The planets of No Man's Sky, ranked

No Man’s Sky has been out for over a week now and it’s been met with a mixed critical reception, but no matter how monotonous it can be, one thing is certain: I volunteered to rank all the planets for some reason. We don’t want you wasting a second on a bland purple sphere pockmarked yet again with two-legged goat creatures and sparse plutonium deposits, so really, I’m doing a good thing. Yeah? Helping save time. It just might take awhile to get to the good ones.

These are the worst planets of the bunch, and they represent the most irritating and bland aspects of the procedural generation in No Man's Sky. Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll address the remaining 18,446,744,073,709,551,606.

The one with gross nonsensical terrain

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,616  
Notable landmarks: meat, cubes, trauma

Murder your eyes on the worst planet in all of No Man’s Sky. From a distance its red crust appears a celestial menace, a Kinder egg that contains hell. I imagine jagged mountain ranges and harsh, arid environments home to only the most austere life forms—but flying closer unveils a landscape that looks like a super volcano immolated a colossal mess of Chef Boyardee.

MEAT CUBE highlights the jarring byproducts of procedural generation. The tubes and cubes can function as weird alien landmarks in moderation, but spread across an entire planet (and MEAT CUBE is far from alone) they look artificial and overdone. I don’t feel wonder looking at MEAT CUBE, only disgust. MEAT CUBE is a dark mirror held up to procedural generation, a warning against what we’re capable of when we play God or make complex Excel spreadsheets. Knowing we’re all made of stardust is not a comfort. This is abstract body horror, maximized, and it just looks silly. 

The one with a bogus atmosphere

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,614
Name: Chad
Notable landmarks: big muscles, weak will, soft heart

When I first met Chad, it put on a show of dominance. I’m not trying to be alpha in space (the sun is a tryhard), so after showing off a dirty outer crust split by jagged red lines of magma, I lowered my gaze. Basic astronomy. 

But after orbiting Chad a few times, I worked up the courage to enter its atmosphere. What I found below surprised me:

Beneath an imposing atmospheric layer, Chad hides a lush, verdant body populated with some of the most gorgeous, kind mega-deer I’ve ever seen. Chad is soft. Chad is good. Chad just doesn’t know it—no one will ever know it, they'll just fly right on by, tired of the bleak ones. Chad is a tragedy and low-ranking planet because it's deceptive, hiding an interesting biosphere beneath an ugly atmosphere. I'm not sure if the lighting is playing trick or if it's literally a case of mismatched textures in the algorithm. Either way, it was jarring to go from Hell Planet to the Garden of Eden in the space of a few seconds. 

The one that looks like a '90s Trapper Keeper

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,613
Name: Lisa Frank, MFA
Notable landmarks:
the color pink and also the color purple

Daytime was so saturated with neon I could only stomach taking photos at night. Lisa Frank, MFA's problem is shared among most of the planets: the colors feel slapdash and implausible, a quick swap between variables to make a scene pop. Occasionally, it can look great, directly lifted from a sci-fi book cover, which was an early guiding principle for Hello Games. Play more than a few hours though, and it starts to feel like the algorithm is coloring by numbers. A purple ground with pink highlights and turquoise plants works in terms of color theory, but with enough time, it looks silly and turns into an obviously superficial variable. 

That you can’t craft a sequined denim vest on this planet is also a major disappointment.

The one with nothing going on

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,612
Name: Son of Chad
Notable landmarks: none

Forced to grow up against the commanding orbit of Chad, Son of Chad, a lowly Satellite moon doesn't have much going on. I tried to tweet at popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson with a few questions about Son of Chad’s cracking surface, patchy vegetation, and poor retrogrades to no avail—it's a moon with no recourse. Bummer.

But I suppose that as a moon, Son of Chad does the trick: a rocky grey landscape, no atmosphere, an abundance of every mineral I have and none I need. It looks like Arizona got sucked into space. Moons also tend to be lacking in color and energy, and Son of Chad is no different. I suppose it's realistic, but it's boring up against its more vibrant cousins.

The one that I married

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,610
We Need To Talk Sharon
Notable landmarks:
currency, codependence

When I first skirted the surface of this planet, two things came to mind: donuts by way of '90s Christian sing-a-long shows and marriage.

Overall, there’s not much going on here. The vistas aren’t exactly pretty thanks to the garish open mouthed Os peeping out of the horizon. I imagine googly eyes on each and every one.  And Vortex Cubes, while valuable, give the otherwise barren planet a thrift-mart vibe. I suppose this planet provides and easy way to make money, but beyond that? Just some really dopey rock structures. Like MEAT CUBE, bizarre shapes are pretty interesting in moderation, but once you realize they whole planet is dotted with them, everything starts to feel a bit too much like math. 

The one with a lot of damn water

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,609
Microsoft PowerPoint
Notable landmarks:
color gradient effects

There are a ton of planets covered in water. You hearing this, NASA? Water planets are really frustrating when you don't have a cool boat. If only your jetpack wasn't useless in it and your rebreathers didn't require a constant supply of minerals to stay useful. Water planets have a ton of unique wildlife and often hide potent mineral deposits in their depths—you're just forced to move like a slug through it all and there's nothing you can do about it. 

Like Chad, Microsoft PowerPoint also had a jarring atmospheric color change.

If there is a god in No Man's Sky, they really like Instagram filters. 

Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty scene when you stand still. But Sentinels and predatory hamburger-faced dogs wouldn't stop trying to kill me, so I couldn't really soak it in. Emptying my multi-tool's battery takes them out with ease, which makes them more annoying than if they were a legitimate threat. They function as tiny mosquitoes whose sole purpose is to buzz 'survival game, survival game' into my ear every 30 seconds. Leave me in peace to stare at the orange stuff, please. Let book covers be book covers. 

The one with the very bad birds

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,607
Four Beers Deep
Notable landmarks: Nothing, apparently

Scanning flying creatures in No Man's Sky is a pain, so when I found Four Beers Deep, a flat, arid planet filled with fliers, I figured I'd bite the bullet and find them all. After far too many attempts to place the scanning reticle on the pixel-sized space that would initiate a bird scan, I finally got one. They were flying away, but once you start, distance typically doesn't matter. And it didn't, until they dissolved in front of my eyes. The scan finished, telling me everything I needed to know about this planet and any with a damn bird on it. 

The one that might as well be Earth

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,605
Notable landmarks:
the green part

What's so good about earth, anyway? The deer don't even have floppy tentacles shooting out of their faces. No one's ever gleefully exclaimed that Nebraska's a blast to stand on. The United States is made up of flat farmland and treacherous mountain terrain that can sure look nice, but isn't always inherently fun to be in. And that's OK, it's just the way things are. Besides, we've thought up plenty of ways to entertain ourselves in the last couple centuries alone. Videogames, heard of 'em?

If you dig a little, anything on earth becomes interesting for its violent geological history, and while that's not really the case on this earthly approximation, taken at face value it is at least nice to look at. Just like on the real earth, green hills and a bluish sky are fine by me and the thousands of landscape painters throughout history who've given a great deal of attention to sheep, and what they're up to. The problem is that No Man's Sky doesn't give you much to deal with its approximation of endless cornfields. They can look nice in the right light, but there's nothing to enable and encourage appreciation. There's no button for turning off the HUD, no built-in camera, no surveying tools that reveal anything below the surface, and toxic weather or angry sentinels are always rearing to suckerpunch you out of any romantic meditative trance. Put away the poetry books and get back to mining, nerd.

The one that is Tom

Planet # 18,446,744,073,709,551,609
Tom Marks
Notable landmarks:
Handsome Man Mountain

To be fair, sometimes the procedural variables really do come together and make something memorable. But this planet isn’t memorable in the greatest way. This is some real uncanny valley stuff. I don’t like coming into the office anymore. 

I'm sorry. I have deceived you. This is actually Tom's head. But really, where are the bizarre one-off planets and events in No Man's Sky? I can deal with a few MEAT CUBES and a series of Nebraskas if there's a chance I'll see something altogether different in a few more stops, be it Tom's skull or not. I know No Man's Sky is massive, but I would have figured we'd see less uniformity as time went on. There has to be something truly strange hiding in those 18 quintillion planets, right?

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.