Top five space games for 2023

Top five space games for 2023

1. Starfield

It had to be, really. While Starfield may have been the subject of a number of some wildly varying review scores on release, now the dust has settled, it’s pretty clear that this is the space sim to jump into in 2023.

While there’s some debate as to whether Starfield truly counts as a space sim, since, well, there’s not that much flying around in space to be had, it’s clear the spacey set dressing is draped around a very strong game with a lot to explore and plenty of factions to join and — in the finest Bethesda traditions — become the head of, despite some rather dubious qualifications.

Now, there’s some question as to the longevity of Starfield’s appeal, and there are already reports of people dropping the game a lot quicker than they did with stablemates Skyrim and Fallout 4. With that in mind, it may be that Starfield’s star will fade rather a lot quicker than the other entries on this list. However, even if Starfield eventually becomes a memory for most, rather than the ongoing odysseys of Skyrim and Fallout 4, there’s no doubt it’s still the space game of 2023.

Starfield is available on PC and Xbox Series X and S.

2. No Man’s Sky

Time travel back to 2016, and No Man’s Sky was a very different game. The poster child for "overpromise, underdeliver", it seemed as if Hello Games’ magnum opus would instead become its headstone. However, the team didn’t give up on No Man’s Sky, and as a result, this space game has become one of the games of the decade.

While the core gameplay that kicked off the game is still there, so much of the game has been enormously expanded to the point where it’s barely recognisable any more. Base building came fairly early on, joined by pilotable ground vehicles (and even giant robots), and NPC colonies that you could join. Now on its seventh year of support, Hello Games just keep adding more and more to its game, to the point where you could feasibly argue that the game that was promised has finally showed its head.

No matter how you feel about No Man’s Sky, whether you find it boring, or simply don’t jibe with its gameplay, you have to admit that Hello Games’ dedication to making the game they always promised is commendable, especially in an industry where failing games are more likely than not to be dropped with severe repercussions for the developers responsible.

No Man's Sky is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, MacOS, and even iPadOS.

3. Elite: Dangerous

Perhaps the most realistic looking space game out there, Elite: Dangerous is the space game to play if you want something much closer to an accurate simulation of what it would be like to actually fly into space. From the detailed docking manoeuvres, to heat dissipation, to keeping track of your fuel and oxygen, Elite: Dangerous is the game to play if you want the Microsoft Flight Sim approach to flying through space.

You can make a living as a bounty hunter, trader, or any manner of other occupations, but the most daring of pilots should put some time into getting by as an explorer. These pilots jump into unexplored systems and sell map data back to NPCs. But it’s this job that’s the most terrifying element of Elite: Dangerous, as can be evidenced by the many close calls with jumps close to some of the universe’s most dangerous phenomena.

Not one for those with megalophobia or astrophobia, Elite: Dangerous is one of the most stunning space experiences you can go on — especially if you’re able to run it in virtual reality.

Elite: Dangerous is available on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and MacOS.

4. Outer Wilds

Somewhat hampered by releasing way too close to a game with a similar name (The Outer Worlds), Outer Wilds is a genuine classic that passed far too many people by. Essentially a puzzle game draped in a cutesy space sim, you launch into an adventure that’s like nothing else in gaming.

We won’t go too much into detail, as doing so risks ruining one of the best experiences in gaming, but suffice it to say that going in cold is 100% worthwhile. What can we say? Outer Wilds is a first-person exploration game, without any combat, and while there are scary situations, it’s not enough to make it a horror game. Unless, of course, you suffer from astrophobia or megalophobia, in which case this game is utterly terrifying.

Don’t wait any longer: Just play Outer Wilds. You won’t regret it.

Outer Wilds is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S.

5. Kerbal Space Program

Don’t let the cute graphics put you off: If Elite: Dangerous is Microsoft Flight Sim in space, then Kerbal Space Program is nothing less than a rocket physics simulator, wrapped up in an appealing graphical style.

Take your role as the head of the Kerbal Space Program, starting from scratch to send your Kerbal astronauts into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, into orbit, to Mun, and even beyond. You’ll need to gather research for science points as you go, and use them to discover new parts to create craft that can fly even further.

It’s complex, deep, and YouTube tutorials are going to be required for anyone who isn’t already employed at NASA. Do you know what a TWR is? If not, you’re going to need to, and that steep learning curve is one of the reasons you might bounce off this incredible game. But put in the time, and KSP is deeply, deeply rewarding.

Kerbal Space Program is available on PC, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, MacOS, and Linux.