10 Best Space Games To Play Right Now

2020 has been a rough year but we recently had a bright spot with the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon on May 30. The first manned space mission from US soil since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011, the Crew Dragon launch marks our first step in getting back to the moon, and beyond. With the historic event perking the interest of millions of Americans, it’s no surprise that several space-themed games are scattered throughout Steam’s top 100. For anyone wishing to make their bid in the newly revived space race, we’ve put together the 10 best space games to play right now. Whether you want to keep it local or wish to reach out into the furthest reaches of the galaxy, there’s sure to be something here for you. If your favorite space game didn’t make the list, don’t explode like a failed SpaceX landing, let us know below why your fave deserves its place in history.

Kerbal Space Program

  • Developer: Squad
  • Release Date: June 24, 2011
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Along with the successful launch of the Dragon Crew, SpaceX has given us some glorious failures. In like manner, your goal in Kerbal Space Program is to create a successful space program, but you’ll probably spend more time creating fantastic explosions. When you first see the cartoonish Kerbals you might think you are in for an arcadish journey but you couldn’t be more wrong. Succeeding in KSP requires planning, patience, and a moderate understanding of physics. Fortunately, failing is just as fun.

Surviving Mars

  • Developer: Paradox Interactive
  • Release Date: March 15, 2018
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

It’s been over 50 years since we first landed on the moon (unless you don’t believe in that kind of stuff) and somehow we haven’t made it any further into space since then. Elon says he can get us to Mars, but getting there is only half the battle. In Surviving Mars, we tackle the second half of that fight. Anyone can build a city on Earth, but do you have what it takes to build a successful, thriving colony on Mars?

Space Engineers

  • Developer: Keen Software House
  • Release Date: February 28, 2019
  • Platform(s): Xbox One, PC

To say that Space Engineers is Minecraft in space doesn’t do it justice. It does have a lot of the same elements – gather resources and build stuff – but the scope is much larger. You will start off small but before you know it projects like building huge mining ships and finding the perfect place for your base on a planet will be on your to-do list. 

FTL

  • Developer: Subset Games
  • Release Date: September 14, 2012
  • Platform(s): PC

Unlike many of the space flight games on this list, FTL is a roguelike turn-based strategy game. As the captain of your starship, you and your crew are the last, best hope. Wait, that’s Star Wars. As the captain of your ship, you and your crew are on a 5-year mission. Damn, that’s Star Trek. You get the idea though – encounter after encounter, you make the decisions. Diplomacy and battle are both options, with each encounter having its own risks and rewards.

 

Stellaris

  • Developer: Paradox Interactive
  • Release Date: May 9, 2016
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

If your aspirations for space exploration revolve more around conquering the galaxy than flying a single ship, then Stellaris is right up your alley. A classic 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) real-time strategy game, in Stellaris you take control of your fledgling civilization just as it develops faster than light travel and begins its exploration of space. Whether you become a galactic empire or get snuffed out before you even leave a mark on the galaxy all depends on how you grow your civilization. Stellaris has a grand scale, and with so much going on in the background, you never really know what events are in your future, making it the perfect choice for someone who values replayability.

No Man’s Sky

  • Developer: Hello  Games
  • Release Date: August 9, 2016
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

No Man’s Sky was the epitome of a game not living up to the pre-launch hype built up around it. It has since redeemed itself and is now more than we ever expected it to be. In the open-universe sandbox of No Man’s Sky, you can race to the center of the galaxy if you so choose but you’ll miss out on so much of what this survival exploration game has to offer. Build a base, discover new species, trade goods, collect a fleet of ships, and with the latest update you can even pilot a mech.

Mass Effect

  • Developer: BioWare
  • Release Date: 2007 (ME1), 2010 (ME2), 2012 (ME3), 2017 (ME Andromeda)
  • Platform(s): PC, consoles vary by game

Anyone who has played through the Mass Effect franchise is sure to have their favorite installment but the whole series is worth a look if you’ve somehow made it to 2020 without playing at least one of the games. The story arcs are fantastic, how you handle situations has an impact on your character progression, and the fighting is fun. And don’t forget the romance; Commander Shepard puts James T. Kirk to shame when it comes to hooking up.

Elite Dangerous

  • Developer: Frontier
  • Release Date: December 16, 2014
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

In Elite Dangerous you spend 100% of your time in the pilot’s seat (an expansion coming early next year will finally allow you to roam a planet on foot) but honestly, why would you want to leave your ship when flying is so much fun, and if you have a VR headset, you’re in for a special treat. Whether in VR or not, you’ll be busy making your way through a 1:1 recreation of the Milky Way Galaxy, blazing your own trail as a merchant trader, bounty hunter, pirate, or however else your heart desires. Heck, there’s even a group of players dedicated to the rescue of pilots who have run out of fuel and become stranded in the dark expanse of space.

 

Eve Online

  • Developer: CCP Games
  • Release Date: May 6, 2003
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Since 2003 Eve Online has been the go-to space MMO. Buy, sell, trade, steal, kill, upgrade your ship. Alliances are formed, empires are built and eventually crumble, all at the whim of the players. Just like space itself, Eve Online can be cold and inhospitable to a new player, though updates over the last couple of years have made the learning curve a little less steep. You can even try the game out for free before deciding to put down your cash for the monthly subscription.

Outer Wilds

  • Developer: Mobius Digital
  • Release Date: May 28, 2019
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Considered one of the best games of 2019, Outer Wilds is all about discovery and exploration, 22 minutes at a time. You must explore the nearby planets, following the breadcrumbs left behind by the Nomai, a now extinct space-faring race, to piece together the mystery of why you are on an infinite loop that starts with you waking up beside a campfire on the eve of your first space mission and ending just 22 minutes later (or less if you die early) when the sun goes supernova.

 

Written by
Old enough to have played retro games when they were still cutting edge, Mitch has been a gamer since the 70s. As his game-fu fades (did he ever really have any?), it is replaced with ever-stronger, and stranger, opinions. If that isn't the perfect recipe for a game reviewer, what is?

2 Comments

  1. No consideration for X-Com and Spacecraft series or wrong genres? Especially since X-Com 2 just hit the Nintendo Switch.

  2. Those are both great games. But yeah, though most of the games listed have combat I was looking at the underlying theme of exploration and discovery. I do enjoy coming up with tie-in lists, so maybe an “Aliens strike back” list is in order.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.