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For millions of anglers, fishing can be an incredibly relaxing (and possibly expensive) pastime. With tens-of-thousands of fishing spots around the United States alone, there is never a shortage of fish to be caught.
But what happens when distance, weather, or other circumstances keep fishing enthusiasts off the water?
For over thirty years now, the video game industry has provided a reasonable solution to this conundrum. From the comfort of their own homes, anglers can fixate on screens of various sizes in hopes of landing larger fish than they will likely ever catch on storied lakes they are unlikely to ever visit.
In fairness, though, fishing-oriented video games aren’t really that much different than those of any other sporting franchise. Fans of competitive football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, mixed martial arts, racing, and more can simulate the action without ever have to leave their couch.
Sure, you might miss out on the tranquility of a quiet, foggy 6 A.M. launch, the soothing serenade of unadulterated nature, or the myriad health benefits of being outdoors, but you’re still catching fish… sort of.
Since the late 1980s, the quality and playability of fishing games has varied considerably. While very few games will ever hope to holistically capture the essence of being on the water, some options do a much better job than others.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the best fishing video games of all-time.
*Editor’s Note: While many games feature excellent fishing-based mini-games, we are looking at games that are based exclusively on fishing — sorry, Twilight Princess
Looking at the Best Fishing Video Games Ever
Fishing Clash (2019)
One of the newer entries on the list, Fishing Clash (produced by Ten Square Games) may also be one of the most expensive for players looking to move up the rankings quickly.
While free-to-play, upgrades are immediately offered to players, ranging from starter packages for $0.99 to crates costing $99.99. Depending on how much time you have spent playing, the frequency at which you use your upgrades, and the amount of money you are spending on each purchase, these boosts may directly benefit your game play for anywhere from thirty minutes to several days.
As with many mobile games, however, Fishing Clash can suck players in by offering numerous multiplayer tournaments, collaborative “clans”, and frequent contests. Given that there is very little skill involved in the game, players are left having to spend time or money (and usually both) to progress through the game’s tiered system.
For those simply looking for a relaxing outlet, however, Fishing Clash holds up nicely.
Early stages allow player to fish from the shores of the Florida Coast and at famed Guntersville Lake. Lots of freshwater and saltwater favorites appear early on, giving experiences anglers a taste of familiarity.
As players progress, more exotic locations like Alaska’s Kenai River and China’s Yangtze River become playable, offering a wider variety of species.
For a mobile game, Fishing Clash offers some nice graphics and gives players a chance to target specific species. The novelty wears off fairly quickly, however, as hauling in a one pound bluegill requires the same effort and skills as a 15 pound largemouth or a 40 pound muskie.
If you need a quick fix, however, Fishing Clash isn’t a bad option at all.
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing 2010
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing was a popular title around the turn of last decade, available for major gaming systems like the Playstation 3, XBOX 360, and Nintendo DS.
One of the areas where this entry excelled is in its use of distance mechanism. From utilizing lure depth to casting distance, players will have a certain amount of control over what lures they use and where they throw them.
Largely an arcade-style simulation, Rapala Pro Bass Fishing rewards players for accurate casting and offers mid-fight suggestions on how to best retrieve their catch.
While the joystick mechanics were popular with many gamers, this is a title that could have benefited from the emerging Wii technology. A 2011 follow-up that paired with Xbox’s Kinect was not nearly as well received. Subsequent iOS/Android offerings have also been unable to capture the popularity or replayability of Pro Bass Fishing.
Mark Davis’ The Fishing Master
When someone tells you to not judge a book by its cover, its possible they had this oft-forgotten Super Nintendo title in mind.
Despite receiving mixed review upon its release in April 1996, Mark Davis’ The Fishing Master does a few things well. While it will never win any awards for genre-defining graphics (compare this with a few entries on our list that came out only a half-decade later for proof), it is perhaps the most authentic fishing video game ever made in the sense that winning is really, really hard.
Seeing as actual fishing is also really, really hard, this is a good thing, right?
The game also is noted for having incredible attention to detail. Players must practice techniques based upon real-life fishing, including making adjustments for fishing different lakes, different seasons, and different patterns.
That said, if you are patient enough to catch actual fish and are at least remotely comfortable with video games, you should do well with this title. If you are simply looking for a fun, fast-paced experience, however, we definitely recommend some other titles on this list.
As an added bonus, the game does feature some of those groovy background tracks that make you want to bust out your SNES and start playing!
Hooked! Real Motion Fishing
While the biggest criticism of Rapala’s Pro Bass Fishing is arguably that it missed out on a great chance to make the most of the motion capabilities of the Nintendo Wii, then “Hooked!” absolutely set the groundwork for what was possible on the system with its release several years prior.
Another arcade-style game, Hooked! Real Motion Fishing is absolutely what you would expect from an early Wii offering — brash, generic background music, obnoxious sound effects, and cringy voice-overs.
While navigating from the boat and attempting to hook up a fish, players are met with a silly, twangy, country-rock inspired track. Once the fish strikes, a forgettable, early-2000s’ish nu-metal instrumental takes over.
If you can get past the endless auditory assault of hearing “Hit!” and “Wow, that’s SUPER BIG” after every encounter, Real Motion Fishing is actually a fun game with solid replay value.
For many of the reasons classic games like Wii Bowling are still beloved nearly a decade-and-a-half later, Real Motion Fishing is the type of game you can load up on a Saturday night with some friends without a second thought.
Known as Bass Fishing Wii: Rokumaru Densetsu in Japan, Real Motion Fishing offers online play with up to four players, a total of six different fishing areas, and the ability to select weather conditions.
Maybe the coolest feature, however, is the fact that users could buy a fishing rod controller attachment.
Fishing Sim World: Pro Tour
As one of the newer entries on this list, Fishing Sim World provides a slightly more realistic experience that some of the more dated titles. Complete with a generic soundtrack of background music and action sounds, the audio is neither the most memorable nor the most offensive on this list.
While other games allow users to control their boats and navigate their waters, there is something comfortable about doing so on this game. If this actual fishing gets boring (which it rarely does), you are free to just zip through the water instead. While it’s certainly not Grand Theft Auto, it would be nice to pull up beside other anglers and poach their spots.
Fishing Sim World allows for a fairly accurate experience as users must gauge depth and distance. The boat also provides a trolling motor and electronic fish finder, allowing players to simulate real-world techniques and planning. Fishing structure is important, as is choosing the proper rig. In that regard, Fishing Sim World gets it right.
Another real-world element the game provides is its catalog of fishable lakes. Anglers are able to target predators, carp, and bass. Depending on their circuit, they will fish lakes exclusively for those species. The lakes include:
Predator species: Laguna Iquitos, Grand Union Canal, Jezioro Bestii, and Lago Del Mundo
Carp: Gigantica, Waldsee, Bergsee, Manor Farm, Gillhams Fishing Resort, Wraysbury 1 South
Bass: Lake Seminole, Lake Boulder, Lake Johnson, Lake Williams
The actual mechanics of catching your fish can be challenging at first. While testing the game out, we lost far more fish than we would in real life — and we’ve lost plenty of fish. Once players get a handle on the retrieval mechanism, however, the actual fight becomes pretty fun. Movements are fairly deliberate and the range a hooked fish can cover is exciting. Despite some nice features, players should be mindful that Fishing Sim World is still very much an arcade-style game.
As with most newer games for current-generation consoles, Fishing Sim World also allows players to purchase upgrades. One of the coolest features is the ability to customize your character’s fishing jersey. Unfortunately, the character models are a bit dated and customization options is limited. For future updates, it would be nice to see some significant improves to this area. Otherwise, this is one of the most complete fishing games on the market.
Sega Bass Fishing
If you want a simple, straight-forward, arcade-style fishing game that is definitely dated but manages to hold up a full two decades after its console release, look no further.
Making full use of the notorious Sega fishing rod, this title was a fairly popular offering for the Dreamcast system. As with many other titles on that console, it often seemed like the goal was to show off the graphic capabilities of the Dreamcast more so than providing an offering filled with depth, features, stories, or any real type of complexity.
That said, Sega Bass Fishing still allowed players to simulate one of the most exciting pastimes in the world: catching fish!
In many ways, the arcade-style fishing simulators we have seen throughout the 2000s offer a bit of gratitude to Sega Bass Fishing. While the graphics and mechanics have improved considerably over the past 20 years, there’s a certain familiarity that can be found across the genre, and this was really one of the first games to capture that experience and aesthetic.
Over a decade removed from its initial arcade release in 1997, Sega Bass Fishing made its way to the Nintendo Wii in 2008. It was later picked up by both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation Network.
If you were a big fan of THQ’s chunky, blocky graphics in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this is definitely a great title for you!
While incorporating some of the best elements of THQ games at the time (think popular professional wrestling titles like WWF Wrestlemania 2000 or the mega-classic WWF No Mercy), the company manages to convert their style to a solid-but-potentially forgettable N64 game.
Finding a happy balance between pure-arcade and full-on-simulation, Bassmasters 2000 has a legitimacy in the fact that players can customize their anglers (complete with those awkward, kind of spooky facial templates), select real-life boats (with models from companies like Ranger), authentic fishing lures, and more. As with games that published years or decades later — Bassmasters 2000 released in late 1999 — players can also navigate real lakes in their boat.
If you want to convert your gaming into transferable fishing skills, Bassmasters 2000 even offers in-game advice by Shaw Grigsby.
Admittedly, the graphics do not hold up to today’s standards. The mechanics are also a bit clunky when considering the evolution the genre has undergone over the past twenty years. For those nostalgic for some throwback N64 action, however, this game is a must-own.
The Black Bass
Full disclosure: The best part of compiling this list was, without a shadow of a doubt, watching the video above and reliving the 8-bit glories of childhood.
For our younger readers, the fact that Nintendo’s 1986 release is on this list will make absolutely no sense. The graphics are mediocre, the features are incredibly limited, and the soundtrack is an acquired taste.
That said, for those of us who grew up in the Nintendo-infused 1980s, The Black Bass is more than just a video game: it’s nostalgia.
Just as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out can’t stand up as a full-spectrum gaming experience in the face of Fight Night Champion, The Black Bass is not making the list because it blew us away with its complexity. But, like fishing in general, there is something calming, comforting, and even cathartic about this title.
What’s nice about The Black Bass is the fact that casting, retrieving, and catching fish is relatively easy. Sure, it can be frustrating to see “The Fish Goes Away” at the bottom of your screen when a potential catch swims away without snacking on your bait, but after time it definitely gets easier.
Despite being a fairly simple game with fairly simple gameplay, however, actually progressing through the game can be a real challenge. As with many games on the original NES, the replay value goes us significantly because even the most dedicated players often struggle to “beat” the game.
Even if your are not a member of the bygone era where The Black Bass is considered one of the best fishing games of all-time, you can still spend a weekend trying to get your catch total high enough to advance to a new lake.
If you insist on playing some newer titles, however, take comfort in knowing that The Black Bass had produced numerous direct sequels, including:
The Blue Marlin
Black Bass: Lure Fishing
Bassin’s Black Bass with Hank Parker
Super Black Bass 3
American Bass Challenge
Super Black Bass: 3D Fight
Are there any other games that deserve the title of “Best Fishing Game of All-Time?”
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other fishing games that have been released over the last thirty-five years. Do you know of any that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below.