It hasn’t always been easy to be a Star Trek fan and a gamer. While Star Wars fans have historically been blessed with an impressive number of great licensed games across a variety of genres, Star Trek fans have had to settle for slimmer pickings. Not only have there been very few truly great licensed Star Trek games over the years, but many of those games are sadly no longer legally available to purchase.
So we’re going to do something a bit different for this list. Not only does it include some non-licensed Star Trek games but I’m only including games that are still available to purchase via modern digital distribution platforms. Whether they’re official Star Trek titles or not, each of these games captures at least an aspect of the Star Trek franchise in a way that too few games ever have.
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary/Star Trek: Judgement Rites (1992/1993)
Developed during the golden age of point-and-click adventure games, these Star Trek titles clearly benefited from the rapid advances the genre was enjoying at that time. Yes, they can be as obtuse as the best adventure games of that era so often were, but that format really captures the feel of the “away team” experience in ways that few other licensed Star Trek games do. For that matter, no other Star Trek game has ever captured the timeless style of Star Trek’s original series era quite like these games do.
And that’s the biggest selling point here. Between the dialog, the visuals, and the pure sense of adventure, these games have a uniquely powerful way of immediately unlocking your love of Star Trek without ever exploiting it. Even better, the episodic nature of their campaigns helps give the original series’ crew the final adventures they always deserved.
Star Control II (1992)
With the original Star Control, developer Toys for Bob established their ability and desire to make the ultimate PC sci-fi game in the style of Star Trek. For this sequel, though, the studio decided to focus a little less on the original game’s intense strategy gameplay and a little more on the narrative elements that the previous game often pushed to the margins.
That change in direction resulted in a sequel that largely invalidates its incredible predecessor in the best ways possible. The way Star Control II fills its explorable galaxy with compelling story beats that slowly unfold based on your choices is a design miracle that has rarely been replicated. Few sci-fi games have offered so many narrative possibilities and delivered them in ways that allow you to feel as if you are genuinely discovering them as you chart the unknown. That not only makes this one of the best “Star Trek-like” games ever but one of the best PC games ever made.
Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force (2000)
You probably don’t think of first-person shooter action when you think of Star Trek. On-the-ground action has always been a small part of that franchise and rarely the highlight of any of its eras. Even still, there is no denying that Elite Force is one of (if not the) best licensed Star Trek games ever.
Developer Raven Software’s considerable FPS experience and obvious love of the license joined forces in this action title that brilliantly straddles two genre eras. While the game’s atmosphere, narrative, and gameplay variety feel fitting for a shooter released in the post-Half-Life FPS era, Elite Force’s combat and creative weaponry harkens back to the “boomer shooter” style in the best ways possible. Even if FPS titles aren’t usually for you, Star Trek fans will have a hard time resisting the allure of this game’s exceptional Voyager-based story. Speaking of resistance, it turns out that the Borg make for exceptional (and genuinely terrifying) video game enemies.
Star Trek: Away Team (2001)
I’m tempted to call Away Team “underrated,” but it would probably be more accurate to call this 2001 tactical strategy game “flawed.” On paper, Away Team offers a strategy experience similar to the original X-Com games yet set in the Star Trek universe. In reality, it just doesn’t quite live up to the refined brilliance of those classic PC titles.
Still, if the thought of “Star Trek meets X-Com” briefly raised the hairs on your arms, then I’d certainly argue that this game is worth its modest price tag. Away Team is another Star Trek game that only captures a small part of the Star Trek experience (in this case, leading an away team on a tactical combat mission), but it’s also really the only game out there that bothers to tap into that aspect of the series in a substantial way. I’m an especially big fan of the series-accurate non-lethal options this game offers you as well as the ways it allows you to modify your strategies based on who you pick to join your away team.
Star Trek: Bridge Commander (2002)
Though every Star Trek fan has their own franchise fantasy they’d like to live out (some of which I’d prefer not to know too much about), the allure of the captain’s chair may be the Star Trek‘s most universal draw. Who hasn’t wanted to helm a starship and command a capable and loyal crew through a seemingly hopeless and fantastical scenario?
Well, Bridge Commander offers you the chance to do just that. By casting you in the role of an upstart captain with a lot to prove, Bridge Commander allows you to divert all the power, fire all the phasers, and engage all of the warp drives that your heart desires. Some may be turned off by the sometimes dry strategic nature of this game and its generally sparse narrative but this is about as good as it gets so far as captain’s chair fantasies go.
Star Trek Online (2010)
Star Trek Online is not the Star Trek MMORPG that many franchise fans have begged for over the last couple of decades. Though the game has benefited from numerous improvements since its disastrous debut, it’s not nearly as deep as something like EVE Online nor nearly as refined as a game like World of Warcraft. Furthermore, its free-to-play model has too often been used as an excuse to experiment with a variety of microtransactions.
For whatever it’s, quite literally, worth to you, though, that free-to-play model is also one of the best arguments for this game. There are pockets of brilliance in Stark Trek Online (such as its storylines, atmosphere, and ship combat) that are easier to appreciate when you realize they cost nothing to experience. This game has always fallen tragically short of its potential but it has ultimately landed in a place that is certainly worth exploring if only from time to time.
Though FTL has garnered fairly glowing Star Trek comparisons since it broke onto the indie game scene in 2012, you should know that this game is rarely interested in fulfilling your wishes. This roguelike title that sees you command and gradually upgrade a spaceship and its crew across a ladder-like series of threats and opportunities is notorious for its difficulty. Even skilled captains who can effectively manage their ship’s various subsystems will often have their runs cut short thanks to an unavoidable bit of bad luck.
Once you accept that losing is part of the “charm” of FTL, though, it becomes much easier to appreciate the game’s numerous other charms. This is a game for those whose Star Trek dreams include orders to manage their power levels, sending crew members to new decks, and targeting recently discovered weak points of unknown incoming enemy vessels. FTL may largely only focus on a specific part of the Star Trek experience, but it does so in a way that makes it easy to lose dozens (if not hundreds) of hours to this all-time great indie experience.
Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator (2013)
Artemis’ Steam description confesses that it is “designed for anyone who watched Star Trek,” and that’s certainly been the game’s biggest selling point for over a decade now. Even when compared to official (and licensed) competition, Artemis remains one of the absolute best ways to live the fantasy of commanding a spaceship bridge with the help of your friends.
This local co-op title emphasizes true coordination by limiting what each participant has access to at any given time. Up to five players assume various ship stations (such as weapons and engineering) and are only able to view their station via whatever screen they use to access the game. However, the sixth role, the Captain, cannot view any screen and must rely on the information provided by their teammates to make decisions. Not only does that setup make teamwork more important than it sometimes is in somewhat similar games, but it also ensures that the Captain can’t simply take over the game by virtue of drawing the most traditionally prized role.
Many grand strategy sci-fi games allow you to explore the galaxy and command nearly every aspect of a fleet of ships. While Stellaris is certainly one of the best options for those whose Star Trek fantasies can be converted to spreadsheets, the real reason it’s on this list is due to the quality of its Star Trek conversion mods.
There are two notable Star Trek mods for Stellaris (New Horizons and New Civilisations) and each does an exceptional job of applying a necessary layer of Star Trek goddess to that game’s absurdly deep collection of strategy systems. Stellaris isn’t the absolute best sci-fi strategy game of its kind, but if you’re dying for all of that Star Trek iconography, you’ll have a hard time finding a more rewarding game to lose yourself in.
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander (2016)
Few games try to capture every element (or almost every element) of the Star Trek experience, and Halcyon 6 shows why. Through a combination of gameplay concepts that include 4X strategy, JRPG combat, and simulation-style base management, Halcyon 6 tries to allow you to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do in a sci-fi environment. It’s a noble attempt at an ambitious goal, but that buffet of gameplay means that parts of Halcyon 6 end up feeling undercooked.
However, if you’re willing to look at this as a turn-based sci-fi RPG that tries to offer more depth in areas that similar titles would overlook, you’ll likely fall in love with what Halcyon 6 has to offer. It’s a game that often asks you to manage a sometimes overwhelming amount of mechanics and resources yet consistently rewards you for your efforts through both in-game payoffs and the ability to look back at everything you have created and accomplished.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew (2017)
Bridge Crew’s VR functionality is its defining quality, greatest asset, and biggest detriment. Bridge Crew is at its best when you have four friends with four VR devices who are all willing to cooperate in a shared campaign. There are ways to play this game with fewer people and without VR, but every compromise dilutes the effectiveness of the intended experience.
However, this truly is a dream Star Trek game when you’re able to play it the way it was meant to be played. It turns out that leading the bridge of a starship with the help of three friends in a virtual reality environment is just as much fun as many probably imagined such a thing would be when that scenario was as fantastical as any episode of Star Trek. Bridge Crew may be simpler than comparable video game experiences, but it’s a pure power fantasy in the best ways possible.
Space Haven (2020)
One of the things I love about Star Trek that I don’t see replicated in a lot of video games is the communal nature of the Enterprise (especially Next Generation’s NCC-1701-D). Yes, many Star Trek episodes typically focus on the bridge and away crews, but the idea that the Enterprise is essentially a miniature civilization with its own community and social structure has long been one of Star Trek’s most fascinating and important sci-fi concepts.
Space Haven is one of the rare games of its kind that allows you (or perhaps forces you) to explore that aspect of Star Trek while experiencing some of that franchise’s more cinematic adventures. Between the away team missions, ship-to-ship combat, and diplomacy assignments, Space Haven asks you to not only manage a ship full of people but turn that ship into a home. The game sometimes suffers from trying to do too much, but too few games offer what Space Haven does when it’s at its best.
The Captain (2021)
Despite its name, The Captain focuses a little less on commanding a starship (though that is an aspect of this title) and a little more on the difficult decisions that come with leadership. As Captain Thomas Welmu, you are tossed clear across the galaxy and tasked with making it back to Earth in time to save your people. Along the way, you will not only have to assemble a crew but also make incredibly difficult decisions about what you’re willing to sacrifice to make it back home.
It’s those choices that define The Captain experience. There are moral dilemmas in this adventure game that are as challenging and compelling as the quandaries presented by far larger and more famous RPGs. The Captain’s brilliant story is worthy of the Next Generation episodes it was clearly inspired by and will allow you to experience exactly what it’s really like to need to make decisions in scenarios where there are no right answers. You may try your best to be the Picard this galaxy needs, but don’t be surprised if you often feel like you’re falling short despite doing your best.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition (2021)
From the moment BioWare revealed the first Mass Effect game, some couldn’t help but hope that one of the greatest developers in the world would finally make the Star Trek RPG they always dreamed of playing (minus the license, of course). Well, even though the Mass Effect games suffered through some ups and downs across the course of the trilogy, they ultimately proved to be just that. Compelling characters, difficult decisions, crew management, an entire galaxy to explore and impact…the Mass Effect trilogy remains the easiest game to recommend to anyone looking for the deepest, most complete, and overall best Star Trek-like gaming experience imaginable.
What about Mass Effect Andromeda, though? Well, while that game was rightfully criticized upon its 2017 release for its many bugs and general decline in quality, I actually recommend giving it another look if you’re craving more Mass Effect. At the very least, that game’s basic structure and best ideas are easier to appreciate in a post-Anthem world deprived of BioWare-like RPGs.
Star Trek: Resurgence (2023)
If you’ve ever wondered what would have happened if the Telltale Games crew had made a Star Trek game during the company’s Wolf Among Us/Walking Dead glory days, then this adventure title is seemingly as close as we’ll ever get to that dream project. Actually, Resurgence was developed by former members of the Telltale team, and they were certainly not shy about bringing some of that studio’s best ideas to this project.
It turns out that most of the things that defined those Telltale games (the episodic formats, the tough moral choices, and the narrative/character-driven scenarios) fit perfectly into the Star Trek universe and are enhanced by that universe’s style and lore. I’d go so far as to argue that this is the only official Star Trek game that not only excels at forcing you to make difficult decisions based on your relationship and ethics but even bothers to offer an interactive version of that aspect of the franchise in the first place. Hey, there is a reason it made our most underrated games of 2023 list.