The 15 Best Space Games

Here’s the complete list in order:

15. Star Conflict
14. Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom
13. Tachyon: The Fringe
12. HardWar
11. FreeAllegiance
10. Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut
9. Rebel Galaxy
8. Evochron Legacy
7. Freelancer
6. X3: Albion Prelude
5. Independence War
4. Descent
3. Star Wars: TIE Fighter
2. Elite: Dangerous
1. Freespace 2

Six of the games were released in the ’90s, three in the ’00s and six in the past five years. Not bad for a genre once presumed dead.

Did we miss something? No, we didn’t. If your favourite game isn’t on the list, that’s because it’s at number 16. Write your own entry for it, explaining why your game is great, and put it in the comments. That way we can all learn about new space games to play.


  1. wubwub says:

    This is my favoritest Top ever. There aren’t enough space games.

    • Blake Casimir says:

      Honarary mention should go to the free Pioneer Space Sim which is not just a clone of Frontier Elite 2 but also takes it further (particularly with the Scout version) with much extra content, more mission types, improved visuals and far far more. I’ve been enjoying this so much I just haven’t bothered with Elite Dangerous.

    • rsf says:

      Includes Evochron Legacy, impressed. What isn’t mentioned is Evochron Legacy has procedural planets with atmospheres, plants/animals, and water, seamless universe, building stations and cities, simulated faction wars and economy, drop in multiplayer with clan territory ownership..the list goes on. Plenty of things to do, and one of a kind open world sim.

      There’s also a time limited demo, so people should really try it out.

      I like giving Freespace 2 credit too.

      Article doesn’t really mention that the source code was released by Volition and the community has run away with it, and worked on the engine and visuals.

      There are space sims and mods not only in the Freespace 2 universe, but in BSG, Babylon 5, Star wars and so forth.The original Freespace 1&2 campaigns have been completely remastered and need to be downloaded seperately.

      The community is now surpassed Volition at the space arcade fight and story genre, all their work is heavily peer-reviewed. Like other opensource communities there are lots of projects for people to contribute to.

      To play games and mods in the Freespace universe you need to buy the game (really cheap at GoG). I’d recommend playing The Blue Planet voice acted total conversion set in the Freespace universe once you have purchased the game, after playing through the remastered campaigns.

      Standalone games in other universes can be downloaded and played for free.

      Absolutely everyone should download the FREE standalone Diaspora: Shattered Armistice to see the standard of the community content. The ships created for this were used in a BSG commercial game, and this received a very positive review on IGN. It does what so many games based on TV/movies fail at – capture the feeling of the source material.

      link to

      • Blackcompany says:

        Thanks for posting this. Already visited the site. Going to give this a go pretty soon, as it looks amazing. And according to the one YouTube video I saw it seems to work with a HOTAS setup, so hopefully the Thrusmaster T-Flight will work.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          As long as the throttle and stick are recognized as one device (either because they are linked toghether and share a USB port or via software) any HOTAS should work, but if you have a mixed HOTAS (like the popular thrustmaster t16000 and CH Pro Throttle combo) it might give you trouble as I remember reading that the freespace open engine doesn’t support multiple game peripherals.

        • rsf says:

          Really highly recommend The Blue Planet as well, fully voice acted, extremely well written deconstructing war and exploring psychological themes. 2 short stories based on the total conversion were accepted to the sci-fi magazine Clarke’s World, to give some idea of the quality of the work.

          If anyone is considering not trying out Diaspora: Shattered Armistice, and eventually buying Freespace 2 and trying out The Blue Planet, they can read the first story here. Massive spoilers, but better than not trying it out. I won’t link the second part.

          These guys by now are master craftsmen in the genre Volition wrote in, and massive multi-act voice acted total conversions with original sound-tracks like The Blue Planet are worthy of review even by journalists who don’t typically cover space sims, just for the story and excellence in design. There should be youtube playthroughs if a reviewer wants to see the standard, but I don’t think they cover latest revisions.

          It’s also interesting how Volition left everyone wondering about the nature and motives of the Shivans, and how that was so powerful, inspiring so much community creativity. Definitely something more developers should do.

          Wing Commander Saga: The Darkest Dawn is a colossal wing commander standalone Total Conversion with 70 cutscenes, 221 character roles, 10 hours of voice acting, and they had permission from the rights holders. It’s from an older era than The Blue Planet. FREE Download (Don’t need FS2).

          I’d recommend trying out the other ones first, unless for wing commander fans.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Why only fifteen?

    • Heliocentric says:

      Limited space, obviously.

      • Nauallis says:

        Incidentally explaining the lack of endless space.

        (which is a terrible game imo)

    • XxBrentos9xX says:

      Do you really feel that there are more space games out there that add anything different than what’s listed? A lot of the mechanics feel exactly the same to me on space sims.

  3. Matt_W says:

    I’m curious what the criteria is here for a “space game.” I think there’s no contest: Kerbal Space Program is the best there is, and it’s not even on the list. There’s also no Orbiter, Buzz Aldrin’s Space Race, Universe Sandbox, FTL, Space Engineers, Distant Worlds, Masters of Orion, etc. It seems like ‘space game’ in the context of this list means something very specific: combat heavy, WWII-dogfight-like flight simulation-ish game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      I was also sort of confused. I mean, space sims are a real genre, and these are all space sims – so I’m not sure why the list is best “space games” rather than best space sims. Because otherwise, yes, the ommissions are odd (and could be easily solved by having it be another top 25, or top 35, or top 50 instead of 15)

      • rsf says:

        It’s probably simplest to change the title to space sims instead of space games and do separate top lists for each genre like space 4x, and maybe a space themed top list at the end.

    • brucethemoose says:

      “combat heavy, WWII-dogfight-like flight simulation-ish game”

      That’s EXACTLY what I do in Kerbal Space Program multiplayer.

    • Ketchua says:

      Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space as well!

    • anHorse says:

      It being only space sims would explain why SSZ got on when it’s vastly inferior to the other strike suit game, infinity.

      There’s also a hell of a lot of space strategy games that are good.

    • alsoran says:

      I think you’re right.

      The other games are a valid category but this is about flying about duelling it out with others against a background of stars.

      Flying along the outside of a space station or a cruiser is just breath taking, you, your craft and danger in the infinity of space.

      • Caiman says:

        But then why is Descent on the list? I mean, I love Descent, it’s probably in my top 2 to 3 games of all time, but you’re inside a mine for the entire game. Ok, it’s set on an asteroid, and in the between-level intermission you’re shown escaping from the mine into space, but it’s stretching the definition a bit far. Still, any excuse to put Descent on a “best of” list is always welcome by me.

    • cptgone says:

      Eve Online is missing too.

      • dorobo says:

        yes and clearly the best space game

      • fishdinner says:

        What else should I be playing if I like this: X3 is a good offline comparison. If you’re looking for the true experience, you can also try the long published Microsoft Excel series. If you find that you miss the social aspect, you can try “Youtube Comments” on subjects like religion, feminism, or politics, which will make you feel right at home.

    • klops says:

      Yes it seems. RPS has never listed top games thematically and obviously this list is all about “Top stardog fight more-or-less-simulations”. “Space games” sound better.

      That’s why there’s no The Dig or FTL or Star Control Or MOO or KSP or Space Rangers 2 or any other game that isn’t a space combat “sim”.

      • SilentXero says:

        Great list! I was hoping (expecting) to see Star Control (1-3), Star Flight and maybe even Mass Effect (1-3) on the list, but still it’s a great offering and has me digging up some of these other classics (Freespace,Independence War and Elite:Dangerous). Most definitely looking forward to Star Citizen!

    • Dudeist says:

      I’m shocked too. I can understand no System Shock here, because it’s mostly CQB actions or Dead Space, but why not F.T.L. and few other? I think I can say why not GameX, because everyone know what this is. Remember the Cant!

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Agreed… criteria here for “space games” is not what I expected.

      My favorite space games are Ascendancy, Homeworld, and Kerbal Space Program.

    • penryn says:

      Yeah. I’m almost two months late to the party, but I want to add my voice: this list wasn’t what I imagined it would be.

  4. Pazguato says:

    Great list and comments. Thank you!

    I really loved Wing Commander IV back then.

    • LexW1 says:

      Personally I could never get over the bullshit with Hobbes in WCIII, so I never played IV.

      I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as angry with a game as I was with WCIII, I mean I was pretty young, but damn, fuck whoever wrote that, fuck them forever.

      • GrinningD says:


        To this day I still believe it was some sort of double blind and he will return the hero in the next one.

      • Sound says:

        Yeah, it seemed so random. There was no lead-up to it. There was no motive. From a story standpoint, it was just complete gibberish, like they drew a name from a hat, or determined the plot point via wacky mad libs.

        But I was younger, so maybe I’m not fully remembering all of it.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Do yourself a favour and play it, it has better gameplay than wing commander III and MUCH better storytelling.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I’ve always loved the Wing Commander series to bits. However, this article has forced me to re-evaluate my position.

      Wing Commander IV, for killing proper cockpits in space sims for years and years, there can be no forgiv–
      Oh alright, you’re forgiven.

  5. aircool says:

    I kinda liked ‘The Dig’. Very different from the usual point ‘n’ click games around at the time. High production standards and a decent, Hard Sci-fi storyline.

  6. brucethemoose says:

    No StarMade? I guess I can see that… Hopefully it’ll get a spot in the future once it’s more refined.

    The lack of Kerbal Space Program, however, is criminal.

  7. seraphsword says:

    Allegiance is one of my all-time favorite games. Ahead of its time, and just a blast to play. I dip back into it every couple years or so.

    • Heliocentric says:

      If it had come out a few years later, been call Battlefield:Space it would have redefined multiplayer forever. It was sadly orphaned by technology and time.

    • Therax says:

      Glad to see Allegiance get a shout out here. I played the heck out it on the MSN Zone in 2001. I was about to make a comment on the Natural Selection article to point out Allegiance as the forgotten “other” multiplayer FPS/RTS hybrid title.

      • GUIDONET says:

        I was thinking of doing the exact same thing. This game out of any other gives me the fondest memories. Waiting at the portal for bombers flanked with nano’s. Hell just being on a bomber or cap ship was something no other game has been able to capture as well.

        And being commander was worthwhile and felt like a game unto itself.

  8. Premium User Badge

    MrPin says:

    Freespace 2. Yes.

    • deadlybydsgn says:

      Yes, indeed.

      FS2 is one of the few games I loved enough to bother holding onto its original discs. It’s been years since I checked it out on the open source angle, and at least 15 since I played through it.

      The “Beyond the Red Line” Battlestar mod was pretty exciting while the series was still airing. Oh, I found a video of it, but the project is likely dead: link to

      • Karajorma says:

        Diaspora was made by most of the members of the Beyond the Red Line team. We basically spilt off because of creative differences and went off to make our own BSG game on the FS2_Open engine. I’ve never heard of anyone saying they liked one and didn’t like the other so I’m fairly confident you’ll love it.

        • IshuTwar says:

          Diaspora is great! A bit short but spot on. The combination of 3d cockpit, head tracking system (freetrack) and HOTAS makes it one of the most immersive space fighter sims.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Heck yes.

      I think Freespace 2 demonstrates what a lot of current space game devs seem to be missing. Scale and drama.

    • pandiculator says:

      The highlight of space opera games. There is none better.

  9. OscarWilde1854 says:

    Yeah…. pretty much disregarded the rest of the list once KSP wasn’t on it anywhere. This is a very specific type of Space game, so the generalized ‘space’ title is a touch vague.

    • aleander says:

      It is, though, what people think of when you say “space game”. They may know KSP, but they’ll still expect encapsulated murder simulator, and not even something Silent Hunter-esque (is there anything like *that*, by the way?), but action-ey.

      It’s a bit unfortunate it’s called a “space” game, but I’d argue adventure games are a bit unfortunately named as well. And “space sim” is, a bit annoyingly, a bit narrower (though if you really wanted to change public perception, using “space sim” for cockpit experiences doesn’t sound like the worst start). OTOH, if you expand the “genre” to include both KSP and TIE Figther, you’re going to include way too many games.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        “It is, though, what people think of when you say “space game”.

        [citation needed]

        The vast number of bemused comments on this very article indicate otherwise.

  10. alsoran says:

    I really can’t complain about the list, that’s more of less as I see it although not necessarily I that order.

    Was I the only person who like WC Prophercy?

    I’m really happy that the Evochron series got a mention, I’ve been playing them to fill in time since I ran out of Space Flight games. Its made by an independent developer who has been giving out Space game fixes for years and deserves credit for keeping the flag flying.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Prophecy was fine. It actually does get a “what else should I be playing” recommendation here which is a bit weird considering it was passed over in the Wing Commander bit itself. Anyway, yes, it was fine.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah good game. Also it came about at the beginning of accelerated 3d graphics (voodoo cards etc), so it really looks considerably better than previous wing commander games.

  11. Blastaz says:

    Make Space Great Again!

    • RedViv says:

      First thing I did today on returning to work was booking the entire week of the 9th of May as holiday.
      I am so very terribly excited.

      • Hawkseraph says:

        Is it sad that I immediately know whci hgame you mean?

        No it’s not, get hype.

  12. Anthile says:

    Surely Space Rangers 2, one of the greatest games named Space Rangers 2, should be included in such a list.

    • Heliocentric says:

      I think this list is actually an early April fools.

    • carewolf says:

      All the 2D space-games are missing. Another essential missing would be Star Control II.

      So obviously only 3D First-person space games were considered.

      • malkav11 says:

        I would think that, but Rebel Galaxy and Freelancer aren’t first person and Rebel Galaxy isn’t even 3D.

  13. Tannhauser says:


    • puninnabun says:

      Oh, I crashed on that mission start sooo many times before I finally pulled it off (or down, as it were). A brutal, rewarding and magnificent start of a mission (or was it just right after a jump?). Good times!

    • melancholicthug says:

      Man, that moment was freaking amazing. Memorable as hell, after all those years…

    • Crane says:

      “Surrender, Belisarius!”

    • Eleven says:

      We’re not called the Suicide Kings for nothing, pilot!

  14. Laurentius says:

    I don’t understand why Starlancer don’t get much love. It’s really, really good. It has cool story, fine missions, plus you can play whole campaign in multiplayer co-op. I don’t know where to get it now but demo should still be available for download to try it out.

    PS. Also I tried not long ago for n-th to get into Freespace2 and I can’t, I simply can’t. Almost nothing in this game sits right with me, story, weapons, the colours, combat taking place in rainbow, ships shooting candies, i just can’t…

    • Anthile says:

      That’s because Microsoft seemed to be very much ashamed of it. It went out of print very quickly and not a whole lot played it. Even in the 00s it was surprisingly difficult to get your hands on a fresh copy. I guess it didn’t sell all that well.

    • Blake Casimir says:

      Try Wing Commander Saga instead? Freespace 2 engine, WC universe.

      I have a huge respect for Freespace but found the “universe” story plot etc a touch impenetrable due to the mostly text-based presentation. Too used to Wing Commander!

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I’ve been meaning to try Saga but I keep finding myself distracted by other things and I’ve never even got as far as downloading it. Sell it to me? (yes I know it’s free hush)

  15. Ravenger says:

    I worked on the Independence War games as a designer, so it’s great to see it featured here.

    The I-War series was actually co-created by Glyn Williams and Michael Powell. Michael wrote the classic sim Subwar 2050, and also did some work on Warhead with Glyn.

    I joined Particle Systems in time to help get Independence War out to the US market (Originally it was a European only release, called ‘I-War’). I then was project lead of the Independence War Defiance campaign which was part of the Deluxe/Special edition, and also worked on Independence War 2, helping to design and script missions and other game content, and also put together the modding SDKs for both games.

    If anyone has any questions about the games I’ll be happy to answer them – though it’s been a long time so some details may be fuzzy.

    • klops says:

      No questions, just wanted to say that I-War was a great game.

    • LexW1 says:

      I-War 2 is probably the best space game ever made – I was pretty disappointed to not see it on this list. Freespace 2 is great, but I-War 2? I think it might be better.

      • snv says:

        Totally agree. IWar2 has the single best feel of all space shooter games, because it is both newtonian, and the FTL-part has neat plausible system which is used consequently.

        Since this game no others (of this genre) did archive a proper suspension of disbelieve with me – they just felt wrong.

        • snv says:

          Also, everytime a designer argues that newtonian physics would not be fun – again – i wish i could shout at them while pointing at the I-War games.

          BTW, same with sound in space and the 2001/2010 movies, which show how skillful use of the sparsity of sound would not be boring but even more intense.

          • jontaro says:

            Technically it wasn’t true newtonian flight, as there was a speed cap.

            It’s the unlimited speed that can turn combat into an annoying high speed jousting match.

            It also turns everything more boring, since you would be spending lasts one third of the travel time backwards, with ass pointed towards your destination and braking with everything you got.

            But well, just my opinion, got enough of this with Elite: Frontier

          • Ravenger says:

            As someone who worked on both I-War games I’m not aware of any specific speed cap for the newtonian flight model. It certainly wasn’t part of the gameplay design, though I can’t rule out an ultimate limit to max speed due to the precision of the maths involved.

            I agree that high speed newtonian based combat can turn into relativistic jousting, but the I-War flight assist mode allowed you to make use of newtonian physics whilst still maintaining a fun and playable flight model – though more challenging than the usual WW1 fighters in space flight model used in other games.

    • MajorManiac says:

      Just want to say thanks for making such a great game.

      I-War was one of the landmark games of my teen years. Up there with Deus Ex and Morrowind.

    • Karajorma says:

      As much as I liked I-War, I still reckon Warhead was the best space sim Glenn Williams did. That game had atmosphere by the bucketload.

    • Daedalus29 says:

      I just wanted to say: Huge thank you for the I-war serie. It was these games that made me a fan of space simulation. Edge of chaos was a pure mix between western and space opera, I’m still playing it every now an then.

      And because no one wanted to develop a sequel for the I war serie, assuming all the dev were flying in another galaxy, I made this. I modelized some assets for an hypotetic I war mod.

      • Daedalus29 says:

        *I made this link to

      • DancesWithSheep says:

        Omg, subwar 2050! Off topic I know but wow I loved that. Back on topic, thank you for I-War

        • Ravenger says:

          Many thanks for the kind words about I-War! I was only one of many people who worked on the games, so can’t take credit for them.

          I’d love to see a modern sequel or reboot, with a better UI, but keeping the newtonian flight model and the emphasis on bigger ships.

          I think I-War 2’s UI was a bit over-simplified compared to the original game. That was mainly because at one point there was going to be a Dreamcast version, and the UI was designed to work with gamepads, but it was also designed to work with joysticks with hat switches which were very common at the time.

          I liked I-War 1’s bridge workstations, because it fit more with being in control of a larger capital ship, and was very immersive.

          However I-War 2’s graphics and engine have really stood the test of time, and it still looks good on modern PCs, which shows how advanced the game was. It’s nice today to be able to play the game at framerates and resolutions undreamed of when we first made it.

          The main gameplay change I would make in a sequel would be to have a decent save system. The lack of proper in-mission saves in I-War 2 made the game pretty hard and could be frustrating in places.

          We added in-mission save points for I-War 1’s Defiance campaign and they worked very well.

    • Pitt Rivers says:

      Just adding to the chorus on how awesome the I-War games are! I still judge modern space games on how similar they are to I-War.

  16. Heliocentric says:

    Space isn’t pew pew pew laser beams, it’s freezing to death on the dark side of a moon because of a mistimed rocket burn and a little bit of veering.

    Space isn’t dog fights along asteroid belts it’s setting up a refueling refinery platform on a single hunk of rock you dragged into orbit.

    Space isn’t FTL flight, it’s burning up during reentry because you angled too deep.

    Space isn’t about shooting aliens for being the wrong species, it’s about shooting miniscule probes with enormous rocketry which peel apart stage by stage like a space onion until a probe about 10kg in weight is left and can only function in direct sunlight orbits a world.

    Space isn’t space cruisers, space is running rescue missions, which end up need rescuing themselves.

    • Conundrummer says:

      Space is the button I have between my “Alt” keys.

    • aepervius says:

      “Space isn’t pew pew pew laser beams, it’s freezing to death” You are more likely to die frying than to freeze to death. Case in point : there are 3 ways warmth is lost conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction does not happen in space, neither do convection, which leaves only radiation e.g. IR and similar and is a poor way to lose heat. In fact you are more likely to fry if you have no insulation , if you get caught in the sun (around eath orbit).

      “Space isn’t pew pew pew laser beams, it’s dying in silence, from gas ebulition in your body organs and fluids, and frying in the sun ”

      Does not catch as much though ;)

    • syllopsium says:

      Reality is boring, these are *games*. If I wanted to be involved in realistic orbital mechanics, I’d go read about another NASA/ESA mission again..

  17. sincarne says:

    Maybe it’s too odd for this page, but I think Noctis warrants a mention, particularly given the straight line you could draw from it to No Man’s Land. I also think Escape Velocity Nova is the best 2D space game out there.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Escape Velocity (probably Nova because it’s the latest of the three) would also be on my list. I’d love to see the game which surpasses it in its’ specific niche of space games, but I don’t think one exists.

      • Nauallis says:

        Endless Sky! It’s free! It’s a new-generation copy! And the ships move stupid slow.

        Regarding EV, EVO, EVN, probably the reason it’s not more highly rated is the fact that it was Mac exclusive until Nova, and was always sold directly by Ambrosia Software rather than through major distributors. Fantastic set of games though. Nostalgia convinced me to try an EV and EVO skin/plugin for EVN, and man, the games feel really hollow now. Nostalgia is amazing, and awful.

      • malkav11 says:

        I honestly never really got into the later Escape Velocity games and would probably plump for the first one. It was certainly my favorite space game for a long, long time. I think Space Rangers 2 probably surpasses it, but a big part of that would be it being turn-based (I never have been great at reflex-based gaming) and being full of weird shit like text adventures and RTS battles.

    • Syrion says:

      Just recently I thought of Noctis IV CE, like you said because of No Man’s Sky. I had a really interesting, surreal gameplay experience with it. I actually hoped it would have been developed further, given that it is very unique in being only about exploration, prior to the uprising of “walking simulators” and procedurally generated. But, it looks like not a lot has happened with it in recent years. Does it work on modern systems? I remember having some trouble getting it to run properly years ago.

  18. peedeer says:

    In general I hate space flight/combat sim type games, but there was something oddly beautiful about Freespace 2 that kept me interested – must be the nebulae. Whereas the FMV is the only thing I found entertaining about WC:IV…

    Agreed that the term “space game” is a bit vague given the list’s contents: Alpha Centauri, Alien Isolation, FTL all sprang to mind when I saw the headline. I remember a very old DOS game called Shuttle which I had great fun with as a kid, albeit I never got further than the average pigeon.

  19. N'Al says:

    Clearly, the best space game is Portal 2.

  20. Det. Bullock says:

    Regarding Tie Fighter: “Indeed, it seems that the more modern and expensive the stick, the more issues present themselves.”

    Not really, actually the more expensive joystick fare better as they have mapping softwares that are much easier to use than the DosBox mapper or some early windows games option screens, at least that’s my experience since I got my first 110 Euros joystick a few months ago, I can actually do some of the most basic tutorial missions almost without touching the keyboard, same deal with Tie Fighter and I still don’t have a throttle.

    Then again, many either seem to forget that expensive joysticks have mapping softwares or are scared of them for some reason.

    • DFX2KX says:

      Some of the mapping software is extremely unintuitive, as well, leading many not to bother figuring them out.

      T.A.R.G.E.T is useful (Thrustmaster sticks and wheels), but even then, you might have to script your own profile for things like Tie Fighter. upside, you can even get a throttle axis of sorts for games that don’t even support it, if you want to learn the scripting language. Downside, it’s not got the greatest helpfiles.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        I have a CH products stick whose software is allegedly MORE complex than TARGET and I didn’t have to use scripts, I just mapped the buttons that didn’t do anything or did stuff I didn’t like, the throttle with the X-wing games was easy anough as they have presets, so you can just type them in sequence under the throttle tab (I also had to make sure that DosBox used the US keyboard layout).
        Though admittedly with the DOS Wing Commander games I couldn’t find a way to make the throttle wheel work and assigned throttle control to the HAT switch.

  21. anevilyak says:

    I have to admit, I’m sort of surprised Star Control II didn’t make this list. :(

    • clg6000 says:

      About to log the same complaint. It’s no first person starfighter shooter sim (combat is rather very 80’s arcade style)–but as far as exploring a universe from your ever strengthening liferaft in space, it’s unmatched.

      No reason that everyone shouldn’t play it for free, from here: link to

    • Blake Casimir says:

      Agreed, in fact Star Control II deserves to be on EVERY best game list.

    • carewolf says:

      Me too. There has to have been a 3D first-person requirement to the list they forgot to mention.

  22. ZippyLemon says:

    Ouch for X-Wing Alliance.

    Good times with that game.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Well, it indeed has largely the same Tie Fighter gameplay, only with the additional speed vs manouverability mechanic introduced by X-wing vs Tie Fighter.

  23. Chaotic Entropy says:

    Elite: Dangerous the 2nd best space game EVER? Are you insane…? Frankly, I find the suggestion deranged.

    • LexW1 says:

      Because it should be higher or lower? Personally I think it wouldn’t even make the top 15. I say that was literally one of the first few hundred people to KS Elite Dangerous, too! It’s almost the least fun Elite game (sadly Frontier exists), and the only thing it really has going for it is that it works really well with VR hats and expensive controllers, and has a really strong “physical” appeal.

      Gameplay-wise? It’s ‘orrid.

      • Chaotic Entropy says:

        It’s painfully bad and a bitter disappointment compared to other, more fully fledged space games. 2nd best ever my… ugh. Good lord.

    • Barberetti says:

      I didn’t even bother reading the article after seeing that in the list. They said it was the 2nd best ever? Wow ha ha ha ha ha.

      • Chaotic Entropy says:

        Truly perplexing… it’s like they picked the first 15 space games that game to mind and then ordered those. Poorly, I might add.

    • Neutrino says:

      Quite. It isn’t even bloody finished yet.

  24. MadMinstrel says:

    As long as Freespace 2 is in first place, I approve of this list :)

  25. Phinor says:

    Freespace 2 is still in competition for my favourite game of all time. With a little patching, it still holds up and I should really play it once again soon. It’s hard to imagine how no one has managed to repeat what the game did because it didn’t really do anything special at the time, it just did it quite well. Surely someone can create something similar and of equal quality in 2016?

  26. Zephro says:

    This list is correct. Though really that’s just because Freespace 2 always needs to be at the top, it’s still one of my favourite games ever. I’ve not really bothered with the current crop as the online or space trading thing is kinda meh, for me anyhow.

    Part of the testament to FS2 is that I can still remember squadron names, character names and ship names 17 years later, which is only true of X-Wing games when it’s the name of a thing I already knew. The first time I saw the Sathanas loom out of the nebula at me is probably always going to stick in my head.

    • LexW1 says:

      Any list that has I-War 1 but not I-War 2 is objectively not correct. :p

      • Karajorma says:

        I-War 2 lost me at the point the map opened up too much. I found myself taking 10-15 minutes to get to a mission only to screw up and die in 30 seconds. When you are playing with a phone or reading a book to entertain yourself while playing a game, something is horribly wrong with it.

        I will have to give it another chance one day cause until that point I was enjoying it.

  27. GameCat says:

    Come on, everyone know that the best space game is Space Channel 5.

  28. mpk says:

    The lack of EVE Online, which is essentially the real-world equivalent of Ender’s training simulations crossed with a wierd mix of communist-capitalism crossed with the mother-frakking Culture completely invalidates this list in its entirety because I say so, and I’m a guy on the internet, so I know what I’m talking about.

    • Keios says:

      EVE Online isn’t a space game though. It’s a fully immersive hardcore Capitalism simulator that just happens to be set in space.

      • Nauallis says:

        Here I was thinking it was spreadsheets with a terrible UI and an extremely annoying unskippable interactive loading screen.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          I’m not even a fan and even I’m starting to get frustrated with that same lazy criticism.

          • Nauallis says:

            Snort! The game reminded me too much of my day job. EVE is seriously weird. As a “space game” it’s really not much of a game. Doesn’t make it bad, just not my thing. So yeah, lazy criticism.

  29. Mud says:

    Space Shuttle Mission 2007
    Kerbal space program
    Don’t know how much time I sunk in those 3, but much more time than the listed games

  30. Keios says:

    I’m surprised nobody’s made the case for FTL yet.

  31. Risingson says:

    The list is very canonical, in the way that all the games that need to be there are there. There are many other interesting ones that time forgot, as Star Crusader and the technically awesome Darklight Conflict, or even others influenced by Starflight like the ones mentioned in the comments (or Project NOMAD or…) But all the space operas are there. All the games that I enjoyed WITHOUT a joystick and played over an over and stimulated my imagination and made me love videogames are here.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      OK, two other titles to add/vote to the GOG community wishlist, the third by looking for a bit at YT footage doesn’t seem a spacesim though.

  32. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Really disappointed to see Freelancer getting the pick over Privateer. It’s like picking Dragon Age instead of BG2.

    • Shadow says:

      I agree. Privateer was the best open world space sim for a good while.

      And the whole Wing Commander franchise bested by… Rebel Galaxy? That basic, shallow, repetitive indie? Really?

      This ranking has no credibility.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Wing Commander is mostly basic, shallow and repetitive, it got gradually better but still (at least until IV, still have to try Prophecy) it’s more arcade-y than other spacesims and the mission design tends to be very boring, with 90% of the missions that are “fly to nav, destroy stuff”.

        • Shadow says:

          Wing Commander was groundbreaking for its time. Rebel Galaxy, with 20+ years of tech advantage… not at all.

          Judge games based on their contemporary context.

          • LexW1 says:

            Unlike you, I like Rebel Galaxy, and I don’t think “Oh but the context!” argument holds water because this is being written in 2016, not y’know, 1990.

            THAT SAID, I do agree – I do not believe RG is a better game than say, WC2. Better than WCIII or IV or the like? Maybe. Prophecy is actually pretty underrated gameplay-wise, I note, with some really cool ideas (like the ship with the massive disposable booster and anime-style missile array).

          • Det. Bullock says:

            Wing Commander III came after X-wing and Tie Fighter but still used the same boring mission design and frankly shallow gameplay, so YES, I’m judging by what I played at the time.
            Wing Commander has always been more about presentation than gameplay, I really liked WCIV because the gameplay and mission design got better enough and the presentation was top notch instead of simply very good like in the previous games, but without considering the presentation even a very rough game by today’s standards like X-wing beats this series to a pulp by sheer gameplay, variety of enemy ships and mission design.

      • klops says:

        If Privateer was on this list, it got no credibility in my mind :D That game was ok-ish at best even for 12-14 year old me, and I played everything.

  33. Leafcutter says:

    Nexus: The Jupiter Incident

  34. Nike says:

    A guy called Shoemaker writes an article about space games on RPS and no one makes the connection to Shoemaker-Levy? Ich bin shocked. :P

    • Replikant says:

      Shoemaker-Levy: Crash-and-Burn is a terrible game, though.
      It is basically a real-time comet sim, with arcade racing elements mixed in. Course and speed cannot be influenced by the player, however, and are entirely dependent on orbital mechanics (newtonian physics, yay!) and one lap takes forever to complete. The crashes are the only good part about it, tbh.

  35. Brian Rubin says:

    Elite: Dangerous over TIE Fighter? Star Conflict?! Strike Suit Zero?

    Over classics like, oh I dunno, Starflight and Star Control? You folks are cray. Totally, unabashedly, cray cray.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      The criteria used seem to be essentially “game like wing commander or Elite” so those two games don’t fit.
      But yes, I’m a bit perplexed in putting Elite above Tie Fighter.

  36. The Algerian says:

    Sad to hear Freespace 2 sold as little as it did.

    It really is the best space sim I’ve ever played.

  37. Trackdoc says:

    Does anyone remember Starlancer, it was freelancers dogfighter cousin, future USA vs treacherous future Commies, had great implementation of force feedback. The last fighter had a charge up main cannon, as you charged up to full the stick would judder more and more to give the sense of building power, you could one shot kill most enemy fighters with a full charge if you could survive long enough and get them in your sights.

    Freespace was great for giving a scale of huge capital ships with your fighters buzzing around like gnats. The Babylon 5 total conversion was great.

    • DFX2KX says:

      I have one of the two disks around somewhere, the CD drive ruined the other one.

      This makes me sad, as Starlancer was amazing back in the day. To think, the PC I played it on couldn’t even run it fully, but it still looked amazing.

      • Karajorma says:

        You can play the other games on the Freespace engine for free without needing the CDs. It’s only FS1 & 2 and the mods which you’d need to pay for. Take a look at Diaspora, The Babylon Project, Wing Commander Saga or Wings of Dawn and you can get some of that FS2 fix again.

  38. puninnabun says:

    FreeSpace 2 is to space combat sims as Thief is to stealth games.

    The total, definitive, unarguable number one.

  39. Whelp says:

    I think Elite: Dangerous is boring as fuck, but I can dig the rest of that list.

  40. dsch says:

    “To remember those carefree days arched over a BBC Micro or blinking angrily into a Lenslok and to forget for a short while that you have to make 357 people redundant in the morning.”

    Am I missing a reference here?

  41. Jay Load says:

    Poor old X-Rebirth. Lambasted for its stupidity while the persistent insanities of the earlier series games are all but forgotten.|

    Well screw you all. *I* love it. Best game I’ve bought in ages.

    No other game in a long time has given me that ‘Living universe in a box’ feeling. And, for the first time in an X game I feel it’s playing FAIR, and being FUN, allowing me as a player to progress without demanding I sacrifice blood, time, tears, family members, sweat, mucus, sanity and bone marrow over every single decision I make.There are still signs of Egosoft stomping on my happiness – fucking trade software that costs more than a capital ship??? YOU ARE HAVING A LAUGH – but generally I heartily approve of the rebalance and the enormous work that’s gone into making the universe seem coherent, detailed and ripe for exploring.

    I also really dig the way Capital ships work now. Dismantling their subsystems at close range may just be my new favourite pastime – HEAVY BEAM LAAAAZEEEER!!! – and riding my huge freighter around as a passenger is a peculiarly engaging thrill.

    Looking forward to a 5.0 release and the return of the Boron. I hope they go nuts with ship and station design for those guys.

    • DancesWithSheep says:

      It was X-Rebirth that made me realise how much of a fool I was in pre-ordering stuff. However, while it was absolute pants on release Egosoft have, amazingly, stuck with it and it is now a vastly improved game and pretty much what I was after when I ordered. Roll on the Boton making an appearance.

      • DancesWithSheep says:

        Boron..not Boton. When will you get an edit button guys?

      • Jay Load says:

        It was X-Rebirth that made me realise how much of a fool I was in pre-ordering stuff. However, while it was absolute pants on release Egosoft have, amazingly, stuck with it and it is now a vastly improved game and pretty much what I was after when I ordered. Roll on the Boton making an appearance.

        Hah! It was X3: Reunion that stopped me doing the same. I’m very glad I skipped Rebirth’s birth: looking back at the the videos of older releases, seeing what they put in that wasn’t there before…it really wasn’t ready for a 2013 release.

        But as you say it has improved in leaps and bounds and I, for one, am loving it. Although I’m still having issues with the trading system. Greater explanation/tuition of some game systems wouldn’t go amiss either. The “Tutorials” Egosoft put out are little more than adverts/feature lists. And I hate trawling forums and wikis – they never seem to address the specific issue I have.

        The Boron were always visually distinct. X2 used to have some great ships that had rotating, undulating parts, while I think X3 nailed the aquatic chic of stations (while absolutely ruining most of the other races with their ‘homogeneous silver’ look). If a future Rebirth DLC can merge those aspects, and spruce up the old character models in much the same way they’ve done with the Split and Teladi, I’d be a very happy man indeed.

        • Replikant says:

          Maybe it is time I gave Rebirth a chance. As much as I love the X-series, I stopped playing the previous spreadsheat after I had one look at the material requirements for the hub-portals. I don’t have that much free time anymore.

  42. geldonyetich says:

    First four pages, no mention of Descent: Freespace

    Get out.

    Freespace 2, #1

    As it should be.

    Man, I really wish they’d do more with Elite: Dangerous. It’s the most immersive ever, but has literally no end game. I find I’m just popping endless ships in hazardous asteroid belts because I can.

    • Lanessar says:

      “It’s the most immersive ever, but has literally no end game.”

      Good. I truly hope this concept of “end game” dies a horrible fricking death. It was a bad design choice to begin with, and all you do as a developer is run on a churn out content treadmill to try to keep up with 5% of the players consuming the content, while not fleshing out base mechanics.

      Players, factions, making a trade empire, interstellar war between guilds – this should be the “end game”. We can make it ourselves.

      Sadly, that’s not Elite’s problem. It’s a mile wide, but two inches deep. There’s really no reason to keep playing, because it’s ETS2 in space with some pirate gankers. Hopefully they flesh things out per their design docs, and get a quarter of the things they were talking about during alpha into the game. Like passengers, co-pilots, crew, NPC escorts. A real mission system. Some way to set up a home base. Something that allows you to change things in the game.

      Don’t get me wrong – awesome framework. But it’s still very bare bones.

  43. LennyLeonardo says:

    I wonder what this list would’ve looked if it’d been written in July…

  44. Duke of Chutney says:

    Hardwar is criminally underrated and in many respects the most interesting game on the list. It has a genuinely unique setting and atmosphere and a cool warp records sound track.

    Also I agree with everyone who thinks Elite is sort of boring. We waited 30 years and the re-released the same game with more graphics. Its alright but one wishes the space game had more to it than choose trade or shoot.

    • Risingson says:

      And has something that I always miss when playing sci fi games: actual futuristic electronic music, not a bland background one. Of course, it was Autechre, LFO, The Black Dog and Squarepusher who made that music…

  45. Cederic says:

    I’m not sure this list was put together by someone that actually lived through the evolution of the genre.

    Leaving aside Elite being one of the greatest games of all time in any genre (Elite, not the farcical remake of recent years) and generously treating it as pre-PC, there are some quite astonishing choices.

    X3:AP rather than X3:TC? X-anything getting above Privateer? Wing Commander Anything instead of Privateer 2?

    I’d have Freespace 2, Privateer 2 and Hardwar in my top 5, possibly with X3:TC to complete the four runners up. All of them had a beautiful blend of exploration, trading, shooting, ship upgrades and ships.

    None of them quite matched the story, the gameplay, the immersion and the raw brilliance of the killer of a million mechanical mice, Tie Fighter.

    There’s a computer game worthy of the name.

    • Lord Byte says:

      I agree, though I could never get into the X-series. The interface always annoyed me to such a degree that I uninstalled it without fail. But Elite 2 : Frontier Elite, Tie Fighter, Privateer 2 (I never played 1… but loved 2), Hardwar are also in my top-5. And oddly, I still prefer WC2 to all that came after it. The storyline was just… better!

  46. Premium User Badge

    Big Dunc says:

    Freespace 2 is indeed a fantastic game, but for me it will always take third place to TIE Fighter and the original Elite.

  47. DarthBaras says:

    Quite a shame X Rebirth isn’t on the list, best most feature complete space sandbox out there by far
    link to

    Bet you didn’t even check it out since launch otherwise it would easily be number1

  48. Kaeoschassis says:

    On Freespace 2, I’ve actually never completed it, and I think this might be the kick in the arse I need to finally remedy that.

    I’ll say here what I ALWAYS say whenever FS2 is discussed, though – best particle beams in all of gaming, tied with Homeworld 2. And much like I judge a FPS by the quality of its shotgun(s), the great big capital ship guns are the most important element of any (shooty) space sim.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      You definitely owe it to yourself to complete Freespace 2. It ends in such a simultaneously visceral and action-packed yet cerebral way; I don’t think I’m really spoiling things to say that the game very much gets to the proverbial fireworks factory but also, in the way it does so, does one final reveal about the Shivans and their nature that answers things while leaving even more wide open.

      Plus of course, with Volition having opened up the source code (it’s a real shame that, except for John Carmack back when he was part of id, nobody else seems to do this), you can play it these days with graphical prettiness that matches the nostalgia.

      God, I can’t find my discs and it’s killing me. Hmm. Maybe I should just buy FS1 and FS2 on GoG . . .

  49. Guy Montag says:

    Since X3 made it on the list, I’ll again mention the completely amazing Litcube’s Universe mod. I’m still surprised that it never got a mention on RPS, as it came around the time the Rebirth was getting lambasted everywhere. It features engine level optimizations and fixes, drops the story, but includes a host of game changing mods that work to help you actually feel like you’re making a change in the game world. It’s basically whatever the next iteration of X3 would have been, just free (if you have X3: AB).

    And a link: link to

    • Jay Load says:

      The problem I have with this mod – and it’s the fundamental flaw of the X games in my eyes – is that the main attraction, the meat of the end-game, is essentially a resource war fought between mega-corps. It doesn’t matter what improvements are made, they still ask players to become large-scale Industrialists to get anywhere. That takes time and skillsets that most players don’t have. Great if you do, but most of us don’t have the months required to do a proper playthrough.

      I also find the author’s elitism a touch off-putting, from his FAQ:
      “I have lots of UTs but never seem to have any money!”
      “Be smarter.”

      I’ve always wished Egosoft/Modders would incorporate more RPG elements, for those of us looking to do something – anything – else in their fabulous universes.

      • Guy Montag says:

        Yeah, I definitely agree that it can’t match everyone’s wants (including my own). I play the X games slowly, so I don’t even turn on the invasion force until I’m at least a little ways in to growing. I’m just glad he included that as an option. And prior to LU, my favorite mode for AP was the one that added back in the TC storylines, so I’m totally with you on wanting growth other than the economical kind.

        As for mod authors, eh, he’s a far, far sight from the worst I’ve seen in the myriad modding communities. I try to remember that these guys get massive shit for providing something completely for free, and allow them the occasional ‘I can’t deal with you anymore’ answer.

        • Jay Load says:

          Heh. Well, I guess I can forgive him for that. Fan communities are often a royal pain the rectum. :)

          Tell you what, though. That’s such a good response that I’m now genuinely intrigued to try the mod. Being able to forestall the invasion would help to ease me into it, get my bearings.

          I also like the idea of adding in the TC storylines to AP! I loved AP’s newer features whereas I kinda of bounced off TC. Perhaps I’m not done with AP yet after all.

          Still, Rebirth first. Got to play the heck out of this. :)

  50. PancakeWizard says:

    Frontier: Elite 2 needs to be in the top 5, and I’d replace TIE Fighter with Xwing vs TIE: Balance of Power (because why settle for one campaign when you can have two?), but otherwise it’s all good.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      The atmosphere of the Tie Fighter campaign however is unbeatable, and the difficulty curve is a bit better, as an introduction to the series and as the breakthrough title for the series it deserved second place IMHO.
      While I personally hate that XvT is often dismissed as a multiplayer-only game which really isn’t (even the base game let you play ALL missions and game modes in single player) and added an additional layer of polish to the gameplay the more drab presentation brings it down a notch, especially regarding the single player campaigns added by the expansions, it would have been nice to have voice acting for all the campaign specific communications like in Tie Fighter.