There’s something very captivating about the endless expanse of space. It’s full of intrigue, beauty, and wonder. Space video games capture those emotions perfectly while brining both fictional and non-fictional planets to life! They drop you right in the middle of the action and help you discover the universe in a brand-new way.
Space-themed video games have been around since the very beginning. With every passing console generation and technological advance, these games keep getting bigger and better!
Whether you’re a fan of science fiction lore or you want to play with the physics of gravity, there’s something for everyone. So put on your spacefarer helmet and buckle up for galactic adventures! We’ve sifted through video game history to find some of the very best space video games of all time!
How We Chose the Best Space Video Games
What exactly makes a good space game? Is it beautiful graphics or realistic gameplay? The truth is, space games are as unique as the stars above! Space games span several genres and can include a slew of elements that make them unique.
To decide which games to include in our list of the very best space video games, we looked at several criteria. The base qualifier for these games is an outer space setting. But beyond that, we scrutinized the following elements.
At the end of the day, video games should challenge you and constantly test your skills. Space games are no different. We looked for games that offered up unique challenges from start to finish.
Some games on our list are full-on grand strategy games. They incorporate complex puzzles and require critical thinking to conquer. However, others take on a more story-driven narrative. Thus, they place smaller quests that support a larger goal.
Some take on a simpler approach, presenting you with a simple goal and an open-ended way to accomplish it. Whatever the case may be, we stuck to titles that were fun and rewarding to play.
Complex storylines aren’t necessary to make a good space game, but they sure do help. Earlier games weren’t able to dive deep and create a branching narrative. But despite technical limitations, developers were able to tell a captivating story through character-building, environmental story-telling, and more.
Having the backdrop of space to work with opens up a lot of possibilities when it comes to story-telling. Games that take full advantage of the setting to keep you hooked are always the best!
Space games don’t belong to a single genre or gameplay style. You can find action-adventure titles, RPGs, and turn-based strategy games. Because gameplay can vary wildly from genre to genre, we took a look at what made the gameplay unique.
Our goal was to choose games that have innovative mechanics and fun simulations. This could be an in-depth character development system, smooth combat mechanics, or flexible quest objects. Ultimately, the gameplay is going to affect how you play the game, so we stuck with titles that keep things fun!
Setting & Atmosphere
A beautiful setting and a carefully crafted atmosphere are what make a space game unique! Exploring the cosmos can be as frightening as it is beautiful. It’s all about how the developers create the game environment.
Open-world, or should we say “open-universe,” games are fantastic. They provide a lot of details and gameplay elements to discover. But, games can still do a lot in a confined space. In fact, many of the titles on our list were unable to do a true open-world environment. Yet, the developers still created a game world that managed to capture all of the wonder and mystery of the universe.
Nothing can make a game stand out more than a distinct art style. We’re not looking for the most realistic graphics or detailed character models here.
When searching through games for our list, we looked for titles that had a memorable art style that continues to define it. Graphical fidelity and game art has come a long way in the last few decades. What we wanted to see was how developers worked with their limitations to create something that was truly awe-inspiring.
Finally, we considered a game’s replay value. Games can offer hours and hours of playtime. But once the main campaign is over, is there any incentive to revisit the game once you’re finished?
Open-ended titles or games with branching narratives usually offer the most replay value. The same can be said about sim games with no true ending. Games these days aren’t cheap! So, having a title that you can revisit time and time again is always a perk.
The Best Space Video Games of All Time
Now that you understand our criteria, let’s get into the games! These space games continue to captivate gamers. While some may be on the older side, they still have plenty to offer!
Released in 1984, Elite is considered by many to be the grandfather of open-ended space games! It was first released for the BBC Micro, but eventually made it’s way to a slew of systems, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and Amiga.
Despite the technical limitations of the time, Elite had an expansive universe to explore. The game has eight galaxies with 256 planets each! The worlds were procedurally generated, paving the way for many of the open-ended space games we have today.
The game features several gameplay elements. You can participate in space battles, hunt for bounties, mine for resources on asteroids, and trade. While the graphics are rudimentary by today’s standards, the game is a relic of early gaming that still holds up!
- Wire-frame 3D graphics
- Expansive universe
- Open-ended gameplay
- Several quests and missions
The original Homeworld game hit the market in 1999. However, it’s still available to play as the Homeworld Remastered Collection from Gearbox. Like Elite, this game became a genre-defining title. It was one of the first fully 3D real-time strategy games and continues to be a shining example for the genre.
In Homeworld, you’re tasked with gathering resources and building units. As you travel through the endless expanse of space, your units will encounter rebels, pirates, traders, and more. Using tactical strategy, you must fight your way through the enemies to advance the story.
- Real-time strategy game
- In-depth storyline
- Level-based campaign
- Cutscenes with voice acting
Eve Online has a living universe that can change at any moment. Developed by CCP Games, Eve Online is a massively online multiplayer title with a shared universe. There’s an in-game economy, political factions, and more. Because the game connects players around the world, skirmishes and unscripted events happen all the time to keep things interesting.
The game was originally released in 2003 but continues to expand. Currently, there are 7,800 star systems to explore. Join a fleet, take up a profession, and explore the cosmos with your community!
- MMO game
- 7,800 star systems
- Single shared game universe
- Advanced combat system
- Character building
- Multiple game professions
The Mass Effect trilogy by BioWare is a modern masterpiece in space-themed story-telling. The first game was released in 2007. The original trilogy wrapped up with the third title in 2012, but additional titles have come out since.
The game is highly praised for its detailed world and gripping storyline. All titles are interconnected. Not only that, but they unfold differently based on how you play. Your actions and interactions with characters have an impact on the end game, making each playthrough unique.
Many consider Mass Effect 2 to be the peak of the series, but all titles in the original trilogy have a lot to offer.
- Action role-playing game
- Epic branching narrative
- Detailed character-building
- Fast-paced combat system
- High replay value
This game from Blizzard has spawned a long-running series that continues today. Known for its place in competitive gaming, StarCraft is a complex real-time strategy game set in a distinct science-fiction world.
Whether you play in single-player mode or multiplayer mode, this game is a challenge! You must construct your base, manage resources, develop your units, and fight off enemies. It takes a lot of skill to master this game, which is why it’s such a staple in the competitive gaming community.
- Real-time strategy game
- Multiplayer elements
- Competitive gameplay
- Unique units and enemies
- Detailed technology tree
Everspace Stellar is another renowned sci-fi game with a lot to offer. The virtual universe is stunning and expansive. Explore the cosmos and witness the glory of outer space in high definition.
The game includes many unique elements. It has an over-arching tale that you can play your way through. However, many new characters and side quests appear frequently. Captain a ship, collect resources, and complete missions! There’s always something to do in Everspace Stellar.
This game comes with the “Encounters” expansion. It builds upon the base story and gameplay mechanics to give you an even more enjoyable experience.
- Top-notch visuals
- Roguelike elements
- In-depth story
- Multiple side quests
- It comes with “Encounters” expansion
Dead Space is a classic game that continues to captivate players. While it’s only a couple of console generations old, many consider it to be one of the grandfathers of science fiction horror in the world of video games!
The developers created a haunting environment filled with subtle scares and over-the-top action. The game is set on the fictional USG Ishimura after an alien scourge overtook the ship. As the player, it’s your job to investigate what happened to the crew while staying safe from out-of-this-world enemies. Use your telekinetic powers to fight off enemies while navigating the zero-g environment.
- Sci-fi horror
- Fast-paced action
- Puzzle elements
- Zero-G digital world
Wing Commander, released in 1990, is another space flight simulation game that was ahead of its time. It has a first-person view, allowing you to control equipment in the cockpit of your vessel. In addition to keeping your starship running smoothly, you must fight enemies and complete critical missions.
The game had amazing graphics at the time. While not fully three dimensional, the graphics offer a unique take on the solar system. This game went on to spawn several sequels. It’s original designer even used this game as inspiration for Star Citizen.
- Space flight simulator
- Cinematic campaign
- Unique graphics
- Innovative gameplay
- Story-based missions
Best Space Video Games Available Right Now
Outer space continues to be a source of inspiration for developers. Here are some newer space-themed games you can play right now. While these titles don’t haven’t become legendary like the best space video games of all time, they’re well on their way!
The Elite series does it again! Elite Dangerous is one of the newer entries into the franchise. It builds upon previous entries and includes stunning high-definition graphics.
This game is massive and features a 1:1 scale of the Milky Way Galaxy! It’s one of the best space exploration games on the market. You can explore our solar system, fly by familiar planets, and even explore some of the dangers lurking beyond our planet.
The gameplay is very flexible, too. You can choose from multiple factions. Within those factions, you can take on different roles and approach missions how you want. Be a space engineer, captain, or trader. The choice is yours.
- 1:1 scale of Milky Way Galaxy
- Massive open-world environment
- Beautiful graphics
- Complex character development
- Flexible gameplay
The Outer Worlds is a unique addition to the space game genre from Obsidian. Available on most platforms, this game is set in an alternate timeline. It has a noticeably retro flair but manages to keep traditional science-fiction elements alive!
The storyline of The Outer Worlds focuses on a spacefarer who has woken up from years of hibernation. The customizable character is tasked with changing the federation through space exploration and discovery. You can complete side quests, interact with different factions, and obliterate hostile alien lifeforms.
- Distinct art style
- Gripping storyline with branching narrative
- Multiple planets and space stations to explore
- NPC companions
- Weapons and armor upgrade system
The fun that you had playing the classic arcade game Space Invaders comes to life on your Nintendo Switch with this version of the game. With the original game, you played as an astronaut inside a small ship on the bottom of your screen. You needed to move the ship and wire your weapons to kill the alien invaders that dropped from the top of the screen. If they touched your ship, you lost a life and needed to start over again. Space Invaders for the Nintendo Switch kept the classic gameplay and added new graphics.
Though you might see some familiar aliens coming down from the top of the screen, the game uses new colors and more complex levels to make the game more exciting and challenging. Choose Extreme mode if you want to remember the original game and see some new effects. The multiplayer mode lets you compete against three other people to see who comes out on top. There is also a mode that serves as a crossover between two popular arcade games.
- New graphics and gameplay
- Available for the Nintendo Switch
- Three different modes
- Designed for one to four players
Set in the Star Trek Universe, this game lets you become a crewmember on an official Starfleet vessel! There are several crew positions that you can take. These include captain, tactical officer, engineer, and helm officer.
Every position is unique. Your experience will vary based on the position you take, providing hours of replay. The game is playable in single-player mode and multiplayer mode. In multiplayer mode, you can control the vessel and complete missions with friends taking on different positions on your crew.
- Action-adventure game
- Several crew roles to take
- Multiplayer modes
- Flexible gameplay
- Available for VR
Eve: Valkyrie is a dogfighting shooter game with plenty of action to keep you occupied! Originally designed for multiplayer action, you can enter different types of matches. Choose eight by eight combat or simple PvP. There are also solo exploratory levels for lighter action.
The game is set in the Eve Online universe, so combat is the name of the game. You must conquer foes while zipping through highly detailed environments. If you have a VR headset, this title can provide a realistic flight experience that you won’t forget!
- FPS and space flight elements
- Set in the Eve Online universe
- Available in VR
- Stunning graphics
- Single and multiplayer modes
This game doesn’t offer an expansive universe to explore. But, it does have a real planet that you can alter for mankind! Surviving Mars is a space sim that’s all about colonizing the Red Planet. It uses actual Martian data to create unique challenges that you must overcome.
Your goal is to develop the planet for human habitation. That means constructing buildings, gathering resources, and making the environment safe for humans. The storyline is simple, but there are hours of open-ended gameplay. As your colony gets bigger, you can unlock new colonizers and buildings to expand even more.
- Open-ended gameplay
- City-building and planning
- Uses real Martian data
- Several colonizer types
This title from Hello Games uses advanced technology to create a virtually endless universe. Every planet you visit is procedurally generated. In total, there are an estimated 18 quintillion possible open-world planets to discover.
Once you decide to land on a planet, you can build your base. You must gather local resources. This may include fighting off the planet’s lifeforms or mining for precious metals.
The game does have a multiplayer element to it. You can play with friends in co-op mode and even leave behind treasures for others to find!
- Procedurally generated planets
- Survival and base-building elements
- Several expansions available
FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL: Faster Than Light is an indie gem that has taken the video game by storm. Inspired by rogue-like dungeon crawlers, the real-time strategy game has you zipping through space in an ever-changing spaceship. You must recruit crew members, upgrade your weapons, and more. As you play, random alien enemies and challenges will throw you off your game and force you to make tough decisions.
Rather than realistic graphics, this game has a top-down view and a simple art style. One of the most unique aspects of this game is its permadeath. Once you lose a fight, there’s no going back and trying again!
- Complex real-time strategy game
- Random galaxies and challenges
- Top-down graphics
- Several customization options
Destiny 2 is a popular title from Bungie. Released in 2017 for PS4 and Xbox One, Destiny 2 is considered by many to be better than the original. It has an exciting plot and plenty of fast-paced action to keep any space fan on the edge of their seat.
You play as a Guardian who is tasked with protecting Earth’s last safe city. Throughout the game, you have to upgrade your character, collect powerful weapons, and learn abilities that will have a devastating effect on your foes!
- First-person shooter
- Exciting multiplayer mode
- Detailed character building
- Powerful weapons and abilities
- Expansions and DLC available
First released on steam, Endless Space 2 is a unique turn-based strategy title with a lot of different gameplay elements. The goal of the game is to expand your chosen race’s empire. To do this, you have to interact with other races.
The cool thing about the game is that you can approach those interactions however you want. You can try to conquer them diplomatically, form an alliance, or declare all-out war! Once you engage in battle, you can use tactical strategies to come out on top and overtake their empire.
- Turn-based strategy with 4X elements
- Flexible gameplay
- Several factions
- DLC and expansions available
- Intense ship battles
There you have it: the best space video games of all time and a nice collection of modern titles you can try today. All of these games marry science-fiction elements with the beauty and mystery of outer space. We do not doubt that space games will continue to evolve and improve. Until then, try out some of the classics and see how they inspired space games in the modern era of gaming!