Can't Wait for Civilization Beyond Earth? Play These Space Games Now

This year at PAX East, Developer Firaxis Games announced that the next title in their addictive Civilization series will explore mankind’s future instead of its past. This fall, Sid Meier’s Civilization Beyond Earth (CBE) will let you guide humanity’s first interstellar colony to glory or ruin on an alien world.

Are you excited for exploration beyond Earth, and you’ve already tried these great free space games? It’s time to try these high quality titles that let you wander among the stars.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (PC, Mac) $5.99

This isn’t Firaxis’ first time mixing turn-based strategy with space faring adventures. Alpha Centauri came out in 1999, and shares a similar premise to the upcoming CBE. You play as the leader of one of many factions that developed during your colony ship’s long journey from Earth to a habitable planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. As the colony ship malfunctions on arrival, you rally your followers into escape pods and settle a corner of the planet. So begins your mission to make sure your beliefs guide the future of mankind.

If you purchase your copy from the link above, you’ll get the game and its Alien Crossfire expansion. This will give you access to 14 different factions, and each one is skewed in a fascinating way. Will you turn the planet’s native mind worms against your enemies as the Cult of the Planet, conquer by brute force as the Spartan Federation, or advocate for free flowing information as the Data Angels? Create your utopia in the new world, or nerve staple your citizens if they resist your rule.

Endless Space (PC, Mac) $34.99 w/ Expansion

Looking for turn-based strategy, but need a slightly more modern option? Try Endless Space, which trades planetary surface exploration for the fight to control star systems. Endless Space’s factions are satisfyingly diverse, with some dramatically changing the game with their features. The Amoeba know the location of every star in the galaxy from the very first turn. Be totally unable to negotiate peace as the insatiable, planet ravaging Cravers. Clone your greatest heroes, complete with all of their experience and talents, as the perfection obsessed Horatio. You can even build your own species by mixing and matching abilities from an extensive library. This is one game where every faction feels truly distinct from start to finish.

The game has several difficulty and galaxy layout settings, as well as many optional rules and victory conditions to toggle, so you can craft many different scenarios to play. It has that same great “one more turn” feel that Civilization games have, as you’re always on the cusp of something cool happening. The AI is quick to go for the throat if it thinks you can’t fight back though, so micromanagement and optimization will serve you well.

If you aim to pick this one up with the expansion, consider buying an early access founder’s pack for Dungeon of the Endless or Endless Legend, also from developer Amplitude Studios. Right now, either purchase will come with a 50% off coupon to apply to Endless Space, as well as a bonus faction based on the game you choose. If you choose Dungeon of the Endless, you’ll actually pay less than you would for Endless Space by itself.

Star Trek Online (PC, Mac) Free

Though there hasn’t been a Star Trek television series in active production for quite some time, Star Trek Online has carried on the venerable property’s legacy as a free-to-play MMORPG. It has been in service since 2010, and has maintained its audience with a steady flow of story seasons that include series voice talent like Denise Crosby, Tim Russ, and Michael Dorn.

Star Trek Online targets a more casual audience than other massive online games, so it includes low difficulty settings alongside higher ones that more dedicated players can face. Missions are varied, and include ship combat with broadsides of phasers and photon torpedos, as well as ground missions for everything from fighting to diplomacy to research. If you find yourself really enjoying it, you can spring for some of the premium ships or uniforms available from the cash shop. Interested? See how Star Trek Online’s cash shop compares to that of other MMORPGS.

FTL: Faster Than Light (PC, Mac, Linux, iOS $9.99)

$200,000 in Kickstarter funding has a way of putting great expectations on a game, but if the lavish praise of dozens of reviews is any indication, FTL fulfilled its end of the bargain admirably. This hit game tasks you with fleeing across the galaxy with an undefeatable army in hot pursuit. If you hope to succeed, you’ll have to order crew members around your ship to repair systems and fend off boarding parties. A free expansion called FTL Advanced Edition just launched, so now is a perfect time to jump in.

FTL is part of a recent wave of games that have incorporated Rogue-like elements to challenge and thrill players. This means that each time you begin the game, you do so with a fresh galaxy full of randomized challenges. Star Systems are rearranged, outposts could be anywhere, and the species that peacefully greets you in one play through could shoot first in the next. It’s this randomness and challenge that makes FTL the replayable, intense game that thousands of players have come to love.


This list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more ways to get your space faring fix, including Early Access titles like Starbound and Galactic Civilizations III, or even the grand, multiplayer-only experiment that is the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator. With great space games at your disposal, you’ll have plenty to do while you await the next Civilization masterpiece.

Do you know another great space exploration game that our community has to play? Share it in the comments so we can explore the far reaches together.

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