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10 Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs

We’re back again with some new tabletop roleplaying game recommendations! We’ve covered horror and superheroes before, but now it’s time to get technical. We’re talking about the best sci-fi tabletop RPGs! Science fiction roleplaying games are a very popular genre of TTRPG where players can step into worlds both familiar and alien alike. Explore the deepest pockets of space or upgrade your physical form right here on Earth. There are plenty of ways to play, and we’ve got our favorites right here.

Let’s get started!

What Qualifies as a Sci-Fi TTRPG?

The first question we need to answer is what exactly counts as science fiction.

The short answer is that the setting, mechanics, and abilities within the system are based on things that could (maybe) actually happen in real life. Essentially, the logic of the world is at least somewhat grounded in science. Which also means that the supernatural doesn’t really exist. 

There are some exceptions, of course, but science fiction is generally about exploring worlds — even our own — that are hypothetically within the realm of possibility. Not so much about blasting enemies with magic fireballs. (You might find that in the closely related realm of science fantasy, though). 

Common elements of sci-fi TTRPGs include but are not limited to: space travel/exploration, technological advancements, and cybernetic augmentation, among many, many others. Sci-fi games may take place in pretty much any time, whether that be in the past, present, or distant future. 

Usually, technology and space are the features that bind the genre together. 

10 Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs, Ranked in No Particular Order

First off, this isn’t a ranked list. Each TTRPG included here has its own strengths and weaknesses that will appeal to everyone differently. If we were to make a ranked list, our number one pick would probably be different from yours, anyway. 

Each game is worth playing and will give you a wildly different experience no matter what you’re looking for. Whether it’s something dark and gritty that focuses solely on space travel, or something a bit more light-hearted like solving hometown mysteries. 

Regardless of which game you play, you’ll probably want to set aside at least 2–4 hours per game session. You will also want somewhere between 3–5 players to get the fullest experience, too. Of course, the great thing about tabletop games is that you can adjust them to suit your needs. Whether that means shorter or longer sessions, groups, or entirely different rules.

Now, let’s get into the list of the 10 best sci-fi TTRPGs!

1/10

Alien: The RPG (Best for Horror fans)

Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs | Alien: The RPG
“The 2180s are a dangerous time to be alive.” | Image: Free League Publishing via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Free League Publishing
  • System: Year Zero Engine
  • Buy It: Amazon

Kicking off the list of the best sci-fi tabletop RPGs is a familiar title to fans of our best horror TTRPGs roundup. Alien: The RPG is a fantastic game that blends the perfect amount of horror and sci-fi elements.

A unique thing about this particular TTRPG is that there are two different game modes, which can dramatically change the way you play. Cinematic play lets you run through premade scenarios and get right into the action without any preamble. Campaign play, on the other hand, lets your group do their own thing and progress as they please, making up your own script as you go along.

By the way, games with their own movie franchise also make it pretty easy to pick up and feel immersed in the world with minimal GM guidance. Whether you actually follow the movies’ plots or not is entirely up to the GM. Your table may decide to help Ripley on her adventures, or go an entirely different route to face the nefarious Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Because even in space, Capitalism is the worst monster of all.

2/10

Star Trek Adventures (Best for Space Travel)

Star Trek Adventures
“Your continuing mission… to boldly go where no one has gone before…” | Image: Modiphius Entertainment via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Modiphius Entertainment
  • System: CODA
  • Buy It: Amazon

You can’t talk about science fiction without at least mentioning Star Trek. It’s a staple of the genre and makes for one heck of a good game… The hardcore Trekkies may want to sit this one out, though.

Star Trek Adventures is based on the Star Trek universe (surprise surprise). It is an older game, though, so as the property has evolved, the game materials haven’t always kept up with the times. That mostly means some of the game’s books differ from the official Star Trek canon. While that’s not really a problem for Game Masters writing their own campaign, some details may stick out to the die hard fans out there.

Still, what true fan of science fiction hasn’t at least once imagined what it would be like to walk aboard a ship like the USS Enterprise? So for your next game night, find your crew and boldly go where no one has gone before.

3/10

Tales from the Loop (Most Nostalgic)

Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs | Tales from the Loop
“The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.” | Image: Free League Publishing via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Free League Publishing
  • System: Year Zero Engine
  • Buy It: Amazon

The best way to describe Tales from the Loop is like if Stranger Things was mashed up with Scooby Doo. Fans of the book Meddling Kids will know what we’re talking about!

The game revolves around a small countryside town which just so happens to be right next to the world’s biggest particle accelerator. Known as “The Loop,” the particle accelerator seems to be doing more than just advancing our understanding of science and physics. 

Players take on the role of teenagers in town, running around solving mysteries that all seem to be connected to The Loop. Character classes are based on common teenage stereotypes, like the “Bookworm,” the “Weirdo,” and the “Troublemaker.” From unnatural phenomena to strange creatures that shouldn’t exist, there’s a lot going on in this supposedly sleepy down. 

As some extra flavor, your group can decide whether to keep the original Swedish setting or switch to the adapted American one. Either way, Tales from the Loop is full of potential and we highly recommend it. 

To prep your table before actually beginning the game, you can even watch the Amazon series. It’s just eight episodes and will help you get a feel for the setting and world building without all the reading.

4/10

Shadowrun (Best for Science Fantasy Fans)

Shadowrun
“Risk it all.” | Image: Catalyst Game Labs via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
  • System: Shadowrun System
  • Buy It: DriveThru RPG

Players looking for a game to keep them on the edge of their seat will definitely want to pick up Shadowrun. This is one of those games that blurs the lines between science fiction and fantasy but it’s too good not to include in our list. Magic may be real, yes but there’s a lot of focus on dark urban elements and cybernetics too.

The world of Shadowrun explores a dark future where our world is irrevocably changed by the sudden emergence of magic. Dragons take on human form while many of the real humans have been genetically twisted into trolls, orks, elves, and more. The one recognizable feature amidst all the chaos? Corporate greed. 

There is unlimited potential for corruption, horror, and conspiracy in this love child between H.P. Lovecraft and the cyberpunk genre. You’ll definitely want to give it a try at your next tabletop night.

5/10

Starfinder (Best RPG from an Expansion)

Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs | Starfinder
“Shoot for the Stars!” | Image: Paizo Inc. via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Paizo Inc.
  • System: d20 System
  • Buy It: Amazon

This is another one that blurs the lines between science fiction and science fantasy, but it’s also a powerhouse in the realm of sci-fi RPGs. Starfinder was originally released as a supplement to the wildly popular Pathfinder RPG, and is set in the same universe, though Starfinder is set in a distant future after Golarion has mysteriously vanished. The history of Pathfinder’s homeworld has also disappeared, and it’s up to the Starfinder Society to track down any information that may be related to its disappearance. 

Of course, while Starfinder is pretty similar to Pathfinder, it also has plenty of its own unique characteristics. Starfinder takes place mostly in space, which also means plenty of new rules about space combat, faster-than-light travel, and spaceships. 

Aside from the incredible space mechanics, the cool thing about Starfinder is that a lot of its content is highly compatible with Pathfinder. Character races, mechanics, enemies, etc. can all be used for either game with some minor tweaking. Which can help a lot for GMs who want to tap into the countless Pathfinder resources out there, too.

6/10

Scum and Villainy (Best for Rogues)

Scum and Villainy
“May your ship fly true, and may your blasters never jam.” | Image: Evil Hat Productions via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Evil Hat Productions
  • System: Forged in the Dark/Blades in the Dark
  • Buy it: Amazon

Ever wanted to be part of a group of ragtag space pirates? Scum and Villainy might just be the game for you then! What makes Scum and Villainy stand out from other games is that it’s all about playing criminals. Whether you’ve got a heart of gold or been corrupted to the core with greed, you’ve managed to get on the wrong side of the law. Players will have to learn how to make a dishonest living hiding in back alleys and staying two steps ahead of the Galactic Hegemony.

This is a great game for fans of franchises like Firefly, as it’s one of the few notable space western RPGs out there. As players advance, they’ll be able to gain fame across the galaxy and upgrade their ship alongside their characters. 

Scum and Villainy is a highly story driven game that has limitless potential for criminal shenanigans. Which makes it perfect for everyone. 

7/10

Traveller (Best Sandbox RPG)

Traveller
“Welcome to the Far Future.” | Image: Mongoose Publishing via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
  • System: GURPS, d20, and more
  • Buy It: Amazon

The next title on our list of the best sci-fi tabletop RPGs is one of the first big TTRPGs to be all about space travel. Traveller makes the whole universe your oyster!

Whether you decide to forge your own path in completely uncharted territory or stick to the known regions of space, there is plenty to do. There are dozens of premade adventures waiting for you, and each will help you create a vivid story set in all sorts of amazing worlds. There is some canon for your group to play with if you want, or you’re free to go your own way without sticking to anyone else’s script. 

The really cool thing is that the game also has multiple editions that are tweaked to fit with different gaming systems. So if you’re more familiar with d20 over GURPS or you’d like to give the Hero System a spin, you’ll be able to find a rulebook for it. Which also makes it very friendly to players wanting to branch out from other RPGs. 

8/10

Cyberpunk RED (Best for Cybernetic Mechanics) 

Cyberpunk RED
“Welcome to the Dark Future.” | Image: R. Talsorian Games via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: R. Talsorian Games
  • System: Interlock
  • Buy It: DriveThru RPG

Cyberpunk 2077 may have gotten some “mixed” reviews, but we promise Cyberpunk RED more than deserves its place among the best sci-fi RPGs. 

There are multiple editions of the Cyberpunk RPG, but the most popular tend to be the second and fourth editions, Cyberpunk 2020 and Cyberpunk RED. Each edition of the game updates the setting and timeline of the Cyberpunk universe to keep things refreshed. The first edition of the game took place in 2013, which would certainly feel out of date in the year 2023. 

Cyberpunk RED takes place in 2045 in a world that was similar to ours until about 1990. Conflict and economic failures created a rise of megacorporations, not to mention numerous natural disasters and much more rapid technological advancements than our world. Even in 2045, the world is rife with conflict, from gang warfare to corporate rivalries and (of course) nefarious political schemes.

While Cyberpunk RED may not be a rowdy space adventure, it’s still definitely worth a play. It has its own unique charms and plenty of really cool rules about cybernetics.

9/10

Numenera (Richest New Story)

Numenera
“All glory to the originators of truth and understanding.” | Image: Monte Cook Games via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Monte Cook Games
  • System: Cypher System
  • Buy It: Amazon

Numenera is a game set in a post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-apocalyptic world. (That’s eight post-s). Technically, it’s set one billion years in the future after the rise and fall of eight prior civilizations. Each may or may not have fallen to an apocalypse. The only thing we know for sure is that they are gone and this is the Ninth World. 

Unfortunately, the Ninth World is not a great place to be. Scattered throughout Earth are ruins of eras long gone and people who have no idea how to use the wonders left behind. Players will take on the roles of the few brave souls trying to uncover the secrets of the Numenera. Doing so will unlock unimaginable power, maybe even enough to save the Ninth World.

“Numenera” in the game refers to the ancient technology left behind by past civilizations. While the game’s technology may be capable of wondrous things beyond our wildest understandings of the Laws of Physics, they are still technology as far as the setting is concerned. 

Incorporating what is essentially a medieval society reacting to things like nanobots adds another layer of flavor to the story, one that you won’t find in many other sci-fi RPGs. It’s a lot of fun and has plenty of storytelling potential, which is why we also featured Numenera on our list of the best TTRPGs for beginners!

1/10

Coriolis (Best for Political Intrigue)

Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs | Coriolis
“Arabian Nights in space.” | Image: Free League Publishing via HGG / Devin Dornbrock
  • Publisher: Free League Publishing
  • System: Year Zero Engine
  • Buy It: DriveThru RPG

Thanks to the Portals, humanity was able to colonize a faraway star system known as the Horizons. Unfortunately, after some time, the First Horizon began a war to conquer the others. The Third Horizon was able to remain independent, but not without great cost. The portals were severed, isolating it from the rest of humanity.

At least until a long lost ship carrying one of the two first ships to leave Earth arrived. The Zenith’s crew quickly gained influence in the Third Horizon and created a space station known as Coriolis. This station is where the campaign is based and where players will mostly operate out of. 

Will you keep the peace between the First Come populace or side with the Zenith colonists? Maybe you’ll reject both sides altogether in favor of your own interests. While the Third Horizon may be disconnected without the use of portals, there is still plenty to explore. Lush planets with jungles and floating temples await you as you navigate tense political conflicts. 

Make sure to watch out for the strange beings from the Dark Between the Stars, too.

Join the High Ground

Those are the best sci-fi tabletop RPGs around! Did your favorite make the list? If it didn’t, drop it in the comments below! For more RPG recommendations, be sure to check out our list of the best horror and superhero RPGs too! You can also sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date on all the latest gaming news.

Until next time, happy gaming!

 

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