Now that we’re (probably) on our way to actually seeing the long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077 release, it’s probably a good time to get yourself primed for the experience. Cyberpunk games span many genres and have been popular for many decades now. Some have built major franchises while others have been one-off gems that sometimes fall into the realm of “cult classics.” Whatever the case, the dystopian futuristic worlds filled with neon, mysterious fog, and unique fashion statements are a great place to visit in the world of video games.
A recent release in the world of cyberpunk, Ghostrunner puts you in the role of a heavily augmented cyber ninja seeking revenge for their near-death experience. In this game, that feels like a mix between Mirror’s Edge and Hotline Miami (or Katana Zero for those familiar), the highflying action and numerous deaths are just part of the fun. The rest lies in a story rich with corporate espionage and grand plots to control the population. This all takes place in perhaps the most cyberpunk of settings, a giant tower in the ruins of a destroyed city. The permanently dark and wet construction and neon-lit walls give it everything it needs to find a home on this list.
If you’re looking for something a little less twitchy, this spawn of a classic tabletop game will give you all the time you need with its turn-based gameplay. Enjoy taking control of characters, gaining abilities, and taking turns blasting away at your enemies with all the gadgets and magic of cyberpunk goodness. Hacking drones and computer systems are also a fun part of the mix as you make your way through this story set in the futuristic urban sprawl of Seattle. No matter how far in the future you go, there’s no neglecting good strategy and tactics.
Getting back to the action, this ARPG makes things a little stranger than usual. Sure, a sentient talking sword is odd, but when you use it to beat down rogue AI, it makes things feel a bit different. The combat also draws in a sort of blend of turn-based combat as well that you can use to plan your attacks and execute them to the greatest effect. Coming from the former developers of Bastion, it’s not surprising it has great voice acting and music from start to finish. Then, of course, it’s set in a wonderfully crafted although somewhat ethereal sci-fi cityscape. Even six years later, it’s a game I fully recommend.
System Shock 2
One of the original 3D roleplaying survival games, this dive into a cyberpunk universe has you struggling aboard a spaceship against a variety of creepy enemies. Using guns, hacking, and even some psionic abilities, you’ve got to collect resources and survive this horror experience. Even though the game is over 20 years old, an “enhanced edition” is under development. The original System Shock had an enhanced edition released in 2015 improving several quality-of-life issues and making the game more functional for modern players. If you want to skip out on this iconic experience until System Shock 2 gets the same experience, I won’t judge you.
This quintessential cyberpunk video game franchise for the past 20 years is an obvious choice. If you haven’t played any of the games, there’s never a bad time to get started. I was late to the party, but even when I played years after its release, the original game still shines as an absolute classic. Diving into the world of malicious corporations, government corruption, sentient AI takeover, manufactured viruses, and a world driven by nanomachines, it can feel like a mix between masterful fiction and a direct feed from your crazy uncle’s Facebook feed. The gameplay, very obviously inspired by System Shock 2, provided the groundwork for player-driven FPS RPGs for years to come. Then, when you’ve finished the first game, you’ve got a whole franchise of other great games to follow it up with – even if I’d recommend skipping Invisible War.
This is only the tip of the cyberpunk iceberg. There are numerous games across an even broader spectrum of genres you can explore. Major titles go from the infancy of video games up to a couple of weeks go with Watch Dogs: Legion. The concept of a troubled future that exemplifies the worst outcomes of current trends is a fun topic for all sorts of creative work. It just happens that it works even better for video games because it often involves rich stories and cool gameplay potential in hacking and futuristic weapons. Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be coiled and ready to strike delivering a venom that will obliterate weeks of every gamer’s life, but these titles might be just what you need to prepare your body and mind.