After enjoying years of undisputed dominance as the king of unlimited exploration, Minecraft has a new challenger in — you guessed it — indie darling/gaming messiah/space sim extraordinaire, No Man’s Sky. Boasting an explorable universe with an inconceivably large number of planets (2^64, or 18 quintillion, but who’s counting?), it seems that No Man’s Sky has seized the title of “biggest game” from Minecraft once and for all.
But how much bigger is No Man’s Sky, exactly? YouTuber and guy with way more patience than me, ibxtoycat, set out to answer exactly that question in a recent video. Both games are billed as functionally infinite, but functionally infinite is not actually infinite, so let’s break it down.
Any given Minecraft overworld is 60 million blocks by 60 million blocks, just on the X and Z axes. If you include the blocks above and below, you end up with an absurdly large number of blocks: Something like 921 quadrillion. If you bear in mind that each Minecraft block is a square metre, you’re talking a surface area the size of Neptune. It would take months of in-game walking to reach the edge. (It’s worth noting that on older editions of Minecraft the edge of the world gives way to the “Far Lands”, a procedurally generated zone of weirdness that is theoretically infinite, but increasingly likely to crash your game the further you go.)
As big as 921 quadrillion is, it’s dwarfed by No Man’s Sky’s 18 quintillion, which is a little over 20 times larger. That means that for every block in the Minecraft overworld there are 20 planets in the No Man’s Sky universe. And each planet, even if it’s small, is several thousand kilometres across. That’s a whole lot of real estate.
There’s a lot to be said here about quality vs quantity — after all, you can meaningfully interact with every single block in the Minecraft overworld, whereas No Man’s Sky is filled with great stretches of empty nothingness and desolate planets that force you to come to grips with the horrible vastness of the universe. But there’s no question that No Man’s Sky is not just bigger, but considerably so. That being said, the distances involved are so inconceivably vast that it is unlikely to matter. The difference between needing two lifetimes and a thousand lifetimes to fully explore a game world is pretty much academic.
Whether or not either game has the staying power that will allow players to eventually exhaust their near-infinite depths remains to be seen (but hey, people are still playing Desert Bus, so who knows?). But for the time being, they should be enough to keep you busy.