The Best Stellaris DLC – Ranked Tier List & The Best Expansions to Buy

Which Stellaris content is stellar?

Like most strategy games, particularly those of the 4X genre, Stellaris is jam packed full of extra downloadable content to choose from. They vary in size from fully-fledged expansions to smaller story packs. There are even tiny cosmetic bundles — though these have been slowly updated to include more gameplay. That means, if you bought a Stellaris expansion before, it might even include more stuff today! But what’s worth your cash? In this guide, we’ll rank each piece of Stellaris DLC in a tier list format to highlight what’s the best and what you should buy first.

More Stellaris:

S-Tier Stellaris DLC & Expansions

The best of the best. Stellaris is a much better game with these packs installed.


At this point, Utopia is basically required content for all serious players. It adds megastructures like Dyson Spheres to super charge your energy production, massive sentry arrays to increase your intel level, and habitats to create planets out of nothing. The latter are incredibly important for confined species which need to build tall rather than wide, something that’s incredibly challenging without this DLC.

Utopia also adds three endgame Ascension Perks in the form of Biological Mastery, Synthetic Evolution, and Transcendence. Do you want you species to become the perfect creature? To become one with machines? Or maybe ascend beyond the mortal plane? All are impossible without this.

Beyond that it also overhauls relations with subservient species. You’ll be able to indoctrinate primitive civilizations and hand define roles for enslaved populations. With it, you can choose who goes to battle, who stays at home and serves, or who is nothing but livestock for your rapid purifiers.

It also adds hive mind races which is cool.


Fan of diplomacy? Federations drastically overhauls the entire feature set, introducing federations of species, coming together for a greater good. That good being subjective, of course. Do you come together to form a diplomatic union, a trade league, or even a martial alliance? You could take it even further and form a hegemony where leaving of said federation is punishable by war. Who rules said federation and controls the floating federation fleet is up to a vote, of course.

Once communications have reached enough of the universe, the Galactic Community can be founded in an effort to keep the universe free. Here you’ll vote on resolutions such as implementing ecological protection, making material exploitation more expensive; commerce sanctions, putting penalties on those who break galactic law; or put implement rules of war, banning weapons of mass destruction.

Ancient Relics

If exploring is your thing, Ancient Relics fleshes out that experience with valuable relics to discover among the stars. These relics are rare and usually come from completing new quest chains that come with the DLC. Each has a passive and an active effect which has some kind of cost to activate, usually in influence. For example, one of the random archaeology site excavations rewards an artifact which gives you five percent more research speed. The active effect costs 150 influence on a 3,600 day cooldown, automatically halving the remaining research in a random technology. More powerful artifacts lie behind quest chains and bosses like the Ether Drake.


Leviathans adds NPC boss fights to your games. Have you ever wanted to fight a giant Ether Drake or a Stellar Devourer? How about assaulting the Enigmatic Fortress for the plunders inside? Or perhaps figuring out exactly what the Infinity Machine is? These massive guardians are the main feature of the story pack though you’ll also get weaker spaceborne aliens like space whales, ancient mining drones, and more. The other main focus is on the War in Heaven, a special event where the Fallen Empires go to war, dragging the entire universe into it with them.

I’m personally a big fan of DLC which adds to the entire game no matter which empire you’re playing, but some aren’t fans of the giant bosses and would rather avoid the encounters.

A-Tier Stellaris DLC & Expansions

These content packs are worth picking up, but they’re not required by any means.

Synthetic Dawn

If you want to play as a robot civilization, then you’ll need Synthetic Dawn. That’s the main feature of the entire pack. Though it comes with some other features to help flesh things out. Namely, you’ll encounter other machine empires in your games and introduce yourself to the risk of a machine uprising. This new event can cause all oppressed synthetic life forms around the galaxy to rise up and rebel against their creators.

It’s this new effect on the entire galaxy that makes it slightly more valuable of a pickup than the content packs that follow it.


The centerpiece of Overlord is an expanded Vassal system: letting you better subjugate or be subjugated by larger empires. This has some very interesting wrinkles, though. Vassals get specializations that grant them major perks in a particular field (military, economic, or scientific). The upside (or downside if you’re the one being vassalized) is that the subject must pay tithes up to their ruler. There’s an extremely interesting dynamic here, however, where vassals can outgrow their lords — becoming shadow rulers that dominate their masters through contract negotiations.

This type of gameplay still might not appeal to everyone. Yet Overlord also introduces extremely interesting megastructures and Origins for a wider variety of players. New methods of travel, like the Quantum Catapult, can completely change the way you think about space in Stellaris. Meanwhile the DLC introduces the most new Origins since the feature was first introduced in Federations: five in total. Pretty much all of which are much more unique than the usual fare. These alone make Overlord worth considering, even if you don’t care for the central feature of the expansion itself.

B-Tier Stellaris DLC & Expansions

This is DLC you can live without but is good if this type of play style appeals to you.

Necroids Species Pack

Whereas Synthetic Dawn adds machine empires and improves the interactions with robotic pops, Necroids gives an Origin centered around death. It’s unique in that the species can’t create offspring. Instead you convert unwilling members from other species into your primary species. That’s the main feature, to be honest. The minor civics give you undead armies, death cults which require sacrifices, and being reverent of tomb worlds. It’s a great pick up for role players.


Want to focus all of your efforts on generating money and winning economically? That’s what MegaCorp is for. These empires are meant to build tall and are heavily discouraged from controlling large swaths of the universe with double the penalty for exceeding their administrative cap. Since you’re restricted in empire size you instead build branch offices on planets in other empires. These have their own building spaces, and generate energy for both you and the empire you are allied with. It’s a much different way to play the game compared to everything else Paradox has offered.

You’ll also gain access to new world types, nomadic fleets, and a galactic slave market.

C-Tier Stellaris DLC & Expansions

Passable pieces of content that you still may enjoy.


While the goal of this DLC is to let you play as the galactic conflict in an attempt to destroy all life in the galaxy. That, or you can become the galactic custodian to try and rally the entire community behind you, making you stronger than ever. It also adds more features for the Espionage system, but the community still decries this feature’s usefulness. Your Espionage actions just don’t do much.

If you don’t have grand plans to either lead the entire galaxy or destroy it, this is one you can skip.


Apocalypse is easy to explain. It lets you blow up planets, create humongous capital ships, and employ marauders for a price. That’s it! If you like fighting with big stuff and large hordes, Apocalypse might be for you.

Aquatic Species Pack

This is another Species Pack (as you can probably tell from the name). It’s similar to Necroids or Lithoids. This one gives you species that like to be… wet. Everything about the DLC focuses on that core concept.

That just doesn’t have quite the oomph of playing a faction based around parasitism or colonizing worlds by crashing asteroids into them. Though it does add some fun variety and two new Origins (one with a space dragon, which is awesome). The new ship models are quite nice, though! They just don’t have any effect on gameplay.

Plantoids Species Pack

This expansion was actually updated with Stellaris Patch 3.1 to include actual new gameplay: namely extra Civics and Traits. If you bought this DLC back when it was purely cosmetic, you actually receive those add-ons for free. Not a bad deal! It’s not a bad expansion, either. It’s just a little slight (like most of the Species Packs). Consider also that you can grab this and the other Species Packs on sales pretty regularly for about $4. It’s most definitely worth that price.

Humanoids Species Pack

Like the Plantoids Species Pack, this DLC was updated with Patch 3.1 to include more actual gameplay-relevant material. It’s no longer just cosmetic! There are now new Origins and Civics included — such as the Clone Army background. We’re big fans of this Origin (it really lets you live out your Clone Wars role-play), but it’s not exactly essential content. Especially not if you’re looking to play a non-humanoid species or don’t care about that one, unique starting point.

D-Tier Stellaris DLC & Expansions

Content that you can easily do without.

Distant Stars

While Distant Stars has new anomalies, events, solar systems, and gargantuan creatures, the focus is on the L-Cluster. This area of stars is outside the galaxy and only accessible via one of the L-Gates in the galaxy. Opening it might be a huge mistake or a boon to an uncharted area of the galaxy. The content is passable and by no means required.

Lithoids Species Pack

Rock people! Lithoids eat minerals instead of food. They grow slowly but are harder to kill and more resilient when it comes to habitability. That said, their other traits are incredibly lackluster and the DLC doesn’t completely change your playstyle. This DLC is stuck in a weird sort of middle ground — too late to benefit from the full updates that cosmetic Stellaris add-ons got in Patch 3.1, too early for Paradox to have really started to nail what makes this game’s expansions great.