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I'm in the very, very early brainstorming stages of a game which centers around the manipulation of water and the terrain around it. (i.e., changing the water's state between solid, liquid, gas; building up or tearing down hills to control its flow; and so forth.) I'm not yet sure if it should be a puzzle game, a platformer, or what.

Usually, when brainstorming a game, I try to find games with similar mechanics to see what is done well, poorly, etc. But this time, I'm having trouble thinking of any games that use the flow of water as a primary mechanic. (Pipe Dream is about all that comes to mind.)

So, I'm asking around... does anyone know of any games where controlling water is a major aspect? Is there much reference material (of any kind) on the subject of water as a gameplay mechanic? Or any ideas where to look?


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Converted to CW, this is just a list of items, not necessarily an "expertise" type question. – Tetrad Nov 4 '10 at 20:14
@Tetrad: Thanks. That seemed the thing to do, I guess a rating of 1 doesn't let me start one. :) – chaosTechnician Nov 4 '10 at 20:16
actually end users can't mark things as CW anymore. See this:… – Tetrad Nov 4 '10 at 20:28
You mean waterbending? – bobobobo Aug 23 '11 at 16:23

20 Answers 20

Dwarf Fortress comes to mind. Water can be pressurized and (re-)routed through a mountain as it's constantly influenced by gravity.

The game isn't about water (it's essentially a city-building game), but the water mechanics really add to the depth of the gameplay. There's a good article on Gamasutra on how they did the water. I'll try to find it.

Edit: found it. Here's some representative images..

alt text alt text

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I've always had trouble getting into Dwarf Fortress so I didn't know flowing water was a part of it. I'll have to check that out. Thanks! – chaosTechnician Nov 4 '10 at 20:19
You can throw in minecraft while you're at it, if you count how water is used in the mines – bobobobo Aug 23 '11 at 16:25
I don't think it's a good answer. DF's simulation of water is pretty basic, you can't do large systems because of CPU usage, and besides DF is a "simulation of everything". – Liosan Jan 14 '13 at 9:15


Wetrix was a cross between Tetris, and water manipulation. The idea was to create lakes by raising terrain to capture water. It was pretty fun for the N64 and PC

In the classic mode, you start out with a flat piece of land; the ultimate goal being to gain as many points as possible, managing a landscape of lakes and ponds. This is accomplished by maneuvering different types of random pieces that fall onto the playing area, one at a time (much like the puzzle game Tetris). These pieces each have differing effects upon the arena, but the standard pieces are uppers, which increase the land level by one tier, and fall in different shapes. These can be used to sculpt walls and dams, and the perimeters of lakes. Shortly into the game, water bubble pieces will begin to fall, which burst upon impact with the land, and flow realistically like a fluid across the landscape. The main method of gathering points is by using the fireball piece to evaporate lakes, the amount of points depending upon the volume of water. On the right side of the screen is a water gauge, which fills up as water falls off the edge of the landscape, or down holes created by bombs. The player loses the game when the gauge fills up to the top. The only way to reduce the level of the water gauge is by evaporating water with fireballs, again the amount it is reduced by depends on the amount of water evaporated.

Images by

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+1 Wetrix was the first thing that came to mind. – wkerslake Nov 4 '10 at 21:05
I can't believe I forgot out Wetrix. My brothers hated when I'd play that game. Thanks for the reminder! – chaosTechnician Nov 4 '10 at 21:23

Hydrophobia is a game that is centered around the physics of water. So I guess this game is what you're looking for.

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Looks pretty cool. Seems water does play a big part in it. :) I'll have to check it out. – chaosTechnician Nov 4 '10 at 21:25
As I understand it, the actual 'playing with water' is not part of the main gameplay, however. I think it's a bonus feature, or an unlockable, something like that. – Kylotan Nov 5 '10 at 10:55

Some games that come to mind:

There's also a game I seem to remember but wasn't able to find where you are adjusting the terrain of a flat world in preparation for rain to fall, with the goal of trapping the water.

EDIT: David Young put it in his answer. Wetrix is what I was thinking of.

Minecraft has water physics in a similar way that Dwarf Fortress does.

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Great suggestions! Looks like a lot of different uses for liquid are used there. Should help me come up with some good stuff. – chaosTechnician Nov 4 '10 at 21:22

From Dust comes to mind, though not much information has been released. Similarly, Minecraft has a lot of complexity in its water system (see also: the invention of the waterladder).

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Wow. That game looks really cool. Probably deeper than I wanted to take the concept but certainly good for inspiration/ideas. Thanks! – chaosTechnician Nov 4 '10 at 21:24

It's not quite water, maybe better.

There is a flash game called "Creeper World" that has fantastic fluid dynamics.

It's more of a "Goo" than water, so it tends to spread out more slowly, but the dynamics are spot-on.

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Super Mario Sunshine!


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I wonder how's nobody did mention the "Where's My Water?".

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Mostly because that game didn't exist in 2010 when I asked the question. :) Though, now that it does exist, it's a very good answer. – chaosTechnician Jan 14 '13 at 17:02

There was a great game for the Acorn Archimedes called Cataclysm - Video here - which featured water leaking through a space ship. You had to capture enough water to avoid disaster...

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From what I can see there, it's a really cool game! – o0'. Nov 8 '10 at 12:34

Phun (2D physics sandbox game) allows you to play with water.

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One game that doesn't seem to be mentioned yet: Pixeljunk Shooter

While its still 'only' 2D, the water physics are done pretty good and it's definitely a big part of the gameplay.

I guess the hardest part in using water/fluid as a major game mechanic is getting the simulation stable (just like every other physics based game, but with water it's a little harder). You really want to get the same results every time you re-run the simulation under the same conditions.

If you want to go 3D with this you might want to read the GPU Gems article about fluids.

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Charles Bloom built a little game around fluids in the very first Indie Game Jam: The goal was to manipulate the terrain to guide the fluid molecules to a goal area.

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There's a puzzle game called Enigmo that uses water drops that you may want to check out. Basically you have to get water (or lava) from the source to the destination container using various contraptions to bounce, accelerate and slide the drops.

Enigmo screenshot

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I heard a lot of traps and other mecanics in MineCraft does profit from water physics.

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Yes, but it's definitely not a primary mechanic. – o0'. Mar 31 '11 at 19:34
Not any more than Dwarf Fortress but I agree. – Klaim Mar 31 '11 at 20:27

Fluidity/Hydroventure is a platform game for the Wii (and later - the 3DS) co-developed by Nintendo. You control a small body of water and move around by rotating the stage via the controller, to collect more water and manipulate the environment.

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Nicely written question! Are there any links to the developers website where we can see more material? Welcome to GD:SE by the way! – Blue Jul 21 '14 at 9:24
Don't you mean answer :P. Thanks! I'm not really a game developer, though I do find game development interesting. I will post some development stuff (I should be able to find some quickly-ish). – Hiccup Jul 21 '14 at 13:06
Yup, meant answer ^^ – Blue Jul 21 '14 at 13:14
There are three interviews with the developers: and some unsourced information on Wikipedia: Here is a nice HD gameplay video: It was worked on in part by Nintendo. – Hiccup Jul 21 '14 at 13:21

BioShock had several levels with pretty fancy water effects. Don't know how much that actually affected the gameplay, though.

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I know you could electrify the water, and there by all the enemies that stood on/in it. So that made the water a gameplay feature. – Eibx Nov 4 '10 at 20:55

Flood on the amgia had a water filling effect.


worse things happen at sea (don't be put by the graphics, this game was awesome fun!) alt text

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Sprinkle seems to be all about fluid/water dynamics.

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There's a small open-source game called Sand Traps. It's about sand, not water, but the mechanics are rather similar. The game is for Wii homebrew, but maybe you can still learn something.

Here's the WiiBrew page (liks to source):

And here's a gameplay video where you can see the code in action:

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Klooni Games Bloody Zombies, 'the goriest game ever made in the glorious 128 x 96 resolution!'

It tries to simulate dynamic flowing liquid. Which sometimes work quite well producing splashing waves. Other times the liquid behaves like a pile of sand.

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