Cyberpunk is a postmodern genre of story that can be found in books, movies, and of course, video games! And it’s a prime genre for making awesome video games. Cyberpunk is all about the relationship between the future and its advancements in technology, and how that affects the human race. Cyberpunk stories often have robots, hacking, advanced computers, AI, and cybernetics central to the story. Far from painting a utopian future where technology has made life perfect and beautiful, cyberpunk is all about the dark and gritty side of things. The settings are often post-apocalyptic and dystopian, and the struggles are about humans and technology being at odds with one another.
With all that advanced tech, of course, it’s great for writing a video game. Cyberpunk video games feature these same elements, and often have unique gameplay via characters with cybernetic abilities, hacking sequences, or controlling robots. For fans of science fiction that want to see something edgier and darker, a cyberpunk video game is perfect. And in today’s rough real world, cyberpunk offers an escapism in video games that have the grittiness of reality while still being fun to play - and that makes it appeal to a lot of people these days. So what cyberpunk video games are the best ones to try? From classics to new releases, cyberpunk has been a part of video game culture for many years. And here are our choices for the Top 10 Video Games Set in a Cyberpunk Era!
10. Quadrilateral Cowboy
- System: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux
- Publisher: Blendo Games
- Developer: Blendo Games
- Release Dates: Jul. 25th, 2016
Unlike the rest of the games on our list, Quadrilateral Cowboy doesn’t take place in the future. Rather, it’s set in the 1980s. But stay with us; it still has a cyberpunk influence! You play as a hacker who is overseeing agents infiltrating buildings and performing heists. You see what the agents see through virtual reality goggles while staying at your hacking computer. The hacker must create programmes by typing codes into their keyboards to help the agents get past obstacles, all while not raising the security alarms. Thus you as a player have to decide the appropriate codes and timings to help the agents complete their missions.
What makes Quadrilateral Cowboy special and gave it its place on our list is the hacking gameplay. Hacking is a huge part of cyberpunk culture, considering its humans interacting with machines and computers in a mix of their languages. Most games barely explore hacking the way it’s portrayed in movies, keeping things painfully simple. Quadrilateral Cowboy’s gameplay means you have to figure out and write real codes and type them into your real keyboard as quickly as you can. You’ll feel like a real hacker instead of just someone playing a video game! If hacking is what interests you the most in the cyberpunk genre, you absolutely have to try this game. It’s one of a kind of giving you an experience of feeling like you’re really doing hacking like they do in Hollywood.
9. Ghost in the Shell
- System: PlayStation
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (JP, EU), THQ (NA)
- Developer: Exact, Production I.G
- Release Dates: Jul. 17th, 1997 (JP), Oct. 31st, 1997 (NA)
Ghost in the Shell is a famous anime, but it’s also a cyberpunk video game! The name of the game and the anime are the same, but the stories do not have continuity as a warning to fans. You take the role of a character called the Rookie, a member of Public Security Section 9. Your task is to investigate a group of terrorists known as the Human Liberation Front and to find their leader, Zebra 27. The mission sees the Rookie’s skills put to the test in fights, chases, and infiltrations to get to the bottom of the terrorist cell and figure out what is really going on.
Ghost in the Shell is set in a cyberpunk world. A lot of the gameplay involves being in control of a spider-like robot called Fuchikoma, which the Rookie uses to complete missions. The world itself is full of cybernetics and other futuristic technology, giving no doubt to the game’s setting being in an advanced future. But faced with terrorist cells and other dangers, the sci-fi world of Ghost in the Shell is anything but perfect. For fans of the anime or people that are just curious about the world or story, Ghost in the Shell is an easy introduction to the world of cyberpunk games.
- System: SNES
- Publisher: Data East
- Developer: Beam Software
- Release Dates: May 1993
Shadowrun is the beginning of what has since become a vast franchise of novels, games, miniatures and more. But it all started with the original table-top role-playing adventure game and became a video game in the early 1990s. It combines cyborgs, wizards, magic and hacking all into one cyberpunk world. Set in 2050, you play as a man with amnesia named Jake Armitage, who wakes up in a morgue after nearly being assassinated. Jake wants to recover his memories and finish the mission that he started. He has to investigate whatever leads he can find on his attempted killers by hacking computer systems, dealing with gangs, and more.
The world of Shadowrun is a unique take on cyberpunk. It combines the elements of cyberpunk, which is more science-fiction, with fantasy. You can hack computer systems and deal with AIs right alongside magic users. The world sees technology and magic co-existing side-by-side, which isn’t a common theme in cyberpunk titles. But Shadowrun makes it work amazingly! And don’t worry, magic hasn’t made the world any less gritty and dangerous. It’s still full of gangs and criminals, and magical creatures as well. Shadowrun is an amazing title to play for people who love both science fiction and fantasy and really want to get their hands figuratively dirty in a cyberpunk setting. It’s definitely one of our more unique choices!
7. 2064: Read Only Memories
- System: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Ouya, Razer Forge, Amazon Fire TV
- Publisher: MidBoss
- Developer: MidBoss
- Release Dates: Oct. 6th, 2015
2064: Read Only Memories is set in 2064 in Neo-San Francisco. The world has been swept up by ROMs, short for “Relationship and Organisational Managers,” which are robots developed by the Parallax company and are part of everyone’s lives and smartphones. You play as a journalist looking for a missing Parallax agent, who is also one of your friends. You work alongside the world’s first sapient robot which can learn and modify itself, named Turing. Besides Turing, a detective and a hacker also help you to solve the mystery of your missing friend, and uncover an even bigger story than you had ever been expecting.
2064: Read Only Memories is a narrative style adventure game and murder mystery story - in a cyberpunk setting! Turing is a great example of the cyberpunk theme, being not only an ordinary robot, but one that experiences emotions and is scarily human despite being a machine. The character TOMCAT is also central to the story, and he is a hacker that uses his knowledge of computers to help solve the case. The ROMs as well are a cyberpunk element being robots that are such an ordinary part of everyday life for everyone - but aren’t as innocent and helpful as they seem to be. And there’s another powerful AI you will meet further along in the story! All those robots and advanced AIs make 2064: Read Only Memories a great cyberpunk game for fans of the style.
6. E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy
- System: Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Streum On Studio
- Developer: Streum On Studio
- Release Dates: Jul. 29th, 2011
E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy is a first-person shooter RPG based on the tabletop game A.V.A. It’s set in a dystopian future where you play as an E.Y.E. operative, a descendant of an ancient demon fighting cult. Today these operatives are psi-cybernetic warrior monks with psionic training and genetic modifications. The universe is in total chaos due to the rampage of a mystical alien army, and on top of that, E.Y.E. is in the middle of a secret civil war that you are stuck dealing with. In all the chaos, you have to decide which way your fate will take you in two different storyline outcomes.
As a member of E.Y.E., all the modifications that the player is equipped with are very cyberpunk. After all, they are all about giving you an edge through genetic and mental changes and cybernetics. Many of the games on our list involve powerful AI as the main enemies, but E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy is unique. It follows a more traditional sci-fi plot of fighting back against aliens and a galactic war. That doesn’t make it any less cyberpunk though as the setting is a dark, dystopian one, and advancements in technology and cybernetics are central to the story and the gameplay. So for fans of science fiction that also want cyberpunk elements, E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy is a solid choice.
5. System Shock
- System: MS-DOS, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
- Publisher: Origin Systems
- Developer: Looking Glass Technologies
- Release Dates: Sep. 23rd, 1994
System Shock takes place in 2072 entirely aboard a space station called Citadel Station. You play as a nameless hacker, and your story begins when you are caught trying to access confidential files on the station. Facing charges, you are given a chance to receive a full pardon and a military-grade implant - if you comply with their request to hack SHODAN, the AI that controls Citadel Station. It seems that Diego, the man cutting the deal, wants to sell an experimental mutagenic virus under development and sell it to the black market. Only you can help him get it! But that’s just the start of the story because after SHODAN takes over Citadel Station and makes all the robots there hostile, you’re fighting for your very life.
System Shock really captures the sci-fi part of cyberpunk. After all, the game is set in space on a futuristic space station! The story revolves around hacking and the struggle between AI and humans, both of which are common elements of the cyberpunk genre. Plus you play as a character with a special neural implant, adding in the fusion of man and technology that cyberpunk loves so much. The future isn’t a bright one as humanity is forced to square off with an AI that has gone out of control, and you’re left to clean up the mess in the station full of hostile technology. It’s a classic science fiction set up, with a strong cyberpunk setting.
- System: Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
- Developer: Technocrat Games
- Release Dates: May 21st, 2015
Technobabylon follows three different characters who all live in a cyberpunk city named Newton in 2087. Newton is governed by a powerful AI called Central. Each of the characters has to complete a complex task that is related to that AI and uncover the conspiracies related to its creation and the horrible things Central is doing now. All of the characters’ stories are interconnected and you learn more as you play, and everything goes back to Central and it’s power over society. Each of the ten chapters lets the player explore through point-and-click gameplay as you solve puzzles and learn the truth behind Newton.
Newton is undoubtedly a cyberpunk city; after all, it’s completely run by an AI that not only controls the basic functions of the city but also carries about law enforcement and even has its own police force. Beyond just Central though, a key part of Technobabylon’s story is the advancements in technology that allow humans to connect their brains to computers. One of the key parts of the story is a programme called Trance, which is a virtual reality that allows people to interact with one another via their constructed avatars rather than in person. Trance and other programmes like it have changed everything about society in Newton, and that change is directly connected to advancements in tech and machines. It’s a very cyberpunk style of storytelling!
3. Remember Me
- System: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: DontNod Entertainment
- Release Dates: Jun. 3rd, 2013
Remember Me is set in 2084 in a cyberpunk Paris called Neo-Paris. An organisation called Memorise has created a programme called Sensen that allows people to upload their memories to a system to be shared by everyone, and also lets them erase their bad memories. This has given Memorise an incredible amount of control and allowed it to create a surveillance state. However, a group of rebels called the Errorists have stepped forward to try to bring them down. You play as Nilin, one such rebel who has lost her memories. She fights to bring down Memorise and get her own memories back.
Remember Me is all about the advancement of technology going too far, and the illusion of it creating a utopia that is actually something much darker. While the idea of Sensen seems great by allowing people to forget their negative memories, in reality, it has just given Memorise immense power over humanity. Plus having bad experiences is part of what makes us human. Sensen has also created people called Leapers who absorbed too many memories and have devolved to a sub-human form. This illusion of something amazing that is just a mask for something actually horrible is a great part of cyberpunk, and what makes Remember Me a key game in the genre.
- System: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Mac OS, Linux
- Publisher: Aspyr
- Developer: Bloober Team
- Release Dates: Aug. 15th, 2017
>observer_ is a survival horror game set in a cyberpunk world. The year is 2084, and You take on the role of a Polish detective named Daniel Lazarski and are tasked with hacking the memories and minds of targets using a device called the Dream Eater. Poland had fallen victim of a “digital plague” that cost the country thousands of lives and left society in shambles. Drug use is rampant, and chaos reigns. Lazarski is a member of an elite part of the Polish police force called the Observers, who have the right to hack into brains to do their jobs. Using two special abilities called Bio Vision and Electromagnetic Vision, you can find the evidence you need and brains with implants you can hack into.
>observer_ takes a cyberpunk setting and all the dark and gritty elements that entail and successfully turns them into the backdrop for a horror game. Cyberpunk futures and never bright and happy, and >observer_ is far from set in a beautiful setting. Dealing with addicts in the street and victims of digital crime that has left many dead gives the game a dark atmosphere - with the cyberpunk cause of digital warfare. Hacking into brains using abilities that are connected to using your mind is part of the cyberpunk idea of melding the human brain with machines or computers as well. >observer_ makes a great play-through of a truly dark and challenging cyberpunk world.
1. Deus Ex
- System: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation 2
- Publisher: Eidos Interactive
- Developer: Ion Storm
- Release Dates: Jun. 17th, 2000
Deus Ex is the first game in a series of games set in 2052, in a cyberpunk dystopian future. You play as JC Denton, a man who has special abilities due to his connection to nanotechnology. This gives him nearly superhuman powers. Denton’s world is troubled by plagues and social inequalities, and the missions you play through unravel just how many conspiracies humanity has become tangled up in. Deus Ex combines a few different genres of gameplay. It’s played in the first-person perspective and primarily a shooter, but there are also elements of stealth and RPG gameplay as well. You can choose to explore levels more deeply than required by the main story, advancing Denton how you choose, and finding alternate ways to complete your objectives.
Considering a huge theme in cyberpunk is humans having a connection to advanced technology, Deus Ex is a key example of a great cyberpunk game. Denton’s nanotechnology is what gives him the powers he needs to complete his objectives, and his direct connection to his mind and tech is a cyberpunk idea. Beyond Denton himself, the world that Deus Ex is set in is very cyberpunk as well. Despite advances in technology, the future is anything but bright. Instead, it’s become a dystopian wasteland full of perils and run by conspiracies, painting an anti-utopian picture that is central to the idea of cyberpunk. Plus Deus Ex is the first game in a series, and they are all great examples of a cyberpunk video game!
From hacking and advanced computers to crazy AIs and sentient robots, cyberpunk takes all the best parts of technology from science fiction and throws it into an anti-utopian underworld future that is anything but bright. Fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories continue to grow, and cyberpunk also continues to grow as a genre for video games. It allows for a different look at a sci-fi future and some really fun gameplay possibilities. And the more we continue into the future, the more cyberpunk can continue to grow and be inspired by real advances in tech! Cyberpunk video games are around to stay, but these are our top choices for now!
What’s your favourite element of cyberpunk in games? Have you played any of these games, or do you want to now? Did we miss your favourite cyberpunk title, or do you disagree with our order? Let us know in the comments!