Build colonies or save spacecraft in the best video games set on Mars

As actual spacecraft start to reach on the Crimson Planet, let’s rejoice with Mars-based video games like Surviving Mars, the place you construct colonies, and Tharsis, the place you captain a doomed spacecraft


10 February 2021

New Scientist Default Image

A Martian base explodes in Crimson Faction: Guerrilla

Deep Silver Volition

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Deep Silver Volition


PC, PlayStation three and 4, Xbox 360 and One, Nintendo Swap

Kerbal Space Program


PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Tharsis Choice Provisions PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Swap

THIS month sees a trio of real-life spacecraft arrive at Mars, so in honour of their voyages I believed I’d run by my very own jaunts to the Crimson Planet in recreation mode.

Mars is a standard locale for a lot of first-person shooters, with video games within the Doom, Future and Name of Responsibility sequence all that includes ranges on its dry, dusty floor, however they not often do very a lot fascinating with the setting.

One exception is Doom Eternal, which I reviewed final 12 months. As you struggle your approach by limitless demon hordes, it turns into clear you have to journey to hell by a portal on the centre of Mars. How? Why, by commandeering an enormous laser on Mars’s moon Phobos and blasting a gigantic crater into the planet’s surface.

Talking of blowing issues up on Mars, the Crimson Faction sequence makes a promoting level of getting “destructible terrain”, basically letting you knock down partitions and buildings to progress by the sport. That is nonetheless a rarity in video video games, partly due to the technical difficulties in rendering destruction on the fly, but additionally as a result of letting gamers destroy all the things makes it arduous to impose any narrative construction.

My favorite of the sequence, Crimson Faction: Guerrilla, solves this by throwing narrative construction out of the window, then throwing the window out of the window. You play Alec Mason, a freedom-fighter trying to overthrow the tyrannical rulers of Mars, however neglect all that – what issues right here is that you’re given mining costs, vehicles and a very large hammer after which inspired to destroy all the things in sight. It’s extremely satisfying, even in case you are setting the course of Martian settlement again many years.

Kerbal House Program allows you to construct just about any spacecraft you possibly can think about; mine are inclined to blow up”

If you happen to fancy one thing a bit extra constructive, Surviving Mars, which I reviewed in 2019, places you in control of constructing a colony from the bottom up. I loved the challenges of managing water, oxygen and electrical energy provides as I plotted out varied domed habitats on the Martian soil. The sport is simply tough sufficient that you simply really feel like you’re struggling to outlive with out it being too disheartening when a bunch of your colonists die in a mud storm.

Offworld Trading Company is similar but puts you slightly further into the future, with Mars settled and companies vying to take advantage of its pure assets. The sport is ruthlessly capitalist and sees you exploiting markets to get one over in your rivals or make a hostile takeover.

In case your goals of being Elon Musk revolve round constructing rockets somewhat than changing into a billionaire, Kerbal House Program is for you. With a bewildering array of capsules, engines and extra, you possibly can just about assemble any spacecraft you possibly can think about. Whether or not you may get it off the bottom is one other matter – mine are inclined to blow up. As soon as in orbit, there’s a complete photo voltaic system analogue to discover, with dusty Duna as Kerbal’s model of Mars.

Lastly, for a darker have a look at what astronauts heading to Mars would possibly face, there’s Tharsis. It’s set aboard the primary crewed ship to the Crimson Planet, which has been broken by a micrometeoroid storm, which means it’s a must to restore the ship and shepherd the crew to security. Unusually, the sport takes inspiration from board video games, so that you roll digital cube to attain aims reminiscent of placing out a hearth. This leaves issues barely extra as much as probability than I would really like, making it arduous to strategise, however nobody ever mentioned attending to Mars could be straightforward.

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