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8 Games to Play While We Wait For the Mars Curiosity to Find Life

Since NASA’s Curiosity landed on Mars we’ve been left waiting for the discoveries of Prothean beacons and ancient Monoliths so that we can develop light speed travel, worm holes and warp jumping. Up until now however Curiosity has spent its time twiddling its wheels, taking holiday snaps and tweeting. So perhaps contact with alien civilizations might take a little longer than we had hoped. So while you wait, we suggest you fill you nights looking at the stars and your days playing games. But not just any games. Move aside Nathan Drake, Mario and the nameless hollow from Dark Souls – it’s time to go where only Sci-Fi heroes have gone before as we present the 8 Games to Play While We Wait For the Mars Curiosity to Find Life

The Mass Effect Trilogy

From getting your rocks off with alien ladies to fighting AI’s on the moon, Mass Effect offers a range of space adventures. After discovering ancient technology on the surface of Mars, mankind has taken to space, meeting alien after alien: from the sexy Asari to the robotic Geth. Now every species faces extinction from a mysterious race, hell-bent on wiping the universe clean. This is space opera at its finest, not seen since Luke purchased R2 in 1977. Throughout the Mass Effect trilogy, you’ve the chance to drive across distant planets in the cumbersome Mako, battle on Mars, and travel across the galaxy. If that doesn’t float your Starship, then how about having Chris from Family Guy as your pilot?


The earth is preparing for an asteroid impact, and it’s up to your to find and colonise a suitable planet to ensure humanity’s survival. Thankful you’re not on your own in this task: you’ve a helpful AI on hand to constantly remind you that, ‘Any mistake at this point will doom you and your colonists to certain death.’ From gathering data on star systems, to securitizing the mass of a habitable planet; from stockpiling weather satellites to counting down your launch, the rather technical choices presented to you should satisfy the desire to play at being a NASA scientist. If you do manage to find and land on a suitable planet the challenges of building, researching and keeping your colony alive come thick and fast. So if you fancy technical management and probing the unknown of space, blast away.


If you’d like to take evolution of alien races in your own hands, then God-game Spore is just the ticket. Begin by guiding a single cell organism through the evolution stage, along the way deciding how many limbs, eyes and mouths your species will possess. Do you want to give the T-Rex another shot, or would you rather create a race of killer sheep? The decision is left to you. Five stages of development will see your killer sheep grow from a humble tribe to a high-tech nation blasting into space, ready to meet hundreds of other user create races. This isn’t just a fun game, but will have you pondering the complexities of evolution. If Darwin was be playing a game today, we imagine Spore would be in his top ten…along with Kinect Star Wars of course.

The Dig

When Spielberg has a hand in writing a game, you shouldn’t be surprised when aliens show up. As ever, an asteroid is headed for Earth and it’s up to you to stop it (who else). When the plan to lay charges and blow the asteroid goes awry, you find yourself on a distant planet with the sole aim of returning home. This movie style point and click game will immerse you in the intricately designed levels, as you attempt to solve the mysteries of alien technology. If you were the Curiosity you’d be able to tweet for solutions, but in The Dig all you have are your wits (and Google if you get really stuck).

The Half-Life Series

Here a question one for you science buffs: what happens when an Anti-Mass Spectrometer goes wrong?  A resonance cascade of course. As the most famous mute in history, Gordon Freeman must clean up the mess made in the Black Mesa Research Facility, when a portal between Earth and the dimension of Xen is created, sending various alien life forms with it. With high science, rocket blast offs and alien head crabs, the Half-Life series taught us why science was cool. And let’s not forget one of the most memorable antagonists to date: G-Man.

The Dead Space Series

Just like Gordon Freeman, Dead Space’s Isaac Clark keeps his mouth firmly closed (at least in his first outing). And who’s to blame him? We were struck dumb with fear when attempting to survive the horrors of the USG Ishimura, a starship that Isaac’s team is sent to explore when a distress call is sent out. As the saying goes, in space no one can hear your scream. Well we were screaming throughout this adventure, and they may not have heard us in space, but the neighbours certainly did (Sorry about that). What seems to be a deserted starship is actually full of Necromorphs, grotesque monsters that require you to shoot of their limbs to finish them. Sounds simple? Give it a go when there are five of the fiends running toward you from all directions in the dark. A little advice: If there are any distress beacons discovered on Mars, come straight back home.

Sins of a Solar Empire

What these sins are, we aren’t totally sure. Killing is probably pretty high on the list though. Set in space you’ll be commanding a faction, that along with navigating planets, exploring star systems and taking in the sights of asteroid fields, will be creating huge fleets of ships to destroy any and all who get in your way. A dense research tree may even give you a taste of just how complex all this spaceship business really is. Or at least the amount of clicking involved.

Mars Rover Landing

If after all that you are still desperate for action from Curiosity, then worry not, NASA and Microsoft are at hand with a solution: Mars Rover Landing, a Kinect game in which you get to land on Mars. It’s a selection of three mini-games that require you to guide the Curiosity safety through turbulence and onto the red planet’s surface. You’ll have to be aware of the structural integrity of the vehicle, but unlike NASA if you do crash you’ve got another shot at it. Rumour has it that the NASA scientists were playing this for weeks in the run up to the landing. Here’s hoping for an achievement for saving the wind sensor!

Whether you want to see naked aliens or simply shoot their arms off, this list should keep you entertained whilst you await first contact (and the wars that will inevitably follow). Are there any games you think we’ve missed? What titles can prepare us for ET’s arrival? And what games may have helped NASA to train for the challenges ahead. Let us know in the comment.

Games set in space come from a variety of genres, and with the likes of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dead Space 3 and Prey 2 on the horizon we’ll really be spoilt for choice. But looking back at our list, what they all share is humanity’s desire to discover what lies beyond our world, from the cute to the horrific, the inspiring to the menacing. Since first setting foot on the Moon we have been fascinated by the question: where next? Jupiter’s moons? Mining asteroids? Finding water on Mars? And although these games may not have the answer, they do remind us of the great feats accomplished by our scientific heroes, and none more so than the inspirational, late Neil Armstrong.

‘Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying.’

–          Neil Armstrong, In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969 (2007)

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