skyrim, the Dragonborn DLC will have players traveling to the island of Solstheim which will have ties to the very first Dragonborn.


#11 The Forest

  • Developer: Endnight Games
  • Publisher: Endnight Games
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: April 30, 2018

The Forest, much like The Isle, got its release as an early access title with the final full release debuting in April of 2018. Again, similar to The Isle, players are found trapped on an island and tasked simply with survival. Within this island, players will find that there are cannibalistic groups who will keep watch over you and raid your camp. This will force players to set traps in order to survive through the night.


#10 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, XBO, X360, Wii U
  • Release: October 29, 2013

The sixth main installment of the Assassin’s Creed series, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, takes players to the open seas. While following the main overall plot of the series with the fight between Assassins and the Templars, there’s a real joy in taking up the pirate life with Edward Kenway.

Players will find that there is an emphasis on exploring the open waters, gathering a crew, sink opposing ships, and reap the rewards that come across their way. Outside of the sea life, players will also explore lands and fight using melee combat. This video game easily gathered newcomers to the franchise and its one installment from the series that you will not want to pass up.


#9 The Secret of Monkey Island

monkey island

  • Developer: Lucasfilm Games
  • Publisher: Lucasfilm Games
  • Platforms: Amiga, Atari ST, MS-Dos, Sega CD
  • Release: October 1990

Before Lucasfilm Games shuttered their doors in 2013, they were responsible for some great games like Grim Fandango and Maniac Mansion. Chief among these was 1990’s The Secret of Monkey Island, set on the fictional Melee and Monkey Islands. The game is well-remembered for its point-and-click gameplay.

It’s even more revered for its humorous and tongue-in-cheek story, which while silly at times, is at its core a story of a young man looking to escape where he’s from in order to better himself (through piracy, obviously). Lucasfilm’s point-and-click masterpiece shows that islands don’t just have to be prisons of plague or otherworldly horror – they can be beacons of hope, too.


#8 Tomb Raider (2013)

  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, X360, PS4, XBO
  • Release: March 5, 2013

Crsytal Dynamics’ reboot of Lara Croft’s adventure looked to emphasize her character more than her body, and while it achieved that, it also portrayed her as a murderous psychopath. Still, the game is remembered for its engaging tombs and great puzzle physics. The island of Yamatai, where Lara and her team are marooned, is full of mystery with a strong seasoning of the supernatural.

The game’s backstory about the island’s old inhabitants and their politics is one of its unsung qualities. Found through quick notes and other artifacts scattered around the island, these small bits of background make exploring Yamatai interesting and exciting.


#7 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

  • Developer: Retro Studios
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Platforms: Wii U, NS
  • Release: February 14, 2014

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was originally available on the Nintendo Wii U though after the console received its short lifespan cycle, Nintendo opted to release the game once again for the Nintendo Switch.

Being the fifth main installment to the Donkey Kong County series, players who enjoyed the past installments will find many of the same classic elements and mechanics make a return. As a result, if you enjoy platform titles, solving puzzles and collecting a plethora of items along the way then Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an easy recommendation.


#6 The Witness

  • Developer: Thekla, Inc.
  • Publisher: Thekla, Inc.
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
  • Release: January 26, 2016

While islands are great settings for zombie apocalypses and evil organizations, they can also be great place for introverted meditations. When you’re surrounded by nothing but water, on an empty island, what else are you going to do but solve 600 or so puzzles?

As we noted in our review, Jonathan Blow’s open-world puzzle game wants the player to slow down and think. An abandoned island serves as a great place to emphasize isolation. This isn’t a bad thing — everyone needs some time to be alone and ruminate every once in a while.


#5 Far Cry 3

  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XBO
  • Release: November 29, 2012

Set on the tropical archipelago Rook Island, everyone probably remembers the “definition of insanity” speech from E3 2011, given by Vaas, the game’s frenetic antagonist. The game explores ideas of identity and mental health while asking the player to slowly retake the archipelago by hunting animals, crafting weapons, and retaking enemy outposts.

The island’s inhabitants, both human and wildlife, give it a sense of personality just as strong, if not as vocal, as Vaas himself, making Rook Island one of gaming’s most memorable island settings.


#4 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Publisher: Bethesda Game Softworks
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox
  • Release: May 1, 2002

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  is another great open-world RPG if players find themselves enjoying the latest release The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. However, you could make the argument that Morrowind is more of a continent which are made up of a series of islands. Regardless, the overall campaign of the video game will follow The Tribunal and their struggle against Dagoth Ur.


#3 Yoshi’s Island

  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Platforms: SNES, GBA
  • Release: August 1995

Yoshi’s Island is a classic and one title that originated all the way back in 1995. This platformer follows Baby Mario and Yoshi over a course of several levels in an attempt to save Luigi who becomes kidnapped by minions under the control of Baby Bowser early on in the video game. While the game originally released back on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or otherwise known as the SNES, Nintendo did release the game once again as a virtual title for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.


#2 Crysis

  • Developer: Crytek
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, X360
  • Release: November 13, 2007

Crysis is a well-known franchise by developers Crytek and in this particular list, we’re looking at the first Crysis title. The video game is set in the future where an alien structure was discovered within the mountains of a series of islands near the East Philippines. Players will step into the shoes of Jake Dunn, a soldier in the U.S. Army Delta Force. During your expedition to the mountains, gamers will find that they will need to battle against aliens and North Korean forces.


#1 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Platforms: GC, Wii U
  • Release: December 13, 2002

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is the tenth installment to the long running The Legend of Zelda franchise. As always, players take on the role of Link but this time, the emphasis is for players to explore the open seas as they take the fight against Ganon.

Much like the recent installments to the franchise, Wind Waker features 3D gameplay, however, the art style is drastically different in comparison to the past few installments at the time. Nintendo developed the video game to retain more of a cartoonish style to the video game with cell shading.