Having tickled the fascination of gaming developers ever since the wee days of gaming decades ago, trying to pick out the best space games from the lot is like finding a needle in a galaxy-sized haystack. Or, at the very least, that’s how it should be.
The sheer number of space games out there should make picking out the good games from the lot difficult, but it doesn’t.
The space game genre, if that’s even what it should be called, is actually filled with more misses than hits than you realize. For every great space game out there, there’s a dozen that hoped to be one, but aren’t even remotely close to being good.
Below, you’ll find some of the best space games out there that will satisfy your curiosity of what’s beyond.
Just remember though, in space, no one will hear you scream.
1. Dead Space
It’s not that developers never tried to create a horror game set in space before Dead Space and its sequels, Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3, but it’s just that, no one was really able to pull it off as well until Electronic Arts did in 2008.
Playing as Isaac Clarke, you immediately find yourself thrust in a situation you’re ill-prepared for as you fight to survive against the hideous creatures that have taken over the USG Ishimura.
Among the three Dead Space games, the first and original warrants special mention.
While the sequels boast a multitude of more modern features, including arguably better graphics, both eschewed the horror element in favor of more action, making the first Dead Space game arguably the only true sci-fi horror game in the trilogy.
2. Mass Effect 2
Equal parts space drama, action-adventure, and sci-fi, the Mass Effect franchise will inevitably go down as one of the best video game franchises ever — and not just one of the best space games.
Of the four games released in the series though, Mass Effect 2 takes the cake as the peak of the series.
A fitting follow-up to the epic saga that kicked off with the first Mass Effect title, the sequel hit the nail on the head with just the right mix.
The combination of immersive science-fiction narrative and action to make you truly feel like you’re in command of your own starship as you explore the galaxy to look for companions.
3. Alien: Isolation
After the disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, everyone had all but given up on a proper Alien video game.
Then, Alien: Isolation came.
Putting players in the shoes of a powerless and seemingly hopeless Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen, who was the protagonist of the early Alien films, Alien: Isolation is the perfect example of how to build up tension in a video game.
Saddled with the unenviable expectation of being a faithful adaption and a good video game at the same time, Alien: Isolation passes the test with flying colors.
We’re just not quite sure you’ll be saying how wonderful the game is after your first encounter with the xenomorph.
4. No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky serves as a cautionary tale for how developers should not overhype their products.
Then again, it also serves as an inspirational story, on how a video game that nearly its entire player base gave up on could still recover and become one of the best titles in its genre.
It’s true that No Man’s Sky failed to live up to even half the expectations when it first released.
Thankfully, we’re all way past that now. Today, No Man’s Sky is much closer to the original vision than ever before.
In fact, you could argue that it has surpassed it, with its clever use of procedural generation now having been perfected to capture the essence of trying to conquer a never-ending universe.
Exploration might be the main selling point of No Man’s Sky, but it’s not the only thing that you need in the game.
With a robust trading system now available, as well as a surprisingly good combat system, No Man’s Sky has safely steadied the ship and saved its reputation.
If nothing else, No Man’s Sky should give you some much-needed eye bleach after playing through Dead Space and Alien Isolation, as per our recommendations.
5. FTL: Faster Than Light
Murphy’s Law states that, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”, and that has never held true in a video game quite like how it does In FTL: Faster Than Light.
A complex and challenging ship management title, FTL saddles you with so many responsibilities that your screams as you pull your hair out of frustration could probably be heard from the other end of space.
Kidding aside, FTL is not for the faint of heart.
From random and violent ship encounters, to discovering new worlds, races, and ships, as well as loads of weird interactions, FTL will have you learning how to micro-manage, and how to accept that shit just happens.
6. Kerbal Space Program
Whereas other space games on our list focus more on the adventurous and violent part of exploring the beyond, Kerbal Space Program puts an emphasis on the literal rocket science of things – how to get to space without crashing into everything on the way there.
Kerbal Space Program is all about trial and error, as well showing the beauty in the mundane.
You’d think that you’d get bored trying to get a vessel off of the ground, but you’d be wrong.
There’s some sense of satisfaction in getting launching the rocket and successfully steering it out of the way of debris while on orbit, all the while making sure that your payload is delivered safely to its proper destination.
Plus, Kerbal Space Program is a great way to learn more about how things work.
If we were to sum up what Kerbal Space Program was all about, it’s basically Minecraft in space, complete with extensive modding support from the community.
7. EVE Online
EVE Online has been out for so long that you’d think that it’s the only space game out there, and we wouldn’t really blame you if you thought like that.
One of the longest running MMORPGs in existence, there are many things that make EVE Online unique. For example, instead of splitting its hundreds of thousands of players across multiple servers, everyone plays on the same server instead, making it relatively easy to gather thousands of players to form alliances and form fleets to wage months-long wars against opposing factions.
EVE Online’s massive nature lends to the otherworldly stories that you hear about what happens in the game.
Like, that one time when one of the three rarest ships in existence in EVE Online was destroyed by a spy who worked his way inside the organization.
Of course, for all the awesome stories and epic wars that can be had in EVE Online, what makes EVE Online less popular is because of how difficult it is to get started.
The game’s obscure systems may have come a long way in making them more beginner-friendly, but the game remains, in no way, easy to grasp, especially for those who are entirely new to the genre.
But, if you’re willing to slog through it all, the support for EVE Online from its developers is amazing. Even though you’ll be joining players who’ve played the game for years, you’ll equally experience something new and fresh anyway once an update comes.
8. Elite Dangerous
Elite Dangerous isn’t so much as the second-best space game out there, next to EVE Online, as it is a 1A to the latter’s 1B.
Elite Dangerous is every bit as complicated and hard to get into as EVE Online. But, you know what they say, different strokes for different folks.
And, if EVE Online somewhat doesn’t scratch your space exploration itch, then maybe Elite Dangerous will.
This is especially true because of the open-ended gameplay of Elite Dangerous.
Whether you want to play as a space farer, a space entrepreneur, an emperor of his own little fleet, or even a pirate, Elite Dangerous can be molded in every way players see fit.
There’s something for everyone in Elite Dangerous.
9. Destiny 2
Exploring space with friends is fun and all, but sometimes, you don’t always want to do it from up there in the sky. Instead, you want to keep the action and exploration on the ground.
Destiny 2 lets you do just that.
The sequel to the commercially successful but divisive Destiny, Bungee’s sequel gives players a variety of landscapes to explore in.
From the forest-filled ruins of our planet, Earth to the oceans of Titan and everything in between, every location in Destiny 2 was crafted to be equally as enjoyable to shoot in as it is to loot and explore.
While Destiny 2’s endgame leaves a lot to be desired, if you’re looking for a more personal space game with a multiplayer component, Destiny 2 shouldn’t leave you wanting for more.
Imagine Civilizations, but in space.
That’s what you get with Paradox’s 4X strategy hybrid, Stellaris.
Everything in Stellaris is grander in scale. You don’t just go exploring tombs here. You quell mutant and robotic rebellions, all the while conquering a part of the galaxy.
What makes Stellaris truly unique though, isn’t just that it’s a well-executed 4X game. It is that, sure. However, the amount of options available for players is absurd.
You can pretty much do anything you can think of in Stellaris, including but not limited to creating a society of hyper-intelligent beings that use robot slaves to conquer and feed themselves.
Basically, in Stellaris, if you can think it, you can make it.
And there you have it, our picks for the best space games available today.
If you’re ever in the mood to explore space, or take down alien baddies, or go on an epic space adventure, or even wage war against an entire enemy faction, or do all of those at the same time, then feel free to pick your poison from this lot.
Guaranteed, by the time that you’re done playing each one of these games, we’ll probably be already in contact with the first intelligent life outside of Earth.
This article was written by a freelancer.