Video Games

A man and a woman stand in a black setting with light behind them. The man's arms are raised up with a light beam extending from them.
The original poster for the film. The use of this image for educational purposes qualifies as fair use.

Dystopias have a long history with video games. Although the connection may have begun sooner, it was concretized in 1982 with the release of the movie TRON, in which software developer Flynn is digitized and uploaded into a mainframe, where he discovers a dystopian world ruled by an artificial intelligence called the Master Control Program. As a promotion for the film, an arcade game based on the movie was released, thus furthering the dystopian synergy.

Using video games to explore the connection between imaginary and real dystopias can prove challenging. Many video games use the trope of a dystopian society to justify the violent conflict inherent in a shooter game or a fighting game. Occasionally, though, a video game is developed with a compelling and complex story that explores a dystopian society. Games such as Fallout: New Vegas and Deus Ex may offer enough detail to allow for the analysis of analogues between the world of the game and our world.

Included on this page are some visual novels, which exist in a space between fiction and game.

The titles below have not been evaluated in relation to the ideas discussed above. Many will, if closely considered, likely fall into the category of games that have a vague dystopian setting that offers no real substance for analysis.

Possibly Dystopian Video Games

  • Analogue: A Hate Story
  • The Ascent
  • Beholder
  • Beneath a Steel Sky
  • Beyond a Steel Sky
  • BioShock (franchise)
  • Blacklight: Tango Down
  • Call of Duty (franchise)
  • Choro 2021
  • Cloudpunk
  • Code Vein
  • Crackdown (franchise)
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Deus Ex (franchise)
  • Dishonored (franchise)
  • Dry Drowning
  • Dying Light (franchise)
  • Dysfunctional Systems
  • Earthrise
  • Event[0]
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Final Fantasy (XIII)
  • Floor 13: Deep State
  • Gunmetal
  • Half-Life 2 (franchise)
  • Hard Reset
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker
  • Haze
  • Iconoclasts
  • Jak (franchise)
  • Kikokugai: The Cyber Slayer
  • Manhunter: New York
  • Mean Streets
  • Mega Man Zero 4
  • Messiah
  • Metal Gear (franchise)
  • Metro 2033
  • Microcosm
  • Ministry of Broadcast
  • The Moment of Silence
  • Nier
  • No More Heroes III
  • No Straight Roads
  • The Nomad Soul
  • Not For Broadcast
  • Observer
  • Oni
  • Orwell
  • Papers, Please
  • Phantom of the Kill
  • Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet
  • Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness
  • Raid 2020
  • Red Faction (franchise)
  • Remember Me
  • République
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
  • Soma
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • The Surge
  • Syndicate
  • The Technomancer
  • Terminator: Resistance
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division (franchise)
  • Tyranny
  • Watch Dogs (franchise)
  • XCOM (franchise)
  • Year Zero

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