Video games featuring glaciers, ice sheets, icebergs, Arctic, Antarctica
February 9, 2024 6:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm compiling a list of digital or video games (consoles, PC, handhelds, online) (current or previous) which feature or contain some element of the cryosphere - the icy bits of Earth. So, glaciers, ice sheets, icebergs, permafrost, the Arctic, Antarctica, basically any icy part. Games where the ice feature is a significant backdrop or scenery is good; games where the players can interact with the ice in some way, or change its nature, are even better. Thank you.
posted by Wordshore to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Dredge, since the update, and Unreal World, a long-developed Finnish game.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:12 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]

"Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is the first game developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people. Nearly 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members contributed to the development of the game. Play as a young Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox as they set out to find the source of the eternal blizzard which threatens the survival of everything they have ever known.

Guide both characters in single-player mode or play cooperatively with a friend or family member as you trek through frozen tundra, leap across treacherous ice floes, swim through underwater ice caverns, and face numerous enemies both strange and familiar in the journey to save the girl’s village."
posted by belladonna at 6:12 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]

Crash Bandicoot has areas that are ice focused. I think all the games in the series feature ice levels.

Trackmania has entire tracks that are ice. The backgrounds may or may not be ice-related
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:24 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I played A LOT of Frostbite on my Atari 2600.
posted by joelhunt at 6:29 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

many Mario games have levels where you slip/skid/slide on ice.

Cold Fear
posted by adekllny at 6:38 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Borderlands 2 features the Southern Shelf, a frigid glacier where the Vault Hunter's story begins. (One location is an area of pack ice called the Ebon Floe.)
posted by SPrintF at 6:53 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Lots of ice on the north coast of Skyrim.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:01 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]

Sunless Sea has icy regions along the north edge of the map; locations there play a major role in several of the game's possible endings.
posted by egregious theorem at 7:06 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

The arcade game Pengo, though it does not attempt to be a realistic depiction of the ecosystem
posted by credulous at 7:09 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

The Long Dark is first person survival set in the Canadian wilderness in winter.
posted by music for skeletons at 7:11 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The DLC for Horizon: Zero Dawn takes place in a climate shifted Wyoming (Grand Teton and Yellowstone to be exact). No need to play it, there's plenty of videos on YouTube.

I don't know that you can exactly "interact" with the ice but there sure is a lot of it and the graphics are great.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:37 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]

There is a video game adaptation of The Thing (the Carpenter movie) that is... interesting. Waypoint did a playthrough of it on Twitch, but I can't find the videos at the moment.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:38 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Rimworld's planets feature frozen regions by default and you can choose to set up your settlement all the way on the zero-resource ice sheets at the poles. Your planet is not Earth, though.
posted by praemunire at 7:46 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

The sequel to Subnautica is called "Subnautica: Below Zero", and is an underwater (and some on land) open-world survival game that is set in an icy part of its planet, including ice floes, icebergs, and so forth.

In both "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" and its sequel "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom", there are regions of Hyrule that are frozen, and include a lot of things you can do with ice (to get places, solve puzzles, fight or defend, explore...), including melting it or preventing it from melting, using it to get over dangerously-freezing water, fusing it with a weapon or shield, etc.

(Although neither of these is set on Earth itself--not sure how crucial that part of your rubric is.)
posted by theatro at 7:50 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


That Abominable Snowman is terrifying.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:17 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]

SnowWorld melts away pain for burn patients, using virtual reality snowballs I read about this idea a while back, this was the 1st search result. So cool, heheheheh.
posted by theora55 at 8:22 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Oh my obscure Steam library comes in handy here!

There’s Penumbra: Overture, set in Greenland.

If mobile games are acceptable, I loved Year Walk. (Also, looks like it was ported to PC, but I played it on iOS….a decade ago, oh lord).

Oh, and Puzzle Agent!
posted by potent_cyprus at 8:44 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

posted by credulous at 8:46 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Assassin's Creed: Valhalla is all about Vikings invading 8th century Britain. The first and last parts are set in Norway in very mountainous, very snowy/icy conditions. Parts of the game that are set in northern Britain (it's an open world you can explore) are also very heavy on snow.

Lots of snow and ice in the winter parts of Red Dead Redemption 2 (late 19th century America) as well.
posted by underclocked at 8:47 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Death Stranding has some extended sections of hiking and exploring ice-capped mountains, if that counts.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:49 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Best answer: IceCap Zone in Sonic 3 and Sonic Adventure and Sonic Encore

Animanics: A Gigantic Adventure has several levels where a an ocean liner crashes against an iceberg and the animaniacs run around on a bunch of ice

Watkins is set in Antarctica
posted by one for the books at 10:14 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

The SSX games are all in wintry conditions (obviously), with at least the last one being set in real-world locations.
posted by yerfatma at 10:48 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Ice Climber is a nice retro one!

There's also a beautiful game called Never Alone which is based off of an Alaskan indigenous folk tale. It's about a girl and her arctic fox.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:56 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

For the King has an ice/snow world you can play the whole campaign in, or as one region of a world with several different climate areas. You don't really interact with the ice but it sure interacts with you! I haven't played the sequel yet but there may be something similar in that.

The Battle of Polytopia is a 4x Civ-like game. One tribe in particular, the Polaris, has special units and abilities like being able to freeze surrounding land, water and enemy units; travel across ice, etc.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:00 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Frostpunk, very very inherently!
posted by protorp at 12:53 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Starflight (as an addendum, here's a video of Marvin Herbold's never completed indie Starflight remake)

Ultima VII Part 2: The Serpent Isle
posted by Kattullus at 1:47 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I immediately thought of Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason. (SLYT to a playthrough by TheRadBrad.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:29 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I came in to suggest Death Stranding as well. It's more snow than ice, for the most part, but the temperature and traversal difficulty are much more central to the gameplay (or at least much more viscerally part of it) than they might be in an otherwise icier game. There are white-out blizzards, you can't safely rest unless you're wearing heater pack, and even when it's not actively snowing, the snow hides rocks and terrain features that you can easily trip you, as well as hiding the game-trail type paths that you can usually follow. Overall, the terrain that you're moving through really is one of the main antagonists of the game, and is something that you have to engage with much more deeply than in most games, so the change in terrain in the snowy mountains makes a big impact in gameplay. In a lot of other games, there are snowy or icy areas, but in practice, they're just places where the ground is white.
posted by duien at 3:15 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

There is an Antarctica level in Tomb Raider 3:
posted by pd at 3:23 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom features large swaths of land that are snowy. Ice exists that you can manipulate, use and melt.
posted by mmascolino at 3:53 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

The gamer in my household says:

Risk of Rain 2 has a character with an icicle attack and a couple of ice-themed levels.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has an icy area.

Snow and Steep are about snowboarding and skiing.
posted by Redstart at 4:00 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Alto's Adventure is a "serene snowboarding odyssey" where you snowboard over icy hills and through icy valleys, bouncing off reindeer and buildings and rocks and strung pennants faster and faster until you collapse into a sad heap of scarf and broken dreams (that last bit was me.)
posted by invincible summer at 5:29 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I also immediately thought of Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason. It's very heavily focused on its cold environment -- it takes place on a stuck icebreaker ship with puzzles involving melting ice and heat used as a substitute for health.

Dark Souls II has a DLC (Crown of the Ivory King) that takes place in a frozen kingdom. Chunks of ice block your progress at several points. An area beset by blizzards (the Frigid Outskirts) is one of the most infamously difficult parts of the entire game.

Dark Souls III also has a DLC (Ashes of Ariandel) that takes place in a frozen wasteland, although it's mostly just cosmetic.

Elden Ring has two large snowy areas, complete with an ice dragon (and another dragon found completely frozen in ice).

Crysis has a level where alien technology has frozen the entire area and you have to find heat sources to stay warm.

Spelunky and its sequel Spelunky 2 have an "Ice caves" area with slippery ice and yetis.
posted by neckro23 at 5:33 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Pale Beyond and The Red Lantern are explicitly about dealing with snowy tundra/the Antarctic. Kona and Kona II are set in Quebec and focus on cold and ice as key mechanics.
posted by kserra at 6:25 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

More penguins navigating ice games: Bread & Fred, Soda-Powered Penguin
posted by one for the books at 6:38 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I just remembered about Little Big Adventure (renamed Relentless in North America). It's set on a planet, Twinsun, which has two suns that are above each pole. The equator is mountainous and called Hamalayi, and very cold. In the first game the hero, Twinsen, has to find a certain frozen lake, which he melts with a magic flute, to obtain an item.
posted by Kattullus at 6:02 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

The last 2 levels of Journey are in icy conditions - the second last, Snow, the snow and ice is used as a hardship and obstacle, and the end, Paradise, the snow and ice is uplifting and beautiful, and helps you on your way.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:41 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Long Dark and Frostpunk, both mentioned above, are the only games that have ever made me feel cold while playing them, regardless of the heat and time of year.
posted by Shepherd at 2:50 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Midwinter (1989) was an extraordinary game for its time and in some way remains so. A turn-based, first-person shooter, action, survivalist, RPG, map strategy game (!?) set on a snow-bound Atlantic island.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:40 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you very much, to all who commented, for the considerable range of answers to the question.
posted by Wordshore at 12:50 PM on February 15

Insurmountable! Climb a procedural-generated mountain.

Seconding Subnautica: Below Zero, and also Skyrim with the Frostfall mod (or whatever the current iteration of that is).

Some of the Terra Nil biomes.
posted by curious nu at 12:52 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]

Transarctica, a.k.a. Arctic Baron, is based on a long series of French novels set in a post-apocalypse where a geoengineering attempt to halt global warming has worked... too well! I haven't actually, y'know, played it -- I only know it exists cuz the badass train painting used on the cover was previously used for a release of Diamond Head's song "Am I Evil?", and I remembered the image but not any other information until seeing it again by chance on /r/imaginarytrains -- and reviews seem to be mixed, but since it's 30-year-old abandonware, you can pretty easily download it to try yourself or even play it (laggily) in browser. Apparently it's about train-to-train combat.
posted by dick dale the vampire at 12:14 AM on February 21

I haven't seen Röki mentioned, a 2020 point-and-click adventure inspired by Scandinavian folklore, available for PC/Mac, Switch, PS5, and Xbox X/S.

I'll also second The Long Dark, which does a great job conveying the feeling and danger of a relentless northern Canadian winter ice storm across multiple regions and terrains, including lakes, caves, mountains, train yards, airfields, small mountain towns, and other abandoned outposts. The developers have continued to expand and improve on the story and survival mode over a series of updates. Definitely worth checking out.
posted by waxpancake at 11:19 AM on February 21

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