With its defining genre-building world-building, neo-noir detective beats and damaged characters, all underscored by a dilapidated and soulful futuristic aesthetic (not to mention Vangelis’s evocative and eternally melancholic score), Ridley Scott’s seminal Blade Runner has earned its place not only as one of the big screen’s all-time greats, but also as the godfather of the cyberpunk genre.
Given the wealth of enduring love enjoyed by Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi effort, it should come as no surprise that there are actually a decent handful of quality PC games that attractively emulate different aspects of Blade Runner. So without further ado, here are some of the best PC games that are just like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Blade Runner (Classic)
Although it’s a bit of an exaggeration, it shouldn’t be a huge revelation to find out that Blade Runner is the video game that has the closest kinship to the Ridley Scott film. Originally developed in 1997 by Westwood Studios, a team sadly long gone, Blade Runner was a point-and-click detective adventure that plunged players deep into the eternal twilight of 2019 Los Angeles, prompting them to track down a group of replicants who seemed to be on a killing spree. Taking iconic settings like the Bradbury Building, Dragon Market, and more, Blade Runner was an excellent point-and-click offering that, while perhaps sticking too closely to the source material, was nonetheless the closest thing to reproducing Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 film.
A remastered version of Blade Runner, courtesy of the usually excellent retro remaster team Nightdive Studios, released in June 2022 under the name Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition and well, it’s not great. Despite a major patching effort since its release, Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition still suffers from a number of bugs that weren’t present in the original release, not to mention a visual “update” that’s anything but. Similar to the Tyrell Corporation motto, commerce was clearly the goal here, and little else.
A decidedly dark and grim cyberpunk detective adventure from Bloober Team, the same studio that brought us horror titles like Layers of Fear and Blair Witch, Observer System Redux casts players as neural police detectives who must connect to the fractured and tortured minds of others to unravel a murderous conspiracy. Beyond the obvious similarities to detective work and the broader cyberpunk setting, Observer: System Redux does a particularly decent job of channeling the visual aesthetic of Ridley Scott’s work. With constant torrential rain and a nighttime setting that is frequently interrupted by the same kind of wacky lighting that sets Blade Runner apart from its big screen contemporaries, Observer: System Redux certainly looks the part.
Observer: System Redux also gets commendable credit for casting the late (and much-missed) actor Rutger Hauer as the look and voice of the main lead, not least because it evokes a kind of irony that Roy Batty himself is now taking over the role of the world-weary detective Harrison Ford did in 1982.
Although at first glance The Ascent with its fast-paced dungeon-crawling combat would seem to have little in common with the heavier, more reflective beats of Blade Runner, it manages to nail two key similarities to Ridley Scott’s genre-defining film. The first is that
The Ascent paints a compelling picture of what audiences would see if Blade Runner took a deeper look at the myriad areas of Los Angeles, giving players a painstakingly detailed neon jungle that’s awash with glowing signs, flying cars, and throngs of downtrodden city dwellers.
Next, it can be easy to forget how much oomph the firearms really had in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Deckard’s iconic blaster was a hand cannon in the truest sense and brought with it the sound of thunder every time he fired a round. Neon Giant, the developers behind The Ascent, have clearly taken this to heart, not least because every firearm in the game has the kind of audible roars and satisfying weight that every other top-down shooter should be jealous of.
While Cloudpunk seems to mimic the dark, rainy nights of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner with all due aplomb, it also represents a unique take on things. Instead of putting players in the shoes of a conflicted detective or an android in the midst of an existential crisis, Cloudpunk casts players as Raina, an employee of Cloudpunk, a sketchy delivery team embedded in the city of Nivalis. Tasked with making a variety of “don’t ask” deliveries to all sorts of shady customers from her trusty hovercar, Raina soon discovers a vast web of deception in which rogue AI, deadly androids, and more are caught up.
As Pris strolls up to the Bradbury Building in the Ridley Scott film and gazes up at the sky, taking in the huge advertising blimp and crisscrossing flying cars soaring overhead, it certainly sparks the imagination. Indeed, Cloudpunk is essentially what I imagine Blade Runner’s 2019 Los Angeles ‘highways of the sky’ would look and feel like, with a city begging to be explored as airborne cars screeching and spinning in the rain-dappled night skies as a towering urban sprawl, festooned with pulsing neon, speeds by.
Though perhaps of all the games on this list, Cyberpunk 2077 would seem to bear the least visual resemblance to Blade Runner, with its sun-kissed cities and decidedly futuristic architecture, underlying existential struggle, and themes of trying to ‘perfect’ the human race still bear a palpable kinship to Ridley Scott’s cyberpunk masterpiece.
More than that, Cyberpunk 2077 pulls at the fountain of imagination by providing a tantalizing glimpse of what the world of Blade Runner would be like beyond the confines of its frame, as CD Projekt RED’s recently redeemed epic RPG invites players to shape their own story in a massive, grim metropolis rife with tragedy, opportunity, and hubris. If someone ever decided to make an open-world action-RPG based directly on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, chances are, aside from the occasional solar intrusion, it would look a lot like Cyberpunk 2077.