Consumables are found frequently enough in Returnal, but finding one that you actually want to use is a different story. They all have positive effects for the most part unlike the Parasites and Malfunctions players can contract in their cycles, so there’s generally little harm in picking them up and using them. However, you can only hold a few at a time, and some of them cost Obolites to craft, so you don’t want to go picking up junk that’s going to get you sent back to the beginning of your cycle.
To help avoid that issue, we’ve put together a list of some of the best consumables to use as well as a few that you should probably avoid. We’ve classified the latter as the “worst” ones to pick up, though there will of course be situational moments when they can serve you well. They’re better than nothing, but if you’ve got a choice between them and something in our “best” list, take the better option.
Check out our picks for the best and worst consumables in Returnal below. If you don’t see something listed there, it’s neither a great nor terrible option and you can generally feel comfortable picking it up. Be sure to check out our Returnal guides as well for more tips on surviving your cycles.
This item teleports you to an “unknown location” which sure sounds like a bad thing. You’re already doing your best to simply survive in Returnal, so why cast yourself into the unknown?
What this item actually does is teleport you to one of those underground areas you’ll typically see denoted by a shining orb in front of a statue before you fall through the ground. Enemies sometimes reside in those locations, but more often than not, you’ll get Obolites or new weapons. If you kill whatever lurks there, you’re guaranteed a new weapon.
There’s more than one type of healing vial in Returnal since they come in different sizes, so don’t stress about which one you have. Grab the bigger one if possible, but know that the healing vials filled with Silphium are generally smart items to bring along.
Similar to the Silphium Vials, the Shield Vial is all about survival. It has the simple effect of blocking the next attack that hits you. It could be small, or it could be big, but a block is a block. This item is also useful if you have a full inventory already since you can pick it up, use it, and swap back to your other item without losing out on anything.
Malfunctions are a basic part of Returnal, a risk you’ll likely find yourself taking on to get the best gear and stats. If you’re planning on playing your cycles on the edge, keep a Nullification Sphere in your back pocket to dispel any Malfunctions you pick up. If you find one lying on the ground and you have a full inventory, pick it up, backtrack to any Malignant items you may have passed over, and keep it as insurance in case you pick up some ill effects.
Most of the items in Returnal are supportive or defensive – but then there’s the Ground Surge. This item creates a spire from the ground to impale a nearby enemy with devastating effects.
It’s kind of out of place in a game like Returnal, but it’s also one of the best options you can bring along. It can shorten a fight against a rare enemy significantly, though bringing it into certain boss fights isn’t advised. Also, be wary of accidently targeting flying enemies with it since you likely won’t hit them.
Your alt-fire ability is one that’ll determine which guns you pick up and drop, so naturally, you’ll be using it often. Alt-Fire Coolants go hand-in-hand with that ability by resetting your alt-fire cooldown immediately to essentially do double the damage in a short amount of time.
Maintaining your adrenaline levels is important in Returnal, but just like death, getting hit is just a part of the game. If you’re in a hectic boss fight and you get hit by a stray blast, pop an Apex Sphere to get yourself back up to max adrenaline and keep the tempo high.
Turrets are one of the most frustrating enemies to go up against in Returnal regardless of what they’re shooting. If you don’t get to them quickly, they and other enemies make it quite difficult to approach them efficiently. To remedy that, bring the Interference Sphere with you to completely disable all turrets in the area.
A good rule of thumb with consumables in Returnal is that you don’t want to pick up anything that’ll change your playstyle too much. Doing so will break your rhythm and make you feel like you have to take an action just because a timer’s ticking down.
Enter Shocking Springs, the item that creates blasts of electricity when you’re jumping or landing. You’ll earn style points for using it, but if you’re constantly worrying landing close enough to enemies to make it worthwhile, you won’t be paying attention to the more important parts of the game.
Similar to Shocking Springs, Residual Spheres can force you into a different playstyle or make you take unnecessary risks. This item makes it so that enemies may drop Ether when killed, but it’s got a short time window of 30 seconds where it’s useful. Rushing to kill an enemy in that timeframe when there’s only a chance of a reward isn’t worth the inventory slot, especially when you’ll be able to find Resin regularly enough during normal exploration.
Repairs Augments give players bonus healing for the duration of the item which sounds like a positive thing, but it’ll often lead to disappointing results. If you see a bunch of green on the map and pop one of these, the resources you find could be the ones that increase your max health, not the ones that heal you.
If you’re sure you’re about to heal yourself and you have one of these on-hand, use it and then grab the heal. Otherwise, swap it out for something else.
This item is great for new Returnal players when you’re learning the ropes, but later on, it’s outclassed by other items. Even though it blocks projectiles and turns them into Obolites for players to collect, chances are that if you’re hiding behind a shield, you’re probably not in a great position to be scurrying around collecting rocks. Enemies can also enter the sphere themselves, so if something gets in there with you, your safe space is gone.
Perhaps the best example of a consumable embodying the risk/reward nature of Returnal is the Weapon Stimulant. It’s essentially the only consumable which has a truly negative effect since it doubles players’ damage outputs temporarily, but it makes it so that you can’t move.
The effect isn’t terribly long, but it’ll feel like an eternity whenever you’re watching enemies come towards you or shoot at you. You’ll get more style points again for your standoff, but the outcome likely won’t be worth the sacrifice.