Although fantasy tends to be the default for roleplaying games (both tabletop and electronic ones), it’s not all magic, swords, and destiny in the genre.

Indeed, there’s no shortage of great science fiction RPGs out there, from cyberpunk dystopias, through post-apocalyptic scenarios, to thrilling interstellar adventures. Today, we’re going to talk about a few of them, just to give you a taste for this take on the genre.

The Outer Worlds 2020-10-23 Action RPG Obsidian Entertainment
Nier Automata Game Of The Yorha Edition 2017-03-17 RPG SQUARE ENIX
Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition 2020-08-07 Adventure Guerrilla
Shadowrun Returns 2013-07-25 Adventure Harebrained Schemes
Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition 2010-10-21 Adventure Obsidian Entertainment
Deus Ex Human Revolution Directors Cut 2013-10-25 Action & Shooter Eidos Montreal
Deus Ex Mankind Divided 2016-08-23 RPG Eidos Montreal
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Deluxe Edition 2019-11-15 Action Respawn Entertainment
System Shock 2 1999-08-11 RPG Irrational Games
Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic 2003-11-19 RPG BioWare

Mass Effect (Original Trilogy)

Release date:2012-11-06

The original Mass Effect trilogy is probably the most important modern science fiction video game series, challenged only by Halo.

Taking place almost 200 years in the future, ME presents a vibrant, diverse galaxy populated by interesting species and cultures, most of which use the fictional Element Zero which powers space travel, weapons, and enables powerful telekinetic abilities.

An important distinguishing feature of Mass Effect trilogy are the choices which have long-reaching consequences — some of ME1 decisions come back to haunt (or aid) you all the way in ME3 thanks to save import. It’s not all “choices”, though. There’s plenty on TPP action taking place, powered by cool guns, interesting gadgets, powerful biotic abilities, and great location design.

Key features
  • Commander Shepard is one of the most iconic video game protagonists
  • Detailed lore explored in the in-game codex and external material
  • Epic-scale story involving fending off an extra-galactic invasion
  • Choices matter

Deus Ex (series)

Release date:2016-08-23
Developer:Eidos Montreal

The Deus Ex series, in particular the original DE from 2000 and DE: Human Revolution from 2011, are some of the finest gently futuristic first-person role-playing games you could hope to play.

Both games are happy to put an objective in front of the players and leave them to complete it their own way, often through exploration, sneaking, and a generous serving of technological sabotage.

DE:HR presents a world that deals with the growing popularity of cybernetic prosthetics. The original entry has already left that stage behind and explores nanotechnological augmentations instead. Both games tangle with global conspiracies, the ethic of cloning, and a lot of other stuff which makes the series not only great SF RPGs, but also excellent cyberpunk ones!

Key features
  • Use cybernetic augmentations and your own creativity to solve missions your way
  • The plot is always more complicated than is seems at the beginning
  • Choices both in dialogue and through gameplay
  • No classes: you can get the upgrades and augments you choose

System Shock 2

Release date:1999-08-11
Developer:Irrational Games

This one is an absolute classic of the genre. System Shock 2 is a science-fiction survival horror RPG, which sure is a mouthful of a description, but there isn’t really anything simpler that would describe the game.

It takes place on a spaceship containing a scheming AI and a crew infected by psychic worms. Meanwhile, you’re just a soldier freshly awakened from cryo sleep.

It’s not a friendly situation by any means, but at least your character isn’t completely helpless. System Shock 2 starts you out in one of three classes of your choice, including one pre-equipped by psionic powers, but further development is up to you. Combat isn’t rare, but it’s advised to be careful with it: resources are limited, so you don’t want to spend your ammo senselessly.

Key features
  • Spiritual ancestor to many amazing games
  • A great mix of survival horror and immersive RPG
  • Flexible character progression
  • Engaging plot

Fallout: New Vegas

Release date:2010-10-21
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment

Hard to talk about science fiction RPGs without giving Fallout its due. The series dates back to 1997, and indeed, both Fallout 1 and 2 remain very playable to this day, but to make things a big more modern after two legends, let’s consider Fallout: New Vegas, 2010’s first/third-person perspective open-world RPG which takes you to a post-apocalyptic Nevada.

FNV mixes advanced weapons and armor, robots, and technological social experiments, with an aesthetic inspired by the 1950s. Add to that classless progression allowing you to be fast-talking, gun-toting scientist if you want to, and a conversation system which uses many different skills at various points, and you can role-play the hell out of your post-apocalypse fantasies.

Key features
  • Complex first-\third-person RPG
  • Several factions with their own agendas and vision for Nevada
  • Laser guns and retrofuturistic robots alongside leather trenchcoats and revolvers
  • Classless, level-based progression

Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Release date:2014-09-18
Developer:Harebrained Schemes

Shadowrun Dragonfall, like the original tabletop namesake, uses elements of both fantasy and science fiction (specifically: cyberpunk) to create a fascinating, vibrant setting.

In SR you could meet an elf hacker boasting a cybernetic limb, a dwarf accountant to one of the setting’s dragon-led corporations, and a troll bouncer at a pub for mercenaries, working for a human friend.

SR: Dragonfall is an excellent representation of the setting and the original system, with turn-based battles, vital role of hacking, and plenty of role-playing choices to make. The story takes place in Berlin, and begins with a disastrous shadowrun, you’re put in charge of a headstrong crew of mercs, who have to face a conspiracy revolving about something called “Feuerschwinge”.

Key features
  • Solid character progression
  • Great adaptation of the setting
  • The plot mixes fantasy and science fiction in really interesting ways
  • Turn-based battles and hacking

The future is just a click away

This concludes our little list of science fiction-themed video game RPGs you shouldn’t miss out on if you’re keen to try this take on the genre. Which genre? SF or RPG? Well, we don’t know what you’ve been playing recently, so answer this yourself.