The question of whether we’re alone in the universe still hasn’t been answered, but we can keep dreaming about the possibilities, good or bad. Of course, mankind is naturally terrified of the unknown, so fictional alien invaders have been prominent in pop culture for over a century now. Such stories aren’t limited to cinema and television – video games have allowed us to take the fight to (or even play as) the invaders. If you’re enticed by the idea, you’ll enjoy our list of the best alien invasion games, ranked.

To make things easier and clearer, this list has been limited to games that focus on invasions of planet Earth. There are plenty of alien invasion games that take place elsewhere (Gears of War comes to mind) or shake up the points of view in distant futures (StarCraft), but you’ll only find more traditional alien invasion stories in this comprehensive list. We’re also rolling some big series up into one entry to keep things tidy.

If you’re looking for more sci-fi video game lists, you can look into the best space exploration games, the best space colonization games, or maybe our all-spooky best space horror games selection if you’re brave enough. On top of those, we also have some suggestions about space games that should be movies or TV series as well as the best alien invasion movies of all time you can watch in between gaming sessions.

But for now, let’s lock and load, and prepare to defend our planet from the scum of the universe as we look at the best alien invasion games of all time.

10. Earth Defense Force series

(Image credit: D3PUBLISHER)Platforms: PC, PS2/3/4/5, PSP, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Nintendo SwitchDeveloper: Sandlot, thinkArts, Vicious Cycle Software, Yuke’s

The Earth Defense Force series has just turned 20 and remains a rollicking fun time, no matter which installment you choose to go with. It all boils down to its low-budget but large-scale action that honors B-movies from the distant past. Hostile aliens beam down from space, and they’re bringing in the big guns as well as giant insects, mechs, kaijus, and other monstrosities.

In each of the games, the players – multiplayer is available and encouraged – assume the role of regular EDF soldiers tasked with defending Earth from the strange invaders and eventually launching a counterattack. You can start with much any entry, but the newer the game, the more hectic its sci-fi chaos becomes. Just don’t expect a technical marvel from any of these.

9. Mass Effect 3

(Image credit: EA)Platforms: PC, PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, Wii UDeveloper: BioWare

Well, you actually need to play the entire Mass Effect trilogy to understand the whole story, but we only listed Mass Effect 3 because it’s the one where the invading aliens – a machine race of synthetic-organic starships known as Reapers – get to Earth. The entire Milky Way is in danger, but the plot revolves around saving our homeworld because that decisive battle can finish the entire galaxy-wide war.

Mass Effect is an action role-playing video game series full of third-person action, squad mechanics, and plenty of decision-making. They’re also pretty good space exploration games, and the universe-building is exquisite, with plenty of alien worlds and species helping (or blocking) you along the way. Even if the main objective is saving the galaxy from invaders from beyond, this entire space odyssey is well worth your time, and 2021’s Legendary Edition of the trilogy makes jumping in way easier.

8. Duke Nukem 3D

(Image credit: Gearbox Software)Platforms: MS-DOS, PC, macOS, and moreDeveloper: 3D Realms, Gearbox Software, Nerve Software

Duke Nukem games are all about kicking ass, chewing bubblegum, and looking cool while doing it. Duke Nukem 3D is by far the best entry in the series, mainly thanks to cutting-edge (for 1996) first-person shooter mechanics, complex level design, and the high degree of interactivity of the environments. But of course, we still remember Duke Nukem’s finest adventure due to its risky humor and copious amounts of pop culture satire.

If you’re really into cinema, you’ll enjoy plenty of references to Aliens, Jaws, Pulp Fiction, and They Live, among many others. But even if we focus solely on its FPS merits, it’s still one of the best games the genre has ever had. Moreover, the adventure takes the player across wildly different levels, such as invaded streets, military bases, deserts, and even space stations.

7. Resistance trilogy

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)Platforms: PS3Developer: Insomniac Games

Insomniac became (and still is) famous because of its knack for cheerful platformers and action games, but during the PS3 generation, the studio did something completely different: an FPS trilogy which started in an alternate history 1951, following the human resistance in the fight against the mysterious Chimera.

The Chimera invasion is especially menacing because they can transform captured humans into monster-like soldiers, meaning their army only gets stronger. It’s all pretty grim, but humans can thankfully use some of the Chimera’s weapons against them. The entire trilogy takes you across the United Kingdom and the United States, as the alien invaders rapidly spread all over the globe.

6. Crysis series

(Image credit: Crytek)Platforms: PC, PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, Nintendo SwitchDeveloper: Crytek

The Crysis games also get rather dark despite starting off with a more grounded mission in the fictional Lingshan Islands, near the coast of east Philippines. The original game is still a looker, especially after its remastered release, and its sandbox-like approach to the earlier levels remains impressive.

Crysis 2 and 3 feel more like traditional FPS titles, though their ambitions and visual presentation are stunning as well. While many fans of the original game weren’t okay with the overall direction the story took, we think the entire trilogy is worth playing through at least once, as it holds more than a couple of solid surprises, and not all of them are related to the atypical alien invaders.

5. Destroy All Humans! 1 & 2

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)Platforms: PC, PS2/4/5, Xbox, Xbox One/Series X/S, Nintendo SwitchDeveloper: Pandemic Studios, Black Forest Games

Destroy All Humans! was once a promising new series of games by Pandemic Studios, but it fizzled out with middling entries (developed elsewhere) after the two really strong releases in 2005 and 2006. The games take place on Earth, where the Furon alien known as Crypto must gather the Furon DNA locked inside human brains to save his race from cloning themselves to extinction. It’s a funny and very original setup, and the results are equally hilarious.

Even though these two games could be considered open-world third-person adventures, they actually follow a rather traditional mission structure, so the whole thing hits a nice balance between offering freedom and staying focused. Crypto revels in chaos, so his war on mankind is a blast to play through thanks to inventive weapons and otherworldly powers. Furthermore, the recent remakes by Black Forest Games are excellent and the definitive way to enjoy Crypto’s two good games.

4. Half-Life series

(Image credit: Valve)Platforms: PC, macOS, Linux, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2/3Developer: Valve, Gearbox Software

The Half-Life series still lacks a proper ending after HL2: Episode 2’s huge cliffhanger, but that doesn’t mean it’s a journey you should ignore. Quite the opposite, as the saga’s renown is more than justified. It left a huge mark on science fiction video games due to its out-of-the-box FPS thinking and design, eventually leading to other modern classics such as Portal.

Half-Life’s main storyline begins when alien lifeforms invade the Black Mesa Research Facility, located in New Mexico, through a portal after an experiment goes wrong. It all leads eventually to a full-scale alien invasion of planet Earth and the formation of a human resistance movement against a fascist government led by the Combine. Players assume the role of physicist-turned-action-man Gordon Freeman in the mainline games, but you should look into the spinoffs too.

3. Halo 2, 3 & ODST

(Image credit: Microsoft)Platforms: PC, macOS, Xbox, Xbox 360/One/Series X/SDeveloper: Bungie, 343 Industries, Certain Affinity

This list wouldn’t be complete if we ignored the Halo series, although only three entries actually deal with an alien invasion of planet Earth (at least in the mainline saga). Much like with Mass Effect 3, we highly recommend playing the entire original Master Chief trilogy, but the games where you actually defend Earth by shooting Covenant forces in the face are the ones listed here.

While Halo 3’s main focus is kicking the Covenant from Earth, Halo 2 is only partially set on our homeworld, but those levels are pretty sweet. As for Halo 3: ODST, it’s way more than a quick spinoff, offering a more grounded take on the battle against the aliens and making the most out of a deserted terrestrial city environment.

2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown 1 & 2

(Image credit: 2K Games)Platforms: PC, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, PS3/4, PS Vita, Xbox 360/One, Nintendo SwitchDeveloper: Firaxis Games

2012’s reboot of the legendary XCOM series was a huge surprise that has led to a larger and more ambitious sequel. The reboot starts in an alternative version of 2015, when a multinational paramilitary organization called XCOM needs to repel a gradual alien invasion of Earth.

The player commands troops in the field in turn-based missions that can go very wrong, very fast. The XCOM games are known for their relentless difficulty and the high stakes of each mission, but research and development in between them can make things easier. Much like in real life, the actual threat isn’t the only obstacle, as finances and political pressure can also make your organization crumble. Our personal recommendation? Save your game often.

1. Space Invaders

(Image credit: Taito)Platforms: Arcade, Atari consoles, NES, and moreDeveloper: Taito

Our number 1 pick might feel kind of silly and outdated, but it’s the honest truth: the quintessential alien invasion video game is still Space Invaders. Alien-blasting action doesn’t get any more iconic and pure. It’s also an essential part of video game history that the newer generations should be introduced to.

Unsurprisingly, at this point you can play Space Invaders on pretty much any modern device that does video games, so there’s literally no excuse to jump in for a couple of rounds from time to time.

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