When the government has complete control over all communication, there are several ways for a rebel group to pass information. Mirror’s Edge explores one option – a series of “runners” that physically carry data to avoid the overmind.
Mirror’s Edge is a first-person action-platformer that tasks players with maneuvering throughout the dystopian city using the only viable form of travel – by foot. As Faith Connors, players run and climb over rooftops, slip into ventilation shafts, and combine speed with surprise to take down armed operatives.
While Assassin’s Creed was heavy with parkour, Mirror’s Edge was all about vaulting, sliding, and running across surfaces. The gameplay can take some getting used to, but once you’ve mastered timing and the different surfaces, you’ll be cruising across The City with ease.
Developer: Bullfrog Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts
Remember DOS? If so, there’s a chance you checked out this 1996 isometric RPG. Taking place in the year 2191, players take control of EuroCorp, a syndicate corporation carried over from the original game released 3 years earlier.
Unlike many games, you don’t play the hero that sets out to bring down the villainous corporation. You control the corporation, which has a firm grip on the world through mind control, microchip implants, and a strong military power.
Your job as the newly appointed executive is to prevent a damaging virus known as the Harbinger from diminishing your control on humanity. Gameplay follows a group of EuroCorp agents – or acolytes for players wanting to play as the “heroic” Church of the New Epoch – in an isometric view. Weapon loadouts upgrade immensely in the late game from standard uzis to pulse lasers and gravity guns, providing the game with some of its best parts.
Mission objectives vary from one level to the next and aren’t entirely unique, especially for someone picking up Syndicate Wars today, but they’re enough to drive the story forward. Syndicate Wars originally released on DOS but was later ported to the PSone with new cutscenes and changes to certain levels.
8. The Red Strings Club
Developer: Deconstructeam Publisher: Devolver Digital
If there’s one thing those fearful of the future will be very resistant to, it’s mandated implants across all of society. The Red Strings Club uses this idea as a launching point, introducing Supercontinent Ltd. as a purveyor of devices that can alter physical and mental aspects of a person.
Three playable protagonists – Brandeis, Donovan, and the android Akara-184 – band together to try to stop the corporation from releasing a new system that would eliminate all human emotion. The game unfolds in a variety of puzzles and tasks that differ based on who you’re playing as.
By testing various implements and exploring human emotion, the trio of heroes can formulate a plan to stop Supercontinent Ltd.
“The Red Strings Club is an exceptionally written game, and a very lovingly made one to boot. Its art and design feel pretty much brilliantly realised, and leave you wanting to see more of the Red Strings’ world.”
Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami
There was a time when people loved Konami. The creative minds churned out thorough adventures that thrived on story and character-building. One of its earlier titles was Snatcher, a graphic adventure set in the mid-21st century.
Having been developed in 1988, the 21st century was still a ways off, which explains the dystopian prediction of the future, set off by a biological weapon that decimated the world’s population. What’s left are the remnants of society and humanoid robots that take over the lives of humans by donning their flesh.
You are Gillian Seed, an amnesiac who takes up working for JUNKER, a task force that hunts and deactivates the robots. Clearly influenced by Blade Runner, Snatcher is a clever tale that will have you questioning who’s a robot and who’s organic. As Seed, you’ll interview and investigate to track down the robotic Snatchers in hopes of ridding the world of them forever.
Developer: CyberConnect2 Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
This wasn’t an easy choice as the .hack//G.U. series is all around pretty great if you’re looking for the best cyberpunk role-playing games. However, this is one of those series’ you need to start from the beginning to enjoy the full experience, so here we are – the beginning.
Rebirth sets the stage for 4 volumes of cyberpunk greatness, set in a MMORPG simulation known as The World. As Haseo, players explore sprawling, monster-filled dungeons, take a break in “Root Towns,” or even log out of The World completely to take care of real-life tasks. Those include checking emails and the news, viewing message boards, and tinkering with background music. So, yes, most of your time will be spent in The World.
Like the source material it’s based on, combat is all real time, though there are pauses when selecting magic, items, or skills. Haseo can also collect new weapons along the way to wield or give to his companions. The RPG elements are pretty standard, but it’s the overworld and story that help .hack//G.U. shine.
5. Perfect Dark
Developer: Rare Publisher: Rare
In 2010, Rare released a follow-up to a highly popular 2000 first-person shooter for the N64. It was a relatively successful title for the Xbox 360 but fell a little short of capturing the awe and wonder of the source material. The source? A trip back a few generations to the start of Joanna Dark’s action-packed career as a Carrington Institute agent.
Perfect Dark released in a post-GoldenEye 007 world, which made it hard not to be compared, but the game does a very good job of not feeling like a reskin. Along with unique gameplay mechanics, the futuristic setting, assortment of clever weapons and gadgets, and aliens – yes, aliens – separates Perfect Dark from the exploits of James Bond.
Perfect Dark is so wonderfully bizarre that much of its charm is how ludicrous it gets toward the end. Though the focus of the game is an interstellar war, there’s no denying the cyberpunk elements scattered throughout, appropriately landing it on this “best of” list.
Developer: Beam Software Publisher: Data East
When you talk about Shadowrun, you really need to be specific. Do you mean the 1993 SNES action role-playing game? The 1994 Genesis title from BlueSky Software? Maybe even 1996’s visual novel for the Mega-CD. Heck, there’s even the 2007 first-person shooter.
You get the point.
Surprisingly, they were all at least decent games, but it’s the 1993 SNES game from Beam Software that earns its spot on this list of best cyberpunk games. One thing we left off from that list above is the FASA tabletop game of the same name, which this digital role-player is based on.
Pulled from the first novel in the series, the SNES Shadowrun pits players in a futuristic Seattle, WA. Jake Armitage, your protagonist for this adventure, starts the game off dead. Of course, he doesn’t remain that way, and what follows is a quirky journey in an isometric viewpoint.
Fans of old-school RPGs will want to dive right into Shadowrun as it features dialogue choices to uncover new information; character stats; equipable items; armor, weapons, skills, and magic; and turn-based combat. All of this is brought to life in glorious pixelated action.
Developer: Square Product Development Division 3 Publisher: Square Electronic Arts
There was a time when if the name “Squaresoft” was associated with a project, it was well worth being excited for. Things have since changed, and Squaresoft no longer exists in the same capacity, but we at least have those classics to return to. That includes this best cyberpunk game, an RPG that’s filled with an art style that, today, reeks of nostalgia and a score you can drive to.
As you explore a vibrant overworld, your team of characters will get sucked into primarily random encounters. Using an Active Time Battle system, you’ll have to pay close attention to enemy moves, hit points, and stats to best succeed in each fight.
To add a little oomph to the standard RPG combat, characters don’t just fight hand-to-hand. They can summon power Gears to take down enemies of all sizes. It’s in these Gears that the game’s true combat comes out, giving players a range of skills and abilities to dominate the encounter.
As well-received as Xenogears was, it was never graced with a proper sequel. Instead, members of the original development team, including director Tetsuya Takahashi, created Xenosaga, a spiritual successor.
2. System Shock
Developer: Looking Glass Technologies Publisher: Origin Systems
You can sit around and wait patiently for your System Shock remake or any potential news on Night Dive Studios’ System Shock 3, or you can boot up the original (or Enhanced Edition) and enjoy a classic the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
System Shock was a revolutionary title that spawned a series of “spiritual successors” that you may or may not recall. BioShock? Does that ring a bell? Without the dystopian world of System Shock gracing PCs back in 1994, we never would have had the opportunity to visit Rapture and float above the world.
Before Irrational Games decided to take the series down the horror route, System Shock was largely an action-adventure first-person shooter. In the year 2072, you play as a nameless hacker who gets caught up in a story so much bigger than he or she.
With technology as a primary focus, players will battle against the SHODAN AI and enter a cyberspace to collect information on the program’s security. Think of it as shifting between worlds in Silent Hill, minus the creepy monsters and fog.
1. Deus Ex
Developer: Ion Storm Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Ion Storm may no longer exist, but the legacy it left behind with Deus Ex is one that won’t soon be forgotten. Especially after the release of popular sequels like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mankind Divided released relatively recently.
Set in a future where people can be augmented by nanotechnology, players control JC Denton, an operative of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition. Denton has a few tricks up his sleeve thanks to his own augments, which add a fun spin to the first-person shooter gameplay. If you ever wanted to feel like a superhero with a license to kill, this is your opportunity.
The game’s augmentation system heavily influences its RPG elements by letting players adjust skill points and enhance abilities for a customizable, relatively open world gameplay experience. Firearms can also receive their own upgrades and modifications so you can take to combat how you feel most comfortable.
To solidify that it’s a true-to-form RPG, Deus Ex features dialogue choices that can advance conversation or stop it dead in its tracks. Say the right thing, and you may learn something otherwise hidden. Some of the game may feel a little dated today, but it’s still an enjoyable experience worthy of the top spot on this best cyberpunk games list.
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