The Cyberpunk aesthetic has been around for decades, from the rain-soaked futuristic streets of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner to the tech-drenched anime of Akira. As the year’s most anticipated release, CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 draws its inspiration from the late 80s. From the role-playing franchise of the same name, a pen-and-paper affair that is about as retro as role-playing can get. If someone were to ask you to distil or summarise what a cyberpunk thing might look like, no doubt you’d end up using words like "retro", "futuristic", "cool", "radical" alongside visuals that feature a heavy dose of "neon noir".
With Cyberpunk 2077 months out from release (the massive circle on our September calendar page is getting closer by the day), the appetite for neon lights and chunky synth music is at an all-time high. Which is why we’ve put together this list of cyberpunk-inspired games you can play right now. From story-driven adventures to futuristic action games where your weapon of choice is a samurai sword. A diverse range of digital goodies that will give you all the rain-soaked nights in a futuristic city feels a heavily augmented body could need.
Set in the not-too distant future, VirtuaVerse is a traditional point-and-click adventure along the lines of a LucasArts adventure game from the 1990s. That is if Tim Schaffer and Ron Gilbert were obsessed with neon lights, synthwave, and cyberspace. From inventory management to walking through environments and talking to the various people you meet; the cyberpunk aesthetic is put to great use in VirtuaVerse. From the wonderful neon pixel-art to the fact that one of the first things you need to do in the game is find a replacement part for your augmented-reality AVR system.
A world where it’s always night-time and always raining, and invasive ads can be seen adorning the skyline...
One of the best parts is how it uses modern culture filtered through the lens of a cyberpunk world. A world where it’s always night-time and always raining, and invasive ads can be seen adorning the skyline. With puzzle solutions making use of dating apps and escaping reality with the help of visual and artificial stimulants, this is one adventure your augmented fingers should point and click on.
The Red Strings Club
Where VirtuaVerse goes full cyberpunk and full classic point-and-click, The Red Strings Club takes a more nuanced and measured approach by blending a little existential dread into the whole cyberpunk mould. As a bartender it’s your job to mix drinks and serve up the right concoctions to a wide range of clientele. A simple mechanic that draws on the deep and well-written conversations found throughout. With the whole angle being creating the right drink to net you the right response, by paying close attention to what’s being said.
From there a cyberpunk tale involving robots, augments, memories stored on devices, and corporate take-over slowly emerges. With tough choices to be made, and a few surprising narrative twists, The Red Strings Club is a tall drink that’s well worth taking a few sips from.
Throwing a samurai sword (and ninja star) into the cyberpunk stew is one of those complimentary flavours that just works. And with the fast-paced side-scrolling action of Katana ZERO the result is an intense and action-packed slice of neon ninja gold. Essentially an assassination game where one hit puts an end to your mission, time-manipulation and the ability to dash and even deflect incoming bullets with your sword adds a layer of cyberpunk cool.
As most of the experience is taking direct control over the action itself, having a retro-future soundtrack is more than enough to properly set the mood...
Outside of music and visuals, Katana ZERO doesn’t quite lean into the aesthetic from a narrative perspective, with this side of the game being quite light in terms of neon-meat. But, as most of the experience is taking direct control over the action itself, having a retro-future soundtrack is more than enough to properly set the mood.
Although only playable in proof-of-concept demo form, the concept behind Ghostrunner is something we can all get behind. A first-person action runner along the lines of Mirror’s Edge, but in a ray-traced cyberpunk world. Like Katana ZERO you’re equipped with a sword and will get downed from a single-hit, but the first-person perspective adds a distinct and immersive flavour. As you’re put in control of a ninja-like assassin looking to rescue some sentient AI from captivity, dodging enemy attacks and wall-running to reach higher platforms is done against a stunning backdrop.
Thanks to it being powered by the latest Unreal Engine tech and packed with real-time ray-tracing effects like reflections and shadows – outside of Cyberpunk 2077 it’s the most visually impressive slice of rain-soaked neon noir you’re likely to see.
With the popularity of cyberpunk and the style itself born in the 1980s, the retro quality of the genre is what drives a lot of the look and feel – especially when it comes to music. Huntdown is as much a love-letter to cheesy 80s action as it is something that might fit into the cyberpunk mould. With VHS-era narration backing the on-screen action, you take on the role of a bounty hunter in a retro-future world overrun by gangs. The task at hand? Take out every leader, one at a time.
With 16-bit inspired visuals and wonderful animation, Huntdown oozes Robocop meets Blade Runner style – from its wonderfully detailed environments to little touches like featuring fully voiced enemies in what is at its core an arcade-style pixel-art action side-scroller.
One of the most controversial or outright strange mainstream releases last year was Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding for PS4. And the reason for that was for a lot of the runtime you were on foot or on-bike delivering packages across post-apocalyptic America. Weirdly, Cloudpunk is a lot like that but replace on-foot with a sky-car along the lines of what Bruce Willis drove in The Fifth Element.
This story-driven Indie where driving from A-to-B in a cyberpunk world is a visual showcase for just how aesthetically pleasing and downright cool future-neon can get...
Created using the graphics tech called voxels, this story-driven Indie where driving from A-to-B in a cyberpunk world is a visual showcase for just how aesthetically pleasing and downright cool future-neon can get. And with a bustling city full of detail and life, sticking with Cloudpunk’s lengthy and well-written story is a memorable ride. And a soothing one too.
If we were all living in Night City, then it makes sense that the Uber-style company you’d use to catch a ride would be called 'Neo Cab'. In the game of the same name, you take on the role of Lina as one of the last human drivers in a robotically charged autonomous world. In addition to taking passengers where they need to go and keeping them happy to earn those five-star ratings, you’re also investigating a conspiracy involving a large corporation.
Unlike Cloudpunk, Neo Cab doesn’t let you drive or give you direct control over Lina’s vehicle. Instead you’re tasked with driving the narrative through dialogue choices and experiencing the various moments and stories from people’s lives.