Elite Dangerous is a fantastic game which not only has always had a lot of promise, but also has delivered on my of them already.
Its massive universe, engaging spacecraft piloting, and expansions adding new layers to the experience. But cool as it is, it doesn’t have everything, and every now and then it’s a good idea to order a pizza with toppings different from your usual.
With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of games which could be a cool palate cleanser after hours in ED, or even provide completely different experiences despite sharing a science fiction aesthetic. So strap in and let’s jump to hyperspace with..
No Man’s Sky
After a lengthy redemption arc playing out over multiple big and small updates, No Man’s Sky now lives up to the lofty promises as a fantastic, open-galaxy space and planet exploration game.
While it does not have the nitty-gritty aesthetic of Elite Dangerous, it offers a virtually infinite number of procedurally generated planets to ply your space-trade across.
You can seamlessly travel from planet to planet, cross between star systems, and interact with numerous NPCs to learn more about the universe you found yourself in.
You could build a base on one of the planets you (re)discover and invite friends to have adventures together. At the same time, it’s a much more chill and friendly kind of game, compared to the more hardboiled ED.
Everspace 2 is an exciting space-combat action RPG putting you in the cockpit of your own spaceship as you’re trying to get out of the Demilitarized Zone left after the war between humanity and the Okkar.
As a surviving clone soldier of the conflict, you need to ditch your mining ship escort ways and dive head-first into a job that could help you turn over a new leaf elsewhere in the universe.
Unlike its direct predecessor, Everspace 2 isn’t a roguelite, so it’s much more in line with games like, indeed, Elite Dangerous or classics like Freelancer.
You’ll explore the game world’s large star systems, collect upgrades for your spaceship, take on odd jobs, and pursue the main story to its conclusion once you desire something more than side missions and contracts. It’s a good life.
Star Wars Squadrons
Star Wars Squadrons is a great game to go for, if your main interest in Elite Dangerous are close-range spaceship dogfighting.
If that’s your jam, then Squadrons has you covered with a wonderfully authentic space battle filled to the brim with blaster fire, X-Wings, TIE fighters, and a host of other craft any Star Wars fan will immediately recognize and place on either side of the conflict.
It’s also a treat for fans of believable cockpits. Squadrons paid great attention to making sure each fighter has unique displays, controls, and other bits and bobs.
Controls are more arcade-like than simulationist, but there is a neat subsystem allowing you to divert a typically balanced power output into a specific subsystem: guns, engines, or shields, letting you adjust to a changing battlefield.
|Star Gem Inc.
Star Conflict is a free-to-play space-exploration MMO with an impressive array of paid DLC adding more ships you could explore the universe in.
There are 4 ship classes, ranging from interceptors to destroyers, all with substantially different sizes, traits, and possible roles they play on the battlefields, such as Recon, Engineering, or Command.
Star Conflict features several game modes, including a PvP for the most bloodthirsty pilots among you, cooperative Missions mode, or even a large-scale Sector Conquest mode, which pits player-driven Corporations against each other in a struggle for control over the mode’s over 200 sectors.
There’s also a more sandbox-like Open Space mode, for the free spirits among you.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
|Double Damage Games
2019’s Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a prequel to 2015’s Rebel Galaxy, and while it ditched the original’s capital ships for nimbler fighters, it gained a fully three-dimensional movement.
Which makes sense, given that you’re playing as a space pirate, rather than a commander of a star destroyer. A scrappy little dogfight-capable craft is all you get this time, but it will be enough in your hands, won’t it?
You’ll be able to get better ships and equipment over time, as long as you earn enough cash through bounty hunting, hauling cargo, or many other activities.
There’s also a plot to follow, starring a former pirate Juno Markev who’s trying to get revenge on her husband’s killer. Of course, things go awry and after a disastrous first attempt, you must build your strength back from scratch.
Of all the games on the list, EVEN Online might be the hardest to get into.
EVE Online is a grand-scale space MMORPG famous mostly for making headlines every now and then when corporation wars take over entire servers and last many, many hours of backroom dealing, space combat, and often shocking betrayals. It’s a blast once you get into the swing of things.
There’s a ton of different jobs to earn money in the player-driven economy, and they range from peaceful mining to proper space piracy.
People can also congregate into corporations which hold a significant amount of power in the game’s unified universe with a nearly grand strategy-like complexity. Being part of a corp can be like a second full-time job, but you can always just be a freelancer with a single ship if you want to.
|Bethesda Game Studios
The long-awaited space-sim open-world game finally arrived in 2023, bringing Bethesda’s formula into the space age.
In addition to the classic Bethesda exploration and side activities such as mining, Starfield also has a robust spaceship segment, which includes giving you the ability to design your own ship by assembling existing modules. People have already made many impressive builds!
The game is set in the early 2300s, after humanity has spread its wings light years beyond the Solar system, and puts you in the shoes of a space miner who got commissioned to do a job that puts them on track to a lot of trouble.
FTL: Faster Than Light
If you’d rather play something that lets you feel like a spaceship captain, rather than just a pilot with influence, take a look at FTL: Faster Than Light.
It won’t give you the thrilling action of other games on the list, but managing your crew in the middle of an enemy boarding action or engines burning to a crisp brings its own kind of excitement and requires its own kind of snap decisions.
FTL has plenty of complexity and challenge to it, hiding beneath the friendly, easy-to-read pixel art, and plenty of memorable encounters taking place as you try to reach the goal.
Of course, as its a roguelike, each run will probably be very different thanks to a procedurally generated galaxy map and tons of combat, exploratory, and narrative encounters making each run a new thrilling adventure.
The Outer Worlds
After a brief roguelike management detour, let’s quickly hop back into narrative, straightforward games with The Outer Worlds.
It doesn’t really offer space combat, putting it closer to the Elite Dangerous Odyssey expansion, with more committed storytelling and robust first-person shooter action with more than a few RPG elements spicing things up.
The Outer Worlds is a full-on action RPG, giving you the reins to a freshly unfrozen space colonist waking up way after they should have to a system already controlled by megacorporations.
As you’re one of the few people who emerged from the colony ship cryosleep, your first job is to help others wake up, but when have things EVER been so easy?
|System Era Softworks
To end with something very chill and low-stakes.
Let’s talk about Astroneer, an almost cute game about industrious astronauts exploring a star system’s several planets…and turning them inside out through very powerful, and accessible, terraforming and crafting systems allowing you to engage in base building, constructing handy vehicles, and making assembly lines for your inventions.
There are five planets and two moons, and while their specific maps are procedurally generated, each has a distinct profile with unique biomes, resources and challenges/opportunities awaiting you.
Astroneer is also co-op friendly, with up to 4 players working together towards any goal they envision, from making planetwide factories to playing impromptu demolition derby with space buggies.
Beyond the horizon
This concludes our look at games you might find quite appealing if you want more space-faring science fiction games, but you’re not in the mood for Elite Dangerous specifically anymore.
We’ve got more flight sims, open-space adventures, and a few games with very different playstyles for good measure. Hopefully, you already know which star system you’ll be exploring soon!