While video games aren’t afraid to go into space, the moon can be a difficult environment to pull through. With its lifeless environment, lower gravity, and cratered terrain, the moon sometimes stands in stark contrast to other shots you’ve seen digitized. However, some games have made the moon an impressive location for their story. Many add aliens because they need to shoot something, while others throw in ancient ruins or advanced moon bases to give us something different to look at than dust and craters.
The moon, it is theorized, emerged from Earth’s mantle, which was expelled after colliding with another solar system object. We also see it hovering over us most nights and some days. Of course, we’ve made many stories about the moon in fiction, so it’s no surprise that it found its way into our video games.
Destiny gets its fair share of criticism, but the shooting mechanics were tight and everything in the game was designed to get you hooked and raise some money for the next expansion. The Shattered Moon setting in Destiny was a big contributor to that.
The moon is littered with ruins from mankind’s expansion into the solar system. It’s also wide open, with material spilling out from within. The game itself has one of the main enemies – The Hive – buried deep in the moon and the level design is nerve-wracking and spooky. Being the moon just makes it that much better, and Destiny 2 has made it a point to visit the moon as well.
9/10 Super Mario Odyssey
While Super Mario Odyssey strayed from its Galaxy roots that dominated the Wii era, it still didn’t shy away from the moon. Many heralded Odyssey’s return to a Mario 64-style game, with an incredible amount of collectibles and playthroughs.
The lunar stage is definitely one of the unique worlds you encounter, but instead of taking one small step for humanity, you make leaps, leaps and flips.
8/10 duck stories
Ducktales is one of the most popular games on the NES, although licensed games are usually of low quality. Ducktales had an impressive lunar level that suited other locales like Transylvania and the Himalayas. The stage music for this level, known as the “Moon Stage Theme”, is widely known and has been remixed many times by fans. Pogo sticking around the moon is simply unbeatable.
7/10 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Perhaps one of the most underrated Call of Duty games, Infinite Warfare really was a step forward in scope and focus. The campaign felt like it spanned a solar system, and the branching mission structure made you feel like you were waging war against SDF forces.
The space combat felt unique and impactful. The game is set on multiple bodies in our solar system, including the Operation Port Armor level where you fight your way through a lunar base.
6/10 Command and Conquer 2: Yuri’s Revenge
So you want to play a soviet army? On the moon? Fight a madman? Well, that’s why Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 exists. In the Yuri’s Revenge expansion, you’re tasked with destroying Yuri’s secret lunar base in the Sea of Tranquility.
Instead of infantry, you can use cosmonauts with laser beams and jetpacks. Of course they are expensive and quite weak as they are known to be space and space doesn’t like humans. If the cosmonauts die in the game, you will hear “Can’t… breathe”.
5/10 Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein: The New Order stands out from the park with a fun FPS that pays homage to its genre-defining roots. What makes it even better than the original is creating an alternate history where Nazi Germany won WWII.
This nightmare scenario is littered with details showing how history has changed, including the fact that Germany and not the United States landed on the moon. BJ Blaskowitz sneaks into a lunar transporter, and we get one of the most iconic levels in the game in which you have to face different gravity and space suit fights.
4/10 mass effect
The Rogue VI mission for the RPG classic Mass Effect is triggered after you reach level 20. The Moon, or Luna, in the Mass Effect universe was mined from materials used to construct two dozen space stations at Earth’s Lagrange points.
You will spend this mission taking on drones while a rogue VI has taken over an Alliance training ground. There are many great things about Mass Effect, and its galaxy-spanning environment is one of them. Of course, people usually play this moon mission as fast as possible.
3/10 Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem 3D has an entire second episode set in space and on the moon. With a game created in 1996, you really have to appreciate the graphics and the game designers ability to create space levels in the build engine.
In true Duke fashion, the episode fills up with the body of Luke Skywalker and a movie set that faked the moon landing. Considering other shooters at the time just dropped you down dark hallways, Duke’s designer attempt at completely different settings was appreciated.
2/10 lunar lander
What kid from the 80’s hasn’t played Lunar Lander? Better yet, what kid hasn’t crashed while playing Lunar Lander? The vector graphics game from 1979 was extremely popular and was based on the very real problem that Apollo astronauts had to land their spacecraft on a moon with peaks, valleys and boulders.
So this isn’t as graphically impressive as the other games on this list, but it’s still an absolute blast to say “The Eagle Has Landed” once you’ve finally glued that thing to the floor.
1/10 Kerbal space program
It’s not our moon but that of the aliens known as Kerbals, moon but we’ll count it anyway since KSP is the quintessential space flight simulation game. After a lot of trial and error, which may have resulted in the death of many Kerbals, you can make it to Mun (the analogue of Moon in Kerbal) after several hours of gameplay.
However, in true KSP fashion, you should design a spacecraft that can leave the surface and return to the home planet of Kerbal – otherwise they will become a permanent monument to your simulated space program.
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