Cyberpunk is a sub genre that combines sci-fi and horror elements. The genre has a very grim aesthetic and an ethos that is very much a reaction to the kind of science fiction cliches that we see today.
It focuses on near-future urban nightmares where low-rent antiheroes twist technology to their own ends. It also often poses questions about corporate greed and robots that are everywhere.
1. Sleeping Dogs
The best cyberpunk games aren’t just about soaring vistas, or neck-craning verticality. Those things are nice to have, but the real value of a game is in its atmosphere and its immersive, open world setting. Sleeping Dogs combines both elements to create a city that’s alive and buzzing, one where decisions matter and lives are lived out in front of you.
The game takes place in Hong Kong, where gangs and criminals roam the streets in a thriving, modern metropolis. It focuses on the adventures of Wei Shen, a martial artist and undercover police officer who infiltrates the Sun On Yee Triad organization.
Infiltrating the Triads is a key part of the main story, but it’s only one facet of a larger plot that revolves around Shen’s complicated relationships with his family and friends. These micro-stories interweave with the overarching plot of the main mission to create a more complex and nuanced world than you’ll find in any other GTA or Saints Row game.
The gameplay also differs from the norm by incorporating free-running rooftop free-running, car chases, brutal hand-to-hand combat and visceral gun battles. This is all handled well by United Front, who have mapped out the controls so that the game feels smooth and intuitive to play.
2. The Ascent
The Ascent is a top-down shooter with RPG elements from developer Neon Giant. Set in a futuristic dystopian world, it features a unique gameplay setup that lets players experience cyberpunk action in an isometric view.
The game takes place in a tiered alien megacity that’s populated by humans, robots and aliens. The city is illuminated with neon lights, holograms and various other forms of light art.
Unlike other cyberpunk games, this one has a very slick aesthetic with lots of nods to classic films such as Blade Runner. This makes it an aesthetically pleasing and interesting experience.
However, it’s the way the game works that makes The Ascent a mixed bag. As a result, it’s hard to say that it’s the best cyberpunk game out there.
In The Ascent, you’re an indentured worker for the Ascent Group, which owns and runs a corporation-owned space station called Veles. When the company goes under, you’re left to find your own way in this strange new world.
RUINER is a slick cyberpunk action-shooter that takes heavy inspiration from the works of the 1980s and the 70s. Its dark and sultry environments, brutal combat, and evocative writing all combine to create an experience that’s as scary as it is compelling.
Taking place in the dystopian hub city of Rengkok, Ruiner’s gameplay is a top-down shooter that can be played with either one or two players. It’s a fast paced game that makes you level up, upgrade skills and build a team of weapons to take on the many enemies that come your way.
As with most top-down shooters, some luck is involved. Different guns drop from downed enemies or looted from the environment, and hacked weapon lockers can be accessed as well. Some of these can give you a significant advantage over your opponents, such as a flamethrower that can make cake walks out of them, or a laser gun that freezes and melts enemies alike.
The action is fast paced, though sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of what’s happening when you dash from one area to another. Fortunately, the game offers a variety of quick-time events that can help you pause the action and get a better idea of where you’re going next.
4. E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy
If you’re looking for a first-person shooter set in a cyberpunk world, E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy is one of the best options on the market. It’s a unique shooter/RPG hybrid, shamelessly borrowing influences from pulp fiction like Warhammer 40k and Shadowrun, while also mixing in theological elements to create an intriguing cyberpunk setting.
It’s also one of the most intricate and intimidating games on this list, a testament to its ambitious nature. The steep learning curve and complex menus make the game feel overwhelming and confusing at times.
But once you overcome the learning curve, you’ll be rewarded with a deep cyberpunk RPG experience that lets you customise your character’s psionic abilities and weapons. As you move through sprawling levels, NPCs with detailed arcs will evolve their storylines around you.
It’s not for everyone, but if you’re into the weird and adventurous side of cyberpunk, you should check out this wacky title. It might not make much sense, but it’s so ambitious that you’ll want to stick with it until the end.
Observer, developed by Bloober Team, is a cyberpunk detective thriller that puts you in the shoes of Daniel Lazarski, an elite investigator of the future portrayed by Rutger Hauer (of Blade Runner fame). As an Observer, you hack into suspects’ minds to extract any information they may have and even eat their dreams.
It’s a unique take on the survival horror genre, but it’s also a tense detective thriller and a genuinely dark and gritty experience. It has an impressive soundtrack and it has a very unique storyline that makes you want to keep playing it.
The Observer’s setting and tone bets on a pessimistic future, with body augmentations, police cleansing apartment blocks and corporate power eroding human autonomy. It’s a grim and unremitting experience, one that takes a lot of risks with its aesthetic trappings but delivers a very compelling narrative.
Despite its bleak and dystopian themes, Observer is still very much an action-packed and fun game to play. It’s a great example of how a good action game can deliver a lot of impact without resorting to cliches. It’s a game that really shows off the capabilities of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, and it’s well worth checking out for anyone who has been looking for a new cyberpunk adventure to sink their teeth into.
6. Mirror’s Edge
Mirror’s Edge is a first-person parkour title that launched in 2008 and became a cult classic. It’s an innovative take on the genre, and it won Adventure Game of the Year at the 2009 Interactive Achievement Awards.
The main character, Faith Connors, runs around a clean primary-color megacity with an intense sense of movement and perspective. She can wall-run, vault, and even jump off buildings.
But it’s not just the parkour that makes this a unique game, the world is also stunningly crafted. Whether you’re running around a metropolis or traversing an intricate landscape, the visuals are incredibly detailed and impressive for nearly 12 years ago.
Despite its beautiful design, it’s important to keep in mind that Mirror’s Edge is not an open-world title, nor does it have a single storyline. Instead, the world is a constantly evolving place, with varying environments, enemies, and lore.
One of the most interesting aspects of Mirror’s Edge is its use of colour to denote climbable structures, especially on high floors. This isn’t just a visual signifier: it’s an integral part of the game’s ethos.
Another great feature is the ability to play through different versions of the story, allowing you to experience different endings without returning to the main campaign. However, the social hooks that accompany this are a bit distracting. They also take up too much screen space, and aren’t compatible with the minimalist aesthetic of Mirror’s Edge.
7. Whispers of a Machine
If you’re looking for a classic point-and-click adventure game that combines sci-fi elements with a noir story, look no further than Whispers of a Machine. Its Nordic-flavoured, noir-tinged mystery is smart and engaging, and it also offers an intriguing augmentation system that can influence your investigations throughout the game.
This is one of the most interesting and unique aspects of Whispers of a Machine, because it allows you to choose how you play through each of its multiple-solution puzzles. The game focuses on Vera, a hard-as-nails/kindhearted/by-the-book (depending on the choices you make) special agent who’s sent to investigate a case in the remote town of Nordsund.
During her investigation, Vera is cybernetically augmented with a bio scanner that helps her locate clues, a strength generator that opens those annoying locked doors, and a biometric analyzer that can help detect whether someone is lying to her. These abilities are influenced by her character’s personality, which can be advanced through choices that change how she talks and behaves.
While it doesn’t have the best graphics, and some of the animations could use a refresh, Whispers of a Machine is still a compelling point-and-click game that fans of this genre should check out. Its pixel-based art and voice work help to deliver an immersive experience, and the multiple-solution puzzles are great for anyone who loves a good detective story.