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Best video game spaceships

Best video game spaceships

Best video game spaceships
16 September 2013

Video games have had a long love affair with space. Whether that's because it's the ultimate story telling environment, full of new worlds can await your exploration, or because it's easy to animate big black spaces, is beyond our knowledge

We've spent a lot of time flying, shooting and dodging our way around the countless galaxies, a process made all the more enjoyable (and frustrating) by the spaceships we've explored them in. This list highlights the best video game spaceships we've ever flown or fought, from 2D masterpieces to modern monsters. We decided not to include ships based on designs from films (so no X-Wings), sticking to gaming originals.

Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

Asteroid ship (Asteroids)

Year: 1979

Why it's here: Old skool cool

The most important spaceship in our list, the triangular shuttle of Atari's Asteroids is a deceptive behemoth of deep space. This little pyramid of pain can blow up space rocks three-times its own size, turn on a six pence, and produces some of the most memorable noises the galaxy has ever heard (don't ask us how that works). If it weren't for this ship, hundreds of games might never have been imagined by the young designers who piloted it.

Arwing (Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars)

Year: 1997

Why it's here: "Do a barrel roll", that's why

From tight corridor runs to the swooping boss battles, the Arwing made for a brilliantly manoeuvrable machine, whose iconic move (the barrel roll) led to one of the most memorable video game catchphrases of all time. When it launched in 1997, sales of Star Fox 64 and it's beloved Arwing were second to only one other vehicular behemoth - a certain Mario Kart 64.

Mothership (Space Invaders)

Year: 1978

Why it's here: It's the mummy

The Mothership of all Motherships. We were utterly rubbish at shooting down this elusive foe, which bestowed a maximum 300 points on those skilful enough to halt its titillating back-and-forth dashes with a minimal number of shots. Countless games down the years have shocked players with their reveal of the "bigger ship waiting in the dark", but the idea was first nailed by this humble title.

Normandy (Mass Effect)

Year: 2007-2012

Why it's here: It's cooler than absolute zero

Some of the best looking space we've ever explored has belonged to the Mass Effect series, which has also provided us with the best looking ship in our list. The stunning curves of the Normandy SR-1 gained an even greater "Ooh" factor with the sequel's SR-2. Players who ignored upgrading the SR-2 throughout the game with various research tasks ultimately decided the final fate of their crew - even though they might have been really good at running around shooting stuff.

Ikaruga (Ikaruga)

Year: 2001 arcade, 2002 Dreamcast

Why it's here: A controller-ruining classic

The main mechanic of the 2D shooter Ikaruga is one of the most brilliant and frustrating you'll ever play. The Ikaruga ship can swap between two polarities, visually changing from white to black. The weapons of an opponent with the same polarity as you are absorbed, powering up your special homing laser, while opposing colours will harm you. This results in quick thinking, button mashing, combo forming battles, with huge boss fights that can verge on the impossible. It's the ship you love to hate.

Ebon Hawk (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

Year: 2003

Why it's here: Because we couldn't include the Millennium Falcon

As well as a superb narrative and excellent player abilities, a large part of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic's brilliance was in how it handled it's source universe. This is best illustrated by the wonderful hat-tip to Solo's infamous smuggler. Yes, it has all the design appeal of a breeze block, but we prefer to think of it as rugged charm.

Vic Viper (Gradius)

Year: 1985 onwards

Why it's here: One of the original horizontal-scrolling bad asses

If you've not played Gradius, the chances are you've played a game inspired by this side-scroller at some point. You fly the Vic Viper, a twin-pronged spaceship that looks like a futuristic F15 fighter jet. The real charm of the series was in picking up new firing abilities as you progressed through levels, culminating in your small craft becoming as powerful as an armada by the end of a level. We urge you to find a playable version of an early Gradius game if you've not yet sampled this classic.

Mothership (Starcraft II)


Why it's here: Sheer force

There aren't many ships infused with a huge khaydarin crystal, provoiding it with an incredible amount of psionic energy. This is one of the most powerful ships available in the Starcraft universe, capable of bending space and taking a direct hit from a nuke. Nothing is quite as fun as taking out an entire fleet of enemies with just one of these babies.

USG Ishimura (Dead Space)

Year: 2008

Why it's here: It's the industrial equivalent of the Death Star

One of the few ships in this list that isn't built for combat, the USG Ishimura is the bleak setting for 2008's superbly tense Dead Space. While the miles of atmospheric corridors and hordes of Necromorphes make this ill-fated ship one of the most enjoyable to explore, it's the vessel's 'Planet-Cracker' class that separates it from the standard spaceship - forget about the damage of Fraking, this thing has the power to rip a planet to pieces to access its mineral goodness.

Ragnarok (Final Fantasy VIII)

Year: 1999

Why it's here: Just look at it...

As quick as it is pointy, the Ragnarok of Final Fantasy VIII is one of the few airships from the series that was capable of space travel. A craft of typically beautiful FF design, the Ragnarok was one of the first high tech vehicles of the series. And it's just so pretty.

The Revenant (EVE Online)

Year: 2003

Why it's here: It costs £5,000 in real money

EVE Online is one of the most successful persistent-world MMORPG ever made, with around half a million subscribers still creating ships and exploring space ten years after its initial launch. Such is its complexity, the in-game currency used to buy and upgradge vessels is monitored by EVE's very own real-world economist. Earlier this year one of the most expensive ships available, The Revenant, was destroyed in an ambush - representing a loss of 300 billion ISK (around £5,000) for ship's owner. Only three Revenant's existed at the time. We expect the other two keep themselves to themselves these days...

Blue Falcon (F-Zero)

Year: 1990

Why it's here: Because something from F-Zero had to be

For an old skool cartridge game, F-Zero and F-Zero X were hard as nails - like Mario Kart's Rainbow Road but with the difficulty up to 11, no break pedal and a stuck accelerator. Captain Falcon's eponymous craft was an all-rounder that served us well over many hours of battling to stay on the curved skyways of this classic racer.

Metroid Gunship (Metroid series)

Year: 1986 onwards

Why it's here: Iconic, but secretive

Samus' gunships have gone through various changes across the Metroid series, but one key element has remained the same: we never really get to experience them. We've rarely been able to fly them (you can pilot one for brief stints in Metroid Prime Hunters) and their main appearances are in cut scenes, yet the gunships are a huge part of the iconography of the series - partly because they always look like a larger version of Samus' helmet.

Sabre (Halo: Reach)

Year: 2010

Why it's here: It turned a major FPS into a fun flight simulator

Halo is famed for being one of the best shooters in town: gorgeous graphics, bewildering twisting storyline, mega multiplayer. Developer Bungie also provided the series with an arsenal of fantastic vehicles - capping off the final level of the first title not with a great big shoot out, but with a point-to-point driving challenge. One of the other best vehicle sequences of the franchise belonged to Halo: Reach's Long Night of Solace, in which the guns and grenades were momentarily dropped in favour of a deep space shoot out with missiles and bullet cannons. The Sabre was immediately fun to control, and we were disappointed when we had to step out of the cockpit.

Piranha (WipEout)

Year: 1995-2012

Why it's here: Because nothings feels this fast

One of the key elements of the WipEout series is the range of vehicles available. Prefer bouncing off opponents? You might like the Qirex. All-rounder? Go for the Auricom. But for all out speed (and our favourite of the series) you had to pick the Piranha. Avoid grinding the walls (nearly impossible) and you'll almost certainly win.