The private space exploration company, SpaceX, is about to send NASA astronauts into orbit this week. It will be the first time in nine years that an American company or branch of government is sending people into space. With such an exciting launch nearing we figured we’d take a look at some of the best space games of all time. Some are space opera epics and others are small haunting experiences. But they all take place in the vastness beyond our atmosphere.
There is nothing that captures the idea of space more than aliens. And there is nothing more terrifying than standing face-to-face with one, let alone THE Alien. For those brave enough, here is your opportunity! In Alien: Isolation you play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, from the films. While investigating the disappearance of her mother she ends up coming in contact with the exact thing that caused her disappearance. During the game, you navigate your way through the space station trying to escape with your life, but there is a constant looming presence in the area, the Xenomorph. Using new tools that you find on the way, you battle through frightened passengers, disturbed androids, and, of course, the alien. If you’re looking for a great survivor horror game, then look no further, because Alien: Isolation will provide the perfect amount of jump scares, tension, and a great storyline.
In the Checkpoint XP offices, EVE Online is affectionately referred to as “Spreadsheets: The Game”. Mostly because to play it effectively you’d need a master’s in finance. EVE is a tedious space micromanagement MMO, where you and your tiny little ship try to make waves in a vast galaxy. The game lets players create shipping conglomerates, their own troop of space pirates, or even construct space stations. EVE notoriously is a very hard game to get into, but its 17-year history and lore are made by the events of its players. One conflict in EVE Online was so massive and costly it even has its own Wikipedia page. EVE might not be for everyone, but very few games capture what space-faring might actually look like, accountants with laser cannons.
Star Fox 64
Nintendo’s on-the-rails, space shooter could have been terrible. The original game on the SNES was revolutionary for its use of 3D graphics and a rumble pack. But most of all it was simply fun. The game has tons of replay value with its three separate flight paths which you can hop between based on how you play each level. It’s also one of the VERY few Nintendo 64 games that aged well. For an over 20-year-old game it neither looks new nor retro, which usually would make it a horror to look at. But instead, its a space-faring, bomb-blasting barrel rollin’ good time of a game.
When we talk of “space games” the mind instantly goes to narrative and single-player experience. However, while Halo 2 had an amazing campaign mode, its legacy is it’s multiplayer. In the pantheon of great competitive shooters, Halo 2 belongs right next to Unreal and Quake as the progenitors to first-person shooter esports like Call of Duty. While it wasn’t perfect, Halo 2 helped create a new generation of online gamers through Xbox Live.
Mass Effect 2
The best of the Mass Effect series is arguably the best space game ever made. Take the military politics and interpersonal narrative of Star Trek, throw in the swashbuckling feel of Firefly and you get the masterpiece of Mass Effect 2. Its cold open is one of the best in all of video games, “killing” Commander Shepard in the opening minutes. The rest of the game is a roller coaster ride that touches on the themes of family, racism (of a galactic scale), belonging and so much more. It’s supporting cast of characters is a tapestry of backstory, desires and fully realized individuals. Well, besides Jacob…he’s boring.