The science fiction genre is filled with stereotypes. One of the most prevalent stereotypes is the concept of the dystopian future. This concept is portrayed in varying forms in some of the most classic depictions of science fiction, including Soylent Green, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, and Blade Runner. Besides literature and movies, the concept of the dystopian future is also prevalent in video games. In some games the concept provides little more than a backdrop, but in many, the concept makes the game that much more exciting. The following are some of the best video games set in a dystopian future.
X-Com: UFO Defense – The dystopian future aspect of this game is actually quite subtle. It shows itself in the complete unwillingness of nations to unite even when confronted by an Earth destroying threat. It also reveals itself when nations actually capitulate and form alliances with conquering aliens. Without the dystopian future, the world wouldn’t need an independent squad-based organization to fight the menace from beyond. Instead, the armies of the world would unite and fight as one.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – This game is the spiritual, and arguably, narrative sequel to Sid Meier’s Civilization. At the end of Civilization, the winning civilization flies to Alpha Centauri to colonize. According to the mythos of Alpha Centauri, during the years it took for the flight, the occupants of the ship splintered into various socio-political factions. The factions are basically all extremists displaying various dystopian form of organization. To add to this, the colonized world has sentient alien life forms that basically act as yet another form of “government”. The brilliance of the game is how it uses cut scenes to tell a rich story based on this setup.
Shadowrun – Two different Shadowrun video games were made. The better of the two was produced on the Sega Genesis and portrays the same dystopian future that is described in the tabletop role playing game of the same name. The mixture of magic and technology blend perfectly in a world where shadowing corporations run everything and rely on the seedy underworld to maintain power. The game remains true to the background and the story interweaves with it perfectly.
Bioshock – Technically, Bioshock isn’t set in the future. But the setting is clearly dystopian and the technology present in the game is beyond modern technology. Just the name of the city in the game, Rapture, creates a sense of false utopia. That sense is quickly proved true when the “perfect” city proves to be far from perfect. From Big Daddies to Little Sisters, every little detail makes for a powerful and disturbing story.
Fallout – With the exception of Wasteland, this game is the originator of the dystopian future video game. Just about nothing is more evident of a dystopian future than a world set in a post-nuclear holocaust. The feeling is made even more powerful with the intermixing of post-apocalyptic stereotypes and 1950s themes. The story of this game could not exist without the setting and the setting is perfectly detailed. This game shows exactly how a dystopian future video game should be made.