When you think of the best sci-fi games, what are the first things that pop into your head? Human augmentation? Our extraterrestrial neighbors? How about distant worlds and alternate dimensions? It’s such a broad genre that the list could go on for quite a bit – which really makes building a list of the best science fiction games a little difficult. With a multitude of different subgenres and dozens of games spanning each of those, there is just a lot to choose from.
But I’m a professional. So, I scoured those alien planets and battled through hordes of murder-bots to bring you these sci-fi games you should be playing. Bear in mind that we are only including one game per franchise.
The Best Sci-Fi Games
20. Alien: Isolation
Developer: Creative Assembly
In the year 2122, Ellen Ripley faced off against the galaxy’s greatest threat. Fifteen years later, still on the hunt for her mother, engineer Amanda Ripely inadvertently gets caught in the same struggle. Alien: Isolation is exactly how a video game sequel should be. It takes the source material and fills in gaps that the theatrical series never would.
We’ve known Amanda exists since a deleted scene in Aliens, but Isolation is the first time we got to see her in action. Luckily for us, that action just so happens to include an indestructible xenomorph. Isolation takes horror to a new level with a threat that can follow you just about anywhere. With no weapons capable of bringing the beast down, all Amanda can do is hide – and sometimes that isn’t even enough.
Isolation does Ripley’s movie series proud with plenty of references and a suitable spin-off story that isn’t a mere retread of its predecessor.
19. XCOM 2
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
When extraterrestrials threaten the planet, there is only one organization that can fight back. XCOM 2 pits players in the role of the commander of the titular military organization. Though the aliens have all-but wiped out humanity, XCOM is still functional and finding new and unique ways to fight back. That often means bringing the fight to them.
The turn-based tactical gameplay is some of the most stressful entertainment gaming has to offer. Every move must be calculated to prevent not just failing the mission but also losing any of your squad. XCOM 2 is unforgiving, and the soldiers you’ve spent hours building up can fall in battle, never to be usable again.
It adds an extra layer of thought as you prepare for each fight, research new alien tech, and ally yourself with surviving nations to save Earth once and for all.
18. Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
After opening the Vault in Borderlands, players unknowingly changed the course of Pandora’s existence. Seeing an opportunity to move in and use the newfound material, Eridium, to create a false sense of peace on the hostile planet, Handsome Jack seats himself in a position of power. Though he has remained mostly unopposed, rumors of a larger Vault drew the attention of a whole new band of Vault hunters that will get caught up in the revolution against his tyrannical rule.
As one of these new hunters, players return to Pandora (and other locations) to locate the Vault and bring down Handsome Jack. Borderlands 2 is much like its predecessor but follows the mantra that more is better. In this case, it certainly works.
The new band of hunters differs from those featured in Borderlands, giving players reason to be excited to once again get lost in the chaotic action of Gearbox Software’s FPS.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games
Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesse Faden only wanted to rescue her brother from a mysterious organization known as the Federal Bureau of Control. Unfortunately, the moment she arrives a deadly supernatural force known as the Hiss overtakes the bureau’s headquarters, the Oldest House, and kills its director. Luckily, Jesse has what it takes to take on the role of director, though she does so hesitantly.
Remedy Entertainment once again weaves a tale of mystery, intrigue, and the otherworldly, taking players to the Astral Plane and back. Equipped with the multifaceted Service Weapon, which serves as everything from a simple pistol to a sniper rifle, and her assortment of supernatural powers, Jesse has to restore order in the Oldest House to find her brother.
Control is quite different from Remedy’s other undertakings and allows players to explore the Oldest House in a non-linear fashion. There is a ton of content in Control, and the overall experience is one that’s way too easy to get sucked into.
16. Eve Online
Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games
With Eve Online, players immerse themselves in a space-based MMORPG that sends them across more than 6,000 star systems. The best of the best will dominate the galaxy and become a formidable force in the PvP environment.
Eve Online offers many gameplay elements, from mining to trading to exploration. What you master is 100% up to you, but know that there will always be someone or something trying to take what you’ve found (or stolen). Since 2003, Eve Online has been providing its explorers an expansive universe of places to visit, making it incredibly easy to get sucked in for hours on end.
Eve Online may not have the name power of games like World of Warcraft, but its 500,000 subscribers more than prove that there is enough to draw in a crowd. And as for science fiction? It’s oozing with elements of the genre at every corner.
15. FTL: Faster Than Light
Developer: Subset Games
Publisher: Subset Games
Would you crack under pressure as the commander of the unluckiest spaceship in the galaxy? There’s only one way to find out.
In FTL: Faster Than Light, it never seems like luck is on your side. With a host of unique challenges ready to present themselves at the most inopportune moments, you’ll have to think on-the-fly to find solutions that will keep you and your crew cruising through space. Thankfully, a pause feature allows you to contemplate each choice, which is helpful when permadeath means the literal end of your command.
FTL hinders player progress with a barrage of dilemmas, from incoming enemy fire to faulty mechanics. The only way to survive is to think strategically, effectively command your crew, and distribute resources efficiently.
No two playthroughs are the same as FTL throws new enemies and events at players in randomized galaxy maps to keep them on their toes.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
When talking about Prey, you have to keep in mind that there are two games of the same name, separated by 11 years. Though the 2006 Prey was a surprisingly good game, it was the 2017 sleeper from Arkane Studios that we’re quite smitten with.
When Morgan Yu joins a TranStar research team aboard the Talos I space station, they find themselves battling a deadly foe with some pretty zany abilities. From the smaller Mimic, which is capable of camouflaging into the world by transforming into inanimate objects, to the problematic Technopath, which can manipulate Talos’ tech, the Typhon proves to be quite the pest for Morgan.
However, the alien invaders aren’t the only thing strange about the space station. As Morgan explores Talos I, battling through the Typhon, they uncover the truth behind the research they were intended to take part in.
Prey looks and feels like an Arkane Studios game, and that’s a great compliment. An assortment of abilities and futuristic weapons help Morgan survive, but a run ‘n gun strategy will only get players killed. Every encounter requires strategy and patience, meaning this FPS RPG won’t be for every fan of science fiction.
13. Titanfall 2
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
The original Titanfall presented players with a unique first-person multiplayer shooter, putting high-powered mechs at the forefront of battle. It wasn’t the perfect shooter, and there was plenty for Respawn Entertainment to build upon, which it did in the anticipated sequel.
Gear up and step into the very latest in Titan technology in a fast-paced shooter that spans a thrilling multiplayer and single-player experience. It’s not just about the Titan-on-Titan combat as players start off as pilots equipped with the latest in handheld firepower. When it’s time to amp up the firepower, pilots can call upon titans that crash to the ground, ready for heard-hitting combat.
Each Titan is outfitted with enough firepower to take on opposing pilots – that is until they step into their own oversized mech. Titanfall 2 is all about the adrenaline of the firefight, even during the story-based single-player mode that follows a rifleman and Titan as they attempt to escape enemy clutches.
12. Halo 2
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved was a revolutionary shooter that introduced players to an intergalactic war between humans and the Covenant. Halo 2 continued this conflict, keeping the SPARTAN-II commando, Master Chief, at the center of the action. Rather than ally himself with faceless marines who serve as fodder for the Covenant, Master Chief is joined by a Covenant Elite that’s been shamed for the human successes of Halo.
The two round out a thoroughly enjoyable narrative that builds upon Halo’s lore while retaining much of what players loved about the original. Halo 2 is a fast-paced shooter through and through, thriving not just on a fun story but also a world-class multiplayer that people still rave about today. Whether battling against hordes of Covenant, throwing sticky grenades on the frantic Grunts, or taking on a team of human-controlled SPARTANs, Halo 2 has given us plenty of great gaming memories.
Halo 2 went on to spawn plenty of sequels and spin-offs, but it’s hard to deny that this was the pinnacle of the series and one of the best sci-fi games ever made.
11. Mass Effect 2
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Commander Shepherd and the crew of the Normandy SR-2 return in this successful sequel and are once again faced with a threat that seems bigger than all of them. When human colonies start vanishing across the galaxy, Shepherd and his or her crew set out to uncover who is behind the mysterious disappearances.
Mass Effect 2 expands upon the gameplay concepts of the origins, tightening them up and changing them a bit for a more enjoyable experience. Laden with RPG elements, players choose Shepherd’s class, improve the commander’s abilities, swap out weapons and armor, and decide which crew members join them on combat missions.
While the gameplay is enjoyable, Mass Effect 2 features a story that shines and spans across multiple planetary systems. There’s a lot to enjoy, so long as you take the time to explore the many facets of this sci-fi RPG.
10. Portal 2
Do you love puzzles? Do you like to solve them with friends? How about under the watchful eye of a crazy murderbot that’s hell-bent on forcing you to complete a series of impossible tasks? Well, the acclaimed sequel to Portal has it all.
The original Portal may have introduced players to the quirky world, but the sequel really fleshes out the experience with complex puzzles tucked away within the labs of Aperture Science. GLaDOS returns, and she’s deadlier than before, using everything she can to hinder your progress through the maze of dozens upon dozens of puzzles.
Equipped with the titular portal gun, players must work their way through increasingly difficult puzzles by strategically placing portals. It’s often a game of trial and error as you try to get the game’s impressive physics engine to work in your favor.
Portal 2 features a fantastic multiplayer co-op that will have you arguing with a companion over the best way to complete a puzzle.
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Within the depths of the Atlantic Ocean lies a submerged metropolis intended to serve as an escape from the oppressions of the surface world. Unfortunately, the introduction of a new genetic material known as ADAM pushed the city into a quick decline as its denizens grew insane. Trapped in the decaying world of Rapture, players must navigate a city trapped in time, battling against the demented Splicers and the robotic Big Daddies.
BioShock is a goldmine of science fiction but also crosses into horror territory quite often. Driven mad by their obsession with ADAM, Splicers will kill anything that crosses their path. Even other Splicers. Their fractured minds make them a horrifying and formidable foe. Thankfully, you have your own uses for ADAM and can utilize it, along with plasmids, to augment your body.
Want to shoot a swarm of bees at Rapture’s murderous citizens? There’s a plasmid for that. From electrifying fingers to telekinetic abilities, you’re never without some line of defense against the dangers brewing under the sea.
8. StarCraft II
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Though StarCraft II released in three separate campaigns – Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void – when combined together, the trio makes one action-packed, dramatic story.
Picking up four years after the events of the Brood War expansion, all is not well in the universe. Sarah Kerrigan is still the Queen of Blades, overseeing the Zerg swarm; Jim Raynor has turned on the Dominion and formed a band of revolutionaries; and the Protoss are, well, doing weird Protoss things.
The trio of campaigns all have at least one thing in common – gameplay that is remarkably improved over the original StarCraft. And with a 12-year gap between the two games, that’s to be expected. StarCraft II follows the same RTS setup but gives players control over more at one time, allowing them to mount massive attacks or set up a strong defense.
New units, new locations, and new hero characters provide a much bigger experience than the 1998 RTS. Blizzard’s storytelling is at its peak for Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, though the quality does taper off a little with Legacy of the Void. Regardless, StarCraft II is a mostly consistent RTS that was well worth the wait.
7. Metroid Prime
Developer: Retro Studios
In 1986, Nintendo introduced players to a faceless bounty hunter known as Samus Aran. Over the next 16 years, Samus’ adventures continued across the galaxy, with the bounty hunter taking on extraterrestrial threats of all shapes and sizes in a 2D setting. Come 2002, Samus finally went 3D in Metroid Prime, proving that old dogs certainly can learn new tricks.
Metroid Prime sends Samus across the universe after a chance encounter with a cybernetic version of one of her greatest foes, Ridley. Exploring the Tallon Overworld, the infamous bounty hunter discovers the existence of Metroid Prime, the catalyst of a threat that could spread across the galaxy and put every living thing at risk.
Prime kicked off a continuation of the first Metroid games, making it the first game in over a decade to revisit the original story. Though it was such a remarked separation from the original series, the 3D element certainly worked and resulted in one of the best Metroid games to date.
The Prime series was so revered that fans have been feverishly anticipating the fourth entry, which should arrive this century.
6. Deus Ex
Developer: Ion Storm
Publisher: Square Enix
More than 20 years ago, Ion Storm transported players to a future not too far from now and created one of the best sci-fi games of all time in the process. The dystopian world of 2052 may be on our horizon, but it’s unlikely to feature all the neat cyberpunk elements introduced in Deus Ex.
As JC Denton of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, players engage in gameplay that spans stealth action, role-playing, and adventure. Enhance Denton with unique nanotech abilities to turn him into the agent needed to combat the forces of the Triads, the Illuminati, and Majestic 12.
Future entries of Deus Ex, more specifically Human Revolution, may have more advanced gameplay and better visuals on their side, but the original Deus Ex is a classic. Deep and engaging gameplay works well with the fleshed-out narrative full of conspiracies, deception, and even a trip to Area 51.
5. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
The Star Wars franchise has a complicated relationship with the gaming industry. On the one hand, it’s led to some real duds like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars Kinect. On the other, it’s responsible for masterpiece RPGs like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
BioWare was in peak form when it produced Knights of the Old Republic, which somehow separates itself from the Skywalker timeline to tell a story that, dare I say, was more interesting. In fact, the Skywalker bloodline wasn’t even a blip on the radar, as this RPG takes place 4,000 years before the Galactic Empire is ever formed.
Players jump into the shoes of the main character, whose morals are at the mercy of whoever is manning the controller. A battle between good and evil unravels both across the galaxy and within the protagonist. Which side wins is 100% up to you as Knights of the Old Republic features a Light/Dark Side of the Force morality meter. The more good you do, the more you’ll align with the Jedi. Cut down too many and deceive those around you, and you may just succumb to the power of the Sith.
Though they can play a prominent role, Knights of the Old Republic is about more than just lightsabers and Force powers. It does a fantastic job of showing the diplomacy and implements of the Star Wars universe long before Senator Palpatine ever came into power.
4. Doom (1993)
Developer: id Software
Publisher: id Software
We’re always warned never to tinker with things we don’t understand. If we do, there’s a chance we’ll wind up opening a portal to hell and summoning a horde of ruthless, powerful demons. Unlike in Doom, we won’t have a rugged hero to save us.
The original Doom wasn’t the first FPS game, but it certainly helped revolutionize the genre. Today, it’s a simple but fun concept that really fuels the nostalgia train. When it first released, however, Doom was a technical marvel that provided hours of entertainment and bred years of controversy.
It’s one of few games from the early 90s that isn’t a shock to play today. Though Doomguy can’t look on a vertical plane, the gameplay is so very familiar and smooth. It’s such a good experience that it’s been ported more than a dozen times and saw new content developed by one of the original creators, John Romero, in 2018.
In fact, you could even play Doom within Doom Eternal.
3. Half-Life 2
Whether you understood what happened to Gordon Freeman at the end of Half-Life or not, the sequel is a must-play. Heck, one could argue it’s an essential FPS for any fan of the genre to sink their teeth into.
Though Freeman may think he reversed the effects of the incident at the Black Mesa Research Facility, he returns to a world overrun by an entirely new threat. In Freeman’s absence, the Combine have conquered Earth and placed it under its authoritarian rule. With humanity dwindling in numbers and the multi-dimensional Combine only further threatening life on Earth, Gordon finds himself caught up in a resistance against the oppressors.
It’s definitely not the sequel one could expect after playing through Half-Life, but it is a suitable follow-up that expands upon the lore for a more immersive world. The result is an FPS that players still talk about today. Freeman remains an unlikely hero but holds his own against headcrabs, zombies, the Combine, and other monstrosities that spilled over from across dimensions.
Freeman’s saga isn’t over by the close of Half-Life 2, but Valve has left little to no hope for a conclusion to one of its most popular franchises.
2. System Shock 2
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: Nightdive Studios
Not only did the existence of System Shock 2 give us games like BioShock, Irrational Games’ sci-fi horror FPS stands out on its own as a must-play classic. When System Shock 2 released, it did so to multiple “Game of the Year” awards and praise for truly defining the FPS RPG genre.
After awakening in a cryo-tube, players find themselves aboard a desolate starship, surrounded by infected personnel. Taunted by an artificial intelligence hell-bent on driving you mad, you’ll need to utilize everything at your disposal to survive the horrors aboard the Von Braun. Luckily, that includes an assortment of weapons, abilities, and telekinetic powers.
System Shock 2 features elements of RPG, allowing players to upgrade their character to be the formidable hero needed to survive such a perilous situation. On its surface, System Shock 2 looks like your standard action title, but there are elements that span multiple genres to help create a horror FPS that went down as a cult classic.
1. Dead Space 2
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
In space, no one can hear you running for your life while a deformed monstrosity chases after you. Dead Space 2 took the formula of its predecessor and cranked it up a notch. Everything is in abundance, from the variety of Necromorphs to the tools at returning hero Isaac Clarke’s disposal.
When Clarke awakens on a civilian space station three years after the incident aboard the USG Ishimura, he learns that things are much worse than he could have imagined. Afflicted by the mysterious Marker from the first game, Isaac battles both the organic threat and his own sanity.
The Necromorph may be the stars of the show, but their horrifying presence is amplified by the incredible sound design. Like its predecessor, Dead Space 2 doesn’t have to work hard to terrify players. Even if a Necromorph isn’t barreling down on you, the sporadic hisses, clangs, and other ambient noise will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Everything about Dead Space 2 is an improvement over the original, which was no easy feat for Visceral Games to pull off as they created one of the best sci-fi games of all time and the pinnacle of modern third-person action horror.
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