The cyberpunk genre works extremely well as a premise for video games. Setting up interesting worlds with great technological advancements and societal volatility, cyberpunk games can deliver sci-fi gameplay variety and deep, intricate narratives.
The Deus Ex series is one of the greats when it comes to cyberpunk video games. With the hugely anticipated Deus Ex: Mankind Divided coming on Tuesday, we’ve compiled a list of 6 suggestions of cyberpunk games to get you in the mood over the weekend.
Note that this list will NOT include other Deus Ex games, but it’s highly recommended that you play both the original Deus Ex and 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution; two highlights of not just cyberpunk but the whole wonderful medium that is video gaming.
With that said, read on for lots of cyberpunk goodness!
Shadowrun Returns is an isometric, turn-based tactical RPG. Based on the popular tabletop game published by Harebrained Schemes. It takes place in a cyberpunk re-imagining of Seattle in a near-but-troubled future. The setup is something of a sci-fi murder mystery but the story soon becomes embroiled in conspiracy, cultism and cyber warfare (there’s even a Matrix).
Like many games on this list, Shadowrun Returns puts a twist on the standard cyberpunk tropes. In this case, this comes through an ingenious merging of fantasy and sci-fi, bringing elves, orcs and trolls into a futuristic but run-down ghetto version of Seattle.
This is all realized through massively detailed backdrops that, whilst limited to linear paths, are a joy to traverse.
You can expect to spend a lot of time in turn-based combat, expending Action Points to move characters, and to perform attacks and an impressive variety of skills.
An excellent expansion pack titled Shadowrun: Dragonfall is also worth playing if you enjoy the main game, and it’s all available on PC, Android and iOS.
Transistor is a stunningly beautiful isometric action-RPG from Supergiant Games, the guys behind the equally awesome Bastion. The game follows a singer named Red as she ventures to reclaim her stolen voice with the help of a giant spirit-infused sword -- the titular Transistor.
Featuring an evil robotic army called the Process and shady figures pulling strings for nefarious gains, Transistor is full of cyberpunk themes. This is combined with atmospheric architecture, cavernous concert halls, entrancing music and sublime hand-drawn artwork.
It’s a relatively short game, but that time is unforgettable for its balance of deep gameplay and intriguing cyberpunk story.
You can pick up Transistor on PC, PlayStation 4 and iOS!
Remember Me was the first game from Dontnod Entertainment; the company that would go on to create Life Is Strange. Released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in 2013, this futuristic romp through "Neo-Paris" has an engaging and unsettling story involving memory wiping and corporate domination through the controlling of peoples’ memories.
Playing as Nilin, a “memory hunter”, gamers ally themselves with an underground resistance fighting against the corrupt stranglehold of a huge corporation named Memorize. It’s a quintessential cyberpunk story of sci-fi technology and oppressed society, and whilst it is far from perfect it’s an ambitious and entertaining experience.
Unfortunately the general gameplay is a little lackluster. Made up of light platforming and Arkham-style combat, it is generally quite clunky and repetitive, balanced somewhat by innovative “memory remix” segments whereby Nilin can actively change a person’s memories to her advantage.
Remember Me isn’t the most innovative nor the most polished game on this list, but it earns its place for weaving an interesting cyberpunk tale.
The original Rez came to PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast in 2001. Rez HD is a remaster of the original -- and is much easier and cheaper to pick up today.
Rez is not your standard cyberpunk fare. Perhaps one of the first ‘games as art’ and also one of the first music games, Rez has a one-of-a-kind style that has been emulated but not equalled since. It’s an on-rails shooter that creates sound effects and manipulates the music based on the player’s actions; it really has to be experienced rather than explained.
So what, I hear you cry, is cyberpunk about any of that?
Apart from some of its weird and wonderful psychedelic designs, it’s Rez’s story that makes it a cyberpunk game. Playing as an avatar of a hacker, the player’s goal is to revive an advanced AI system called Eden which controls a huge computer network of information named Project-K. Under the pressure of too much information and knowledge, Eden has tried to shut itself down after having something of an AI identity crisis.
Whilst the narrative often takes a backseat to the distinctive mix of gameplay and sound, this is a remarkably noteworthy game and a welcome innovation to more generic cyberpunk ideas.
The game also spawned a sequel, Child of Eden, which came to Xbox Kinect in 2011, and Rez Infinite is expected to come to PlayStation VR this October.
Invisible Inc. (we see what you did there, and we like it) is a turn-based, tactical stealth game that follows a clandestine spy agency as it works to take down mega-corporations through covert missions.
The player must guide their agents through hostile territory, remaining hidden from guards and cameras and collecting resources and intel with which to complete their overarching goals. Beware, though: if an agent dies whilst on assignment, they’re lost for good unless an ally can rescue them.
You can expect a single playthrough of the campaign to last around 6 hours, but with its randomly generated maps and insane difficulty levels there’s plenty of replayability and continuous fun to be had. As you progress, you’ll unlock new agents and face new challenges that can drastically change the way you need to approach levels.
Invisible Inc. boasts a colorful cartoonish art style and provides a suitably tough challenge for even the greatest tacticians.
The game is available to download on PC and PlayStation 4.
The precursors to BioShock, System Shock and System Shock 2 took to outer space to deliver an intriguing story involving malicious AIs, corrupt oligarchic rulers and corporations covering up illegal activities.
Whilst System Shock is an award-winning classic in its own right, it’s System Shock 2 that epitomizes cyberpunk themes and solidified SHODAN as a cult favorite villain to this day. It has one of the better narratives in the medium and nails the atmosphere and immersion of a creepy infested spaceship.
A first-person action-RPG with intelligent use of horror, System Shock 2 is often praised for having been ahead of its time and having huge influence over the FPS genre. Combining RPG-like classes, abilities and skill upgrades with tight first-person gunplay, System Shock 2 still holds up as a great game today.
The game was first released in 1999 but is still available today via Steam on PC.
Any and all of these games should get you right back into the swing of cyberpunk gaming, just in time for Mankind Divided, which you can pick up on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows this Tuesday 23rd!
What are your favorite cyberpunk games? Let us know what we missed in the comments below!