Cyberpunk 2077 is the most recent major addition to one of the most beloved genres of entertainment. The pre-release hype this game was able to generate is a testament to that. When Cyberpunk was first announced in 2012, they sharpened audience’s expectations with a single picture, rife with the quintessential cyberpunk aesthetic. Fans knew nothing about this mysterious new IP but they knew it was cyberpunk which was reason enough to celebrate.
But what is cyberpunk? Is it merely an aesthetic, a warning about a less than ideal future, or something else entirely. Despite being immediately recognizable, cyberpunk is difficult to define. Hopefully, by immersing yourself in games similar to Cyberpunk 2077, one can better understand the genre.
Although you could make an argument for certain parts, Grand Theft Auto isn’t cyberpunk. That, however, doesn’t mean the game, released in 2013, does not belong on this list. Even before CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk gameplay footage, many accurately speculated the game would be a futuristic GTA.
Gameplay-wise, the two are structured similarly. Each one delivers outlandish stories using in-game missions as a vehicle. Los Santos may be a few decades behind Night City, but the two do share an undeniable charm.
2017’s Observer was a hit no one was expecting. Developed by the Bloober Team, Observer puts a cyberpunk sheen over a psychological thriller. While parts of the game are a bit rough around the edges, visually and narratively, Observer manages to unfurl its word without having to rely on the infodump. Instead, the game relies on subtle cues and character interactions to paint a picture of a future no one wants to live in, cyberpunk or not. The world of Observer could easily fit into Cyperpunk 2077 which makes the game ideal for those finished with Cyberpunk and craving more.
Dontnod’s Remember Me was an ambitious entry that might have been a bit ahead of its time. Released in 2013, the game took place in an unmistakable cyberpunk setting but tried to be more than just cyberpunk. It did so with a game mechanic that allowed players to see and manipulate the memories of targets. It was a neat idea that, for the most part, worked. Unraveling the game’s compound mystery by manipulating the memories of enemies, and occasionally turning them into allies, was an interesting concept. Other parts of the game, however, came off as a bit cliche or, at worst, downright cheesy. Overall, however, Remember Me was a solid entry into the cyberpunk genre that is well worth a play-through.
Last year’s Cloudpunk was one of a handful of games that seemed to want to capitalize off of the projected success of Cyberpunk 2077. Cloudpunk, developed by Ion Lands, took the Cyberpunk aesthetic and, like Altered Carbon and The Jetsons before it, literally elevated it to the clouds.
Like other cyberpunk games before it, Cloudpunk doesn’t shy away from the political. It heavily features dialogue that sheds light on the world’s political and socio-economic underpinnings and, like in many cyberpunk stories, things are bleaker than they appear. Nevertheless, life must go on and you have to make ends meet by working as a delivery person. It’s during the work-related excursions you meet a series of interesting characters who help to drive the story forward.
And, of course, Cloudpunk‘s art style is unlike anything. It combines the two-dimensional sprites of older games but, at times, is rendered in three dimensions. It gives the game a completely unique look and earns it a place on this list.
This one is a head-scratcher. When Rune Heads, the team behind Conglomerate 451, were making this game, it seemed like they wanted to give Dark Souls a cyberpunk makeover, but add in an element of turn-based RPG. The end result is a game that is light on the story but heavy on the aesthetics. As the player makes their way through the neon-lighted streets only to be challenged by a random knife-wielding android, Dark Souls immediately comes to mind. But the game lacks both the challenge and sophistication of a soul-type game. That’s not a knock against it, Conglomerate 451 has many things going for it. The gameplay is strategic and meticulous and requires players to traverse the world carefully.
Another game that prominently features a cyberpunk setting. Only this game, which is geared more toward turn-based strategy rather than outright combat. The player is tasked with infiltrating maps to secure, what has to be, the nefarious plans of corporate overlords. Outmaneuvering enemy sentries is the primary goal, which at times can get frustratingly difficult. The satisfaction of clearing a particularly difficult map, however, more than makes up for it. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is something the developers clearly wanted to get across.
An oldie but a goodie, System Shock 2 is a first-person shooter that combines elements of Cyberpunk with horror for a game that, during its time, was a unique experience. Developed by Looking Glass Studios, System Shock came out at the turn of the century and has largely managed to age quite gracefully, relative to other games of that era. The influence this game has had on the industry can’t be understated. Everything from Prey to Dead Space takes cues from System Shock 2 which earns it a place on this list.
One of the few games in the action stealth genre that can go toe-to-toe with the metal gear series. Republique, directed by Camouflaj, puts players in the shoes of a hacker trying to navigate a grey corporate world.
The bleakness of cyberpunk is in full view. Just one look and you can tell the world is in the midst of an oppressive dystopia that you, the player, has to fight back against.
The gameplay is fluid, rewarding, and, at times, very reminiscent of Assassins Creed. This is especially apparent during moments of the game where players have to hide in a pot of flowers or find other ways to disappear from the enemy’s sight. Republique, however, is far from a rip off of other titles and is worth a playthrough.
The cyberpunk aesthetic in 2064: Read Only Memories is straight from the 1980s. Strange clothes and even stranger characters abound in this point-and-click adventure, developed by MidBoss. The futuristic setting is easily the highpoint of this game. There is something whimsical with the way the world is presented to the player.
This game is a masterclass in criticizing our modern world without coming off as preachy, something other titles struggle with.
Dex‘s setting is perhaps the most obvious cyberpunk on this list. The game’s story, however, could have easily taken place in modern times. Dex manages to be a cyberpunk story without over-relying on its cyberpunk setting. It’s part of a group of 2-D side-scrolling stories that prioritizes the story above all else. Decisions the player makes reverberate throughout the entire narrative. Even the way you level up the titular character has implications on what happens and how the game is played. It’s a game that is truly worth several replays.
While not the first game people think of when they hear cyberpunk, Final Fantasy 7, without question, has all the elements and tropes of a cyberpunk adventure. Heroic characters fighting back against a corrupt but powerful corporation; check. Said corporation devaluing human life for the sake of profits; check. An aloof hero who learns to fight for a righteous cause; check. All the elements are there and although it isn’t immediately recognizable as a cyberpunk story, it is still one of the most beloved titles within the genre.
The obvious contender against Cyberpunk 2077. This is the title industry watchers said Cyberpunk 2077 would be compared to. Deus Ex Mankind Divided is widely considered to be the best of an extremely influential franchise.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided, like the best in the cyberpunk genre, holds a mirror to modern-day issues. In this particular case, the game doesn’t shy away from depictions of facism and apartheid against those who have been augmented.
Besides the story, Mankind Divided stands out thanks to its crip gameplay. Players have the option to play as a lumbering tank or stealthy assassin, which only adds to the replay value. If you’re looking for a follow-up to Cyberpunk 2077 look no further than this masterpiece.