2014 is looking to be a brilliant year for fans of games set in space, that let them explore, fight, mine, and amass a virtual fortune while constantly discovering new and interesting things.

Here’s a list of the top five space operas that we’re looking forward to getting our hands on before the year is out.

Star Citizen

Star Citizen goes against everything “suits” know about gaming today. It’s a PC-exclusive, simulation-heavy, deeply complex and incredibly challenging open-world sci-fi game where you play as a pilot in a vast universe full of mystery and intrigue. Trading, fighting, piracy, law-enforcement, everything is open to you – however you want to play is how you can play.

You can play together with others in a persistent online world, or you can go it alone in a single-player portion of the game called Squadron 42 that takes you through a narrative, similar to how the Wing Commander games did it.

Check out the overview video to see just how massive the scope of this game is. If you have enjoyed any space sim in the made in the last 20 years, you’re going to love Star Citizen.

Eve: Valkyrie

You may have read Christo’s awesome story about the battle that’s happening in (virtual) space right now earlier this month, about the chaos and anarchy of EVE Online. Well, the game’s developer is working hard on another game set in the EVE universe called EVE: Valkyrie, and it’s a dog-fighting sim where you step into the boots of a fighter pilot and take on other pilots – also real people – in a test of flying skill.

What sets Valkyrie apart, and what has us buzzing with excitement is that it’s going to be the very first Oculus Rift game. That’s right, Valkyrie is going to support the world’s latest Virtual Reality headset, and really, really immerse you in its jets’ cockpits like no other game before it. Well that’s the hope, anyway.

No Man’s Sky

Imagine piloting your spaceship from deep space, to the surface of a planet complete with a seamless transition from the blackness of space to the dazzling blues and greens of terra firma, then hopping out and going swimming underwater and seeing all kinds of fish swimming around.

That’s exactly what you’ll be doing in No Man’s Sky, a procedurally-generated space sim that uses your computer’s brains to generate billions of planets, complete with their own ecosystems, for you to explore and enjoy. It’ll also feature epic space battles and, presumably, a storyline that you can follow or ignore as suits you.

Entropy

If you like the idea of a space-based dogfighting game where you play against millions of other gamers, Entropy might be to your liking. It’s currently out on Steam’s Early Access programme, so it’s not quite finished yet, but it’s in a playable state and it’s looking pretty good.

It’s another take on the fly, fight, mine, trade theme and while it still has a way to go before it’s properly fleshed out, right now it’s a pretty decent space dogfighting sim that relies more on player skill than it does on their ship or how much money they’ve amassed in-game.

It’ll be done sometime in 2014 and is thus worth a mention on our list.

Elite: Dangerous

Elite was the original open-world space sim, and it launched way back in 1984. It was followed up by the well-received Frontier: Elite II in the early 90s and now, David Braben, the man behind the franchise is making the biggest and hopefully best Elite game yet.

And it’s a thinking man’s space sim, by the sound of it. Braben uses real-world ideas in Elite: Dangerous like the use of heat as a basis for being detected, rather than sound (an irrelevant concern in space) which makes combat a fascinating dance of energy-management and skill. He also gives players the option to shut down various heat-generating ship systems in order to go silent, in addition to other space opera tropes like trading, combat and mining.

Players start off with a single ship and some money, and from there what they do is up to them. They will need cash to upgrade their ships, which can be earned through trade, capturing bounties, raiding trade convoys and mining.

Elite: Dangerous will let players set how much interaction they want with others, from playing completely offline to playing in a quasi-MMO setting that will allow players to team up online.

Braben also wants to let players land on planets and explore outside their ships when the game releases in March, so there’s a lot to look forward to here.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.