The Best Space Games on PC

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Space, it's the final frontier. But it can also be the first level. For decades, games have been fascinated by its endless expanses. Some are interested in exploring, colonizing, and controlling space, while others try to recreate the historical experience of the moon landing.

From fantastical to highly realistic, space games are more popular than ever on PC. Whether you want to go to Venus or simply shoot up some enemy crafts, here are the best space games you can try out on PC to date, across generations and galaxies.

Orbiter

Orbiter is a realistic space sim video game that emulates historic (and futuristic) space launches.
Image via Martin Schweiger
At a glance
  • Genre: Space simulator
  • Developer: Martin Schweiger
  • Platforms: PC
  • Original Release Date: October 2000
  • Price: Free
  • Where to Download: Official website

If you're looking for a space game that makes you feel like you're piloting a lunar module, Orbiter is a must-have. Designed by computer scientist Martin Schweiger, Orbiter bills itself as "a real-time 3D space flight simulator." Orbiter relies on advanced physics calculations that mirror real-life space travel, so you'll need to pilot your ship like a real astronaut if you want to successfully enter orbit and return home.

The game lets players recreate such historical scenarios as Apollo 11, the Mercury program, or the Discovery Space Shuttle docking with the International Space Station, to name a few. Alternatively, you can even fly around in near-future technology that hasn't even been designed yet. Orbiter is completely free to play, and the game supports free mods too. We recommend David Courtney's 43-part Absolute Beginner Guide.

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program is an incredible space simulator that lets players mess around with their very own space program.
Image via Private Division
At a glance
  • Genre: Space simulator
  • Developer: Squad
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
  • Original Release Date: April 27, 2015
  • Price: $39.99
  • Where to Buy: Steam

Don't let Kerbal Space Program's googly-eyed gremlin-like Kerbals fool you. This game is an incredibly realistic space simulator that's perfect for any gamer that wants to create their own Apollo project, explore the galaxy, or watch their attempted missions burn up before leaving the atmosphere.

Kerbal Space Program lets players manage their own space program for the Kerbals species. Players can orbit around the Kerbals' home planet, visit faraway moons, or simply mess around in space with wacky designs. Kerbal Space Program even lets players create their own satellites, space stations, starships, and space colonies, expanding the player's space program along the way. The possibilities are endless with this sandbox game, making Kerbal Space Program a must.

EVE Online

EVE Online is one of the world's most famous MMORPGs to date.
Image via CCP
At a glance
  • Genre: Space MMORPG
  • Developer: CCP
  • Platforms: PC and Mac
  • Original Release Date: May 6, 2003
  • Price: Free with subscription plan available
  • Where to Download: Steam

EVE Online is legendary, and not just because it's one of the best free-to-play PC games available to date. In EVE Online, empires are forged, alliances are made, enormous spaceship battles are fought, and hundreds upon hundreds of spreadsheets are managed.

In EVE Online, players enter an open-world MMORPG where they can own their own spaceships and forge their own path. Rob cargo ships as a bandit, set up your own trading empire, join a much larger alliance, or simply explore the galaxy and do as you please. The choice is yours in EVE Online. Just remember not to step on any toes in the process.

If you're interested in getting started, EVE Online is completely free to try out online, although interested players that want to unlock more features can also pick up a subscription plan that ranges from $14.99 per month to a yearly plan at just $10.95 per month. For more information, visit EVE Online's Steam page.

FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light is a challenging and incredibly addicting spaceship simulator.
Image via Subset Games
At a glance
  • Genre: "Spaceship simulator rogue-like"
  • Developer: Subset Games
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, and Linux
  • Original Release Date: Sept. 14, 2012
  • Price: $9.99
  • Where to Buy: Steam

FTL: Faster Than Light is a challenging little space disaster, but incredibly rewarding. You lead your very own spaceship across a randomly generated galaxy filled with random encounters. You're going to die a lot when you first boot this game up. All it takes is just a few mistakes to lose your ship and crew to the galaxy's nefarious enemies.

FTL: Faster Than Light describes itself as a "spaceship simulator rogue-like," and there's some truth to that description. As players travel through the galaxy, they pilot their own ship and manage its crew, engaging in combat and exploring quests along the way. The game features a permadeath system, so once your ship is gone, your progress is space junk too. If that sounds like the sort of crew and ship management experience you've been looking for, then give FTL a shot.

Star Wars: X-Wing

Star Wars: X-Wing remains one of the best Star Wars space flight simulator games to date.
Image via LucasArts
At a glance
  • Genre: Star Wars space combat simulator
  • Developer: LucasArts
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, and Linux
  • Original Release Date: February 1993
  • Price: $9.99
  • Where to Buy: Steam or GOG

Admit it, every Star Wars fan has dreamed of flying an X-Wing. While a couple games have accurately replicated the experience before, like Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and Star Wars Battlefront II, none can compare to the original Star Wars: X-Wing released for PC and Mac back in 1993.

In X-Wing, players take control of various Rebel Alliance pilots in over 100 missions, fighting back against the Galactic Empire and even initiating a run on the Death Star. X-Wing lets players experience the Star Wars world before and during the beginning of the original trilogy (pre-Disney canon), mirroring iconic campaigns such as the Battle of Yavin. While X-Wing definitely shows its age over 20 years later, it's still a classic.

Mass Effect

Bioware's Mass Effect series remains one of the best space games to date so far.
Image via EA
At a glance
  • Genre: RPG
  • Developer: Bioware
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Original Release Date: Nov. 20, 2007
  • Price: $19.99
  • Where to Buy: Steam

Space games come and go, but Mass Effect is for the ages. The space opera series put Bioware on the map and renewed interest in complex, immersive, and epic narrative-driven RPGs.

In the original Mass Effect trilogy, players star as Commander Shepard, a Systems Alliance N7 officer who serves as a Spectre agent for the Milky Way's Citadel Council. The series follows Shepard as they lead their crew members in an ongoing mission to protect the galaxy from the Reapers, a powerful synthetic race.

The original Mass Effect trilogy stands out years later thanks to its rich characters, immersive world, and memorable Paragon/Renegade morality system, letting players truly create their own Commander Shepard unique to their playthrough. We recommend starting with the original Mass Effect, which can be purchased on Steam for just $19.99 these days.

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