15 Games to Play While You Wait for ‘Starfield’

15 Games to Play While You Wait for ‘Starfield’
Screenshot: Bethesda Software, Fair Use

Game publisher Bethesda announced Starfield back in 2018, but this week they opened the info-taps and dropped a ton of new details — and a 15 minute video of the open-world sci-fi RPG in action. It’s impressive: There will be 1,000 planets spread over 100 solar systems, building and customising your own spaceship, a huge story, and a lot more.

Sadly, even if everything goes according to plan, Starfield won’t be released until 2023, so put your waiting shoes on. Until then, you could try out the 15 games listed below, each of which should give a taste of some aspect of Betheda’s upcoming super-game.

No Man’s Sky (2016)

The last time I got this hyped for the release of a massive space game, it was No Man’s Sky — which was a little disappointing at launch. But hey, No Man’s Sky has steadily improved since then, to its current state as an all-encompassing, often awe-inspiring space game. I assume some/most of Skyfield’s 1,000 planets will be procedurally generated, like almost all of No Man’s Sky.

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, macOS, Microsoft Windows

Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim (2011)

Bethesda’s Todd Howard described Starfield as “Skyrim in space,” so all you have to do is fire up Elder Scrolls 5 and imagine all the elves are stars and the dragons are planets, and you have a rough approximation of Starfield. OK, maybe not. But it’s still a great game.

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S

Doom (2016)

Starfield is a shooter as well as an RPG, and Bethesda has a serious track record in the genre. Case-in-point: Doom. If Starfield manages to be half as good a shooter as Doom, it will be twice as good as anyone deserves.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Android, Google Stadia

Mass Effect (2007)

The gold standard in space-based role-playing, replaying Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 will get you in the mood for interstellar adventure. These games are the standard upon which Starfield will be measured.

Platforms: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3

Destiny 2 (2017)

I watched the trailer for Starfield with my kid, and we both said “this looks like Destiny” at the same time. You could have much worse inspiration than this action-oriented, mainly multiplayer, sci-fi shooter.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Google Stadia, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows

Kerbal Space Program (2011)

Among the announced features of Starfield is the chance to build and customise your own ships, so brush up on how to craft the perfect spacecraft with Kerbal Space Program. Although I doubt Starfield’s ships will be as hard to build and as prone to explosions as KSP’s, and I doubt its characters will be as adorable.

Platforms: Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S

Fallout 3 (2008)

Fallout 3‘s massive open world, fascinating narrative, and anything-could-happen approach are a perfect template for an outer space game; plus, it’s another game from Bethesda. Hopefully, Starfield contains some of the Fallout series’ unique vibe.

Platforms: Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014)

They’re not heavy on RPG elements or exploration, but when it comes to pure science fiction shooter action, the Halo games created it, perfected it, and remain among the best.

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows

Dead Space 3 (2013)

Starfield is supposed to have 1,000 planets to explore when it comes out, and I’m hoping that at least one or two of them are as claustrophobic and terrifying as Dead Space 3 — I love horror in space.

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

The Outer Worlds (2019)

Obsidian Entertainment’s first-person sci-fi RPG is renowned among critics and gamers alike for the quality of its writing. If the small stories in The Outer World weren’t as compelling as the overarching narrative, the entire thing would collapse under its own weight, so consider this a writing lesson for Bethesda.

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Eve Online (2003)

Massive space-based MMORPG Eve Online has been running for nearly 20 years, so if you’re jumping in now, you’re missing a lot. But for such a massive and complex game, Eve is surprisingly accessible for new players.

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, Macintosh operating systems

SpaceEngine (2010)

SpaceEngine isn’t a game; it’s a simulation of the actual universe that lets you travel between stars, visit distant planets, and slow down and speed up time to witness cosmological wonders. SpaceEngine combines actual celestial objects with procedurally generated ones based on the best scientific predictions to give you a nearly infinite universe to explore, so there’s a lot to do until 2023.

Platform: Windows PCs

Surviving Mars (2018)

The publisher of Cities: Skyline took its detail- and system-heavy simulation style to Mars for this sandbox game in which the lives of hopeful Mars immigrants depend on your ability to build a self-sustaining colony for them. (I’m sorry for killing you all so many times, guys.)

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems, Classic Mac OS

Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (2000)

The original Star Trek series basically invented the idea of taking a spaceship to different planets and having self-contained adventures on them. It’s a structure I hope Starfield borrows from heavily. Sadly, there haven’t been all that many great Star Trek games released, but Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force is an exception — if you can put up with the ancient graphics and controls.

Platforms: PlayStation 2, Windows PC, MacOS

Elite Dangerous (2014)

Elite: Dangerous’s you-can-do-anything approach seems like the opposite of a typical, plot-rich Bethesda RPG, but when it comes to the vastness of space, open possibilities should be mandatory — what is the universe, after all, if not an open sandbox?

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, MacOS

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