On Monday, September 28, 2015, NASA announced the discovery of flowing liquid water on Mars. This is no small thing-where there is water, there can be life, even if only microbial. NASA hasn't put boots on the red planet yet, but some games allow for travel through our solar system, galaxy, and beyond. Here are the top five.
5. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
A bit of an odd choice- SASR is a real-time strategy, however, it does contain exploration elements-the player can send fleets to start new colonies, and manage each of them while expanding through star systems of varying sizes. The player can control the view and see the whole planetary system from above, or zoom down to the perspective of a single starfighter.
The major disadvantage here is the planets and space aren't really the focus, and exploration is mostly point and click, and misses some of the beauty of space.
4. Star Trek Online
Star Trek Online isn't totally based on exploration, but over the course of this space based MMO, the player gets to see and interact with planets and stars both real and fictional. On top of that, you get your own badass ship, which can be anything from a tiny escort to a massive heavy destroyer.
Unlike some other games, it also benefits from the ability to actually land on planets and explore limited areas, however, this is usually mission related.
3. EVE Online
EVE Online is most known for the thousands of dollars people have lost and its truly massive space battles. It's centered around the fictional world of New Eden, but has thousands of star systems available to visit. It may be all made up, but it's still fun to explore.
EVE likely would be higher, but the subscription and high level of difficulty make it hard for some people to get into it.
2. Moonbase Alpha
If you're looking for a spacewalk simulator, Moonbase Alpha is for you. Sponsored by NASA, the game involves working around a base on the moon, as you may have guessed from the title. Realistic physics and fun minigames make it an entertaining game, and the best spacewalk simulator to date.
1. Elite: Dangerous
Elite is easily the best space exploration game available. The player gets to pilot their own ship, and work as a naval pilot, trader, smuggler, pirate, or, of course, explorer. The entire Milky Way galaxy has been modeled with as much accuracy as possible, and there are truly amazing things to be seen. Everything from supermassive black holes, to nebulae, to new planets. Eventually, the developers aim to allow the player to actually land on planets and moons, and possibly develop bases and stations. In other words, if they fulfill their ambition, Elite: Dangerous will become the unopposed king of space sims.
But What About...
In the next few years, more games like this will pop up, most notably Star Citizen, No Man's Sky, and maybe even Mass Effect: Andromeda. In other words, we've got a lot to look forward to, and definitely some new contenders. Who do you think will be on top come 2020?