Platform(s): PS4, mobile, PC
Most cyberpunk tales are dour affairs, as our heroes often try to affect change on an immovable object, whether that's a massive corporation, an authoritarian government, or society as a whole. But Transistor is downright tragic, as a single action sets an entire chain of events in motion that could spell doom for the remnants of human civilization. The story opens as Red, an opera singer who has lost her voice, pulls a sword called the Transistor out of the body of an unknown man. That man's consciousness has become embedded inside, his voice booming from the blade (and, in a nice touch, from the PS4 controller's speaker). Together, they attempt to track down and defeat the Camerata, a group of aristocrats and government officers, all while a strange weapon known as the Process spreads across the city like a malignant tumor. Interestingly, combat works much like a computer program - each of Red's powers are named after programming functions, and in order to fend off the Process, you must pause time, set up a series of attacks and movement commands, and then watch everything play out in real-time.
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Life Is Strange developer Dontnod's first effort, Remember Me, is a classic case of ambition exceeding ability. Not everything in the game works as well as it should - combat is clunky and uninteresting, and the environments look breathtaking but ultimately feel hollow - but at its core is a gripping story of a future where memories are bought and sold, and can be manipulated at will. Set in 2084 in the city of Neo-Paris (it's not a cyberpunk tale without the word 'Neo' in there somewhere), Remember Me follows Nilin, a memory hunter who had her own memories stripped from her by Memorize, a corporation that deals in memory implants. In her quest to regain her past, she finds herself working for the Errorists, an underground resistance attempting to bring down the mega-corporations that run Neo-Paris. Perhaps the most sinister thing about Remember Me is that you'll often have to hop inside the memories of the people you come across and 'remix' them, effectively editing their own perception of real-world events as easy as you would delete a file from a computer.
2064: Read Only Memories
Platform(s): PS4, Switch, PC
Read Only Memories looks like a future as portrayed by '80s and '90s anime classics like Bubblegum Crisis and Macross Plus, with a bit of the detective work featured in Hideo Kojima's cult classic Sega CD adventure Snatcher thrown in for good measure. Set in Neo-San Francisco (there it is again) in 2064, Read Only memories is less a point-and-click adventure game and more of an investigatorial drama in the vein of Phoenix Wright with a cyberpunk twist. You're cast as a journalist living in this new, highly technological vision of the future, investigating the mysterious disappearance of your friend. Following you on your adventure is Turing, the world's first sentient robot. As you traverse the neon-lit city streets, you'll have deep, conflicted conversations with your new robot pal, all while trying to navigate a convoluted web of conspiracies and double-crosses. It's a slower burn than some, heavily focusing on dialog and investigation over action, but if you're looking for a captivating futuristic noir tale with a slick art style and killer tunes, Read Only Memories is an easy choice.
Anachronox is a hilarious cyberpunk spoof - and while parts of it haven't aged terribly well, it's a hell of a game, and it hasn't lost an ounce of its wit or charm. You play as Sly Boots, a down-on-his-luck detective who finds himself embroiled in a mystery that sends him to the furthest reaches of the universe. There's a colorful cast of characters: your deceased secretary is converted into an artificial intelligence and lives inside your in-game mouse cursor; there's a femme fatale who goes by the name Stiletto Anyway; and yes, there's an entire planet named Democratus that shrinks itself down and follows you around on your travels. The game plays like a JRPG with some adventure game elements sprinkled throughout, and its script is consistently fun, playing off of its genre's many tropes without being obnoxious about it. It's just seven bucks on Steam, and it's worth every penny.
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Binary Domain is actually a pretty lackluster third-person cover-based shooter, if you're looking at it strictly from a gameplay perspective. But if you can look past its flaws and let it into your heart, you'll find a game that will let you use your own voice to tell a French robot that you love him in the thick of combat - and he'll actually respond. Binary Domain somehow simultaneously channels the wackiness of Metal Gear Solid with the serious undertones of the works of Isaac Asimov, producing a game that is equal parts earnest and completely ridiculous. Big Bo wouldn't have it any other way.
Platform(s): PS4, PC
Rez Infinite's status as a cyberpunk game isn't obvious until you realize that you're traveling through a futuristic version of the internet as designed by someone with a severe case of synesthesia. The narrative as told by Rez is incredibly abstract, often relying on strange, shifting visuals, pulsating environments, and a virtually endless stream of computer code running down the side of the screen while you play to provide context. Eventually, you piece together the full story - you're playing as a computer hacker attempting to prevent the shutdown of a global "supernetwork." As the hacker, it's your job to fly through a series of stages, fending off viruses and breaking through firewalls, and make your way to the core in order to prevent EDEN from taking the network offline. Rez plays like a rail shooter, but every action you take, whether you're locking onto enemies or firing digital missile salvos, shapes the sound of every stage's soundtrack. Rez is a strange game, and it doesn't exactly fit the typical cyberpunk mold, but this is a digital acid trip well worth taking.