It’s space exploration day! I, for one, adore games that let you explore space in all of its infinite mystery, so today we wanted to count down the best indie space exploration games you can pick up right now. We’ve selected these games based on several factors, including the freedom to explore as you want, immersion and atmosphere, and the impact these games leave on players and the gaming community as a whole. So, let’s discover the final frontier together with our 5 favourite indie space exploration games:
‘You’ve fled your home, only to find yourself lost in space with a damaged ship. Your only option is to beam down to the planet below, repair your ship and set off to explore the universe… In Starbound, you create your own story – there’s no wrong way to play! You may choose to save the universe from the forces that destroyed your home, uncovering greater galactic mysteries in the process, or you may wish to forego a heroic journey entirely in favour of colonising uncharted planets.’
Featuring a vast, procedurally generated universe, this terraria-esque sci-fi title allows you to build bases, discover creatures and play with friends to find hidden treasures. With seven playable races to make your character from, this game might put some players off with its simple appearance, but it’s well worth trying, and really captures the feeling of a vast system to explore.
No man’s sky
‘Inspired by the adventure and imagination that we love from classic science-fiction, No Man’s Sky presents you with a galaxy to explore, filled with unique planets and lifeforms, and constant danger and action. In No Man’s Sky, every star is the light of a distant sun, each orbited by planets filled with life, and you can go to any of them you choose. Fly smoothly from deep space to planetary surfaces, with no loading screens, and no limits. In this infinite procedurally generated universe, you’ll discover places and creatures that no other players have seen before – and perhaps never will again.’
After a rocky launch, No Man’s Sky has slowly become one of the most vast and satisfying titles you can pick up right now, and with it currently available on basically any system this is maybe the most accessible game on the whole list. This all-but infinite game will give you an experience no one else has ever had, literally. This is a great one to play with friends that you can sink hundreds of hours into, and with frequent huge updates there’s plenty of reason to.
DarkTide is a great FPS in a grim place
I’ve spent just over 130 hours hacking and blasting my way through Tertium’s infested corridors and feel qualified to say that…
Defy the Gods as a Witchy Moon Goddess in Hades 2
Greek-mythology-themed roguelike Hades is getting a sequel, but developer Supergiant has kept the details scant beyond a Hades 2 reveal trailer…
Kerbal space program
In the Kerbal Space Program, take charge of the space program for the alien race known as the Kerbals. You have access to an array of parts to assemble a fully-functional spacecraft that flies (or doesn’t) based on realistic aerodynamic and orbital physics. Launch your Kerbal crew into orbit and beyond (while keeping them alive) to explore moons and planets in the Kerbol solar system, constructing bases and space stations to expand the reach of your expedition.’
This one is a little different, instead of being based in some crazy sci-fi setting this is based in a world pretty similar to ours, but instead of humans this world is inhabited by the rabbid-esque Kerbals. You’ll have to try, try, and try again to create a ship that can complete your mission to space. Instead of flying between planets and meeting aliens you’ll be going to the moon, building space stations and just trying not to kill the kerbals.
‘You’re the newest recruit of Outer Wilds Ventures, a fledgling space program searching for answers in a strange, constantly evolving solar system. What lurks in the heart of the ominous Dark Bramble? Who built the alien ruins on the Moon? Can the endless time loop be stopped? Answers await you in the most dangerous reaches of space. The planets of the Outer Wilds are packed with hidden locations that change with the passage of time. Visit an underground city before it’s swallowed by sand, or explore the surface of a planet as it crumbles beneath your feet. Every secret is guarded by hazardous environments and natural catastrophes. Strap on your hiking boots, check your oxygen levels, and get ready to venture into space. Use a variety of unique gadgets to probe your surroundings, track down mysterious signals, decipher ancient alien writing, and roast the perfect marshmallow.’
Outer Wilds is, put simply, one of the best games to have been released in the last decade. It’s a totally unique experience that made me emotional, put me into awe and offered puzzles that gave me a feeling of satisfaction I haven’t felt since Portal 2. Sadly, though, I can’t talk about it! Anything I say about the game could be a spoiler, and this is a game of pure discovery. If you haven’t played this then I implore you to go out right now and dedicate a weekend to it, you will not regret it. Get your brain in gear and get your gear in… brain… just buy it.
‘Elite Dangerous is the definitive massively multiplayer space epic, bringing gaming’s original open world adventure to the modern generation with a connected galaxy, evolving narrative and the entirety of the Milky Way re-created at its full galactic proportions. Starting with only a small starship and a few credits, players do whatever it takes to earn the skill, knowledge, wealth and power to survive in a futuristic cutthroat galaxy and to stand among the ranks of the iconic Elite. In an age of galactic superpowers and interstellar war, every player’s story influences the unique connected gaming experience and handcrafted evolving narrative. Governments fall, battles are lost and won, and humanity’s frontier is reshaped, all by players’ actions.’
Elite: Dangerous isn’t for everyone, but I love it. I’ll often just switch it on and take a basic courier job to do in the background whilst I’m doing other things. One of the best things about the game is that you can play it passively, as I prefer to, or as actively and action-packed as you want. Supported by great sound design and environments this game is well worth your time as long as you know what to expect.
And that’s that, these are some of the best space exploration games you can get right now, exploring a big open space in a ship is one of my favourite things in games and if you’re like me you’ll love these games too. Have a great space exploration day and keep your eyes on the skies. For more of the latest indie game news, reviews and coverage; stay here on Indie Game Fans.
Liked this list? Why not try Josh’s List of 5 Indies that Belong in a Museum or Jamie’s List of 5 Relaxing Indies to Chill With.