Some settings and roles are just perpetually fascinating to us as players – we love being knights in sprawling, medieval landscapes, turn into superpowered athletes as we clamber around the world’s biggest modern cities and we love to reach for the stars. Of course sci-fi doesn’t have to be all about putting a space suit on, and we’re offered an embarrassment of riches across gameplay types, helping us imagine the future (or an alternate past) of mankind. Here are the best of a long list of best sci-fi games for any platform.
25. VA-11 Hall-A
In this visual novel slash bartending sim set in future San Francisco, you serve androids, cat girls and hackers, among others. Each of your customers comes to you with their drink orders and their worries, and thanks to great writing, your chats with the people on the other side of the bar do not only feel realistic, but leave you thoughtful about modern life and the direction we as humans are taking.
Even though you only hear from the outside world in snippets, VA11 HALL-A’s cyberpunk SF feels fully realised, it’s people grappling with many of the same problems we’re already dealing with now.
Available on PC, PS4, Switch
24. Oxygen Not Included
Space is generally a pretty perilous place, but hardly any game drives that point home as well as Oxygen Not Included does. That’s no surprise, as it’s been developed by Klei Entertainment, the studio behind the survival sim Don’t Starve. Here, you’re tasked with building a colony, and Klei’s usual love for detail means that everything can kill you and your colonists, unless of course you approach space with the necessary dose of realism – you need to prepare rooms in order to be habitable, then immediately invest in food, items and research to get ahead.
Oxygen Not Included is challenging without being frustrating, and it’s an intricate take on colony/city building. As with many of the greatest games of this genre, flow will definitely set in, causing you to spend hours upon hours with your duplicates.
Available on PC
23. X-COM 2
The innovative X-COM style of combat as conceived by Julian Gollop is so popular it’s now a brand of its own, inspiring many other games. The theme of an alien invasion on the other hand is as classic as they come.
Films and literature have always made us want to become heroes who take on the intruders from up above, but X-COM turns that pretty simple premise into a highly tactical nail-biter which will have you invested into your squad not only because of the danger of losing the squad members with the best stats to permadeath, but also because we humans get attached to the things we get to give silly names. X-COM 2 is bigger and not always better than its predecessor, but the War of The Chosen DLC’s campaign adds a lot to the fun.
Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One
Another great colony builder on this list, RimWorld lets you grow and manage a space civilisation to the point at which you actually get to build your own spaceship and go home.
What makes this game stand out is that it isn’t simply about buildings and crafting recipes. Your people, elsewhere just a visual representation of stats to keep an eye on, have their own stories, form relationships and generally really need your help, which is why you manage them right down to their psyche, a pretty fantastic concept, intricately implemented.
Available on PC
With Observation, developer No Code wanted to make a game that’s basically 2001: A Space Odyssey from the perspective of the ship’s artificial intelligence. While the gameplay may take some time to get used to, Observation simply oozes atmosphere. All the details of a real NASA space station have been implemented in the virtual version you inhabit, and player actions closely mirror what real astronauts have to do in order to deal with difficult situations. Things get dark as soon as the story adds a pinch of the supernatural, using the various theories surrounding interdimensional travel to create an interesting, if slightly confusing, whole.
Available on PC, PS4
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