10 best games to play in honor of Space Exploration Day

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A new NPC: Ana Bray in Destiny 2: Warmind expansion. Image via Bungie and Activision

Space Exploration Day is July 20th and what better way to celebrate than to virtually explore the cosmos yourself? Read on for 10 space-themed video games.

Humans have been dreaming about exploring the cosmos for some time now and while we’ve been able to travel to the moon, send out probes to explore our solar system, and use powerful telescopes to get a glimpse of distant galaxies, we haven’t yet been able to get there ourselves. Science fiction movies can take us there visually, but video games allow us to create our own stories. Here’s a list of 10 games across all genres that take place in space.

1. No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky got a lot of criticism after it released back in 2016, as it delivered less than what developers promised and players were expecting. The good news is that the developers at Hello Games have continually released free updates to the procedurally generated space exploration game that have significantly changed and expanded the game, including the upcoming Next expansion which adds full multiplayer.

A true space exploration game, players wake to find themselves crash-landed on a planet. You’ll have to gather resources to repair your ship and survive the sometimes harsh environments. Once your ship is repaired what you choose to do next is up to you. You can continue to explore planets, logging and discovering plants and animals, or you can journey to the center of the universe, or you can follow the mysterious call of the Atlus. Either way, there’s an abundance of things to do from gathering and selling resources, learning alien languages, upgrading or buying better ships, collecting bounties on space pirates, getting into dogfights, building bases of operations, and more.

2. Destiny 2

Destiny 2 is Bungie’s MMO space opera that has a little something for everyone. With a stronger story campaign than the first Destiny, players can run through the game solo or with friends fighting the various computer-controlled aliens. There’s standard story missions, weekly quests, Strikes and Raids (team missions with powerful bosses), optional PvE events that occur on the maps that anyone can join, and of course PvP arenas. Additionally, there are often special events, particularly around holidays.

The next expansion for Destiny 2, Foresaken, comes out on September 4th and adds new areas to explore, new super moves, new enemies, new weapons and gear, and even a new game-mode that’s a mix between PvP and PvE called Gambit.

3. Mass Effect

The Mass Effect series by Bioware, the same people who created the popular DragonAge series, is often described as DragonAge but in space. While Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fourth in the series, was criticized by long-time fans of the series, it might be a good starting point for newcomers. This action RPG will take players across galaxies in a quest to find humanity a new home. There are worlds to explore, dangerous alien enemies to defeat, choices to be made, and a multiplayer mode.

4. Star Wars Battlefront II

If popular culture is more your thing, or if you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan, check out Star Wars Battlefront II. This FPS improves on the first Battlefront with an amazing story campaign that bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. You’ll get to play as new characters as well as older fan-favorites in both the campaign and the multiplayer. There are multiple game modes for multiplayer including PvP ground battles, PvP dogfights in space, PvE challenges, and more.

5. Dead Space

If the horror genre is more your thing, check out the Dead Space series. You’ll play as an engineer aboard a mining starship that gets attacked by an alien lifeform that has killed the crew and reanimated their corpses. Using an over-the-shoulder view, the game is unique in that it has no HUD but instead shows vitals with lights on the outside of your suit. You’ll use modified mining equipment as most of your weapons as you fight to survive and unravel the mystery of what happened to the people aboard the mining ship.