So, you seek to escape the confines of our planet and explore the universe – in the realm of gaming, of course. Which game will work best when it comes to conveying the sense of wonder and providing a fun space travel experience? Two titles come to mind: No Man’s Sky and Elite Dangerous. Which one is better, though? Let’s find out.

Released in 2016, No Man’s Sky initially disappointed everyone. This extremely promising title – kind of like Star Citizen, to be honest, especially considering the small crew developing NMS – was released in a laughable state. With poor visuals and several major features that never made it into the game, it was a dumpster fire, to say the least. Still, years later No Man’s Sky got so much closer to the original vision and is now regarded as a fun, quality title.

Elite Dangerous, on the other hand, is a space sim that was released to a very positive reception. Its gameplay, based on freely exploring the Milky Way, is very captivating, for sure, and VR support is to be commended, too. The Horizon and Odyssey expansions brought in some new features, such as explorable bases and first-person shooter elements, bringing ED and NMS closer to each other in terms of scope and possibilities.

We will now compare various aspects of each game in order to give you an idea which one will be better suited to your gaming needs.


No Man’s Sky is pretty much a survival/action-adventure game with a procedurally-generated universe – the main star of the game, actually. There are four core elements here: exploration, combat, trading, and survival. As the Traveller, an alien explorer, you begin your grand adventure on a random planet, equipped with just a basic set of tools. There’s plenty of crafting, there are pirates, hostile creatures and enemy robots that you need to fend off, etc. Your ultimate goal: reach the center of this unknown galaxy.

No Man’s Sky shoot

Space combat and exploration, on the other hand, are arcade-y in their feel. Planetary stuff is probably the best part of the game. Additionally, there’s a co-op mode for those wanting to explore the galaxy with their buddies, but No Man’s Sky is a single-player experience at its core.

Elite Dangerous, on the other hand, is a full-fledged space sim. You start out with a basic ship and a handful of bucks. Your goal: make a living in the Milky Way! You can become a trader, miner, bounty hunter, even a pirate or an assassin. Heck, you can be even busy transporting passengers from point A to point B. The galaxy’s your oyster! While there’s an (online-only) single-player mode available, it’s primarily an MMO game thanks to the Open Play component. This makes it closer to Eve Online, actually. An interesting thing that much of the in-game world is based on real data, although there are fictitious star systems in here, as well as a pretty great deal of procedural generation, which is based on real-life data, too.

Elite Dangerous shoot

What about exploring planets and ground combat? They’re both present here, too, thanks to the Horizon and Odyssey expansions. It’s a competently made addition, although probably nowhere near as fun as No Man’s Sky in this respect. It’s just decent enough to offer a nice, refreshing change from the whole spaceship thing.

In general, if you’re looking for detailed, fun planets to explore, pick No Man’s Sky. If you’re interested in space combat instead, Elite Dangerous is the one you should choose.


When it comes to the number of updates released, No Man’s Sky takes the cake.

Yeah, it’s true that the game desperately needed a major overhaul upon its release. It got really good thanks to the Foundation, Path Finder and Atlas Rises updates, winning back many old players and bringing in hordes of new ones. The developers keep releasing new stuff, adding more features to No Man’s Sky. The list is quite impressive.

Elite Dangerous isn’t bad in this respect, either. The game keeps receiving tons of new content and gameplay options (especially all the stuff that got introduced in the Odyssey expansion).

You can expect both games to get more updates in the years to come.

Still, the amount of work put into making No Man’s Sky not just fulfilling, but exceeding the expectations is to be commended here. Turning a bad game into a good one is one thing, but making a good title even better is another.

Graphics, sound and music

Both No Man’s Sky and Elite Dangerous look great, especially now thanks to all the visual upgrades they got over the years. So, choosing the winner here probably boils down to the matter of preferences.

If you love a gritty, realistic feel, you’ll love Elite Dangerous. Its visuals match the harshness of space, but you can’t expect any colorful, dazzling planet surfaces here, like the ones in No Man’s Sky.

Elite Dangerous graphics

NMS, on the other hand, is cartoony, so you can expect a vibrant color palette, bizarre creatures populating the celestial bodies you’re exploring and lots of dazzling sights. It’s a completely different vision that you might even call a bit psychedelic.

No Man’s Sky graphics

Sound design-wise, both games are excellent, but we’d like to focus on music. Elite Dangerous was scored by Erasmus Talbot. His compositions are a mixture of orchestral and ambient textures, with hints of electronica here and there – something you’d expect from a space-themed game. It definitely adds to the experience.

Still, if you’re looking for something more “unusual,” you can pick No Man’s Sky. A lot of the music in the game is still that whole space ambient thing, but the post-rock tracks composed by the 65daysofstatic are a stand-out here. Fans of the genre will surely rejoice.

Which one is more fun?

It’s hard to answer this question, really, as both games – despite numerous similarities – offer two different experiences.

No Man’s Sky is for those more interested in the single-player mode (though co-op is still available). It’s a wonderful space exploration experience, especially when on planets. A combination of a cartoony, colorful visual style, procedural generation, all sorts of bizarre stuff to discover and the whole survival thing make for a really fun game to pick up. Unfortunately, however, the gameplay loop might get a little bit stale from planet to planet.

Elite Dangerous seems to have a more varied gameplay, with lots of jobs and mission types, realistic space exploration, MMO elements and so on<. It’s an expansive title with plenty of content but seems to be the more punishing and harder to delve into of the two. Still, it’s probably more accessible than Eve Online.All in all, both games cater to different preferences and player types, but it’s not like one of them is more ambitious than the other one.

If you’re looking for something somewhat zany to play solo or with a bunch of friends, pick No Man’s Sky. If you want stuff that’s grittier and more demanding, choose Elite Dangerous (although NMS is also a very complex game, it just seems more accessible).

Or hey, you can always get both to scratch all sorts of itches!

Anyway, these might be great titles to kill time before the full release of Star Citizen or Starfield’s premiere, if you’re waiting for any of these two.