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Best Overall: Deus Ex at Amazon
"A timeless masterpiece that's still the best cyberpunk game out there."
Best Open World: Watch Dogs 2 at Amazon
"Flawed yet vast in potential, Watch Dogs 2 impresses with its extensive hacking and exploration."
Best Story: Observer at Microsoft
"An adventure game for those who like to take their time strategizing rather than reacting to environments in real time."
Best Stealth: Deus Ex at Amazon
"With more of an emphasis on stealth, Mankind Divided focuses on realism with a cyberpunk tinge."
Best Action: Ruiner at Microsoft
"Cyberpunk games can be shooter-based too as Ruiner ably demonstrates."
Best Comedy: Jazzpunk at Steam
"Eschewing the bleak tones that cyberpunk often embraces, Jazzpunk is surprisingly funny and witty."
Best Indie: VA-11 Hall-A at Steam
"A bartender sim with cyberpunk themes, VA-11 Hall-A is like nothing else you've played before."
Best Short Experience: 198X at Steam
"A brief and nostalgic coming of age tale, 198X packs a lot of genres into its short runtime."
Courtesy of Amazon
Deus Ex: Human Revolution might be one of the older cyberpunk games out there, but it remains the best example, combining iconic cyberpunk imagery with memorable gameplay.
Set in the near future, you'll control ex-SWAT officer Adam Jensen, who is critically injured in an attack on his workplace. Augmented via some complex technology (not unlike Robocop), he sets out to pursue his attackers and uncover a murky conspiracy surrounding the technology that's had him saved.
At times, it's a complex moral tale regarding what it means to be human and how far technology should go to modify the human body. Gameplay-wise, it's possible to approach most scenarios however you want to as well. Want to burst in guns blazing? Go for it. But also know you can opt for a stealthier approach. Likewise, it's possible to upgrade your equipment and implants according to the ways in which you want to play the game. Whether you favor a build that is more focused on sneaking around or one strong enough to withstand firefight, Deus Ex: Human Revolution gives you the tools to make it happen.
Similar levels of flexibility are available when conversing with other characters and working out what path to pursue in your quest for answers. It's this way of thinking that ensures, despite its age, Deus Ex: Human Revolution remains one of the finest examples of the cyberpunk genre and the best game in the Deus Ex franchise.
Courtesy of Amazon
Set in a fictionalized version of the San Francisco Bay Area, Watch Dogs 2 will look awfully familiar to residents and visitors alike. But it's a far cry from reality. You play Marcus Holloway, a young hacker, who's prone to getting into trouble. You know, as hackers do. The futuristic world he inhabits has a central operating system connecting everyone with everything. If it sounds ripe for corruption, that's because it is. When Marcus is accused of a crime he didn't commit, he becomes part of a hacking group determined to take down the central OS.
For you, that means plenty of opportunities to do what you want. The Bay Area consists of four distinct areas, each of which you're allowed to navigate on foot or using vehicles, a la Grand Theft Auto. Marcus can parkour across the city, too, like in an Assassin's Creed game, and he's handy with weapons as varied as 3D-printed guns and billiard balls attached to bungee cords. Stealth is also an option if you prefer the quieter path to success. Predictably, hacking plays a core role, as it's possible to complete the game through hacking ability alone.
Most of the time, however, you'll spend your time taking on side missions between primary objectives, with a vast world to explore and discover. And if you're so inclined, you can team up with friends in a cooperative multiplayer mode.
courtesy of Microsoft
Playing out much like an old-school adventure game (but in a much darker and more disturbing fashion), Observer is a sinister delight. Aimed squarely at those who would rather investigate crime scenes than take the law into their own hands, there are strong cyberpunk elements afoot.
You play Dan Lazarski, a detective blessed with the ability to hack human minds as a form of interrogation. He's so talented at it, in fact, that he can even "dive" into the minds of the deceased, though not without considerable risk. You'll find yourself splitting your time between investigating crime scenes using special scanners to look for blood traces and other unusual sightings while looking through the pasts of certain key characters.
It's a thoughtful piece that often throws a few jump scares your way, but it's a satisfying twist on the age-old, point-and-click adventure genre. Adding a cinematic sensation to the experience, film buffs will be delighted to hear the voice of Rutger Hauer as they play their way through. Just watch out for occasional stealth sections which can be a little frustrating and far from in keeping with the rest of the theme of the game.
The latest entry in the Deus Ex franchise, Mankind Divided isn't quite the strongest in the series, but it does quench that occasional stealth-action thirst.
Following the events of Human Revolution, "normal" humans and those with augmentations have found themselves divided and segregated. Understandably, this provokes strong and heated debate with protagonist Adam Jensen working as a double agent between the two factions. The murky moral quandaries get even more complex than before with a hefty dose of conspiracy theories rounding things off.
For you, this means plenty of combat if you want it, but also plenty of sneaking around, too. It's as open-ended as previous installments but its stealth is particularly well done. You can complete the game successfully without ever killing a foe. A number of non-lethal weapons are at your disposal with increasingly grandiose augmentations are also acquirable. Even boss battles can be negotiated using the branching dialogue options rather than duking it out.
Yet again, it's a bleak take on the cyberpunk theme. But when it comes to providing an immersive world full of opportunity, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an unforgettable cyberpunkian tale.
Courtesy of Microsoft
Ruiner isn't like other cyberpunk games. It's visceral and aggressive. A shooter game played from a top-down perspective, you look down on the action as you shoot most everything in sight. The game takes place in 2091, in a cyberpunk-style metropolis called Rengkok.
Your mission? To rescue your kidnapped brother from a failing conglomerate that controls the area. It's as simple as that, but it's an enticing storyline nevertheless.
Much of Ruiner's fun stems from its high-paced action. It's almost a sensory overload and requires you to be able to react quickly to developing situations. All the areas within Ruiner are dark and gritty, reminiscent of concrete and industrial jungles that lack much humanity. That's perfect for a game so committed to the idea that technology will eventually annihilate humanity as a whole. Despite its bleak nature, its visually stunning, and its electronic soundtrack will encourage a faster pace. There are numerous abilities to upgrade and adapt too as well, so action rarely feels repetitive.
As a glorious feast for all the emotions, you'll recall it as a fun romp, even if it's thematically depressing.
Courtesy of steam
While much of the cyberpunk genre is doom and gloom, Jazzpunk is a notable exception. Published by Cartoon Network's late-night block, Adult Swim, it has the same quirky sense of humor that you'd expect from hit TV franchises such as Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken.
Set in the fictionalized world of Japanada in the 1950s, you play Polyblank, a top-secret espionage agent. Every one of Polyblank's missions is incredibly bizarre and nonsensical. Within it are many, many references to older movies and video games, and it's endearing over time. Missions include tasks such as smuggling pigeons, assassinating cowboys, and killing a pig with a ukulele. Yup, it's as absurd as it sounds.
The gameplay is focused on exploration rather than any solid puzzle-solving, so it's a simple but entertaining ride. Everything is viewed from a first-person perspective, and there are occasional mini-games along the way. These pay homage to the classics like Frogger and Duck Hunt.
It's not the biggest or longest of games but Jazzpunk is a refreshing change of pace in a genre so steeped in a dystopian future. Its Blade Runner, Alien, and Evil Dead II references are super fun to pick out, and it serves as a welcome reminder that games can be as funny as any other form of media.
Courtesy of Steam
VA-11 Hall-A is like nothing else you've played before. It's a bartender simulation game with a cyberpunk theme and a few moments reminiscent of a visual novel too. For the uninitiated, that means you'll be spending your time serving drinks to patrons before occasionally participating in choices that take you down different animations that resemblance exactly how a visual novel sounds.
The name VA-11 Hall-A comes from the name of the bar, located in a dreary downtown area where the strangest people frequent. You serve drinks to the patrons before listening to their stories and choosing to interact with them as and when you feel like it. Unlike other games, interaction isn't conducted via dialogue choices, but through the drinks you choose to serve. The outcome of the story is determined by the drinks you choose to offer, though your protagonist remains silent the entire time.
It's a unique vehicle for storytelling, and it ultimately makes the VA-11 Hall-A really quite appealing. A nonlinear path means there's plenty of different things to do here. Besides serving drinks, you can also visit shops and buy items from the money you earn at the bar. You also need to keep your partner Jill happy in order to stay more focused at work. All that shakes out nicely into a game that has a lot going for it, in a way few others can replicate.
While there's little tension going on (you can't really fail here), it's a fun character study that centers far more on human touch than existing games in the cyberpunk genre.
198X is a brief but cathartic experience. It'll only take you around an hour or so to play through, but it packs quite a lot into that short time. You assume the role of Kid, a teenager trying to find their way in the world who stumbles across the local arcade. In it, he discovers not only new worlds but also new meaning to his life.
Essentially, for every visit to the arcade and every game he plays, he learns something about himself and becomes stronger, effectively growing up through the power of gaming. Its cyberpunk elements are a little simplistic compared to some titles, but they're easy to see too.
Much of its cyberpunk stylings come from the games in which Kid plays. There are five different arcade stages and each provides a similar title to something that you may have played in your youth, from side-scrolling beat 'em ups to arcade racing games. It's a ton of fun to play, so it's a mild shame 198X is so short.
Still, think of it as like a time capsule to the 1980s, albeit one with a flourish of cyberpunk imagery to bring it up to date. While 198X isn't the best value because of its brevity, it does set itself up for a second, or third, playthrough.