Science fiction is one of the most exciting video game genres. Games in this category immerse us in worlds set dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of years into the future! Playing the best sci-fi games, we can dream about what new technologies humanity may develop and even what bizarre types of alien creatures we might one day encounter.
In celebration of this (inter)stellar genre, we’ve decided to rank the ten best indie sci-fi games of all time! In today’s article, we’ll be going over what makes each of these titles so magical and why you should check them out.
The 10 Best Sci-Fi Indie Games
Without any more delays, let’s kick off our ranking!
First up, we have the game Space Engineers! This is an immersive sandbox game that allows players to construct a huge variety of different objects, from massive space stations to working ships that carry you from planet to planet! This is one of the best sci-fi games that you can play with friends, as the game features built-in multiplayer that lets you explore and conquer planets with other players.
The game takes a bit of influence from Minecraft in the sense that you need to mine and collect various different materials in order to build new stuff. You can harvest minerals from planets as well as asteroids in order to construct things that you will need to survive. There is a survival mode present in the game, which challenges you to gather resources and build things while trying to stay alive.
This is a greate game if you’re the kind of person who loves to build things. With a huge variety of different tools and resources at your disposal, you can make all kinds of cool sci-fi contraptions. The game genuinely makes you feel like an astronaut/engineer. Even though it can feel complicated at times, once you’ve mastered the game’s systems it becomes a really rewarding experience!
Kerbal Space Program
At spot number nine on this list of best indie sci-fi games, we have Kerbal Space Program! This is a humorous physics-based simulation game that tasks you with creating a variety of different vehicles that can be used in space travel. You’ll construct things like rockets that can blast into space, as well as rovers for exploring other planets. All the while, you’ll have to make sure they don’t fall into pieces!
Kerbal Space Program features several missions that offer you special tasks. These tasks can be anything from successfully landing on another planet without crashing, to constructing a working space station. You have a lot of freedom and different tools at your disposal, giving you the opportunity to construct the perfect craft. The physics makes building these contraptions challenging, but very rewarding when done right.
It’s a pretty humorous game that you can sink a lot of hours into and get a lot of fun out of. If you are the kind of person who loves to see how rockets work and you really like games that force you to think, this is the right game for you. And if you’re not so good at making things work, at least you’ll get a few good laughs out of it when your ship comes crashing down!
Next up on our list of best indie sci-fi games, we have the recent indie platforming game Stray! Stray is a cyberpunk game that takes place hundreds of thousands of years into the future after humanity has gone extinct. In it, you play as a stray cat who has gotten separated from her family. Finding herself alone and in a dark and dangerous world, she must now platform, puzzle solve, and fight her way through enemies to get back home.
The gameplay loop is a mixture of exploring dense urban environments, platforming to high-up locations, and solving various puzzles to get around enemies. The game takes full advantage of you being a feline, letting you jump atop air conditioners, countertops, and many other places only a cat could reach. This makes it stand out among the many other platformer games out there.
Stray is an incredibly charming game full of fun and interesting characters (as well as lots of funny and cute moments to break up all the action and horror that is thrown your way). In true feline fashion, you can knock over objects on the counter, trip NPCs into falling flat onto their faces, and you even can curl up into a ball while listening to someone strum their guitar. There’s even a dedicated meow button!
Continuing our ranking of best indie sci-fi games, we have Factorio! This is a beloved indie game made by Wube Software LTD. In the game, you play as an engineer who finds himself stranded and alone on a hostile alien planet. Now, you must build a facility to harvest the local resources to build a rocket ship and escape from a planet full of dangerous alien creatures.
Factorio sees players building a variety of different structures and machines in order to create an efficient factory that makes the most out of the planet’s local resources. You’ll also need to build defenses in order to keep yourself and the factory safe from the alien life that lurks outside your walls. The game can get intense as it tests your ability to strategize and plan things out effectively.
The game is incredibly fun if you love to optimize things. As the game goes on, you’ll need to optimize your factory to make sure it’s running at peak efficiency. I don’t know why, but there’s something really satisfying about building a factory from scratch and learning how to improve and optimize it over time. This game isn’t your traditional colony sim, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Next up we have one of my most favorite games of all time, FTL: Faster Than Light! This is a tactical-RPG set in the middle of a civil war between two factions. You are tasked with delivering an important message to the front lines that could turn the tides in your favor! In order to do that, you must navigate through a dangerous galaxy full of strange aliens, environmental hazards, and much more.
The game sees you take control of your very own ship with a crew. Together, you’ll need to manage your power supply to make sure your weapons and shields are getting what they need. And you’ll need to target and aim these weapons at the right parts of enemy ships in order to take them down effectively, all the while making sure your crew is repairing any damages and putting out any fires that have sprung aboard your ship.
I highly recommend this game if you love sci-fi RPGs. You’ll encounter many sidequests that can be solved in different ways. You’ll also be able to upgrade and customize your ship to your liking, letting you engage in combat in a variety of different builds. With multiple different ships to unlock and choose from, different ways to customize them, as well as plenty of choices to make, there is a lot of replayability here that makes every playthrough different.
Now for our next pick, it’s the popular game Subnautica! This is an open-world survival crafting game set in the depths of an alien ocean. While there are plenty of survival crafting games on the market, none of them are as high quality as Subnautica. The game manages to stay true to what makes a survival crafting game great while managing to put its own spin on things to keep it feeling unique.
After you end up stranded on an alien planet in the middle of the sea, you must dive down into the watery depths to gather resources and build yourself a shelter. From there, you’ll need to continue exploring the sea to gather new resources and find blueprints so you can craft new items. All the while, you’ll have to stay alive and fend off a variety of undersea alien lifeforms!
If you love games like Minecraft that are all about exploring a world and making it your own, then Subnautica is the right game for you. Its base building is incredibly fun and satisfying, and you’re able to construct some really impressive sci-fi structures. The environment is just beautiful to explore, with creative creatures and all the sci-fi staples you could ask for.
No Man’s Sky
For our next pick on this ranking of best indie sci-fi games, we have the game No Man’s Sky! This is another open-world survival crafting game, similar to Subnautica in some ways. But this time, instead of sinking beneath the sea, you’ll be soaring through the stars! This game first came out back in 2016 with little content… but over the years, it’s been regularly updated and now features a HUGE variety of activities to engage with.
Let’s start with the basics. No Man’s Sky is an exploration-heavy game where you explore various planets and moons, scanning the lifeforms you encounter while visiting. You can gather resources on these planets to upgrade your equipment and your ship, as well as build yourself your very own base! While in space, you can do things like trade excess resources and engage in combat with space pirates.
The game offers you a lot of freedom in what you want to do and how you want to engage with its systems. There are some players who just build big bases. And, there are some who love to role-play as traders traveling across the galaxy. The game is set in a near-infinite, procedurally-generated galaxy, offering limitless planets to explore and engage with. It’s perfect for people who wonder how life could evolve on other planets!
Onto our next pick, we have the game RimWorld by Ludeon Studios! It’s a colony sim game set in the distant future, where humanity has colonized the stars. You’ are ‘ve been tasked with the creation of new settlements on a distant world, and you must ensure your colony successfully adapts to its environment. You’ll also need to keep it safe from a huge number of different threats and obstacles.
If you have ever played the game Prison Architect, you’ll notice a lot of similarities here. You start by building out some structures for your colonists. You’ll need to start producing resources in order to keep your colonists alive and ensure they are comfortable. You’ll also have to start developing your tech tree so that you can gain access to brand-new technologies to better your colony.
This is an excellent colony sim with a lot of replayability options, and it places a big emphasis on emergent gameplay. Due to the RNG-based nature of how the game world generates, there are a million different ways your colony could develop. This is a really cool game if you love exploring science fiction that deals with colonizing other planets and seeing how societies could develop outside of Earth.
Taking home the silver medal, we have my favorite horror game of all time, Soma! That’s right — we’re going to be talking about a horror game! This is an excellently made game developed by the same people who brought us Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In this game, after you are finished getting a brain scan, you wake up in a dark and strange facility deep beneath the depths of the ocean. And you’re not alone…
The gameplay is what you’d expect for one of the best indie sci-fi games made by the same people who made Amnesia. You’ll be exploring a dark and scary atmosphere. You’ll encounter notes to read, puzzles to solve, and enemies to run or hide from. The game also deals a lot with transhumanism. More specifically, with the idea of humans using technology to transfer/copy their consciousness over to machines.
It’s hard to discuss the story without spoiling too much. But I will say that there is a psychological horror aspect to this game as well as the traditional horror you normally find in games like this. Soma does an excellent job of explaining its themes and getting players to ask themselves what it means to be human. You should try it if you love the idea of transhumanism as well as the deep philosophy in sci-fi.
And finally, taking place at spot number one on our ranking, we have the indie game Outer Wilds! This is an amazing game that I just can’t seem to shut up about (I’ve mentioned it before in other articles). It’s a space exploration game in which you play as a young astronaut stuck in a time loop! You’ll need to explore your home star system to uncover its mysteries and find a way to stop the loop…
The gameplay sees you piloting a small and maneuverable spacecraft. You can blast off into space and explore any one of the major planets/points of interest in any order you see fit. The game contains environmental puzzles to solve that are completely unique to the planets they are on. You’ll spend much of your time exploring ruins and deciphering ancient text. The game is essentially a space archeologist simulator.
There’s just something really magical and enchanting about this game. Everything from the atmosphere to the music and the way it’s designed creates this sense of wonder and awe. It truly is a masterpiece of a game and one that everyone should play.
Honorable Mention: Disco Elysium
Last on our list of best sci fi indie games, we have Disco Elysium! This is an excellent RPG that takes place in a run-down city dealing with the aftereffects of a siege from many years ago. I’m very hesitant to call this a sci-fi game, but it does have some science-fantasy elements in it. For that reason, as well as the fact that it’s a great game, we’re going to make it an honorable mention.
In it, you play as a detective suffering from amnesia. You are tasked to solve a murder mystery that is plaguing the city, all the while solving a slew of smaller crimes and completing various side quests for the people you encounter. This game is unique in the sense that there is no combat, and it is entirely dialogue-based! This makes it stand out from the overabundance of combat-focused games out there.
Players have a lot of freedom in how they want to approach and solve tasks. You are able to specialize in a variety of different skills that affect how you solve problems and how you converse with other NPCs. This game is really great for those who love a deep narrative with lots and lots of memorable characters to interact with.
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