In Aquaria, the player controls Naija, a lone underwater dweller, who is in search of her family. She explores a massive ocean world, teeming with life and filled with ancient secrets. In her journey she encounters various underwater creatures, travels from hidden caves to sunlit oases, and solves mysterious quests in underwater ruins and long forgotten cities of ancient civilizations.
It is an action adventure game, heavily focused on exploration and puzzle-solving, with non-linear gameplay. There are many lifeforms with which Naija can interact. Some of them are hostile, while others are friendly, and some pay no notice to her. Interaction is accomplished by singing songs, which have various effects on Naija (shield, transformation into another form, etc.) and her surroundings (lifting heavy objects, opening plants, cracking eggs, etc.). It is also possible for Naija to obtain offensive powers to protect herself from some of the more hostile creatures in the game, and key battles against certain ancient foes are essential to progressing the storyline.
Aquaria is a 2D sidescrolling computer game by independent game company Bit Blot, composed of Alec Holowka and Derek Yu. It was released on December 7, 2007 for Windows after more than two years of development. A Mac port was released November 12, 2008, courtesy of Ambrosia Software. An updated version of the game was released on Steam on December 15, 2008. A Linux version of the game is currently in open beta. The game won the Seumas McNally grand prize from the Independent Games Festival in March 2007, and has been praised by reviewers for its visuals and atmosphere. On November 14, 2009, the Aquaria soundtrack album was made available for sale. It includes all of the music in the game as well as a new nine-minute vocal track and a few remixes.
The game follows Naija, a mermaid-like woman, as she explores the underwater world of Aquaria. Along her journey, she learns about both the history of the world and her own past. The gameplay is focused on a combination of swimming and singing, through which Naija can interact with the world. Songs sung by Naija can move items, affect plants and animals, and change her physical appearance into other forms. These forms have different abilities, such as firing projectiles at hostile creatures or passing through barriers inaccessible to her in her natural shape.
As the game opens, Naija has lost almost all her memories, and is unaware of the world outside of her home as she "lives as a feral creature". The player is told this in voice-over narrations purportedly by Naija herself from the perspective of after the events of the game are over. After being confronted by a shadowy figure wrapped in a black robe and being shown a series of flashbacks she does not understand, Naija awakens, and, feeling loneliness as she is the only member of her species she knows of, decides to explore the world around her. As the player explores, Naija discovers more and more about the history of the world, "Aquaria", and about her own past. These findings are told both in narrated voice-overs and in visual flashbacks. The game is set in an open world, and the player is not forced to go through the plotline in a set sequence. The only limiting factor is physical limitations such as areas that can only be accessed by using a specific form. Combinations of these physical limitations place some plot elements later in the game.
Towards the end of the game, Naija discovers that all of the ruined civilizations she has found throughout the game were destroyed by a god, "the Creator", who was jealous of the rising power of that civilization or by their own gods, and the powerful monsters she has found and defeated in each region were once the gods of that civilization. Each of these civilizations had a unique power, symbolized by the form that Naija learns after defeating a god. Along with Li, a human diver from the land she meets at the top of the ocean, Naija then descends into the bottom of the ocean to confront the god. There she discovers that the Creator fell into the ocean as a child, and bonded with an ancient spirit to gain god-like powers. He then created Aquaria, threading the verse of a lullaby his mother had sung to him throughout, the only part of the song he remembers. The melody of this song, the "verse", is what allows Naija to sing songs that affect the world around her; parts of the melody can be heard in different forms in the songs in the game's soundtrack.
The Creator, after creating Aquaria, created a series of civilizations, making a new one in turn when each one was destroyed. The Creator kidnaps Li, who Naija had fallen in love with, and she attacks the Creator to get him back. The player defeats the god as the final boss of the game, and returns home with Li. In the epilogue, Naija is shown with Li and their child. If the player has found all of Naija's memories by discovering places she remembers, they discover that the shadowy figure at the beginning of the game was her mother, Mia. Mia was made by the Creator and had the ability, like Naija, to use the different powers of all of the civilizations. She fled the Creator, and hid herself and Naija among several civilizations; after the destruction of the last one she erased Naija's memory so that she would find out the history of Aquaria on her own and defeat the Creator. In the extended epilogue shown if the player has found all of the memories, Mia appears, kidnaps Naija and vanishes; the extended epilogue ends with Naija and Li's son, Lucien, leaving to find her. If the player has not found all of the memories, the epilogue instead ends with Naija asking the player to find out about her past, and revealing that the narration of the game was intended to be heard by Lucien.