Weekend Hot Topic: The best sci-fi video games

Mass Effect – a video game sci-fi classic (pic: EA)

Readers discuss their favourite science fiction video games, from Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic to Deus Ex.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic follows on from last week’s about fantasy games and while it allowed for licensed games it also encouraged people to also discuss their favourite franchises that are unique to video games.

There were surprising omissions – nobody mentioned Halo – but also some games that came up again and again, especially Mass Effect and Star Wars titles.

Science fantasy
I’m sure it’s a popular suggestion but the Mass Effect games must be my favourite sci-fi games.

It’s got spacefaring familiar to fans of Star Trek and Star Wars, but with an interesting spin around the mass relays.

But it’s actually the lore that makes it for me – being able to dive into those cultures and their histories (including future humanity’s) through interactions with characters or by reading the codex is just great.

I’d say it falls into science fiction, rather than fantasy because it’s underpinned by actual scientific concepts and the human condition, despite the fantastical places the story goes. I’ve always been a sucker for that stuff, that’s why I lean towards Star Trek over Star Wars.

Contrast it with Star Wars, which is firmly science fantasy because it isn’t too concerned with the principles behind hyperdrives and lightsabers, just that they’re cool. No bad thing in itself of course.

There’s always room for more sci-fi but, yeah, something that has a fresh/innovative approach to the genre is preferable to cloning the big series.

Oh! And they don’t have to be action games!
FoximusPrime81 (gamertag/NN ID/Twitter)

Strange new worlds
Great topic! I am a huge sci-fi fan and generally futuristic, alien worlds and space exploration are my bag. Here are a few of my favourites I’ve played:

1. Mass Effect trilogy – fantastic design, alien races, characters, action sequences. The works. I actually thought the ending to Mass Effect 3 was OK, although I never played Andromeda. I might, however, try the remastered trilogy as I think it’s now on Game Pass?

2. Destiny 1 + 2 – I was super into Destiny 1, was in the top 5% of gametime played even with lots of breaks! I loved the aesthetic, collection, online camaraderie and everything about it. I hated that in Destiny 2 we lost everything and despite improvements, just eventually had enough of the non-stop repetition. I am keen to try the remastered King’s Fall raid though, as that was my favourite, but I think it’s an addiction I’m best leaving alone.

3. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War – despite being an old game, it’s still played now due to all the amazing mods available. The gameplay and characters we all first class. The Dark Crusade meta style campaign was also great. Would love a proper sequel to this, as I didn’t like the sequels as much.
Brando

Forced exclusivity
My favourite sci-fi game has to be Knights Of The Old Republic. Choosing a game in a franchise as synonymous with sci-fi as Star Wars may seem a little fanboyish, but I’m really not that big a Star Wars fan and haven’t watched any of the Disney+ shows that have been coming out every couple of months since the third trilogy ended.

Anyway, the game itself is set roughly 4,000 years before any of the prequel movies occur, so does a good job of separating itself from any of the lore of the movies and if it wasn’t for the fact that people are using lightsabers and Force powers you wouldn’t really know it was Star Wars. The settings are great as you hop across different planets, going from grungy underground districts of cities to beautiful water planets, interacting with all different kinds of lifeforms.

Unfortunately, the gameplay does make it hard to recommended since it runs on a turn-based dice roll system which won’t make sense to anyone who isn’t familiar with Dungeons & Dragons. Fantastic when it released back in 2003 but I can see why BioWare’s later sci-fi role-playing epic proved to be more popular thanks to its easier to understand gameplay.
Sunny

GC: Knights Of The Old Republic was an Xbox 1 exclusive so it’s sales and popularity was always going to be limited.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Giant robots are vital
As with the fantasy topic which came up as a Hot Topic recently, the sci-fi genre isn’t one of my favourites but I have tended to have more joy from sci-fi films than games. However, my pick for this topic would be Titanfall 2.

I didn’t dabble in its supposedly fantastic multiplayer, but the single-player campaign was enough to convince me it was one of the best first person shooters to have ever existed. It wasn’t the longest campaign but that meant there was no filler, every level added something new to the formula and no idea was ever repeated. They even somehow made a level based in a factory arguably the best level in the game with the Cause and Effect level.

Furthermore, I feel as though the sci-fi theme is what allows the game to work with all the weapons and abilities your character has, alongside the giant robots of course. I also thought about my favourite indie game Into The Breach for this topic, but I thought that in that case you could have had the same gameplay had you changed the theme to a fantasy one, so in that game’s case I didn’t think the sci-fi theme was as vital as to why I liked it.
Angry_Kurt (Twitter)
Now playing: God Of War (PS5), Nobody Saves The World (Steam Deck) and F1 Manager 22 (PC)

Hard SF
I enjoy science fiction. I have read Asimov’s Foundation series and was blown away by Dan Simmons’ first two Hyperion books. Incredible space opera.
I don’t consider Star Wars to be sci-fi, more reskinned swords and sorcery.
Great sci-fi is about what ifs and can really make you think.

This is why I love Stellaris.

It has space opera and draws from the best kind of science fiction writing.

With all the DLC this game just keeps evolving and improving.

I will be honest and admit I’m terrible at it and I don’t fully grasp all the concepts. However the exploration of the solar system and all the emergent stories really bring it to life.

I’ve played several games of this and am still surprised by the new stories it’s telling.

After playing different races, my last three I have played as the UN of Earth and on this playthrough there is a devastating gang war on Earth.

I have also encountered symbiotic brain slugs which boost sapient creatures’ intelligence and I have let them loose on the human population. So far its paying off but there may be a price to pay.

I’ve never actually won a game but just enjoy its storytelling.

First time I played I wasn’t that fussed. When you invest a little time though it’s a very rich and deep game.

Stellaris is full of what if scenarios and grand space opera, all delivered by menu and text and some modest but lovely solar system graphics.

If it was a triple-A game, it could never deliver like it does.

I don’t know if you have ever considered reviewing the current iteration of Stellaris at GC but I’m sure you would agree it’s a different beast to the game that was initially released on console.

I am loving the PC ports of strategy games to console.
Vaughan (Tiddleydwarf – PSN ID)

Rare choice
Discounting two of the inevitably most obvious choices for the favourite sci-fi themed games, namely Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, my nomination is unanimously the flawed, yet deep and engrossing N64 title Jet Force Gemini.

The game was developed by Rare and, based on their reputation, was highly anticipated. Upon release, the game had glaring flaws. One had to collect all Tribals on all levels, if one accidentally got caught in enemy crossfire then they’d die and you’d have to complete the whole level again! Combined with the somewhat tedious Floyd missions, this game was far from the standard one would expect from such a reputable developer, yet it had charm and a huge sense of replayability.

The game was visually stunning for 1999 standards, with great lighting effects, intelligent enemies, and convincing explosion animations. The high intensity action, huge expandable levels, and great sound, justified this as a premium Sci-Fi epic, and undoubtedly one that improves with perseverance, resilience, and has an emphasis on sheer fun.
‘Supplement’ Steve Derricourt

Audience divided
The Deus Ex series was, to me, an awesome set of games which sadly may not continue for the time being, but definitely needs too, due to such an inspiring science fiction series of games.

Going by Mankind Divided’s sales you’d think that sci-fi isn’t too popular a genre, in regards to single-player games at least. Sci-fi multiplayers seems to do better but multiplayer is a different kettle of fish entirely. The last Mass Effect game, especially, would not help sci-fi games reputation in the gaming industry.

The augmented abilities of Deus Ex, with cybernetic limbs, is definitely a great part of the game turning a more mundane character into a super soldier of sorts. It was always exciting to be able to access new abilities from strength, defence, and stealth enhancing upgrades.

The story and characters were exciting, as well as the setting and politics of the game. It may have been this that may have put people off, as the complex storyline weaves its intricate plot. Maybe the gameplay was too slow and lots of sneaking about got too much for some gamers. Though Metal Gear and Hitman seemed to do well.

I’d say sci-fi video games are healthy for now and we’ll definitely be getting more games based within future environment settings at some point, though more Deus Ex would be great.
Alucard

GC: Now that Embracer Group owns Deus Ex and its developer a new game is expected eventually.

This week’s Hot Topic
After last weekend’s Inbox about favourite fantasy video games this week’s asks the related question: what’s your favourite sci-fi game?

It can be a licensed game if you want but try to also include a game that started in video games. How big a fan of science fiction are you in general, and how much of a distinction do you make between relatively grounded settings and space fantasy?

Do you feel there are too many or too few sci-fi games at the moment and what kind of games would you like to see more of, including specific genres like space combat simulators and sci-fi horror?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

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