Mass Effect shook the gaming world when it launched. It had a great science fiction setting, a memorable and charismatic main character, and an efficient dialogue system making conversations flow better and look more cinematic. All in all, the series is fantastic, well worth playing and sure to be a great fun for every fan of science fiction and space swashbuckling.
The problem is that there are just four Mass Effect games, one excellent trilogy and one spin-off that spun so hard it landed in a different galaxy. That’s not nearly enough to get your fill of the setting, of the tactical TPP cover-based combat, and of the dialogue system.
An obvious solution would be to wait, hoping for a new Mass Effect game. Aa simpler and more accessible option is to peek at the games which share some of Mass Effect DNA, be it story presentation, action sequences, or even just the sheer atmosphere.
15 games similar to Mass Effect
Here come a few games which may be able to scratch at least some Mass Effect itches.
Alpha Protocol takes Mass Effect’s simplified dialogue presentation and discrete missions of Mass Effect 2 and asks “what if we took these things and made a spy RPG?”. The answer is an interesting game with a complex, reactive story that carries the entire experience with flair expected of spy fiction. You can play it smooth like James Bond, harsh like Jack Bauer, or coldly professional like Jason Bourne.
Thornton gain positive and negative reputation with each character in the story, and the game keeps close track of the values and adjusts the plot in many, sometimes unexpected, ways. Most missions play out as third-person perspective action game leaning towards stealth and using abilities gained as you unlock them from their respective skill lines. Choices are your weapon.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
|Genre:||Action role-playing, first-person shooter, stealth|
Deus Ex: Human Revolution can scratch that Mass Effect itch in a few different ways. One that becomes clear fairly quickly is the dialogue presentation, with is happy to bring just a few options at a time, some inquisitive, others leading towards new dialogue branches. There’s also a lot of sticking to cover, and unlocking new abilities through an augment tree, mildly reminiscent of ME 2 and 3.
The game is a prequel to the original Deus Ex and presents the early days of human augmentations. The protagonist, Adam Jensen, is heavily augmented due to events that play out during the tutorial sequence, and you have an investigation to conduct. DE:HR also offers quite a bit more flexibility to how you approach challenges, with solid stealth gameplay and plenty of ways to explore maps.
Dragon Age 2 & Inquisition
|Release year:||2011 (DA2), 2014 (DAI)|
Whereas Dragon Age: Origins borrows its presentation from classic Infinity Engine-era RPGs, the two sequels took hints from Mass Effect in a few ways. First of all, they were more action-oriented, with quickly accessible abilities, helpful, but not essential active pause system, and basic attacks available with a press of a button. They also adopted the dialogue presentation popularised by Mass Effect.
Dragon Age: Inquisition also captures the essence of gathering powerful allies for a war against an ancient menace threatening the entire world. As the head of the titular Inquisition you have a lot of power available to you, so you get to both weight in on many events taking place on the strategic map, and go on adventures with your strike team of friends and allies. It’s done really, really well.
Fallout: New Vegas
True, New Vegas doesn’t take place IN SPAAAACE, and you don’t get a nifty ship to romp around in, but if you’ve spent any amount of time roaming the moons in Mass Effect 1 you’ll feel right at home in Nevada. Jokes aside, Fallout New Vegas does a great job at tossing you into a world of disagreeing factions, weird monsters, and only one person who can do anything about upsetting the status quo.
You’re a Courier, not a Spectre, and you start the game at a doctor’s house, because you had a bullet put in your head after a precious package you carried was stolen. Now you can freely roam a massive region, untangling people’s problems, being many factions’ problem, and collecting a troupe of followers drawn to your wild-card charm.
FTL: Faster Than Light
You don’t have to squint too much to view FTL as the unseen side of commanding a ship in the Mass Effect universe. Your ship carries info crucial to winning a war against a human-first rebel group (Cerberus much?), and you have to get it to the allied fleet through eight sectors full of dangers which include, but aren’t limited to, pirates, asteroids, and hard-to-contain fires.
You have crew to assign to duties, resources to manage, and challenges to overcome, and quite a few waypoints to clear. FTL is a roguelike, so no two runs are going to be the same, with procedurally generated events and encounters. You also get to unlock more ships by conducting research, and each alien species can offer its own spacecraft, catering to different playstyles.
Sure, not an epic science fiction RPG, but if you need more cover-based shooting in your life you could go to the series that made it an industry standard in the first place. The Gears of War series, including the latest main instalment, has cover-based shooting down to a science. As a bonus it’s an Xbox 360 original, much like Mass Effect. Gears 5 is a new generation sequel to the original trilogy.
Gears 5 follows Kait Diaz, first met in Gears of War 4 as a friend of its protagonist. Diaz has discovered some secrets about her family in GoW4, and in G5 we’re following her on a journey of discovery and lots (LOTS) of shooting on behalf of the army mounting a counterattack against the invading species referred to as the Swarm. And you can play it all in co-op multiplayer.
Greedfall could be broadly described as Dragon Age of the Caribbean, so, by extension is shares some DNA with Mass Effect, notably in the cinematic cutscenes and the way it does dialogue. It’s also a third-person perspective action RPG with tactical pause lending you a bit of time to unleash your abilities more precisely. Despite different setting, some elements will absolutely feel familiar.
The story involves a weird illness affecting the continent your character is from, and a mostly uncolonized island of Teer Fradee with its own native population. Your mission begins with you trying to find a way to cure the illness, but it quickly branches out into a story of successions and supernatural phenomena. It’s a very fun game with an underexplored setting inspiration.
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander
|Genre:||Strategy, Turn-based tactical, RPG|
|Developer||Massive Damage, Inc.|
Halcyon 6 should sound familiar to everyone who’s played Mass Effect. The titular Halcyon 6 is a space station left by a precursor species. Kind of like the Citadel, isn’t it? An evil force is approaching Earth at speed, and you need to get chummy with other species, restore the station and work on technology capable of stopping the invaders. It’s a familiar tune but played on new instruments.
There’s a lot to do in Halcyon 6, and in the game itself. You’ll be dumping a lot of resources into making the station fully operational, and you’ll explore nearby system to get necessary materials. There’s going to be many tactical battles in space and on the ground, and a lot of emergent storytelling as you pull event triggers by goofing around in the game. There are even choices to make!
Knights of the Old Republic
Knights of the Old Republic was something of a proto-Mass Effect. It was BioWare’s first attempt at a more cinematic presentation of dialogues, for example, and brought the camera closer to the characters with convenient control scheme. But, importantly, it’s also an excellent adventure set in the Star Wars universe, albeit a few thousand years before the events of the movie trilogies.
You begin the game confused, on a spaceship attacked by the Sith fleet. And that’s just the tutorial. Soon enough you’ll find yourself tangled in the business of Jedi, appear on the radar of a powerful Sith Lord, become a swoop racing legend, and have many, many conversations with your companions and NPCs populating the planets you visit on your journey. KotOR is an absolute classic.
|Genre:||Tactical role-playing game|
Shadowrun is an interesting setting. On the surface, it’s a cyberpunk version of our world, with hacking kits, cybernetics, and megacorporations. But it also has dwarves running guns through the underground, trolls hired as bodyguards, and literal dragons running said megacorporations. It’s not a epic galactic adventure, but it might give a sense of life in the less shining parts of the ME-verse.
Dragonfall’s progression system will also look familiar to people who liked Mass Effect 1 and working towards new perks and abilities by levelling up specific skills, rather than working up a skill tree from ME 2 and 3. The story involves a mysterious presence that fries the brains of hackers, monsterslayers, and weird cults – an interesting blend of ideas and tropes from both fantasy and science fiction.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
|Genre:||Tactical shooter, first-person shooter|
Like Gears 5, Republic Commando’s main similarity to the Mass Effect series is through the tactical shooter aspects of both series. RC goes for the first-person perspective, rather than third, but the game puts strong emphasis on giving orders to your squad to get through difficult combat scenarios. Each clone in your squad has a different speciality, like sniping, or setting up or defusing explosives.
The story takes place during the Clone Wars-era of Star Wars, and the missions are discreet deployments, with about two years of difference between the first deployment and the last. You’ll visit several familiar places, like Kashyyyk, the homeland of Wookiees, or Geonosis, known from Episode II, where clone appeared for the first time. It’s a solid tactical shooter from a slightly different era.
The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds is the action-RPG that could fill the void left by the Mass Effect franchise. It has a spacefaring, science-fiction setting, it has cool weapons, and plenty of people that need to be knocked down a peg. You also can stomp around with up to two companions, which is another similarity to ME. On the whole, however, The Outer Worlds benefits from a more flexible gameplay.
TOW is set in year 2355 of an alternative timeline, which diverged from ours in 1901. You play as a prospective space colonist, who got stuck in cryostasis for a long while before being recovered only a few decades too late, and you emerge to a world that’s ruled by megacorporations. How you proceed from there is mostly up to you, despite solid shooting and exploration it’s still a proper RPG.
The Witcher 2
|Developer||CD Projekt Red|
While The Witcher 3 was already a committed open-world game, The Witcher 2 was more contained, with more forwards momentum, and cutscene-dialogues which felt a lot like Mass Effect’s, just short of coming in a neat wheel-friendly form. The choices can also play out in big ways, up to split the game into two separate storylines in one key moment.
The game’s story involves Geralt being framed for the murder of a king and having to prove his innocence, in addition to an escalating conflict with Scoia’tael rebels and increasing distrust of spellcasters. There is also plenty of monsters to kill, of course, and hunting them requires a fair bit of preparation, including doing research and drinking potions before the fight.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 1 & 2
|Release year:||2016 (The Division), 2019 (The Division 2)|
|Genre:||Action role-playing, third-person shooter, tactical shooter|
The Division falls mostly into the “tactical shooter” side of Mass Effect similarities, but it does so with aplomb. Instead of a future removed by a century or two, The Division shows a modern world, albeit one devastated by a deadly disease called “The Dollar Flu” because of the way it was transmitted. The first game takes place in Manhattan, while the second moves to Washington D.C.
Although The Division isn’t inherently class-based, it does have skills and talents to unlocks, as well as specializations you unlock in the second game upon reaching level 30. You also get to use your skills to deploy useful items or support your team-mates. Speaking of team-mates, The Division is an MMO, and your best chance of surviving is finding a group of people, be it just a raiding party of a full clan.
XCOM: Chimera Squad
XCOM: Chimera Squad is a spin-off from the main XCOM series, set a few years after the conclusion of XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. Freed from the mind control of the Elders, many aliens and hybrids seek to live peacefully with humans. Of course, there are some elements who want to take over the city and undermine the coexistence efforts, and the Chimera Squad is a joint task force trying to stop them.
Chimera Squad is very similar to the mainline XCOM games from Firaxis but playing out on a city-scale rather than worldwide. The battles are turn-based, and each begins with the Breach phase. It lets you position your operatives at points of entry so that they can burst into the room, firing off abilities, and neutralising especially dangerous enemies before they get to act.
Beyond the mass effect relays
That concludes our list, and hopefully you’re found something that can provide the kind of sustenance you need in absence of new ME games. There are options for combat, some options for cinematic action RPGs, even a share of compelling science fiction worlds and stories. Nothing here is “literally Mass Effect”, but there’s plenty to enjoy anyway.