11 best space games on PC that are out of this world, TechRadar

11 best space games on PC that are out of this world


There’s a whole lot of space out there. An infinity of it. And there are a whole lot of space games to fill it. (Well, not really, as it’s infinity and they’re comprised of indefinitely-large data, and even if they were physical they’re finite – but it’s a metaphor, y’know?)

And they’ve been around for ever. Elite, one of the first and best space exploration games, was released in 1984. For a generation, games like X-Wing versus Tie-Fighter, Starcraft and the Mark Hamill vehicle Wing Commander carried fans along happily.

They slumped – heavily – in the 2000s and there were questions back then whether space games would ever be big again – but the indie revolution has shot them back into orbit. We’ve picked out our favourite ten of the current class – tell us what we’ve missed in the comments.

Check out our Linux vs Windows vs Mac – OS comparison video below.

1. Kerbal Space Program

Like your headteacher dressed up as Kanye, the Kerbal Space Program is the most subtly educational game around. Despite its cutesy, Rabbid-like characters, the Kerbal Space Program is a hardcore physics simulator where you get to explore the galaxy – if you can even get a single rocket ship off the ground. (I’ve never managed it).

You have to build that rocket from parts supplied by a sort-of-NASA, so that it can keep a Kerbal alive for the stressful voyage up into space. It’s okay, because you get multiple goes and there are lots of willing Kerbals.

Once up in orbit, you need to take account of gravity, other obstacles and your craft’s speed if you want to get any of your lovable Kerbals back to their planet safely – or even worse if you want to land them on the Mun.

2. Eve Online

I remember my first trip into the space MMO Eve, way back in its public beta in 2003. I remember skipping the tutorial and getting lost amongst the stars, spending three days in a starter spaceship chasing down a friend who was mining stars nearby. Even then it was beautiful, complex and weird.

It’s changed a lot since those days. The universe of Eve has been through high-pressure evolution with developer CCP barely keeping control of it as powerful factions run by smart people conquered sections of its space, betrayed each other and regularly sparked wars that destroyed thousands of dollars worth of in-game spaceships.

Despite its age, Eve still manages to look stunning. Regular upgrades by CCP and a loyal community have managed to keep player numbers at around 25-35,000 players logged in on any given day. And if you’re looking for a social, intelligent game that might absorb 90% of your free time for the next ten years, you should look no further.

(Oh, and if you have a VR headset, you should probably try Eve: Valkyrie, the VR-only fighter pilot spin-off.)

3. Fractured Space

Choosing between Born Ready’s space games is a hard call. Strike Suit Zero is widely acknowledged to be a solid space action adventure, where you play – but then pseudo-MOBA Fractured Space is like playing Battlestar: Galactica with your mates.

In Fractured Space you take control of a single capital ship fighting in true 3D space that’s packed full of asteroids. Despite its 3D setting, it’s nearest to World of Tanks or World of Warships in its small 5v5 teams and objective-based combat. Taking one of the specialized ships out results in small DOTA-style skirmishes which results in intense shooter-style combat.

However, we’ve more included Fractured Space in this list because it’s so damn shiny. Flying between the stars you see gorgeous drifting nebula and giant space stations. This is what all space games should look like,

4. Homeworld Remastered

The 15-year old Homeworld series has a fair claim to be the best real-time strategy games set in space (though see Battlefleet Gothic: Armada below for a modern 2D alternative) and it was a joy when Gearbox Software bought the rights and re-released it early last year.

Your mothership, the Pride of Higara, contains not only the capability to build all sorts of other ships, but also the remnants of your nearly-extinct race. Most missions in its long campaign have you attempting to mine resources and use them to build ships to defend your mothership. As the campaign goes on, you gather a fleet around your flagship.

The best point is that true 3D combat though, allowing you to utilise bomber squadrons to target frigate’s weak top armour or hide your craft behind gas clouds. Superb music, unparalleled visuals and a revamped UI make Homeworld Remastered a joy to experience.

5. Galactic Civilizations III

Master of Orion was the first game to move Civilizations 4X empire-building gameplay to the space stage – but it was Galactic Civilizations that perfected it. The first two games were ecstatically received and, whilst the third one launched much more anonymously it has quietly picked up plaudits for its moreish, horribly varied gameplay.

In the campaign, humanity has cowered on Earth for ten years, watching the Drengin Empire exterminate or subjugate the free races of the galaxy. Now an errant Terran fleet has returned from a pocket universe and hopes to liberate humanity first and the galaxy second.

In the much-more played skirmish and multiplayer modes, you start with a single planet and a handful of spacecraft. The alien races you fight and treat with are charming and quirky, and their empires fit their personalities. The amount of tech to research, the types of structures you can build in space and on the ground, the variety of stars and anomalies to explore… this is a mammoth game designed to last you for a long time.

6. Mass Effect 2

Commander Shepard’s last foray into space might have had a poorly-received ending, but Bioware’s twisty space trilogy certainly made for a compelling five year arc. Taking the part of humanity’s military representative on the galactic stage, players fought, talked and plotted their way through the galaxy’s last days, travelling between the stars in their spaceship the SSV Normandy.

Mass Effect 2 followed a resurrected Commander Shepard as he or she sought to find more information on the insectoid Collectors. Soon, you realise that you need to destroy the enemy’s base, but that you need a specialised team to take it down. The entire game is like the Dirty Dozen, as you recruit a bunch of psychopaths, murderers, and technological wizards, then win their loyalty to weld them into a team that can do this impossible suicide mission.

Another edition, Mass Effect: Andromeda is due out in 2017.

7. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

We couldn’t talk about space without shoehorning in a bit of the grim darkness of the far future. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a fleet management game set in the 41st Millenium.

In the long singleplayer campaign, you take the side of the Empire, who are the ‘goodies’, as far as an ethnic cleansing empire run by an army of fascist supermen can be good. You’ve got to defend several areas of space against the fleets of Chaos (a sadistic, demon-worshipping version of said fascist supermen), the Orks (space Orcs with a British yob attitude to enjoying a punch-up) and the Eldar (uptight space Elves who always think they’re right.)

The battles (both single- and multi-player) are tough and tactically-rich where you have to manage your special abilities and your fleet, whilst keeping them alive for later battles. The campaign lets you slowly upgrade and expand your fleet as you start dealing with more and more enemies. And there are some horrible twists in the storyline.

You can read the PC Gamer review over here.

8. Elite: Dangerous

It’s hard to believe that the long-awaited sequel to the first open universe space game (1984’s Elite) has actually been out since 2014. In Elite Dangerous you explore a huge persistent galaxy, trading between space stations, taking out space bandits, mining asteroids, and finding new star systems as you travel. You can also land on planets, and explore them in ground vehicles.

Though it never produces battles on the scale of Eve Online, Elite features first-person combat, where you fly a range of 30+ ships ranging from the tiny Sidewinder fighter to the giant Imperial Cutter and Federal Corvette. And, again, it’s a beautiful universe to explore, especially in VR.

9. FTL: Faster Than Light

2012’s FTL was one of the most influential and strange space games released. Essentially, a rogue-like Star Trek simulator, you take the role of a starship captain attempting to reach your fleet and take down the enemy’s flagship.

En route though, you have to jump through different areas and sectors. In each of these, you might face a battle or a choose-your-own-adventure style dialogue. Battles are complex things, with guns and missiles going off, robots attacking, assault parties teleporting across, fires spreading and hulls being breached.

On top of that it features some great miniature quests written by Tom Jubert, which can unlock a whole raft of hidden spaceships and crew layouts for you to use your next run.

10. Freespace 2

By putting this in, we have ensured that there will be at least one comment asking ‘Where’s Freelancer.’ Much as we’d love to put Chris Taylor’s last great space game in, it’s simply not available for sale anywhere, so we’re going for the older (and arguably superior) Freespace 2 instead.

In the campaign, players take the role of a human pilot fighting against a mysterious alien race, the Shivans. You perform reconnaissance, escort transports, and battle other starfighters from inside your fighter’s cockpit, in huge pitched battles involving capital ships, fighters, and missiles galore. Unlike Kerbals, it’s not 100% accurate space physics, so it feels more like a dogfighting simulator.

It’s notable that because Volition released the source code for the game way back in 2002, players have created the FreeSpace 2 Source Code Project, which has added features, upgrades, mods and graphical updates for the past 14 years.

11. No Man’s Sky

We know, we know — No Man’s Sky has been widely criticized since its release, but that’s mainly because most people thought they would be getting a different kind of title to what emerged from Hello Games’ labs. If you’re wanting an all-out shooter fest in the style of Destiny then don’t go there.

However, if a heavy sense of atmosphere, the feeling of being lost in the depths of space and discovering new plants rank high on your agenda, then No Man’s Sky delivers in spades. Its procedurally generated planets mean you never know what you’re going to encounter as you dock your spacecraft on a new planet for the first time.

Curious, mis-shapen (and highly dangerous) creatures threaten and fascinate in equal measure, but a need to constantly hunt down resources to replenish health and fuel supplies means you can never linger for too long. Park Star Trek, part Interstellar, No Man’s Sky still offers a fantastic space travel experience — just not an action-packed one.

How Video Games Help Fuel Space Exploration, Space

How Video Games Help Fuel Space Exploration

Having traveled to other worlds in his game creations such as “Ultima,” Richard Garriott de Cayeux is now doing the real thing. He flew to the International Space Station in 2008 (on a reported $30 million ticket). And his company, Space Adventures, has organized flights on Soyuz craft for about a dozen other moguls.

At the South by Southwest conference in Austin this week, Garriott de Cayeux explained why he thinks that private companies can make spaceflight radically cheaper and more common. Ideas include having NASA contract with private rocket companies for human spaceflight instead of building all its own craft (which it already does to launch robots such as the Mars Rover Curiosity). Garriott de Cayeux also promotes reusable spacecraft, which he claims offer tenfold to hundredfold cost savings.

Elon Musk of SpaceX, the most successful extraterrestrial entrepreneur so far, is testing reusable technology called Grasshopper. And so is John Carmack, creator of blockbuster video game franchises “Doom” and “Quake.” His company, Armadillo Aerospace, is focused on building reusable craft.

TechNewsDaily asked Garriott de Cayeux why game creators are attracted to spaceflight.

“If there was something specific to the games industry, it would have to be from exploring virtual worlds,” he said. “It would have to be … creating experiences that let people go into the unknown. Noting his many adventures, including into space, to Antarctica and to the bottom of the ocean, he said, “I find my drive to go explore is identical and very closely linked with my personal drive to create things for people to explore.”

But the images in many games may not be the best thing to motivate future generations of explorers, said astronaut Mae Jemison. In a panel session, she spoke about the 100 Year Starship Project she leads, which aims to kick-start the technologies to make interstellar spaceflight possible within a century.

Many of the most popular video games over the years, including “Doom” and “Quake,” are also very violent. “I’m struck by the fact that we have all the slasher, blood-and-guts, shoot-’em-up movies and stuff like that,” Jemison said. “It doesn’t make you very hopeful for the future.”

Jemison’s fellow panelist Jill Tarter of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) said that games could be helpful, “to the extent that people can … build interactive experiences that aren’t always shooting and competitive.”

LeVar Burton of “Star Trek” fame, also on the panel, told TechNewsDaily that he was excited about the use of biofeedback in games. “I can certainly imagine games that are … first-person experience, where you really have to be in a calm and imaginative state in order to advance in the gameplay,” he said. “And I think that’s a lot more productive in terms of entrainment than … the first-person shooter.” [See also: Video Games Improve Surgeons’ Skills]

Jemison also sees games as a way to study how people interact, which is critical to creating livable conditions for a space mission that will span entire lifetimes. Games, she said, could help to, “ferret out some information about human behavior.”

Burton agreed: “Using gameplay to problem-solve — fantastic use of the technology.”

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw: Well, lookie here! For once a space game that doesn t promise the universe • The Register

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw: Well, lookie here! For once a space game that doesn’t promise the universe

And it’s probably better for it

The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last one, not only did we play and complete Bioshock for the first time, but also Batman: Arkham Knight. And a lot of Kenshi.

Did we mention it’s an incredible game? Of course we did. However, this month we’re being very professional and timely – taking to the stars with Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, which was out 13 August. Oh, and the summer heat wreaking havoc on my CPU? The heatsink was broken. We’re water-cooled now, baby!

A good four or five years ago, sitting in my poky studio flat figuring out how I should waste my time next, a thought occurred to me. Where did all the space games go? Where was a modern follow-up to, say, X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter? I fondly remembered my kidhood pals pulling out tacky beige joysticks with chunky red buttons and having a blast pretending we were ace pilots.

In 2003, we had EVE Online (still going strong) but since that was widely hailed as Spreadsheets: The Game, space-based titles seemed to be thoroughly uncool by the mid-2010s. However, a quick shufti on the interwebs showed I wasn’t alone. There were at least two ambitious projects making waves – one of which was even (gasp) “finished”.

Darkest Dungeon: Lovecraftian PTSD simulator will cause your own mask to slip

The first, of course, was Star Citizen, made by Wing Commander daddy Chris Roberts. It was slated for release in 2014, but by then only two “modules” existed – a hangar and a ship combat arena. Despite loads of footage showing sandworms, sprawling cities and seamless landing on and exploring of planets, the thing still hasn’t delivered what was promised. As it stands, five years later Star Citizen remains a clutch of separate but related demos.

This is the game that was funded by a $200m Kickstarter campaign and apparently money is still needed. To own every ship currently in it, you need only cough up 27,000 real-life bucks! The latest limited-edition spacecraft is just $675!

The other was Elite: Dangerous (ED), from Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder David Braben’s Frontier Developments, the latest in a series that stretched all the way back to 1984, though until then I hadn’t even heard of the original (which you can now play in a browser). To say it didn’t also overreach would be wrong, but at least I didn’t need to sell the house to play and enjoy it.

And enjoy it I did. I have 260 hours in the space-flight simulation, which takes place in a 1:1 scale model of the Milky Way. Want to see the black hole at Sagittarius A*, the centre of our galaxy? You can. But you’ll need patience, it’s a very long way to go. My ship’s computer lifelessly intoning “frameshift drive charging” with every jump eventually drove me to mute it, though I suppose it was a clever way of hiding loading screens.

You see, space is really big. And convincingly distilling that into a modern game must be rather difficult. ED is enormous but empty – “a mile wide and an inch deep” was a phrase I heard a lot, and when you spend 99 per cent of your time in colonised space, why simulate the rest of the galaxy? (Though player-organised expeditions are a fun thing to follow.) It has MMO elements, but each star system is an enclosed instance with a maximum 25 players, and I only saw anything near that many when the devs held events designed to push commanders into the same regions.

Otherwise, it was usually another lone trader coming up on my display as we both passed through the same system on the way to cash in our cargo. That was the other problem – ED was a massive grind. Everything was determined by how quickly you could make credits, and ship costs were astronomical (no pun intended).

In those 260 hours, I eventually had enough to buy what was, for a time, the most powerful ship in the game, the Anaconda, and only after flogging the rest of my fleet. After that, I grew tired of constantly finding things to do that weren’t related to amassing currency and quickly fell behind.

Inside a space station with plump alien (click to enlarge)

Fortunately, there has been a bit of a space game resurgence. No Man’s Sky pissed everyone off by, again, failing to deliver, but nowadays is looking more and more complete. The roguelike Everspace also looks worth a punt. However, this month I was taken by surprise with the launch of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw (RGO) by indie studio Double Damage, which was founded by Diablo and Torchlight talent.


Indeed, for PC at least, RGO is on the Epic Store only for the next 12 months and you can wail and gnash your teeth about that as much as you like in the comments. But I’m of the view that if I want to play a game, I’m going to play it – stores, principles, and monopolies be damned.

Approaching a snazzy asteroid base (click to enlarge)

This prequel to the capital ship combat game Rebel Galaxy turns the focus to life in the cockpit of smaller craft, though third-person view is an option, and its developers hold it as a homage to Roberts’ Wing Commander: Privateer. If that tickles your nostalgia appendage then buckle up.

RGO dispenses with the lofty ambitions of ED, Star Citizen and No Man’s Sky to hone in on a smallish sector of space, 40 systems or so all lovingly doused in the Jack Daniels of Deep South Americana. Fans of Firefly will feel right at home since the sci-fi depicted aims for Space Western, whether that’s through the clunky ship designs, the drawls and trucker-esque attire of the NPCs, the interstellar gateways and low-rez displays, or the fact each system is named after southern states and locations.

Targeting mode takes a tactical view of the battlefield (click to enlarge)

The 20-plus hours of music help hammer this home, and it is a fantastic and obvious addition à la Grand Theft Auto – one ED sorely lacked to the point that players actually started their own browser-based radio station complete with lore-friendly ads, which was great until the spectre of licensing came knocking. With the radio off, there’s a glorious banjo and guitar-led soundtrack reminiscent of those sweltering cricket-infested evenings you see in the movies. With it on, the player is treated to various genres from country to hard rock to outsider jazz and even classical.

Oi, dickhead (click to enlarge)

And yes! There are actual fully voiced NPCs to talk to and interact with around the various space stations you’ll stop at. Now, hold your horses, it’s not the fully fledged get-out-of-your-ship-and-walk-around that fans have always longed for, but rather a menu with beautiful and detailed 3D animations in the background. While you may be waiting for that to be properly implemented in Star Citizen by 2040, it’s a damn sight better than what ED settled for, which was land your ship, here’s a 2D menu, collect your missions with some lazy template flavour text, and GTFO my station. In RGO, while landed you can trouble merchant and mercenary guilds for work, hit up the bar for bounty tips, and even have a flutter on the slot machines or shoot some 8-ball with a local in fleshed-out minigames.

About to engage in a spot of piracy (click to enlarge)

Making RGO defiantly single-player has also allowed for storytelling. You can head off into the void to do as you please as a trader, bounty hunter, merc, pirate or, heck, why not all? And you’ll need to because making money is the only way to outfit your ship and buy better ones. It is very easy to bite off more than you can chew and you’ll die a lot if you keep flying the noob ship for longer than necessary or refuse to upgrade your loadout (as I did). Mercifully, the side quests are fun, varied and swift enough to sidestep any notion of grind, which is helped by the ships’ reasonable prices, and with a modicum of effort you should soon have the best in the game.

Our main woman, Juno Markev (click to enlarge)

But in the background is an actual main mission that you can pick up and drop at a whim – a quest for revenge by female Han Solo-type Juno Markev. Nope, no hours of customisation before jumping in here, you’re stuck playing as your mum’s hard-drinkin’, heavy-smokin’ best mate. Her voice acting and writing is a little hokey, but hey, at least she’s cool. On the other hand, if you’re proficient in PhotoShop, the in-game ship painting and decal editor is probably a tad too powerful.

The stakes are always high, and winning is tricky (click to enlarge).

And yet I can’t help but feel something’s missing. Bar some unique planets and stations, each system is the same sort of thing and with the jump gates at either end looking identical, it can be confusing as to whether you’ve even arrived at your intended region without consulting the map. Combat promotes use of a lock-on that tracks and matches the movement of your targeted ship to get it in your crosshairs while you do the finer aiming. Though this does help make you feel like a shit-hot pilot, which is what we all want, one wonders if it’s not ez mode.

I could be a little too close (click to enlarge)

The omission of vertical and lateral thrusters also threw me off for a while. That might have made for more interesting and challenging dogfights, but it could be down to the fact that the devs recommend a gamepad as their preferred way to play the game, and I obliged, although others have said playing with HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) or m+kb (mouse/keyboard) is perfectly viable. RGO should be viewed not as a space sim, but an arcadey console game. A “targeting mode” also pauses real time and enables you to select an enemy to lock onto while they aren’t in your sights. This and the lack of manoeuvrability means you’d probably already be dead in any other game of the type.

Out of the fire. (click to enlarge)

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw

Platform: PC, with PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on the way
Developer: Double Damage
Distributor: Epic
Price: £23.99

Then there’s the “fast travel” that RGO really wants you to use with a contextualised button press, meaning you can skip tedious jaunts across the system as well as docking procedures, but not before being treated to a brief but neat cutscene… which you can also skip. Ridiculously long trips at many times the speed of light and crashing your new ship in the docking bay after not realising how large it is are surely part of the charm. There is an option to FTL (faster-than-light travel) all the way to an in-system destination, but RGO seems to insist on getting you straight to the action. You’ll also be pulled out if the game deems there to be anything worth investigating on the way. Many will like this feature, just as many will not. Mainly it emphasises just how empty and skippable deep space is, and the contextual nature of fast travel often threatened to sling me into the beyond when I actually wanted to scoop up some whisky.

Docking and FTL travel results in a cinematic clip, rather than hands-on faffing (click to enlarge)

Annoyances aside, it’s good old retro fun and long-time fans of the genre will find it well worth the modest price tag. Hopefully RGO can be seen as a starting block for others to step up and drag the space game kicking and screaming into the 21st century – without promising players the universe. So if you find yourself needing to fill that Privateer-shaped hole, you could do much worse. Actually, there’s not really anything else out there right now. ®

The best space games on PC, PCGamesN

The best space games on PC

What are the best space games on PC? Featuring the biggest Steam games, and the best free games, such as Eve Online and Stellaris

What are the best space games on PC in 2020? Featuring the biggest Steam games, like Kerbal Space Program, and the best free games, such as Eve Online, these are the most sensational space epics around.

Trying to pick out the best PC space games is a galaxy-sized question. Developers have been churning out space adventures since the ‘70s, and with everyone getting excited about Jupiter, and with Kickstarter and crowdfunding allowing studios to strike out alone, we’re currently just a teensy bit obsessed with what’s beyond our little blue and green marble.

While we wait for E.T. to return our numerous missed calls, let’s kill the time by playing some amazing intergalactic adventures. Kick Collector ass in Mass Effect 2. Mess around with adorable rocket science in Kerbal Space Program. Stare in awe at the sheer vastness of the universe in Eve Online. If you’re looking to go where only Bill Shatner and chums have boldly gone before, these are the best sci-fi and space games on PC. Just remember… no one will hear you scream.

The best space games are:

  • Star Trek Online
  • Star Conflict
  • Outer Wilds
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Eve Online
  • Stellaris
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Kerbal Space Program
  • Eve Valkyrie
  • Endless Space 2
  • The Ur-Quan Masters
  • Homeworld Remastered Collection
  • Master of Orion 1 + 2
  • Mass Effect 2
  • FTL: Faster Than Light
  • Distant Worlds: Universe
  • Star Wars: TIE Fighter Special Edition
  • Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Star Trek Online

In movies and online, Star Trek has come a long way in a comparatively short space of time, though arguably it’s the initially troubled MMO that’s had the longest journey. Ravaged a little upon release for effectively being a bad fit, Star Trek Online has ended up filling its replica uniform rather well, and is now regarded as one of the best MMORPGs around.

It’s helpful to think of Star Trek Online not just as a game that manages to capture the spirit of the Roddenberry-enforced universe – with its pioneering forays into the unknown, tactical one-on-one battles, and meeting with curious aliens with an abiding love for human history – but as being part of an online fan convention. Players display their affiliations for TOS, TNG, or DS9, indulge their series knowledge and take part in various games on the side, namely via structured away team missions and battles in space. Being a game funded by microtransactions, you can also buy loads of tat, but the point is that Star Trek Online is not so much a sim for gamers who like Star Trek, but a hang-out for Star Trek fans who like to game.

And there’s a lot of game to like, from the way in which you develop your character and bridge officers, to playing through regular episode missions. It’s akin to riding an open-topped shuttle around every nook of Trek lore and history. Where the game excels, however, is during open team space battles, in which small groups of player ships combine to bring down indomitable NPC vessels. With a need to manage shields and power levels, consider speed and positioning, veteran fans of the Starfleet Command games will find much to engage, especially when part of a well-drilled team of frontline and support vessels tearing up the galaxy.

While Star Trek Online came out many, many years ago, it’s still receiving regular content updates and even expansions. The most recent one, Rise of Discovery, tells the story of a pivotal moment in the lives of both Gabriel Lorca and Ellen Landry. You get to experience the events that lead to the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, plus there’s an overhaul to how you unlock the best ships in the game, making this a much kinder update for new players.

Star Conflict

Star Conflict is a dogfighting free MMO that sees pilots clash amid asteroid belts and above planets in fast-paced scraps. While it’s mostly concerned with PvP battles, you can grab a few quests, explore ruins, and dabble in a spot of crafting.

Make your day: the best crafting games on PC

It’s the ships that make the game, of course. From nimble fighters to beefy frigates and bulky destroyers, there are a copious number of vessels to unlock and upgrade, determining your role in whatever conflict you find yourself duking it out in. There are over a hundred ships to choose from, but getting access to them all takes some doing.

There’s a metagame, too, as you fight for your chosen faction, hunting down foes and getting in pitched battles in an effort to spread your group’s influence and net yourself some lovely rewards.

Outer Wilds

Not to be confused with The Outer Worlds – another awesome space game from 2019 – Outer Wilds casts you as an astronaut anthropologist out in the wilds of space exploring ruins across your solar system. Your goal is to learn as much about the mysterious alien race, the Nomai, as possible, but it’s pretty much up to you how that mystery unravels.

There are several distinct planets to explore and a 20-minute time loop that bookends your adventures neatly, so each run you’ll aim to discover a little more about the world before your progress partially resets. Soulful and packed with mystery, Outer Wilds goes down a treat whether you gobble it all up in one sitting or treat each 20-minute time loop as a fresh bite.

No Man’s Sky

Space is an unconquered and never-ending vista. That desire to explore the unknown also forms the attraction of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, which uses procedural generation to ensure that you’ll never reach the end of its recreation of space, which has over 18 quintillion planets to explore.

Exploration isn’t all you’ll do in No Man’s Sky, however, as you’ll need to find ways to survive. Paramount to your success in doing that is mastering the game’s trading and combat. No Man’s Sky didn’t have the smoothest launch, but a heap of updates has steadied the ship since, adding everything from deep sea exploration to base-building – maintaining a dedicated and loving fanbase that bought a billboard to say thank you.

The No Man’s Sky: Beyond update this year massively overhauled several aspects of the game, introducing near-unlimited inventory space, VR compatibility, and a much more significant multiplayer component.

Eve Online

This has been the preeminent space game for so long that you might be forgiven for thinking it’s the only space game in existence. Unquestionably, Eve Online is one of the most interesting, partly down to the fact that its half a million online inhabitants play on the same mega-server rather than having to endure the severed realities offered by its many fantasy contemporaries.

Players join together to form fleets that number in the thousands, and alliances in the tens of thousands, all laying siege to entire regions for months on end, supported by an extensive supply chain of miners, traders, researchers, and manufacturers. In terms of scale and substance, there really isn’t anything else like it. For example, an Eve ship worth 309 billion ISK – one of just one of three in existence – was destroyed by a spy embedded in the ship’s owner’s organisation. Yes, there’s nothing quite like the stories generated by Eve’s astonishing community.

Online games of this scale aren’t without their downsides. It has a reputation for being bastard-hard to get into, but after updates to the user interface, graphics and the near-constant streamlining of some of the game’s more obscure systems, the Eve of today is no more difficult to approach than its single-player bosom buddies X and Elite.

It’s also receiving regular updates like the recent Eve Online: Invasion expansion, the second chapter of which will be arriving November 26. Earlier this year players were blindsided by the sudden aggression of a previously passive NPC faction, The Drifters, in a move designed by the developers to stir up trouble, proving the dangerous world of New Eden requires constant vigilance and cooperation.

The new player experience is being continually streamlined, but can still be challenging, especially if your aim is to carve out a small empire for yourself within a few weeks. Give yourself a fighting chance with our Eve Online beginner’s guide.


Stellaris, Paradox’s 4X grand strategy hybrid, makes space surprising again thanks to event chains that are, at first, evocative of Crusader Kings II, but end up going much further. In Stellaris, you should expect mutant uprisings, robotic rebellions, and the discovery of alien texts that make your citizens question their place in the galaxy.

It’s not just a 4X game; it’s a galactic roleplaying game and empire sim, bestowing a vast array of options upon players, allowing them to create unique, eccentric, space-faring species. You can play as a fundamentalist society built on the backs of slaves, or hyper-intelligent lizards that rely on robots whether they are fighting or farming. The robust species creator and a multitude of meaningful decisions mean that you can create almost any aliens that you can imagine.

Read more: Check out our Stellaris review for our complete verdict

And underpinning all of that is the game’s focus on exploration. While most space 4X games stick with one method of interstellar travel, Stellaris gives you three to choose from, each with their own strengths and counters. In one game, the galaxy might be a network of hyperlanes, but in the next, you might find yourself building wormhole stations and blinking across the galaxy.

Stellaris’ multiplayer isn’t to be overlooked either, transforming decent human beings into Machiavellian alien tyrants at the drop of a hat.

Elite Dangerous

30 years since it first graced the BBC Micro, the Elite series returns in the form of Elite Dangerous. It’s been around for a while in alpha and beta forms, enough time to be written about thousands of times and played by countless pirates, bounty hunters, traders, and explorers. So we already knew it was going to be a bit impressive.

Our playground is a whole galaxy. Not just any galaxy, either. The Milky Way is the setting of Elite Dangerous, built to terrifying scale. It’s a galaxy populated with black holes, gargantuan suns, space anomalies, and spaceships that flit around like tiny specks of dust on an inconceivably big table. It’s still familiar and authentically Elite, but elevated by tech that would have boggled minds in 1984, when 256 planets was massively impressive. How you carve out a life in this galaxy is much the same, though, whether you become a trader, filling your cargo hold with algae and microchips, or a mercenary, fighting in an interstellar war.

It’s great, and thanks to Elite Dangerous mods, players are improving it with things like chatting ship AIs that react to voice commands. Frontier also continues to fatten it up with free updates along with the Elite: Dangerous’ Horizon expansion. And if you’re lucky enough to have an Oculus Rift, then you’re in for a treat, right up to the point where your ship spins out of control and you dive head-first into a sick bag.

If that’s got you excited to strap into a Cobra and hurtle into the inky black, get your space adventure started with our Elite: Dangerous guide.

Kerbal Space Program

The first order of doing anything in space is, of course, to get there. Unfortunately, most games in this otherwise splendid list make the rather wild assumption that rocket science isn’t all that important and skip to the business of spreading violence, free market capitalism, and all manner of other human diseases to all corners of various galaxies. Thankfully, the space program to which the Kerbals fatefully apply is rather more grounded in reality, in the sense that the aim of the game is to avoid crashing into the stuff.

Kerbal Space Program is ostensibly about trial and error, first in building a vessel capable of getting its payload off the ground, which is relatively easy, second by actually getting the damn thing launched and steered into some kind of orbit. You soon realise that getting past the Karman Line is one thing, while delivering your payload safely to its destination another entirely. Thankfully, because your gurning passengers seem quite happy to be sacrificed for the greater good of the basic understanding of astrophysics, the trial and error is every bit as involved and entertaining as any fleeting success.

As you’ll read in our Kerbal Space Program PC review, there’s plenty of successes to aim for: reaching the Mun (née Moon), deploying a modular space station, and mining on distant planets are all attainable, albeit after a great deal of crushing but entertaining failure, made bearable thanks to a combination of hard science unpinning a soft and cute interior. As well as being a bloody good space game, KSP may well be the most entertaining community-enriched sandbox games since Minecraft – massively helped along by Kerbal Space Program mods.

Eve Valkyrie

There are a lot of pretty cockpits in VR, but Eve creators CCP did it best when they hired Mirror’s Edge producer Owen O’Brien to head up their scrappy space dogfighting simulation game.

Like the parkour cult classic, Eve Valkyrie is lent unparalleled first-person immersion through a hundred tiny touches in animation, art, and sound design – from the way your ship tips forward as it accelerates out of the hangar, through the sight of your arms at the control panel, to the muffled roar of your thrusters.

Spread your wings: the best plane games on PC

What Valkyrie captures that other space games don’t is scale – the sense that you’re piloting a rubber duck in a bath owned by Eve giants like the Amarr Titan. It’s impossible not to become acutely aware that you’re only a cracked windscreen away from a cold and unforgiving void, with just your manoeuvrability saving you from the ferocious and unyielding fire of enemy players. It’s no surprise Valkyrie is one of the best VR games on PC.

Endless Space 2

Story, a 4X designer would probably say, is something that emerges naturally from the interplay of systems in a strategy game – the clash of borders, an unplanned war. Amplitude Studios don’t think that’s much of an excuse. They’ve stuffed Endless Space 2 with as much science fiction as it can contain – and given that it’s got whole galaxies to fill, that’s plenty.

Here you’ll meet living crystals, tiny dragons, recycled war machines and millions of clones of a bloke named Horatio. It’s a universe teeming with offbeat ideas to enjoy, and then enslave, if you’re that sort of explorer. If not, you can play as a bunch of sentient trees and spread olive branches throughout known space.

There’s less left to the imagination than in conventional grand strategy – scraps are resolved in a beautiful 3D battle engine that sees your elaborate ships drift together in the void in a dramatic, interplanetary ballet. It’s like Football Manager, but with chrome, faster-than-light monoliths. Isn’t that what Sega’s catalogue has been missing until now? If you still need convincing then just read our glowing Endless Space 2 review. It’s been years since the game launched, but still the Endless Space 2 player counts are looking strong

The Ur-Quan Masters

Here’s a quick sell for The Ur-Quan Masters: it’s not only free, it’s also one of the best free PC games you’ll ever find.

Played from a top-down perspective, UQM is a hitchhiker’s’ fight for the galaxy in a game of exploration, diplomacy, role-playing, and combat. You play the commander of a lost research mission sent to re-establish contact with Earth. However, upon reaching the Sol system you soon discover the third planet has been conquered by the unpleasant Ur-Quan. Without the means to free the planet’s inhabitants or oppose its oppressors, your quest is then to head out to distant worlds and find the resources, allies, and clues to help overcome the three-eyed tentacle-beasts that hold humanity in bondage.

While UQM’s flight model isn’t much more evolved than a game of Asteroids, the extensive galaxy, populated by hundreds of planets, stars and moons – all of which can be scanned, visited, and plundered – making for a deeply involving game. Constantly having to land on planets and collect materials to trade can get a little tedious, but discovering ancient secrets and conversing with the game’s 18 unique and often hilarious races (20 if you separate the Zoq from the Fot and Pik) more than makes up for having to constantly take in so many identikit planets. If meeting the cowardly Captain Fwiffo doesn’t make you immediately fall in love with the game then you’re probably dead inside.

Homeworld Remastered Collection

Homeworld’s the sort of game that gets inside your head and just stays there. It originally came out 15 years ago, eventually spawning an expansion, an excellent sequel, and most recently, Homeworld Remastered Collection. It’s a series that remains unsurpassed. It’s also one of those rare strategy games that has a great story; both tragic and hopeful, filled to the brim with tension. It’s a voyage of discovery, of learning about the past and desperately struggling to create a future. It’s beautiful and a bit sad.

Thanks to Gearbox’s Homeworld remastering efforts, one of the best old games is even more beautiful. Now the game looks like it does in our memories, even those clouded by nostalgia, with its beautifully detailed ships and its gargantuan space backdrops. And, thanks to its minimalist UI, none of that beauty is obscured.

Watching the game in action is like viewing an epic ballet. Tiny ships fly in formation in all directions; massive, heavily armed capital ships float around the vast mother ship; diligent resource gatherers work away to fuel a massive undertaking. Even the biggest vessels are dwarfed by the size of the 3D maps, and when the camera is zoomed out, they look alone and vulnerable. Which is exactly what they are.

Master of Orion 1 + 2

Fans have been arguing since last century over which of the Master of Orion games is the better of the series and they only seem to agree that the third most definitely isn’t it, which makes the widely-available double pack featuring the first two MOOs something of an essential and stress-free purchase – at least until Wargaming finish their MOO reboot with the help of some “key members” of the original team.

Released in 1993, Master of Orion took the concepts of Sid Meier’s classic turn-based Civilization and applied it across a galaxy of planets rather than one, so that instead of various flavours of human settlers and terrestrial biomes, players were given a wide range of planet types and races to control and conquer, such as the Silicoids; able to thrive in the most hostile of environments, albeit at a glacial reproductive rate.

While the driving force behind Master of Orion and all of the best strategy games since has been technological advancement and colonialism, this was the first game of its type to really nail diplomacy and offer a route to victory in which some measure of galactic peace could be achieved. The sequel went even further, with customisable races and a political victory that required you to be elected as the Supreme Leader of the galaxy.

What is undeniable is that MOO I and II are important historical references, as seminal an influence on turn-based space conquest as the first two Doom games were establishing and defining the FPS. Unlike Doom, however, MOO has cast such a long monolith-shaped shadow over the entire space game genre that many would argue that the Orion games have yet to be eclipsed.

Mass Effect 2

Admittedly, there’s not much fizzing and fwooshing of spaceships to be enjoyed in Mass Effect, but it’s still a planet-hopping, alien-seducing space adventure, and one of the best sci-fi RPGs you’re likely to play.

Mass Effect 2 merits inclusion here for two reasons: one is the obvious strength of the story and the characters, a story that started strong in the first game and blossomed throughout its middle act to such a degree that the conclusion was always going to wilt a little. Secondly, in spite of a complete lack of direct spaceship control, you felt not just part of a crew, but in command of a functioning ship with an ability to explore the galaxy.

Related: Check out the best Star Wars games on PC

Parallels have been drawn – not least by Bioware themselves – between the Mass Effect trilogy and the classic exploration series Starflight, which was notable in the late 1980s for being one of the very first space exploration games and is notable today for not having been bettered in that regard since. In terms of storyline, with all that ancient technology end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it gubbins, Mass Effect’s storyline is remarkably close to Starflight’s. Indeed Starflight could almost be seen as the ’70s original to Mass Effect’s BSG-style gritty reimagining, only without the risible Galactica 80 spin-off series to besmirch its reputation.

In case you’re wondering why any of the series’ newer entries aren’t here, read our rankings of the best Mass Effect games.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Space is awful and will probably kill you: that’s the lesson FTL attempts to impart on brave spacefarers. The permadeath ship management game is, on the surface, a simple race to deliver information to the hands of your allies, but you’re being chased. With every diversion explored, the enemy fleet gets closer and closer, and even if you do stay ahead of them, random death lurks around every corner.

Random violent encounters, shopping sprees, new worlds and races, unlockable ships and configurations, loads and loads of weird and wonderful weapons and tools – there’s so much in FTL that every game has the potential to be dramatically different. One could see you managing a tough vessel that employs ion cannons to disable enemy systems and drones to pepper them with lasers. Another might inspire you to use mind control to defeat your enemies, or teleporters to fill their ships with your own crew.

So much can go wrong. Sometimes it’s your fault, like when you mess up a fight and end up rapidly attempting to patch up hull breaches and put out fires. But sometimes luck just isn’t on your side, like when you agree to help a space station deal with a plague and one of your crew gets sick. But every failed attempt is a complete story full of adventures and misadventures, and a great excuse to make another valiant attempt.

Distant Worlds: Universe

Another 4X game to add to the list, but really, Distant Worlds is whatever you want it to be, and we were rather taken with it in our Distant Worlds: Universe review. It’s an exploration game where you have one vessel that’s part of a massive empire, and you spend the whole time flitting around the galaxy. A trade game, where one eye is always on your bank account, while the other is hungrily looking at aliens, searching for good deals and diplomatic opportunities. A game where you are the master of everything, sticking your finger in every conceivable pie, from military matters to colonisation.

It’s huge; mind-bogglingly, overwhelmingly massive. An entire galaxy is simulated from private traders going about their business, to pirates getting up to no good. It’s the most ambitious 4X space game that you’re ever likely to find.

At its core, it’s a tool for creating your own galaxies to play in. Players can curate the game to such a degree that one game could bear no resemblance to the next. Everything from the age of the galaxy to the aggression of pirates can be dictated before a game even begins.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter Special Edition

LucasArts might be gone, and one could argue that it died long before it officially shut down, but we’ll always have reminders of what it once was, with brilliant games like Totally Studio’s phenomenal Star Wars: TIE Fighter, the villainous sequel to X-Wing.

Its predecessor was great, there’s no doubt about it, but TIE Fighter’s campaign lets you play as an Imperial, and the Devil is always more fun. It was also, across the board, an improvement over X-Wing, from its graphics – now very dated, admittedly – to a targeting upgrade that allowed pilots to focus on specific parts of an enemy capital ship or station.

This isn’t some arcade space shooter like its not-quite-successor, the Rogue Squadron series. This is a space sim first, which comes with greater complexity but also greater control. For instance, if you’re being battered by laser fire from a pesky X-Wing and your ship’s been damaged, then you assign the order in which systems are repaired, allowing you to prioritise so you can survive for a few more seconds. Just enough to win the fight.

Being an oldie, expect a wee bit of fiddling to get the best experience. Thankfully, we’ve got a Star Wars: TIE Fighter beginner’s guide, which should save you from some potential problems.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

A game that successfully manages to combine the very best of 3D real-time strategy – albeit without a proper single-player campaign – with the kind of empire building offered only by the very top 4X games.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is played across a user-defined network of stars. Players begin forging an empire around the gravity wells of planets with shipyards, research outposts, extractors, and defence systems, then assemble fleets combining frigates, corvettes, cruisers, and capital ships to map and eventually conquer neighbouring systems.

In earlier versions of Sins of a Solar Empire, conquest was largely achieved in the time-honoured RTS fashion of dragging a huge box around every single damn ship you owned and directing them towards the enemy systems so as to allow sheer force of numbers to win the day. However, with the introduction of diplomatic victories in a previous expansion and research and occupation victories as part of 2012’s Rebellion standalone – not to mention new Death Star-like titan ships as a much-needed counter to the ultra-defensive starbases structures – the stalemates that would often cause games to peter out can be pursued as potentially winning strategies. And let’s not forget about the mods that let you play out your Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica fantasies.

Upcoming space games

star citizen

Star Citizen is still in development, but you can play the Star Citizen alpha now and fly through a small section of the Star Citizen universe – small in comparison to the grand scale of the star map they aim to include in the full release. It’s easily one of the most ambitious online multiplayer games ever put into production and boasts and absurd level of detail at every level, from adventuring with a crew of friends to battling it out in space or on land.

The crowdfunded behemoth has now raised more than $250 million in funding – coming off a funding surge after CitizenCon, during which the developers showcased a new stealth mission and a new planet. Backers have been pledging money to obtain Star Citizen ships in game, with prices starting at $45 – for the curious, there are free fly events that allow you to take any of the hundreds of ships out for a test drive. So if you enjoy the feel of the 600i Explorer enough to drop $570 USD on it, you’ll be in good company. Unfortunately – and we hate to be the ones to break the news – if you were after an Origin 890 Jump 2949 Showdown Edition for $1,140 USD, they’re currently all sold out.

Related: After something fresh? Here are some great new MMOs

That’s our pick of the best space games on PC. While we have you, why not check out some of the most exciting upcoming PC games, or if you’re in the mood to read about the absolute greatest titles of all-time, check out our list of the best PC games.

The best space games on PC, PC Gamer

The best space games on PC

Go beyond the infinite in these cosmic PC games.

The year is 2020 and despite how futuristic that sounds, us average folks probably won’t be headed to space for a weekend getaway any time soon. Until such a day as we can all escape Earth on a whim, here are some of the best games set in space to take you out to the unknown without actually leaving your room.

Whether you want to explore strange new worlds, seduce weird aliens, or become a feared galactic bounty hunter, there’s a space game for everyone on PC, and the following are currently the best examples you can play right now.

Outer Wilds

(Image credit: Mobius Digital)

Year 2019
Developer Mobius Digital
Link Official site

A first-person open world game about exploring a small solar system full of weird planets and odd cosmic phenomena. The catch? You’re trapped in a time loop, giving you just 20 minutes to explore at a time. Outer Wilds is reminiscent of games such as Her Story and Obra Dinn in the way you piece a puzzle together by discovering and connecting small, often seemingly unrelated details.

The Outer Worlds

(Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment)

Year 2019
Developer Obsidian Entertainment
Link Official site

Not to be confused with Outer Wilds, which is also a space adventure and also on this list, Obsidian’s latest RPG is a comedic action RPG that hearkens back to the studio’s days working on Fallout. You and your companions will hop around a solar system full of literally colorful environments and figuratively colorful characters. Corporations are the big bads of the retro space future where you’ll shoot up aliens, choose dialogue, and generally make a mess of every planet you show up on if it suits your fancy.

Homeworld Remastered Collection

Year 2015
Developer Relic/Gearbox Software
Link Official site

One of the best singleplayer RTS campaigns ever made, and beautifully remastered by Gearbox. The sight of thousands of your ships streaking across the game’s vividly colourful space-scapes is hugely dramatic. And battles are tense and tactical, with many types of ship to command, including colossal battleships. The Remastered Collection looks great on modern PCs and comes complete with the original Homeworld and its sequel.


(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Year 2019
Developer No Code
Link Official site

The space station Observation has broken away from its Earth orbit and is drifting somewhere near Saturn. Its systems are malfunctioning, a fire has broken out, and the on-board artificial intelligence, SAM, is acting strangely. Things are not looking good for Dr. Emma Fisher, the reluctant hero of this sci-fi thriller from the studio behind Stories Untold. But what’s interesting about Observation is that you don’t play as Fisher. Instead, you play as the AI.

Surviving Mars

Year 2018
Developer Haemimont Games
Link Steam

Leaving Earth behind, humanity heads to Mars to start a new colony: and you’re in charge of it. Your new civilisation will grow from one small dome in the Martian desert to a bustling, sprawling off-world metropolis. But just make sure you don’t run out of oxygen or power, because on this ruthless planet it’s a death sentence for every citizen under your control.


Year 2017
Developer Fullbright
Link Official site

The crew has mysteriously abandoned the Tacoma lunar transfer station, and you’ve been sent to investigate and recover its precious AI, Odin. This atmospheric sci-fi mystery from the makers of Gone Home is wonderfully written, with a cast of rich, nuanced characters telling a compelling story through interactive AR recordings. Exploring the hyper-detailed station is a delight thanks to the game’s extraordinary attention to detail, and the more you learn about Tacoma, the deeper the mystery gets.

Objects in Space

Year 2019
Developer Flat Earth Games
Link Official site

This unique twist on the space sim shares the trading and exploration elements of games such as Elite Dangerous, but feels more like commanding a submarine. You don’t see space itself; just a series of utilitarian rooms full of screens and machinery. There’s a lot to manage, and you play several roles at once: pilot, engineer, comms officer. But despite the limited view of your surroundings, you still feel like you’re hurtling through space in a starship.

Elite Dangerous

Year 2014
Developer Frontier Developments
Link Official site

An entire galaxy is your playground in this space sim. Starting with a basic ship and a handful of credits, you shape your own destiny. Do you become a fearsome pirate? A master trader? An explorer? The beauty of Elite is being able to play in a way that suits you. From thrilling dogfights to gentle exploration, there’s something for everyone. And its ships are all an absolute dream to fly, whether it’s a nimble fighter or a heavy duty cargo hauler.

EVE Online

Year 2003
Developer CCP Games
Link Official site

Live another life—in space! There’s nothing else like EVE Online on PC, a massively multiplayer RPG where everything is controlled by players. It’s a living galaxy in which thousands of capsuleers fight, trade, mine, and explore together. Break away from the relative safety of your police-patrolled starting system and you’ll find a ruthless, cosmic Wild West, where piracy, espionage and scamming are rife. Whether you’re fighting in a massive space war, where thousands of real-world dollars hang in the balance, or just exploring New Eden on your own, EVE is an unforgettable experience.


Year 2017
Developer Rockfish Games
Link Steam

When you die in roguelike Everspace, you’re dead. But money earned carries over and can be spent on upgrades, which means you’ll be more powerful for your next run through the cosmic gauntlet. And these perks keep adding up, allowing you to travel deeper into space, and more boldly, with every successive attempt. It’s a compelling loop, and when you die you’re never frustrated: just excited to start again, wondering how far you’ll make it this time.

Dead Space

Year 2008
Developer EA Redwood Shores
Link Steam

Space is the perfect setting for a horror game, and Dead Space is, next to Alien: Isolation, one of the best examples of the scary sci-fi genre. Engineer Isaac Clarke is sent to investigate a stricken ‘planet cracker’ ship, the USG Ishimura, and finds the craft overrun with hideous, fleshy monsters. Taking cues from Alien and, quite blatantly, cult favourite Event Horizon, the first game in the series is still the best. The increased focus on action in the sequels killed it.

Star Wars: Empire at War

Year 2006
Developer Petroglyph
Link GOG

Developed by Petroglyph, a studio founded by Westwood veterans, this real-time strategy is one of the best Star Wars games on PC. The streamlined interface and accessible systems might turn off some hardcore strategy fans, but in the thick of its chaotic, thrilling land and space battles the game is irresistible—especially if you’re a Star Wars fan. And hero units like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker only add to the excitement.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2

Year 2019
Developer Tindalos Interactive
Link Official site

A real-time tactics game about giant spaceships clashing in the Warhammer 40,0000 universe. Battles take place on a 2D plane populated by capture points and asteroid fields, and the ships handle like giant, deadly cruise liners. You can unleash fighter and bomber squadrons, launch torpedo barrages and laser attacks, and board other ships. The space battles are involving and spectacular and the campaign is satisfying—especially for 40K fans.

Endless Space 2

(Image credit: Amplitude Studios)

Year 2017
Developer Amplitude Studios
Link Official site

A stylish game of galactic conquest. Not the broadest or deepest 4X strategy game on PC, but an atmospheric afternoon-killer that blends strategic decision making with a beautiful presentation. Set in a vivid sci-fi universe, the game lets you explore mysterious star systems, discover the secrets of ancient races, build colonies on distant planets, and encounter aliens to meet and conquer.

Heat Signature

Year 2017
Developer Suspicious Developments
Link Steam

In this top-down sci-fi action game you board spaceships and use an array of weapons and gadgets to take out the crew. The genius lies in how much creativity you’re given to play your own way, inspired by the best immersive sims. And how you react to the chaos that erupts when your presence on the ship becomes known makes Heat Signature a powerful anecdote generator. Things might not always go to plan, but that’s just part of the fun.


Year 2016
Developer Misfits Attic
Link Official site

Despite being viewed entirely through a retro-futuristic computer interface, Duskers is one of the scariest, most tense sci-fi horror games on PC. In it you pilot a fleet of drones searching derelict spaceships for fuel, upgrades, and clues about why the galaxy is so mysteriously devoid of life. The ships you board are crawling with strange creatures, which makes looking for clues in those narrow, dark corridors an especially nerve-racking experience.

Destiny 2

Year 2017
Developer Bungie
Link Official site

Bungie’s addictive FPS/MMO hybrid features some of the prettiest alien landscapes on PC. From the forested ruins of Earth and the vast seas of Titan, to the red jungles of Nessus and the volcanic Io, every location is a pleasure to loot-and-shoot in. The endgame doesn’t have the iron grip it perhaps should, but sci-fi fans will get a kick out of this vivid, colourful setting.

The Dig

Year 1995
Developer LucasArts
Link GOG

A mission to divert an asteroid heading for Earth goes awry, sending a group of astronauts to a distant, seemingly abandoned world. Some of the puzzles are maddeningly obscure, even for a LucasArts point-and-click adventure, but the colourful, bizarre planet feels genuinely alien. Great voice acting too, with X-Files star Robert Patrick playing the lead character.

Universe Sandbox 2

Year 2014
Developer Giant Army
Link Official site

This space simulator lets you become an all-powerful cosmic deity, manipulating replicas of real galaxies and solar systems and witnessing the (often catastrophic) results of your meddling. Increase the mass of Jupiter and you’ll see the rest of our solar system being sucked into it, or delete the Sun and watch Earth and the other planets drift away confused.


Year 2016
Developer Ocelot Society
Link Steam

Stranded alone somewhere near Jupiter on an old luxury starship, your only hope of returning home is an AI that has serious emotional problems. You interact with Kaizen using your keyboard, and sometimes it’ll be willing to help you. But then it’ll change its mind and decide the best thing to do is close the airlock and trap you outside the ship until you run out of air. A clever adventure with the understated mood of a ’70s sci-fi film.

Mass Effect 2

Year 2010
Developer BioWare
Link Steam

If you’ve ever fantasised about being Captain Picard, in command of your own starship, exploring the galaxy, meeting weird aliens, being confronted with cosmic dilemmas, then Mass Effect 2 is that in game form. It’s part Star Wars space opera, part brilliant Star Trek episode, and one of the best sci-fi games on PC. It doesn’t have the freedom of Elite and is largely a linear experience, but it takes you on an unforgettable journey around the galaxy, visiting bizarre planets and getting involved in the lives of the aliens who live on them. We love the whole series, but we all agree that this is our favourite.


Year 2016
Developer Paradox
Link Official site

Developed by Paradox, of Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis fame, this sci-fi epic puts the ‘grand’ in grand strategy. Explore the universe, form alliances with alien factions, and engage in the odd large-scale space battle. The multitude of systems makes Stellaris a powerful story generator, and you never know what strange beings you’ll meet among the stars.

Alien: Isolation

Year 2014
Developer Creative Assembly
Link Official site

Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen, is hunted through a dilapidated space station by a xenomorph in this incredible survival horror. Taking its cues from Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film, it’s a masterpiece of slow-burning tension. And the station itself, Sevastopol, is a great example of lo-fi sci-fi, with chunky retro-futuristic tech and eerie flickering lights. One of the most faithful movie adaptations ever, and a great horror game in its own right.

No Man’s Sky

Year 2016
Developer Hello Games
Link Official site

This is one of the most dazzlingly colourful sci-fi universes on PC, and being able to seamlessly transition from space to the surface of a planet is an impressive technical feat. The addition of features like base-building and a mission system in recent updates give you a lot more to actually do when you touch down on these worlds, and the procedural generation algorithm has been tweaked to make for weirder, prettier planet surfaces.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter

Year 1994
Developer Totally Games
Link GOG

A rare opportunity to be the bad guy in George Lucas’s beloved space opera. With a variety of Empire-themed missions—dogfights, escorts, attacking capital ships—and a story to follow, it’s one of the best Star Wars games LucasArts ever published. Of course, you can replace this entry with Star Wars: X-Wing if you’d prefer to play as the boring old Rebel Alliance.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Year 2012
Developer Subset Games
Link Steam

FTL mixes turn-based and real-time strategy together to capture the experience of captaining a Star Trek-style spacecraft. It’s a strong roguelike, too, with a backdrop of a familiar yet fun sci-fi universe that comes with its own semi-humorous lore and a neat set of narrative beats that make the journey to its finale endlessly exciting. Being able to name your ship and crew makes it all the more heartbreaking when they die together in enemy space.

Wing Commander: Privateer

Year 1993
Developer Origin Systems
Link GOG

Fans of the series will argue endlessly about which Wing Commander is the best, but we love Privateer’s darker feel. It’s a rich sandbox in which you can be a mercenary, a pirate, a merchant, or a mix of all three. You jump between systems looking for bounties to hunt and ships to rob, and the first-person dogfights are a thrill. There’s a linear story, but the real joy lies in doing your own thing and carving your own path through the stars.

EVE: Valkyrie

Year 2016
Developer CCP Games
Link Official site

If you have a VR headset, this is the game to play on it. In Valkyrie you get to experience EVE Online’s famous space battles from the more intimate perspective of an individual fighter pilot. The feeling of being strapped into a cockpit, hurtling through space at immense speeds, is a visceral one. And the combat has been tuned specifically for virtual reality.

Kerbal Space Program

Year 2015
Developer Squad
Link Official site

Wrestle with gravity and the laws of physics as you build your own spacecraft and attempt to explore the cosmos. A robust, compelling sandbox of possibilities that’s as funny as it is clever. Escaping Kerbin’s atmosphere and landing on the Mun (without exploding) for the first time with a ship you’ve built yourself is about as satisfying as PC gaming gets.

Take On Mars

Year 2013
Developer Bohemia Interactive
Link Official site

If you like your space games a little more grounded, try Arma developer Bohemia’s Take On Mars. It’s a space exploration and colonisation simulator largely based on real astro-science. You can build a Curiosity-style rover and explore the surface of the red planet or construct your own Martian colony. A game for folk who want the sci without too much of the fi.

Sins of a Solar Empire

Year 2008
Developer Ironclad Games
Link Official site

Mixing real-time strategy with 4X elements, Sins is a game of galactic conquest. Choose a faction, gather resources and become a mighty space-lord. Commanding its real-time wars is thrilling, but combat isn’t always the answer: you can use diplomacy to conquer systems too. A refreshingly slow-paced RTS with some truly massive space battles to stare slack-jawed at.

Space Engineers

Year 2013
Developer Keen Software House
Link Official site

Harvest asteroids for building materials then craft them into floating bases, flyable spaceships, and more besides. You can hover around the map with a jetpack or build a gravity generator to walk safely on the surface of bigger asteroids. One of the best co-op build-’em-ups on PC.


Year 2013
Developer Chucklefish Games
Link Official site

Terraria-esque survival with a science fiction twist. Hop between randomly generated planets on a starship, hunt alien creatures for food, build colonies and underground bases, and try not to die in the process. A brilliant sci-fi sandbox with a charming art style. Playable races include robots, beings made of solar energy, ape-like creatures, and colourful wingless birds.


Year 2010
Developer Vladimir Romanyuk
Link Official site

Do you like feeling small and insignificant? Then play SpaceEngine, which features, incredibly, the entire universe. Or at least the bit we know about. Focus on Earth, then pull back at top speed, and you suddenly become aware of how you’re on a tiny speck of dust hurtling through an endless void. The tech is remarkable, allowing you to travel effortlessly between galaxies and land on planets. But besides exploring, there isn’t much else to it.

The 15 Best Space Combat Sims of All-Time, Video Games, The Escapist

Video Games

The Escapist loves to play any game that lets you say things like “Stay on target!” and “We’re too close.”

Piloting a spacecraft through the nether between worlds is a fantasy for so many of us. The thrill of watching Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing swerve and dive during the Death Star run in the first Star Wars is probably a big reason why games like Elite and Wing Commander were produced. The genre of space combat sims enjoyed a decade of excellence in the 1990s as the graphics and processing power of gaming PCs matched the fidelity of movement our imaginations demanded. But after a few commercials duds, and that ill-advised Wing Commander movie, we saw a dearth of space combat games in the new millennium.

That’s all about to change. The emergence of Kickstarter as a viable funding method for video games, and resurgence in sci-fi fandom with reboots of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and Star Wars all out or coming soon, has a slew of space combat sims in production. We’re super excited about Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen, not to mention smaller offerings like No Man’s Sky and EVE: Valkyrie.

In honor of the new horizon for the genre, we at The Escapist found ourselves reminiscing about the space combat sims that have come before. That discussion led to arguments over which ones were better than the others, which then of course led to a whole bunch of laser dogfights as we duked it out. In the end, we decided to put our rants into article form for the sake of science.

Without further ado, here are The Escapist‘s Best 15 Space Combat Sims of All-Time in reverse order.

15. Starlancer

Developed by Digital Anvil. Published by Microsoft. Released March 31, 2000. Available on PC and Sega Dreamcast.

Paul Goodman says: The predecessor to Chris Roberts’ Freelancer, Starlancer where the international The Alliance is caught in a desperate war with the brutal Coalition. Donning a flight suit, you take on the role of a rookie pilot in the 45th Volunteers Squadron, and with any luck, your brave efforts could help turn the tide of the war in the Alliance’s favor.

If there’s one thing I remember about this game, it was that it was freaking hard. Enemy ships could take a severe beating, and escort missions were a nightmare if you didn’t take out hostile torpedo bombers fast enough. How well you performed during a mission determined your rank, which in turn determined what star fighters or weapons you could use, and if you barely scraped by, you’d often be stuck out-gunned in the later missions. But as tough as it it could be, Starlancer was a solid space-sim with some engaging dogfights. It also does a good job of immersing you in the Alliance/Coalition war, with news reports in between missions and references to characters and other ace pilots you’d meet later on in the story.

To Boldly Go: 10 Best Space Exploration Games, TheGamer


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To Boldly Go: 10 Best Space Exploration Games

For anyone who has ever wanted to explore the vast reaches of space, these games are absolutely essential!

Exploring space in a video game is generally one of two things: the most mind-numbing experience ever, or a jaw-dropping adventure. It partly depends on the player as to which kind of experience they receive, too; some people just aren’t wired to enjoy these kinds of games.

They’re (generally) chill, time-consuming journies that require the right mindset, and the right expectations. But when these games hit just right, they’re some of the most rewarding gaming experiences out there. Here are ten of the best space games out there with a heavy emphasis on space exploration:


This list could never be complete without No Man’s Sky. Let’s just skip over the part everybody talks about with this game, and just get to the good stuff: if you’re looking for a game about exploring space and the planets/moons therein, there is possibly no better choice than this.

Sure, there are certain things that this game lacks; you aren’t going to find any sprawling space-cities, for example. But if you just want to bum around the stars for a while, documenting the experience like an adventurer, then this game has to be on your must-play list.


Another game that’s obvious for this list is Elite Dangerous. While this game isn’t on the same scale as No Man’s Sky, that doesn’t mean it’s small, by any stretch. The entire Milky Way on a 1:1 scale is present here, complete with current scientific principles, data, and theories.

This is, possibly, the best representation of space out there right now, chock full of space-objects you’d expect to see like stars, planets, and moons, and some other space objects that you won’t be quite as familiar with, like black holes, pulsars/neutron stars, and more. If you love space, this is a game you absolutely have got to try out. (Psst, it’s in VR, too!)


Classified in the “Grand Strategy” genre of games, Stellaris is all about leading your own civilization of space-dwellers into the future as successfully as possible. There are whole galaxies to explore, learn about, and figure out how to thrive in.

A near-infinite variety of species and traits means that every playthrough is going to be a vastly different experience, requiring you to adapt to both the galaxy and play to the strengths of the species you’re currently leading.


The newest game on this list, Outer Wilds looks at space exploration a little bit differently. To keep the description brief (and to avoid spoilers), the premise is that you have twenty-two minutes before the local star goes supernova.

Once this happens, the loop resets, and you begin again. Figure out the clues all around you and use them to your advantage in each new cycle, and you’ll start to figure out what’s really going on.


A 4x space-strategy game, Endless Space 2 tries to offer a more tailored experience than Stellaris, with eight pre-made factions as opposed to nearly-unlimited random ones.

Still, there’s a lot of things to explore here, with space opening itself up to either help you on your quest to being a lasting civilization, or throw obstacles in your way you’ll either need to figure out how to deal with or die.


Star Citizen is not a finished game, nor does that really even seem on the near horizon. So why is it on this list? Because Star Citizen is seemingly putting in all of the time and energy necessary to make one of the most impressive, if not the objectively most impressive space game of all time.

This game absolutely nails the intricate details necessary to make you truly believe you’re out exploring space, or wandering around a planet, all while attempting to give you actual AAA-style missions and stories at the same time. I mean, there’s an entire planet (an ENTIRE PLANET) that is a city. The whole planet. Seriously. It’s nuts.


One of the mainstays in the space game genre for over a decade, Eve Online has stayed relevant because it’s stayed good. Constantly updated, iterated upon, and improved, Eve Online puts players in the forefront of the experience, letting the universe be as lawful or as lawless as the players dictate.

This leads to somewhat of a social experiment, as players betray each other, come together, or any number of other shenanigans that cements them in the Eve Online history books.


At its heart, every Mass Effect game is telling a story, but along the way, there are plenty of planets to explore, too. Sometimes, handcrafted experiences lend themselves to more rewarding exploration; think of games like Mass Effect or Subnautica.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better games than the procedurally generated variety like No Man’s Sky or Minecraft, they’re just a different style. For folks who want to know everything they’re doing and everywhere they’re going matters, the Mass Effect series might be a better option than some of these other games.


One of the only games considered “roguelike” on this list, Faster Than Light (FTL) randomly generates a new galaxy with each playthrough, as you and your crew struggle to stay alive in the harsh and unforgiving galaxy.

This game is definitely one of the most unique on this list, adopting a top-down style and plenty of text-based encounters that force you to make tough decisions that could mean the end of the line for you and your crew.


Everspace is the only other rogue-like game on this list other than FTL. Everspace is, at the forefront, an action game with an interesting story and a universe that’s constantly changing. One of the unique things about Everspace is that death doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start from scratch.

Progress will reset, but the certain you’ve gathered throughout your playthroughs will stay. Since some progress is always going to be moving forward, every run is going to be a little bit easier than the last.

Orbiter 2016 Space Flight Simulator

Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2016 Edition

Explore the solar system on your PC!

Fed up with space games that insult your intelligence and violate every law of physics? Orbiter is a simulator that gives you an idea what space flight really feels like – today and in the not so distant future. And best of all: you can download it for free!

Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2016 Edition

Explore the solar system on your PC!

Fed up with space games that insult your intelligence and violate every law of physics? Orbiter is a simulator that gives you an idea what space flight really feels like – today and in the not so distant future. And best of all: you can download it for free!

Launch the Space Shuttle from Kennedy Space Center and rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Recreate historic flights with addon spacecraft packages: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Vostok and more.

Plan interplanetary slingshots and tour the solar system with futuristic spacecraft.

Find and explore new worlds. Orbiter contains high-resolution models of many celestial bodies.

Design your own rockets, or download addons created by other users.

Learn about the concepts of space flight and orbital mechanics by playing and experimenting.

You are the commander of your spacecraft. Welcome to the flight deck!

Planetary bodies now support terrain elevation maps for modelling mountain ranges.

Write your own Orbiter plugin modules, and learn the basics of C++ programming along the way.

10 best space games that ll take you out of this world, GamesRadar

10 best space games that’ll take you to places you’ve never been before

If you’re looking for some adventures in space, then look no further

If you’ve ever looked longingly at the night sky and wondered what it’d be like to live among the stars, here’s some good news: you don’t have to be an astronaut to visit faraway planets. Just by switching on your PC or console, you can inhabit whole other galaxies via the best space games. Some are relaxing, some terrifying, but all are full of wonder and secrets.

Naturally, the infinite scope of space supports games in every genre, and on this list of the very best space games you’ll find RPGs and adventure games alongside more traditional strategy and space combat sims. No matter what your tastes, there’s something waiting out there for you. So strap on your helmet: here are the 10 best space games you can play right now.

Outer Wilds

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

A wonderfully-crafted indie space adventure with a variety of endings that leave you floored. Its cutesy presentation belies just how clever a game it is: as a first-time astronaut, you explore a miniaturised galaxy over the course of 22 minutes, zooming between planets in your ship and picking at story threads. When the clock runs out, you respawn and do it all over again – this time armed with everything you learned in your previous life. Gradually, you unravel Outer Wilds’ mysteries, finding other spacefarers and discovering why you – and you alone – are stuck in a time loop.

We love how dynamic the world feels. Outer Wilds doesn’t stay still for your 22 minutes: instead, planets orbit the sun and comets follow predefined paths in real-time. One puzzle can only be solved when certain planets align, which only happens at specific times. Another planet gradually dies over the course of each life: it’s intact at the start, but torn in two by the end. You’ll find endless secrets to discover, and you won’t want to stop digging until you’ve slotted every piece of the puzzle into place.


Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

The Paradox team behind medieval story generator Crusader Kings 2 turn their talents skywards, and the results are stunning. Stellaris is a deep, gripping strategy game about building up a space-faring empire and squashing any foe in sight. Or, if you prefer, it’s about establishing a race of friendly technocrat turtles that help other species expand. That’s the beauty of it: you set your own goals, assign your own traits to your species, and play it however you like.

It has all the exploration of a traditional strategy sim, but your relationships with other factions take on more weight than usual. You’ll steer your civilisation through war and peace, watch alliances form and betray each other, and band together with foes to fight extra-dimensional invaders. It keeps getting richer through regular updates: for that reason, you ideally want to buy the PC version, which is ahead of the console edition (its UI is easier to navigate with a mouse than a gamepad, too). Dive in, and prepare to lose all track of time.

Mass Effect 2

Available on: PC, Xbox One (backwards compatible)

Mass Effect is the space RPG by which we measure all others. The long-awaited Mass Effect: Andromeda was a huge disappointment for fans, but the original trilogy, and particularly the second game, remain masterpieces. The overall plot of the series – space hero tries to unite and save the galaxy against a deadly force – sounds generic, but doesn’t feel it moment-to-moment. That’s largely down to the crew you assemble, each with distinct personalities, goals, and senses of humour. As they gradually open up, you’ll look forward to every trip back to the Normandy between missions, just so you can see what they have to say next.

The combat improved as the series went on, but Mass Effect 2 has the best sense of pace, and does the best job of ramping up the stakes before a thrilling – and potentially heart-breaking – conclusion. Our advice is to start with the first game, and try to stick with it. If it’s not your bag, or if it feels too dated, just watch one of the many plot summaries on YouTube and jump into Mass Effect 2. It’s a long flight, but you won’t regret it.

Destiny 2

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

If you only have room in your life for one online FPS, make it Destiny 2. It’s got it all: addictive PvP modes, big co-op boss fights, long story arcs and, most importantly, tons of loot. You’ll never be short of things to do, and often you’re juggling several tasks at once across various planets, from complex, multi-part quests to simple by-the-numbers stat padders, such as completing a certain number of PvP rounds. At every step you’re watching your power tick up, and equipping your guardian with evermore lethal gear.

When it comes to the actual shooting, Destiny 2 makes the act of pulling the trigger more satisfying than perhaps any other FPS on the market. Guns feel weighty but not cumbersome, and headshots reward you with showers of special effects. We’d advise playing with a group, especially for the toughest raids, but it’s still a fun time if you’re solo. Best of all, most of the game is completely free-to-play, and you could easily dump 100 hours into it before being tempted to spend any cash.

Elite: Dangerous

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Elite: Dangerous feels a bit like Space: The Game. It hands you a ship, boots up the engine and asks you to make your living however you like in a galaxy full of other players, be that via trading, smuggling, mining, exploring or dogfighting. It’s not a full-on flying sim, but it really sells the fantasy of space travel. Your cockpit is alive with blinking lights that let you adjust the balance of power to your ship’s systems, and the sheer scale of the world means flying between two planets can take ages, even with a hyperspace jump. Sit back and enjoy the gorgeous views.

A recent update added full tutorials, which made it even more accessible for new players. It requires some patience, and the slow pace might put some players off, but if you’ve ever wanted to live a second life as Han Solo, this is your chance.

EVE Online

Available on: PC

If you thought Elite: Dangerous sounded like a detailed recreation of life in space, wait until you try EVE Online. The 16-year old MMO is bigger and better than ever, and every single element of its game is player-directed. Players form their own alliances, and the whole economy is dictated by player actions. With so many different factors at play – 25,000 players online at any one time, each with their own goals – you find that cool stuff just constantly happens, from the collapse of superpowers to huge PvP fights with thousands of ships spewing lasers across the sky (check out some of the best stories here).

Developer CCP isn’t afraid to add more chaos: it recently swarmed the game with a massive alien invasion, and turned off a key plank of player communications, leaving everyone in the dark. No doubt 2020 will throw up plenty more surprises. Learning the game is harsh, but once you’re in EVE’s world, good luck getting out.

Kerbal Space Program

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Half toybox, half science project, Kerbal Space Program is the most fun you can have while learning about space. On the surface, it’s a game about building ridiculous rockets and launching tiny green men into space – and then watching the whole thing literally fall apart before your eyes while you giggle. But the more you play, the more you want to understand it. Before long, you’re agonising over the correct entry angle for a moon landing, or the right configuration of engines to achieve maximum thrust. The proper rules of physics apply, and the most satisfying achievements require careful planning and attention to detail.

It’s a sandbox, but you’ll always have a goal to aim for. It’s the kind of game you can spend a week playing, put it down, and then come back months later without worrying about where you left off. With a follow-up due next year, there’s no better time to play.

Homeworld Remastered Collection

Available on: PC

Gearbox’s remaster of Relic’s sci-fi epic Homeworld makes it feel even more special than it did 20 years ago. Both games in the collection are real-time strategy games with the option to pause, but there’s far more emphasis on story than most RTSs: the action is a conduit for a tale of a civlization clawing itself back from near-extinction, with a mothership bound for home that must be protected at all costs. Its campaign missions, which play out as combat scenarios, each move that story forward, and the weighty, minimalist cutscenes between them are expertly crafted.

The combat sprawls out in all three dimensions, with hundreds of ships flying in all directions, but the updated UI makes it easier than ever to direct your fleet where you want them to go. It takes a bit of learning, but it doesn’t take long before you’re barking orders to individual clutches of ships, zooming in from a tactical map to watch a single, heroic pilot land a killing blow. If you missed out in the ‘90s, get on board.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Available on: PC, iOS

One of the best indie games ever made still has plenty of fuel in the tank. As the captain of a top-down ship, your goal is to reach friendly territory by jumping between randomly-generated segments of space, each full of nasty enemies, traders, and the odd friendly face. Combat somehow feels both urgent and thoughtful: you can pause at any time to assess your options, and yet we’re always in a constant panic, re-routing precious power from our weapons to our shields to absorb damage, or even purposefully bombing our own ship to neutralise boarding parties.

The inherent randomness of each run, and the scarcity of resources, makes FTL feel brutal. Every decision is tortuous, and every victory has a cost. Aiding a civilian ship being chased by pirates will reward you with scrap, but it’s also one more fight to worry about: and in FTL, each battle can be your last. However unfair it sometimes feels, you’ll learn something from each run and come back stronger and smarter the next time around. What began on Kickstarter became one of the most polished rogue-likes on PC, and it later came to iOS, so you can take it wherever you go.


Available on: PC, PS4

The smallest game on this list is one of the most intriguing. From No Code, the creators of Stories Untold, comes a tense sci-fi adventure that’s part slow-burning horror, part puzzle game, all wonderfully voice-acted. You play an AI aboard a spaceship where the only person left alive is Dr Emma Fisher, the game’s hero. Everyone else is missing, and the ship is falling apart: it’s Fisher’s job, with your help, to patch it up and get back on course. Except that something strange is happening, and you keep receiving the same message from an unknown source: “BRING HER”.

It’s that slowly-unfolding, sinister story combined with moment-to-moment puzzling – unique puzzles with clever UIs appear once, never outstay their welcome, and then disappear, replaced with the next one – that makes Observation so unique. You navigate the station’s warren-like corridors via CCTV cameras and freely-controlled drones, using environmental clues such as schematics pinned to walls to figure out what to do next. Individual challenges keep you locked in for each play session, but it’s the twisting story that keeps you coming back.