10 games that could use Thalassophobia Mode

Horizon Forbidden West - thalassophobia mode
(Image credit: Sony)

In its latest PS5 patch, Guerrilla Games has added a revolutionary accessibility setting to Horizon Forbidden West – you can now play the game in Thalassophobia Mode, just in time to try it out in the Burning Shores DLC. Thanks to Aloy's ability to hold her breath indefinitely, and a moving pink shadow marking out the seabed for you during diving sections, people who fear deep water will hopefully be able to play the game more comfortably. 

Holding your breath, exploring aquatic depths, and possibly drowning in the process – these immersive hallmarks are found in many action-adventure games today. But the very existence of a Thalassophobia Mode in one of the best PS5 games marks an important step in the progression of video game accessibility. It's also had me thinking how useful a similar mode could be in a number of games where you can drown or experience dangers in the deep. Not everyone loves to be beside the seaside, so here are 10 games with underwater sections that could be kinder to is thalassophobic players, from open world wonders to first-person survival horrors.

10. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 

The Witcher 3

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Developer: CD Projekt RED
Platforms: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch

The Witcher 3 is considered one of the best RPGs for many reasons, but deep-sea combat isn't one of them. The Continent features many-a-body of water for Geralt of Rivia to take a dip in between fighting monsters and wooing the ladies, and since you can one-shot Drowners underwater with your crossbow, you're free to dive for treasure with little in the way of interruption. But even witchers can't hold their breath forever, so keep an eye on Geralt's breath bar since it will start to deplete the longer he stays underwater. Like most handicaps though, you can remedy this with a potion. Geralt can take a quick swig of Killer Whale before jumping in, thereby increasing his breath supply and visibility by 50%. It's kind of an abridged Thalassophobia Mode in itself.

9. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey 

Assassin's Creed Odyssey - Kassandra

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Developer: Ubisoft
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

It's not the newest title among the best Assassin's Creed games, but Assassin's Creed: Odyssey marked the series' continuation into open world RPGs. It's a huge game, and whether you choose to play as Kassandra or Alexios (hint: Kassandra is the right option), it turns out Ancient Greece is peppered with plenty of oceans, lakes, underwater mazes, and so on. One early sidequest introduces us to Odyssey's swimming mechanics, testing your fear of heights as well as deep water as you to dive hundreds of feet into a lake at the bottom of a crater-cave. The claustrophobia of swimming through a tunnel is uncomfortable enough without worrying about your air supply rapidly dwindling, and it doesn't help that you need to just keep diving deep until you're floating right on top of an item before it registers as interactive. I could definitely see Thalassophobia Mode being useful in the upcoming Assassin's Creed games, either by taking notes from Guerrilla's approach in Horizon or markedly increasing brightness and visibility underwater.

8. Subnautica 

Subnautica deep sea

(Image credit: Unknown Worlds)

Developer: Unknown Worlds
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch

Subnautica is listed as an action-adventure game, but taking place almost entirely underwater, there are many who might classify it a horror. As the sole survivor of a deadly plane crash (hello there, aerophobia sufferers) and now stranded on an ocean planet, you'll need to keep your wits about you and come face to face with the denizens of the deep if you want to find a way home. The good thing about Subnautica is that the depths are surprisingly well-lit, meaning it's easy to simply coast along the seabed. However, it is a survival game. You'll need to keep an eye on your hunger, thirst, and oxygen levels unless you fancy sleeping with the fishes. It comes with four gameplay modes to choose from, each with varying difficulty conditions, so why not a fifth? A deep-sea game for thalassophobia-sufferers; now that's what I call impressive.

7. Dying Light 2 

Dying Light 2

(Image credit: Techland)

Developer: Techland
Platforms: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

I'm aware that a degree of fear and stress is expected from the best horror games, and Dying Light 2 is no exception. The game series is about smashing up zombies with makeshift weapons, parkouring around vast cityscapes, and jumping into piles of trash to break your 300-foot fall. Realistic, right? Well, the scariest (and most realistic) part of the whole game is the fact that you can still drown if you hold your breath for too long. Swimming isn't a huge part of Dying Light or its sequel, but you'll definitely need to get in the water at some point if you want to collect the juiciest airdrops or complete certain side missions. Thankfully, those who feel nervous in the deep can use their Survivor sense to check out nearby points of interest, but this doesn't quite make up for just how poor the visibility is down there. It's enough to make anyone wish they had a Thalassophobia Mode; this is a game about zombies, so why make the ocean so much scarier? 

6. The Sinking City 

The Sinking City

(Image credit: Frogwares)

Developer: Frogwares
Platforms: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch

This is a bit of a rogue option, but hear me out. The Sinking City is the stuff of Lovecraftian nightmares, an aquatic horror noir that could make you understand why some people's thalassophobia is so crippling. Not only do you venture into the dark ocean to meet the daughter of Cthulhu, but traversing the flooded city of Oakmont means swimming through toxic pools of water that slowly drain your health when you stay in for too long. Anyone with a fear of swimming, oceans, or deep water would look at The Sinking City and immediately nope out, but a game mode to make the water less punishing might help matters. Heightening investigative gameplay over horror themes would encourage confidence in the player, keeping them focussed on solving puzzles instead of being scared of what lies beneath. Helping sufferers confront their fears while minimizing anxiety sounds pretty therapeutic if you ask me, so I definitely think The Sinking City could benefit from Thalassophobia Mode.

5. Stranded Deep 

Stranded Deep - shoreline

(Image credit: Beam Team)

Developer: Beam Team Games
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

The first-person perspective makes everything feel more personal, and this is especially true in Stranded Deep. The game does exactly what it says on the tin: send you packing to a remote, desolate island to fight for survival against insurmountable odds. With natural resources ever-dwindling, it's a sinking feeling to stare out across the ocean's vast nothingness. Swimming in the sea is actually less daunting than looking at it from the surface, since the brightly-colored fish, coral reefs, and turquoise water are quite soothing. But hold your breath too long down there and you'll start to see something strange. Stranded Deep goes a step further than many other games on this list in that as you start to drown, your vision will blacken and blur around the edges as you gradually go unconscious. This paired with the jarring sounds of your character struggling against their own lungs, fighting the urge to take a gulp of seawater, makes for a uniquely terrifying experience that closely resembles how drowning works in real life. I don't think developer Beam Team should get rid of drowning altogether – this is a survival game after all, and a risk of death is to be expected – but a way to toggle off the realistic drowning would be nice for accessibility. I'm pretty sure I would rather be eaten by a shark.

4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 


(Image credit: Bethesda)

Developer: Bethesda
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch

It's been 12 years since Skyrim came out, and it's still topping our list of the best Elder Scrolls games. This game wrote the book on fantasy RPGs, and it's still enjoyed in 2023 thanks to the best Skyrim mods keeping it fresh for new or returning players alike. With The Elder Scrolls 6 currently in production, it's unlikely Bethesda will be dropping new Skyrim content anytime soon. But out of all the thousands of mods available, some of the most necessary ones address how comical it is to drown in Skyrim. This is the polar opposite case from Stranded Deep; you'd have to be truly terrified of deep water to do anything but laugh when your character makes a startled grunt, flops backward, and goes limp after just 40 seconds of holding their breath. I almost want the opposite of a Thalassophobia Mode here (Realistic Swimming and Drowning mod, anyone?), but the grey waters are still plenty dark and spooky for those who fear unknown depths. Like all things Skyrim, though, there'll be a mod for that.

3. GTA 5 

Grand Theft Auto 5

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Developer: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

The crowning jewel in Rockstar's illustrious repertoire, GTA 5 sees you ruling the streets of Los Santos as Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. It's a giant open world epic that truly shines when you're just driving around in search of mayhem, and going for a swim along the glittering coastline is one way to kill time. It's still very possible to die down there by staying under too long, and with all that empty ocean stretching out before you, it's no doubt creepy for some. You'll want to check out some of the best GTA 5 mods as a makeshift Thalassophobia Mode if you're finding those underwater sections nerve-wracking. Hopefully GTA 6 will have everything we loved about its predecessor with a few added steps in terms of accessibility.

2. The Last of Us 

The Last of Us - Ellie protects Joel

(Image credit: Sony)

Developer: Naughty Dog
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 

The most heartrending piece of zombie media since Train to Busan, both The Last of Us Part 1 and The Last of Us Part 2 have the power to scare you with deep water as well as clickers. Getting across that flooded subway is no joke, using only torchlight to guide you while you tense up in fear that anything is ready to grab you from below. Being one of the more recent games on this list, I can realistically see The Last of Us doing well with something akin to Thalassophobia Mode, or even a no-torch mode that makes dark environments brighter automatically to give better visibility. For now, you can always manually crank the brightness up and the contrast down when you get to sections like the flooded subway.  

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild underwater

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U

For a game with the word "breath" in the title, Link has a surprising lack of it in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Our little hero has been running, jumping, and gliding about since the late 1980s but after all this time he's still no good at swimming. Credit where it's due, Nintendo deserves props for the evolution of Link's drowning animations across the Zelda games. But once he takes a few laps and runs out of stamina, he still sinks like a stone. This isn't a game that I feel might trigger thalassophobia necessarily – the ocean textures are a smooth solid blue – but I'm sure that Link's tendency to drown easily is distressing for many. Let's hope our hero is made of stronger stuff in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Looking forward to Link's next adventure? Check out our Legend of Zelda celebration as we look back on 37 years of magic.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer for global publications TheGamer and TechRadar Gaming before accepting a full-time role at GamesRadar+. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.