Space, the final frontier and possibly the largest digital setting to ever exist in video game history. With such a vast and infinite playground, war is bound to be more visceral despite the fact that most screams will drown out in the vacuum of the cold void. Even so, many developers have tried to depict the most epic space battles worthy of a John Williams score in their own respective strategy games.
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There have been many of those too. Still, the best ones can likely be counted on one hand. Suffice to say, RTS games set in space are rare. Heck, traditional strategy games are infrequent, to begin with. That's why these kinds of games are always memorable. They are also some of the most ambitious and groundbreaking with some of them staying unparalleled to this day.
Updated on August 26, 2021, by Ritwik Mitra: Space has consistently served as one of the best settings for everything from movies to video games. The vast and unknown expanses of this realm make it a perfect setting for some excellent strategy games that allow players to explore interstellar boundaries and interact with alien civilizations, among a host of other interactions. Players who want to check out the best space strategy games need only check out the following games to find a title that suits their fancy.
Most 4X grand strategy games tend to be rather long and monotonous at times. As a result, most gamers can't really get into these titles unless they're willing to learn about complicated systems and the like.
Slipways manages to avoid this problem by taking away all the busywork attached to these strategy games, resulting in a game that feels like as much of a puzzle title as it is a strategy one. The act of trading resources and helping colonies prosper has never felt better.
14 Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
A space strategy game that has gone under the radar of most gamers, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is the perfect game for players who want a more casual experience as opposed to a complicated one. Engaging in dogfights and exploring the vast reaches of space is surprisingly entertaining.
The game might not be a hardcore simulator, but the simpler nature of this game's mechanics is actually a huge bonus for most players. Getting in and out of games is surprisingly easy, making Rebel Galaxy Outlaw a perfect way to spend some quality time without boggling your mind completely.
One of the deepest and most addictive games on this list, you can't fail to recognize the brilliance of Starsector in a list talking about amazing space strategy games. The game is full to the brim with content and will easily keep players hooked for hours on end.
Managing trade, expanding your fleet, engaging in combat, and maintaining relations with factions are just a few of the many things that can be accomplished. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and players who decide to get into this title will find themselves enjoying one of the more complex yet enjoyable space strategy games of all time.
12 Space Station 13
A space strategy game that can be described as an extremely complicated Among Us, Space Station 13 is one of the best multiplayer games you've probably never played. The game is full to the brim with boundless potential that the player will slowly uncover in each and every game.
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The idea of having to take up tasks in a Space Station and deal with the antagonists that might hinder their progress is a concept most people might already be familiar with. However, it's the manner in which Space Station 13 manages to overcome its genre trappings that makes it such an excellent space strategy game.
11 EVE Online
It would be impossible to talk about popular space strategy games without mentioning the brilliance of EVE Online. This wildly popular title has made headlines for featuring some unbelievable occurrences made possible by the game's complicated economy.
It can be rather hard to wrap your head around, but players who choose to give EVE Online the time it deserves will find themselves enjoying a stellar multiplayer space strategy game that will be hard to get away from. Try not to get too addicted to the mechanics of this title, otherwise, there's no coming back.
10 Sins Of A Solar Empire
It's unusual for a 4x strategy game to also feature real-time gameplay but Sins of a Solar Empire proved just how viable (and chaotic it can be). It's a grand RTS game where you need to manage an intergalactic empire while being a fleet commander all in real-time.
The strategy and outplaying opponents/anticipating moves is what really make @AxieInfinity a fun game And to think… https://t.co/H8IApActlF— therealcabrera.eth | RSS ⟠ Wed Sep 15 03:10:49 +0000 2021
Most games in Sins of a Solar Empire last an average of four hours, so think of these as periodic gaming marathons. The combat is even more stunning with all the three-dimensional controls and maneuvering you have to do.
9 Homeworld Series
Speaking of three-dimensional RTS combat, the Homeworld games are famous for popularizing such a thing in strategy games. Before the series, most warfare was landlocked and units could only move in two planes. Homeworld spiced that up and even made games like Starcraft look primitive.
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Unlike Sins of a Solar Empire, however, the older Homeworld titles focus only on warfare as they're solely RTS games. Even so, at the time of the first game's release, it shook up the RTS genre to the core with how imaginative and unique it was.
8 Battlefleet Gothic: Armada Series
Warhammer 40K just won't let up and, from time to time, releases some marvelous and strong titles. Such was the case for the two Battlefleet Gothic: Armada games. They're practically 40K in space but instead of controlling xenophobic squads, you get to control xenophobic spaceships.
These spaceships are also hulking and unapologetically edgy. As expected, the combat is slower, especially when compared to traditional RTS games, but the personalities of the ships, which are influenced by their factions, are worth the price of admission.
7 Endless Space Series
If you're looking for more ways to interact with xenomorphs and aliens other than exterminating them because they're probably most likely a threat to your race, then the Endless Space games ought to be up your alley. They are 4x strategy games that have tons of victory conditions.
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Endless Space plays out similarly to Sins of a Solar Empire but with less controllable or elaborate battles. Instead, Endless Space puts the focus on faction interactions as each one has its own quirky and special personality. Whether they are annoying enough to warrant a declaration of genocide or not is up to you.
Speaking of genocide, players of Stellaris should be familiar with the notion. It's another 4x strategy game set in space, except the scope is bigger than most titles as the gameplay essentially involves painting the whole playable part of the universe with your faction's color.
The problem with that is it gets a little too cramped later on because other alien factions have the same idea of utopia and peace. Thankfully, Stellaris' combat is more involved and real-time, so enforcing your view of peace on xenomorphs by annihilating them is more visually gratifying here.
5 Galactic Civilizations Series
If real-time action and 4x space mongering are a little too fast for you and you want your decisions to be more calculated, then head on over to the Galactic Civilizations games. At their core, they're turn-based strategy games.
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This is a closer experience to Civilization games as it also uses hexagonal tiles for territorial management. Much like most 4x grand strategies, Galactic Civilization games layout several win conditions for the players so they don't have to resort to something that would have made Gandhi faint.
4 Star Wars: Empire At War
Of course, being set in space and literally having some of the most hypnotizing space battles in cinema, Star Wars had to have its own strategy title. That would be Star Wars: Empire at War and surprisingly, it's one of the few strategy games for a franchise that's more fixated on warrior space monks and their laser swords.
That's why Empire at War is a refreshing change of scenery for Star Wars games. It's an RTS where players can control either the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire in land or space battles. As such, this is like getting two RTS games in one package.
3 FTL: Faster Than Light
Space strategy games mostly stress out players with domain management and empire expansion that they forgot what's actually nerve-wracking in space: the fact that there are only a few sheets of metal between you and an unforgiving void.
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FTL: Faster Than Light explores this idea by letting you manage a spaceship. It's a ship management simulator that also doubles as a strategy game. Players give orders to their crew amidst battle and other space travel predicaments. Oh, it's also a roguelike so do expect to start from the beginning upon failure.
2 Distant Worlds: Universe
One of the most ambitious strategy games set in space, Distant Worlds: Universe stays true to its name and gives players the whole universe as their playground. It's everything a space game can be, a 4x strategy title and ship management simulator that also doubles as an RPG.
When not upgrading their space vessels or forming an armada, players are given the chance to corner the in-game market and economy. Empire management is also a thing but players shouldn't expect to learn everything after a few dozen hours. It's a complicated game.
1 Nexus: The Jupiter Incident
Despite Homeworld's popularity, not many games were able to reproduce the same formula or even attempted to follow suit. Then there's Nexus: The Jupiter Incident; it made a noble attempt and ended up with a commendable result.
It's an RTS through and through, so players only have to worry about managing their ships and making some foresight-fueled maneuvers. The graphics surprisingly hold up well to this day and the game is dirt-cheap. That doesn't mean it's no good though as Nexus: The Jupiter Incident is right up there with Homeworld as one of the foundations of future real-time 4x games in space.
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Sid was born, did some stuff, then decided to become a writer.He finds respite in the sweet embrace of mass media escapism after having risked his life too many times as a journalist covering warzones and depressed areas. Nowadays he mostly risks his bladder as he tries to hold his urine waiting for those precious post-credits scenes at the movies or trying to kill Souls-like bosses. So far it's going well. Probably.