Top Pick: Deux Ex: Mankind Divided | $9 | Amazon
After years of anticipation, the most highly awaited game of 2020 is ... well, a bit of a disaster. Cyberpunk 2077 is so plagued with bugs and performance issues, particularly on last-gen consoles, that Sony, Microsoft, CD Projekt, and even brick-and-mortar retailers have been forced to issue refunds for this not-quite-finished game. CD Projekt Red will be issuing patches over the coming months to fix the games issues, but for everyone itching to play an open-world, futuristic action RPG, it’s looking like you’ll have a hole in your backlog.
If you want to give Cyberpunk a few more months in the oven before you dive in, here’s a smattering of games with similar tone, style, and setting to scratch that itch in the meantime—at least, partially.
If you’ve paid any attention to Cyberpunk 2077's development and release, you’ve probably seen comparisons drawn to the Deus Ex franchise. Not only does it share a dystopian cyberpunk setting, but has some similarities in terms of gameplay as well. At its heart, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a role-playing game, allowing you to augment your character with different cybernetic enhancements to find unique ways to achieve your goals—whether that’s stealth, combat, or something in between.
Mankind Divided is the most recent entry into the series, but if you’re looking to fill more time, you can play its predecessor, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (or even go back and play the original Deus Ex, though it takes place after the two more recent games in the timeline). None of the Deus Ex games allow your junk to pop out of your pants, but they’re still worth playing.
On paper, Watch Dogs: Legion combines a lot of the things we were all waiting for in Cyberpunk: a big sandbox-y world, and open-ended missions, and a near-future setting with lots of hacking and technology politics. Instead of focusing on one main character throughout the game, you control a team—at any time, you can recruit any NPC to your squad, each one with their own useful abilities and personalities. You can then take control of any of those characters as you comb through the game’s world, using their specific attributes to accomplish missions. Kotaku called it “fascinating”, and after patching a few of bugs at launch, it should be ready for a playthrough—either on last-gen or next-gen, if you’re one of the lucky enough to snag a new console.
For something a bit more casual, check out the blocky, retro-inspired world of Cloudpunk. Unlike the action-heavy games above, Cloudpunk is more about Blade Runner-esque ambiance, with a slower-paced story that revolves around driving and exploration versus combat. You are, essentially, a delivery person in a futuristic world, delivering somewhat sketchy packages and unraveling the story of the city around you. It’s not trying to be 2077, and that may be a good thing—it’ll give you a small dose of that atmosphere, but with a more relaxing approach to gameplay. Oh, and this one’s also available on the Nintendo Switch, if you want to play it from the comfort of your own bed.
Many would argue Observer didn’t get as much attention as it deserved when it came out in 2017. It has a strong story tied up in its unique gameplay that’s more psychological horror than action-adventure. You play a detective who can hack into other people’s minds, using your power to find clues to solve your cases. You can play the original on last-gen consoles, but it recently got a remaster called Observer: System Redux for PS5 and Xbox Series X, or you can pick it up on PC.
If you want action but gunplay isn’t your thing, this year’s Ghostrunner takes a bit of Mirror’s Edge, adds a dash of Ninja Gaiden, and drops it in a futuristic world pumping with electronic music. It’s fast-paced and heavy on the action platforming, rather than RPG elements, but the setting and story will give you that cyberpunk feeling you’ve been lusting after. Like Observer, this one’s digital-only, so check it out at your online game store of choice.
Another last-gen game, Syndicate is actually a first-person remake of a 1993 strategy game of the same name. Syndicate eschews its namesake’s genre in favor of a more straightforward first-person shooter, set in a sci-fi future where everyone has chips implanted in their brains—which allows you to hack into your enemies. There’s a single-player story and a series of co-op missions you can play with friends. If you want a futuristic shooter to keep your thumbs busy while CD Projekt Red gets its game together, Syndicate will do the trick.
I’ll be honest: I don’t know if most people would put Remember Me on a list of the “best” cyberpunk games, but I’d call it underrated. It may not have an open world you can really break out and explore, but the futuristic Neo-Paris setting is beautiful, and the idea of being able to hack into people’s memories and “remix them”—tweaking bits here and there to change how those people think, feel, and respond to the story—is clever, even if there isn’t quite enough of this. Frankly, I thought the beat ‘em up combat was fun enough in its own right, even if the memory remixes didn’t go as far as many of us wanted.
Like Cyberpunk 2077, the Shadowrun games are based on a tabletop RPG game. They lean into that genre hard, with an isometric view, a story that that relies on text, and tactical gameplay like the RPGs of old. The setting, however, stands apart by mixing fantasy wizards and elves with a futuristic cyber-setting. If you’re a fan of classic PC RPGs but have played all the retro titles to death, the Shadowrun series (of which Hong Kong is the most recent entry) are available on PC for “why the heck not” prices that will certainly keep you busy while you wait.