Does anyone else sometimes crawl through Steam tags looking for the next game to play? More often than not I find myself doing this when I’m on the hunt for the next game set in space to scratch my exploratory science fiction itch. To try and save everyone some time, I’ve put together this list of some of the best space games available on Steam! As a note though, there is definitely some personal bias in this one and the titles definitely skew towards more recent releases.
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No Man’s Sky
At this point, No Man’s Sky is the de facto space game. We’ve all heard about how rocky the start was, but Hello Games has chugged away making change after change. Nearly five years later, the game is easily one of the most expansive games out there. You can choose to build bases, farm, cook food, breed pets, explore the galaxy, and so much more.
This is one game we’ve written about extensively and we highly recommend you check out our coverage if you’re unsure how interested you are.
Another game which is approaching the five year mark, Stellaris is a real-time strategy game where everyone plays a different alien race. Much like No Man’s Sky, Stellaris has received a plethora of updates over the years though not all of it is free. There’s more than $100 in expansion packs at this point so you may want to wait for a Steam sale to pick those up.
In my eyes, Stellaris is great because it’s fantastic at giving you opportunities to craft the story of your species. These can either be authoritarian, materialist, militarist, or xenophile/xenophobes. Play as and against megacorporations, a society of rogue AI, a species bent on purifying the galaxy, or an enlightened isolationist religious group. And all of that is before you get into the details of settling new worlds, choosing how land is used, and what gets built. Or if you’re feeling grand, construct planet destroying weapons or build dyson spheres, ring worlds, and other megastructures.
Endless Space 2
If turn-based strategy games are more your thing, few space-based games will beat out Amplitude’s Endless Space franchise. The best news? Short of smaller mission packs and new playable races, everything is available in the base game.
Endless Space 2 has multiple unique races which play very differently. The Vodyani, for example, are ship bound, unable to colonize planets, they live on massive arks anchoring themselves to specific systems. A tree-like people, the Unfallen spread their vines across the galaxy from system to system, only able to colonize that which they can reach. Others like the Horatio can copy the genes from other species living under their rule while the Cravers can really only conquer, not settle, as they need other races for food.
It’s a less frantic, fun title, which really lets you slow down and enjoy the sights and sounds.
Dyson Sphere Program
Dyson Sphere Program is Factorio in space. Take your randomly generated cluster of stars and planets and build away. Create your automated production lines with the ultimate goal of building a dyson sphere around the sun. This is one recommendation that’s still in early access so it’s missing some of the final features including combat, further exploration, and the ability to edit your mech.
From what I understand, X4: Foundations is built for the person who wants a single-player space simulation. The developers regularly boast about the ability to do whatever you want in this sandbox. You can trade between worlds, fight in battles and wars, or build your own space stations. The whole thing is apparently one giant simulation with everything affecting supply and demand. Eventually it turns into an empire management game with you directing ships and NPCs around the galaxy. I would share more, but this is one I’ve been meaning to check out myself for a long time.
Kerbal Space Program
It’s Kerbal Space Program. We all know what this is. Build spaceships and try to get the Kerbals off planet. They’ve even added a star system to explore and now you can construct space stations, bases, and starships. If you haven’t checked this out in a while, it’s a good time to return.
Remember everything I said about X4? Elite Dangerous is that but in an MMO. Start off with your own tiny ship and grow your earnings by killing pirates, exploring the universe, mining asteroids, or shuttling cargo and passengers. This is a grindy simulation game. But it’s beautiful and you’ll be interacting with real people which makes it unique among our recommendations.
If you’re a fan of Subnautica and want a similar experience, but in space, that’s basically Breathedge. Build your base, scavenge for resources, and stay alive by meeting your basic needs like water, food, and oxygen. Explore and survive is the name of the game.
I’m going to keep up with the comparisons here. Astroneer is Factorio-lite with a focus on exploring and building across seven different hand crafted planets. Except this one is meant to be played with friends as you work together to build a base, explore caves, and discover what this new universe holds.
Another early access game, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is all about salvaging scrapped ships to pay off your debts. Each project comes with a work order requesting specific parts and materials. You’ll need to do so properly, without damaging the goods. It’s not endlessly procedural, you will eventually start to understand how ships are structured, but this will only make you more efficient at paying off your endless debts. More than anything, it’s a relaxing puzzle game where your only goal is to take things apart.
What would Terraria be like in space? That’s Starbound. This 2D survival game lets you travel the universe in your very own spaceship. Tired of the planet you’re on? Just go to the next one. Build bases, raid dungeons, or just explore the universe at your own pace.
If you like giant mechs alongside your space games, BattleTech is the title for you. The catch is it’s not exactly an easy one. Think along the lines of Darkest Dungeon. Every decision you make will cost you resources. Mitigating losses is just as important as achieving victory. Each mech has separate health bars for the arms, legs, heads, and weapons. It opens up a plethora of strategic options but also means you’ll need to pick and choose what’s the most important. You do this as you explore the galaxy and complete missions which will give you money to help keep the operations going.
Space Adjacent Games
These titles aren’t all about exploring the cosmos, but they do have sci-fi and space related settings and features.
If you’re a fan of more old fashioned games, Shadow Empire is likely what you’re looking for. Procedural generation affects everything from the planets to leaders to equipment and vehicles. Each planet follows the laws of physics with a proper climate and geography based on the planet’s gravity, temperature, age, axial tilt, and rotational speed.
As a warning, this is more of a military strategy game than anything, but I’ve found the planetary aspects of it to be super interesting.
Three people crash land on a planet with minimal supplies and need to survive. That’s Rimworld. You’ll need to deal with all sorts of threats including bad weather, rabid animals, raiders, mech hives, and just about anything else you can think of. Rimworld is one of those games that is incredibly punishing on harder difficulties. How hard it is comes down to the colonists you choose to crash with and where you decide to settle. Each planet is randomly generated. Will you try to get by isolated in the mountains? Or maybe stick yourself on a tropical island?
Oxygen Not Included
Three people step out of a portal into the middle of an asteroid and need to survive. Make sure your duplicants (what the game calls their characters) have enough food, oxygen, and meet their daily needs like recreation and social time. You’ll need to solve the game’s many systems including different gases, liquids, and temperature. Be too careless and you might just boil your entire colony alive. The surrounding world is procedurally generated and there are different types of asteroids to choose from. With a recent update you can even build a rocket and fly to other nearby asteroids and create multiple bases in the same game.
Warframe is sci-fi space ninjas full of guns, jumping, and grinding. It just happens to be set in our solar system. Visit a debt internment colony on Venus, explore an infested moon of Mars, and make your way through the randomly generated levels over and over as you grind for the next weapon or Warframe. There’s a metric ton of lore in Warframe if that’s something you care for and a damn good story too. Hell, Digital Extremes is still working on perfecting the game’s Railjack system which lets you own and fly a spaceship with your friends. This is a looter shooter, but it’s a looter shooter in space. Oh, it’s also free.