I'm thinking about cyberpunk right now as I do some hacking on The Veil. I’ve seen lists like these in the past– but most I've found are several years old. Cyberpunk changes constantly, especially in our present dystopian era. But I’m going to set aside the question of what is legitimately cyber or punk. I’m focusing on things which self-describe as cyberpunk or blatantly use the trappings. Like the new cat-game, which pushed me to look at these.
That cat-game is, of course, the new game Stray, which uses the cyberpunk setting elements to great effect. Stray might be post-cyberpunk or it might just fuse elements from various X-punk genres. But it has a look and does something new with the pieces; something I wouldn’t have thought of.
The kind of surprise is what makes The Veil my favorite cyberpunk rpg and one of my favorite games of all time. It’s written by Fraser Simons, someone whose sources and inspirations for cyberpunk are distinctly different from mine. I grew up on 1980s Cyberpunk: Gibson, Sterling, Williams, Effinger– and then the games which codified those elements: Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, Cyberspace, and the like. But Fraser’s influences in The Veil are more modern and wild– non-western writers, anime, and beyond. And with The Veil’s supplements: Cascade and Inheritance, you can see the evolution of these sources.
So I want to ask: what are the interesting, rich, and useful cyberpunk texts: movies, albums, anime, TV shows, books, comics, video games, board games, or ttrpgs which have been released since 2018? I have a few things to mention, but I’d really like to get input and suggestions from others to expand this. This is my barely disguised attempt to crowdsource a good list: both to find things I haven't heard of and maybe get input on those I have.
ON TO THE RECENTS
Let me start with an inventory of CYBERPUNK TTRPGS released in the last five years. Here I’ll just mention core rules or new cyberpunk setting supplements for existing games/systems:
2084, 2400: Resistors, Aetherium, Android: Shadow of the Beanstalk, BALIKBAYAN: Returning Home, Black•Code, Brainjacked, Carbon 2185, CBR+PNK, Citizens Divided, CRASH/CART, CY_BORG, Cyberpunk GenIsys, Cyberpunk RED , Cyberslaves, Cybertopia, Cyborgs & Cigarettes, Dancing with Bullets Under a Neon Sun, Dead Halt, Entromancy: A Cyberpunk Fantasy RPG, Flatline, Fragged Cyberpunk, FWB Through the Looking Glass: A Year and Day Into the Future, GeneFunk 2090, Hack the Planet: Cyberpunk Forged in the Dark, Hard Wired Island, Interface Zero 3.0: The Players Guide to 2095, Kaijupunk 202X, KISHU, Lowlife 2090, Mainframe, Neomancer, Neon Blood, Neon City Outlaws, Neon City Overdrive: a game of cyberpunks, Neon Nights, Neotech Edge: System, Punktown: A Setting Book for Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying, Realidad Incógnita, Retropunk, Running Out of Time, Shadowrun: Sixth World Core Rulebook, Sigmata: This Signal Kills Fascists, Singularity 2045, Synthicide: Sharpers in the Dark, Takers, The Gaia Complex: A Game of Flesh and Wires, Uprising: The Dystopian Universe, Utopia, Veil 2020, Vieja Escuela: Cyberpunk, vs. MIRRORSHADES, World of Lazarus
I’m sure I’ve missed some– if so let me know. Let me know which you like/dislike.
In terms of CYBERPUNK VIDEOGAMES, I’ll just list six. I’m leaving off a couple of obvious ones (Cyberpunk 2077, Shadowrun):
- Stray: Mentioned above. Is it cyberpunk? It’s world of robots and decayed humanity mixed with wild cultural influences certainly feels that way. It is striking as a tour of atmosphere and setting.
- Gamedec: In this game you play as a Game Detective, going into various virtual worlds to solve mysteries and problems in the real world. It’s a hell of a pitch and if you wanted to do a multiversal/multi-genre ttrpg, this could be a great model.
- Beyond a Steel Sky: This is a sequel to another game, Beneath a Steel Sky. Dave Gibbons, artist for Watchmen, did the graphic design here. It definitely has a Judge Dredd vibe with the Mega-City you’re exploring in play.
- Disjunction: A stealth shooter game which leans into old-school cyberpunk trappings in its display artwork and pixel graphics.
- Ghostwire Tokyo: Marginally cyberpunk– there’s enough trappings to make me think it is, despite the supernatural premise. Perhaps it is just my wish-fulfilment from the Kuro rpg.
- Foreclosed: A graphic-novel style narrative cyberpunk rpg. You’re a wired character who has been stripped of his implants and needs to make it in a city called Blockchain.
I’m surprised there aren’t more of these.
Westworld: I’m only through season two of this and it feels like an amazingly well-built world. The ideas of identity and artificial intelligence are dynamite. I’m told that S3 gets even more wild and more deeply cyberpunk.
Love, Death + Robots: Hit and miss, but always visually striking. It has several episodes which really deliver both on the themes and the look of cyberpunk.
Yurei Deco: An anime set in a world with heavy augmented reality. This is on Crunchyroll right now, but I haven’t yet had a chance to watch it. It’s bright and wild, with characters who have avoided being caught up in the AR world. It has some themes from Dennou Coil I think, but is much less slice of life and grounded.
I’ll leave off Cyberpunk: Edgerunners which is coming to Netflix in September. And Altered Carbon’s original author is an anti-trans biological essentialist, so give that a miss.
Books, Comics, Manga
Despite cyberpunk having come out of novels and literature, I haven’t read much recent work. There’s pre-2018 stuff I’d put in this basket (The Prey of Gods, Rosewater, The Peripherial, Biomega) but I don’t know what has emerged in the last few years.
The Body Scout: A Novel: This is a really striking cybernoir novel about a scout for future bio-augmented baseball leagues. There’s a really interesting tension between hardware implants and drug/biological enhancement.
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach: A wild novel that’s probably more general sci-fi and post-cyberpunk, but the ideas and imagery about body modification and ecohacking is worth reading.
APOSIMZ: A semi post-apocalyptic future story set on an artificial world. This manga has a sketchy art style which might not be for everyone’s taste. Cyberpunk elements about scrounging to survive and artificial existence.
No Guns Life: Main character is a soldier who has been unwillingly turned into a cyborg (with a gun for a head) and is hunting down who did this to me. Megacorps as villains and protecting a child hit on classic tropes.