Guns, booze, smokes, and artificial limbs: the typical accessories for a character in a cyberpunk story.
"Transhumanism is about how technology will eventually help us overcome the problems that have, up until now, been endemic to human nature. Cyberpunk is about how technology won't."
— Stephen Lea Sheppard of RPG.Net, on the relation between transhumanism and cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a Speculative Fiction
genre centered around the transformative effects of advanced science, information technology, computers and networks ("cyber") coupled with a breakdown or radical change in the social order ("punk"). A genre that is dark
in tone, it borrows elements from Film Noir
, hard-boiled Detective Fiction
and postmodern deconstruction
to describe the Dystopian
side of an electronic society.
The plot will more than likely take place Twenty Minutes into the Future
in some City Noir
, Industrial Ghetto
or Crapsack World
that tends to be marked by crime, cultural nihilism and bad weather
, where cutting-edge technology only ends up being used by everyone for the sake of selfish profit
("the street finds its own uses for things").
Heroes are often computer hackers
or rebels, antiheroes
almost to a man. These characters — "criminals, outcasts, visionaries, dissenters and misfits" — call to mind the private eye of detective fiction. This emphasis on the misfits and the malcontents is the "punk" component of cyberpunk. On the other hand, major villains are almost inevitably Police States
or multinational conglomerates
led by powerful businessmen
with a number of gun-toting Mooks
and corrupt politicians
(or even an entire nation
) at their beck and call.
If the work dates from The Eighties
, there's a good chance that there will be a theme of East Asian economic dominance
, with the evil corporations being sinister zaibatsu
behind the scenes by yakuza
) and Asian-sounding brand-names liberally scattered around. Examples from the Turn of the Millennium
are likely to swap Japan out for China
Expect the scientific philosophy of transhumanism
to be a feature, what with Artificial Limbs
and cable jacks in the skull
that allow access to artificial realities
. Artificial intelligences
and artificial humans
) are everywhere, while Everything Is Online
. This leads to a theme of "loss of distinction between real and artificial" on which philosophical and existential conflicts about transhumanism can arise, such as questions on the nature of identity and "What Measure Is a Non-Human?
The genre's vision of a troubled future is often called the antithesis of the generally utopian visions of the future popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but keep in mind that it is not
a term that should be applied to every Speculative Fiction
dystopia or Bad Future
ever in the history of the genre, and does not need to always have an anvilicious Science Is Bad
message to it.
Cyberpunk tends to be pretty hard on the Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness
, usually lingering between a 4 and a 5. This makes it one of the more realistic genres of sci-fi, but also makes older stories be very prone to Zeerust
. William Gibson
himself, considered the godfather of the Cyberpunk genre, has said that he was massively shortsighted on the advances in technology that would occur over the next three decades
. The infamous "three megabytes of hot RAM" in Neuromancer
to a modern audience who consider an eight gigabyte MP3
player to be one of the cheap and low-capacity ones.
Cyberpunk is also quite distinctive in its focus on Social
stories in Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction
. It certainly has Gadget
stories within the genre as well, numerous in fact, but Cyberpunk is a genre that focuses heavily on the impact of technology on society itself, possibly more than any other genre of sci-fi. Given that it's a more cynical genre than others, it particularly focuses on the negative
impact of technology on society, but with the emergence of Post-Cyberpunk
, portrayal of societal impact of technology has become more neutral and sometimes even positive. It's hard to condemn speculative technology when it becomes actual technology and we realize that, hey, it's not so bad.
See Cyberpunk Tropes
and SoYouWantTo.Write A Cyberpunk Story
for Cyberpunk's characteristic tropes and what sets it apart from other dystopias. The story may fall on the Romanticism end of the Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
Not to be confused with the roleplaying game Cyberpunk
, though that is an example. Obviously.
As a movement, it was the successor in some sense to the New Wave Science Fiction
movement of the sixties and seventies. Related to Post-Cyberpunk
. Of course, several works fit on a continuum between the two tropes. See also Cyberspace
, Dungeon Punk
, Punk Punk
. Compare also with Steam Punk
, which shares some similarities with cyberpunk. See also Neo-Africa
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- AKIRA is an extremely influential cyberpunk anime movie.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Government censorship of the media, refugees are treated poorly and social welfare appears to be nonexistent. As well, members of the military appear to be able to issue orders to civilians (something which is not permitted in most democracies except under martial law).
- Also, assassinations are regularly ordered by the Prime Minister or other government officials (which, said the author of the original manga, Shirow Masamune, meant that there had been a massive failure in the political process).
- A lot of themes in SAC steer the series more towards Post Cyber Punk, however. It's still a dystopia (especially given hints about how bad the rest of the world is), but it's a less severe dystopia then many settings, a more realistic in that not EVERYTHING is automatically as bad as it could be.
- Armitage III is incredibly similar to Ghost in the Shell, and predated the movie (but not the manga) by a year. (Both series revolve around female robotic law enforcers solving crimes perpetrated by or against robots, and both tackle similar themes.
- Cyber City Oedo 808
- Gunnm or Battle Angel Alita, with the distinction that it's set in a far off future in which Earth is barely recognizable.
- Serial Experiments Lain.
- The characters who provide the "punk" element are all secondary, such as The Men in Black, the kids at Cyberia, and Lain's sister. Lain herself is an innocent, in contrast to the usual convention of putting a scumbag in the spotlight of a cyberpunk story.
- Bubblegum Crisis and especially its spinoff, AD Police — in all its incarnations. The remake series, Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 was criticized for being more clean-cut than the original.
- Ergo Proxy: By the end of the series it looks like Post Cyber Punk.
- Texhnolyze: Thanks to deliberate use of Zeerust, this series borders on Diesel Punk, although cybernetic implants are a fairly important part of the story's world.
- Psycho-Pass is another that straddles the line between Cyberpunk and Post Cyber Punk. Japanese society is covered by a thin veneer of utopia, but as the show progresses, it gets rubbed away as we see the cost of said society. By the end, the viewer isn't even sure the bad guy is wrong in his goals of tearing society down.
- The entirety of the Marvel 2099 lineup.
- Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal merges European take on cyberpunk with some supernatural/extraterrestrial elements.
- OMAC is one of the more eccentric examples, being written and illustrated by Jack Kirby, but it hits just about every element of cyberpunk but cyberspace (which didn't exist as a concept in 1974). All-powerful corporations dabbling in criminal activity? Check. Sketchy world government using spy satellites and transhumanist super-soldiers to do their dirty work? Check. Nuclear threat looming in the distance? Decadent middle class unaware of what goes on beneath their feet? Plots dealing with memory and identity in a world where those things can be removed or reprogrammed? Check, check, and check.
- Also in 1974, over at Marvel, Rich Buckler and Doug Moench were covering all the cyberpunk tropes that OMAC missed in ''Deathlok The Demolisher': Including transhumanism and something akin to cyberspace.
- Alternative Gods is a Death Note cyberpunk AU. It has a strong emphasis on hacking and technology. You've got an evil corporation (Yotsuba) doing unethical experimentation, a noirish tone, colliding conspiracies, and "heroes" that are hackers, misfits, antiheroes, criminals, and visionaries (sometimes all at the same time; exhibit A—Light Yagami.)
- The SpongeBob darkfic Cyberpunk, as its name may suggest, has many elements of this genre.
- Johnny Mnemonic was adapted from an eponymous William Gibson short story (with a screenplay written by Gibson himself), but sadly fell victim to Executive Meddling during production, with the final result sorely disappointing fans and creators alike.
- Strange Days is a unique example, being set only a few years in the future from when it was released, and featuring only a few pieces of futuristic technology.
- Cherry 2000 with elements of Desert Punk in the non-urban areas.
- π, though it's set in the eighties, gives the protagonist's computer improbable powers that throw the story into cyberpunk territory.
- Sneakers has all the markings of Cyberpunk, except for being set Next Sunday A.D., and thus lacking in the chrome.
- Elysium: The elite live on a high-tech space station with casual cures for cancer, while Earth is a Crapsack World of poverty and squalor kept oppressed with robot police and cyber-enhanced thugs.
- John M. Ford was an early pioneer his 1980 novel Web Of Angels.
- John Shirley is considered another of the genre's founding fathers, with his novel City Come A-Walkin' releasing around the same time as Ford's (see above). His later novels, in particular Black Glass and the Eclipse Trilogy, cemented his reputation.
- K.W. Jeter could have launched the genre a decade early were it not for the publication of his novel Dr. Adder getting pushed back for twelve years (Jeter originally finished the manuscript in 1972, but no publishing company would accept it at the time due to its graphic violence and sexual content). It went unpublished until 1984, finding its way to shelves just in time to be completely overshadowed by a certain other book (see below).
- William Gibson is often referred to as the father of the genre; he created the word "cyberspace", and, despite his lack of technical knowledge, his novel Neuromancer was the prototype for much of what followed.
- Marc D. Giller's Hammerjack and its sequel Prodigal; both include virtually every trope associated with cyberpunk, but most notably the leather-clad "razor girls."
- Bruce Sterling is another shaper of the genre; in fact, he is often considered its chief promoter. His works tend to be less bleak than Gibson's.
- Neal Stephenson has been credited with founding the "post-cyberpunk" genre, working with more "modern" ideas such as memes, the Internet, and computer cryptography. He tends to stuff a lot of ideas into his books, which become brilliant when it works and confusing when it doesn't. Most notable is probably Snow Crash.
- Norman Spinrad's Little Heroes (published 1987).
- Sex, Drugs & Violence (in the future) by Nero Manson takes the reader gradually from present day, to cyberpunk, to post-cyberpunk.
- John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider invented the concept of an internet worm / virus long before the WWW, and it gave us a hacker hero long before WarGames. The other two books in Brunner's triptych - The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar also form a major part of the foundation of what would be later called cyberpunk. Interestingly, Gibson noted the The Sheep Look Up is one of the few novels pre-to-post cyberpunk that came anywhere close to hitting the prediction nail on the head. And if you have read "Sheep" you realize this is not a good thing ...
- Pat Cadigan is also considered to be a genre co-founder and major influence, starting with her 1984 short-story "Rock On"; as well as the later novels Mindplayer, and Synners, the latter of which which expands on the story and themes of "Rock On".
- Many of Vernor Vinge's stories incorporate cyberpunk elements. The most notable is his 1981 novella "True Names", about a group of hackers who take on the US government — until they encounter something online much, much worse. Unlike other cyberpunk writers of the time, Vinge was a computer scientist who had actually used the Internet and had some idea of what it could do. The story's focus on online anonymity remains relevant today.
- Michael Moorcock's Cornelius Quartet novels have often been described as early or proto-cyberpunk.
- Negative consequences of technological progress are a common theme in the works of Dutch author Tais Teng. The most intense example of cyberpunk is his short story Silicium Snelwegen ("Silicon Highways"), in which broken computer chips are repaired by nanomachines imprinted with the personalities of specialists. The story becomes horrific when the main characters, personalized nanomachines busy repairing a chip, discover that their originals have been erased and they now exist only as data.
- George Alec Effinger sets a lot of his work in cyber punk worlds, especially his Marid Audran novels.
- Philip K Dick is a notable precursor to cyberpunk, and many adaptations of his work fit squarely into the genre.
- Elizabeth Bear's Jenny Casey trilogy.
- Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs trilogy sits firmly in the Cyberpunk genre. Brain Uploading technology has resulted in a class of super-rich immortal oligarchs, the UN Protectorate keeps off-world colonies firmly under their heel with sociopathic super soldiers, and the anti-hero is one of them who quit to become a mercenary.
- Frank Schätzing's Limit extrapolates China's current internet-surveillance and police-state tendencies Twenty Minutes into the Future. The result is quite cyberpunkish.
- Marianne de Pierres' Parrish Plessis trilogy.
- Daemon by Daniel Suarez. Its sequel, Freedom™ is more Post Cyber Punk.
- Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos series uses a lot of cyberpunk tropes, particularly Brawne Lamia's backstory—she's a very noir private eye, who joined the Hyperion Pilgrims after a cyber-entity asked her to figure out who had tried to murder him while he had taken on a human body, and why. However, unlike many other cyberpunk stories, the Hyperion universe isn't actually all that dystopic— at least not until the TechnoCore, the self-aware computers that seceded from humanity, decide that it's time to wage war against their biological creators.
- Jeff Somers' The Electric Church series.
- Kim Newman, writing as Jack Yeovil's Dark Future novels blended elements from Horror with Cyber Punk, taking place in a near-future whose environment was ruined by corporate greed and cybernetics and genetics were predominantly used to enhance military and sexual capabilities.
- The Rifters Trilogy by Peter Watts is basically a modernized version of this trope.
- Maurice Dantec's Cosmos Incorporated
- An Orison of Sonmi 451 from Cloud Atlas plays out like a walking tribute to cyberpunk with its themes of consumerism, rebellion and oppressive governments, a Crapsaccharine Society in the form of Nea So Copros, cloning and more. The film version takes it one step further, by mixing in references - both visual and theme wise - from other works such as Blade Runner, The Matrix (not surprising, considering who co-directed it) and Equilibrium. There's even some references to Transhumanism, in the form of the tech that is in Hae Joo Chang and The Archivist's skin.
- Large swathes of the Doctor Who New Adventures embrace Cyberpunk concepts. Like, a lot. To the point where some of the books might as well just have "This was published in The Nineties" printed on every page.
- Both "Nexus" and "Crux" of The Nexus Series by Ramez Naam are millennial updates of Neuromancer.
Live Action TV
- Two episodes of Ghost Writer feature Julia Stiles as a hacker seemingly airlifted from cyberpunk, some of which she actually references.
- Kamen Rider Double fuses this genre with it's predeceasing genre of Film Noir.
- Max Headroom has TV networks that jack into peoples brains, and "The System", its rather odd prediction of the Internet. It was also one of, if not the first example of the genre in the United States.
- Death Grips: Their debut album, The Money Store, deconstructs hip-hop tropes ((violent lyrics, distrust of police, and namedropping of websites and contemporary subjects) and pairs them with computer-y, glitchy beats, giving the whole thing a bleak, dystopian, cyberpunk kind of feel.
- Sigue Sigue Sputnik: Mixing punk and electronic music in the style of Suicide, this band takes its inspiration from movies like Blade Runner, The Terminator, A Clockwork Orange, and Mad Max. The band members dress in an outrageous fashion involving brightly coloured hair and lots of fishnets, and involve dystopic and post-apocalyptic themes in its songs, as well as many references to violent video games, high-tech sex (not necessarily with a human) and the suggestion they are from the future. They also play the evil corporation completely straight, by effectively being it.
- The Protomen. When you're a Rock Opera about a dystopian version of Mega Man, it's rather unavoidable.
- Fear Factory. In fact, most of their lyrical content is about struggling against the dangers of technology and surviving it.
- Berlin "digital hardcore" (i.e. a fusion of Hardcore Punk and Hardcore Techno) band Atari Teenage Riot can be described as this fairly easily. The fact that they broke up in 2000 and reformed in 2010, by which point many of the themes of their music actually coming to life lead to their comeback album being entitled Is This Hyperreal?. See also: Cyber Punk Is Techno
- Like the movie itself, Johnny Mnemonic is about surviving in a cyberpunk world with uplifted dolphins and cyberspace.
- Centaur has a predominant Heavy Metal/Cyberpunk feel, with its half-human half-motorcycle creature and bleak black-and-white artwork.
- The "X-ile Zone" table in Obsession Pinball is based on a female hacker fighting against a dystopian future.
- Shadowrun hits all the tropes but mixes in magic and typical Fantasy races.
- Netrunner by Richard Garfield is basically "Neuromancer: the card game". The reboot by Fantasy Flight Game is set, as other cyberpunk games they produce, in their Android universe, but it stills look a lot like Neuromancer.
- Cyberpunk of course.
- The MMORPG Neocron takes place in a ravaged future where most of the world has face nuclear devastation. Most players begin in the titular city of Neocron, a futuristic but dystopian city of concrete and neon lights patrolled by the ever-watchful "Cop Bot" robotic police units. Much of the game's mechanics revolve around boosting your character's abilities by installing a wide array of cybernetic implants and augmentations.
- Snatcher, by Hideo Kojima. Everything, down to the main character's design, screams "I wanna be Blade Runner." It even has the Gibson Shout-Out used by Centurions, in the form of a second Deckard-a-like who even sort of looks like Harrison Ford. Too bad this one dies a rather painful death early on, setting the game's events in motion. The game also borrows cyberpunk themes from AKIRA.
- Binary Domain, a game which stands out for being classic Cyberpunk in an era when Post-Cyberpunk is much more common. Evil corporations, human-like robots, rebellion against authority, global economic and environmental collapse, deep separation between the haves and the have-nots...
- Syndicate and Syndicate Wars by Bullfrog.
- Spectre VR. Overtly cyberpunk in theme and presentation, and was once sold in a bundle with Snow Crash.
- Sim City Societies: You can Create Your Own Cyberpunk City.
- Beneath a Steel Sky: A British 1994 sci-fi Point-and-Click Adventure Game initially released for DOS and Amiga. Underworld was its working title.
- The Jak and Daxter series, from the second game onward.
- The Neo-Tokyo mod for Half-Life
- The Neo-Tokyo level in TimeSplitters 2.
- Neuromancer, a 1988 adventure game by Interplay Productions, loosely based on Gibson's novel.
- ''Decker'' is an indie 'hacker simulation' that seems to be influenced by the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG.
- Bloodnet, a 1993 RPG-adventure by Microprose. It merges some essential cyberpunk themes with vampirism.
- And has a similar play style to the Tex Murphy games, another cyberpunk-influenced series.
- Dystopia is a Half-Life 2 mod that relies heavily on the idea of cybernetic implants and Cyberspace.
- Hard Reset, a 2013 PC-exclusive shooter. Set in the towering Bezoar City, the game takes place during an ongoing Robot War, during which protagonist Fletcher acts as an officer fighting the machines that breach the city walls. The art style alone sets a cyberpunk theme, with towering skyscrapers visible even on the higher levels, dreary, dark weather, as well as Fletcher wielding a two multi-purpose guns and a cybernetic eye.
- The original Shin Megami Tensei I and its sequel both heavily involve cyberpunk themes. While the power of the authorities in both games are religious in nature rather than technological, they do use technology to communicate their message (it brings to mind the large television screens the Messians would use to broadcast propaganda. Beyond that, the grey featureless walls, the endless maze-like architecture and people dressed in rags with advanced technology at their side all plays on this theme.
- Though not as obvious, the First Encounter Assault Recon series takes place in such a setting. Most of the cyberpunk elements are understated, as the series places greater emphasis on supernatural psychic phenomena, but most of the elements are there - advanced technology that does not necessarily benefit mankind, superpowerful Mega Corp. as the primary villain, and a generally dark atmosphere. Transhumanist elements are touched on, though in this setting it is focused on the transformative effects of weaponized psychic technology rather than cybernetics. Cybernetic augmentations married with psychic technology are present, along with genetic experimentation, and characters like the Point Man, Paxton Fettel, Michael Beckett, and Alma are all considered transhuman due to their psychic abilities, with one character stating that they would be like "a god among men."
- EYE Divine Cybermancy takes place far into the future, at a level one would expect Space Opera to take over, and has extensive and ancient Psychic Powers. However, the several urban enviroments you are sent to reek of cyberpunk. Lots of computers, several layers of grime, giant corperation Vindico, giant ads for either weapons or virtual prostitution, and almost everything can be hacked. Sometimes they can hack you back.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution turns the Transhumanism Up to Eleven. This installment is also more "traditionally" cyberpunk than its predecessors, given it is set in 2027; focuses on bionic augmentations (nanotech is in early stages of development); the fact that the protagonist, Adam Jensen, works for a corporation rather than a government agency and that the game plot focuses on corporate espionage and side quests are essentially cyberpunk film noir in all its glory.
- And, of course, its predecessor, Deus Ex
- Cyber Punk 2077 obviously.
- The Genocide series is set in a cyberpunk future where a supercomputer that was corrupted and given self-awareness decides to wipe out the human race, followed by an evil multinational company attempting world domination.
- Blade Runner, the 1997 Adventure Game by Westwood Studios. Shares setting and some characters with Ridley Scott's movie, but follows different plot.
- The first System Shock counts for this more than the second one (see the other video game section below), with a corrupt Mega Corp. and AI being very much a crapshoot.
- Civilization: Beyond Earth has three technological affinities the factions can adhere to and one of them, Supremacy, clearly falls into this camp. They specialize in cybernetics, robotics and advanced artificial intelligence. To drive the point home the more a faction adheres to Supremacy the more their cities will turn dark, grey, and angular.
- Interestingly, the latest entry in the Call of Duty series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, uses this for its setting, with the highly advanced technology being contrasted with the poor conditions of the populace, and a giant Mega Corp. that has grown to rival the power of sovereign nations. The levels were you are introduced to main base of said corporation and the corporate run camp for the surviving populace demonstrate this trope extensively.
- Perhaps the first Western cartoon to use cyberpunk motifs was the Centurions episode "Zone Dancer". The plot took elements from Blade Runner and Neuromancer, the dialogue actually used the word "cyberpunk," and as an additional Shout-Out, one of the guest star characters was a computer hacker named Gibson.
- Phantom 2040. This futuristic series—based on The Phantom, a Super Hero from The Thirties—was a surprisingly thoughtful take on the genre.
Having Some Elements
Anime and Manga
- Metropolis has several elements of cyberpunk in it, and would possibly be a straight example if it had more Gray and Gray Morality in it.
- .hack//SIGN, and the franchise as a whole, depending on how much you know about C.C. Corp.
- In general, Digimon tends to be on the Post-Cyberpunk end of the spectrum. Digimon Tamers is closest to Cyberpunk, thanks to being written the same writer of Lain. There's a secret government conspiracy, monitoring everything and conducting dark experiments. The heroes are young streetwise punks who befriend rouge AIs. They end up subverting the government conspiracy, and stopping more dangerous AIs. Philosophical questions about Life arise. Granted, not as grim as other examples, but still heavy stuff for a shonen series.
- Dennou Coil goes a fair way toward exploring the social impact that Augmented Reality has on the world, for good and ill, but it's all rather lighthearted, with some episodes diving into Magical Realism.
- Cowboy Bebop to a certain extent especially in the episode Brain Scratch.
- Blame!, much like The Matrix description below, takes the Cyberpunk genre to its extreme limits and ironically becomes less like traditional Cyberpunk as a result.
- The first half of Mythic Quest. The second half turns into Heroic Fantasy.
- Paprika, for the same reasons as Inception below. Paprika may also be considered Post Cyber Punk.
- Zegapain, though it may also be considered Post Cyber Punk.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has many of the classic tropes: corrupt government conspiracies planning to bring about The Singularity, cover-ups, "jacking in" (albeit into giant cyborgs), an Artificial Human who suffers from Cloning Blues, pessimistic/miserable protagonists in a grimdark setting, existential questioning, and technology being used for very shady dealings. However, the series gradually becomes less tech-based and more mystical as it goes on.
- Gunslinger Girl features cybernetic implants, a very corrupt government willing to turn innocent little girls into assasins and terrorists with some redeeming qualities.
- Interestingly, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has several of the trademarks of Cyber Punk, albeit with magic replacing technology. In spite of that, the show's themes of the Magical Girls being essentially Transhuman beings, complete with magic literally eating their souls, a shady scientific bureaucracy that manipulates them so that they can fulfil their energy production quotas, and a rebellious Anti-Hero, complete with a dark color motif, fighting against the higher ups are all very much Cyber Punk flavoured. However, since the world is much cleaner, and with the show's magic being used for good purposes in addition to the bad, it doesn't fully fit.
- The sci-fi novel/anime Ai no Kusabi explores cyberpunk theme in a world ruled by a Master Computer. Artificial Humans are the ruling Elite and they look down on basic human emotions.
- Psycho-Pass has all the elements of cyberpunk: a decadent society, a blatantly dystopian government, constant surveillance, and Cyberspace. On the other hand the sympathetic protagonists are police officers working within the system; the punks and rebels are antagonists, especially the Übermensch Big Bad who seeks to break the system entirely.
- Blade Runner is often described as a cyberpunk film, but actually lacks most of the defining features of the genre. Computer systems and networks hardly feature, the impact of technology and ubiquitous information on society is not really a major theme, and none of the main characters are the hackers and information-underbelly characters who populate cyberpunk. However most people tend to agree that the film pretty much codified the visual style of the cyberpunk future: polluted, overpopulated, overbuilt mega-cities plastered with neon signs and video billboards, where the sun never shines even when it isn't raining.
- Heck, William Gibson, literary father of cyberpunk himself, was terrified when he saw the movie. Why? Man's own words:
"About ten minutes into Blade Runner
, I reeled out of the theater in complete despair over its visual brilliance and its similarity to the "look" of Neuromancer
, my [then] largely unwritten first novel. Not only had I been beaten to the semiotic punch, but this damned movie looked better than the images in my head! With time, as I got over that, I started to take a certain delight in the way the film began to affect the way the world looked. Club fashions, at first, then rock videos, finally even architecture. Amazing! A science fiction movie affecting reality!"
- The novel Blade Runner is based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is one of the major precursors of the cyberpunk genre. A lot of the more cyberpunkish elements were dropped from the movie in favor of focusing on the major plotline, since most of them were only peripherally linked to the actual plot and served more as background material. A lot of the dropped elements also were used in the novel to prove Deckard was human, which contradicts Ridley Scott's interpretation that Deckard was a replicant.
- Avatar: The inhabitants of the Pandora can connect to a natural/organic version of the internet via neural connection fibers, who are being threatened by a mining corporation.
- Earth in Avatar is overpopulated and has technology and adverts everywhere, and looks a little like Los Angeles from Blade Runner.
- Brazil has all the plot elements, but with ductwork and teletype machines in place of the Internet. It even has a guerrilla plumber in place of a hacker.
- Inception: The film's certainly more noir but the dream-sharing technology (and its illegal uses) are pretty cyber, while the general theme of Corporate Espionage is very punk.
- The Matrix arguably takes the whole cyberspace theme to its most extreme conclusion, but perhaps too extreme to be considered truly Cyber Punk, ironically enough. The quasi-religious symbolism and the idealism of the protagonists pretty much disqualify it too.
- The Matrix starts out cyberpunk, but then veers into Post Cyber Punk after the heroes become accustomed to jacking in and out of the Matrix at will. Note the distinction seems to be that the heroes of The Matrix are messianic action heroes, with superhuman powers by dint of skill hacking into the Matrix; if they were underpowered rebels fighting a losing battle and Zion turned out to be a Matrix Within A Matrix, it would probably be considered Cyber Punk.
- The French CG/live-action film Immortal has cyberpunk elements in addition to a wild number of other genre influences.
- The Christian film series Superkids is about a group of children working against a Mega Corp. called N.M.E (pronounced "enemy"), which put out Darker and Edgier children's shows, by operating a pirate broadcast station. And occasionally fighting off giant robots.
- Demolition Man is a Crapsaccharine World take on the subject matter.
- The Alien franchise helped codify the evil megacorp for science fiction.
- A good chunk of Guardians of the Galaxy is set on a space station/city called "Knowhere", made of a dead Celestial's head. It's very a much a gritty, cyberpunk location, with a seedy underworld and neon signs. A significant action scene also occurs here as well.
- Big Hero 6 starts out looking this way, set in a city that's literally a mash-up between San Francisco and Tokyo, and opening with a semi-legal underground robot fight, and it looks like the villain is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who dresses in a black trenchcoat. But the protagonist spends maybe 15 minutes as a criminal before he's convinced that his robotics talents are better off at college, and it turns out to be not really a dystopia at all.
- 1984, Trope Codifier for Dystopia, has the general theme of technology as a tool of slavery for Big Brother, with surveillance cameras, computer networks and telescreens dominating every aspect of life and rendering privacy non-existent. The only means of communication is through said computer networks which, besides surveillance and Black Mail, also serve as a Propaganda Machine. The dystopian setting also features the class contrast and stratified hierarchy between the Party bureaucracy with no freedom whatsoever because they are under total control and surveillance by the Big Brother computer networks, and the Proles who live in decadent polluted Wretched Hives with nonexistent social welfare and have the freedom of not being watched by Big Brother, but don't care about politics and the system's abuse of said computer networks since they degenerated into hedonists who waste their lives on mindless entertainment such as porn. All it needs is a brotherhood of shady telescreen hackers living in the Prole ghettos for a proto-Cyberpunk story.
- Brave New World (one of the first deconstructions which featured the proto-Cyberpunk concept of a techno-utopia being a dystopia) has the punk, misfit Savage put in contrast with the corporate World State where consumerist mass production is prevalent in every aspect of life (including engineering 90% of humans into a Caste System of healthy but hedonistic Designer Babies).
- Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, another notable dystopia. Extremely high-tech * , but then again, it takes place in a future hedonistic world dominated by HDTV entertainment but where Anti-Intellectualism is the norm and books are considered both obsolete and a criminal source of unhappiness.
- Philip K Dick's works influenced the cyberpunk genre, including titles like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which was adapted into the movie Blade Runner) and A Scanner Darkly.
- Jeff Noon's "Vurt", "Nymphomation" and "Automated Alice" have many elements of Cyberpunk, heavily influenced by Lewis Carroll (so there's a lot of Mind Screw).
- Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, written in 1953 and 1956 respectively, include many of the tropes characteristic of Cyberpunk. Both involve amoral, anti-heroic protagonists, megacorporations and alpha-societies with seedy underbellies. The Stars... explicitly describes cyberware, including the enhanced reflexes so beloved of Cyberpunk Tabletop Games, and a backstreet 'Freak Factory' for extreme biological body modifications.
- Asimov's novel The Caves of Steel anticipates the dystopian urban decay, and the bland foods made from algae.
- Beat writer William S. Burroughs wrote several books that would later have an influence on the genesis of cyberpunk fiction, despite Burroughs not really being thought of as part of the science-fiction canon of writers.
- Vernor Vinge's 1981 novella "True Names" anticipated most of the technical elements that became the hallmarks of Cyberpunk, including the shadowy hackers, Cyberspace, and the Digital Avatar. Just about the only things missing were the tone and the urban decay. The protagonist, Mr. Slippery, is pure cyberpunk, as are characters like DON.MAC and the elusive and mysterious character known only as The Mailman. All a year before Gibson finally published "Burning Chrome".
- The lifestyle and technology in the novel Theatrica reflect cyberpunk themes, such as the techno raves, the intranet system, and the barcodes on the back of people's necks.
- The John Golden books from Ragnarok Publications cross this with Urban Fantasy. John is a corporate mercenary who kills fairies possessing networks.
Live Action TV
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) is mostly a Darker and Edgier Space Opera Deconstructor Fleet, but it openly is inspired by Blade Runner and other cyberpunk. Unlike its Space Opera tropes, which it loves to subvert or deconstruct, these tropes are usually played very, very (sometimes painfully) straight.
- Caprica: The prequel to the above aims to focus much more on this aspect of the mythos.
- Dead At 21: An MTV series from 1994 in which a college student finds out he was implanted with a chip that makes him extremely intelligent, but will kill him by the time he turns 21.
- The X-Files episode "Kill Switch" revolves around a gang of literal cyberpunks (computer geeks with a bad attitude and certain tastes in clothing) trying to stop a government spy satellite that became self-aware. Oh, and said satellite can manipulate the whole freaking Internet for its own purpose and kill anyone it deems dangerous with inescapable laser-driven wrath from above. This episode was actually written by no less than William Gibson.
- The Epitaph episodes of Dollhouse have strong elements of this, as well as biopunk. Mag and Zone's survival gang and Victor's tech-heads especially embody the attitude and aesthetics.
- The Alphaverse in Charlie Jade. And it gets worse; there's no rebellion there, just the cruel fact that Dystopia Is Hard, which means the corporate-run state is on the verge of collapse in ways that make an apocalypse almost welcome. Had the show not been cancelled, that's what would have happened at the end of Season 2.
- Almost Human revolves around a traumatized cop and his relationship with an android partner that he is forced to work with. The series is set Twenty Minutes into the Future in a walled-off metropolis, complete with rampart high-tech crime: hacker terrorists, illegal cloning, black-market implants, and molecular 3D-printers synthesizing designer drugs. Despite this dark description, it is quite positive in tone, and the good guys often save the day, making it Post-Cyberpunk.
- The art, style, and language of Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl are full of cyberpunk tropes. It's a game where you play teenage punks in a sci-fi Dystopia, out to smash the Man. The system includes group world creation, so a cyberpunk game is not always guaranteed, but the game is designed to address all the same themes of technology as oppression. In fact, in the world creation step, you make Systems of Control — sci-fi-based social or technological ways The Authority (the GM-like role and group-generated in-fiction antagonist) has to oppress and ruin the lives of the Youthful Offenders; the "player character" role.
- GURPS has guidelines on how to make a cyberpunk campaign and at one point had the awesome but sadly discontinued Cthulhupunk.
- Shadowrun is half cyberpunk, and half Dungeon Punk.
- Shadowrun borrows blatantly and shamelessly from William Gibson's work, right down to a big chunk of the terminology used (Matrix, Street Samurai, etc). Gibson reportedly dislikes Shadowrun due to the magical aspects.
- R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk 2013, its second (Cyberpunk 2020), and (to a lesser extent) third editions are more "traditional" cyberpunk games.
- The third edition's shift of focus from gritty future-noir to transhumanist adventure actually makes it closer to Post Cyber Punk, which is one of the main (numerous) problems fans of the previous editions have with this version.
- And of course, Rifts. It mixes elements of pretty much every genre in the world, Cyberpunk not least.
- In the introduction of the original Rifts core book, there's a paragraph remarking on how when the game was being developed, it would be Palladium Book's answer to Cyberpunk. Kevin Siembieda admits that there are quite a few Cyberpunk elements.
- Iron Crown Enterprise's Cyberspace RPG.
- Eclipse Phase straddles the line between Cyber Punk and Transhumanism. On the one hand, many people do wind up with a totally different understanding of culture, life, and even humanity, and on the other, there are even more trying to keep the old forms of government and commerce alive... often as a means to control others. Also, from the outside, the more transhuman beings usually appear horrifying and incomprehensible.
- Hc Svnt Dracones also straddles the line. Yes, Mega Corps literally rule the solar system, however standard of living is still higher than the modern day, and in the backstory it's stated that people willingly left governments behind for Corptowns, and the nation-states launched the first nukes in the war that glassed Earth. And losing humanity from augmentation is a null issue since humanity has been extinct for 700 years and everyone is either a genetically engineered Vector or a robot (Cog). On the other hand player characters are apparently usually freelancers who might be hired to hit rival Corps.
- Many sci-fi games by Origin, including Bioforge, Cybermage, and Crusader: No Remorse and No Regret.
- Both System Shock games are about as cyberpunk as you can get with hacker protagonists, corrupt megacorporations, and the technology LITERALLY oppressing you. However, the second one is set on a space ship and is more Survival Horror than most examples of this genre. It has more in common with Dead Space that does with other examples. The first one could could count as this.
- While it is a space sim, Black Market shows a long list of Cyberpunk influences, from implants to megacorps.
- The Half-Life series also features elements of Cyber Punk.
- The MMORPG City of Heroes has very literal Cyber Punks in the Freakshow, a powerful gang of drug-fuelled cyborg punks who have to be seen to be believed. They are pretty much the main comic relief faction of the game, while still managing to be a considerable threat in their own right. Case in point from a bank robber: "I'm gonna buy a sports car, then weld it to me!"
- Final Fantasy VII, definitely. It becomes rather obvious when your bioengineered antihero protagonist battles an army of corporate thugs on a freeway, with a gigantic sword, on a motorcycle. However, it tones it down for the rest of the game, so it's not a straight example.
- Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus covers cyberpunk themes like virtual reality, consciousness transference, and is about a Noir-ish Anti-Hero battling a Transhuman who had put his mind into the Internet. It's much fluffier and more magically based than you would usually associate with cyberpunk, though, and never asks any really tricky questions about identity.
- Chaos;Head. Surprisingly, being set in present day, its tone is probably more modern than numerous other futuristic fictions.
- Mirrors Edge. Although it's set in a Shining City, it nevertheless has cyberpunk features like rebellious, marginalized heroes opposing an oppressive government, and information running is the key aspect of the story.
- Devil Survivor: It's an Atlus game set in modern urban Japanese society! And it's Tokyo no less! However, without giving away any spoilers, the message is very much against cynicism.
- The Cybrans from Supreme Commander. Every cybran is a cyborg.
- The DS version of Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter has a quasi-Cyberpunk world called the Galactic Jungle. It features an authoritarian Council that make many unneeded rules, like no sneezing.
- Technobabylon comes complete with Cyberspace in the form of the "Trance," people engineered from birth to be suicide bombers, and on and on
- Super Mario Strikers, and especially its sequel Mario Strikers Charged, which combines this with Super Mario Bros. characters and soccer!
- Mario Kart 7 features Neo Bowser City as a Star Cup track. The course has lots of futuristic skyscrapers crowded together, a plethora of neon lights and giant screens with Bowser's face plastered on them, lots of rain, and even Blade Runner style advertising blimps.
- Perfect Dark has many cyberpunk elements (AIs, hacking, industrial espionage etc.) although it's a straight Science Fiction story as well.
- Hardwar incorporates some cyberpunk elements, but it's mainly a flight simulation game that takes place on Titan with space trading elements (but as mentioned earlier, does not actually take place in outer space).
- Fracture has this as a main aspect of the Atlantic Alliance, who are opposed by the Pacificans.
- Watch_Dogs is heavily influenced by the genre's tone and emphasis on technology enabling oppression, however it isn't exactly a clear-cut example of Cyberpunk due to being set somewhere between the modern day and Twenty Minutes into the Future (hewing closer to the former than the latter.)
- Flashback has you playing a government agent who must stop an alien invasion. New Washington is delightfully dystopian, and at one point you must compete in a televised deathmatch for money.
- The Terran society in Starcraft is a crossover between this and Space Western.
- The Longest Journey, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and Dreamfall Chapters'' feature Stark, the world of logic and technology, which functions as the typical cyberpunk dystopia, as being this as a stark contrast to Arcadia, which rely more off of magic and fairy tale tropes, and functions like a fantasy world. They aren't placed in the "Clear-cut Examples" due to Arcadia.
- The last about thirty years of the Chaos Timeline definitely have this vibe going on, courtesy of the Logos (hackers) and the more earlier achieved advanced state of computer technology and networks than in our history.
- Batman Beyond. Gotham City's evolution seems quite natural- still crowded, dirty and corrupt, only now the cars can fly.
- The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Real Kids Don't Eat Broccoli" is a parody of Blade Runner.
- Futurama has some elements, including at least one recurring antagonist Mega Corp., though the government is more comically inept than corrupt, and it's all Played for Laughs. The heroes are just getting by, doing their jobs and occasionally saving the universe.
- Coming off the heels of The Eighties, it's no surprise that Sonic Sat AM featured these themes. The show has industry and technology radically transforming society and the world. The world has become a ugly place, with youths revolting against a corrupt government. However, being a Saturday morning cartoon featuring Sonic the Hedgehog, it's not as depressing it should be.
- The notorious Walled City of Kowloon was aesthetically very cyberpunk, with lax building regulation, and weak law enforcement pushing it into dystopia territory for some. It was demolished between 1993-1994, however, so the amount of cyber was limited.
- England's dependent states, such as Guernsey and particularly Sark, the former of which is run primarily by the owners of locally operating firms (who put all public construction through their firms, thus making the MP expenses look like nothing, and resulting in schools that are just refurbished warehouses, built for profit margin rather than a decent environment.) and English corporate employees (who abuse the island's tax status and purchase houses, perform routine maintenance and then sell them on at an inflated rate, meaning the average small house costs well over three times what it'd be worth in London), while the latter island recently repelled an attempt by the Barclay Brothers to put corporate sponsored politicians in power, effectively trying to annex the island as their personal corporate enclave. Following their failure, they pulled their investments from the island, collapsing its economy and causing the unemployment to rise to over 50%.