The best space exploration games are the ones that inspire wonder. It’s not necessarily about going into space itself, it’s more about the feeling of awe that such a thing would cause. That feeling that you’re seeing something genuinely otherworldly, and it’s a feeling that a lot of people are going to be seeking out thanks to Starfield being on the (event) horizon.
Starfield isn’t out yet though, which means we’re all just left playing all of these incredible games instead. That’s right, waiting for one game doesn’t mean having to suffer, instead, you can just jump into these games in the meantime, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something truly incredible along the way. We say maybe, but we’re kicking this list off with what might be the best space exploration there ever will be.
Outer Wilds isn’t a game we can really talk about without spoiling stuff, so we’re just going to spend this time telling you to play it. The vague game description is that it’s an open-world mystery game set in a singular solar system. That’s literally all we’re going to tell you about it, so go and buy it instead of wasting your time here. Well, once you’ve finished reading the list. Don’t leave before that. You’ll need something to do while it installs.
If you’re looking for a game that’s going to hit a lot of the same notes as Starfield, then No Man’s Sky is one of the closest games out there. If you’ve not looked into No Man’s Sky since it originally launched back in 2016 to a mixed reception, then let us assure you that it’s exquisite at this point. You can do an absurd number of things in the game now, and you can even play it all in co-op for a very good time.
The Outer Worlds isn’t Outer Wilds, but that won’t stop you from re-reading each entry and probably double-checking the game pages too. The Outer Worlds is a single-player RPG from Obsidian, which pits you against capitalism. You can flirt with your companions, shoot stuff, sneak into places, and just generally have a good old RPG time. It’s a lot of fun, and if you really like it, there are also a few bits of DLC to devour too.
Stellaris is an incredible grand strategy game that will very happily consume all of your time until the end of time, if you want it to. It’s nice like that. This game allows you to create a custom race of aliens to play as, and then try and take over the galaxy, basically. Each game offers something a little different with a massive variety of different encounters and interactions to come across. It’s also multiplayer, which makes for a great way to spend every game night until the end of time, if you all want to. See, so nice.
It’s wild to think that FTL is somehow 11 years old. It’ll be hitting those nasty teenage years soon and telling us all it hates us and that we’re so embarrassing. The good news though, is that even with all that angst, this is still one of the best space-faring roguelike games around. You take control of a ship and a crew and try to survive. That’s the core concept of it, but things end up being a lot more complicated the further you get.
Everspace 2 is an awesome single-player spaceship shooter where you can fly around to see different planets, find loads of loot, do some mining, and enjoy a really cool sci-fi story. It’s a massive amount of fun, and one of the rare games that really makes the most of space-faring dogfighting. The good kind. Not the bad kind. We don’t condone that here.
If all you want from the best space exploration games is to spend your time tinkering around with a physics-based toolbox trying to send weird aliens called Kerbals into the stratosphere, then this is the game for you. Trying to find the perfect way to build each vehicle for proper performance is a lot of fun, and the slapstick nature of each failure makes even messing up feel like a blast.