Video games has skewed towards the futuristic ever since its inception. Most of the early classics like Space Invaders, Galacticand Asteroids were space-based future games, like most of their successors in the shoot ’em up genre. That’s not to mention the wide variety of future-based RPGs, platformers, first-person shooters, and more.
But while some games play nice with future settings, others give them an exact date. They could have been the near future, like the strangely distant 2020s, or the far future like the 3000s. These games went for slightly more attainable 2080s.
8/8 Binary domain
While Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios is best known for Yakuza (or Ryu Ga Gotoku) series, they have worked on other games. One of their more interesting exits was Binary domaina third-person shooter set in Tokyo in 2080. Although the reception, both critically and financially, was not warm, its unique consequence system (every decision the player makes affects how their squad sees them) and story made it a cult classic with those who gave it a chance.
After the climate crisis made most of the world habitable, and killed most of the world’s population, the rest of humanity has become more dependent on robots to do all the work. New laws were put in place to restrict the creation of “Hollow Children” – robots that look exactly like humans. But after one such “Hollow Child” kills a man, the Rust Crew is sent to Tokyo by the United Nations to bring in robot boss Yoji Amada for questioning. Things don’t go so smoothly for them as they end up with more than they bargained for.
7/8 Robotron 2084
Jumping to 2084, this classic game doesn’t exactly have a wealth of lore behind it – probably because it’s an arcade game from 1982. They didn’t exactly need a saga of stories to back them up. Inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984as well as shooting games such as Space Invaders and Berzerkthe player had to blow up as many robots as possible, save any human survivors and build up the highest possible score.
The game popularized multi-directional shooters and twin-stick shooters, and inspired later classics such as Alien Breed series, Geometry Warriorsand Smash TVwhich is also made of Robotronits co-creator Eugene Jarvis. It has even been referenced in pop culture, being name-checked by the Beastie Boys in ‘The Sounds of Science’ and ‘Down at the Arcade’ by Lou Reed.
Also set in 2084, this survival horror follows Polish detective Daniel Lazarski, a member of the Observers: a police unit licensed to hack into people’s minds. When he receives a call from his estranged son Adam, he is drawn into a mystery involving multiple murders and the Chiron mega-corporation. Lazarski must follow the trail and hack several brains to find clues about his son’s whereabouts, as well as what he has to do with Chiron and a place called ‘Sanctuary’.
The game was released on almost all platforms, from PS4 and PS5, to PC, Mac and Linux, and was created by Silent Hill 2 remake developers Bloober Team. It was also the first video game role for renowned actor Rutger Hauer, who played the role of Daniel. While the game’s stealth mechanics and substance weren’t particularly strong, its cyberpunk world-building, engaging soundtrack, and thought-provoking mechanics were highly praised.
The third entry in the popular X-COM RTS games see humanity locked in self-contained bubble cities. If the exploitation of the inhabitants of the off-world Martian colony wasn’t enough, humans are now threatened by a new race of shape-shifting aliens. Players must use their X-COM agents, planes and any other tools at their disposal to protect Mega-Primus and the other cities and eliminate the aliens for good.
The game’s development was somewhat messy thanks to the strained relationship between developers Mythos Games and publishers MicroProse. Mythos made the game, but MicroProse wanted to do the graphics, and their attempt to use fancy new 3D models didn’t work. Director Julian Gollop compared the creation to apocalypse now, a film whose behind-the-scenes drama was as disastrous as the story. But like apocalypse nowit nevertheless resulted in an engaging, entertaining RTS that received critical acclaim.
4/8 A Mind Forever Voyage
This text adventure is technically set in the 2080s, just as it is set in the 2030s, 2040s, 2050s, all the way up to the 2130s. As the title says, the mind is forever traveling. The player plays as PRISM, a supercomputer tasked with simulating a new economic plan through a man named Perry Simm. It simulates his life over successive decades, and it seems like a successful plan in the short term. However, it gradually breaks down the further PRISM goes.
The game was intended to be a critique of then-President Reagan’s American policies, although it did not cause the ripples of controversy designer Steve Meretzky hoped for. Probably because, while it’s a good text adventure game, it was still a text adventure game released in 1985. This was right when games with simpler narratives like “save the princess” needed graphics to capture.
3/8 Rad Warrior
Also known as Holy Armor of Antiriad outside the US, Palace Software’s games start in the 2080s and then go beyond that. After humanity bombs itself in 2086, the survivors form factions based on their anti-radiation technology and start a war with each other that lasts a thousand years. Just as peace seems attainable, an alien race emerges from the remains of the old civilization and enslaves the human race.
It’s up to a rebel named Tai to track down the Antiriad Armor (an anti-radiation battle suit) piece by piece and free the people from their oppressors. Unique when it came out on the PC, Apple II, and microcomputers, the game was a platform/maze game where gaining new items allowed the player to access blocked sections when backtracking. In other words, it adhered to the original Metroid as one of the first Metroidvania or “quest action” games ever made.
2/8 2088: The Cryllan Mission
If Rad Warrior seemed obscure, Victory Software’s RPGs are practically subterranean by comparison. Released only for Apple IIgs, it followed a space crew as they investigated what happened to their predecessors on the USS Houston after they landed on the planet Crylla. Chances are it wasn’t anything good. While the game follows in the direction of Ultimateit is, in a way, the opposite of Lord British’s magnum opus.
Instead of being a fantasy RPG with some sci-fi elements, it’s a sci-fi RPG with fantasy elements instead. The main characters are one Star TrekA crew of six explorers, but Crylla itself is a fantasy world of inns, dungeons and a variety of monsters that would be at home either in a sci-fi future or a Tolkien-like past. It received positive praise from Apple IIg magazines and users, but could have received more if it had managed to spread elsewhere.
1/8 Front mission 2089
Since this list started with the early 2080s, it might as well end with the late 2080s. Square-Enix’s fifth entry in the Front mission the series saw the OCU and USN peacekeeping forces clash over conflicts on Huffman Island. Players must control Ernest Salinger and his team of mercenaries on reconnaissance and espionage missions for the OCU and discover why their other mercs have disappeared.
The game was originally released for Japanese mobile phones through the EZweb services. However, it didn’t sell well, because mobile gaming wasn’t that big in 2005. So, the game got a Nintendo DS remake in 2008 called Border of Madness, complete with new artwork and a rewritten story. Unfortunately, both versions were Japan-only, so it might take some hunting. But if fans don’t want to do that, the upcoming one will Front Mission 2089: Borderscape is planned for a worldwide release for smartphones and other platforms.
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