Cyberpunk is defined as a science-fiction sub-genre. It is characterised by countercultural antiheroes trapped in a dehumanised, high-tech future. The origins of the term is credited to Bruce Bethke, a writer who wrote a story in 1982 with that title. Cyberpunk games have been a fan favourite since then and has some all-time classics. In 2012 (yes 8 years ago!) CD Projeckt Red revealed a teaser for their RPG Cyberpunk 2077. Later, at E3 2018, it was showcased for the first time and fans have been hotly anticipating its release ever since.
While the release has been delayed several times over, Cyberpunk 2077 was finally released on December 10, 2020. If you haven’t bought it yet and are still unsure of buying it, maybe playing some of the foundational games that built and defined the genre could help you decide. Here’s some cyberpunk games we think are an essential to check out before you play Cyberpunk 2077.
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Coming from an already existing franchise, when the game for Westwood’s Blade Runner released in 1997 it was quite stunning. The Voxel-based graphics lent the game a revolutionary look. As a player you guide Ray McCoy, a newbie Blade Runner as he goes about tracking down replicants. Blade Runner was cool for so many reasons. It progresses in real-time as non-player characters (NPCs) keep doing their own thing. All the while you’re exploring, investigating and going after Voight-Kampff where they test and bring out different replicants. What’s more, Blade Runner has thirteen different endings making it one of the most re-playable cyberpunk games.
Originated by Warren Spector and developed by Ion Storm, Deus Ex gave players a level of freedom that no other first-person shooter games at the time. Despite the game being a little more reserved compared to the other cyberpunk games on this list, it was named “Best PC Game of All Time”. Set in a dystopian 2050s, the story follows anti-terrorist agent JC Denton as he uncovers a deep conspiracy. On the way he confronts re-creations of of organisations like the illuminati, Majestic 12 and the Hong Kong Triads. Deus Ex is considered the most important cyberpunk franchise in video game history.
Originally released is 1993, Shadowrun came out for the Super Nintendo and had a somewhat troubled path. Nonetheless, it stands out as one of the most prescient games in the genre of cyberpunk games. Shadowrun delivers an interesting mix of pointer-based adventure and real time adventure. It is based on the role-playing system by FASA. Protagonist Jake Armitage goes about picking up terms to use for conversations with other NPCs as the game’s dialogue system treated vocabulary as currency. What qualifies this game as a must-play is its awesome soundtrack and atmospheric 16-bit graphics.
Developed by Dice, the game was released in 2008. Unlike most first-person perspective video games Mirror’s Edge is brightly coloured and enables a wide range of movements via Parkour. Despite its foray into what is called the “Apple aesthetic”, it continues to tell stories about corporate control and individual freedom. The game follows protagonist Faith Connors, a runner, who has to transmit sensitive information while avoiding run-ins with the government. As the game progresses an eminent politician is murdered and Faith and her sister Kate Connors are targeted. While Kate gets arrested, Faith manages to slip through and now must get to the bottom of the politician’s murder and rescue her sister. In 2016 a remake was released titled Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst with some alterations but it is nonetheless interesting in its own right.
Beneath A Steel Sky
This deep and innovative game was co-created by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. Launched in 1994, it is Revolution Software’s second point-and-click graphic adventure. It follows Robert Foster in a world damaged by the ravages of humans. Foster is the only surviving member of a helicopter crash as a child. He is abducted and tries to escape from an enclosed city. Foster carries with him a circuit board from his robot companion named Joey. This circuit board can be placed into different bodies. The city he is trapped in is controlled by a supercomputer that is looking to bond with him. Later Foster uncovers a plot involving government coverups, his own father and the demise of his mother. Believe it or not, the game was released on 15 floppy disks. In 2009 it was remastered for iOS devices.
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It’s not uncommon for a cyberpunk game to feature a bar illuminated with neon lights where you need to meet a mysterious contact for information you’re not sure you could trust. So what’s so different about VA-11 HALL-A? The entire game is set in a bar like this. Developed by Sukenan Games, it released in 2016 and the game is pronounced Valhalla – just like Jill greets a customer. The bar is more or less a hole in the wall establishment you’re cast as a bartender to a unique clientele. Along with your drink making skills you must use your abilities to observe and cajole customers to open up and advance the narrative. Providing a peek into the future from the perspective of the service industry is one of the unique things about VA-11 HALL-A.
System Shock 2
Set in 2114, System Shock 2 players control a cybernetically augmented soldier. He wakes up on an experimental spaceship headed by corrupt AI named Shodan who is biologically engineering a parasitic organism called the Many. The game has slight shades of horror. While it may not have the neon visuals commonly associated with cyberpunk, Ken Levine’s first-person shooter was extremely influential and still holds its position today.
Invisible, Inc. is a stealth game through and through. In it you are required to control a group of spies permeating corporate organisations to gain information and money. You need to take control of Invisible’s agents in the field of this procedural turn-based game. Stealth, precision and teamwork are the fundamentals in these high-stake, high-profit missions. Every move, if miscalculated could lead to an agent losing their life. You are required to save the artificial intelligence that powers your systems with just three days left. You need to bring together the resources for a final mission where you must plant the AI into a supercomputer which will in turn save the world. Or will it?
This an adventure video game loosely based on William Gibson’s book with the same title. Released in 1988, the game takes players into a world of hackers and intrigue. Users explore real-world Chiba City, Japan in the year 2058, along with computer networks while entering combat with cyber programs, firewalls and artificial intelligence to acquire information. Neuromancer’s soundtrack is based on the Devo song “Some Things Never Change” off of the album Total Devo. Computer Gaming World awarded it ‘Adventure Game of the Year’ and also included it on its list of the ‘150 Best Games of All Time’ and ’15 best ways to die in computer gaming’.
Snatcher’s mature storytelling, adult themes and voice acting has gained it a cult following. The cyberpunk-themed adventure game is heavily influenced by various sci-fi films especially Blade Runner. The game’s protagonist, Gillian Seed, is an amnesiac who tries to solve a string of murders by humanoid robots called Snatcher in Neo Kobe City. Being a new member of an anti-Snatcher task force called Junker, Seed begins unraveling the history of the Snatcher Project and his own mysterious connections with it. It is a gritty, ambitious cyberpunk game that is lauded for its character developments, plot twists and its ending. Niall MacDonald of Console Obsession recommended the game to fans of film noir and cyberpunk calling it an “example of gaming at its finest”.