Best space games which will let you explore the unknown

No Man's Sky
(Image credit: Hello Games)

The best space games will let you journey to the stars and explore the endless expanse. It's as beautiful a thought as it is terrifying. In this list of the best games which will let you explore space, we've tried to hone in on some core themes: role-playing, exploration, alien worlds, and spaceships – if you're on this page, we figure you have probably dreamt of one day flying a spaceship. So if you're trying to fill your time with something to play while we wait for Starfield, here's hoping one of the best Space games will have you covered. 

10. Eve Online

Eve Online

(Image credit: CCP)

Platform(s): PC
Developer: CCP

Eve Online is bigger and better than ever before, as the community continues to expand their horizons. In Eve Online, everything is player-directed: From the structure of entire alliances to the whole in-game economy. With so many different factors at play – thousands of players online at any one time, each with their own goals – you find that cool stuff just constantly happens, from the collapse of superpowers to huge PvP fights with thousands of ships spewing lasers across the sky. Eve Online remains among the best MMORPGs to play in 2023. 

9. Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous

(Image credit: Frontier Developments)

Platform(s): PC
Developer: Frontier Developments 

Elite: Dangerous feels a bit like Space: The Game. It hands you a ship, boots up the engine and asks you to make your living however you like in a galaxy full of other players, be that via trading, smuggling, mining, exploring or dogfighting. It’s not a full-on flying sim, but it really sells the fantasy of space travel. Your cockpit is alive with blinking lights that let you adjust the balance of power to your ship’s systems, and the sheer scale of the world means flying between two planets can take ages, even with a hyperspace jump. Sit back and enjoy the gorgeous views.

8. Observation


(Image credit: Annapurna)

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: No Code

The smallest game on this list is one of the most intriguing. From No Code, the creators of Stories Untold, comes a tense sci-fi adventure that’s part slow-burning horror, part-puzzle game, all wonderfully voice-acted. You play an AI aboard a spaceship where the only person left alive is Dr Emma Fisher, the game’s hero. Everyone else is missing, and the ship is falling apart: it’s Fisher’s job, with your help, to patch it up and get back on course. Except that something strange is happening, and you keep receiving the same message from an unknown source: “BRING HER”. Individual challenges keep you locked in for each play session, but it’s the twisting story that keeps you coming back. 

7. Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program 2 rocket in space

(Image credit: Private Division)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X
Developer: Squad

Half toybox, half science project, Kerbal Space Program is the most fun you can have while learning about space. On the surface, it’s a game about building ridiculous rockets and launching tiny green men into space – and then watching the whole thing literally fall apart before your eyes while you giggle. But the more you play, the more you want to understand it. Before long, you’re agonizing over the correct entry angle for a moon landing, or the right configuration of engines to achieve maximum thrust. The proper rules of physics apply, and the most satisfying achievements require careful planning and attention to detail. It’s a sandbox, but you’ll always have a goal to aim for. 

6. Stellaris


(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, PS5
Developer: Paradox Development Studio

Stellaris is a deep, gripping strategy game about building up a space-faring empire and squashing any foe in sight. Or, if you prefer, it’s about establishing a race of friendly technocrat turtles that help other species expand. That’s the beauty of it: you set your own goals, assign your own traits to your species, and play it however you like. It has all the exploration of a traditional strategy sim, but your relationships with other factions take on more weight than usual. You’ll steer your civilisation through war and peace, watch alliances form and betray each other, and band together with foes to fight extra-dimensional invaders. Dive in, and prepare to lose all track of time.

5. Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds

(Image credit: Annapurna)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Mobius Digital

The cutesy presentation Outer Wilds belies just how clever this game is: as a first-time astronaut, you explore a miniaturized galaxy over the course of 22 minutes, zooming between planets in your ship and picking at story threads. When the clock runs out, you respawn and do it all over again – this time armed with everything you learned in your previous life. A truly dynamic and unique experience, The Outer Wilds is one of the most imaginative and creative space games out there. 

4. FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light

(Image credit: Subset Games)

Platform(s): PC, iOS
Developer: Subset Games

One of the best indie games ever made still has plenty of fuel in the tank. As the captain of a top-down ship, your goal is to reach friendly territory by jumping between randomly-generated segments of space, each full of nasty enemies, traders, and the odd friendly face. Combat somehow feels both urgent and thoughtful: you can pause at any time to assess your options, and yet we’re always in a constant panic, re-routing precious power from our weapons to our shields to absorb damage, or even purposefully bombing our own ship to neutralise boarding parties. Every decision is tortuous, and every victory has a cost. Over a decade later, and FTL is still one of the best roguelike games on the market. 

3. Destiny 2

Destiny 2

(Image credit: Bungie)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5
Developer: Bungie

If you only have room in your life for one online FPS, make it Destiny 2. It’s got it all: challenging PvP modes, big co-op boss fights, long story arcs, and, most importantly, tons of loot to collect on alien planets. When it comes to the actual shooting, Destiny 2 remains one of the best FPS games out there. Guns feel weighty but not cumbersome, and headshots reward you with showers of special effects. We’d advise playing with a group, especially for the toughest raids, but it’s still a fun time if you’re solo. Best of all, the base game is free-to-play, and you could easily dump 100 hours into it before being tempted to spend any cash on expansions.

2. Mass Effect 2 

Mass Effect 2 - Garrus

(Image credit: BioWare)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X
Developer: BioWare

Mass Effect is among the best RPGs – the space RPG by which we measure all others. The original trilogy, and particularly the second game, remain masterpieces. And thanks to the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, it's even easier to relive the excellent series all over again. The overall plot of the series – space hero tries to unite and save the galaxy against a deadly force – sounds generic, but doesn’t feel it moment-to-moment. That’s largely down to the crew you assemble, each with distinct personalities, goals, and senses of humor. As they gradually open up, you’ll look forward to every trip back to the Normandy between missions, just so you can see what they have to say next. 

1. No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

(Image credit: Hello Games)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Hello Games

No Man's Sky has so much to offer when it comes to space exploration. With a wealth of big updates recently added to make the experience even more in-depth, Hello Games presents you with infinite galaxies to discover, as well as more than 30 hours of story. The massive and ambitious Beyond update brought with it even more features and improvements, and along with the Origins, Prisms, and Expeditions updates, there's never been a better time to jump right in. 

If you don't feel like exploring on your own, you can also play the space-faring adventure with your pals. The No Man's Sky multiplayer aspect offers you the chance to build up colonies together, try to survive the expanses of the galaxies, and even dogfight and race in your ships. The ever-growing community of players that continues to go from strength to strength just goes to show how much love there is for No Man's Sky, and it really has become of the best sim games for space-curious players around. 

Sam's gaming PC is literally held together with masking tape, and he bought his PS4 from a friend of a friend of a (dodgy) friend for a tenner. He wishes that games still had paper manuals, mainly so he could get the satisfaction of ignoring them. He grew up in Essex, and now lives in London.
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