NASA's Opportunity rover reached a major milestone over the weekend when its mission on the surface of the Red Planet hit the 5,000-day mark. In the meantime, a lot has also happened in the gaming world, yet relatively few well-known published titles have reached out to our neighbouring planet and settled on Mars.
Therefore we have assembled the following list that features games which are even partially set on Mars and have released after January 2004. Re-releases and add-ons have been omitted, and we may have missed one or two little indies (apologies for that). As can be seen from the years they were published, in the early years of the Opportunity mission the gaming world's interest in Mars wasn't huge, but the number of titles has grown considerably in recent years.
2004 Doom 3 action (Id Software / Activision)
2007 UFO: Afterlight strategy (Altar Games / TopWare Interactive)
2009 Red Faction: Guerrilla action (Volition / THQ)
2011 Jamestown: The Legend of the Lost Colony action (Final Form Games)
2011 Red Faction: Armageddon action (Volition / THQ)
2012 Mass Effect 3 action rpg (Bioware / EA)
2012 Waking Mars 2D adventure (Tiger Style)
2013 Mars: War Logs action (Spiders / Focus Home Interactive)
2013 Super Motherload adventure (Xgen Studios)
2014 Destiny action (Bungie / Activision)
2015 The Red Solstice action (Ironward / Nkidu Games)
2016 Sol 0: Mars Colonization simulation (Chondrite Games)
2016 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare action (Infinity Ward / Activision)
2016 Doom action (Id Software / Bethesda)
2016 Offworld Trading Company strategy (Mohawk Games / Stardock)
2016 The Technomancer action (Spiders / Focus Home Interactive)
2017 Rokh simulation (Nvizzio Creations / Darewise Entertainment)
2017 JCB Pioneer: Mars (Atomicom / GamesCo)
2017 Take On Mars simulation (Bohemia Interactive)
The trend continues this year, as there are a bunch of new Mars-related games in the pipeline. In less than a month, Surviving Mars will be released by Paradox and Tropico developers Haemimont Games, and their game explores the colonisation of the red planet in the form of a city constructor. Memories of Mars, on the other hand, is a multiplayer open world survival game that reaches Early Access this spring. In addition, there's the "technical" sandbox game Occupy Mars, which should follow sometime later in the year.
Interestingly, the theme of these latest Mars games seems to have move on from straightforward shooting at Martians, to the more challenging and contemporary problems of surviving the planet.
At least the Opportunity rover has demonstrated its perseverance on many occasions. Originally, NASA didn't think it would survive its first winter on Mars, and the mission was only designed for 90 days. 5,000 days later, it's still going strong.