5 most unique depictions of a sci-fi future in video games (and 5 of a post apocalyptic world)

Futuristic and post-apocalyptic video games (Image via CD Projekt Red, Kojima Productions)
Futuristic and post-apocalyptic video games (Image via CD Projekt Red, Kojima Productions)

There are many aspects that go into creating good video games that stand apart from their peers. The narrative, graphics, compelling characters, and gameplay mechanics, and many more features affect the quality of the gaming experience.

However, all these factors are influenced by one key component: the setting in which the events of the game occur. Post-apocalyptic and futuristic sci-fi worlds are popular depictions in the world of video games. With so many options to choose from, it is a challenge to find a unique portrayal of such a world.

Therefore, this article doesn't present a list of the best video games in the genre. Instead, it focuses on titles that challenge and redefine the boundaries of such worlds with their unique depictions.

Note: This article reflects the writer's opinions.

5 sci-fi video games that showcase the best features of the genre

1) Cyberpunk 2077


Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt Red is probably the most popular and hyped entry in this list of video games. It offers the most extensive open-world approach to the futuristic sci-fi genre. The protagonist, V, is a mercenary outlaw looking for a rare implant that grants the user immortality.

Features such as cybernetic body modifications, branching storylines based on the player's choices and character type, as well as the relationship dynamics between the characters all combine to provide a unique and refreshing experience.

The vast and sprawling Night City provides a vibrant and futuristic backdrop to the events of the game. The city is brimming with NPCs that players can interact with, who reveal new storylines and sidequests, adding to the lore of this unique world.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Windows, Stadia.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

2) Horizon Zero Dawn


Horizon Zero Dawn is an award-winning action RPG by Guerrilla Games. The story is set in the 31st century, when machines dominate and roam the land as colossal wild beasts.

Aloy, the protagonist, must traverse these lands and defeat these beasts in a journey to unearth her own past as well as the origins of these machines.

What sets this game apart is the fact that humanity has been depicted as primal in this futuristic setting. Despite having access to more advanced tech in the form of these machines, humans have reverted to hunter-gatherer tribes who worship their land. The game combines sci-fi and mythical elements in a masterful fashion.

The vast open world has also been reclaimed by nature, with sprawling forests, wastelands, and ruins. The mechanical beasts that roam the land add a unique environmental element to the game as they serve as hostile enemies as well as objects to farm resources from.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

3)No Man's Sky


No Man's Sky is an explorational sci-fi game developed by UK-based Hello Games. The game had massive hype leading up to its release. Despite receiving mixed reviews, it can't be denied that it offers one of the most unique experiences in this genre of video games.

Players can explore multiple procedurally generated worlds, with each world boasting its own ecosystem. The game is based on exploration and scavenging for resources. From the depths of the ocean to the edges of space, No Man's Sky has it all.

The objective is to survive by farming resources from various planets in the multiple galaxies on offer. Every planet has unique flora and fauna, as well as varying obtainable resources.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Windows, Mac OS, Nintendo Switch, iPad OS.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

4) Half Life 2


Half Life 2 is probably the most critically acclaimed game on this list. Released in 2004, it won multiple awards and has garnered a cult-like following that is desperate for a sequel. It is a sci-fi first-person shooter game set two decades after the events of its predecessor.

The protagonist, Gordon Freeman, is thrust into the future in the unfamiliar confines of City 17. What makes this game unique is the immersive experience it provides. There is no expository sequence which provides the details of the world or the lore. Instead, players have to figure things out as they go along, mirroring Gordon's lack of comprehension and providing the ultimate role-playing experience.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows, Linux, Android.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

5) The Bioshock series


Bioshock is a series of action-adventure FPS video games. The game explores the depths of an underwater dystopia called Rapture. In order to progress, players have to biologically and genetically modify themselves to gain upgrades.

The combination of action with themes of horror, as well as the unique underwater setting, makes the game stand out. The architecture and environmental elements of Rapture are also based on works of literature such as "Atlas Shrugged." This adds another layer of uniqueness to the game.

The morality-based theme as well as unique environments set these games apart from others. Bioshock is regarded as one of the best series in all of video game history and is a testament to gaming as an art form.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

5 video games that offer a unique spin on the post-apocalyptic genre

1) Death Stranding


Death Stranding is an action game developed by the legendary Hideo Kojima. It is set in a post-cataclysmic depiction of the United States where dangerous and hostile creatures roam the lands. The protagonist, Sam Porter Bridges, is tasked with delivering supplies to isolated colonies scattered throughout the open world.

The game combines the genres of stealth and action in a meticulous manner. However, the world-building within the game is what sets it apart from other video games in the genre. The vast and expansive Chiral Network, the open world, the creative enemy designs and game mechanics in general, all create a unique storytelling experience unlike any other.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

2) The Fallout series


Fallout is a series of action-based role-playing games. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the series is probably the most popular one in this genre of video games. The various titles are set in the 21st, 22nd and 23rd centuries, in a world ravaged by nuclear annhilation.

It is a genre defining series that has set the benchmark for other post-apocalyptic games. The vast gallery of rogue beasts, the massive open world, as well as the arsenal of weaponry and equipment, all combine to create an expansive world for players to explore and enjoy.

The game also provides players with lore and exposition in creative ways such as old newspapers and telecomms. The addition of companions in the form of animals like dogs also adds a unique new mechanic rarely seen in this genre of video games.

Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Mac OS, DOS, Android, iOS.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

3) NieR: Automata


NieR: Automata is an action-based RPG developed by Platinum Games. It is the second game in the series and is set in the year 11945. The game explores the events of the 14th Machine War and consists of 27 unique endings based on the completion of specific conditions. Humanity has fled to the moon and the Earth is now inhabited by androids left to defend the planet.

The open-ended nature of the narrative and the switching of perspectives between various characters makes the game a unique installment in the genre. The visual artstyle is also extremely refreshing and the gameplay seamlessly blends several genres together to create a dynamic and fun experience.

The combat mechanics as well as the desolate abandoned cities where the fights occur make this a unique entry in this list of video games. The action, the setting and the art style truly makes players feel like powerful anime protagonists.

Platforms: PlayStation 4. Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

4) The Division


Tom Clancy's The Division offers a unique mix of offline and online co-op gameplay in the form of a post-apocalyptic tactical shooter. The game is set in New York, highlighting the after-effects of a deadly pandemic. Players take on enemy factions either alone or with up to three friends in an online co-op experience.

The relevance of a tactical approach when it comes to firefights feels extremely rewarding. The loot system, customisation, and the availability of PvP as well as PvE elements make The Division a rather interesting take on this genre of video games.

Looter-shooters aren't exactly the rarest commodity in the genre of post-apocalyptic video games. However, the uniqueness here lies in the execution. Using the familiar location of New York as the setting also helps with the feeling of immersion and realism.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

5) Far Cry New Dawn


Far Cry New Dawn is a spin-off and semi-sequel to Far Cry 5. It is set seventeen years after the events of its predecessor. Far Cry 5 ended with the fictional Hope County in Montana being ravaged by a nuclear explosion set off by Joseph Seed.

Players take on the role of an unnamed protagonist, similar to Far Cry 5, in order to battle the antagonists in this post-apocalyptic world.

The title is a unique entry in this list as it is set in a dystopian world based on the events of another game in the series. To add more realism to this setting, it utilizes a smaller version of Far Cry 5's map, as several areas have been rendered inaccessible due to radiation. Several accessible areas have also been redesigned to reflect the effects of the nuclear fallout.

Despite its short run-time, Far Cry New Dawn is a remarkable effort by Ubisoft and does justice to the franchise's other video games.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Stadia.

Paid/Unpaid: Paid.

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Edited by Abu Amjad Khan
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