Space: the final frontier that we’re aware of, but among hypothetical frontiers, barely breaks the top 10. Oh and while we’re on the subject of top 10s…
Games, be they video or board, are so often inspired by the big black void that engulfs us and the possibilities that may await beyond, opportunities, horrors, exploration and adventure. While we had options beyond counting, we somehow managed to drill down to a mere ten games themed in and around space.
10) Ratchet & Clank
Recently, we had a spat of articles by guest contributor Murray on Ratchet and Clank. Whilst there aren’t many scenarios where the game is set specifically in space, there’s enough to suggest space travel. Indeed, the games feature travelling to different planets and meeting different hostile scenarios. All the while, Ratchet & Clank manage to collect their bolts and save the day.
Lowest on this list, as it’s way more focused on the titular characters and their antics through planets. However, that doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t deserve at least a nod on this list. There may be some stronger examples of space games, but we think the rest of the games on this list are even more space-y. But hey, Ratchet & Clank also got their own movie, so that’s… Something, right?
9) No Man’s Sky
Let’s ignore the issues surrounding launch and let’s focus on what No Man’s Sky is at its core. Also ignoring all of the updates which have seriously worked on the issues, No Man’s Sky is perfect for this list. It’s a game where you travel space to go find procedurally generated planets, allowing you to find alien lifeforms, fauna and more, all of which would impress you.
No Man’s Sky is pretty unique on this list, as it’s effectively a deceptively pretty Minecraft-in-space. Maybe not quite as robust as Minecraft in what it can do, but you certainly can make yourself a little base, encounter strange life forms and report it all back for the betterment of mankind. In any event, gather your resources, complete strange missions and get yourself to the centre of the universe!
A Nintendo classic that couldn’t be forgotten, Metroid sees you assume the role of Samus, a galactic bounty hunter. If that isn’t enough reason to invest in Metroid, perhaps the vastness of space that Samus explores. Sure, a lot of it is within the interiors of spaceships, fighting giant mother brains, but we know where Samus is. Besides, how else would she be fighting Space Pirates?!
Whether these pirates make you shiver your timbers, or if they’re just intergalactic troublemakers, Metroid is one of the coolest IPs Nintendo own. Part-shooter, part-action platformer, Metroid is a game for those who love to explore huge areas, fight aliens and generally like to find secrets. Go play one as soon as you can, I mean there’s a sort-of-genre named after it, along with Castlevania, to make Metroidvania.
7) Knights of the Old Republic vs Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars had to make it onto this list, but which of these Star Wars games did it better?
Knights of the Old Republic
Starting with the MMORPG, Knights of the Old Republic saw you taking on the role of a Jedi, choosing one of three classes. These classes would see you unlock your Jedi powers throughout, where you followed an epic story featuring the world(s) of Star Wars. Pick your fights and your decisions wisely, as this can affect your characters standing, be it for the forces of good or evil.
Star Wars Battlefront
Much unlike Knights of the Old Republic, the Battlefront series is that of a First (or Third) Person Shooter. You take on the mantle of a soldier on either side of the story, where you were placed in various times across the Star Wars timeline. For a game that was released in 2004, the multiplayer element for its time was stellar. There were some issues with the single player campaign, but the multiplayer element was simply something else.
But which of these two Star Wars games gets your vote?
6) Warhammer 40K
Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods. And chittering hosts of all devouring lizardbugs, and the rattle of awakened ancient metal, and angry mushrooms, oh, and space communism. And a whole lot of miniatures you haven’t painted, and debt, and paint, and greenstuff, and space marines oh gods there are a lot of bloody space marines…
Sorry, where was I? Space in the 41st century is a bloody mess of violence, divided among factions who will all claim to be the biggest and the baddest for whatever reason, each with lore that makes them seem like dread titans that would topple any galaxy they enter. While orks fling asteroids from planet to planet, humans construct ever more massive mechanised warmachines, the eldar simply teeter on the brink of extinction, and the tyranids circle the galaxy, the last that remains uneaten.
5) Dead Space
With a name like Dead Space, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all about sunshine and happiness. Much like its namesake then, Dead Space is a grim telling of the horrors of the unknown void that is space. From the macabre to the sheer terrifying, Dead Space pulls no punches and it will leave you feeling uncomfortable during every cutscene. But with a brilliant story and excellent visuals, the game is hugely memorable.
Dead Space took our greatest fear, the unknown, turning it into something truly palpable. If you’re looking for a thrilling horror game to pick up, this may be it. This is the type of game that makes the action horror genre look great, with so many memorable scenes and moments. All I can say is, rather than me spoiling them for you, just go and look up some of the clips. It’s grotesque!
Twelve years between games. The first game in 1998 was an addition to the WarCraft series before Blizzard jumped ship on RTS games in favour of making the MMO a cultural phenomenon. It began as a fairly transparent copy of Warhammer 40K, big men in tank outfits fighting overwhelming numbers of lizardbugs and space mystics, but the game gained something of a saga in the story of Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan/The Queen of Blades.
In a tale that combined love story, cosmic horror, political intrigue, and divine prophecy, StarCraft, it’s sequel and expansions, unites three races through time and across universes. It also united the world online, as one of the first major titles in pro-gaming, soaring to popularity in South Korea, and making pro-gaming a big deal.
3) Mass Effect
We wouldn’t be able to overlook Mass Effect if we tried. The gaming behemoth is set in a fictional milky way, in which is the home to a plethora of different species. Many of these species we wouldn’t exactly call human. This civilisation, this mixed bag of races, is all thanks to an ancient race known as the Protheans, who had massively advanced technology. With the remnants of these technologies, the races thrive.
Players take on the role of Commander Shepard, who they can mould into whatever version they would like. Complete quests, enjoy the interactive storytelling that the franchise is constantly praised for – and decide to hook up with whoever you want because god damn it, you’re Commander Shepard! Anyway, if you enjoy a good RPG experience, then definitely check out the Mass Effect series.
The Tenno are descendents of an ancient people, from the Orokin era. Now they have been awoken, to fight a new war in space. These warriors have woken up, having lost most of their memories of who they once were, but retaining their expert fighting skills. Be it with gun, bow, blade or fist, the Tenno jump into their trusty suits of armour. With their Warframe exo-armour, the Tenno set off to fight for what they believe is right – whatever it may be.
Warframe’s “mission select scene” is based on their own personal spaceships, the Orbiters. Here you select your mission, which sees you looking across their expanded galaxy, travelling to different planets. You fight off ancient alien-like races, all of whom have crazy technology and… Adorable pets and Roombas. Nevertheless, this is as space-ninja as you can get, as you bullet jump your way over obstacles and if you’re like me, using the Rhino Warframe to bash everything around. Outta the way, Infested!
1) EVE Online
There’s a question mark on the subject of EVE’s actual size regarding “playable” space, but no other game actually fills you with the sense of size and scale, be it artificially induced or real. The journey between stars, the size of solar systems, the immensity of ships, and of objects in space, all impress upon the player a sense of impossible vastness, perhaps the best game at giving the sense of one’s insignificance in the face of an uncaring universe. It invites a kind of “vastness of thinking” too, with the game’s self styled factions going to war against one another in tremendous numbers.
EVE makes use of a fast travel network that helps bridge the distance between systems that holds off real-world interstellar travel and also helps keep a flow of gameplay, but there’s an industriousness to the MMO that encourages playing passively, leaving your ships to harvest materials while you attend to real-world matters. It’s the kind of gameplay that allows EVE players to go on living without having to be glued to their keyboards that helps make it popular. It’s tremendous size helps put it at the top of our list.
This galaxy isn’t big enough for ten of us! Space in general? Sure, space overall, pretty damn huge actually, and full of great games, here are just some of the games we couldn’t squeeze into the main list…
Technically takes place on earth, hence the “invasion”, and you’re also a very earthbound tank firing away from beneath some semi-durable shelters as a host of alien intruders oscillate their way down to the ground. It’s a game so infamous that its iconography is as synonymous with video games as PacMan.
And while it may technically have to be eliminated from the list itself, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give Space Invaders the nod it so richly deserves. If you want a clear idea of how Space Invaders has shaped games ever since, play Titan Attacks by Puppygames which practically charts how it began a genre of invasion games, bullet hells, and endless shooters.
One of our favourite deck builders, Star Realms has you acquiring the assets of warring factions, charting their fleeting allegiances, trade agreements as you try and wipe your opponents off the board. You have to build a deck that’s financially stable enough to be able to expand, aggressive enough to be able to topple everyone else at the table, and durable enough to be able to withstand everyone else trying to do the same.
With the acquisition-focussed Trade Federation, the militaristic Star Empire, the ruthlessly efficient Machine Cult, and the focussed and enigmatic Blob swarm, construct and burn through your ships and stations until you’re the last force standing. It’s one of the best deck builders on the market, but don’t let the website fool you, it’s far from portable, give it a few expansion packs and you’ll soon be swimming in interstellar conflict.
Extra Honourable Mentions
…. and here’s some more we couldn’t do without. We’re doing this again, we really can’t narrow it down any further, and it took a lot of effort to stop with these… extra… six… No, eight. Eight will do.
Halo: A man who calls himself Master Chief, who happens to be the greatest military mind of all time, finds himself with the help of a hologram. They travel space, they do the pew, pew and they save the day. Nice one, Chief!
Destiny: Remember Warframe up at number 2? Destiny needed to at least be mentioned, since Warframe got there. Destiny’s had a bit of a bumpy ride, what with them moving away from Blizzard, but who knows, this may turn out to get even more popular over on Steam.
FTL: Faster Than Light: Want to travel across space really quickly? You need some Faster Than Light warping! Thankfully, this game is all about warping about space, blowing up ships and coming across tricky space fights. Good luck out there!
Earthworm Jim: The tale of an invertebrate in power armour, sitting solidly into the niche of oblivious heroes in which we also find the Tick and Freakazoid, but they didn’t have platformers as good as Jim did.
Borderlands 3: Specifically the third game as there’s a lot more planet hopping, but it’s mostly just bouncing from planet to planet. I think, haven’t played it yet, can’t afford it.
Twilight Imperium: File under “board games that are obscenely long and complicated”, fight for galactic dominance with politics, finances, or military prowess.
Elite Dangerous: I could have just stopped this one at “Elite” in general, but Elite Dangerous has conventions and everything. Hugely influential title for anyone into space.
Starship Titanic: Alright, definitely the least known on our list, Starship Titanic was a comedic title by Douglas Adams. A strangely warped spaceship in which you’ve been assigned to, follow the strange blend of comedy and puzzles to succeed. Here’s a gameplay video.
Oh yes friends, make no mistake, space is big, really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. And as a direct result there are a lot of games about space, we barely even got started, but we’re not done! We’re never done. There’s always more to do and you get to pick what course we chart for our next Top 10.