Advanced technology, urban collapse, multi-national corporations dictating social order. Oh, cyberpunx. How could you be so wrong? Wait…
Sure, I have never had a voight-kampff test administered to me, and I have never had to jack in to any matrixes, but certain parallels from the Cyberpunk movement of the early 1980’s can be seen in our current global situation. Hell, we are not far off from private police forces and New Detroit.
The CyberPunk movement was not just about new technology ruining the world, like so much science fiction of the 1950’s and 60’s, it based on the idea that regardless of what man can create, he will ultimately become his own worst enemy. Technology, in fact, is often viewed in cyberpunk literature as not only a means by which society is oppressed, but also as a necessary tool that can be utilized to overcome said oppression.
Also important in cyberpunk literature was the feeling of isolation that cyberpunk encapsulated. The idea of the loner, living off the grid, and on the outside of the mainstream. Fighting impossible odds against the powers that be.
So it is fitting that the themes of cyberpunk translated so well to video games, which can be viewed as the very bench mark of technological advancement in our age. That being said, here is my list of games that best incorporate the dystopic worlds and social breakdown that define cyberpunk.
#5 – Metal Gear Solid
Release Date: October 21st, 1998
Hideo Kojima draws first blood on the list. This tactical espionage epic, directed by Kojima, was the much lauded sequel to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which was released for the Japanese MSX2 computer system. Beloved by critics and fans alike, MGS helped Sony tighten it’s stranglehold on the video game market in the late 90’s and also helped to define the tactical espionage genre.
The plot involves the theft of a nuclear weapon by an organization called FOXHOUND who demand the return of the body of the greatest soldier who ever lived, Big Boss, and the subsequent attempts of the American military complex to thwart the terrorists’ plans. You play as Solid Snake, an elite government agent who must infiltrate the terrorists’ Alaskan strong hold using only stealth and a package of cigarettes.
#4 – Flashback: The Quest for Indentity
Developer: Delphine Software
Release Date: 1993
Released for the Sega Genesis is 1993, Flashback: The Quest for Identity made the bold claim that it was a “CD Rom on a Cartridge”. The game was quite stunning for it’s time, with it’s animated cut scenes, had drawn backgrounds, and use of the then cutting-edge rotoscoped style of character animation. The game was released a year later for the Sega CD, and is often credited as being the spiritual sequel to an earlier cyberpunk-themed video game called Another World, also by developer Delphine Software.
In the game, you play as Conrad Hart, an agent with a CIA-like agency who covers a plot involving shape-shifting aliens called Morphs to take over the universe. He is subsequently captured by the Morphs who erase him memory. You manage to escape and end up marooned on an alien planet called Titan. From there you must piece together clues and recover your memory in order to stop the Morphs sinister plan.