Everyone has, at one point or another, pined for a galaxy far, far away. We’ve all wondered what it would be like to explore space, its many planets, and encounter alien beings. Some of us even fear it. Regardless, it’s not something most will get to experience in our lifetimes. Fortunately, video games offer an escape into the great expanse beyond.
The best space games allow us to journey to places we’ve never been. They craft exciting, focused worlds, and many times offer up narratives that are hard to stop thinking about. Some let us construct our own worlds and others craft a universe for us designed to terrify and instill fear. The best selling video games that take place in space span a variety of genres – from horror to strategy to role playing. Some of the games on this list serve inspiration for hundreds of games that came after.
Be sure to let us know in the comments if we missed any iconic space games. There are many out there, and it can be easy to overlook some. We also can’t include all of them.
There should be more space horror games. Alien: Isolation is a survival horror game (one of the very best) that takes place 15 years after the original Alien film. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen, looking for her mother on the space station Sevastopol.
Alien: Isolation is a masterclass in fear, stealth, and feeling so very alone in the great expanse. If you’re at all a fan of the Alien movies, Isolation is a dread-filled trek alone avoiding the big, bad alien that just wants to nosh on your face. Prepare to fight and run from the big baddy.
You’re sus, buddy. Among Us was, and still is, a bit of a global phenomenon. It’s a great party game filled with teamwork and a sprinkling of betrayal if you’re the impostor. While it’s free, it is one of the best-selling video games that take place in space. In November 2020, it had roughly 500 million players worldwide.
The game brought together people during the height of the pandemic. When connected via voice chat via Discord, it can make the entire experience a lot more fun. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than lying through your teeth while trying to explain why you shouldn’t be voted out to a group of friends. Please don’t send me out of the airlock!
Conquest Frontier Wars
Real time strategy games can often be overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts, things to wade through, and mechanics to master. What sets Conquest Frontier Wars apart from other, similar space games is that it does a fantastic job at explaining things clearly. This helps make it one of the best space strategy games
While it is a bit older, the game was originally released in 2001, it still looks good today all things considered. The game uses a wormhole mechanic that connects various battlefields. You also have to stay on top of supplying your ship. If they run out, they are useless to you in battle. So, be sure to stay mindful of the various mechanics.
Dead Space is a horrifyingly delightful experience. If you’re a fan of survival horror games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill and haven’t played Dead Space, go now! Dead Space is one of the best space games of all time. It is committed to scaring the pants off you with its creature design and creepy atmosphere and intriguing narrative and central mystery.
One of the best parts of the game is its combat. The first weapon you acquire is the Plasma Cutter, and the best and easiest way to take down enemies is by dismembering them. It’s a bloody good time chopping limbs off mutated aliens. The game’s tense narrative of survival is also worth noting, and there are two sequels that are both worth diving into.
While Destiny 2 didn’t change the game too much from its predecessor, it did improve upon much of what existed already. You play as a Guardian in a mythic sci-fi world protecting the last safe space on Earth. The game has a healthy dose of space in all its facets. Plus, it’s free-to-play.
Destiny 2 offers a little bit of everything – dungeon crawling, looting, co-op, epic boss battles, and addicting PVP. It has many RPG elements as well as, of course, FPS elements. In fact, it’s one of the best space games AND one best FPS shooters of all time.
Distant Worlds: Universe
Distant Worlds: Universe is one of our favorite 4X games. It’s also one of the best space games. It is a space-based real time strategy game with many layers, but once you get everything under control, it offers up some really great fun. With over a thousand star systems at your disposal, the game can seem overwhelming with how many things there are to do.
The game does let you pause to get a handle on things as you trade, manage resources, explore, colonize, and kill your enemies. You’ll also encounter other empires, independent alien colonies, traders, pirates, and space monsters. Its constant barrage of content will definitely keep you on your toes.
Elite Dangerous is a sequel to the 1995 game Frontier: First Encounters. The sequel takes place in the Milky Way and is a “definitive massively multiplayer space epic.” You start out with a small ship and few funds and must make your way across the galaxy and survive.
Players can upgrade their ship, fight, mine, smuggle, and explore the entire galaxy. Even better, the game is also available on the Oculus Rift if you want a full VR experience. Just don’t barf if your ship starts spinning out of control.
Endless Space 2
Endless Space 2 is a turn-based strategy, space opera game set in a mysterious universe. The game’s world is a galaxy first colonized by God-like beings known as the Endless. They rose and fell eons ago. All that remains now are mystical ruins, powerful artifacts, and a strange, near-magical substance known as Dust.
The game and its galaxy are absolutely packed to the brim. In Endless Space 2, there are a huge amount of things to do – from building colonies to epic space battles to leading your civilization to success. There are a number of DLCs available, but your best bet is to just scoop up the definitive edition of the game.
EVE Online has been around for a long time. It is a community-driven, spaceship MMORPG that’s been around for almost two decades. With over 7,800 star systems and 350 plus ships to fly, there is an incredible amount of scope in EVE.
It is known for its unstructured, player-driven world with its own economy, warfare, and politics. Several years ago, an in-game space battle called the Bloodbath of B-R5RB took 21 hours to finish and saw thousands of players participate.
Freelancer has been around since 2003 and it can be hard to find these days. Its exciting take on space flight combat helps it stand out in a crowd of narrative and strategy space games. You’re able to play as a pirate, trader, or bounty hunter, too.
You’ll have 48 different star systems to explore. One of the nice things about Freelancer is that you’re able to explore anywhere you want from the beginning. This is a luxury not many games offer.
Ftl: Faster Than Light
It’s not often that roguelikes and space merge, but FTL pulls it off. FTL: Faster Than Light tasks you with delivering information to an allied fleet all the while being pursued by a much larger, rebel fleet.
The best part about a game like FTL is the simultaneous risk of death being a constant threat and the unknown of what you could discover next. You’ll fight other ships, make difficult narrative decisions, and manage your crew all while trying to reach your end goal. And yes, you’re gonna die, but that’s just part of the cycle.
Halo Infinite changed the space game quite a bit. While its core gameplay structure stayed the same, the game’s semi-open world restructured the landscape of Halo more than previous entries. The addition of Master Chief’s Hookshot allows him to pull himself toward foes and travel more quickly.
Its multiplayer is just as good as past iterations, Teaming up with friends to take down enemies in 4v4 or going all out with your favorite guns in a Deathmatch never gets old. If playing with your friends is more your speed, a co-op campaign mode is due out in August.
Halo is a series with very passionate fans, each with their personal favorite game in the series. Halo: Reach happens to be ours. While Reach’s multiplayer wasn’t as good as past iterations, its story is the best in the series. It’s also the first that features in-space combat so you can truly feel the vastness of the final frontier.
Reach, a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved, didn’t change the gameplay much, but didn’t necessarily have to. At that time, Halo was such a hugely popular series with established gameplay mechanics that didn’t need much tweaking.
Kerbal Space Program
Have you ever wanted to head up your own space program but you weren’t sure how? Kerbal Space Program lets you head up one for an alien race. It’s up to you to fully assemble a ship that flies (or maybe doesn’t).
Explore planets with your Kerbals and keep them alive as you perform experiments in Science Mode or oversee the entire space program with Career Mode. If you just wanna cause mayhem with the spaceship you build, jump on over to Sandbox mode.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
The Mass Effect series features some of the most well-developed sci-fi stories in decades. The Legendary Edition brings together all three entries and their DLC into one beautiful package. Mass Effect’s world is expertly crafted with space travel and alien races.
With a new Mass Effect on the horizon, now is a great time to dive back in or for the first time if you’re new to the series. The way the series uses choices and how those choices cause ripples through the galaxy is some of the best storytelling you’ll come across in gaming.
Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Master of Orion was first released back in the mid-1990s. Some describe it as a sci-fi spin-off of Civilization. Its reboot, Conquer the Stars, modernizes the game in a multitude of ways. In it, you choose one of eleven races to play as you try to conquer the galaxy.
Its 4X, turn-based strategy gameplay is addictive and for a game of that type, it’s surprisingly easy to jump into and learn. Conquer the Stars also features a fantastic cast of voice actors that helps ground and bring life to its vast world.
The Metroid series has long been a staple on Nintendo Consoles. Metroid Dread is the newest in the series and is a sequel to 2002’s Metroid Fusion. Dread pits Samus Aran on the planet ZDR. She’s there to try and end the X, a dangerous and slippery creature that can mimic any creature it infects.
Dread brings the series back to its side-scrolling roots and adds in a healthy dose of stealth elements. As you move through the game, you’ll find and unlock new abilities and weapons to allow further progression. The game’s epic boss battles are also some of the best in the series.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky has come a long way since its rocky beginnings. Now, its procedurally generated world is vibrant, full of life, and delivers on the many promises that were initially made. There are an infinite amount of worlds to uncover and you can even do it with friends.
If you’re into base building, material hunting, and finding new things to discover, No Man’s Sky succeeds in all things thanks to its ever-evolving world. Planets are full of new life forms to document assuming you can survive.
Outer Wilds features one of the best time loop mechanics in a game. In it, you’re stuck in the same 22-minute time loop and are tasked with unraveling its mystery. You must figure out what’s causing the loop and the sun to go supernova – destroying everything you know.
You’ll explore nearby planets and learn about ancient alien civilizations. There are a number of puzzles to solve that will clue you into what exactly is going on. It’s also one of the highest-rated games ever on Steam. A lot of people love this game.
The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds is an action RPG that’s heavy on humor. It’s one of the best-written games in recent years and features voice talents from some of the industry’s biggest names. On top of that, it features exciting and engaging combat and a fun flaw system that rewards you with a perk in exchange for adding a permanent negative effect to your character.
In the Outer Worlds, you play as a colonist awoken after being frozen in time on your way to the edge of the galaxy. Similar to games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, thsi title is rife with choices that can determine what kind of story the game will tell.
Prey is a sci-fi thriller where not everything is what it seems. You play as Morgan, the key subject of an experiment that has gone, of course, horribly wrong. In Prey, you’re trapped on Talos I, a space station orbiting the moon.
You must survive with an entire host of powers and weapons at your disposal from deadly alien creatures. A number of the game’s weapons and abilities let you play how you want to, leading to an exciting level of improvisation available.
If you have a PS5, Returnal is absolutely worth your time. You crash land on a hostile, alien planet and you must survive. Part bullet-hell, part roguelike, and part third-person shooter, there’s a little bit of something for everyone to love.
Every escape is unique as the biomes you explore change, morph, and present new challenges and benefits. New combinations and ways to play are offered each playthrough, and while challenging, winning is immensely satisfying as you shred through hordes of aliens trying to kill you.
RimWorld is a sci-fi colony sim inspired by Dwarf Fortress, Firefly, and Dune. It is also a story generator in which you’ll co-author a number of stories on the edge of the galaxy. The other thing writing the story? An AI Storyteller.
The AI creates procedurally generated events to craft the best narrative for you based on the choices you’ve made. If you’ve ever wanted to craft your own sci-fi epic, now’s the time to jump into RimWorld.
Sins of a Solar Empire
Sins of a Solar Empire is another 4X game, and one of the best space exploration games out there. You’ll seek control of the universe via one of three races: the industrial TEC, the psychic Advent, or the alien Vasari.
Sins of a Solar Empire gives you a lot to do. From its many expansions to the game’s sandbox mode, there are multiple ways to play the game. The game’s world features a “massively scaled, fully 3D environment featuring entire galaxies, orbiting planets, clusters of asteroids, space dust and radiant stars.’
Space games come in all shapes and sizes, and how can you have a list of the best space games without including one of the very first? Space Invaders landed in 1978 and is considered to be one of the most influential games of all time. It also helped usher in the golden age of arcade games.
Besides that, it’s also one of the best-selling video games set in space with a net profit of $450 million. When adjusted for inflation, that’s $2 billion today! The game has gotten a number of remakes and rereleases over the years, but the original alien-blasting shooter remains the most influential.
Free to play games come in many forms.Star Conflict is a massively multiplayer space game that puts players in the role of elite pilots engaging in widespread interplanetary skirmishes. Whether you favor PVP or PVE, it offers both in spades.
Sandbox mode has capabilities for both types of play, too. With hundreds of ships and nine different tactical roles, there are a lot of ways to play how you want. You can even play with friends to try and conquer the galaxy.
Star Fox 64
Besides being the best Star Fox game, Star Fox 64 is also one of the best space games ever. It features exciting space battles and terrifying boss encounters. While its campaign is relatively short, it offers up a lot of replayability and makes each playthrough feel fresh with a variety of choices.
Its cast of Fox, Peppy, Falco, and Slippy help the space epic have a sense of humor and lightness that is often missing in epic space games. It also is voice acted – which was rare for a game from that time.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is one of those games I’ve bought on multiple consoles just because it’s so damn good. It tells an electrifying story in the Star Wars universe. It also is heavy on RPG elements – combining a beloved genre with one of the best narrative worlds.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the world built in this galaxy far, far away. Its sequel is also worth mentioning, though it doesn’t reach the heights of this game. A remake of the game is also being developed, which has drummed up much excitement for fans of the series.
Star Wars: Squadrons
For as space-centric as Star Wars is, it doesn’t spend a ton of time with epic space battles. There have been hundreds of Star Wars games (and we’ve ranked many of them) but few of them offer exciting space battles like Squadrons.
Squadrons might be lackluster solo, but with friends it’s excellent. It’s even better if you can play it in VR. Take control of epic and iconic ships from the Star Wars universe and head into battle and take part in epic dogfights in a galaxy far, far away.
Global domination is so last year. Intergalactic domination is the name of the game in Stellaris. Besides being one of the best space games, it’s also a fantastic grand strategy game. Your journey begins as you control a civilization that has just discovered how to travel between the stars.
Once you begin traveling, how your journey goes is up to you. Will you be a power-hungry brute or rule with fairness? One of the best parts is that the game uses procedural generation offering up an infinite number of possibilities as you encounter new alien races, new planets, and more.
Think we’ll inhabit Mars in our lifetime? Want to get a head start on what that might be like? Surviving Mars is a city planning game on the Red Planet, and one of the most unique and best in the genre.
It’ll be up to you to ensure your inhabitants have enough oxygen and food. You’ll also need to manage new tech and infrastructure. The game also features a healthy dose of mysteries and stories to discover.
Rarely do we get to see space games and JRPGs merge, but the Xenosaga games find success in both those niches. Xenosaga has players taking control of a group of characters against an alien race called the Gnosis. It features old-school, turn-based combat in a rich, sci-fi world.
With Earth left behind after a terrible event, humanity has turned to the galaxy for escape. The human race is now spread across 500,000 planets and can be traversed through a time warp. If you’re looking for a world laden with aliens, planetary exploration, and a healthy dose of what the hell is going on, check out the Xenosaga series.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
The tabletop Warhammer 40K games are massively popular. Warhammer Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real time strategy game based on one of them. In it, you’ll lead entire fleets through space and do battle in an epic fashion.
It improves upon the original in every way with bigger battles, more dynamic ships, and several campaigns. If you want drama, mama, this game has more than enough. It also ranks as one of our favorite Warhammer 40K Games of all time, too.