Hard sci-fi and space horror RPGs

In some quarters, the genre of “hard sci-fi” has a very narrow definition based on very strict criteria. However, few people are interested in playing games that involve obsessing over the minutiae of actual science all the time. That’s why with respect to games, it’s best to treat the “hard” label as a convenient shorthand for “not space opera”. Rather than cinematic and pulpy, the hard sci-fi RPGs are usually described as gritty, realistic and grounded. Games falling under this umbrella typically feature one or more of the following elements:

  • taking place in the near rather than distant future;
  • no faster-than-light travel or other fanciful technology;
  • confined to our Solar System (or another relatively small patch of interstellar space);
  • human-only (no alien races);
  • no magic (or its equivalent).

For understandable reasons, the limitations imposed by these conditions make hard sci-fi settings a natural fit for horror scenarios (particularly of the survival horror variety). That’s why this list includes both “pure” hard sci-fi games as well as titles designed specifically with horror-style gameplay in mind. A couple of these horror-centric games fall short of the “hardness” requirement, but were still included for completeness sake.

The list