Top 10 Cyberpunk Video Games of All Times
Cyberpunk. Wikipedia describes it as "a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on high-tech and low life, [with] advanced science such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order." That may be quite a mouthful, but you probably know the genre better in the forms of movies such as Blade Runner, The Matrix, or Akira, and books like Snow Crash and Neuromancer.
Cyberpunk is a genre that came to the forefront in the 80s, had a revival in the 90s, and it will soon probably launch itself into relevance again. The cyberpunk world has always been the perfect setting for video games. Whether you are augmenting your character's bodies, hooking their brains up to vast computer networks and going up against a huge mega corporation in a futuristic urban setting, the world of cyberpunk is always worth a visit. These worlds are dark gritty versions of what is to come, or lessons on what we can prevent.
Here is our pick for the top ten cyberpunk games from past and recent history. Most of these games were released in the 90s during the second wave of cyberpunk popularity. The PC often provided a platform for these dark and violent worlds to play out, as consoles in the early 90s were usually full of censored software. So without further chatter, here's our list!
10. Rise of the Dragon, PC (1990)
This first person, graphical adventure game was actually one of my earliest forays into the world of cyberpunk. I hadn't seen Blade Runner until its Director's Cut re-release in 1992, and I had actually come across Rise of the Dragon first in 1990. The game takes its cues from Blade Runner, from the main character's name and design (a William ‘Blade' Hunter who dresses just like Harrison's Ford character, Deckard, in the Blade Runner film) to the gritty, future urban setting. Rise of the Dragon might have been a bit heavy for my developing brain at the time: it involved violent and intense drug usage, prostitution, a handful of choice profanities, and all sorts of other great stuff fitting of a dark, violent sci-fi noir setting. Rise of the Dragon's plot revolves around investigating a new and terrible drug and unlocking the secrets behind why this designer drug has hit the streets with such ferocity. With only three days to accomplish the task of solving the mystery, gamers would often find themselves at an end game, out of time, and the mysterious cult behind the entire conspiracy poisoning the cities reservoir, killing / mutating everyone. Not only was there a time limit in Rise of the Dragon, but if gamers investigated a lead too brashly or in the wrong fashion, they would never help you again, thus making it impossible to progress further. I did love Rise of the Dragon growing up, but it did infuriate the hell out of me. Regardless, it was the best representation of cyberpunk I had seen to date, and still one of the better games inspired by Blade Runner.
9. Flashback, PC (1992)
Flashback involves the old cyberpunk trend of memory manipulation, lost identities, corporate and government corruption, cyborgs, and all sorts of wonderful cyberpunk charm. This 2D platformer had the same sort of rotoscoped look as Another World, and to this day it remains an interesting and unique-looking game. Flashback may be retro now, but for any retro gamers out there, it is worth playing. I wouldn't mind seeing a remake sometime soon just for the story alone.
8. Burn Cycle, CD-i (1994)
It's not the easiest thing to put a game that had a home on CD-i onto this list (or any list for that matter), but here it is. Why? Because Burn Cycle, despite its horrible FMV graphics and the fact it was more or less an interactive video, had a story was pure cyberpunk and for some reason worked well back in 1994. Burn Cycle might have been a little rough around the edges then, and it's terrible to look at now, but there is so much classic-ness to gleam from this cyberpunk game. To top it off the score was composed by Simon Boswell. Remember the 1995 film classic Hackers? Yeah, he did that score, which is fitting, considering the campiness of both that film and Burn Cycle. The game is played in two hours, in which the player must save the main character, Sol's, brain from an essential cyber meltdown. Those who admire vintage cyberpunk and love to stick their nose into a Gibson novel from time to time might even still enjoy Burn Cycle to this day.
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Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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