A video game revolving around sci-fi isn’t a very original idea, now is it? No –of course not. Quite the opposite, in fact. But with the many, many, many sci-fi games out there, what ones really left a mark on the genre? Here is a list of 25 Sci-fi games that completely changed the way we play.
Our fearless leader, Robert Bernstein, insisted on this one. Although it might not be one of the best scifi shooters of all-time, it’s a whole lot of fun. Tower defense has never looked so good and we’re always down to exterminate waves of evil aliens. This game takes a lot of the classic elements of the alien invader formula serves it to us on a graphically-enhanced platter.
This is where all the conspiracies started: a cyberpunk shooter that introduced us to secret organizations vying for world domination, nanoscience, an AI system very much like Skynet, and the Matrix game we always wanted but never got. At the end of the game, you get to choose the fate of the planet! No pressure.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
No, it really is a scifi game. Kojima showed us how information could be used to shape society through information warfare. The whole game is a setup, a series of simulations created by a computer powerful enough to fool the millions of gamers that have played it. Not to mention all the friggin Decepticons and cyborg ninjas. If that isn’t scifi, I don’t know what is.
Star Fox 64
Ooooof. That’s really all I can say. No, really: animations beyond N64, multiple ways to complete missions (pretty unheard of in the early console days), an awesome story, a wolf that never let you shoot bombs at things, and a hare that kept telling you to do a barrel roll. Being in space wing has never been this fun except for…
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
From the very first moment you’re thrust into the Death Star battle that put the original movie on the map to driving a ’69 Buick through space, this game was everything a Star Wars fan could ask for. The Force is strong with this one.
Not many people would include this game on their list, especially since it failed to live up to its hype back in 2001 (it broke Xbox sales records in the early post-Halo:CE days). But expectations aside, it’s a very fun coop game. Each character in your four-man squad has unique abilities that help you get through missions all over the galaxy. You get to choose your assignments, what planets to explore, and how to go about the storyline. This game definitely turned the idea of space marines on its head. It’s still a good time if you want an alternative to Halo.
The original Half-Life would probably be the best scifi game of all-time if it weren’t for its sequel, which pretty much slaps every other scifi game in the face. But here we have the original Black Mesa Incident, the event that changed Earth and multiple dimensions forever. We get cult icons Gordon Freeman, a mute scientist, and the G-Man, a mysterious being with a speech impediment, as they explore Black Mesa, an Area 51-ish underground laboratory where scientists are messing with all kinds of dangerous rays including one that blows a hole into a hostile alien dimension…
OMGWTFROFHMWIC (the last one is: rolling on the floor hugging myself while I cry). This game scared me forever and the only reason I didn’t wet the bed was because Joe Jasko was there to offer some support (RUN! OMG! SHOOT IT!). Seriously, Visceral Games took everything it knew from Alien, Event Horizon, The Thing, and Doom and turned it up to 11. It might be THE science fiction survival horror game. The sequel’s real good, too.
Another colossal game that really set the bar real high for scifi games. If Half-Life 2 is the king of hard science fiction games, then Mass Effect rules over all space operas. An entire galaxy to explore, countless alien species, an awesome rogue super soldier, machines determined to destroy all sentient life, giant monoliths that might hold the secret to our very existence, and biotic (Force) powers. What else could a nerd ask for in a scifi game?
Although we definitely love Doomguy, this reboot might be just a little bit better than the original. You are a nameless space marine tasked with annihilating every single demon on Mars before they can get to Earth. How did demons end up on Mars, you ask? Does it help to tell you that the demon infestation broke out in a lab after scientists ripped a whole into Hell? Yeah, we messed up…
Another of Nintendo’s few scifi entries, Metroid Prime introduced a new generation to Samus Aran, a bounty hunter bent on killing every last insectoid Space Pirate. It’s one of the only examples of planetary romance in video game. After barely escaping a Parasite Queen on a Space Pirate frigate, Samus crashlands on Tallon IV, a mysterious planet with a dark history. Not only did you get to shoot lots of hostile creatures in the wild, you also got to study them and collect information for your database. It was as “scientific” as it was action-packed.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
This is the king of all scifi RTS games. Although its predecessor took everything that was good about strategy games and turned it into something worthy of being Warcraft‘s scifi counterpart, the sequel really tightened up all the screws on the hull made one of the greatest gaming experiences of all-time. The story helped spawn the larger Starcraft lore that countless fans obsess about on every occasion.
Whether you think it’s overrated or the game that revolutionized console shooters, there’s no doubt that Halo presented scifi with style. Stealing a whole lot from Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, this game made planetary romance sexy again as you explored the celestial Halo ring’s secrets, eventually uncovering its threat to the entire galaxy. There’s also that HUGE twist halfway through the game that made lots of gamers dive behind their couches…
Irrational Games are veterans at survival horror scifi games. In 1999, they made the highly-successful System Shock 2, a cyberpunk game about a deadly virus outbreak aboard a starship. Although Irrational were pretty much silent for a couple years after, they hit the ground running with BioShock, an immediate scifi classic about an Atlantis-like civilization that has been gruesomely mutated into homicidal crazies. Known not only for its horror elements but for its weapons customization, level design, and intricate storyline, BioShock won countless game of the year awards and is probably one of the best games ever made.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Not only is this one of the best scifi games ever made, it is also one of the best RPGs of all-time. It was the golden moment for Lucas Arts, a developer that has disappointed us in recent years. This game took the Star Wars lore and dropped us into a galaxy full of Sith hunting for Jedi blood on their quest for galactic domination. We followed our character’s journey from Padawan all the way to Jedi Master. KOTOR might be the best example of how to re-imagine a fictional universe and put to work.
As much as I want to ignore this game and exclude it from the list, I understand what it did for postapocalyptic scifi and what games like The Last of Us, Metro: Last Light, and Borderlands stand to learn from Fallout 3. This game immersed players into a very complete world that used 1950s America as a foundation to branch out into dark themes of Cold War paranoia. I give credit where credit is due.
When I was a freshman in college, I spent most of my time strapped into an old car seat that my roommate had put in our dorm room to use as a couch. Hours we spent playing Borderlands, a postapocalyptic treasure hunt that reminded us of movies such as Mad Max and The Warriors. We loved the hours we spent in this no man’s land riding buggies in the desert and following around a talking trash can version of R2-D2. The Vault was more than a prize, it was a dream…
Although it isn’t necessarily my cup of tea (neither is its shooter offspring Dust 514), EVE is one of the best space exploration games ever made. Better yet (for gamers that like super micro-managing) this game turned exploration into a business. Your every move should secure a profit and expand your empire. You are a space mogul running your very own galactic Wall Street. Eve doesn’t really need to try to stay relevant since its fanbase is among the most loyal. Still, the franchise is trying to branch out to other gamers with a shooter counterpart that incorporates all the micro-management of its flagship game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
A new Deus Ex game is always met with cheering crowds and the latest installment did not disappoint. Eidos Montreal had quite the task ahead of them when they announced a prequel to the original game and they didn’t disappoint. Human Revolution might be THE best cyberpunk game ever made, the Half-Life 2 of the subgenre, a smart and noirish example of what the scifi genre has to offer on modern consoles. This game is beautiful, sophisticated, and raises some big questions: what really makes us human and what is the next phase in our evolution?
Time after time, Valve has kicked science fiction butt with its innovative game and all around different way of thinking when it comes to making games. It doesn’t make much sense why a game like Portal is so much except for the fact that it is. A minimalistic level design and respect of physics (except when it just ignores physics altogether), Portal often seems more like a tech demo for future games. What we get in this little game (it’s pretty short) is our broccoli: it’s smart, challenging, and a bit disorienting. This is in no way your mindless first-person shooter. This game introduced us to one of the best villains in all of scifi: GLaDOS, an insane AI that would give HAL a run for his money. It also gave cake a whole new and sinister meaning.
Gears of War
A sci fi game doesn’t always have to be smart. Although I prefer highly-intellectual scifi games (jeez, that sounds terrible), Gears of War is so much fun that you just want to grunt for more and more. It’s easily one of the satisfying gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Sera, the postapocalyptic setting, is beautiful. As we look upon the ruins of great cities, we don’t always need a main character that will make some thoughtful rumination on the human condition. Once in a while, it’s good to just rev up your chainsaw and slice up some Locust…
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
A newbie, but immediately a classic. The ’80s have never looked so good (because the ’80s NEVER looked good, in my opinion) with this game’s neon pallete and ultra-campy nature. Blood Dragon is one of the few games I’ve ever played that manage to turn a shooter into a dance party. The robotic enemies are dressed like bikers and look like something out of the really bad scifi movies of the time. And those neon dragons are friggin cool!
Nah, we weren’t going to forget id Software’s other hit franchise. The original Quake was very similar to their earlier game, Doom, and who can blame them? id found a formula that worked and ran with it: demons bent on bringing Hell to Earth and there’s only one space marine that can stop them. The Quake storyline isn’t very consistent nowadays. There have been a couple of sequel that have created two parallel storylines. One follows the demon slayer plot and the other chronicles humanity’s war with the ruthless Strogg, a cyborg alien race that is trying to ruin our day.
This is probably the most over-the-top game on this list. Picture this: Hitler in a robotic suit with chainguns attached…Yeah, that was one of the boss fights in this scifi action game. Those Nazis will use any means to win the war against the Allied Powers including fringe science and voodoo. Every sequel in the Wolfenstein franchise has brought something fresh and the upcoming reimagined Wolfenstein is bound to be just as good.
This game made science cool again. After many years in a deep sleep, Gordon Freeman is awakened by the G-Man for a new assignment. He is thrust into the conflict in City 17, a gateway between Earth and the Combine, an alien empire that has found its way to our dimension and enslaved humanity after the accident at Black Mesa, which you are responsible for…Half-Life has a very Bill Nye attitude when it comes to science and never is it more apparent than in this sequel as you jump into teleporters and try to domesticate headcrabs. Let’s face it, Valve knows how to make science fiction games and we can only hope they’ll be announcing something new this year… WHERE IS EPISODE 3!!!!!
Sound off in the comments section if we missed any of your favorite scifi games!