Space strategy games have remained popular since their earliest inception. The majority of them have tended to be concentrated in the 4x genre but there are notable exceptions such as the Homeworld series or AI War: Fleet Command. Here we’ve compiled a list of some of the best space strategy games for you, featuring a mix of old classics and new hits.
The fictional settings of the games allow for a wide variety of creativity and freedom from the restrictions that historical games must adhere to. Our list of titles offers hours of guaranteed entertainment with each game.
11 Best Space Strategy Games
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
An epic of the RTS genre, Sins of a Solar Empire focuses on three main races, the industrious TEC, alien Vasari, and the psychic Advent. The game is sandbox based, with no campaign present for single or multiplayer. The game incorporates elements from 4x games that add a sense of scale and complexity to the huge 3D environment.
The game’s economy focuses on three main resources. Players can use the black market to convert an excess of one resource into another but abuse of the mechanic will result in a dramatic market shift. Ships are divided by class with each having their own special ability and roles in combat.
The Rebellion expansion is a standalone one that expands on nearly every aspect of the game, adding more variety and depth to what was already a well regarded RTS.
Galactic Civilizations Series
A popular and well-received series of space strategy games, the Galactic Civilizations franchise comprises three games so far. Unusual for the genre, it has an overarching storyline that progresses with the games. It follows humanity from their discovery of FTL travel through to the scramble to colonize planets while vying with other races.
Sequels follow on from this with the usual 4x gameplay being overshadowed by the looming threat of a race of ancient genocidal aliens. It ratchets up the difficulty for players as the usual challenge of expansion and warfare is increased as they must hunt for lost technology and prepare for the return of the Dread Lords.
The creators of Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis take a turn at science fiction in this recent classic. The game boasts galaxies with thousands of planets, unique to each playthrough thanks to procedural generation. Similarly, this allows for an infinite series of races with customisable traits and ethics.
As is to be expected in a Paradox Interactive game, the diplomacy system worthy of an empire building game. Ship design mechanics let the player design their own vessels to accommodate a wide variety of technologies, all researchable. Players are tasked with forging an empire, interacting with alien civilizations, and colonizing distant planets.
Star Ruler Series
The Star Ruler series seems to offer just another run of the mill 4x space strategy game experience. And it is. They’re solid and reliable games that might not be overly spectacular but offer an immersive gaming environment and the vastness we’ve come to associate with the genre. The multiplayer for Star Ruler 2 allows matches with up to 28 players and AI in the same game!
The game is also completely moddable with the gameplay, interface, graphics, and much more, easily alterable through the scripts and data files. It grants extraordinary freedom to the modding community, allowing them to implement any feature they could conceivably imagine.
Classic. Created by the masterminds at Firaxis, Alpha Centauri presents you with a dazzling amount of options from the get-go. The selection of unique factions to choose from, the dazzling alien biosphere, the paths to victory, are all elements that later 4x space strategy games would take to heart. Terraforming, psionic combat, the dreaded mindworms, they all still provoke fond memories in the minds of players today.
Aboard a colonization mission to ‘Planet’, the assassination of the captain prompts the expedition to faction into seven different ideological factions, each with their own agenda for the future of mankind. It varies from the militarists of the Spartan Federation to the ecologist Gaia’s Stepdaughters or the fundamentalist Lord’s Believers. An expansion pack would add seven more.
The popularity of the game is shown that even some 18 years later, patches are still released by fans and it still enjoys a thriving playerbase. Why wouldn’t you try it out?
Endless Space Series
No other game captures the feeling of the space opera genre than Endless Space. Set in the developer’s Endless saga, the game takes place in a galaxy once ruled by the god-like beings known as the Endless. Civilisations now rise amongst their ashes, seeking to claim what knowledge they can from the ancient ruins, eldritch artifacts, and a mysterious substance known as Dust.
The game challenges a player’s skill at exploration, warfare, trade, diplomacy, colonization, and research. The game’s addictive gameplay and beautiful design ensure the player will always be wanting to hang on for just ‘one more turn’.
Homeworld is a game that redefined the strategy genre at the time it came out. Its revolutionary 3D graphics and atmospheric storyline were the exception rather than the rule in game making at the time. It is a delight to have this venerable game remastered so that a new generation of gamers can appreciate its brilliance.
While its achievements might not be as groundbreaking as they once were, Homeworld still boasts gorgeous visuals in this remastered version and the story is just as gripping as it once was, even for those of us revisiting it. With the release of Deserts of Kharak, it’s never been a better time to take the arduous journey to Hiigara. Fans of the series will enjoy our opinion of its sister game here.
Distant Worlds: Universe
At its heart, Distant Worlds: Universe appears to be a simulation albeit one with a strategy game overlayed on top. Much like Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis, it is perfectly possible for the player to sit and watch the game play out with little to no interaction on their part. Spacefaring civilizations will rise and fall, regardless of the player’s input.
The automated system in the game can handle almost everything. It allows the player a chance to focus on their comfort zone, letting the computer worry about the aspects of play that they have no interest in. Each playable entity in the game is a part of a much larger whole. It ditches the micromanagement that is present in many other games so that the player can focus on enjoyment.
Sword of the Stars Series
Sword of the Stars is similar to the Total War series insofar that it combines turn-based strategy with real-time tactical battles. The focus of the series is on multiplayer and fast gameplay which helps it stand out amongst its rivals, most of whom are 4x or grand strategy games. Timers are placed on turns to ensure this.
The base game offers four different races, each with their own unique traits and tech tree. Battles are similar to those of the Homeworld games. Players control the battle on a 2D plane but units will move in 3D. Ships can be computer or player designed with their features and weaponry making a decisive impact in battles.
AI War: Fleet Command
A sleeper hit, AI War is a challenging and innovative game. Set in the aftermath of a war between super intelligent AI and a devastated humanity, the player takes command of humanity’s last fleet and their efforts to destroy the AI’s command centres.
The game has a steep learning curve as the player is constantly outmatched by the AI. The overaggressive expansion will cause more data cores to start up, enhancing the AI’s intelligence and capability. Unlike other space strategy games, the key to success here is to remain under the radar, building up power slowly. The game discourages micromanagement, allowing the player to focus on the big decisions.
The Last Federation
Indulge your good samaritan here as you play a well-meaning alien, last of their species, striving to unite the various other aliens in the hopes of averting all future wars, genocides, or other disasters. Unfortunately, those who refuse to unite will have to be destroyed. The Last Federation is a thrilling take on traditional space strategy games as you can choose to incorporate defeated enemies into your alliance or utterly destroy them. This is another fantastic success from the team behind AI War.