Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the — sorry, er, these are the best space and science fiction games that can be found on the Nintendo Switch, despite the fact that none of the developers in this list has actually been to space.
What makes a good space game? Well, first it has to take place in space, and don’t go telling us that technically, Earth is in space, because you know what we mean. Space, other planets, moons, interstellar travel — these are all fantastic beginnings for a good space game.
But space isn’t just about travelling between the stars and shooting the bad aliens. Extraterrestrial science fiction can explore themes that are less possible in our current day realities — the existence of new and diverse flora and fauna, for instance, or what it’s like to terraform and colonise a planet. What does it mean to be separated from your family by several hundred lightyears? What does it mean to be in cold sleep? What if aliens aren’t good or evil, but just as complicated as humans?
All of the games that we’ve compiled in this list have something interesting, exciting, or thoughtful to say about space, and we highly recommend you check them out (or pop them on your wishlist, at least). And keep an eye out for more, because humans will probably never tire of a good space story!
(Oh, and if it’s space shooty games you’re looking for, then some of them may be on this list, but you’ll have better luck with our Best Nintendo Switch Flight Sim And Space Combat Games list.)
Publisher: Private Division / Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Obsidian has created a wonderful slice of space, filled with genuinely entertaining characters and excellent writing that injects the often bog-standard side-quests and errand missions with a level of wit and charm that’s all too often missing in the genre. Is it Fallout in space? Absolutely. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
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In Heaven’s Vault, you play an archaeologist, travelling across the riverways of a fictional galaxy to discover what happened to a lost civilisation through fragments of their writings. It’s a unique take on spacefaring, in which an entire race of people is made to exist through nothing but what they left behind.
Publisher: System Era Softworks / Developer: System Era Softworks
Many space games deal with the organisational joy of building and maintaining a space base, but often those games position you as a SimCity-style omnipresent sky-being. Astroneer puts you on the ground, moving gigantic building blocks around by yourself, and terraforming the planet with nothing but a handheld terrain tool. Astroneer’s colourful, varied, and deadly planets offer a surprising amount to discover, and the resource-collecting heart of the game is incredibly moreish.
Publisher: Asteroid Base / Developer: Asteroid Base
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is one of those chaotic couch co-op games that’s great for parties and partners alike. It doesn’t go super hard on space themes, but it’s on this list as a take on the space shooter genre that does things a little differently — with love, bunnies, and teamwork.
Publisher: Rockfish Games / Developer: Rockfish Games
Everspace is a roguelike slice of solitary space combat that has you constantly weighing the cost (or benefit) of exploring versus scarpering before enemy forces show up. A narrative hook means frequent death is expected (and even required), and while you’ll lose your ship, the credits you earned can be spent before your next try; persistent upgrades and unlocks turn failure into progress. Sure, you bought the farm in a spectacular dogfight or embarrassing collision, but at least you’ve got something to show for it.
Publisher: Aspyr / Developer: BioWare
Star Wars has been a mainstay of pop culture for so long that sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s about space, and not just the dating lives of the Skywalkers. KOTOR does a spectacular job of creating a world that feels adequately ‘lived in’, and a big part of this can be credited to the in-depth dialogue system, which ensures that even conversations with one-and-done NPCs have more to them than just one or two lines. Plus, there’s a morality system! Everyone knows that space is all about morality.
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive / Developer: Take-Two Interactive
Tales from the Borderlands absolutely excels at creating a take on the Borderlands universe that’s chock full of entertaining action and populated by well-written characters you’ll actually grow to care about. It consistently delivers actual belly laughs over its ten-hour running time, manages to convincingly portray its core protagonists’ emotional journeys, does a strong line in romantic subplot and, what’s more, it does all of this whilst giving fans of its source material plenty of returning characters, lore and a healthy dollop of the series’ signature gross-out humour to indulge in.
Publisher: PLAYISM / Developer: Petit Depotto
Players take a place on a spaceship currently under siege from Gnosia, humans who have been infected with an alien presence and are compelled to wipe out humanity and spread the infection to the rest of the cosmos. The only way to defeat Gnosia, it seems, is through good, old-fashioned democracy. Between the surprisingly deep plot for such a simple game, the clever narrative explanation of the mechanics, and enough chaos going on in the discussions to keep you guessing, we had a lot of fun with this one.
Publisher: Vertex Pop / Developer: Vertex Pop
Graceful Explosion Machine is a masterful example of how to do an arcade shooter right. Eye-catching visuals and extremely fine-tuned gameplay combine to make this a memorable and compelling experience for anybody looking to get into a faster paced, action focused game. It may “just” be a side-scrolling space shooter, but much like any good sci-fi, it tries to break the mould with rich colours, bold geometry, and a chaotic-yet-minimalist aesthetic. After all, why would space be boring?
Publisher: Double Damage Games / Developer: Double Damage Games
Many space games (and movies, and TV) position their protagonist as Mr Cool Hero Man, who’s magically good at everything and came out of nowhere to claim the title of Saviour of the Galaxy. Not Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, whose Juno Markev is naught but a space cowboy among space cowboys, on a mission for revenge. With country music radio to listen to and hillbilly bars to frequent, RGO imagines a galaxy where space truckers exist in a universe full of shady dealings and untrustworthy scum.
Publisher: Aspyr Media / Developer: PolyKnight Games
InnerSpace takes you on a seemingly isolated adventure; you’ll be travelling (almost) alone through a world where the physics are inverted, exploring a number of strange, foreign planets that are inside-out. Each planet is made up of once-inhabited islands surrounded by water, where gravity pulls outwards from the centre and little hints of former life can be seen. The whole idea feels rather majestic and the aesthetic styling of the game supports this perfectly; the worlds really do feel like they’re wondrous places.
Publisher: Humble Bundle / Developer: Blue Manchu
In Void Bastards players assume the role of an endless procession of dangerous prisoners aboard the monolithic Void Ark, an enormous space jail whose inhabitants are now being dethawed one by one from their cryogenic slumber by the ship’s onboard A.I – B.A.C.S – in order to venture into the infamous Sargasso Nebula. The core combat is straightforward stuff, but it’s given plenty of extra bite through the fantastically evocative graphics and kept interesting with hackable turrets and a handful of other BioShock-esque elements that give your engagements with the many Screws, Juves, Tourists and Spooks you’ll come across as you traverse the Sargasso Nebula a slightly strategic lift.