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Many video games, particularly stealth games and First Person Shooters (oftentimes in multiplayer maps), feature levels that require the player to navigate the inside of a ship. From a game design perspective, there are good reasons why a level taking place in a ship is convenient, some of which overlap with the reasons why it might be fun to play hide-and-seek on a ship:

  • Ships are generally surrounded by water (unless they're in drydock), giving the level convenient boundaries, eliminating the need for arbitrarily-placed Invisible Walls and the like by having an endless ocean surrounding the ship, which is more convincing.
  • Below deck, ships have narrow corridors and sneaking through a well-lit corridor is quite a challenge.
  • The corridors also facilitate linear level design very well due to being, well, corridors.
  • A ship far out at sea is surrounded by water, which can be used to make the game world seem very large (with less effort than creating an epically-sized game landscape, for example). Additionally, having gameplay take place on a large ship that is steadily moving through water can convey that great distances are being covered, which can give the feeling of progressing through an epic journey.
  • Ships can be sunk! This can make for convenient plot excuses to have the level take place on a ship (either sinking or saving a ship from sinking), thus taking advantage of all of the aforementioned aspects of ships. However, it is hard for an individual video game protagonist or even a team to sink a ship and the lengths that must be taken to do this can also prove convenient from a game design perspective (for example, as in Deus Ex, the player might have to plant explosives at specific points to sink a ship, necessitating that the player navigates through the ship and also forcing the player to leave the ship afterwards). This can also make for a transition into an underwater level or something similar if it is not possible to leave the ship before it sinks.

A specific subtrope of this is Gang Plank Galleon. Related to Down the Drain in that a sewer level and a ship level can share some qualities, such as maze-like design and aesthetic similarities. It does not necessarily coincide with Get on the Boat.


Stealth Games:

  • In the Metal Gear series:
  • In the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series:
    • The second level of Chaos Theory takes place on a small ship called the Maria Narcissa. The level is very linear and the player must use ventilation shafts and the like to avoid being detected in the narrow corridors and to find and assassinate Hugo Lacerda.
    • In Double Agent, one of Sam Fisher's missions is to infiltrate a cruise ship and blow it up with a bomb.
  • Late in Deus Ex, the player must destroy a Chinese Supertanker hidden in a New York naval base by scuttling the weld points in its hull with explosives.
  • Alpha Protocol has a mission set on a yacht.

First Person Shooters:

  • From the Call of Duty series:
    • The first game had a level where the player must infiltrate the German battleship Tirpitz. The map is also used in the multiplayer.
    • The first mission of Modern Warfare, "Crew Expendable", is a raid on a cargo ship. The multiplayer map "Wet Work" is based on that level.
  • From Unreal Tournament and its sequels:
    • A map in Unreal Tournament, "DM-KGalleon" (Koos Galleon), is modeled after a ship, as is its continuation in Unreal Tournament III, "DM-KBarge."
    • Also from the first Unreal Tournament, the Assault map, "AS-Frigate," is about infiltrating the eponymous frigate and taking control of it.
  • The E3 demo of Half-Life 2 took place on an abandoned icebreaker called the Borealis. The level didn't make it into the final release though Episode 2 makes clear that Episode 3 will feature the Borealis. This mod, Missing Information, recreates the level from the concept art and makes it playable.
  • Cryostasis takes place entirely on a shipwrecked icebreaker called the North Wind.
  • One of the levels in episode 4 of Duke Nukem 3D is set in an oil ship.
  • A level of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth takes place on a Coast Guard cutter.
  • Command and Conquer: Renegade features a Nod ship whose commanding officers are Shout Outs to The Love Boat and Gilligan's Island.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 should be listed here, although the level is in a cargo airplane, it's huge enough to practically be a ship, plus serves all the purposes listed in the trope description.
  • Halo, of course! The series is made of this trope.
    • Halo 1 kicks it off with four explicit ship levels, first evacuating the Pillar of Autumn (1) as it prepares to crash into Halo. Then, the assault on the Truth and Reconciliation (3) in Halo's atmosphere, assault the Truth and Reconciliation again (9 )[spoiler: to get Keyes's activation codes]], and finally the return to the "beached" Pillar of Autumn (10) to blow it up and destroy Halo. Substitute space for water and they hit just about the whole checklist in the first game. Four of the ten missions in the game spend substantial time on a ship. Most of the indoor parts of Halo feel like this, and for very loose interpretations of "ship" (for the sake of this trope space stations are admirable "ships"), practically the whole game could be considered this.
    • In Halo 2 you don't fight in any ships per se, but Cairo Station, the Forerunner Gas Mining Facility, High Charity, and Delta Halo all have that feel. The Scarab feels like one too, though it's a walker and not even technically a ship.
    • In Halo 3, when you return to High Charity, it feels like this (again, loose definition of "ship").
    • In Halo 3 ODST, your team is planning on this, (leading your squad's marksman to complain that he saw no use in carrying his sniper rifle) but the Slipspace Jump that Regret pulled back in Halo 2 upsets that. The rest of the game is spent fighting your way to your teammates in the wake of the explosion from the Jump.
      • Pretty clear that Dare was going to commandeer the squad anyway, so maybe Buck just wasn't telling him?
    • Halo Wars: see below
    • In Halo Reach, you attack, maim, board, and commandeer the Ardent Prayer as part of Operation: Upper Cut. You use it to destroy the supercarrier Long Night of Solace.

RPGs and other games:

  • ~Pokémon Red and Blue~ (and Yellow) feature the SS Anne. Other Pokemon games have the player go on ships, but usually there is not as much to explore as in the SS Anne. The ship returns in Heartgold and Soulsilver, the Pokémon Gold and Silver remakes. Pokémon Black and White has the Royal Unova, which is rather large as well.
  • Two sidequests in Oblivion take place in ships, one where a ship which is used as a hotel is hijacked by a gang of bandits and another where the player must retrieve an NPC's family heirlooms from a haunted ship.
  • Devil May Cry 1 has mission 12 take place on a ghost ship. On it, Dante is attacked by Griffon for the second time.
  • You make your way through a Ghost Ship early on in the first Grandia.
  • Dubloon begins with Russel raiding Navi's ship in search of the Golden Chest.
  • In Eternal Sonata, you go from Prince Crescendo's ship to the pirate ship Dolce, where you fight a bunch of pirates, and eventually, the captain and her lieutenants.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, you board a ship with a literal skeleton crew in search of a piece of the Beanstar.
  • Final Fantasy V has you traverse the Steam ship's lower decks to reach the Fire Crystal.
  • Mario Kart Double Dash has a cruise ship as one of the tracks.
  • Stage 4 in Bonk's Revenge takes place mostly on a cruise ship.
  • Some of the levels from Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario Galaxy.
  • Chapter 6 of Resident Evil 5 takes place on a freighter ship.
  • Chrono Trigger has you abroad an airship where your weapons are taken away. Depending on if the character Ayla is in your party will determine how you can get around. If you do not have Ayla you have to get around by stealth but with Ayla you can fight your way out, without weapons.
  • The Sandship that protects Nayru's Flame is this and a Ghost Ship, though not simultaneously. The 'ghost ship' parts involve the fact that several bits of the ship are smothered in quicksand, It regresses into a standard Ship Level when the Timeshift Stone is tripped - complete with Technoblin crew.
  • Halo Wars has you fighting on top of your command ship, because slipstream is for sissies who aren't Spartans.
  • One task force in City of Heroes has the characters assisting the US Navy in fighting off an extra-dimensional invasion. A good part of the first mission takes place on board a squadron of Destroyers (fighting Giant Robots on top of the ships and clearing out teleporting invaders inside).
  • Endless Ocean has a sunken ship level. Its location moves between three spots in the game and is entered through a floating ghost ship. You can spend much longer than you'd think swimming around in it, because it's the only place certain marine species and game treasures can be found. Fortunately, the sharks swimming around the top of the ship won't hurt you, though the occasionally appearing huge great white will act displeased if you attempt to pet it. The only thing you have to watch is your air, to avoid being automatically brought back to the surface.