SF CORE Best Lists
SF ERA Best Lists
SF GENRE Best Lists
OTHER Best Lists

Best Science Fiction Games of All Time

Top Science Fiction Games

Sci-fi is tied deeply into the history of gaming, producing some of the most influential pieces of media ever created. While some prefer to lose themselves in an imitation of real life, and others in a complete fantasy world, science fiction offers a bridge between the two – a look at what could happen in a few hundred years' time, or a poignant exploration of what ifs.

It's no wonder that such a formula has provided the base, time and time again, to some incredible characters and experiences. Finding them amongst the thousands of existing titles can be another challenge, however, and one we hope to solve through this list.

Undoubtedly one of the best games of all time, Valve's original Portal instantly captured the attention of gamers across the world with its innovative mechanics. However, it shone not just in its mechanics, but in its incredible storytelling, and that's where the second title stands even higher.In Portal 2, you play Chell once more, a silent test subject put through various trials by an AI under the control of Aperture Science. This time, however, you're joined by the enigmatic Wheatley, a floating, sarcastic robot. With incredible voice acting from the likes of Stephen Merchant and Ellen McLain, the story of this game unfolds in an organic, interrupted manner as you make your bid for freedom.That journey is characterized by sharp humor, a compelling backstory, and some of the most entertaining puzzle mechanics around. Inside Aperture Laboratories, Valve offers a world so devoid of emotion that the tiniest bit of humanity will stick with you. Portal was short and concise, Portal 2 is much more sprawling, and in that length, more depth is hidden.
There are few things more anticipated than the third installment of this franchise, but I have always been happy to end the series here. Half Life 2 is simply a masterpiece, one of storytelling, gameplay, and atmosphere. Valve has already created two perfect games and trying to peg a third would be pushing it.Thankfully, this second title presents plenty of improvements over the first. Admittedly, it has some toned-down gunplay, but it easily makes up for it with great polish, a thriving mod scene, and memorable companions. Once more, the player is in the shoes of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist who must defend the world from a race of mutants and aliens. This time, however, the game starts in City 17, a dystopia widely different to the modern America from the first game. From there is a twisting story that's punctuated with great voice acting, writing and audio. Your experience is never interrupted by cutscenes, nor is immersion broken for a single second. It's so easy to get lost in the world of Half Life 2, the experience is just as compelling today as it ever was.
This spiritual predecessor to the Bioshock series still manages to captivate gamers with its significant improvements over the first title. It introduces several classic RPG elements with weapon upgrades, stats, and a generally improved combat system.What makes this game so great, however, is the repetition of its selling formula. Set in a semi-cyberpunk world, it tells the story of a soldier, woken early from his cryo-tube. An illegal implant in his head and a bout of amnesia point to something very awry, and you'll be making your way cautiously through the game's chilling environment as you try to discover what happened on the spaceship.It makes for a tense exploration experience, joined by fantastic AI and voice acting, a variety of enemies, and the ability to play the game how you want. You can focus on combat, psychic powers, technology, or stealth. You'll find your heart pounding in your chest as you navigate one of the best survival horror games around.
This game is not just one of the greatest sci-fi games of all time, but one of the best games, period. You're thrown into the cyberpunk world under protagonist JC Denton. Augmented with nano-chips, you must recover the vaccine of a dangerous man-made virus and stop the terrorist organization responsible for its theft. That responsibility leads to a blend of stealth, action, and hacking, making your way through skillfully designed levels in whatever way you please. It has the masterful touch of Warren Spector, known for greats like System Shock, Thief, and more. Great gameplay is nothing without a complimentary story, however, and Deus Ex easily delivers that. It's one of the most multi-layered, twisting stories in gaming, complete with some of the best voice actors and a compelling soundtrack. It would be a terrible shame for any sci-fi fan to miss out on this title.
People will forever argue about the best game in this series, but at its heart Mass Effect is a sci-fi action RPG, and it's in this title that it fully delivers that feeling. Bioware has honed the art design and story while also making combat more entertaining and fast-paced. It's the characters that really populate this game, however, from the genetically perfect Miranda to the ship's captain, Joker, and various alien races. Each crew member you collect throughout the course of the story has their own personality, preferences, and failures, making for an emotional journey and real development. A larger thread pulls it all together, however: a mission to halt a race of malignant AI that is hell-bent on destroying the universe. As Commander Shephard, you are one of the few who can stop that spread, but you'll need your crew beside you. As the invasion reaches a crescendo, so does the story, pulling you into a galactic world of warring nations and cybernetic powers.
On the surface, Fallout isn't a hard sci-fi series. The post-apocalyptic wasteland holds mostly traditional weapons, from pump-action shotguns to baseball bats. It's quickly apparent, however, that the inhabitants of this society have advanced far beyond us. Though Fallout: New Vegas is a close second, it's in Fallout 2 that this really shows. In the year 2241, you inherit an advanced electronic PipBoy from your ancestor and must travel across the wasteland to find the GECK, an all-powerful piece of technology that will cure your town's water shortage. Along the way, you'll accumulate laser weapons and alien blasters, hear of advanced medical procedures and meet sentient robots. In this game, it's up to you how far you want to go down that route, using the SPECIAL stat system to become deadly with a plasma pistol or just smash enemies with a sledgehammer. With a more strategic combat system and a nuanced and original story, this title still manages to compete with the newest in the series.
What isn't to love about DOOM? The original title was one of the grandfathers of the FPS genre, and its successor only brings more accolades for the series.  It has the same great engine, the same classic graphics, but with more monsters, more levels, and a thriving community. There's relatively little story here, only snippets of information as you move through levels. The basics, however, are more than enough to carry you through. Earth has is now inhabited by demons and you, a space marine, are one of the few who can stop them. For newcomers to the series, DOOM II's controls might not be what you expect, but they present an interesting twist on modern shooters. In an incredibly fast-paced environment, players only have to worry about horizontal aiming, lining their gun up with demons as they race through corridors. Along the way, you'll have to pick up keycards, adding a puzzle-like element as you try to navigate your way through confusing facilities. It sounds like a frustrating journey, but thankfully every moment is punctuated with fun. Mowing down hordes of enemies with rocket launchers, machine guns, and shotguns never gets old, nor does the feeling of satisfaction when you finally complete your mission.
Starcraft II became the fastest selling real-time strategy game on its release in 2010, and it's remained immensely popular ever since. It manages to capture the same feeling as the original title whilst revitalizing multiplayer and introducing a great single player campaign. In that campaign, you follow Jim Raynor, a mercenary captain with hundreds of space battles under his belt and an alcohol problem. With humans, Zerg, and Protoss all gearing for war, it's time to lead your Terran forces into battle. If you're at all familiar with the Starcraft series, you'll know what that involves. An intense rush of real-time strategy, ramping production from next to nothing to a huge army, watching as your well-animated forces punish enemies. 27 missions populate the story, but there's room to choose between a much larger pool. As you progress, the missions you follow will impact the story and the scenarios you find yourself in. It's not an easy game, forcing you to really think tactically about each decision, and that's ramped up even further once you move into the competitive scene. Multiplayer battles are always intense, matching you with your equal for a balanced yet challenging experience. There are hundreds of hours to be had working your way up the ladder, and value to find in the community, which, though competitive, has a welcoming attitude.
The first KOTOR game, produced by BioWare, was one of the best in the Star Wars franchise. The second title uses the same great engine but is by a different developer, and with that comes a significant shift in tone. While the first game presents themes from the iconic themes, KOTOR II takes on a much more broody, dark atmosphere. It's in this that you can find one of its main strengths. There isn't a simple line between good and evil, but human characters who have to make hard decisions. Once more, you inhabit the world 4,000 years before the films, but this time it's after the Jedi civil war, with their presence waning and with looking to kill as many as possible. It's your job to stop them, but don't expect any recognition. Jedi's aren't too popular in this world, and the story is more of a personal one than a large-scale galactic war. Though it doesn't quite reach the epic nature of the first game, its narrower focus results in a long-lasting impact.
Every title in this series has been stunning, but none can beat the first for its originality and polish. Bioshock quickly catapulted into success after its release, presenting a fresh steampunk world that was rarely seen in modern games. In this title, you crash land in a terrifying dystopia, an underwater city with genetically modified humans, supernatural powers, and hulking machines. Not for a second is your immersion broken as you explore the strange world in search of answers, but that information isn't easy to come by. You have to fight and sneak your way past hundreds of enemies in a mixture of gunplay and magic, developing your character however you see fit. That combination makes for one of the most entertaining action games ever, but it's the story elements that push the game into legend. Utilizing its detailed world, Bioshock manages to comment on the fears that still exist in society today. The story unfolds to reveal a society run on rampant capitalism, and its message will stay with you beyond its relatively short length.
XCOM was a hard game. Have a squad member die once, and they're gone forever. Make a wrong decision, and the life of the human race could be forfeit. In the second installment, that scenario has already played out. The aliens have won the war, and humans only exist in tiny pockets of resistance. It's no surprise then, that XCOM 2 is even more difficult than its predecessor. The odds are stacked against you from the start, and the introduction of new enemies introduces early mind control mechanics that wreak havoc on an inexperienced team. It feels like a natural progression for the series, and brings more to the turn-based title than improved graphics. Mechanics like procedurally generated maps and objectives lend themselves very well to replayability in this sequel, meaning you can't simply predict what happens. It adds yet more difficulty, but Fireaxis offsets that somewhat with more forgiving extraction mechanics and better progression. Add to that the new classes, and XCOM 2 becomes incredibly fun. It has the same endless customization as the first game, but this time it extends it further, to your ship and weaponry. As you fight your way past aliens, the story of humanity's last stand will slowly unfold, joined by stellar voice acting and animation. However, the real emotion in XCOM is what you add to it – the sentiment you attach to your squad, often named after friends or loved ones. The game lets you build your own subplot, and the power of that can't be understated.
It's been ten years since the original Gears of War launched, and there have been plenty of great sequels in-between. For us, though, nothing matches the first. It just has the cover shooter genre down so well, from the intuitive cover mechanics to the gore splattering kills and satisfying weapons. That's not to say the other titles in the series haven't matched those and even improved it, but it's the complete package that wins it the accolade. Part of that is the story, following the legendary Marcus Fenix as he mows his way through 'Locusts' on the planet Sera. It introduces a tight nit squad in Dom, Baird and Cole, and then on you're carried at breakneck speed through an attempt to map the alien's underground tunnels. It's an action game before a story one, but Gears of War also proves how much you can achieve without exposition. The bonds between the characters grow significantly over the course of the game, providing a feeling of comradery as you chop enemies apart with a chainsaw, and providing a perfect thread into the rest of the series.
The name Sid Meier should be familiar to any fan of strategy. It's his name attached to the immensely popular Civilization series, as well as many great simulation games across the ages. While Civilization is grounded mostly in history, however, Alpha Centauri lets players take to the stars. In many ways, that's its strongest selling point. Without the constraints of real-life events, Alpha Centauri can tell its own story. There's a heavier focus on narrative here, combined with new, alien environments that introduce new mechanics. Crash landing on a possibly habitable planet, seven factions fight for its control, each with part of the wreckage to aid in its development. Choosing between any of those seven, you'll have to build your population and cultivate the tundra you live on. One of the game's core strengths is its terrain mechanics, your civilization impacting the way it develops, and alien flora hampering that process. It's a menacing, hard battle, sometimes providing a greater fight than your enemies. As a result, Alpha Centauri is one of the only Sid Meier games to have the feeling of a living, breathing planet. You can exterminate alien life or live in harmony with it, protect plants or cut them down. Whatever your choice, there's plenty of fun to be had.
It's fair to say that most strategy games take themselves very seriously. There's a tendency to be as historically accurate as possible and give a hard look at the stresses of the setting or period. Then came Red Alert 3, a game that bundles history with sci-fi in a cheesy, humorous experience. Except that's likely an understatement. The title starts, for example, with a live action cutscene, featuring Russian leaders who travel back in time to kill Albert Einstein. The idea is to cripple the allies' technology, but instead, Japan rises. It dominates the world with giant mechs and a huge ground force, having to defend Pearl Harbor from the allies rather than attack it. As the player, you can take the helm of any of those three factions, presenting a different, yet equally hilarious campaign. Though there are no huge differences in mechanics, there's enough diversity in units and gameplay restrictions to provide hours of entertainment. That's only heightened by the game's co-op mode, which was one of the first in the genre. Then there's multiplayer, which is the best in the series. You'll be part of a three-faction land, sea, and air battle, pushing the advantages of your faction to its limits in a well-balanced meta. Advanced casting and spectating features make for a perfect competitive scene, and community support means it's still active nine years later.
It's hard to argue with the pedigree established by Dune. Frank Herbert's influential science fiction novel was followed by a 1984 David Lync movie, and eventually video games too. Unlike some of the more recent movie to game adaptations, however, Dune II is an incredible game, one that gave birth to the real-time strategy genre as we know it. For the first time, Dune II presents mechanics like fog-of-war, resource collection, unit selection, and more. All of it creates the blend of complex and simple elements that are so popular today. Though it's light on the story elements, the game is clearly hosted in Herbert's compelling world, allowing for blood thirsty wars between the noble houses. Complete with tanks, rockets, and a living, malignant planet, there's no end to the harsh yet accurate brutality. It's a simple formula of base-building and domination, with just the right pacing and mechanical introductions to keep the game fresh. The victor will gain control of Arrakis' spice production and control of the planet. Of course, Dune II does show its age in some regards, but it's still surprisingly playable. If you can get over the inability to select multiple units, you'll find an addictive title with superb audio and visual design. More importantly, it'll give an entertaining glimpse into the history of gaming.
This game became an instant cult classic, not just because of the golden era in which it was released, but due to its extremely memorable characters and tight experience. With Beyond Good and Evil, it's clear that Ubisoft went for quality, not length, but it did so inside of a unique world. In this action adventure title, you play as a Jade, a photographer and lighthouse keeper on the planet Hillys, supported by your uncle, a talking pig. Fighting an alien force known as the DomZ, you travel through a world designed by Michel Ancel, creator of the Rayman series. His expertise shows in this title, with textures and models beyond their time and a masterful combination of stealth, puzzles, action, and adventure. However, the writers need just as much credit as Ancel. Beyond Good and Evil will wrap you up completely in its story, a layered conspiracy full of emotion and personality. The exotic and quirky feel of the characters and world never fails to amaze, and with the sequel just announced, now is the perfect time to jump back into it.
The words Metroid Prime should resonate with anyone around for the birth of the GameCube. It's been consistently labeled the console's best title, even among games like Smash Bros. Melee and Animal Crossing. Part of that is thanks to its established pedigree, the brain child of Shigeru Miyamoto, known for Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Mario, and more. However, more credit must be given to Retro Studio's seamless transition into 3D. The team built a beautiful world, with great textures, lighting, and shadows, all at sixty frames per second. It does away with the closed levels of the time and presents a fantastic open world experience, driven by adventure and exploration as much as story combat. Despite this, the plot does do justice to the Metroid franchise. It begins where the previous title left off, in the shoes of bounty hunter Samus Aran on her ship Talon IV as she tries to put an end to Zebesian space pirates. It's an action-based quest, with the opportunity to use classic Metroid weapons like the power, ice and plasma beams. Despite this, the title is punctuated with puzzle elements. You'll discover items as the game progresses, and then piece them and the story together. It's not a combination you would expect to work, but Miyamoto's expertise shines through, creating a title that will always have a place in gamer's hearts.
In a lot of ways, EVE Online is more than just a game. The fact that's it's still going strong 14 years later is impressive enough, but it's the community of the title that's truly mind blowing. In essence, it's an open-world space sandbox. It features a lot of repetitive gameplay, grinding for resources, and traveling within a massive solar system. Once you introduce EVE's MMORPG elements, though, it becomes something special. In this game, pretty much everything is driven by player interaction. Trade, politics, manufacturing, piracy, and espionage. All are possible within the title's massive world, but it isn't always easy going. Human nature shines through, resulting in many player created factions all battling for fame and resources. Users look to scam, exploit, control the economy, crush smaller ones. It's a micro simulation of what life in space could be like.As a result, EVE is a very long-winded game. It's one of slow building resources and tactics rather than constant large-scale battles. It's as much an exercise in patience as it is skill, building up your group until you have the members to make a real impact on the world. At the start, it's certainly not for everyone, but when the game lures you into its community, there endless hours of fun to be had, the single server experience resulting in a truly epic scale.
The Halo franchise today is intertwined with Xbox, but it wasn't always that way. The series started its life across the platforms, and some will argue that's where it was at its best. The FPS puts you in the body of the Master Chief, an enigmatic warrior defending against an alien race known as The Covenant. They're trying to get hold of a powerful artifact on the ring-shaped planet of Halo, and you must stop them or humankind will face dire consequences. It's a compelling story, made better by excellent sound design and voice acting, as well as some well-polished mechanics. For its time, enemy AI is exceptional, not just running at players but employing more tactical approaches to keep things interesting. That intelligence expands to your comrades on this journey, who will make themselves useful instead of just acting as cannon fodder. However, nothing beats having another person at your side, and it's in multiplayer that Halo really comes into its own. You can play through the entire campaign with a friend, and after that, join online matchmaking. Halo is one of the best-balanced games in the genre, cutting out a lot of noise and progression and adding value through things like weapon pickups and well-designed maps. Even today, you can grab a copy of Halo and play online, giving way to hours and hours of entertainment.
This sci-fi survival horror title comes from Frictional Games, an expert on the genre thanks to its work on Amnesia. Like that revolutionary title, you start with very little information, inhabiting the body of Simon Jarret as he explores an abandoned science facility. Unsure why you there and where exactly it is, clues are found in purely through exploration. Unfortunately, that's also what provides the horror, discovering flashbacks from corpses and a slowly unfolding sense of dread. Throughout its length, the game brings reality itself into question, as well as exploring important ethical and philosophical themes with a dark humor. However, at times that slow build gives way to moments of terror. Monsters will chase you through the dark corridors of the facility, and with no weapons or tools to defend yourself, the only escape is to run deeper. It creates breath-taking tension that's only offset by the beauty and complexity of SOMA's environments.
This more recent title came as a very pleasant surprise upon its release. E3 revealed an extremely ambitious project that gamers weren't sure if Guerrilla Games could execute. It's Killzone series, while popular, never quite had the depth people were looking for. Horizon: Zero Dawn changed that completely, offering a near-perfect title in a stunning world, addressing some of the most prevalent issues in society. Though its core concept sounds crazy – a world under threat by robot dinosaurs – the dev team has pulled it off in a way that's flawless and compelling. In this title, you play Aloy, an outcast from one of the few tribes remaining on the planet. There's a sense of isolation within the huge landscape, much of the world made uninhabitable by the threat of AI. However, the game is as much a mystery as it is a sci-fi game or an RPG. The story is driven by both your and Aloy's desire to know how exactly the world got this way and uncover the story of her origins. That journey is scattered with enjoyable yet punishing combat, big enemies often requiring stealth and tactics to take down rather than pure reflexes. Your weaponry is a bit of a contrast, consisting of bows, slingshots and spears with a sci-fi twist. All of them are executed with grace, however, creating one of the most satisfying combat systems in recent times, and feeling of fluidity that's rarely reached. Combine that with the game's amazing facial expressions and moving soundtrack, and you'll discover a game that delivers way more than its wacky premise suggests.
Star Wars has inspired countless video games, but so far nothing has been able to beat the Battlefront series. While it's a difficult pick between the first and second games, the latter edges just ahead for us today. Its closer attention to single player, especially, makes it a more enjoyable experience now that vanilla multiplayer is gone. That plot takes the form of an autobiography of sorts. Rise of the Republic details the story of a clone trooper in the 501st, a unit that eventually became Darth Vader's Stormtroopers. Through him you experience the rebellion, transforming from a force of good to one of evil. It's joined by a turn-based galactic conquest mode, offering less story but a more strategic experience and plenty of large battles. It's in those battles that you'll have the most fun, both in single player, and online, which is still possible using third-party tools. Battlefront II introduces a ton of vehicles and lets you play as Jedi or Sith heroes for the first time. The maps are well-designed, the game is mostly well-balanced, and huge space battles gives the truly epic feeling of the Star Wars universe. Fan of the franchise or not, there's plenty of value to be found in this title.
It's hard to believe that this game launched almost ten years ago. Despite its age, Crysis still looks incredible, with a well-designed environment and textures, models and lighting that almost rival today's games. That does wonders for its immersion, but it's Crytek's incorporation of story that made it special at the time. Crysis follows nano suit soldier Jake Dunn as he fights his way past both North Koreans and aliens in the Lingshan Islands of the East Philippines. Joined by the U.S. Raptor Team, you're tasked with evacuating a team of archaeologists and the world-chancing information they've found. It's a complex, arching story, made better by great voice acting and powerful antagonists. Between story elements, players fight through various levels, and Crysis is no less revolutionary in its gameplay. Using the nano suit, you can give Jake a temporary boost to strength, invisibility, armor or speed, introducing various play style and forcing you to think about the best setting for each scenario. He's joined by plenty of different weapons, each of which can be customized with attachments, scopes, and camo. Despite its linear and level-based nature, the game gives you a great amount of freedom, and that's only furthered by the game's two multiplayer modes, which are still playable thanks to third party support.
Quake forever changed the FPS genre, and for that alone it deserves a place on this list. Thankfully, it's not just a nostalgia trip. Even today it's a great game, bringing an extremely polished experience that many of its successors have failed to reach. Its gothic occult theme is well-crafted; its soundtrack is incredible, and its gameplay is the perfect amount of challenge. With all of those accolades and the constraints of the time, you wouldn't expect Quake to have an incredibly complex story, and that's partly the case. The plot follows a protagonist known as Ranger, sent through a 'Slipgate' portal to defeat an enemy known as Quake. He's the sole survivor of humanity's counter attack, and must make his way through other dimensions to collect runes and stop the enemy. That's pretty much all there is to it, but it's also all you need. The experience is split into four intense episodes, each with up to eight levels and a fast-paced style. Developed by id Software, it's a successor of sorts to DOOM, and that means a lot of collecting keys and navigating through maze-like corridors to progress the story. You'll also run into your fair share of monsters, which require fast reflexes and aiming in all directions, rather than just the horizontal axis. Finish the relatively short single player and there's even more value. Intense player versus player battles featured mechanics like strafe jumping, rocket jumping, and more for the first time, and was one of the first to become an e-sport. Whether you're playing it to get a piece of gaming history, or competitively, Quake continues to be a joy to play.
This first-person stealth-action title delivers an effective story that exceeds its source material. Acting as a prequel to the film of the same name, it features incredible voice acting from the likes of Vin Diesel and other all-star cast members. In Riddick, Diesel presents the perfect anti-hero, killing without thought yet remaining human and likable. It a formula that worked in the film, but this time around, Riddick is stuck in the prison of Butcher Bay. With open-world and sandbox games lauded as some of the best games in current gaming, you could see that small area as a disadvantage. In truth, though, Starbreeze Studio's good level design never makes it feel like a chore. Use of lighting and Riddick's supernatural eyesight give the game real character, while variance between exploration, shooting, and stealth never fail to keep things fresh. At the start of the game, however, you're far from a master of your domain. As a prequel, this is a tale of growth, and you'll have to the dirty work of various prison gangs before you can get their aid in your escape. It's there that the real tension begins, employing the aid of some memorable characters to fight your way through to the space port and remain undetected when necessary.