5 of the Best Dystopian Games
In a dystopian world, everything is just a little bit off kilter. However, whether it’s because of androids, zombies, or societal ruin, dystopian worlds are fascinating places to explore— and what better way to do so than through video games?
Dystopian Fiction as a Genre
Dystopias make for excellent books and create engaging, mysterious environments for video games. Dystopian games are a subgenre focusing on post-apocalyptic or near-future worlds. In these games, players often have to survive in a world that has been ravaged by some sort of global disaster.
Dystopian games often contain elements of horror, as well. Players may have to deal with cannibalistic raiders, mutated creatures, or other threats.
Due to the troubling nature of their worlds, dystopias often emphasize story and character development, so players connect with the characters and feel a sense of urgency to protect them.
Below are a few of the best dystopia-themed games.
Stray is a post-apocalyptic game set in an underground robot city. In the game, you play as a cat who has lost its family and is trying to find its way back home.
Along the way, the cat befriends robots, slinks through the different levels of the city, and follows missions. However, the optimism in Stray is what separates it from other dystopian titles.
Seeing that the protagonist is a cat, there’s room for humor and dynamic gameplay. Often, scratching couches or knocking over objects from tables is how you solve puzzles and mysteries. Additionally, the cat becomes the object of affection for many of the robots, making for some heart-warming moments.
Half-Life is a first-person shooter game that was released in 1998. In the game, you play as Gordon Freeman, a scientist who must find a way to stop an alien invasion.
When an experiment at the Black Mesa Research Facility goes wrong, a dimensional rift triggers an alien invasion. Freeman must fight his way through the facility, using a variety of weapons and gadgets. As he fends for his life, he also unravels secrets by solving puzzles and exploring.
Half-Life is one of the most popular first-person shooter games of all time. Upon release, it was critically and commercially well-received, with many saying it revolutionized the genre with its immersive qualities.
Since then, the Half-Life franchise has released several further titles, including the 2020 hit Half-Life: Alyx, which was released in VR.
Like Half-Life, Bioshock is a first-person shooter game. The story begins when the protagonist wakes up from a plane crash. Not only is he the only survivor, but he’s also stranded in an underwater city. As he travels through the bizarre new world, he finds its residents in a state of chaos. The player must fight through hordes of enemies to find out what has happened.
Bioshock is a visually stunning game with a unique setting. Art Deco inspires the game’s art style, and the city of Rapture is a fascinating place to explore. Many critics lauded Bioshock for its haunting, nostalgic soundtrack, composed principally of ballroom music.
Fallout is a post-apocalyptic role-playing game that was first released in 1997. It’s known for its stylized and nostalgic art direction, heavily borrowing from the 1950s.
After a nuclear disaster, players must explore the wasteland and find a way to survive. The game has a unique setting and story where the player can choose to side with different factions. Players also have impressive customization options, which many gamers find attractive.
However, many agree that Fallout’s easter eggs are one of its strongest and most appreciated aspects.
Detroit: Become Human
From the creators of Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human delivers a critically-acclaimed dystopian drama where androids and humans are in conflict. Tensions rise as more and more androids become “deviant,” meaning they override their code and gain free will.
The game interchanges between three androids to give the player different perspectives of the situation. Additionally, the developers do a great job of mixing these storylines to create a dynamic, genre-bending narrative, including action, noir, drama, and sci-fi.
Detroit: Become Human offers 85 possible endings and lets players see how their choices affected the game’s branching storylines.