The 15 Best Space Combat Sims of All-Time

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The 15 Best Space Combat Sims of All-Time

The Escapist loves to play any game that lets you say things like "Stay on target!" and "We're too close."

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The X series only getting Honorable mention makes me a bit sad,
Feel like some of the series should have been lumped together to make room for more

Colony Wars! How could this not be on the list?


There were 2 sequels to this sick sick space sim that did an excellent job in simulating Newtonian motion physics in space.

direkiller:
The X series only getting Honorable mention makes me a bit sad,
Feel like some of the series should have been lumped together to make room for more

I never really played any of the X games except X3: the Reunion, but it was amazing! Needed a better tutorial though.

I have never understood why X-Wing Alliance never makes it onto lists like this. It refined almost every element in Tie-Fighter and X-Wing, plus better graphics and a greater focus on story, even though that story was a bit trope-heavy.

The I-War series should be there according to me, as well as Frontier rather than Elite if not both seeing as several Wing Commanders made it on there.

Edge of Chaos remains the best space sim mechanics-wise in my opinion.

blackaesir:

I have never understood why X-Wing Alliance never makes it onto lists like this. It refined almost every element in Tie-Fighter and X-Wing, plus better graphics and a greater focus on story, even though that story was a bit trope-heavy.

Also, working multiplayer in Alliance. I guess it was just released at an inopportune time-- I agree completely that it really just refines it's predecessors. Perhaps flying Corellian Freighters wasn't enough for the hype train....

FreeSpace 2 also gained a rather large modding community after its source code was released.

Anyways, I own a DOS copy of Tie Fighter that I barely remember playing as a child. Any ways to get it to work on a modern PC?

Edit: Nevermind, DOSBox wins again. :D

Seriously no X-Wing Alliance? And only an honorary mention for the X series? What's that all about.

I played many of the games here on the list and have fond memories of them.
Can't help to feel let down by the genre as of late.
The last game of the genre I remotely enjoyed was StarLancer and as I just shockingly realized, thanks to this list, was 14 years ago...
I'm backer of Star Citizen and thus far I am disappointed by its development status. The flight model is no fun at all and the employed "business model" is sketchy as far as I am concerned.
What made Tie Fighter, Freespace and Wing Commander so great wasn't necessarily complex system micromanagement or flight models. Let's be honest that stuff was simple. These games managed to motivate the players by a griping story, mission designs & rewards.

Captcha: Lost Love

- Seems like it.

direkiller:
The X series only getting Honorable mention makes me a bit sad,
Feel like some of the series should have been lumped together to make room for more

Indeedie - The story varied from silly to stupid, but the gameplay and economy where grand, with a degree of freedom that was great.

blackaesir:

I never really played any of the X games except X3: the Reunion, but it was amazing! Needed a better tutorial though.

I have never understood why X-Wing Alliance never makes it onto lists like this. It refined almost every element in Tie-Fighter and X-Wing, plus better graphics and a greater focus on story, even though that story was a bit trope-heavy.

Tutorials where never X's strong suit, alas.

Not played any of the X-Wing series, I'm afraid...

Glad to see Tachyon: The Fringe was on here, it had a really good story with two paths. And Starlancer was awesome - WW2 in space, with the Allies being kicked back to the edge of the system at first...

But I'll never understand why Freelancer gets on alot of these lists as some sort of unappreciated gem. I thought it was the worse of MMO gameplay (i.e. grinding the same jobs for cash) for the bulk of the game. Sure, the opening cutscene was awesome (aside from tying up Starlancer's story in an unsatisfying way), and the environments and ships are alright, but the bulk of the game is 'flight to X, shoot Y' unless you go with a cargo ship, but that ends up being counter productive as the main story missions are combat based. Whereas the X series has had a deep and complex economy with real freedom (even to build your own factory empire), Freelancer just never seemed to have anything like as interesting going for it.

Ishigami:

What made Tie Fighter, Freespace and Wing Commander so great wasn't necessarily complex system micromanagement or flight models. Let's be honest that stuff was simple.

I can only speak for TIE Fighter and X-Wing as they're the only ones I've played. However, I think you're pretty much spot on. However, I would point out that the systems were not SHALLOW, simply easy to use. At least in TIE and X there was a decent amount of options available to you with the ability to modify you're power usage and shield format. The reason they seemed simple is they were easy to use and understand. Take power from Engines to shields? More protection, but less speed. Move from Weapons to Engines? Lower fire rate, faster speed? All shields aft? Double protection in the rear, no protection (unless you're shields were boosted) in the front.

The system gave you a lot of options, but only to took a minute or two to understand and start utilizing.

A common mistake we tend to see in games that are trying to be "Deep" is confusing complexity for depth.

Strange that there's no Star Crusader. Then again, I guess it's just not that well known. I loved the concept of being able to disable ships and tow them through your warp home to capture, then use them in future missions.

If anyone is looking for a space sim check out Star Citizen. Made by the guy who did wing commander, privateer, and freelancer

https://robertsspaceindustries.com/about-the-game

I understand why lists like these are Star Wars heavy, the SW universe is friendlier to it, but for my money Star Trek Bridge Commander deserved at least an honorable mention here. A good storyline, fun combat that actually felt like the Trek Universe, and the campaign was a pretty lengthy thing too.

Wait...
Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception is even mentioned?

I mean, talk about a fantastic game on a CONSOLE.

coheedswicked:
If anyone is looking for a space sim check out Star Citizen. Made by the guy who did wing commander, privateer, and freelancer

https://robertsspaceindustries.com/about-the-game

When I get a supercomputer lol, I've seen it and it looks nuts, I'm still running windows XP so as much as I'd love that game it's far off for me.

What's with all the Star Wars games? Star Trek Bridge Commander is better than all of them!

I played TIE Fighter like mad as a kid. Awesome game back then.
This list makes me want to play the two new games on the horizon, but for the moment, there is a great Freespace 2 - Mod in the Battlestar Galactica Universe called Diaspora.
Awesome work with missions, voiceovers and a (seemingly) good take on the story. I can only recommend.

Tanis:
Wait...
Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception is even mentioned?

I mean, talk about a fantastic game on a CONSOLE.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! I never believed I would actually encounter another person who not only actually played that game but enjoyed it as well. I am 99% posative we are the only ones on the whole planet.

OT:
X-wing Vs Tie Fighter was the first game I ever really played on the PC so I have alot of love for that game. Me and my friends would always open a gaming session with the four of us taking on a Star Destroyer. Only won about 50% of the time but it was fun as hell 100% of the time.

Freespace 2 would have to be my vote for the best. The missions where you support the Colossus have this incredibly epic feel to them.

Freelancer was a fun game but in all honesty the combat was one of the least enjoyable parts. It was insanely repetitive: get spammed with enemy fighters from a few different directions, pick them off one at a time, rinse and repeat. Also, I still remain furious to this day about what has to be the most contrived plot twist of all time:

I know it's not a space-sim per se, but Escape Velocity: Nova has some fantastic space combat. Even on a 2D plane it feels very intense, especially when you take on something as agile as a Class IV Valkyrie or something as big as an Aurora Carrier.

I'm not surprised EVE Online (my favorite space sim, along with its upcoming tie in EVE Valkyrie) wasn't mentioned, but, really, no FTL?

I think FTL deserves really special mention among space games because it focuses on being concise and easy to get into and easy to play (but not easy to win, not at all...) and providing just as much entertainment as more complex space games while still being far simpler.

That being said, I love space games, and need to check out Freespace 2. Also, if you haven't heard of Elite: Dangerous, look that up now.

I loved TIE Fighter, but I'm in agreement with what some people have already put on here, Freespace 2 was the best.

None of the games captured the massive epic fights between enormous ships as well as Freespace 2 did, nor the sense of fighting against insanely overwhelming odds. It also did a great job of making you feel that, even though you were this ace pilot, you were still just a small fry in this organization, as so much of the information and mystery of the game was classified to you.

Amazingly, Freespace 2 could actually be downright scary at times. I still remember one mission where:

Also, the Shivans had freakin' awesome ship designs, and kudos to the game for keeping them extremely mysterious and, well, Alien.

Damn it, now I'm depressed that there won't be a Freespace 3...

^^ Yeah I loved that about the Shivans and those missions beyond the Knossos Space Portal were terrifying in scope. Especially when you first saw the Sathanas and the subsequent rush of missions afterwards. There was a very real feeling of a threat there, and the victory was great...

The very last mission was great to, leaves you wanting more. Talk about ending with a bang.

Love all the mods for the game to, still very playable to this day.

FS1 ending made me kind of sad though and left you with a lot of questions, was a good setup for FS2 however.

Of course I could always pick hairs on the ordering. One thing though, Sol was terrible. Anyhow, I would have placed Privateer above WC1-3. Anyone who makes the "storyline" argument about those games is clearly thinking only in nostalgia (saying this as someone who loved playing those games).

renegade7:

I think FTL deserves really special mention among space games because it focuses on being concise and easy to get into and easy to play (but not easy to win, not at all...) and providing just as much entertainment as more complex space games while still being far simpler.

I agree. FTL has provided me with some of the most memorable and immersive space faring escapades!

Also, considering the vastness of space, I'm more inclined to think that real life space battles would be decided more on cunning tactics than on dog-fighting maneuvers.

FTL isn't really a space combat sim like the others though, so doesn't quite fit the criteria.

Gizmo1990:

Tanis:
Wait...
Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception is even mentioned?

I mean, talk about a fantastic game on a CONSOLE.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! I never believed I would actually encounter another person who not only actually played that game but enjoyed it as well. I am 99% posative we are the only ones on the whole planet.

OT:
X-wing Vs Tie Fighter was the first game I ever really played on the PC so I have alot of love for that game. Me and my friends would always open a gaming session with the four of us taking on a Star Destroyer. Only won about 50% of the time but it was fun as hell 100% of the time.

Make me number three! I was waiting for it to appear on the list... but it never did... ToT

It's a great list though! I just gotta say, coulda been 16 greatest games...

Freelancer is on this list.

GOOD

+10 points in Staff Faith

Well, both my favorites made the list; Wing Commander: Privateer and Tie Fighter. As grigjd3 mentioned above mentioned, I would have placed Privateer above the other Wing Commander games. WC 1-3 were fun, but Privateer was absorbing. And RSE Star Citizen seems set to scratch that itch...

Also, no EVE Online?!?? Not even as an honorable mention...

6 Star wars games? Really?
4 Wing Commander games
2 each by Volition and Digital Anvil.

I'm all for keeping to series, but what about Frontier (the sequel to Elite)
Eve Online
Or any of the 'X' series.

Surely we aren't limited to the star wars universe for (good) space combat?

Oh boy would I ever love to get my hands on the tie fighter source code so I could make a modern port. Miracles do happen, right?

I thought the X games would be good as the screenshots are nice and there's some hype around them, but when I threw money at one (can't remember which one) I played the tutorial (dying several times during the tutorial since the tutorial was faulty) and seriously couldn't find myself playing it further. A lot of work has clearly gone into the games, but it feels like they're tailored for people who already play them.

Also tried freespace 2 after a long time, having fond memories of it, but couldn't get over the fact that you have to play through hours of tutorials before getting "into the game".

As for missing games, where's space rogue? Come on! =)

Sol_HSA:
Oh boy would I ever love to get my hands on the tie fighter source code so I could make a modern port. Miracles do happen, right?

The game - either the stand-alone Collectors Edition White Label (which includes an inbuilt editor) game or as part of the X-wing/TIE-fighter/X-wing vs TIE-fighter complilation pack - is still available through Amazon.co.uk for as little as 5, I recently bought a copy to add to my 'I used to play the shit out of this as a kid' collection.

Grouchy Imp:

Sol_HSA:
Oh boy would I ever love to get my hands on the tie fighter source code so I could make a modern port. Miracles do happen, right?

The game - either the stand-alone Collectors Edition White Label (which includes an inbuilt editor) game or as part of the X-wing/TIE-fighter/X-wing vs TIE-fighter complilation pack - is still available through Amazon.co.uk for as little as 5, I recently bought a copy to add to my 'I used to play the shit out of this as a kid' collection.

I'd much rather have a version that runs natively on windows, uses 3d acceleration and supports various resolutions and aspect ratios.. =)

marurder:
6 Star wars games? Really?
4 Wing Commander games
2 each by Volition and Digital Anvil.

I'm all for keeping to series, but what about Frontier (the sequel to Elite)
Eve Online
Or any of the 'X' series.

Surely we aren't limited to the star wars universe for (good) space combat?

Yeah, seems a bit of an odd list really. Not that any of them are bad games, but listing basically the entire Wing Commander franchise while completely failing to mention many games at all is pretty weird. Especially given that the description for most of them could just have been "Like the other ones, but with better graphics". I would have assumed that they were going for a more dogfighting sort of focus, but games like Elite and Freelancer were always trying to be Eve and/or X (depending on whether you like other people or not), they just hadn't quite figured it out yet.

Far from being the best 15 space sims, this appears to be simply "a couple of franchises we like".

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