The cyberpunk genre, originating from and deeply rooted in the 1980s, has surprisingly become relevant again in recent times. It embodies both a distinct aesthetic, with neon lights and rain-soaked cityscapes at night, as well as an underlying ethos. It serves as a counter to traditional sci-fi, shifting focus from pristine spaceships to gritty urban settings of the near future. In these dark environments, antiheroes from the fringes of society employ technology to navigate their struggles and carve out their place in the shadows.

The resurgence of interest in cyberpunk within video games was epitomized by Cyberpunk 2077, though its release turned out to be underwhelming and marred by technical issues. The game's limited narrative ambition clashed with its expansive open-world structure, leaving players somewhat dissatisfied.

Thankfully, a multitude of alternative cyberpunk games, both old and new, delve into the essence of the genre and its potential significance in our era. From classic titles from the 1990s and early 2000s to the revivalist creations of the late 2010s and the resilient gems that endured the dark times in between, a treasure trove of cyberpunk experiences exists, surpassing the allure of Cyberpunk 2077. Here, we present the finest among them.

1. Deus Ex

Deus Ex follows the journey of JC Denton, an augmented government super-agent, who becomes entangled in a perilous conspiracy that poses a grave threat to the world's future. Taking matters into his own hands, he embarks on a mission to hold the responsible parties accountable. The game offers players remarkable freedom, allowing them to approach it as a series of stealthy challenges, a role-playing adventure, or an action-packed shooter.

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Deus Ex

As one of the pioneering immersive simulation games, Deus Ex may feel somewhat clunky not due to its age, but because it was developed during the genre's early stages. However, the Give Me Deus Ex mod (GMDX) comes to the rescue by smoothing out some of the rough edges. Similarly, its direct sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, receives enhancements through the Deus Ex 2 Visible Upgrade mod.

2. Blade Runner

Blade Runner presents the tale of Ray McCoy, who embarks on a point-and-click adventure through the rain-soaked streets of Los Angeles, tracking down a group of rogue replicants. The game draws heavily from its movie inspiration, and that's precisely what makes it appealing. The chance to explore a stunning rendition of Ridley Scott's influential world while enjoying Vangelis' music creates a blissful experience. Standing on your balcony, overlooking the city with the soaring soundtrack in the background is truly mesmerizing. However, the "enhanced edition" released in 2022 turned out to be quite a disaster.

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Blade Runner

3. Neuromancer

In contrast to Blade Runner's close adherence to its source material, Neuromancer, an adventure-RPG based on William Gibson's novel, takes a different path. While it retains some elements of Chiba City from the book, the game introduces its own eccentricities courtesy of Interplay. Notable locations include the House of Pong, where Pong Monks delve into the mysteries of the One True Computer Game, and a body shop where you can sell body parts like your spleen or tongue for money.

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Playing as a destitute hacker who had to pawn their computer, you must rebuild yourself by collecting warez and skill chips before venturing into cyberspace. There, you encounter AI opponents that can be defeated using your expertise in Logic, Philosophy, Phenomenology, and Sophistry. Interplay's rendition of cyberspace is just as offbeat as its portrayal of Chiba City, adding to the game's distinctive appeal.

4. Syndicate Wars

Syndicate Wars stands out as the prime entry in Bullfrog's darkly satirical Syndicate series. This tactical real-time strategy game unfolds within a grim dystopia governed by malevolent corporations. The totalitarian regime faces a viral threat, and as a EuroCorp Executive in command of a squad of cyborg agents and a budget of 50,000 EuroCorp credits, the responsibility falls on you to prevent a rebellion among the populace. Alternatively, you might align yourself with the Church of the New Epoch. Whichever path you choose, you'll inevitably resort to utilizing miniguns and mind control to achieve your objectives.

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Syndicate Wars

5. System Shock 2

System Shock 2, an ingenious blend of horror, first-person shooter, and RPG, takes place aboard a distressed starship and served as a major inspiration for the more famous but less ingenious BioShock series. Its standout feature is the sinister AI antagonist, Shodan. Within the realm of cyberpunk, rogue artificial intelligences are a recurring theme, and Shodan represents one of the most exceptional examples of this concept in PC gaming.

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System Shock 2

6. Gunpoint

Gunpoint presents a unique blend of classic cyberpunk personas: that of a hacker spy breaking through corporate security and a noir detective unraveling a perplexing case. Framed for a crime you didn't commit, you take matters into your own hands, engaging in further actions while seeking out the true culprits. Armed with a rewiring tool, you infiltrate 2D buildings, manipulating technology to your advantage—turning a light switch into a door opener or causing a motion sensor to overload a power point.

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Each level serves as a self-contained puzzle, tightly sealed with challenges, yet sometimes solvable through sheer force, aided by your Bullfrog Hypertrousers. Jumping through windows, landing on guards, and giving them a sound thrashing becomes a common occurrence, complementing the game's humorous atmosphere. The story unfolds through text messages, where you find yourself embroiled in a corporate duel, though the game rarely demands taking the situation too seriously, maintaining a lighthearted and absurd tone throughout.

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