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 journeys 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 the best space games out there with a heavy emphasis on space exploration.
Updated May 10, 2022, by William Quick: With the summer of 2022 fast approaching, you may find yourself thinking of cooler things, like space. If you're hoping to escape to the vast coldness between the stars, these games can help capture that feeling.
Voxel graphics are simple and solid, which allows them to support grand-scale projects like Avorion. This is a pure sandbox game that's centered around building your very own with a number of colorful blocks. You can build by yourself or jump into the co-op mode to build together.
Customize your ship down to the last block and then take it for a cosmic spin. The more you travel, the more opportunities you'll find to fight, harvest, and build an empire to take on the mysterious force that threatens to destroy the whole galaxy.
23 Spaceflight Simulator
Although humanity has been to space in several capacities, this is a feat that eludes the average person. That's why there are games like Spaceflight Simulator to help people play out their space-faring fantasies in a fun way that incorporates realistic elements. You're tasked with building an efficient and reliable ship with the aim of reaching beyond the stars.
It lives up to its sim name with all of its management elements, physics, and all the details that go into every aspect of building your ships and more. While still in Early Access, this game has been a big hit with casual players and space enthusiasts all across the board.
22 Hardspace: Shipbreaker
Salvaging is a practical profession that requires a sharp eye for potential, and you'll need it for Hardspace: Shipbreaker. You play as a space salvager geared up with all the latest tech needed to carve up what you want. Spaceships tend to explode for a number of reasons, and you're not going to let all that material go to waste.
Though this game is still in Early Access, it's overflowing with content. You can travel through space looking for the most valuable wreckage to you can pay off your debts and upgrade your equipment, so you can be the best salvager ever!
The idea of establishing a society in space is one that has both been fantasized about and dreaded over. These conflicting feelings come together in Starbase, an Early Access game about expanding throughout the stars. It's set in an ever-expanding universe that's constantly generating news places to explore and dangers to face.
It's up to you and whatever crew you team up with to pull together and build a ship strong enough to handle whatever chaos this universe can throw at you. A recent entry to the game library, Starbase boasts a lot of promise and plenty of activity in its current state.
Space is seemingly endless, so it's natural to want to stretch as far as you can in hopes of reaching the outer limits. This can involve piloting a ship and exploring as much as you can or establishing connections between worlds as you would in Slipways. This strategy game puts you in charge of building a universe-spanning trading company through research and discovery.
It's incredible how quickly you can start with just one world before you have an entire network of planets communicating with each other as you look for new worlds in which to expand. There's a good mix of puzzling and strategy as you manage trade and develop new technology.
19 The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds is what would happen if you combined pieces from Bioshock with Fallout and launched it into space. It's a sci-fi RPG full of different planets, colorful characters, flashy weapons, monstrous aliens, and sinister plots. You play a colonist unfrozen from a flagship thought to be lost only to wake up in a colonized galaxy dominated by a corporation called Spacer's Choice.
As you defeat enemies and accomplish goals, you'll get new perks, combat skills, and an improved ability to slow your perception of time. As you dive deeper into this universe, you'll need to decide between Spacer's Choice or the right choice.
18 Exo One
People are naturally curious and are inclined to investigate the unknown. There's so much unknown in the vastness of the universe, that anything people are able to latch onto has tremendous significance. That's the premise of Exo One, a game where you fly a small ship across space in search of a signal.
Much like Flower and Journey, the game is heavily focused on visuals and audio. You'll soar over a variety of landscapes, both peaceful and chaotic, in hopes of finding the source of the signal that set you off on this grand journey in the first place.
How serious can a space game be when it has a chicken? The title Breathedge attempts to answer this question. You play as a nameless astronaut who finds himself caught in the middle of a perilous plot. While traveling to a funeral, you're caught in a crash that destroys your ship and leaves you stranded amongst various debris.
With your skills and the companionship of your eternal chicken, you'll need to explore the wreckage to salvage whatever you can to help you survive. If you hold out long enough, you may even find out why your ship crashed and get a chance to meet a princess.
16 Trigon: Space Story
Anything can happen in space which means that there are tons of situations to encounter and many ways to approach them. In Trigon: Space Story, you play as a crew of rebels who have set off on their own to seek their fortune and tell their own stories. You'll have plenty of chances to do that with all the branching paths you're given.
On top of the narrative elements, there are also the roguelike mechanics to give it more replay value and add challenge to your gameplay. Though you'll encounter many beneficial events and folks willing to join your crew, don't expect space to remain kind.
15 No Man's Sky
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.
There are many things that could drive someone into the great unknown, and a desire for revenge is one of the most powerful. This desire has consumed Nara, the hero of Chorus, who wants nothing more than to find and eliminate the cult responsible for her suffering. However, it won't be easy to find its members, and you'll need to risk exploring the vast darkness of space.
Fortunately, Nara is aided in her mission by her conscious spaceship named Forsaken as well as a myriad of potent powers. This adventure will lead to some of the oldest and darkest places in the universe, so best brace yourself for the unknown.
13 Elite Dangerous
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 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 civilization of space-dwellers into the future as successful 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.
11 Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds looks at space exploration a little 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 going on.
10 Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy
Occasionally, a property will emerge into the spotlight that's so unfamiliar most people will just label it as something completely new. This was the case for the Guardians Of The Galaxy film, which captivated audiences with its flair, creativity, and a cast of colorful characters. It wasn't before long this team began to pop up in gaming with the most recent installment making a huge splash.
Simply bearing the name of the heroes themselves, the game puts you in the role of the iconic crew as they travel the stars trying to save the universe from evil. On top of flashy action and a strong narrative, there's a scale of exploration that allows you to explore a universe as viewed by classic comics.
If there's one thing that sci-fi films and shows have taught us, it's that you should always be wary of intelligent AI. However, a new perspective is gained when it's you playing as the AI in the game Starmancer. As a hyper-intelligent cyber-being, it's up to you to manage and care for the lives of a group of humans drifting through an unknown part of space.
You'll be responsible for keeping them healthy and happy as you try to preserve humanity. There'll be a lot of issues and dangers to overcome and missions to arrange in hopes of finding out more about the galaxy and whether there are enough resources to keep your systems functioning and humans thriving.
8 Dyson Sphere Program
Dyson dominates the vacuum market and its Dyson Sphere is the foundation of its success. It's so well-known that you'll yourself thinking of it when you play Dyson Sphere Program. This is an open-world space game where the goal is simple: Build as much as you can and reach the furthest stars.
As the name suggests, you'll be building numerous spherical structures designed to harness the energy from stars. This Early Access title challenges you to develop an intricate setup that runs smoothly, so you can get what you need to expand these spheres throughout the cosmos.
7 Eve Online
One of the mainstays in the space game genre for over a decade, Eve Online has stayed relevant because it has 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.
6 Halo Infinite
Not all properties go on to become a huge series, but those that do are impressive in being able to consistently grab attention and excitement. The Halo series is a definitive member of the sci-fi genre both in and outside the gaming world due to its level of action and detailed lore. However, it wasn't until Halo Infinite that the world of Halo really opened up.
Back in the armor of the tough super-soldier Master Chief, you'll have the opportunity to explore the vast ring of Zeta Halo. Though you'll spend much of your time on the ring, the presence of space and mysteriousness that lies beyond will be present throughout your experience.
5 FTL: Faster Than Light
Light used to represent the fastest speed humans were aware of, but sci-fi stories made it the standard when it came to exploring the universe. It was only a matter of time before a studio like Subset Games would come along to base a game named after it. In FTL: Faster Than Light, you lead a 2D top-down crew in a narrative story to bring back order to your galaxy.
You'll need to keep your ship maintained and your crewmates alive all while you fight pirates and rebels along the way. Though a veteran of the space genre, a perfect blend of management, sim, space combat, and storytelling that you can play on PC or your phone.