Highlights The future is an exciting and malleable backdrop for game developers, allowing for creative and unique worlds to be created. Games like Red Faction: Guerrilla, Soma, and Returnal demonstrate the intriguing possibilities of setting stories in the future. The Last of Us, Horizon Forbidden West, and Destiny 2 showcase the success of games set in post-apocalyptic and futuristic settings.
When searching for a gripping and immersive backdrop in which to set the events of their game, developers may look to the history of humanity for inspiration. Filled with harrowing conflicts, social upheaval, and deeply personal stories, the past can be a goldmine for creatives to pick at when discovering a setting for their work, especially in the context of video games. However, while the past is vast in its scope and creative potential, there is another timeframe that is far more malleable and unknown: the future.
It is this unknowing of what lies ahead that makes the future such fertile ground for game developers to set their stories in, allowing for the creative and intriguing speculation as to what a future world could actually be. From intergalactic wars that ravage entire star systems to lowly citizens making their way through an impossibly vast city, the future is a melting pot of new ideas that allows developers the freedom to create a truly unique world. Indeed, the future is already the setting of many fantastic games that have caught the imagination of gamers everywhere.10 Red Faction: Guerrilla
The Red Faction series has laid dormant since the commercial failure of 2011’s Red Faction: Armageddon. The shame of this comes in the potential for the series shown in the 2009 effort Red Faction: Guerrilla, with players controlling miner-turned-resistance hero Alec Mason as he liberates Mars from the oppressive Earth Defense Force one crushing hammer swing at a time.
Set in the year 2125 on a terraformed Mars, Red Faction: Guerrilla is as sci-fi as they come. The addition of a highly pleasing destructible environment only serves to extend the grin of players further as they jetpack around the red planet. So beloved was this entry in the Red Faction series that a remaster was released in 2018 titled Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered Edition.9 Soma
Developer Frictional Games has expertise in the creation of survival horror games, consistently providing players with terrifyingly gripping experiences that generally take place in the past. However, with 2015’s Soma, the developer went the opposite way, setting the game in the year 2104 on a research station at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cast as Simon Jarrett, players are forced to navigate a decaying research base filled with biomechanical monstrosities and brave the ominous expanse of the ocean floor where creatures lurk in the darkness. The game also provides a mind-bending exploration of consciousness and identity, so for science fiction fans with a horror itch to scratch, Soma will not disappoint.8 Returnal
An alien planet. A brutal time loop. Punishing combat with roguelike elements. If all this sounds up one’s street, then Housemarque’s 2021 release Returnal is bound to excite and satisfy. This futuristic third-person shooter places players in control of stranded astronaut Selene Vassos as she attempts to navigate the planet Atropos where even death is not the end.
Returnal was met with positive feedback on its release, even winning numerous accolades including Best Game at the 18th British Acadamy Game Awards. The mixture of an epic sci-fi narrative and cerebral themesmakes Returnala brilliantly varied and challenging experience for fans of futuristic video games.7 The Last Of Us
When it comes to the post-apocalyptic action game The Last of Us, one tends to pay little attention to the timeframe in which it is set, most likely due to players being preoccupied with avoiding being mauled by flora-like zombies. While the game’s prologue is set in 2013, a time jump lands the majority of the action in the year 2033.
Despite the 2020 sequel to The Last of Us also being well-received, it would be nigh on impossible to top the sheer impact and acclaim of the original. Players were instantly engrossed in the journey of Joel and Ellie as they traverse the diseased United States in search of a mysterious group who claimed to have found a cure.6 Horizon Forbidden West
The main protagonist of 2022’s Horizon Forbidden West, Aloy quickly became a PlayStation icon when she first hit players’ consoles in 2017. Set in the far future of the 31st century, Horizon Forbidden West sees the bow-wielding Aloy continue her exploration of the broken architecture of a past long taken over by nature.
The extinction event that caused the collapse of this world is never truly seen, and players are only able to understand it through the crumbling cities and lost technology left behind after 1,000 years. Aloy’s cryptic discovery of the world before creates a sense of intrigue that keeps gamers glued to their controllers, although the epic combat against giant robotic dinosaurs does help too.5 Destiny 2
It would seem that developer Bungie was not satisfied with creating one of the most successful science-fiction FPS franchises ever in the form of the Halo series as, after handing over the reins to 343 Industries after Halo: Reach, it went on to create a second science-fiction FPS franchise that became just as successful: Destiny.
After the first game took the live-service video game world by storm, Bungie released Destiny 2 in 2017 to similar praise and enthusiasm from gamers. Set in the 28th century, players must control the Guardians in beating back the forces of Darkness across the Solar System and beyond.4 Dead Space
When developer Visceral Games was closed down in 2017, a collective outcry came from gamers regarding its flagship property Dead Space. The genuine disappointment just goes to show how beloved the franchise is by its fans and, even with multiple games in the series to choose from, one would be hard-pressed not to pick out 2008’s original game Dead Space as a firm favorite.
Cast as unassuming engineer Issac Clarke in the year 2508, players navigate the desolate and blood-soaked spaceship USG Ishimura, battling infected body-splitting creatures known as Necromorphs and attempting to uncover what has occurred to cause such a nightmare. The game even received a remake in 2023, showcasing its lasting effect in the sci-fi video game sphere.3 Fallout: New Vegas
The Fallout series has always been popular with gamers from the isometric original to the action RPG makeover given by Bethesda for later entries in the series. Set in the centuries after a devastating nuclear war between the United States and China, players relish enveloping themselves in the retrofuturistic apocalypse provided by the Fallout games.
Despite Bethesda’s ownership of the IP, it is actually Obsidian Entertainment that retains the accolade of best Fallout game, at least in the eyes of many fans, with 2010’s Fallout: New Vegas. Acting as somewhat of a bridge between the third and fourth main installments in the franchise, players of Fallout: New Vegas find themselves traversing what was the region around Las Vegas in search of their would-be murderers.2 Portal 2
Portal 2 has many facets that are highly praised, including its humor, voice acting, and gameplay, with these examples being far from exhaustive.
Controlling protagonist Chell in an indeterminate far future, the game tasks players with teleporting their way through puzzles and dealing with tricky A.I. antagonists Glados and Wheatley in an attempt to escape a long-deserted Aperture Science facility, with the voices of Hollywood stars like Stephen Merchant and J. K. Simmons guiding the player through.1 Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, & Mass Effect 3
Arguably, there is no science-fiction video game series that has captured the imagination of gamers quite like the Mass Effect franchise. Following Commander Shepard (whose gender and personality can be changed to more closely relate to the player), the Mass Effect series sees gamers scour the Milky Way in a cinematic battle for the survival of humanity in the 22nd century.
Taking inspiration from classic sci-fi media such as Star Wars, Dune, and Star Trek, Mass Effect goes the extra mile by matching these franchises in both scope and acclaim, sitting relatively unmatched as some of the best sci-fi video games ever made.