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Take on the life of a buccaneer in the golden age of Caribbean Piracy! This game lets you choose from 6 different "ages" (for example, "The Silver Empire" from 1560-1600, "War For Profit" from 1640-1660, etc.), one of 4 nationalities (English, French, Dutch, Spanish), 4 difficulty levels, and one of 5 special abilities (skill at fencing, skill at navigation, etc.). Nine different types of ships were represented.

The goal of the game is to retire with as much gold and land as possible, as many ranks/titles as possible (Colonel, Admiral, Marquis, Duke), and a wife. Finding long lost relatives helps too. You accomplish these goals by plundering cities, capturing and sinking enemy ships, getting in good with governors to receive titles, learn news of "evil Spaniards" holding your relatives, capturing evil pirates, etc.

The game is educational, as you will learn about piracy through the thoroughly researched manual. You'll smell the sea salt as you participate in wild sword fights, desperate sea battles, and daring attacks by land.


Sid Meier's Pirates! PC-98 Sea battle
Sid Meier's Pirates! DOS On the sea
Sid Meier's Pirates! Amiga Receiving information about your long-lost sister (is that Sean Connery?)
Sid Meier's Pirates! NES Swordfighting

Promo Images

Sid Meier's Pirates! Magazine Advertisement TILT (issue 49, December 1987, p 139)
Sid Meier's Pirates! Magazine Advertisement
Sid Meier's Pirates! Magazine Advertisement

Alternate Titles

  • "席德梅尔的海盗" -- Simplified Chinese spelling
  • "Xide Meier de Haidao" -- Simplified Chinese title
  • "Sid Meier's Pirates!: Action and Adventure on the Spanish Main" -- Tag-lined title
  • "Pirates!" -- NES title

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

One of the greatest games in PC gaming history. PC Booter Rick Jones (111)
The most timeless game I have ever found Commodore 64 Peter Brady (4)
ABsolutely awesome game, even in 2004 Commodore 64 stvrich (3)
Admit it, you want to be a pirate. PC Booter Yeah Right (57)
A legend in computer games. PC Booter Raphael (1261)
This game needs a 21st century update NOW! PC Booter J Cavender (1)
My second best game of all time! PC Booter ^^Snoop^^ (45)
An example of what a PC should strive to be. PC Booter Entorphane (375)
Screw the Gold edition play this one! PC Booter woods01 (163)

Critic Reviews

Computer Gaming World (CGW) Commodore 64 Oct, 1990 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars 100
Dragon Commodore 64 Apr, 1988 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars 100
Computer and Video Games (CVG) Commodore 64 Nov, 1987 9 out of 10 90
Commodore User Commodore 64 Sep, 1987 9 out of 10 90
ST Action Atari ST Sep, 1993 88 out of 100 88
Power Play Commodore 64 1989 85 out of 100 85
Total! (Germany) NES May, 1993 1.75 out of 6 85
Power Play DOS 1989 84 out of 100 84
Nintendo Power Magazine NES Oct, 1991 3.8 out of 5 76
ST/Amiga Format Atari ST Jul, 1989 74 out of 100 74


Topic # Posts Last Post
Is the listed DOS CD-ROM version really Pirates? 2 Rwolf (18295)
Oct 28, 2017


1001 Video Games

Sid Meier's Pirates! appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


Each of the six "ages" you could choose from were historically accurate. Some examples: Some ages featured cities that others didn't (the cities historically hadn't been settled yet), the four different European powers gained and lost power as they did in history, and different types of ships were more common in different eras.


Sid Meier on his design philosophy and how he applied it to his favorite game (from the May 2001 issue of Computer Gaming World):
We have a joke that we only do the research after the game is finished. If I read too many books, I will create a game based on the books.
Pirates! was about pirate movies, not the period.


The original box came with a map of the entire Caribbean, with each of the cities noted with their founding date (so you'd know when not to visit them!)

Game Art Beyond

In 2018, Pirates! was selected as one of the biggest classics on the Commodore 64 by the creators of the C64 graphics collection Game Art Beyond. Pirates! was honoured with a high resolution title picture (based on the title screen made for the Amiga version) in a special C64 graphics format called NUFLI. While all other game screens in Game Art Beyond featured a remix of their respective title music, there really was no compelling theme in the original C64 version except for a few jingles, so instead you'll hear a C64 SID remix of Bach Prelude C Minor, which later suddenly turns into Pirates of the Carribbean.


Unlike the Apple II version, some following versions often lets governors offer the player special missions to accept or reject in return for potential rewards.


If the player runs Sid Meier's Pirates! on a Tandy machine, the player will find snippets of 3-voice music throughout the game.

Amstrad CPC version

Amstrad CPC version of the game was advertised as "The World's First Swashbuckling Simulation" and was only for CPC 6128.

NES version

Unlike other versions of Pirates!, the NES port lacks "tobacco" as a trade item for the 1600-1640 time period. In its place? An item simply labelled "crops."


  • Amiga Joker
    • Issue 01/1991 – Best Adventure Game in 1990
  • Computer Gaming World
    • Hall of Fame member
    • October 1988 (Issue #52) - Action Game of the Year
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #18 overall among the “150 Best Games of All Time”
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #6 Most Rewarding Ending of All Time
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 03/2013 – One of the "Ten Best C64 Games“
  • Retro Gamer
    • September 2004 (Issue #8) – #84 Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)
Information also contributed by Andrew Grasmeder, Indra was here, JubalHarshaw, Kasey Chang, Nathan Jedinak and PCGamer77

Related Web Sites

Contributed to by Trypticon (11037), PCGamer77 (3233), Raphael (1261), NGC 5194 (17578), Martin Smith (74102), Terok Nor (30290), Scaryfun (17977), formercontrib (158428) and Garcia (4833)