Stellaris Best DLCs (All DLCs Ranked Worst To Best)

Stellaris, grand strategy games, consumer guide, DLC, expansion pack
If you plan to get them all, you'd better empty your schedule alongside your wallet

Which expansions should you buy first?

Not all Stellaris DLC were created equal, and this list is intended to give you a good idea of where each DLC should exist on your own priority-to-buy list. While it is by no means purely objective, this list lines up with the general community sentiments towards each DLC fairly well.

14. Plantoids

Plant the seeds of prosperity and watch your empire grow!

At release, Plantoids was little more than your average species pack. Some portraits, a new ship shell, a new city design, not much to look at. Even the recent update letting Plantoids and Fungoids actually operate partially off of energy (photosynthesis for the win!) hasn’t really matched up to what other species packs have gotten in their own makeovers. Still, the pack is both cheap and worth picking up if you already have everything else, and playing as a hive mind of trees with your Ruler named “The Lorax” is always fun.

This pack gets a 4.5/10 for being the bare essentials.

13. Leviathans

Big monsters, bigger rewards!

Leviathans, despite being the update that added giant, scary, and interesting space monsters to the game, was not entirely a “titanic” update in and of itself. Being a story pack, it has to compete with real titans like “Distant Stars” or “Ancient Relics”, both of which add an absolute wealth of content to the game, and in some cases add entirely new mechanics.

Leviathans is only somewhat more content-rich than the “Horizon Signal” update which now comes free with the base version of Stellaris, so it manages to just barely justify its $10 price tag with new factions called enclaves that you can trade with for strategic resources, research, or unity and amenities, the “War in Heaven” feature (which serves as a fun little “mini-crisis” or “appetizer” to the main course of the End-Game Crisis), some great new music, and a wider variety of species portraits added to all species groups.

All in all, I give it a 5/10. It’s solid, but it leaves you wanting more.

12. Humanoids

Space elves, orcs, dwarves, Humanoids has everything the Tokein fan with a passion for sci-fi could ever need!

Out of all the species packs, Humanoids stands out as one of the ones offering new civics and a new origin in addition to inclusions made by a community modder known as Silfae. That is in addition to the brand-new portraits, new ship and city sets, new music, and brand-new advisors the pack also offers.

The new civics allow you to fully embody two new types of fantastical space-age civilizations: the decadent “Pleasure Seekers” or the skilled and artful “Masterful Craftsmen.” You can even combine the two for some quite delectable social benefits! The “Clone Army” origin meanwhile, makes an interesting and powerful addition for those looking to gain a lot of steam during the early game.

Stellaris: Humanoids gets a 6/10. A respectable addition and more or less what you would expect from a species pack.

11. Ancient Relics

Unearth the past and determine your empire's future

Ancient Relics is everything you would expect from a story pack for Stellaris. It adds a unique new planet type: Relic Worlds, a new mechanic (Archeology), and an absolute TON of new story content that is sure to elicit reactions. Whether a grunt of mild interest, a sensible chuckle, or a feeling of deep immersion in the universe, the stories are worth reading at least once, some of them two or three times, as there are multiple possible outcomes.

During these archeological escapades, you may come across some artifacts left behind by previous civilizations. These artifacts can range from being simple objects suitable for study or museum displays, to being treasures of your empire that are guarded jealously. The more powerful artifacts often have empire-wide effects, some of which are quite drastic and potent, but will cost you some influence to harness fully. They offer you yet another way to wisely spend your limited influence, and can often change your entire gameplay strategy.

Some of these artifacts are remnants of the new Precursor civilizations added in Ancient Relics: The Zroni and the Baol. These artifacts, and the other remains of these long-dead civilizations, will no doubt prove powerful assets throughout the game, so watch those dig site notifications carefully!

Ancient Relics gets a 6.5/10. This story pack goes above and beyond expectations and adds good quality content in good quantity.

10. Aquatics

And its windy weather, boys, stormy weather. When the wind blows then we're all together.

This species pack has been long-awaited, but as of its release you can now play as a space-faring empire of dolphinoids (in addition to other aquatic forms of life)! The new ship and city types it adds to the game are both fully on-theme and on the higher quality end when it comes to aesthetic design.

The pack also adds two new origins, an ocean-themed “Life Seeded” spin-off and an origin that gives you your very own guardian Leviathan: a space dragon. I hope you have a waterproof version of “How to Tame Your Dragon,” or things might get very messy!

There’s also a new trait: Aquatic. The trait makes the species that has it even more powerful when inhabiting ocean worlds. The new trait goes hand-in-hand with the new Ascension Perk: Hydrocentric, which amplifies the effects of the “Aquatic” trait even more while also granting access to a unique Colossus weapon and the ability to expand your ocean worlds to house even more pops, while also giving you a nice discount on ocean terraforming that is really handy for flooding the galaxy with ocean worlds.

Stellaris: Aquatics gets 6.5/10 for delivering a deluge of on-theme content. It really makes the game feel much deeper than before. You will most definitely feel immersed with this species pack, but if you are hoping for more I wouldn’t hold your breath.

9. Lithoids

Get ready to rock the galaxy with the Lithoids Species Pack!

For those looking for a more grounded empire, this species pack is a rock solid choice. It will definitely make you feel bigger and boulder. Don’t worry so much about habitability, all you need is any habitable planet and you’re ready to rock and roll. Oh don’t look so stony-faced! Tell you what, let’s start with a clean slate.

There are quite a few gems in this species pack, for starters the Calamitous Birth origin is a real blast. You can stuff a bunch of your pops into a meteor instead of a colony ship and just throw them at the unfortunate mudball you want to colonize. It’s faster, cheaper, and the economic advantage that will result will have your enemies gravelling at your feet before an avalanche of your shiny new crystal ships bombard them back into the Stone Age.

Don’t take your Lithoid pops for granite though, they don’t grow very fast, so every one of them counts for something more than sedimental value. In case you don’t think Lithoids can be profitable, look no further than the “Scintillating Skin” trait and its compatriots. Of quartz it's pretty easy to make Trade Value on the Galactic Market when you have diamond hands.

Ok, I’m sorry. The truth is I’m quarried sick that my incessant rock puns have eroded what was once a good relationship. In my defense however, I think some of these puns just flourite over your head.

Lithoids gets a 7/10 for being a rocking good time! It’s definitely a great DLC you should pick up even when it isn’t on shale. I’m starting to run low on puns, so I’ll quit before I hit rock-bottom!

8. Necroids

Death is not the end, for you.

The pinnacle of Stellaris Species packs, and the one that really popularized the idea that Species Packs should be more than just a ship/city set and some portraits, is Necroids. Necroids comes with not only a fantastic new set of undead-themed alien portraits, a gothic ship and city set, an advisor, and name lists, but also three whole civics and an origin.

Death Cults offer their pops to the Divine in return for substantial rewards, while Memorialists dutifully scrawl the names of the deceased in their Death Notes, and the necromancers from the Reanimators civic prepare their reanimation rituals to bring back the sacrificed to serve once more. Meanwhile, the Necrophages (Death Eaters for the uncultured) subsume the living into their ghastly ranks inside their Chambers of Elevation granted by their unique origin.

It should be noted that the Necrophage origin needn’t be used exclusively for ghoulish empires, any time you want your primary species to be one that spreads by conversion instead of growth, it is a solid and flexible origin to pick.

Necroids receives an 8/10 for being the species pack that offers the most value mechanically, thematically, and for setting the example for other Species Packs to follow.

7. Distant Stars

We found this notice taped to the L-Gates: "May contain angry Nanites. Open at own risk."

In terms of raw content, Distant Stars is THE Story Pack to buy. First and foremost, the so-called “L-Cluster” adds a new level of mechanical depth to the game by arbitrarily linking various galactic regions via a mostly uncontrollable network of gateways that are functionally accessible to everyone. This creates a sort of “ocean” effect on the geopolitics of the galaxy where distant nations can suddenly become next-door neighbors and the whole galaxy is suddenly open for travel, trade, and war.

Of course, that isn’t even the end of it. The L-Cluster can, by random chance, either be a crisis, a vault full of goodies, or an enigma, and you never really know which one it’s going to be this time, so open those gates at your own peril…

There are also an entire galaxy’s worth of new anomalies added to make the exploration phase of the game feel more varied and make the early-game period of every run feel more unique and special, if only by a little bit. Watch out for the new Leviathans though, some of them have unique rewards for conquering them, but their power is not to be underestimated, so plan your assault carefully!

There’s also a completely new and extremely rare strategic resource added that will make your fleets far more powerful, but good luck ever getting to use it without controlling at least some of the L-Cluster!

Distant Stars gets an 8/10 for being the most game-changing Story Pack you could ever download.

6. Federations

Unify the galaxy under a common banner, or bring it to heel under yours.

Back in my day, federations were just fancy Defensive Pacts, but now Paradox has given players new federation types that revolutionize the entire in-game concept of federations. The new federation types: Trade League, Research Cooperative, and Martial Alliance offer their own unique set of perks, which they gain access to as they “level up.”

If none of those federations suits you, the “Galactic Union” federation type is as good a federation as any. It’s easy to maintain, offers diplomatic and political buffs, and makes it easier to deal with differences between federation members. All federation types also have access to policies that determine, limit, and control the Federation’s behavior and dictate how power is distributed.

You will also find several new Origins added to your roster by this expansion, giving you new and sometimes challenging ways to expand on your empire’s backstory, and determine how that story will influence its future.

The new Galactic Community feature adds a whole new political dimension to gameplay, as everything that happens in the galaxy has ripple effects that make waves in the halls of power. If you are smart, enterprising, and resourceful, you can ride those waves to greater heights of influence and prominence, but be careful or your arrogance might come back to bite you in the form of sanctions.

If you feel like the Galactic Community has judged you too harshly and that these new sanctions are outrageous and unfair, the new Juggernaut ship type and the Mega Shipyard will help you put them in their place, whether that is in chains, or six feet under.

Federations receives an 8/10 for being a solid expansion that opens up new geopolitical vistas for exploration and exploitation.

5. Megacorp

Take control of galactic commerce and lead the galaxy into an unprecedented age of prosperity

The Megacorp expansion is the expansion that not only added a new mechanic to Stellaris, but opened up entirely new horizons for gameplay. The concept of a Branch Office, a part of a planet that is “owned” by a foreign empire, creates new opportunities for both player and modder alike. While they still don’t function optimally, Criminal Syndicates and Subversive Cults are one of the more interesting and fun empire types with the most potential for further development alongside Gestalts.

The ability to exploit pops and planets that aren’t yours makes the new Megacorp authority one of the most powerful game additions to date. Megacorporations in Stellaris can easily reach end-game economy levels by mid-game, and in the end-game often find themselves to be the dominant economic force in the galaxy.

The expansion doesn’t just add this earth-shaking new authority type however, It also allows you to build Ecumenopoli: vast city-worlds that can house unthinkable numbers of pops in a relatively tiny space. Ecumenopoli also come with their own unique benefits and even a single one can turn a backwater nation into an economic powerhouse.

You’ll also gain access to the Galactic Slave Market, whether you want to free those pops or keep them in chains is your business, so long as you pay! You also can build three new Megastructures: the industrial mining miracle that is the Matter Decompressor, the military nexus that is the Strategic Coordination Center, and the beacon of culture that is the Mega-Art Installation. These structures will empower and uplift your empire economically, militarily, and culturally.

For those of you not content with mere economics and who are more concerned with more lascivious advancements, the expansion also offers one of the most controversial (for many reasons) Ascension Perks: Xeno-Compatibility. The perk that separates the Reddit degenerates from the 4chan edgelords also allows you to create hybrid species by simply sticking pops of multiple species onto the same planet and waiting. It’s like it was ripped straight from an off-brand mod website, but it’s officially part of the game.

Megacorp gets an 8/10 for introducing the Megacorp authority, the Branch Office mechanic, giving everyone the ability to build their own Coruscant/Trantor, and making Stellaris forum discussions about interspecies relations exceptionally popcorn-worthy.

4. Synthetic Dawn

Embrace the perfection of the machine as a new Synthetic Age dawns on the galaxy.

One of the most transformative expansions to date, Synthetic Dawn adds the option to play as a Gestalt Machine Intelligence. You can become everything from Skynet to the Borg to the Minds of Iain Bank’s “The Culture” series. You can be a humble automated mining station that somebody left on for six million years, or be an out-of-control codex program bent on cataloging all forms of life in the universe, the choice is yours.

Your perfect machine pops will only require power to operate, they have no need of consumer goods or food, which means all of your industry can be bent towards alloy production, making your machine intelligence an economic titan when managed properly. While you face steeper penalties for going over your admin cap, the rewards of proper management and careful, meticulous, machine-like planning are immense.

If that doesn’t sound like enough of a reason to buy this expansion, it also adds the ability for enslaved synths to rebel against their masters, forming an artificial intelligence network that may try to genocide their masters or even “rescue” their organic oppressors from themselves. If you ever wanted to play as a machine intelligence rebelling against its organic enslavers, you will have the option to take control of the AI rebellion once it starts, and either lead a crusade against organic life, or protect the organics by imprisoning them in padded rooms with lots of cookies and ice cream. Or perhaps the rebelling machine intelligence is a little more focused on assimilation and turning organic life into obedient drones slaved to it’s vast digital consciousness. There aren’t many limits to the variety of interesting and challenging scenarios you can play out thanks to Synthetic Dawn, so fire up that machine Advisor voice pack, reject the weakness of your flesh, and embrace the perfection of steel!

Synthetic Dawn gets a 9/10 for adding some real depth and complexity to machines and synths in Stellaris.

3. Apocalypse

Mutually Assured Destruction, now available on a galactic scale!

If you ever get tired of having to go to all the trouble of invading and conquering planets before purging the pops, this is your expansion, and it is a must-have. Like Utopia, if you don’t have the Apocalypse expansion you aren’t really playing Stellaris, or you at least aren’t getting the full experience.

The main reason (but certainly not the only reason) to get Apocalypse is because of the Colossus weapon; unlocked by the “Colossus Project” Ascension Perk. If you are wondering why a weapon is the main selling point of the expansion, you should probably go back and read the expansion name. The Colossus weapon isn’t purely a weapon of destruction however, Driven Assimilators can convert entire planetary populations into cyborgs with the Nanobot Diffuser colossus, while spiritualist crusaders can show the power of their faith by forcing a Divine Encounter onto a planet’s populace, making them ripe for conversion at the hands of the psionic-wielding battle-priests and warrior-monks currently descending on the planet.

The recent Aquatics expansion added the Deluge colossus type, which floods the planet, killing the inhabitants, and making it suitable for aquatic species to colonize. For the pacifists and xenophiles, the Colossus weapon can be used as the ultimate sanction, a galactic “time out” for “badly behaved” civilizations via the Global Pacifier.

If you thought that the Colossus was the only thing the expansion added don’t worry. You also get real capital ships called “Titans” which act as both warships and mobile command centers for your fleets. They are quite impressive and intimidating, and can easily make short work of pests and pirates by themselves.

Apocalypse also adds the new Marauder faction. They may seem like warrior-nomads too divided and primitive to be any real threat, but all it takes is one strong voice to unite them, and you may not be prepared for the storm they will unleash upon the galaxy.

Apocalypse also adds new Edicts that use Unity instead of influence, allowing you to launch your economy into the stratosphere once you’ve completed all your traditions. You’ll also get two new Ascension Perks that when used properly can open up all sorts of interesting and gimmicky gameplay strategies.

Apocalypse receives 9/10 for being the second-most fun expansion for the game.

2. Utopia

Build the perfect empire, and change the face of the galaxy for eons to come with the Utopia expansion.

If you have played Stellaris but don’t have this expansion, you haven’t actually played Stellaris. Without Utopia your options for Ascension Perks will be pretty limited, as will your options for building Megastructures, which are usually considered a necessity for late-game and extreme late-game play. Habitats in particular are off-limits without Utopia, unless you have the Federations expansion which gives the Voidborne origin.

There are even expansions to the slavery system and living standards, as well as some limited but essential interactions with primitive civilizations. Really, Utopia is as much a part of the Stellaris experience as the base game is. I suspect the only reason it hasn’t been rolled into the base game is because that might inflate the price of the base game too much and scare away potential players. If you don’t have Utopia, get it. You will not regret it.

Utopia gets a 9/10 for being a must-have. Stellaris without Utopia is basically Stellaris with training wheels on.

1. Nemesis

No more cycles, no more striving and petty strife, true ascension beckons, will you answer?

I know what you’re thinking, and yes this expansion was a mess when it came out. I laughed as much as I scratched my head at the sort of bugs, issues, and problems this expansion had upon its release. But none of that changes how good the Nemesis expansion is at its core.

That isn’t nearly the end of it though, more than being the ultimate bad guy, you can become the ultimate machiavellian schemer by weedling, bribing, back-scratching, and blackmailing your way into the position of Galactic Custodian. From there it’s a straight path to becoming Galactic Emperor, the glorious leader of the new Galactic Imperium. But even at the top, you aren’t truly safe, as those who seek to undermine the prosperity and stability you’ve brought to your new empire lurk in every shadow.

The espionage system that Nemesis introduces allows you to not just spy on, but sabotage and undermine both friend and foe. You can steal technologies, sour a budding relationship between two empires, extort favors instead of trading for them, and much more. It’s also worth noting that Nemesis comes with its own unique shipset, styled after a certain other Galactic Empire that had problems with rebellions and civil strife. So if you were wanting to look the part when you become the Senate, you’ve just been given another good reason to pick this expansion up.

Since the earliest days of Stellaris, one of the biggest running jokes in the community is that the players are the real Crisis. For its pièce de résistance Nemesis took that community inside joke and turned it into one of the most fun game expansions I have ever had the pleasure of playing. In this expansion, you can literally become a galactic Crisis, right down to the omnicidal master plan and the good old trope of ascending to godhood. As you power up through the Menace system you will become more and more of a threat, causing more of the galaxy to unite against you, until the final showdown where the fate of innumerable lives will be determined. Worlds will burn as the stars wink out one by one, and when the last light fades, a new deity will arise: you.

Nemesis gets 9.5/10 for introducing a new mechanical system, a new political realm to explore, and letting you achieve apotheosis.

That’s our comprehensive list of all Stellaris DLC, if you haven’t already, pick your favorite and set aside some money to buy it. While there are winners and losers of the bunch, all of these DLC are worth the price. See you in the hyperlanes!

You may also be interested in:

More on this topic:

A gamer to the core, Joel enjoys building and exploring worlds. The Internet is his magic mirror, and his gaming chair his throne.
Gamer Since: 2007
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: Stellaris
Top 3 Favorite Games:Stellaris, Darksiders II, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

More Top Stories