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You need to play the best cyberpunk RPG trilogy on Xbox Game Pass ASAP

Cyberpunk and fantasy combine for one of the most captivating RPGs ever.

Cyberpunk

has been around for decades, and it’s seen new life recently thanks to the likes of Blade Runner 2049 and Cyberpunk 2077.

CD Projekt Red

Warner Bros.

What started as a niche sci-fi subgenre with authors like Philip K. Dick (who preceded the term “cyberpunk” by more than a decade) started to move above ground in the ‘80s.

Its aesthetic and themes are easily identifiable:

...glittering chrome implants, neural connections with computers, scrappy anti-heroes doing battle with evil tech megacorps.

Columbia TriStar/Moviepix/Getty Images

But one of the best cyberpunk video games ever adds a shockingly out-of-place and surprisingly successful element to the mix: fantasy.

Topps

FASA

In 1989, tabletop RPG publisher FASA released Shadowrun, set in a cyberpunk future following the world-shaking emergence of magic.

Harebrained Schemes

The years since have seen a handful of Shadowrun video games, none nearly as successful (or as good) as Harebrained Schemes’ tactical RPG Shadowrun Trilogy.

Harebrained Schemes

Comprising Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun: Dragonfall, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong, the series tells three unconnected stories set in Seattle, Berlin, and Hong Kong.

Harebrained Schemes

Shadowrun’s fusion of sci-fi and fantasy is undoubtedly odd. Orcs with computer ports hardwired into their brains work side-by-side with spellcasting elves to pull off daring heists on omnipotent corporations.

Rather than explaining the series’ convoluted web of lore, spanning decades of technological, social, and metaphysical revolution, each game in Shadowrun Trilogy tosses you in head first.

Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes

After building your avatar — a fairly daunting process that’s trimmed down from the TTRPG’s bewildering character creation — you explore from a top-down perspective.

Harebrained Schemes

Combat resembles tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. The twist is how you combine remote drones, summoned spirits, and good old-fashioned fisticuffs.

You can even dive into the digital world of the Matrix, where you battle security programs to steal corporate secrets and turn sentry turrets against their operators.

Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes

Combat is fun, but the games in Shadowrun Trilogy excel when you’re set free to roam the city.

Harebrained Schemes

Each game is more beautiful than the last, featuring lush illustrations of its central city. Seattle, Berlin, and Hong Kong are all dizzying mixes of hypnotic neon and desperate squalor.

Harebrained Schemes

The world of Shadowrun is a harsh place. The trilogy tackles murder, conspiracies, racism, poverty, and all manner of other grim but all-too-real issues.

Harebrained Schemes

But Shadowrun isn’t content to just wallow in the grime. As a Shadowrunner, you take jobs that send you into the heart of the world-controlling megacorps.

Your no altruist, taking jobs to earn a living from competing corps. In time, each game grows into something far more complex, pitting you against horrifying supernatural menaces and conspiracies involving long-dead dragons.

Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes

Even with their mystery plots and existential threats, the Shadowrun games really shine in simple, ground-level worldbuilding.

Harebrained Schemes

The neighborhoods you frequent and people you meet feel vivid and alive, from coffee shop owners in the anarchic free state of Berlin to your own party members.

Harebrained Schemes

With the world falling down around them, the regular folks in Shadowrun turn to their communities to keep their homes and each other safe.

Harebrained Schemes

Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the clear fan favorite in Shadowrun Trilogy. Its Berlin enclave is vibrant but hanging on by a thread, its story is gripping, its characters are nuanced and real.

All three games are worth playing, but it’s Dragonfall that’ll make you a believer if you’re on the fence. One tip: Play Glory’s side quests for one of the most captivating RPG character arcs ever.

Harebrained Schemes

Shadowrun Trilogy is available on Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox Game Pass.

Harebrained Schemes