Videogames have let us clamber into the virtual bridges and cockpits of truly incredible spaceships over the years, from the smallest fighters to gargantuan dreadnoughts. However, top ten lists tend to become dominated by the same usual suspects- and to this end, here's a true roundup of gaming's most awesome combat vessels that may include some unsung heroes you've sadly never even heard of. Strap in. Lock S-Foils in attack position. Engage!
Honourable Mentions: The Pillar of Autumn, DarkStar One, Millennium Falcon, USS Sovereign
10: The Hellbender [Hellbender]
- Classification: Coalition Multirole Fighter
- Weapon Systems: Servokinetic Lasers, Valkyrie Cannon
Despite a fairly dodgy name, the Hellbender is an absolutely incredible war machine. Standing alone against the Bion menace, its powerful shields and ability to hover in midair allow it to become a devastating stationary weapons platform or blistering dogfighter at a moment's notice- packing enough raw modular firepower to annihilate entire fleets of Bion warships and ground troops. The jump engine allows the Hellbender to strike at any target system without warning, making it capable of inflicting massive shock and awe.
9 : Spirit Of Fire [Halo Wars]
- Classification: Planetary Assault Troop Carrier
- Weapon Systems: MAC Cannon, Archer Missile Pods, An Entire Army
The Pillar of Autumn is a classic... but it turned out to be much more useful as a bomb than it ever was as a spaceship. The Spirit of Fire, on the other hand, is a much more impressive piece of military hardware. Once a humble colony ship, it was retrofitted as a planetary assault carrier that can engage multiple Covenant vessels in atmosphere as well as deploying unstoppable waves of ground troops to the battlefield. The combination of raw firepower and decisive tactical edge guarantee its place in UNSC history.
8: USG Ishimura [Dead Space]
- Classification: Planet Cracker
- Weapon Systems: Necromorph Infestation. Also, dude, it cracks planets.
Any ship that's designed to crack planets more than deserves its place on the list, but the Ishimura's primary claim to fame are the nightmarish Necromorphs that haunt its claustrophobic corridors. Despite being a shameless homage to Event Horizon and System Shock 2, the Ishimura's mix of tight tunnels and massive zero-G environments make it a perfect setting for an unforgettable survival horror experience.
7: SSV Normandy [Mass Effect]
- Classification: Prototype Deep Scout Frigate
- Weapon Systems: GARDIAN Point Defence, Stealth Systems
The Normandy is a fantastic vessel with a couple of major design flaws. First of all, its cargo lift frequently results in crew suicide due to its unbelievably slow transfer rate. More worryingly, it now sports an impractical 'open plan' new look thanks to the Collectors blowing it to seven shades of hell.
Still, credit where credit's due. The Normandy saved the galaxy from an implacable alien menace and inspired a Cerberus remake, cementing its place in the list.
6: TIE Defender [TIE Fighter]
- Classification: Twin Ion Engine Fighter
- Weapon Systems: 4x Laser Cannons, 2x Ion Cannons, Proton Torpedoes
The TIE Defender is a clear case of design by necessity. Let's face it: the standard TIE Fighter is godawful, featuring no shields and a pathetic array of weaponry. Realising their mistake, Sienar Fleet Systems went back to the drawing board added two more lasers, two ion cannons, a tractor beam, shields and two supplementary missile hardpoints. It had a cost to match, but rebel pilots stand little chance against the Defender's ludicrous armaments. Plus, it looks monumentally badass.
5: Manta [Uridium 2]
- Classification: Long Range Fighter
- Weapon Systems: Lasers, Bombs, Cyclone, Seekers
When the Earth is threatened by a fleet of alien dreadnoughts that strip mine planets for resources, capital ships become completely redundant. Only the Manta fighter with its revolutionary Heinemann Warp Drive can punch through myriad enemy squadrons and weave around turret defences without being shot down. The Manta's ridiculously overpowered weapon systems allow it to carve huge holes through its kilometre-long foes and rend their hulls so that the pilot can strike at their engine cores, destroying them from within.
4: CNV-301 Dreadnought [I-War]
- Classification: Commonwealth Corvette
- Weapon Systems: Particle Beam Cannons
The CNV-301 may be old and more than a little rusty, but it still packs a punch. Its powerful engines allow the Dreadnought to engage in insane balletic manoeuvres that belie its enormous bulk, taking full advantage of Newton's laws of motion and frequently abusing them against fleets of superior vessels to expose an intergalactic conspiracy. Years later, the player character's son rediscovers the ship and uses it to great effect in the sequel, further showing that the oldies are frequently the best!
3: Arwing [Star Fox/ Lylat Wars]
- Classification: Personal Fighter
- Weapon Systems: Single-beam Laser, Barrel Rolls
Oh yes. You knew this was coming. The Arwing is a perfect blend of pinpoint maneuverability and wholesale power, equally comfortable as both a spaceborne dogfighter and an atmospheric assault platform. Petty tyrants are brought to their knees by its sheer awesomeness as well as the skill of its anthropomorphic pilots.
The only problem with the Arwing is that you can't turn the sodding radio off! Yes... I know I need to do a barrel roll. Shut up!
2: R-9a Arrowhead [R-Type]
- Classification: R-9 "The Savier" Mass Production Model
- Weapon Systems: Wave Cannon, Force, Bits, Homing Missiles
The Arrowhead is incredibly fragile, dooming inexperienced pilots to abject failure and misery. However, skilled users will find it to be a fighter that's unrivalled on the battlefield. As well as powerful standard cannons, the Arrowhead is capable of deploying an invincible biological weapon (the famous Force) as well as auxiliary 'bit' turrets and homing missiles. The sheer concentrated firepower that the R-9a can bring to bear on a single target is absolutely terrifying.
The Bydo Empire is doomed to extinction and humiliation. Witness the Arrowhead... and kneel before its might.
1: TCS Victory [Wing Commander III]
- Classification: Obsolete Multi-Role Heavy Carrier
- Weapon Systems: Fighter Squadrons, Temblor Bomb, Mark Hamill
It isn't the biggest ship on the list. It doesn't pack the most firepower or command the most respect. Hell, the air conditioning doesn't even work properly. But the TCS Victory is definitely the most awesome ship on this list.
The Victory was once a renowned heavy carrier that was designed to operate deep within enemy lines, deploying its elite fighter squadrons to strike at the heart of the vicious Kilrathi. However, the obsolete and quirky vessel was mothballed after years of service... only to be brought back into the front lines after bigger, better ships were annihilated in the Kilrathi conflict. Succeeding where the newer ships of the line failed, the Victory lead a series of decisive blows against the genocidal aliens- culminating in a strike against their homeworld. Deploying the legendary Colonel Ian Blair (Mark Hamill, natch) and the almighty temblor bomb, the Victory was able to crush their pathetic planet like a raw egg, bringing a decisive end to the war.
The TCS Victory was ultimately converted into a floating museum to provide an eternal testament to its glorious and unlikely victory... as well as the heroic fighter aces who called it home. And if that isn't awesome, I don't know what is.
Want to shine the spotlight on your vessel of choice? Drop us a line in the comments!